Walter and Myra
In early 1950 the Park Studio underwent two changes.
In February, the name was changed to Walter Lewis Studio, Inc. The name Lewis coming from Lewis Chevrolet on the northwest corner of Ogden and Homan because, for some unknown reason, Walter thought the name Lewis was a very business-like name.
In April, Walter gambled on a new kind of a camera—actually a novelty—and he borrowed money from his father-in-law to buy one: a camera that shot double-image, full-color transparencies that must be viewed through a hand held, battery operated viewer.
For commercial photography, three-dimensional photography was an instant success, and Walter Lewis Studio, Inc. became one of the first studios in the city of Chicago to offer, in addition to conventional black and white and four-color process photography…
The competition jumped on the 3-D bandwagon quickly, but not before Walter Lewis Studio, Inc. had the opportunity to take a few consequential clients away from two or three of the larger studios, and also, to build a substantial backlog of smaller clients.
In July, the note to Mrs. Pincus, the surviving, previous owner of the Park Studio, was paid off.
In September, needing space, and wanting to be nearer to the business, Walter Lewis Studio, Inc. relocated to a high-ceilinged, four-thousand-square-foot loft in an older, three-story building with an elevator on North Clark Street, just blocks from the Merchandise Mart, the Furniture Mart, and downtown Chicago.
March 13, 1950
Norman and Mitchell
“Norman, I said no!”
“Come on, Mitch, you’ll love it!”
“No, I don’t really think so.”
The sky was leaden and overcast. The sidewalks and streets were dry, but the ground of Douglas Park was covered with a crust of soot-blotched, melting snow.
“Look, Mitch,” taking a last drag, he flipped the cigarette into the snow, “you remember what our favorite games were when we were kids, don’t you?”
“Yeah, sure. Cops’n’robbers, cowboys’n’indians’n’soldiers. So?”
“Yeah, you’re right, soldiers! Only now we get to play with real guns.” Glancing at Mitchell over his shoulder, “It’ll be fun, and guess what?” Norman said, “We get paid, too.”
“Guns?” Looking at Norman, “They give us real guns, and pay us, too?”
“Yeah, sure real guns! And pay us, uh,” thinking, fishing, “five bucks for a couple of hours once a week. That’s twenty bucks a month, and when we get to camp…”
“Camp?” Mitchell cut in. “They send us to camp?”
“Schmuck! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! For two weeks every summer, and we get paid for it, something like, uh, seventy, seventy-five bucks.”
“But,” softening, “you’n’me won’t be seventeen till summer. How do we get in? Ain’t we supposed to be at least seventeen or something?”
“Seventeen, with a letter from your mom or dad. This guy I know, in R.O.T.C., joined and he’s no older’n’us. This guy says all you gotta do is be big enough to look older, and you’n’me look like we’re eighteen. Well, you look almost eighteen and me at least seventeen, and we do this: I write a letter for you saying I’m your dad and that you’re seventeen and I give my permission for you to join, and you do the same for me.”
“That’s stupid, Norm. What if they check?”
“This guy I know says that this company is short of men and they don’t check; least-ways they didn’t check on him and the guy he joined with.”
“And you’re sure they’ll give us guns’n’stuff?”
Us! Norman thought. “Like I told you, yeah. Well, they don’t give us guns so we can bring ’em home and play with ’em. They loan ’em to us and we use ’em at the meetings and at camp.”
“Camp? What do we do at camp?”
We! “This guy says he was talking to a guy that went last year, and he said they live in barracks and go on, uh, bivouac…”
“Bivouac? What’s bivouac?”
“That’s when you live in tents and play war games.”
“Like the red army against the white army, like in the movies?”
“Yeah. And they give us blanks for the guns.”
“You think, maybe, I’d be able to get a .45?”
“Yeah!” Knowing Mitchell’s resolve was crumbling, “Maybe!” Norman would say anything to get him to join with him. “It’s possible. Why not?”
Walking slowly, the cigarettes the boys smoked making them feel older than their not-quite sixteen years.
“Normie, all those times, when we were kids, when I tried talking you into doing stuff…”
“Like hiding in the girls’ toilet at Chader?”
