Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Bob Torrison - A Retrospective I

Bob Torrison was my best friend in high school. We were in a fairly close knit group of friends but I was closest to Bob and we stayed in contact for many years after we geographically moved apart. Bob died rather suddenly (for me) in 1999 and I have always felt an unresolved sadness that I didn't have a chance to acknowledge to  him and his family that he had played a role in how I turned out. I have been blessed with good fortune and he was no small part of it. He was most of all gentle and kind and of goodwill. He was quiet and reserved but for me he was the origin of a whole lot of fun.
Recently I came across Bob's daughter Gretchen on Facebook and this brought up some great memories of the good times Bob and I had while we were growing up. I thought it would be fun to share a few stories about the Bob Torrison I remember. Bob was born in 1936 in the Hinsdale San and spent his early years in Riverside and Maywood. His folks built a house in Western Springs and they moved from Maywood in time for  Bob to  start  high school at LTHS in 1951. We met when we were both freshman.

My mom had gone to Lyons Township High School graduating in 1918. Her father had moved the family to
a new home on south Seventh Avenue in La Grange from Chicago in the early 1900's. After she married my dad they moved north from Marietta Georgia to a small wood frame house on Dover St. on the north side  of the  tracks where I grew up. Our house was about one block  from the Burlington Railroad tracks which were  little more than the length of a football field from the high school as pictured. The clock tower at the high school had a huge bell and I could hear it easily  as I lay in my bed at night.

Bob and I hit it off right away and spent much of our spare time together. We played touch football and intramural basketball on various  teams through the years - some strong and some not so. We hung out a lot. Bob was very proud of his dad who worked at the Chicago Screw company starting on the line and working his way up to be Chairman of the Board after 36 years. Many of the great memories of our good times revolved around our weekend activities which opened up significantly after we got our drivers licenses. Friday nights we would drive around La Grange and neighboring towns usually ending up at the Corral where I began my career playing ping pong. Saturdays after either football or basketball games we would often go to a place in a nearby town, Glen Ellyn, called Hamburger Heaven. All I can say about the burgers was that they were huge, had everything on them, and were covered with mayo. It was impossible to eat that burger without getting mayo all over yourself. We were always very courageous in our car shouting at teens from nearby towns if we knew we could drive away without a direct confrontation. 

The summer before my senior year my mother had bought a white Buick Riviera convertible with bright red seat covers. Bob and I thought that this "meat wagon" put us in "Fat City". Bob and I double dated a lot and as the years past we started driving to more distant destinations. We used to drive to downtown Chicago, to Lake Geneva, to the Indiana Dunes. We would go to see Chicago Blackhawk games in the winter. Jim Sloan's father's business was on the south side of Chicago near Comiskey Park. We would park behind his dad's fence and walk to the White Sox baseball games. On game in particular stands out. We had seats in the left field stands in the second row. Just after settling in White Sox favorite power hitter, Minnie Minoso, slammed a home run over the left fence right at me. As I stood up to catch the ball the man in front who had just been served a full cup of beer went for the ball. He got the  ball and I got the full cup of beer in the face. What fun!

For our senior year our high school let seniors have their lunch hour away from school. For the entire year Bob and I would go out for lunch together - rain or shine. Most of the time we brought sack lunches made by our mothers. We didn't have wheels so sometimes when we didn't have a lunch we would go to a small store

on Hilgrove Ave. opposite the Burlington Railroad Stone Avenue Station and get a sandwich and a quart of chocolate milk. We brought cups and split the milk. We used to talk about the consistency the chocolated milk being slightly "lumpy". It was our private little joke. Sometimes we would sit outside on benches or on the grass and other times we would eat inside the station which was never busy at lunch time. These lunches were not taken up with discussions of issues. We just were enjoying the freedom of the moment. Even today I long for such times of aimless pleasure. I was usually thinking of the coming action - Bob had the ability to be in the moment. That is one of the lessons I got from hanging out with him.


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