Louise Evanich Jandacek
Family History Written by Louise Evanich Jandacek, born July 17,1944
When my father, John Michael Evanich (age 24), left to fight in the European theater W.W.II in the spring of 1944 my mother (Jean Krinard Evanich, age 19) returned to her parents’ home in Alton, IL. They put a star in the window of the front porch, a sign that this family had a service man overseas. Mom prayed each night that a car wouldn’t show up at the front door with Army staff and a clergy person bringing news that something had happened to Dad.
I was born on a Monday, wash day for my grandmother, Mamie McDanel Krinard. So my grandfather, Albert Roger Krinard, dropped Mom off at the hospital on his way to work that morning. The woman who checked Mom in at the maternity ward was none other than Mom’s old Latin teacher from High School, Miss Machin. I think she assumed that Mom, salutatorian at her high school, would go onto college to become a teacher. So when Mom showed up big as a barn pregnant,Miss Machin said, “OH, Jean!”
I was born at 11:30 am, July 17, 1944. My grandmother, Mamie came to visit that evening and told Mom I looked like John’s father, my grandfather John Evanich of Whiting IN. That was NOT what Mom wanted to hear.
A telegram was sent to my father, and when it finally caught up to Dad he was outside of Paris, waiting for Charles De Galle and the Free French forces to lead the victory parade through Paris. Dad had carried cigars with him and so when the telegram finally arrived, he passed them out to his friends. It has always amazed me that a soldier going into combat, landing on Utah Beach in Normandy would have carried cigars along to celebrate his first born.
Shortly after my birth there was pressure put on Mom to have me baptized in the Catholic church by my paternal grandmother Josephine Jursinic Evanich. Mom didn’t know any Catholics to ask to be my godparents so my grandfather suggested the salesman at the jewelry store uptown, Leo and Rose Wingate. He and his wife were strangers but they were Catholic. Somehow they agreed. My baptism included the priest from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Alton IL, me, my mother, and the jewelry store people. There was no party, no dinner, nothing of celebration afterwards. The Wingates never saw me again. I felt resentment over the years as my sister and brother had godparents who paid attention to them year around. Mom says those were war years and that’s just the way it was.
Our address in Alton was 1711 Rodgers Ave. Included in the family was my Uncle Roger, who was in high school and my Aunt Gloria, then age 10. Gloria told her classmates she was an aunt and they didn’t believe her. So one day Mom put me in the stroller walked to Horace Mann School to show off Gloria’s niece.
Apparently living under the same roof with my grandparents wasn’t easy. To get out of the house as frequently as possible Mom would take me on bus rides around town, transferring everywhere to see the sights. This has always surprised me as I get terribly car sick but Mom claims I didn’t throw up.
My ration book coupons were used for extra sugar, car tires, and shoes for Aunt Gloria.
Mom did all my laundry on a scrub board as my grandmother refused to let her use the washing machine because it might break and during the war spare parts couldn’t be found. Frankly, I think this rule had more to do with my grandmother’s control issues.
Our room was in the attic, shared by me and mother and Gloria. Not being insulated, it went from an oven in the summer to an ice box in the winter. Corn starch was applied like powder to my little sweaty body. Mom claims she wasn’t allowed to let me cry as it would disturb Gloria. Like I said, this wasn’t an ideal living situation, but these were war years and people did what they needed to do.
Dad returned to the US, discharged from the army, when I was almost 2 years old. My sister, Sheila, was born in Hammond,IN a year later. Our family moved to Whiting, IN after the war. Mom packed all her belongings in wooden crates and had them shipped by rail to Whiting IN. Included in the crate was Dad’s discharge papers. When he first applied to work at Standard Oil of Indiana, they wanted to see his papers. Well, they hadn’t arrived yet, so Dad went off to Sinclair Oil Refinery and they didn’t require the papers. Dad’s career as a pipe fitter spanned the time from 1946 to his retirement in 1975. During that time Sinclair was sold to Atlantic Richfield and finally to British Petroleum. Dad retired from PB in ‘75, at age 55.
Our first residence in Whiting was a rental unit up the street from my grandparents, the landlord’s name was Nuranich. There was a coal burning black stove in the center of the living room. That was one of my earliest memories. Mom tells the story of me eating the coal chunks one time, what a mess that must have been! My grandparents built a two story house on the back of their property, forever called “the back house”. On the first floor was a two car garage and a wash room/storage area. I have really fond memories of that first level. We had Thanksgiving dinners and other celebrations with all the extended family in that garage. Tables would be set up with saw horses, boards and white table cloths on one side. The other side of the garage had Grandpa’s boat, the “Pepa.” My Aunts were the best cooks ever! We had true feasts whenever the family got together.
