Saturday, October 24, 1981

Bev the teenager, 1980's

I have a lot of great memories from the Albany Park neighborhood in Chicago where I was born and raised.


Jensen under construction

Jensen Park back in the early 1980's)
The summer after 7th grade, we moved into a different school zone, near Haugan Elementary School and Jensen Park.  I ran, everyday, all the way back to my old school, Patrick Henry, for 8th grade and graduated there.  So I didn't make any friends in the Haugan/Jensen area until the summer after 8th grade when I lost touch with my Patrick Henry friends.  I would run everywhere.  A few blocks from my house was Jensen Park.  I ran in a square down the streets that surrounded the park, the field house, the basketball courts, the baseball fields and the tennis courts, probably about 1 mile each time around.

One day the Park Manager, Jerry Pistone, came outside and timed me as I ran past.  Then my next time around he stopped the timer and stopped me.  He asked if I wanted to run track for the Chicago Park District, representing Jensen Park.  So I did.  I won for our neighborhood, I won at the division meet and made it all the way to the Chicago Park District city finals.  I placed 11th out of about 200 girls in my age group.  Jerry got all of us to join other activities as well.  He would get you to try every sport till you found one you liked.

We had a basketball court, we played 16" softball in the baseball field, tennis in the tennis courts. The field house is where we played sports in the winter like ping pong and floor hockey.  To the left of the field house were the swings, slides, teeter tauter, etc.  To the right of the field house was the sprinkler, baseball field and tennis court.  In the winter Jerry would freeze up the baseball field and we could even ice skate.   We would go to other parks around the city to compete.  I loved it.  That's how I met most of the kids that hung around Jensen Park, including my future husband and how I became an athlete.

We all thank Jerry Pistone for being a genuine good guy that kept all of us teenagers out of trouble.  He got us all into sports and wouldn't allow gangs to take over our park, rare in Chicago.  He probably saved lives.  We had a 30 year reunion last year, Jerry came.  He STILL runs Jensen Park to this day, 30 years later!  What a great role model & asset to the Chicago Park District.  Wish there were more Jerry Pistone's in the world.

(2010, Haugan/Jensen 30 year reunion.  
I'm in the blue shirt on the very left, 
Jerry Pistone, our park Manager,  is 3rd from left)

And unfortunately, sometimes reunions happen because one of us has died.  
We've lost Rene, Fuki & Heno, just to name a few.  May they R.I.P.
Below is the pic from after a memorial service in April, 2010, for our friend Heno.
Our park manager Jerry gave me a ride to Heno's birthday party in Jan., 1988.
After that party, Heno's good friend Lorens and I started dating.
Heno was a guest at our wedding the next year.
Heno will always have a special place in our hearts.
I'm in the bottom row, second from left.

But nighttime at Jensen when the field house was closed and Jerry went home, it was a different atmosphere.  We were city girls and guys standing our ground with each other, sometimes with gang members.  We had to protect our park, get them to leave our park, protect each other.

We were a family and Jensen Park was our home.  We weren't bad kids, maybe drinking beer in the field and running from the police if they chased us, thats about it.


High School Sports:
Then we started high school.  There were tons of sports to join.  I loved everything I had been doing at Jensen all summer.   When I started high school,  I wanted to be all "Rah Rah" and go to the Friday night skating parties, pep rallies, the plays,  the dances, the football games.  I even tried out for Cheer-leading (fail).
Scene from the film Grease 

But I found my favorite sport when I made the high school swim team. We made it all the way to the Chicago city finals one year!  Swimming remains my favorite activity (though these days I look more like a flotation device, a round, flotation device).  

  (Roosevelt High School, Chicago, IL, swimming pool)
Me and my friend Tina (our swim team captain back then) remember being in the best shape of our lives and being on an award winning team together.  We remember 30 years ago, when "Coach" had us swim 500 LAPS during practice, in our huge school pool, to prepare for upcoming swim meets.  These days, I could swim about 10 laps, Tina could probably swim about 50 laps. 

