The Story of Three Fathers

The Story of Three Fathers

These were neighborhoods that encouraged walking and friendliness.

The Story of Three Fathers

The 99th Street Train Station

This is the story of three fathers in my life and the neighborhood that connected them. It is the story of a typical southside Chicago neighborhood where city blocks of various-styled houses marched along, occasionally interrupted by a cluster of stores–commerce that arose because of the presence of a Rock Island Railroad station at 95th, 99th, 103rd etc.

The neighborhood grew around access to the train and the city north. Sidewalks lined every block, slicing between the lawns of the houses and the lawns of the parkway where elm trees grew and short streetlights supplied only pools of light, because that was all that was needed. These were neighborhoods that encouraged walking and friendliness.

My father lived on the street with the simple name Wood. In the middle of my father’s block, three houses with three very different families lived side-by-side, fruit trees or a driveway marking off property lines. Of course each block had a house on either end—the proverbial corner house that had a certain cache. But if you turned the southern corner and walked past three other houses, you’d come to my father-in-law’s house that sat back from the sidewalk.

That’s how close these two men’s lives were geographically in the quiet neighborhood of Beverly Hills in Chicago. My father, Albert Pfordresher, was eight years older than Edward Havey, so they never attended either grade or high school together. They did go to the same church. And ironically, after each was married, they lived in those same houses, the ones where they had previously lived with their parents.

But my father died suddenly at the age of 45 when I was just a child, and thus would not be there when I rode my tricycle and then my two-wheeler around the block, past the house where Edward Havey was now living with his growing family—which included his first son, John—my future husband.

So you see, this is a story that can be repeated over and over in the lives of many folks in this country, folks living in farm towns or small cities, or living in the suburban areas of huge cities. It’s a story of bumping into people, of knowing them and connecting with them and finally NOT being surprised when the connection becomes deeper, becomes family. It’s a story that echoes with the phrase—it’s a small world. Because then, when I was growing up—it was smaller. People grew up and stayed—like my maternal grandmother who moved from a big Victorian home with her many brothers and sisters to a smaller house—again just blocks away. And lived there for over 65 years—content.

But Readers, you know all about change and far-flung relationships. You know all about the positives and negatives of insular living versus spreading your wings. It’s history, often family history. It’s life. It’s all very fascinating.

In 1931, a news article appeared in the neighborhood newspaper, the Southtown Economist. It was a review of a recent musical that occurred at the local church, St. Barnabus. Albert Pfordresher was the co-producer and Edward Havey took part in the performance. The article also mentioned Bob Singler, whose father was my grandmother’s brother. All families who would be intertwined.

But in 1931, my mother was only fifteen. I guess I wasn’t even a glimmer in anyone’s eye at that point in time. But so fascinating to imagine my father putting his hand on Edward Havey’s shoulder and saying,

“Wow, thanks for all that you did to make this performance go so well. It was great. We should get together more often.”

And my father-in-law responding,

“We should. Why you’re just around the corner from me. Maybe we could sit on your porch and talk about life and our futures.”

Imaging and wondering about conversations that could have taken place works for me. After all, I’m thinking about fathers today and want to say thanks to my father. Even though his untimely death took him, he left me with an amazing mother and my two loving brothers. And thanks to my father-in-law, whose courage and strength got him through WWII so he could come home and with my mother-in-law bring my future husband into the world. And thanks to my husband, my best friend, my advocate, my partner in all things.

To quote a writer whose words truly touched me: There’s something like a line of gold thread running through a man’s words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself. ~John Gregory Brown

Credit: Family photos and  Part of an ongoing Family History Project

The Story of Three Fathers

I guess this was a day when I was not riding a bike.


The Story of Three Fathers

A typical south side street.

17 thoughts on “The Story of Three Fathers

  1. Hi Elizabeth! Yes it was definitely a different time and way of life. Part of me thinks I would have liked some of it–and then part of me thinks it would have driven me a bit crazy. I’ve always had a wanderlust and would have found the “closeness” of it a bit claustrophobic. And I tend to believe that even if you didn’t grow up in the same neighborhood, we are still destined to meet certain people at exactly the right time and in the right way–that’s how it worked for Thom and me anyway. Thanks for the photos and the thoughts. ~Kathy

    • Hi Kathy,
      Your comments are so kind and thoughtful. And I agree totally. In fact though I met my husband in the place of my birth etc, after we had lived in Chicago for 50 years, I wanted to move–and eventually we did. Now we are in Southern California. I said I didn’t want to be buried in Chicago and who knows how that will turn out. But the people you grow up with and go to school with often have the same zeitgeist as you do and that makes for a good marriage. Happy Monday, Beth

  2. Loved this story , Beth! You know you have a gift for writing, but also to go way back in time to remember days, years gone by!! And to imagine conversations! Truly amazing!!!!!
    Sorry to say I have not read your book yet! Saving it for our July trip to Michigan. There I know I’ll just sit back and enjoy it all with no to do list!

    • Hi Gay, thanks for your love and support. Eager to see you in a week. I know how busy you have been and I’ve been waiting to ask a favor–after you do read it to send out a long blog post to your friends ENCOURAGING THEM TO GET A COPY AND DO THE SAME!!

      See you in a week, Beth

  3. Loved the story and the photos of 10055 Wood Street. An amazing insight into how love can find you, two blocks or civilizations away…….Bill

  4. Although a different state and a different neighborhood I am amazed by how similar our lives are. I too lost my father when I was very young and he was only 46. My husband’s parents knew my father and my father knew them and during a family project we learned that our grandfathers are buried right next to each other and here we are married 24 years and grandparents ourselves now. Great story Beth!

    • Thanks, Rena. I think it does go back to the way people used to live–they didn’t move that far from the framework of where they started. Hope you are having a good week, Beth

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  6. What a lovely story! My mom grew up in a suburb of Chicago (Oak Park) and had similar stories. We think of Chicago as a big, anonymous city, but it seems there were many neighborhoods that functioned as villages. I’m afraid they probably don’t anymore.

    • Thanks, Anne. I wrote you back. Miss California and hope you are doing so much better. How are your roses? Beth

  7. I adore this story, Beth! And that quote is inspiring. I have a thing about threads. Those of a community fascinate me. They run through every household and occasionally draw some of them closer together in a knot of family. And it’s so fun to look back and think: Huh. Who knew that man would some day be my father-in-law?
    Husby is a great genealogist. His extended family members in the south of England lived within 4 miles of each other for over 400 years!

    • Yes, looking back and knowing about family is a passion of my husband too. Roots and wings. They are OUR STORY. Thanks for your lovely comment. Beth

  8. I grew up in New York City, and yet I can tell a couple of stories like this. Not neighbors, but chance meetings. When my father’s father was growing up, one of his religious school teachers was a young man…my mother’s father. One of my cousins went to an open house when she was looking for a house (a house she still lives in, some 40 years later) and got to talking with another open house participant – my best friend, and they hit it off and became friends at a time I lived 1500 miles away. It’s wonderful, even if you aren’t neighbors.

    • Stories of meetings and lasting friendships are wonderful stories. Thanks for sharing them. Beth

  9. Beth,

    You captured the beautiful, comforting world of Beverly in the late fifties and sixties. I remember nights at your house that were loving and inspiring. I always felt that your mom, your brothers, and you were part of our extended family. Your essay was fantastic.

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