In the wash area the family made blood sausage throughout the years of my childhood. It was the absolute best sausage ever made on the face of the earth! After it was stuffed into the casings the loops were hung on poles from the ceiling. After it was baked the casings turned crispy and the color was black from the pork blood. The other ingredients were rice and pork from pork loin roasts, seasoned with marjoram. I think in Slovenia the original recipe took the leftover pork pieces like the head and organ meat but Grandpa E only used quality pork roast meat, ground up with the rice. I’ve ordered the blood sausage, Krvava Klobasa several places in Europe, none of them were as delicious as Grandpa’s. The gallon of fresh pig blood wasn’t easy to get, probably illegal, so Grandpa bribed some farmer who was slaughtering in the autumn. It was a total family project with all the aunts and uncles and cousins coming to help.
The upstairs of the residence was our new home. It had two bedrooms, one bath, kitchen and living room. The refrigerator was on the landing as the kitchen was too small for it. We lived there until I finished kindergarten in 1950. Things I remember from that home at 2444Schrage Ave, Whiting IN were: Sheila as a baby, Charles Kent born in 1949, locking myself accidentally in the bedroom, covering our first TV with a sheet when the tax assessor people showed up to evaluate your stuff. Never did that when we lived in IL, but IN had taxes on your possessions inside your house. I remember Mom teaching me the correct way to hold a fork, reading lots of books with Mom, and the red doll house Dad had made by hand for my Christmas present. He made it out of a wooden orange crate. Money was really tight. I remember my cousins, Joanne and Caroline, Dick, Diane and Kathy, Larry, Alan, Timmy and Little Edie. And in Mobile AL were cousins Snooky, Sonny, Cindy, Mark and Scott. Later Uncle Bernie got married and they had 5 boys, Brian, Warren, Randall and the twins Larry and Terry. Randall died of polio in the 50s. I lost a classmate at school to polio that year too.
The backyard at the 2444 Schrage Ave was really small to play in but there was a swing, and on many evenings the family came to spend time together. I think Grandpa built the swing himself. For a little while Grandpa had a hunting dog, Old Joe. Unfortunately he was always chained up or penned and I don’t really remember playing with him. Neither one of my parents thought highly of pets. Too bad. I loved animals.
I remember the stroller, where Sheila rode in the front seat and I was in the rumble seat. Frankly that was uncomfortable and by age 4 I’d rather walk/run any way. Sometimes we’d all go down the sidewalk to greet Dad coming home from work. I’d run ahead into Dad’s arms. He was strong, lifted me up, and wreaked of the smells of an oil refinery.
Speaking of the stench of Standard Oil, every once in a while there was a discharge from the refineries of a very very strong acid aroma. It burned your eyes and throat. I remember when it would first start Mom and I would run through the house closing all the windows. Dad planted strawberries one time and the next day the acid in the air killed them all. After that experience Dad started to think about us moving out of Whiting.
Whiting Park was located on the shores of Lake Michigan. It had a rock garden, swings and a great place to have a picnic. Grandpa would give us kids boat rides out on the lake, really fast, jumping over the waves. Of course those were the days before life jackets.
I went to kindergarten at South Side School, it was walking distance, about 3 blocks. Cousin Dick was in my class as was Cousin Ann Cotting. I liked kindergarten, feeling grown up, the books, art projects, snack time, the resting mats. I even remember my teacher’s name, Miss Wade.
I referred to myself as Weezie and I lived in Whiting, “In A Banana.” Apparently pronouncing Louise and Indiana was challenging. The funny pronunciations have stuck with me all of my life, including my grandchildren calling me Grandma Weezie.
My mother sewed me a red plaid dress for kindergarten, it was my all time favorite! When Mom went to the hospital for Kent’s birth, Grandma E let me wear the red plaid dress every day! My brother was called Kent throughout his childhood, only changing it to Chuck when he went off to college.
After Kent was born and the little house above the garage was getting too small for a family of 5, my parents started looking for another house, this time on the IL side of the border in a town called Lansing, about 10 miles southwest of Whiting. It was about this time that Dad bought his first car, a Chevy Coup. Poor Sheila got her fingers slamming in the back door shortly thereafter. Although Mom did have a driver’s license, it was always Dad who drove….always.
In August, 1950, we moved to an old farm house on a large lot in Lansing, IL. It seemed very spacious to a 6 year old, and included a large yard, trees to climb, including a big old cottonwood tree. There were two bedrooms, so all the kids were in the same room. There was a screened in front porch, nice and cool in the summer and Mom cooled homemade fudge out there when she made it for Christmas. The floor was slanted, making playing with marbles fun as they immediately rolled east. Dad planted some fruit trees, apples in the front yard, cherries in the back and two walnut trees on the side yard. Soon there were gladiola beds, peonies, day lilies, and even a mimosa tree which was babied each winter, wrapped in blankets.
Across the street from us at 18414 Ridgewood Ave, Lansing, IL was a field of flowers, mums of all different colors, a cash crop for the Dutch farmers. It was sad when a few years later, the field was sold off for home development. Lansing was so much cleaner than Whiting and no belching acid.
In the fall of 1950 I started first grade at St. Ann’s Catholic school. It was a 3 block walk from home.