A Sunday on Cecil
Disclaimer – This account is based solely on my memories. Given that these events occurred 50+ years ago and I’m a 67 year old man with Parkinson’s there may be some factual errors. Who am I kidding? I’m sure there are factual errors. I hope you enjoy my account regardless.
This is a story of a simpler time. At least it was simpler from my ten year old perspective. I’m sure life didn’t seem so simple for our parents trying to raise five kids (my youngest sibling Peggy had not yet arrived on the scene.). It probably didn’t seem so simple for the nuns at school conducting “duck and cover” drills in case of nuclear attack either. But for me, life in the summer of 1963 was good. School was out and It was six days of playing at the St. Matthew’s Baptist Church across the street and Sundays spent at my Grandparent’s house on Cecil Avenue in Louisville’s old West End. Now this is not the story of any particular Sunday but a collection of memories any of which may have occurred on any given Sunday. They all start with the whole crew piling into our baby blue Chevy wagon.
Getting the 5 of us kids all ready to go had to be a feat in itself. I’m getting tired just thinking about it. Of course there were no seat belts and Mom often had one of the younger ones on her lap. A couple of us would be laying unsecured in the ”way back”. Once the wagon was loaded we began what seemed to be a journey to the other side of the world.
Before I start in on what Sundays on Cecil were like, you need to understand a little of the Fischer family dynamic. Like many first generation Irish-Americans, the Hallahans (my Grandmother’s family) were a tight knit Catholic family. In fact, my great-grandmother Mom, my grandmother Peg, and her three sisters (Ann, Sis and Nora) all lived in easy walking distance of each other as well as their parish church St. Columba’s. My great-uncle “Bud” Hallahan entered the priesthood and served the Owensboro diocese for many years. Suffice it to say that the two great constants of the Hallahan’s were God and family. And so it was on Sundays.
On any given Sunday there. would be several members of the “Great 8” (my mother and her 7 siblings) and their kids would descend on Cecil Ave. The Dads would play cards and knock back a couple of Sterlings or Falls City’s while the Mom’s would be in the kitchen making dinner. The older cousins (we’ll call them Tier 1 – born in 1955 or before) would be outside in the yard playing whiffle ball, Red Rover, Mother May I or any of those schoolyard games. Aunts Elsie and Nancy would be in charge of the younger Tier 2 (ages 1-7) cousins while the moms would be in charge of any infants. As long as I can remember there were always 1 or 2 infants. There were two other “cousin categories” as well – the out-of-towners and the NBY – not born yet. These cousins would appear in family gatherings post-Cecil.
Soon enough it would be time to eat and we would wash up, say grace, eat dinner and rush back out to squeeze in some more playtime while the adults finished their dinner and did the dishes. The pipe (uncle Charles and Great-uncle Emmet) and cigar (uncle Henri) smokers would retreat to the living room for their after dinner smokes. Slowly but surely the entire group, less any sleeping babies, would re-group in the living room. It was time to give thanks for the day we had just spent surrounded by our loved ones. It was time to say the rosary.
The rosary was strategically timed to be completed before the start of the next Sunday ritual – Sing Along with Mitch. You could always count on Mitch to throw in at least one song for the Irish each week. The show wasn’t complete without a Peg Of My Heart or When Irish Eyes are Smiling. The only time we didn’t watch Mitch was when somebody brought a new LP that was popular at the time entitled The First Family. The performers sounded a lot like the president and his family but beyond that I couldn’t figure out why the grown-ups thought it was so funny.
After the rosary and entertainment the grown-ups started packing up all of us kids and starting the long journey home. The ride home always seemed shorter. That’s probably because I always fell asleep before we even got off of Cecil. I just remember waking up in the driveway and having just enough strength to get upstairs and into bed. I’m sure I slept well after spending Sunday on Cecil Avenue.