Like many first generation families at the end of the war, the Costello family left their flat in the Little Italy Taylor Street neighborhood near downtown Chicago and headed for the distant suburbs. They bought a spacious old house one hundred and sixty-four blocks south on Hamlin Avenue in the little town of Markham. Their world changed dramatically: skyscrapers, factories, and elevated trains gave way to chicken coops, open fields, and wide front porches. The air was sweeter, the yards larger, and the nearest bus stop was a mile’s walk.
Mom is the consummate housewife, and Dad, a creature of habit, pulls into the driveway at exactly the same moment every evening. Relatives make the long trek out for Sunday and holiday dinners, backyard picnics, and family birthdays. Cousins come to spend weeks at a time in the summer, and Grandma and Aunt Honey move-in indefinitely. All the while, our narrator Linda, two years younger than her brother Tommy, is the object of his many pranks that leave her up a tree, losing a pet chicken, and learning the art of boxing in the sun parlor.
This is a post-war snapshot of American life at its best when the family was central and news of the day was exchanged at the supper table. Funny and poignant, readers who lived it will love remembering, and those who didn’t will get to taste life on Hamlin Avenue.