The children had to pitch in when needed. Luann remembers that when her father would declare that the family was “going into town” on wintry days, the kids had to scatter cinders on the long, steep road in order for their car to get traction up the hill.
The most terrifying experience the family faced at McKinley Woods occurred in the early morning hours when Luann was just four years old. She needed to go to the bathroom, and when she stepped out into the hall, she froze in her tracks. One of the walls was on fire, she told her sister when she urgently awoke her. They discovered it was not the wall but the neighboring building that was ablaze.
Luann vividly remembers fire trucks arriving to fight fires to several of the buildings. This was an act of arson, and although there were suspicions as to who set the fires, no one, to Luann’s knowledge, was ever arrested for the crime. (The only reference to this fire in the minutes of the Forest Preserve District of Will County Board of Commissioners’ meeting for December 18, 1958, was the following: “Moved by Commissioner Liberty and seconded by Commissioner Meyer that the board allow the Channahon Fire Department the sum of Fifty ($50.00) and the Minooka Fire Department the sum of Twenty-Five ($25.00) for services rendered at the McKinley Woods fire August 15, 1958.”)
Despite the austere living conditions, fond childhood memories remain. In the winter, the nearby I&M Canal Tow Path would overflow and create a frozen pond, what Arthur Sage called a “bayou.” This the children would use to ice skate, having their own private pond. These memories were of particular pleasure to Luann because, “You know, we kids did not have much to do for fun.”
She also recalls that once or twice a year, a church picnic was held at McKinley Woods. “We loved the ice cream and soda,” she remembers. These were rare, special treats for the children.