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Life at Angel Guardian Orphanage

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Life at Angel Guardian Orphanage - Page Text Content

S: Life at AGO


1: ANGEL GUARDIAN ORPHANAGE | Angel Guardian Orphanage (AGO) was founded on October 25, 1865. The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ arrived to care for the children there on November 9, 1868. AGO was located at 2001 W. Devon Ave. on the north side of Chicago. It continued to operate at that location until it ceased to be an institution caring for dependent children in 1974. During its 100 plus years of operation, AGO served Chicago's neediest families and their children under the auspices of the German Catholic Society (1800-1900's) through the Catholic Charities of Chicago (1900's). Because of AGO, thousands of children received opportunities that they may not have otherwise enjoyed.

3: The photos in this book were primarily taken by Sr. Mary Edward Mason (Sr. Edward), the Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ sister responsible for Cottage 25 at Angel Guardian Orphanage (AGO) during the mid 1950's. There were few events that her "kids" were involved in where she wasn't present with her Kodak Brownie camera ready to take a picture. For many of the kids in Cottage 25, her camera was the first and best camera they ever saw. In total, these pictures told a story about life in one of the boys cottages at AGO. Sr. Edward captured day-to-day life, church events and kids having fun, playing sports and enjoying special events. Sr. Edward not only had the foresight to keep these memories through the years but passed them on more recently to one of her AGO kids, David Baer. Dave worked with Sylvia Huante (another AGO kid) to have the pictures posted on the AGO website in a folder called "Cottage 25." They also sent me a copy of the photos, many of which are included in this book. Joe Ellis, 25-26 AGO 1953-1964 | INTRODUCTION


5: There were daily masses at AGO and sometimes more than one a day. There were also regular novenas, rosaries, benedictions (holy hour), religious processions, Stations of the Cross and Corpus Christi services. Prayer was an ingrained part of life at AGO. Prayers were said when getting out of bed, before and after each meal and before going to bed.

7: 8th | First Communion and Penance was made in second grade. It was a special event where the boys were dressed in suits and the girls all had white dresses. It was also an event where parents attended and were allowed to visit with their kids receiving First Communion. For those not having parents present, at the time, Fr. Evans would take those kids out to some place like the Lincoln Park Zoo. It was a special event for everyone. In 8th Grade, boys became members of the Holy Name Society and were identified by the ribbon each boy wore.

8: The PRIESTS | In the mid-50's, there were four priests: administrator Msgr. Leo Diebold (predecessor was Bishop of Rockford. Illinois, Raymond Hillinger) , Fr. Fred Neimeyer, Fr. Richard Schroeder and Fr. John Evans.

9: Seminarians ("Sems") worked at AGO during the summer teaching religion, umping baseball games, taking kids to the beach and monitoring Jug (the place where kids had to stay when they broke any of the playground rules, like throwing rocks, crossing the Yellow Line).

10: The SISTERS | About 60 Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ sisters worked at Angel Guardian Orphanage. They were the life blood of AGO and cared for the kids in all the essential ways. They were administrators, cottage sisters, teachers, nurses, child care providers, playground supervisors, kitchen and laundry managers. But they were also much more, they were there for the kids when their own mothers were not.

12: COTTAGE LIFE | Kids lived in residence halls called cottages. There were 10 boys and 8 girls cottages, each with a capacity to house 32 kids. Additionally, there were cottages for pre-school aged kids called the "Baby House" and separate cottages for the high school boys and girls. There was enough room for over 700 kids.

13: One sister was responsible for each cottage and they would also have a second sister, known as a "reliever," who would fill in when the "cottage nun" was away. | The "relievers" were usually sisters who were teachers in the AGO grade school or high school.

14: 16 sinks, 4 toilets and 3 tubs/showers. Every day began with the ritual of stripping to the waist and washing your face, combing your hair and brushing your teeth. At Cottage 25, showers were usually twice a week and during the summer the kids washed their feet every day. | Freshman and Sophomore Boys

15: An AGO kid giving another a helping hand.

16: Every kid had a chore. It could be something as simple as cleaning a sink or one of the "big kid" jobs of dust mopping the living room or dormitory. There were also jobs called "Thursday jobs" that were only done once a week, like dusting the blinds. | The shiny floors at AGO were not polished by buffers but by kids shining the floors with pieces of felt or wool under their feet.

17: Cottage 25 | Sunday clothes were the clothes that were only worn on Visiting Sundays, holidays or special occasions.

