‘Echoes’ author recalls growing up on South Side
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org June 18, 2012 7:42PM
Updated: July 21, 2012 6:10AM
The way Joe Murphy sees it, everyone who grew up in an Irish Catholic family on Chicago’s South Side in the 1950s has plenty of funny stories to share. He just happened to put his in a book.
Murphy, 68, will sign copies of “Echoes in the Gangway” from 3 to 5 p.m. April 20 at the Ridge Country Club, 10522 S. California Ave. in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community.
Murphy describes the self-published book — which is subtitled “A Catholic Boy’s Trek Through the Fifties — Memories of My Family and St. Leo Parish” — as a warm and funny memoir covering his life growing up in the Auburn Gresham community from age 8 through just beyond high school.
“At first, I just wanted to write it for my family. There are so many nostalgic, happy stories,” he said Monday.
There should be. He grew up with seven siblings, and wrote a chapter about each one. He finished with 30 chapters about his formative years in that busy house at 79th and Peoria streets.
He was a paperboy as a youth, and recounts a story about the day he went collecting tips from customers in exchange for “these cheap little calendars.”
“I’d go place to place. At one place, they had me come up and told me to sit down. They were asking me about school, about the football team. They gave me cookies and tea and then the lady said, ‘Jenny will be ready in a minute.’ I asked them who Jenny was. They said, ‘You’re Joe, aren’t you?’ I said, ‘I’m Joe the paperboy and I’m here to give you your calendar.’ They started laughing. He gave me a buck and she told him, ‘Oh, come on, give him another buck,’ ” Murphy said.
He and his sister, Joan, had fun with a friend one day, convincing him she had a twin sister named Jean. Joan twice left the room, dashed down the gangway, got into the front door, went to her room, changed her clothing and returned as “Jean.” They bamboozled the friend, who believed there really was a Jean until they eventually let him in on the secret.
That gangway inspired the book’s title.
“The gangway, the sidewalk between two houses, everybody had one. That’s where the words echoed. Echoes are like memories,” Murphy said.
The book is for sale on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
Murphy, now retired and living in Madison, Wis., with his wife, Mary, worked as a scriptwriter, copywriter and media producer for Chicago companies and ad agencies. He enjoys writing and editing scripts for a local radio theater group, he said.