Note Number 1: Remembering Connie: It was a time for us all when our boy-girl friendships first began. For
me it began in the backyard of a girl I didn’t even know. I was invited
to a cook-out on a late August afternoon just before we would all be brought together in the fall of 1946 for our Junior High
School days at Hawthorne
School. It was there on that very
afternoon that I was to meet another classmate of ours, Dick Benjamin, and it was Dick who asked,
“Who invited me?” I was not prepared
for his question, for I assumed that each of us had been invited by our host, Connie Wolfe, whom
I had never met. “No,” he said, "for
each of the girls yet to arrive invited a boyfriend." So he
asked me once again, “Who invited you?” And
in reply, I simply said, “Connie Wolfe.” And so our relationship was about to begin in
Connie’s backyard on that very evening on Prairie Avenue in
And, as was true with
most of these early-on boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, ours would prove to be not only so very important to each of us
at the time, but also, ‘Oh, so very fragile’ as we both moved on through Junior High
School and into York High School. And then later, upon our graduation from York,
we would simply lose track of one another.
It was not until the occasion
of our 50th High School Reunion that I volunteered to try and find as best I could some of our then missing classmates. Connie Wolfe's name was among them, and as I was later to find out, her whereabouts
was the most difficult of all for me to find. But find her I did. And after I had found her, I backed off and asked Dick Benjamin to make that final call to talk with Connie
who I knew just had to be in Denver, CO. So Dick did make that call and the two of them renewed their own long lost friendship.
Then one day shortly thereafter
Connie sent me an e-mail, thanking me for all my efforts in finding her. And
in return, I sent her an e-mail back wherein I recalled some of the specifics of our times together, simply adding in conclusion,
“Thanks for the memories.” Connie then
told me that she was amazed at the depth of my recollections of our teen-age years together.
I never heard from Connie
again, and so I was both shocked and saddened when I read a recent (January, 2007) email from another York
’52 classmate and mutual friend, Dave Buswell, that Connie Wolfe Irish passed
away in June, 2005. She was twice married, mother to four girls,
step-mother to four more and one boy, and grandmother to nine. And in the 50th
Reunion Report of the York High School Class of 1952, Connie also told us that she was the principal caregiver to her mother,
then 97 years old. And she also told me privately that her first husband had been so terribly mean to her --- litterly
destroying her past by throwing out all her pictures of her childhood days and of her Junior High and York High School
days. Gone too were her Y's Tales Yearbooks, for he would see to that.
As our classmate, we shall
all miss Connie--- but none more than I, for our relationship was so very important to us both 'once upon
a time,' and yet, at the same time, 'Oh, so very fragile.'
Downey, York ‘52, January, 2007
Postscript: "The Invitation" --- After
publishing my remembrance of Connie above, I was asked by another, "How could it be that Connie would have invited
someone to her party who did not know her, nor had ever met her?" The answer lies in three chance
encounters that occured during the winter and spring of 1946 leading up to Connie's invitation to come to her party just
before we were to start Junior High School in the fall. And if you are astonished by the level of detail that I can
still remember from so long ago --- well, so too was Connie herself, for I shared these moments with her in an exchange of
e-mails we had leading up to our class' 50th Reunion in 2002. Connie's reaction? As recently as
2002 she wrote me something to this effect:--- "And here I thought I had forgotten my adolescent years long ago,
but I should have known that it would be you who would remember, and you remembered it all just as I now do once
Chance encounter #1: The
City of Elmhurst used to flood a section of Wilder Park so that we could all go ice skating whenever it really got cold.
And they also provided us with a heated fieldhouse right next to the skating rink. We were in 6h grade back then
and I used to hang out with the Ryan brothers who lived just one block over from me on Berkley Street, near York H.S.
One winter's day in early 1946 the Ryan brothers and I were skating at Wilder Park when I came into the fieldhouse to
warm up. It was then that Jimmy Ryan, the youngest of the Ryan brothers, came up to me and said there were a couple
of girls sitting in the chairs that lined the wall who had asked him what my name was. I looked over to where Jimmy
was pointing and then one of the girls kept pointing to the other. Then the one she was pointing to got really
embarrased and hid her face in her hands. Then she looked up and they both began laughing as I turned away and went
back outside into the cold.
Chance encounter #2: Each of the Elmhurst Elementary Schools fielded
a 6th-grade basketball team. And sometime in the spring of 1946 our Hawthorne Elementary 6th grade team traveled to Washington
Elementary School to play a basketball game against their 6th grade team. During the course of that 6th grade game I
was sitting on the bench, ready to go into the game whenever called upon, when I felt a tap on my shoulder and then
handed a note. I opened up the note and written there was something to this effect---"We think you're
cute." I turned around and there they were again, the two of them, about three rows up with
their backs against the gym wall. They were the same two girls. And just as they did at the fieldhouse earlier,
one of them kept pointing to the other, much to her embarassment once again. I laughed, and they did too.
Then I returned my focus to the game being played, crushing the scrap of paper and throwing it to the floor beneath
encounter #3: One of my mother's interests was always Interior Decorating. One day in the late summer
of 1946 my mother and I stopped in at Smyth's furniture store in downtown Elmhurst. My mother walked all the way
to the back to talk to Mrs. Wolfe, Connie's mother, for she was by profession the store's Interior Decorator. It
was a Saturday morning and Mrs. Wolfe had brought Connie with her to work that day. Connie was sitting up on top of
the counter in the back, so I stayed up in the front of the store, just wandering about the pieces of furniture. Before
I knew it Connie hopped off the counter and came up to the front of the store. And it was only then that we
first talked to one another. And after my mother and Connie's mother finished their business, Connie and I said
goodbye for the first time. A few days later I got this invitation
in the mail and asked my mother who Connie Wolfe was? My mother looked at the invitation and said, "Oh,
that's Mrs. Wolfe's little girl---you remember her. She was in the furniture store the other day." It
didn't take me long to accept Connie's invitation.
....Bruce, saying goodbye to Connie for the last time******