Major High School Homecoming Drama
Then I was nominated for Homecoming Queen!  My best friends from Jensen just laughed, they definitely weren't into the "H.S. Rah, Rah" pep rallies. They hated that I liked all of it, like these high school dances and teams.  Some of them informed me it would be uncool for me to attend.  Further, it was my best friend from Jensen's 16th birthday, on the same weekend as the dance.  She said if I went to the Homecoming dance, we wouldn't be friends anymore.  So I was actually considering not going.
(Scene from the film Grease)

Then the results were read over the school intercom,
"Sophomore homecoming Queen, 1981
Bev Richardson!"
I was in shock.  It's not like I was some beauty queen.  I considered myself a jock.   I felt so honored that my high school friends voted for me, that was the special part.  But my best friend from the park told me, once again, that if I went to the Homecoming dance, and didn't hang out with her for her 16th birthday, our friendship would be over.

But I didn't care anymore.
I was the queen and now I was going to the friggin dance.  

My best guy friend, Juan, said he'd be at the game and the dance to support me and dance with me later, so its not like I'd be there alone.  The day of homecoming, it was the big game.  I got to ride in the float, I was even wearing a pretty dress.  My family came to support me, and the football team, my high school friends cheered me on.  It was awesome.   But then as I'm passing by in the float, waving into the stands,  there's Juan, being led away in handcuffs by the police.  He had brought some liquor into the game.  My mom was there with some of her good friends, and she gave me the look that I was definitely guilty by association.
My boyfriend went to a different high school and wasn't planning on coming.  But now I decided to call him, I needed him to step up to the plate.  I didn't care that he wasn't friends with kids from my school. I told him, now I'm going to be all alone, he better come or I would never forgive him.   So he came to pick me up, late for the dance, literally falling down drunk.
We go into the dance, he goes immediately to study hall,
put his head down on a desk and passed out.

Now it was time for the first dance, they were calling for me to come out onto the dance floor.   

My boyfriend is passed out drunk in study hall. 
My guy best friend Juan is in jail.  
My girl best friends are all mad at me and refused to come.
So I'm all alone, and I'm the friggin Queen.

I went to look for my boyfriend in study hall.  The school cop had woken him up and it looked like he was about to be arrested too.  Great.  So I left his drunk ass passed out in study hall.

I ran out of the dance, all the way home in my queen sash and beautiful dress.When I got home, I threw my dress in the hamper, changed into jeans and a Led Zeppelin T-Shirt and ran to Jensen to find my friends.  I figured screw it, I'll make my own good time.  The dance wasn't even 1/2 over, and here's the queen, at the park, 5 blocks away, on the park bench drinking a beer.

But it wasn't my fault.   
Its just how everything always goes in Bev's/Lucy Ricardo's life.

My friendship with my best friend from Jensen didn't end because I went to the dance.  I think she liked it that I wouldn't back down from her because Homecoming was important to me.  And I respected her decision to not go to a dance, she hated that shit.  And I ended up hanging out with all of them that night after all, but because I chose to, not because someone made me.

Michelle from Jensen remained my best friend and was the maid of honor at my wedding to Lorens, one of the Jensen Park Boys, 8 years later in 1989.  We lost touch after Lorens & I had kids and we moved out of the Chicago area.

My friend Tina, the swim team captain, was the senior prom queen, so we both have a few "it actually kinda sucked to be queen" memories.   Our kids are all friends and now we're experiencing high school drama again, through our children.

My sister Dawn & Me, my high school graduation,
Dawn was 21, I was 17.
June, 1983

My mom, Michelle, me and Lorens' Uncle George.
 My surprise 23rd birthday party Lorens threw me at his parents home.
(I know, nice spiral perm Bev, what can I say, it was the 80's)
November, 1988

...good thing I put my hair up for the wedding in 1989

Juan had dinner at our house a few weeks ago.  He encouraged me to tell the story.  Even though he got arrested at the homecoming game and missed the dance, I forgave him.  Juan and I also lost touch for many years but reconnected at a mutual friends funeral a few years ago after Lorens & I moved back to the Chicago area.  It felt like no time had passed (except we're all older & fatter).

30+ years later,
Juan, me & Lorens, 2010