Growing up in Chicago in the 1950’s

in this crazy upside-down world of ours, I find myself spending more time recalling the past, as a kid in a simpler Chicago. Neighborhoods were safe and we didn’t lock our doors.  Maybe not all of you are as old as I am but bear with me while I remember my Chicago in the 1950s.

The picture above is of Kindergarten September 1949, Daniel Boone School on the far northside of Chicago. I am the kid behind the birdcage, already having to wear glasses.

Growing up was carefree as we rode our bikes through burning leaves at the curb and stayed out til the streetlights came on. How I remember the unmistakable smell of those smoldering leaves.

We had  water balloon fights on hot summer days and played  ball in the alley. Third base was Mrs. Erickson’s garbage can.

Well before our softball game or water fights, the milkman would come down the alley in his tiny white truck. The strawberry man would come down the alley selling lugs of fresh strawberries. The scrap man would come down the alley loudly calling out “rags and old iron”. I always thought he said “ragsolion” but what did I know? I was just a kid. Without apology, this was simply my Chicago as I was growing up.

 We captured butterflies, grasshoppers and lightning bugs, we climbed trees, built a fort on an empty lot. We ran through the lawn sprinklers. We traded baseball cards and had a cherry Coke at the soda fountain. We drank Kool-Aid or set up a lemonade stand on a street corner.

please understand that I’m seeing our city from a Northside perspective not intending to slight the South side. Your mileage may vary but please read on and enjoy. It gets better.

We built racers out of old baby buggies or orange crates. Roller skates provided wheels when there was nothing else available. As a kid, anything with wheels was a good thing.

And the best thing of all was my 1953 Schwinn which opened up the neighborhood to me. I could explore places on my own rather than just what was on my own block. Most everyone in my family worked at the Schwinn factory.

my Grandpa Nick was a guard there for decades, My uncle a tool and die maker. My aunt hand striped thousands of bicycle fenders.  My sister worked in the office. So it is no accident I rode a Schwinn.

As I got older and bike paths opened, I would often ride from Foster Beach down to Navy pier where I would buy fish and chips at Rocky’s bait shop. I remember the hotdogs with the dark brown mustard at the Café Brauer beach stands. But for the best Chicago dog complete with tomato, pickles and celery salt, there was Tony’s Pump Room, a simple hot dog stand usually around Addison at the lakefront. My blog about Tony can be found here:

KETCHUP OR MUSTARD? – Chicago and Cook County Cemeteries

if I was not on my bicycle, I loved he Chicago El and subway . For a dime I could explore Chicago. The old wooden cars and even the green el trains are long gone.

There were trolley buses on Irving Park but my favorite was the green hornet streetcar which replaced the older red street cars. I remember going to school with a CTA pass and a dollar for 12 tokens .

Dad always owned Chevrolets, a creature of habit I guess. As a young man his parents disapproved of his first 1928 used car, deciding that “a machine”, as they called it, was not necessary. They changed their mind when they realized that dad’s car could take them beyond their neighborhood.

Cars became big and flashy after World War II. Chrome and fins were in. There were dozens of car dealers like Nickey Chevrolet with the backward K or Z Frank on Western.

On television there were those fast-talking car salesman in plaid suits. The best was Linn Burton for Bert Weinman Ford on North Ashland. There was Jim Moran “the courtesy man” and Earl Scheib who would paint “any car, any color $19.95”. And in Chicago back then be careful of parking in an illegal spot lest your car be towed by Lincoln towing.

As a kid dad would take me on the outer drive pointing out the Palmolive building with its powerful beacon. he had me discover lower Wacker for the first time. As a young adult my first car was a well-used 1959 green Volkswagen bus, one of many that I was to own. Only 40 hp but great gas mileage. I remember the gas stations for their free road maps and giveaways.

