There were a few couples besides Harry and his wife. Even the police chief’s parents were in the highrise. They were often busy with family. They were among the lucky ones, as were others in the building who had families who visited. Some others had families, but they rarely visited. It broke my heart to see them standing at their windows, hoping and waiting for a son or daughter to visit.
We were a family. We loved to laugh. On April Fools’ Day, Leo delighted in getting one over me. Like putting salt in the morning coffee pot. I got one on him, too, though. With his wife Lilly’s help, I short-sheeted his bed. I think there was some strong language when he got in bed that night. Not exactly a professional manager today, I know, I know. Not how I’d teach the supervisory course today. I know.
Several people really missed their gardens, especially in the spring, when they’d used to plant vegetables and flowers. Leo came up with the idea of making a big garden plot in the back yard. I was a little hesitant about digging up the lawn, but thought, “Oh, what the heck,” so we did.
They had so much fun with that garden. Nelly from the ninth floor planted tomatoes and every day, throughout the day, she would check on the tomatoes. Every day. No tomatoes yet. One night Leo sneaked out after bedtime (after 9 p.m.) and tied little cherry tomatoes on all of her plants. The screams from the garden the next morning were worth it all!
We arranged trips here, there, and everywhere. We chartered a school bus and went to plays, ballgames, and all kinds of other events. We lived. It didn’t matter anymore if your hair was gray and you had wrinkles. You didn’t feel old anymore!
While I worked in the highrise, I got pregnant. The social circle knit for me, and the women watched me like a hawk. They watched what I ate and what I did. Jim became a prince as a father-to-be. I got rounder and rounder, but I kept working. I remember the screams and admonishments from the community room when, at eight months pregnant, I jumped the hedge in my haste to get out to Leo on the lawn mower to tell him something.
Everyone had an opinion of what I should or should not name the baby. Jim and I decided on Molly, and Leo was aghast. “I had a horse named Molly. You can’t name her Molly!”
At 5:30 p.m. on September 10, 1970, still at the highrise, I felt the first pain. Molly was born at 8:30 p.m. that day. I stayed home for two weeks and couldn’t stand it any longer. Molly McKay with her little fluff of red hair came to work with me every day.
I nursed her on my breaks and at lunch. Lilly babysat for her, and there would be a parade of visitors all day to see “the little one.” She had 132 grandmas and grandpas.
She learned to walk in the highrise, and would toddle through the halls. For many years later, we visited the highrise and, in the community room, she sat and talked individually with each person and held their hand.
As the years went on, sometimes it was hard. I found out that elderly people died — or, worse yet to them, had to go to a nursing home. Clyde would leave a pan on the stove with the burner on and forget about it. His legs just gave out and he had to sit in the living room, so he forgot about the stove, he said. We all knew it was just a matter of time, but the time for the nursing home always came too soon. The siren would come close to the building, and we’d all look out the window and dread to see who it would be this time.
Enough about those days, but I think not funding elderly public housing since 1980 is a shame. It was the best program they had.