18: so many | The playroom was where the grade school kids gathered to play games, watch TV, listen to the radio or play records and do their homework. It was also where each of the kids had a personal cubical or "case" to store their personal toys. | Occasionally, volunteers would bring a baby to Angel Guardian. It was always a source of amazement to these kids who rarely saw an infant.

19: Strong bonds build when people experience something traumatic together and that's what happened at Angel Guardian. Regardless of the circumstances that resulted in them being at the "Home," a closeness developed because they all went through the same experience together. That bond still exists today when AGO folks get together and, regardless of age, can say, "We went through it together." | The special birthday treat for Cottage 25 kids was receiving a piece of candy for each year of age and not having to do chores on their birthday.

20: Cottage Life... | The cottage dormitory was a room large enough to hold 32 beds.

21: Many of the haircuts provided at AGO were done by the sisters, although there was a barber on location later. | Food was brought to each dinning room in a cart called a "Gig." Each dining room had its own place settings and following each meal, dishes were washed and dried by hand by the kids.

22: Many of the kids at AGO were there with siblings - like Wesley and Joe Ellis (right) and Dave and Roy Baer (below left). Often, however, they were not together since boys and girls cottages were separate and younger or older siblings might be in the "Baby House," grade school or high school cottages. | Because of the close living conditions, friendships built closer than they might otherwise. The kids lived together, played together, ate together, worshiped together, went to school together and slept in the same dormitory. Basically they spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with each other.

23: Just a few of the Cottage 25 boys

24: ROCKIES! A special treat any time of the year!

25: AGO Rockies 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking soda 2 teaspoons ground ginger 1 3/4 teaspoons each ground cinnamon and ground cloves 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened 1 cup lightly packed light brown sugar 1 large egg at room temperature 1/4 cup unsulphered molasses 3/4 cups raisins Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter and sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes or until pale and fluffy, scraping bowl twice with a rubber spatula. Beat in egg, then molasses until blended. Scrape bowl. With mixer on low speed, beat in flour mixture and raisins until blended. Increase speed to medium and beat just until dough comes together. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a log 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 12 inches long. Arrange logs 3 to 4 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 17 to 18 minutes until logs are golden but still very soft to the touch and puffy in the center. (Dough cracks when baking and will seem slightly raw inside even when logs are done. Logs flatten out and lengthen as they bake.) Cool logs on sheet. GLAZE: Whisk 1 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar and 3 tablespoons milk in a small bowl until blended. Drizzle over cooled logs. When glaze is hard, cut each log into eight 2 inch wide slices. Store in airtight container to preserve chewiness, but that defeats the whole purpose. Leave them out and they will become ROCKIES! | Recipe

26: One week a year, kids would go to camp at Villa Marie in McHenry, Illinois. Cottages were assigned cabins. All the cottages ate together in one dining room There were activities daily that included swimming, boating, hiking, fishing, volleyball and softball. There were also crafts and other activities.

27: Camp Villa Marie | Happy Campers!

28: Camp Villa Marie

30: 4th of July Olympics! | What better way to enjoy the 4th of July than by holding an Olympics! All varieties of track and field events were held and prizes and ribbons were awarded to the winners.

33: Automobile Day! | Automobile Day was an event for Chicago area organizations like AGO. People would volunteer to drive kids in their personal cars to Lincoln Park where there was a full day of entertainment, food and a baseball tournament.

34: AGO provided a full K to 12 educational program. The new school building had grade school and kindergarten classrooms on the first floor along with the music room. The high school was on the second floor of the building. The school building also housed the administration offices and an auditorium that seated 700. | When school was over for the grade schoolers, they went back to their cottages and after supper would spend several hours in the playroom doing their homework. The schedule was different for the high school students. They would go to school half days and work around the various Angel Guardian departments the other half. The departments the boys worked in included: the Boiler Room, Swimming Pool, Print Shop, Garage, Carpentry Shop, Bakery and Paint Shop. The high school students would then go back to school after supper where they would spend several hours doing homework. | School Days

35: The gym and swimming pool were built in the mid 50's. The gym was big enough to hold three full-sized basketball courts and it held eight basketball hoops. When AGO ceased operation, its gym, for a time, became the practice facility for the Chicago Bulls. The swimming pool was 20 yards in length and provided fun for the kids and a place for the high school to compete in swimming meets against other schools in the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) league. | Swimming

36: Basketball | The gym was always busy with cottage basketball games. Often three games would be going on at the same time while some of the high school kids refereed the games. A basketball court was also outside on the Yard playground but the kids had more fun with rocking the basketball hoop.