I was still in grammar school when I would go downtown by myself to spending the day in the huge public library with its Dewey decimal system, exploring State Street, the bus stations, having lunch in the Walgreens basement cafeteria at State and Randolph

In 1959, the tallest building at 42 stories the Prudential building. Dad helped build it. There were the movie theaters, Woolworths, and all the department stores including Marshall field (now Macy’s), Carson Pirie Scott, the Fair store, Goldblatt’s, and Wieboldts, but if you kept walking farther south, State Street turned into a jungle of burlesque houses and sleazy bookstores. As a kid it was then time to turn around.

Randolph looking East

Visiting Brookfield zoo or Lincoln Park zoo were always a treat especially to see the giant gorilla Bushman. Although no longer alive he can be seen at the Natural history Museum in a glass case.

I often visited the smallest zoo in Chicago at Indian boundary Park on Lunt Avenue west of Western. As a kid I would go there on my lunch hour and feed the bears. And how many of us visited the Museum of science and industry, down into the coal mine or walking through a human heart? There was the planetarium and the Shedd aquarium. Joining the Cub Scouts included a great field trip to the Hawthorne melody farm and zoo Libertyville.

Who all remembers Amling’s haunted house or the Olson waterfall at Diversey and Crawford Avenue, (now just a parking lot)?

July was time for our family automobile trips. Closer to home there was Starved Rock, Tommy Bartlett’s water show in the Wisconsin Dells, or the Illinois state fair at Springfield. with little money back then my dad carefully planned longer trips. We rarely stayed in fancy hotels but usually private tourist homes in smaller towns. One year was Mammoth cave, another year up into Wisconsin and the giant statue of Paul Bunyan at Bemidji, still other years to Badlands, Estes Park Colorado, New Orleans, Florida, Gettysburg, Atlantic City, or New York. When we got home, we would take all our black-and-white film over to our local drugstore or Skrudlands. Color film came later. Later my mother took 8 mm movies taken with an inexpensive Kodak movie camera.

Every September it was back to school. Does anybody remember sniffing a newly printed mimeograph page smelling like alcohol? At lunchtime we would go across the street to Sander’s drugstore and buy a kite, baseball cards or a yo-yo for a dime. We all had great teachers that helped mold us into the people we are today. My sixth grade teacher introduced me to electricity, bells, and buzzers paving the way for a lifetime passion for electronics and now computers.

My four years at Lane tech high school with 6000 other boys (no girls yet) were some of the best of my life, thanks to dedicated teachers. I wouldn’t be writing these blogs without the help of my high school English teacher Elin Felt. Lane back then, had something like 30 shops, including wood, electric, foundry, forge, aviation, welding, machine shop, plastics, and sheet metal. I remember the huge Lane cafeteria where each day you could buy a hot meal for $.37. Dad passed away while I was a freshman, but he knew I was getting a good education. After high school there was Wright junior college a good school for those who could not afford Northwestern.

Devon and Campbell looking east

My parents went shopping on Devon Avenue, buying groceries from Hillmans and bakery goods from Schlosser’s. And there was the local butcher shop with sawdust on the floor. . My mother bought my clothes from Crawford’s, Red Goose and Buster Brown shoes from Abrams, and an Easter suit from Robert Hall. On Devon Avenue there were many dress shops, great delicatessens, a record shop, shoe stores, Walgreens, Woolworths, Neisners, General Camera and Hobbymodels to mention a few

Before huge supermarkets or Walmart many of our parents had World War II victory gardens in a nearby empty lot.

Back then, we had the Jewel, Certified, A&P, Stop and shop, National tea and others.

But the backbone of retail in Chicago was the small neighborhood store run by people you knew and people who knew your name. There was Pete’s grocery on the corner of Pratt and Campbell.  homemade potato salad at Helga’s delicatessen just a block or two away. Back then without Home Depot. we shopped at a small neighborhood Ace Hardware. Mehlmann Florists on Western Avenue was another of those wonderful mom-and-pop businesses who knew you and were happy to see you. There was the “big-box stores“of the day Sears, Montgomery Wards, First Distributors, Shoppers World, and Turnstyle,

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Chicago had many dairies including Sidney Wanzer , Bownan and others. I  was honored to be the milk boy in grammar school who distributed milk each day just before lunch.

