The Egg Man and the Noodle Girl

Sophia Chalupa was born on July 17, 1918 in Chicago to Victor Fiala and Renata Doubek, both of whom were immigrants from Czechoslovakia.  Victor worked as a railroad laborer and mechanic in a town near Prague, and after he married Renata Doubek, the two of them decided to immigrate to Chicago in 1908.  They settled in the Pilsen neighborhood, and Victor found work in a factory.  Renata cared for their three daughters, of whom Sophia was the youngest.

Sophia went to school until the sixth grade, when she quit to get a job in a noodle factory.  It was her job to weigh the noodles, and she worked there until she met a young farmer by the name of Adam Chalupa.

Adam Chalupa was born on March 15, 1914 in Chicago to Zavis Chalupa and Sara Bobal, who were also Czech immigrants.  Zavis had a small farm outside of Brno in Czechoslovakia and also ran a bakery in town.  When he married Sara, they, too, decided to try their luck in America and set sail in 1904.  They made their way to Chicago, where Zavis bought a small farm on the southwestern edge of the city limits.  They had two children, Adam and Amelia.

Adam completed high school and then helped his father to run the farm.  Each week, it was his job to drive a load of eggs into the city to sell to various factories, one of them being the Hong Kong Noodle Factory.  Over time, he came to know a pretty young woman who worked there by the name of Sophia Fiala.  At first he was attracted to how pleasant and kind she always was, but he was further delighted to discover that she was of Bohemian descent, just as was he.

Adam eventually worked up the courage to ask Sophia out on a date and was thrilled when she said yes.  They dated for about a year before Adam proposed.  The two of them were married in Sophia’s parish of St. Procopius in 1941.  After the wedding, Sophia went to live with Adam and his parents until they saved enough money to buy their own farm in Wilmington, Il., which was southwest of the city and not too far from Adam’s parents.  Adam farmed and also did custom welding work on the side for extra money, while Sophia cared for their three children: Peter, Frank and Bessie.  They were both active in their church, but they mostly lived a quiet life.

In 1969, Adam and Sophia decided to sell the farm and move to Berwyn, Il. where Adam continued to do custom welding on a part-time basis.  Sophia began volunteering at St. Odilo’s, and Adam got involved in the Bohemian Concertina Association.  Playing the accordion had always been a hobby of his, so now that he had the time, he decided to form a band called the Polkateers.

The Polkateers played together for over twenty years, performing at nursing homes, senior centers, community centers and festivals and libraries.  Eventually, however, several members died and replacements proved to be hard to find, so the Polkateers eventually disbanded.  By then, all three of Adam and Sophia’s children were married with families of their own.  Peter had married and moved to Cincinnati, and both Frank and Bessie had moved to Batavia, Il.

Sophia, never having learned to drive, longed to be closer to their grandchildren, so Adam sold the house in Berwyn in 1981 and they moved to Batavia to be closer to Frank and Bessie’s families.   Sophia became very involved in their grandchildren’s lives and delighted in babysitting for them.  Adam and Bessie took a couple of trips over the years—one to Cincinnati to see Peter and his family and one to New York, but otherwise, they were happy gardening and playing cards.

In the early part of 1993, Sophia began having a lot of health problems and was eventually diagnosed with heart problems, diabetes and dementia.  Adam tried his best to care for her at home, but found it hard.  Finally, with the help of their daughter, Bessie, Sophia was admitted to Walnut Grove nursing home in Batavia.  Only a few months later, Adam was diagnosed with colon cancer, among other things, and had to have various surgeries.  Upon discharge from the hospital, he was also admitted to Walnut Grove.  Adam reports that the staff at Walnut Grove were nice, but he hated the food and longed for the Bohemian dishes that Sophia had always made.  It finally occurred to him to move to the Bohemian Home in the city where he and the Polkateers had performed—and where he had always been served delicious, complimentary lunches—for many years.

Bessie and Frank were not too enthusiastic about this plan, as it would make visiting harder for them because of the drive, but Adam was resolute.  Thus, both he and Sophia were both eventually transferred to the Bohemian Home, where Adam is acclimating nicely.  Sophia, however, who never really got used to Walnut Grove, is having a more difficult time.  She is disoriented and combative and spends the day pacing the hallways, asking to go home.  She does not seem to remember their time at Walnut Grove and says she feels like a prisoner.  She directs her anger mostly at Adam, whom she feels is somehow responsible for their predicament.  Adam, meanwhile, though he is concerned for Sophia, is enjoying his reunion with many of the Czech people he came to know over the years, including Otto, a blind resident at the Home who used to work there as a janitor in his younger days and who had befriended Adam many years before.

(Originally written: October 1993)

If you liked this true story about the past, check out Michelle’s historical fiction/mystery series, set in the 1930s in Chicago:

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