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Subject: What did the Salvation Army do for our family on Christmas Day in Chicago when I was a child.


Why do we need to give to the Salvation Army?

Jeff Dyrek and the Salvaltion Army, it's time to give

Last year a local newspaper took a picture of me putting money into the Salvation Army bucket in front of the Wal-Mart store.  The picture shows me putting the money in the bucket, but does not tell the whole story of why I do this and why others should do this too.   I am writing to you about a personal experience from my childhood in the late 1950’s when I lived in Chicago.

We lived in the Pullman Housing right across from the Pullman Railroad Factory which was built in the late 1800s.  I was actually too young to remember everything that was happening, but my mom told me about this many times and my older brothers also told me this story about the Salvation Army visiting our home on Christmas day, so I know that it’s true. 

The photo at the left is the Webmaster.





My mom and my brothers, I'm ten years younger than the youngest kid in this picture

In those days my dad would work at the factory and then get laid off, and then find another job only to get laid off again.  This series of events left our family in a state of always trying to catch up with the bills.  I do remember, one day, when a woman was talking to my dad and asked him why I was sick.  He replied with a question asking her why she thought that I was ill.  She said that it was because I was so skinny.  My dad said that I was skinny because we didn’t have any food to put on our plates.

 This is the whole family, but the webmaster wasn't born yet.

My mom worked as hard as she could to take care of five young boys while my dad was away at work.  In the third floor apartment we still had the gas lamps on the walls which my mom told me that they still worked.  We had a toilet, but to take a shower we would have to go to the basement where there was a shower shared by all of the tenants of the three story building.   If you wanted to make the room warmer, someone would have to put more coal in the stove.

To shop for dinner, my mom would take twenty five cents and buy a big bag of chicken feet from the local butcher.  She would cook them up and make soup and us kids would eat the meat off of the feet.  Everyone ate like it was a regular type of meal and even the feet would be a feast.  As we sat there, my brothers would all joke around and one of them said that he had so much meat stuck between his teeth that he could eat for another week.  That’s what life was like when I was a kid.  We had to go hungry most of the time, and being hungry was normal.

We lived on he third floor of this Pullman house in Chicago Illinois

We lived in a three room house with a living room, a front bedroom and a kitchen.  My parents lived in the front bedroom and us kids lived in the kitchen with a drape hung over the center making a sort of bedroom for all five kids. 

I still remember my mom using a washboard to wash the clothes and then she would carry the clothes down three flights of stairs to the back yard and hang them up in the middle of the winter.  The clothes would freeze solid and after a couple of days, the ice would evaporate out of the them and then they would be dry.  It seemed like she would never stop working and always had too much to do.

 We lived on the third story of this house

But on Christmas day we had no food at all and there were absolutely no presents under the tree.  I’m thinking that this was also pretty normal for those days.  On Christmas day everyone was sitting around in the living room with nothing to do and nothing to say.  There was really nothing to do but to sit there and look at the scanty tree, so that’s what we did.  I do remember little pieces of this.

All of a sudden, there was a knock on the door.  My mom answered the door and a couple of people from the Salvation Army came in with a big bag of presents and another big bag of food.  This was now a real Christmas!  We all had a lot of presents and a full stomach with food left over for days to come. 

Why did the Salvation Army do this and how did they even know who to give food to.  I asked my mom about this and she said that she really didn’t know, but she did say that she thinks that one of the neighbors told them that there was a family who had nothing for Christmas.

This is what a true Christmas is really like.  It’s taking care of people who don’t have anything, not even food or even a warm coat.  This is why I now, always, donate to the Salvation Army and why everyone who has a pocket of change should put all of their change in that Salvation Army bucket.  It’s because, even in our community, I have seen people with what we used to call “Talking Shoes”.  Talking Shoes are shoes where the sole has separated from the rest of the shoe and that’s all the person has, so they walk and the shoes talk.  And what are they really saying.  They are saying there are needy people out there and the best way that we can reach them is to give to the Salvation Army.

Here's Jeff, the little guy who is also the Webmaster and Jim, my big brother

Thank you very much.

C. Jeff Dyrek, A Disabled Veteran.

 My brother Jim holding the Webmaster.

Another great story about Pullman Illinois, on the South Side of Chicago.




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