Ice cream from Walgreens came in all flavors and back then were 6 pints for a $1.00. Jewel sold the Yummy brand. How can we forget the Good Humor man in his white truck wearing a snappy white uniform and black belt.

A summer evening treat was a trip to a Dairy Queen or Tastee freeze . Downtown we had Charmets on Michigan Avenue. There was Lockwood Castle out west on Devon and Margies Candies on Western. There were those wonderful Dove bars on the south side. We all had our favorite candy whether it be Hershey bar, Milk Duds, Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Tootsie Roll, Mounds, Snickers , Three Musketeers or even just those tiny candy dots on a paper strip. There was the semmingly “all-day” Holloway sucker. Anybody remember Necco Wafers or Charms? Most were made right in Chicago. And don’t forget Chicago’s own Cracker Jack and Affy Tapple.

Chicago had hundreds of neighborhood old school bakeries. There were larger brands and chains like Davidson’s, Heinemann’s, Burny brothers, and Dressels whipped cream cakes. Among the most popular bakeries were Dinkels bakery on Lincoln,Biels on Montrose, Lutz’s pastries on Montrose near Western with an outdoor cafe. There were smaller mom-and-pop bakeries in every neighborhood. There was the Gladstone bakery on Milwaukee, the Swedish Bakery in Andersonvillle, Fleig’s Bakery on Clark, just to name a few. Bakeries were the place for delicious strudel, kolachkys, coffee cake, fresh bread, brownies and wonderful layer cakes.

Sieben’s Brewery

Chicago was a city of Schlitz, Pabst blue ribbon, Hamm’s “the beer refreshing”, Blatz, Budweiser, and Miller high life “the champagne of bottled beer”.

When Prohibition hit, soda was some produced by some breweries just to stay alive until repeal. There was was Dad’s root beer, NEHI, Orange Crush, Hires, Green River,  Shasta , Canfields, Lassers and Fanta. For extra money we would take empty bottles back to the store for two cents each.

You couldn’t just drink soda without pretzels or popcorn. It was just the way it was. Cretors in Chicago the largest manufacturer, bright red popcorn carts and wagons. And don’t forget those large metal cans of Jay’s potato chips or New Era Potato chips.

There were so many products back then with household names like Bosco, Wonder bread and Ovaltine. Oscar Mayer, Jello, Cracker Jack and Spam are still around. Many brandnames did not survive like Cherrioats, Dutch boy bread, Post Crakos, Black Bottom Candy bar or Celery Cola. Really!

We never went hungry but over the years Chicago has lost a lot of restaurants and fast food, both small and large. Some of them include That Steak Joynt on Wells, Grassfield’s on Ridge, Villa Sweden, Roy Roger’s Roast Beef, Arthur Treacher’s fish and chips, the Red Barn, Golden Bear, Beefy 19 on Western, Henry’s drive in, Miller’s steakhouse on Western (SHeldrake 3-3333), JoJos, Tast-E Dog and Superdawg on Milwaukee near the Jensen Slides, and so many pizza places long gone.

Chicago was home to great German restaurants such as Johnny Held’s Brown Bear on Clark, the Black Forest,  Schulien’s on Irving Park, Heidelberg downtown, Zum Deutschen Eck on Southport, Math Iglers Casino on Melrose.

As I got older there were themed restaurants like Sally’s Stage on Western, the Ground Round, Doctor Jazz on Montrose,“Soups on” and the Pickle barrel in Old Town, Lawrence of Oregano, on Diversey, Shakey’s Pizza with their sing-along.