“Yeah.” Laughing Mitchell poked him in the side with his elbow. “Like that and other stuff. You never did it because you said your mom would kill you.”
Norman poked him back. “Yeah, and she would have.”
“So how come now you want me to forge a letter so you can lie to the U.S. Army and join for four years without even asking your folks? And how come now you think your mom won’t kill you when she finds out? Or, if I’m dumb enough to do it with you, why my mom’n’dad won’t kill me, too?”
“Mitchie, it’s not the army, it’s only the National Guard, and there’s no war going on now and there ain’t going to be any, and ain’t they always talking about good learning experiences and stuff like that? And besides,” looking at Mitchell, “once we’re in, we’re in, and if our folks threaten to go’n tell ’em we lied about out ages, we’ll tell ’em we could go to jail for lying to the U.S. government…”
“Huh?” His head snapping to the side to face his friend, “Jail?”
“Nah, don’t worry, they’d never do it because, first off, they wouldn’t want us to go to jail, and also, they are patriotic and they’ll be proud to have their sons in the National Guard.”
“And besides,” popping Mitchell on the shoulder, “we’re too old for ’em to kill anymore.”
“Wavering, “Ehh, I don’t know, Norm, you’re the guy that’s in R.O.T.C., not me. And you never did stuff I wanted you to.”
“Yeah, that’s true ,” Norman smiled. “I was too smart.” Reaching into his shirt pocket, removing a package of Luckys, pressing one up, he pulled it out with his teeth. Taking a book of matches from his coat pocket, Norman struck a match and, cupping his hands around the cigarette Humphrey Bogart style, lit it, took a deep drag, let the smoke stream from both nostrils, then, “Here,” handed the matchbook to Mitchell.
“What’s’a matter,” giving the matches back to Norman, “you out’a juice?” Taking the Zippo from his pants pocket, Mitchell pulled a cigarette from the nearly empty package in his shirt pocket, stuck it between his lips and lit it… Transforming him instantly, so he thought, from a boy to a man.
“No!” Norman handed the matches back. “Read what it says.”
Taking it, looking at the small, folded square of cardboard:
JOIN THE U.S. NATIONAL GUARD
“So, I’ve seen this a zillion times.”
“Yeah, but did you ever really read what it what it says? Go on, open it!”
Shrugging his shoulders, opening the matchbook, Mitchell read aloud: “Summer vacation with pay. Earn while you learn. Be a man. Join your peacetime National Guard.” Closing the matchbook, “So?” he handed it back to Norman.
“So?” Come on, Mitch, it’ll be fun… And I’ll tell you something else, something it didn’t say there. Something I know is more important to you then just about anything,” jiggling the line.
“Yeah, smart ass, what’s that?”
“What’s that? Oh, nothing much, except… how’s about girls?”
Seeing the bait, “Girls?” the fish swam closer.
“Yeah, girls!” Knowing his friend, Norman knew that when all logical arguments failed on Mitchell, mention… “Girls!” he repeated for emphasis. “We wear uniforms when we take the streetcar to the armory and when we go home. And, of course, we wear ’em all the time we’re at camp, and when we get time off to go to town.” Jiggling the line. “And you know how girls just love guys in uniform!”
Coming closer, “They give us time off to go to town when we go to camp?”
We! “Of course we get time off to go to town! And you’ve heard about girls that live near army bases! How they just love to fuck soldiers!”
Closer now, nibbling at the bait. “And we’re going to be those soldiers, huh?”
“Yeah! And if we’re ever going to get fucked,” jiggling, jiggling, “it’ll be then. You still want to get fucked, don’t you?”
The fish, the really stupid fish, struck at the bait, “Yeah!” and ran with the line. “Of course I still want to get fucked!”
Setting the hook, “Okay, then,” Norman said. “It’s a sure thing! You’n’me are really going to get fucked in the National Guard.”
A storm had blown into Chicago a few days earlier, but there was no wind on this day and the temperature stood at a comfortable 47 degrees.
Though it did not feel it then, and Norman Parminter and Mitchell Lipensky had no way of knowing, another storm was building, a terrible storm, a storm that would take another three months to arrive.