The writer’s mother and his Aunt Toots with their father, Sgt. Thomas J. O’Rourke of the Chicago Police Department, in 1946. (Courtesy Michael vanderHout)
The writer’s mother and his Aunt Toots with their father, Sgt. Thomas J. O’Rourke of the Chicago Police Department, in 1946. (Courtesy Michael vanderHout)

It was a scorching late summer afternoon in Chicago, back in the second half of August 1947. My Aunt Toots was always much more frivolous than my mother. She talked my mom into going to the Chicago Theater, in the Loop, to listen to the music of the latest heartthrob for many young women across the country in those years immediately following World War II.  My mom, Rosemary Catherine O’Rourke, working as a cadet nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago at the time, finally agreed to head downtown with her kid sister for a change of scene, if nothing else. 

At the performance, my mother could not believe the beautiful baritone voice of the relaxed crooner up on stage. His music made everyone in the theater swoon. Although never as hip as my Aunt Toots, my mother was so happy to listen to the warm love songs of the handsome singer. As the two sisters were leaving the theater that evening, my mom realized that she was an instant fan of that dreamy performer. 

As instructed by their father, the two girls waited near the side entrance of the building, where he would meet and walk them both home. As they stood waiting, the door to the stage entrance swung open. To their amazement, the handsome young crooner popped-out to have a cigarette.  He noticed the two girls, and apologized, thinking that he might have frightened them. My mom and Aunt Toots stood speechless, in shock. The crooner approached and introduced himself.  He asked them both why “two young ladies” would be standing outside in the night, in a big city like Chicago. They bashfully explained that they were waiting for their father, a Chicago cop, who would soon walk them home. The crooner informed the two girls he would wait with them until their father arrived, and this he did. As he stood outside with the two, he talked about his wife and his children, and how much he missed all of them whenever he was away on tour. He asked about their family and was a gentleman. For them, it was like visiting with an old friend. 

By the time their father arrived, on that sweltering Chicago night in 1947, my mother and Aunt Toots agreed that their new friend, Mr. Perry Como, was the nicest man in the world. They introduced the polite young gentleman to their apprehensive father.  

VanderHout lives in Southeast Portland.