I was born on February 23, 1932, in the Lying Inn Hospital in Chicago, IL, sometime between 1:00 and 5:00 am. I know this because my father used to tell me that he had always hoped that I would be born on George Washington’s 200th birthday but that I had missed it by a couple of hours. My mother was Helen Bower Warner and my father was Charles Harrison Warner, called Dyp by all those who knew him, and I was named Charles Harrison Warner, Jr. My father and my mother’s sister, Louise Bower, were at the hospital when I was born.
My mother stayed in the hospital for a week, as was the custom at the time, and I was taken home to my parent’s apartment at 11 East Division Street. The last time I was in Chicago, in 2008, the 11 East Division Street four-story tan brick building was still standing — Will and walked by it in 2009. It was a little ratty, but was still in service as an apartment building, just past the corner of Division and Rush Streets, the intersection of two streets packed solid with pick-up and sports bars. The Hall of Fame baseball play-by-play announcer, Harry Caray, was known as “The Mayor of Rush Street,” and this is what Wikipedia had to say about Harry:
Caray made his debut in 1945 with the Cardinals, but was fired in 1969 amid rumors of personal problems with the Busch family, who owned both the Cardinals and the Anheuser-Busch breweries. He always denied any personal scandal, attributing his firing to a long-standing business-related grudge. After a season with Oakland, Caray broadcast for the White Sox from 1971 to 1981, and then for the Cubs from 1982 to 1997.
He was extremely popular among the citizens of Chicago, and was known as much for his public carousing and jovial spirit as for his sportscasting; it was not for nothing that he was proclaimed “The Mayor of Rush Street,” referencing Chicago’s famous bar-hopping neighborhood.
I’ll come back to Harry 42 years later on in this story, but for now let’s leave it that my first home was in what turned out to be Harry’s “bar-hopping neighborhood” — probably twice prophetic.
My mother had a difficult time carrying me (as I was told many times in an effort, I now believe, to make me feel grateful and a little guilty, and to explain why I had no brothers or sisters). When I was born, my mother was 34, soon to be 35 on March 20. She had given birth in Florida in 1930 to a still-born baby boy my parents had named Jacob after my great grandfather, Jacob Bower. My mother and father were in Florida in 1930 on what my grandmother (on my mother’s side), Nano, called a “hair-brained, get-rich quick scheme,” which my father had a genetic tendency to concoct. My grandfather, William (Will) Bower, Nano’s husband, came down to Florida to pick up my mother and the dead baby and take them back to the Bower family home in Ava, IL. I’ll get into Ava, the Bowers, and the Deans later. Jacob was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in the Ava cemetery.
When my mother found out she was pregnant with me, she went to Dr. De Lee, one of Chicago’s most respected and well-known obstetricians. Dr. De Lee said he’d take my mother’s case only if she did exactly as he said. She agreed, and spent nine months virtually all the time in bed. I was told she bled often and was in constant fear of losing me. Dr. De Lee also told my parents that my mother could have no more children.
Therefore, when I arrived, I was not only the first to live, but definitely the last child my parents would have. My mother often said that she would “never go through that again!” She wasn’t terribly good with pain, suffering, or inconvenience. So to say that I was important to my parents was like saying money is important to hedge fund managers.
My father, Charles Harrison Warner, the only son of Perry Morton Warner and Ella Pierce Warner, had both an older and a younger sister who were married (Dorothy Warner Graham and Marion Warner Brown). Thus, as I was told often, I was the only male Warner heir and it was my duty to pass on the Warner name. How I managed to fulfill that heavy obligation includes some behavior I’m not overly proud of but which produced six Warner sons who I am extremely proud of and who will pass on the Warner name quite well. My two daughters have passed on the Warner genes in a strong mix with the Lineaweaver and Sanchez genes. My sons take after their father in that they are not perfect, but each is imperfect in their own unique, special, wonderful, easily distractable way — ADD is definitely heritable.
Chicago, the First Time Around
I lived in Chicago the first three years of my life, but I have no memories of the Windy City. Years later, in 1970, when I was Vice President and General Manager of CBS Radio Spot Sales (RSS), I used to visit Chicago frequently on business trips because, after New York, Chicago was RSS’s largest office in terms of both salespeople and billing. Also, the office manager, Ron Kempf, had introduced me to Karen K, and she had become my girl in that port. Karen worked in the traffic department of WBBM-TV and had a small apartment on Astor Street, just a block and a half from 11 East “Weshwon” Street (which is what my other told my I called Division Street when I was two years old). I stayed with Karen when I visited Chicago and used to make a point of walking past the Astor Street playground, which my mother had told me I went to every day to ride my tricycle.
On those walks, I would look intently at the playground and the Art Deco apartment building lobbies to see if I could conjure up any hint of recognition; if I could replay just a snippet of the video in my memory of my first three years in the neighborhood. I desperately wanted to believe I recognized the playground, the entryways of the buildings, especially the narrow, three-story building that Karen lived in – I had walked past it every day for the first two plus years of my life. I wanted to bring back the memories of a childhood that I heard so much about and that I knew was a mellow and secure one.
Even though the years 1932-35 were in the middle of the Great Depression, my parents were not destitute. My father was in a partnership with another man in a business called Bondex, which was an index that tracked the performance of corporate and government bonds. During the Depression, bonds were preferred as an investment over stocks, especially after the stock market crash of 1929. He made enough money to live in a nice part of Chicago and to hire a maid to help my mother take care of me and the apartment.
Chicago, Illinois: 1934
Charlie, age 2
No child had or has ever had more life-affirming love and nurturing than I had from my mother, from her sister Louise, whom my cousin Sal and I called Ese, from Sal, and from mother’s sister Margaret. This love lasted unabated for over 65 years. The imprint and affects of their love, understanding, and tolerance have lived on in me, not in my behavior as a person, but in my deep values and image of myself — and probably what I expect from women.
Michilinda, Michigan: 1939
Charlie, Sal, Ese
I realize now that throughout my life that I constructed my self-image and identity based on my relationship with women — from my mother; of course; from Ese and Sal, who were my main love objects other than my mother; and from Aunt Margaret. And after I reached adolescence, from the relationships I had with the girls I chased, wooed, won, and lost.
Because I was an only child and received so much unconditional love, I was secure, but spoiled; self-confident, but self-absorbed; extroverted, but thoughtless; and exuberant, but impulsive. My father tried to counteract some of the effects of the nurturing, unconditional love – oh, hell, let’s call it what it was, spoiling – by being tough. There was no question who was the disciplinarian in our home, or who the boss was. He has a typical Victorian stern father – a father who loved me and I knew it – but who ruled with fear rather than encouragement. That was the Victorian style at the time, the one he learned from his stern, disciplinarian father.
Ava, Illinois: 1932
My father holding me at 10 weeks