37: The first experience many of the "little guys" had with football was to join the grade school football team during their calisthenics in the Yard. After a couple of days of calisthenics the players got their uniforms and started practicing on the football field. Generally, AGO was pretty competitive in the CYO league and often ended the season in first or second place. The high school team was equally competitive but because of the school size, played major high schools' junior varsity teams. | Football

38: Baseball | AGO boys played a lot of baseball. The 10 boys cottages would compete against each other in softball throughout the summer. There was a little league team, too.

39: The high school played baseball against other high schools in the Chicago area. They also played in the American Legion tournament where they were often matched against some of the largest schools in Chicago, like Lane Tech.

40: the Yard | Every winter, part of the boys playground would be flooded to create a skating rink. Regardless of the weather, the kids wanted to be out playing and many had a fun skating experience, especially playing "crack the whip."

41: The Boys Yard was big enough for 4 softball fields, a basketball court and a playground that included a large double slide, monkey bars, 4 swings, 2 pull-up bars and a trapeze. The most fun with the trapeze was to see if you could throw it over the bar. There was also a wading pool for "little guys." | The Yellow Line divided the Yard and playground from the rest of the AGO campus, including the girls side. Kids crossing the Yellow Line would get into trouble and end up in Jug (a porch at Cottage 32 where you had to go when you broke the playground rules).

42: During the summer, every day would start with all the cottages gathered by the flag pole to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. This was true even at camp. The daily schedule board was by the flag pole and this is where the cottage games and rankings were posted.

43: In order to get anywhere from AGO, the kids went by bus. To take a bus ride meant to go somewhere and that was always a special treat.

44: Originally only boys were in the band and girls took piano lessons. Later girls were also allowed to be in the band. Lessons were given to grade school kids and the band would perform at school functions, special events, for Corpus Christi processions and on Christmas morning. The band also performed at the Poor Handmaids Motherhouse in Indiana and individual band members competed in an annual solo contest held at De LaSalle High School. | Band

45: EASTER | happy | Spring Time | Church was an important part of the Easter holiday. The observances of Holy Week were also followed. Younger kids were able to enjoy the holiday through Easter egg hunts.

46: Trick or Treat | There was no trick-or-treating because there was no place for the kids to trick-or-treat. But they did have a party and wear costumes. Even the high school kids celebrated this holiday.

47: There was always a turkey meal for Thanksgiving.

48: Christmas parties sponsored by various organizations preceded the holiday. On December 6th, the Feast of St. Nicholas, the kids would get fruit and nuts. On Christmas Eve presents were distributed to each of the kids. Christmas Day was a day, first and foremost, of going to Mass. The grade school band would be playing familiar Christmas songs in the foyer of the Church and the high school kids who were interested could join them. Christmas Mass was at 5:30 a.m., reminiscent of Midnight Mass. Later in the day, parents could visit and take their kids out.

49: C H R I S T M A S J O Y

50: In grade school, wherever you went, you went in line. One of the nice things about going to high school was that you didn't have to walk in line any more. | Parents were able to visit the kids at AGO every other week. However, some kids frequently had no visitors. On the alternating Sundays, a movie would be shown in the auditorium. It was the one regular event, other than school, that the boys and girls did together. | During the mid 1950 - 60's at Angel Guardian, a new school, girls and boys gyms, auditorium and swimming pool were built. There were also separate buildings for dining rooms, kitchen, laundry and a church. It was convenient that almost all of the buildings were connected by hallways. So, weather never caused any difficulty in getting from one place to another. In addition to the Yards, there were baseball, football and track fields.

51: Going Home For Good Eventually, everyone would leave Angel Guardian. They left for all sorts of reasons. Some family situations were temporarily in distress and their kids would only be at AGO for a short period of time. Some were orphans with no place else to go, while others' families were highly dysfunctional and provided no hope of stability outside of Angel Guardian. Many kids were there through their grade school and high school years but no one would stay beyond high school and all high school graduates left on graduation day. Today it's referred to as "aging out of the system." Regardless, for a time, it was home for thousands of kids.

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  • By: Sandra B.
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  • Title: Life at Angel Guardian Orphanage
  • Life at Angel Guardian Orphanage in the 50's - pictures mostly provided by Sr. Edward, PHJC
  • Tags: AGO, Angel Guardian Orphanage, Sr. Edward
  • Published: over 7 years ago