Bill's Memories
In the summer of 1978, my family moved into #6 Logan Loop on Fort Sheridan. I remember my first impressions of the house and the area – old, real old, and ancient. Having moved from a much more contemporary Army post [Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri], I was tremendously disappointed. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Of all the places I have lived in my 31 years, the Fort holds my fondest memories and greatest adoration. To those of you fortunate enough to now call the Fort “home” – please recognize that you are presented with gifts of land and history, and a responsibility to both. And for those of us that have only memories – we entrust you to build for yourselves and your children, the same sincere memories of the best place on Earth.

My father was the Commanding General of Ft. Leonard Wood and our family enjoyed the privileges of his role and the many activities he made us a part of. But in Chicago, he commanded the Corps of Engineers, and his office was on LaSalle Street in downtown Chicago. He boarded the train outside the Fort everyday before me and my twin brother were awake, and he took that same train home, many times well after we had gone to bed. For the two years we lived there, my father was a mere visitor in our lives. But that was fine with my brother and me because we frankly didn’t have time for him - the Fort became our playground, and what a playground it was.

In writing this, I have no idea how many of you ever lived on the Fort prior to the land becoming the Town of Fort Sheridan. The purpose for writing this is to give you my perspective of life on Fort Sheridan – a small snapshot that can be added to the historical album. Although many significant national and local events occurred during the years of 1978 - 1980, it was the everyday things on the Fort that I will share with you. After all, the everyday things in life are the significant events in hindsight. At least they are to me.

I remember…

…the children erupting out of the houses on Logan Loop to gather at the bus stop at the very pinnacle of the street. We waited in downpours and often in too much snow for the large military bus to take us to school. For most of us, our school was Oak Terrace Elementary not too far outside the Fort. The ride on the bus was uncomfortable and was ripe with diesel fumes. On a positive note, however, you couldn’t miss your bus when you left school because it’s olive drab paint stood out like a sore thumb among the “civilian” yellow buses all the other school children rode. You would think that our fellow classmates would have made fun of us Army brats. Not at all – because our bus took us back to the Fort and theirs simply to a neighborhood. We were the lucky ones.

I remember…

…the ravines. For my friends and I, the ravines became our Hamburger Hill, our Everest, and our Amazon jungle. They were steep, muddy, dense in some areas, and even scary when the winter days cut short our adventures. We played like soldiers back when a toy gun looked like the real deal. Often times we would see some G.I.s walking down one of the alleys. With rifles drawn, caps loaded, and mud smeared on our faces, we would execute a textbook ambush on the unsuspecting platoon. The soldiers always had a good laugh at our expense, but we didn’t let it get to us. After all, we were able to blaze a dozen caps before they could figure out what was going on. We were definitely the soldiers of the future, and it turned out better soldiers of the present.

I remember…

…the blizzard of ’79. Our parents had to deal with the hardships of that winter – shoveling snow off the sidewalks, scraping 3 and 4 feet of snow from the hood of their cars, and getting their anxious children dressed in multiple layers of clothing. We children, on the other hand, did not have to toil with such things. From the shoveled walkway, the wall of snow to either side easily covered our heads. It was a snowball paradise – a reason to celebrate and get the neighbor kid before he got you. We would meet in the middle of the Loop near the three tall evergreen trees, the very ones that still remain today. Back then the limbs went all the way to the ground, making passage between them tight at best. It was within the center of this passageway that we would take shelter from the others, giving us just enough time to form that perfect snowball and come out loaded for bear. And when we were done getting the best of the neighborhood kid, we went to our second story window and jumped out of the window into the fluffy, thick snow. It may seem high to you now, but during the blizzard of ’79 it wasn’t a far drop at all. If you are wondering if we had our parent’s permission – the answer is: I hope they don’t read this.

I remember…

…the lake. I’ll be the first to admit that the lake is not a Sandals resort in Jamaica, but it was nice to have thousands of square miles of water a few yards from your front door. During winter, we would take our sleds down to the snow-covered beach and watch the icebergs rise and fall in the water and crash into each other. Like a tornado or other weather anomaly, you can become entranced with the scope and beauty of such things. Even as a young child on that lakeshore, I realized how very small I was in the scheme of things. Unfortunately, a local boy about our age didn’t pay the same type of respect to nature and he lost his life in those waters. After the tragic incident that winter, we never went back to watch the icebergs again. But in the summer, we would spend our days soaking in the sun and splashing around in the high tide. Swimming off shore too far was prohibited. To this day, I am not sure why. On the Fourth of July, hundreds of families would come down to the beach like lemmings. Fireworks would fill the sky, fired off near Scott Loop. It was the best of times on those summer evenings. To think thousands and thousands of people stood on Navy Pier downtown to see another show; and here we were, just a few hundred people with our own show and our own piece of the lake.

Fort Sheridan is special; special to me and special to you. Looking back on my memories, I see very clearly what I miss today. In the hustle and bustle of high-tech Austin, I find little peace and little sanctuary. The land is beautiful here, but not as majestic or meaningful. Please honor the land and history of Fort Sheridan – after all, I want my children to see where their dad had the best time of his life.

-Bill Harris, 2002.


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