“Never witnessed a sight so terrible”



office1At 2:42PM on December 1, 1958 on the sixth floor of Chicago’s City Hall, William Bingham,  the senior alarm operator within the Chicago Fire Alarm Office took a phone call from  rectory housekeeper Nora Maloney.


joker3Immediately, the loudspeaker at the firehouse at 3700 West Huron crackled with: “Engine 85 , truck 35, Squad 6, Battalion 18, Patrol 7, a still alarm , 3820 Iowa, 3-8-2-0 Iowa”. 3700 huron2



Those first firetrucks arrived within three minutes, despite that the fire was actually around the corner at 909 N. Avers.

In the meantime the fire alarm office received a second  telephone call from Barbara Glowacki, the owner of a candy store who used the private telephone in her apartment behind the store to say she sees flames. Fifteen more phone calls soon followed.

A school was on fire! Continue reading ““Never witnessed a sight so terrible””

Burial Cards: John’s left foot

Cemetery records are a rich source of genealogical information, especially when a death certificate cannot be found or expensive. They may reveal valuable extra information such as the place of death, last home address, and even more. However, cemetery records were never designed with the idea that they would be someday be valuble for genealogical research. In a cemetery office, ledger books and burial cards are two of the most common recordkeeping systems. Often the entries in a ledger book may be in chronological order making a search a bit difficult when you do not know a death date. Burial cards, on the other hand, are stored in one or more file drawers and are filed alphabetically, making a name search much easier without much further information.

john cull

Burial cards for Chicago area Catholic cemeteries are available online. The Chicago Archdiocese of the Catholic Church manages 45 cemeteries in Chicago, Cook County, and Lake County, from Ascension Cemetery in Libertyville serving Northern Cook and Lake to Assumption Cemetery in Glenwood to the south.,

There are FOUR different ways to access burial information in the Chicago Archdiocese for your Uncle Louie. If you are seeking a person buried in a Chicago area Catholic cemetery.
Continue reading “Burial Cards: John’s left foot”

Thanksgiving, Turkey Dressing, & Cemeteries

This week, some 397 years after the first Thanksgiving, we begin the busiest time of year.

cemmTake time for yourself by going on a long walk on a sunny day through your favorite or nearby cemetery. Ponder the memories that you hold close,  because many our family members are no longer with us. They sadly will not be at our thanksgiving table as in the past. This is a story about both my family and yours, where we remember Thanksgiving, that very important family celebration.
xlinda 030with ham

Continue reading “Thanksgiving, Turkey Dressing, & Cemeteries”

When Chicago Cried



94264528-fa26-4ff4-9c4c-5d7114246c7eIt was July 24th  and for Willie Novotny age 7,  school was out for the summer. On that cool and damp Saturday morning, Willie woke up well before dawn, much too excited to sleep. His nine year old sister Mamie, (sometimes called Minnie) woke up soon after. Willie quickly dressed in his Sunday-best clothes and came to the breakfast table. Their mother Agnes, age 35, likely prepared a traditional Czech breakfast of dumplings and eggs, dark rye bread, maybe  a rohlík yeast roll with butter and jelly or maybe on a good day,  a slice of salami or cheese. Their father, James (Vaclav),   born Ponedraz Bohemia,  also age 35 was the last to the table for his morning hot cup of coffee. He looked forward to spending a rare and wonderful day with his family.

5527About 6:00 am,  the family of four would likely have left their house at 5527 West 24th Place in a blue-collar working class neighborhood of Czech’s and Polish. About 10 minutes later, and less than a half mile walk, they would have entered the Metropolitan West Side Elevated, 56th Avenue Station at about  2126 S. 56th Avenue (now Central Avenue).station


They  never returned home. Continue reading “When Chicago Cried”