Wednesday, June 1, 1977

Bev the Secret Adventurer, age 11

Ahhhhh, Chicago in the 1970's.

I  have been using Chicago public transportation since the summer of 1973 when I was 7 years old.  My mom would put me on the Kimball Avenue bus on the weekend to go up to the Library at Kimball & Foster.  It was the 70's, so it was pretty safe.  I learned to sit by the driver. I learned I didn't have to be home alone, bored & lonely.  I learned that Chicago was a big city with many things to see and do.  I learned I would rather be on an adventure of my own making alone, than home alone.  

Chicago Park District, Horner Park

One summer, when I was 11 years old, my mom, who worked several jobs, said she got a full time summer job and I would need to be in Chicago Park District Day Camp during the weekdays.  She put me on the CTA bus to go to day camp.  There was not much to do there.  The kids there weren't from my school and I didn't make any friends. I was more like a target.  I was cornered in the bathroom, I was sad, lonely, fighting and getting depressed. 
...and I learned, the CTA SHALL SET YOU FREE!!!!!

ONE MORNING, I was on the bus, on my way to camp.  My stomach was churning.  I knew I would be in another fight today if they cornered me in the bathroom again, or dying of boredom sitting alone somewhere.  In my mind, I pretended I was going off on an adventure somewhere instead, somewhere in Downtown Chicago like many of these bus riders.

Then I noticed that there were all these people getting on the bus, dressed in Cubs shirts and hats.  They were on their way to Wrigley Field.  I listened to them talk, happily, about how they were going early for the game because they hadn't bought tickets yet but knew there were a lot available at the gate.  Then I thought to myself, why not?  My mom had given me extra money because we were suppose to go on a field trip that day at "camp".
Their happiness was contagious. I wanted their life.
So I made it happen for myself.
I didn't get off the bus at my stop that day.  I stayed on until Clark Street and got off with all of them and walked over to Wrigley Field.  I used some of the money my mom had given me for our field trip at camp to buy a ticket to the Cubs game instead.  I had enough to get in and buy a program so I could follow along, keep stats.  That kept me busy for hours.  I had enough left over for a hot dog and I drank from the water fountain. And the Cubs won that day.  I was hooked.

I was only 11.

I told day camp guy the next day, I was a very sick kid, and I would probably only be able to come 3 days a week.  It was day camp, not school, they didn't care, they never called my mom to check my story.

I was 11, they probably should have checked my story.

I started staying on the Montrose Avenue bus about 2 days a week, heading East towards the lake front, seeing where it would take me, learning how to get around Chicago.  It amazes me now thinking about my bravery, or stupidity.
I was 11.  
And I was determined to do whatever it took
 to have a fun, exciting adventure.
Once at a Cubs game, a man came up to me and asked why was I sitting alone, where were my parents?  I was that young, that I stood out.  I told him, oh, they're way up there, I wanted better seats, but he scared me and I moved.  I learned not to stay in my own seat too long, people were noticing me.

Some days, if there was no home game, I would walk around Graceland Cemetery looking for my Uncle Jerry's headstone.  He was my dads identical twin brother whom my brother was named after.  The New Year's Eve before I was born he had to much to drink and fell asleep on the couch with a lit cigarette.  He died in the fire and my father never got over it.

I never got to meet my Uncle Jerry.
But that didn't stop me from visiting his grave when I was 11.
That place is huge with beautiful scenery, ponds, benches.  
I would get lost in there for hours.

If it was very hot, I would stay on the bus as far East as it would go,
trying to get as close to the breeze by Lake Michigan as possible.
I would walk South along the Lake front and beaches.

Once, I was walking South from Montrose Avenue and I found the Lincoln Park Zoo!  I was so excited!  It was/is one of my favorite places in the world that I got to go to with my parents when I was little and maybe on field trips with school once a year.

And I found it, all by myself, and I was only 11.  

That became my favorite place to go if there was no Cubs game or if I didn't have any money for a Cubs game.  Some days my mom only had enough money for bus fare there and back.  On those days she gave me a lunch to take to "camp".

Those days were perfect for the zoo.  Its free to get in.  But it was a lot more walking.  I discovered the outdoor swan/duck pond/sanctuary they use to have by the Polar Bears.  I remember you use to have to go through a revolving metal gate to get in there off of Fullerton and many people didn't notice it and walked right by.
It was so quiet and peaceful in there.  I would go into there first.  I would sit on the benches in there, unnoticed, watching the ducks and swans for an hour or more, eating the lunch my mom had packed for me for "camp", resting my feet before I would go visit all the animals.

It was a long walk and I was only 11.

I felt like the animals all got to know me that summer.  Many animals would walk right up to the fence when I would walk by.  I had very light, golden blonde hair, so maybe it was that, but at the time I felt like I had a connection with many of them.  I would say "UP!" to the bears like my dad did when he took us here and the one bear would stand up for me!
I was 11, and the bears were doing tricks for me at the zoo!

The giraffes also would come right to the fence line every time they saw me walk up and I would try to hand them some grass to chew.

Many of the staff recognized me and would wave to me.  I'm sure they just thought I lived near by.  It was pretty early in the morning, before bus loads of kids on field trips arrived.  I would ask a million questions about the animals.  A few times, I went into the Children's Zoo building and asked if I could please volunteer.  I remember the nice lady telling me I had to be 13 to volunteer and I would need my parents permission.  I was too young and my mom would kill me if she knew I had been going there.

The next summer, I was 12, my mom asked me if I wanted to go to Day Camp again.  I said sure!!!  I'm not sure if it was Horner Park Day Camp again.  But I remember that I did the same thing, some days, when the urge hit me, I would just stay on the bus and go on an adventure of my own making.

I told my mom what I had been up to those 2 summers when I was an adult, or my sister told on me, I'm not sure which but she was in shock, she had no idea.

Glad I survived it all to share this story.  

Did I mention, I was only 11?  LOL


  1. Great story, thanks for sharing.

  2. How old were you, you forget to mention, LOL.

  3. You are an inspiration Bev!!
    And just so you know, it's of your evil minions...Terri. :-)


  5. Thanks to all for the positive feedback. I wanted to write a story about my Oprah adventure in 2009, and this was going to be the first paragraph, showing you guys how I became the secret adventurer that I still am to this day. Then I realized this could be a story on its own. So this is the prelude to the "Bev the Adventurer and Oprah" story I'm about to write.