When my father had a few extra dollars he was so proud to take us to a nicer restaurant on a Sunday after church. Some of his favorites in the city were Allgauers on Touhy and Lincoln, , Town & Country on Ridge, which later became Carson’s ribs. the venice Patrician on Peterson, Como Inn, Golden ox, Elliott’s Pine Log, Nielsen’s smorgasbord on North Avenue, or Mangum Château on the far south side. Richer people than us went to Villa Venice and could hobnob with gangsters. Look on this website where you will find a story about Villa Venice.

My parent’s favorite was the Ivanhoe on Clark at Wellington with its orchestra, dancing, catacombs and Two ton Baker on the piano. You are served by fine waiter but there only one waitress,  a vaudeville style comedian named Mary would never say a word . She would do crazy things like stirring your water with her finger are rubbing grandpa’s baldhead with his napkin. You could tip her in advance tell her who your victim should be your party. Look for her story on this website.

 There was a lovely dinner and puppet show at the Kungsholm. Further out there was the Morton house in Morton Grove, Wellers,  and a long ride the Country Squire in Libertyville.

 On the radio my parents listened to the hit parade for the latest hits and for news they tuned in to Gabriel heatter who sign-on was “There’s good news tonight”. Later it was Paul Harvey and the news who had a wonderful segment called “and now the rest of the story”

Late at night we there was Franklyn McCormick and his the all-night Meister Brau showcase

.https://chicagoandcookcountycemeteries.com/2020/01/18/the-golden-age-of-all-night-radio/

There was Dick Biondi, Clark Weber, Eddie Schwartz and Wally Phillips on our transistor radios. At noon, we could hear the WGN farm report with Orion Samuelson. .  We had phonographs back in the day, playing the 45s with the large hole in the middle. I remember going to the record store a copy of the latest hits compliments of WCFL or WJJD radio.

I made a fort in my parents living room in front of the television simply a card table with a blanket over it from which I watched the Cubs while sorting my trading cards.

We watch the world series on a black-and-white television sometimes even in the classroom. Televisions back then were made by Zenith, RCA, Majestic or Muntz. Station call letters included WMAQ, WBKB, WGN, WNBC. WTTW came later.

 We watched live wrestling from Marigold Arena and women’s roller derby. We have forgotten most newscasters like Ulmer Turner, Fahey Flynn and his bowtie, Walter Jacobson, Bill Kurtis, Joel Daly, Alex Dryer, Floyd Kalber, Len O’Connor. We got our nightly weather from PJ Hoff.

My dad loved Walt’s Workshop sponsored by Hines lumber. We watched Dragnet, I Love Lucy, the Honeymooners with Jackie Gleason, Arthur Godfrey, Sid Caesar, What’s My Line and so many more. And then there was Capt. kangaroo, Super Circus with Claude Kirchner and Mary Hartline

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And who could forget Kukla, Fran and Ollie. There was Howdy Doody and Clarabell and Bob Bell as Bozo the clown. Some of us ate our lunch along with Johnny Coons or watched Shock Theater on Saturday night with Marvin and his wife “Dear”.

Growing up there were church carnivals and picnics with sack races and raw egg tossing contests. Back when we knew our neighbors some of us enjoyed a block party especially when a Chicago fire engine would stop by. There was Old Town, Pipers Alley, Santa’s Village and Adventureland. For a short time, there was the Old Chicago amusement park in Bolingbrook.

And just south of Lane Tech was the famous Riverview amusement park, tame by today’s standards, but then one of the finest amusement parks in the country. Sadly It was torn down in 1967 and the land is now a shopping center. Many of you might still remember the Bobs and several other roller coasters. The Tunnel of love was originally called Floss on the Mill. Remember the shoot the chutes, the sideshow, Aladdin’s Castle, the Pair of Chutes, and the miniature train. There were two engines, the Chief and the Scout . There were games would take your money like Spill the milk, Fascination, the shooting galleries or a few penny arcades.

Riverview had an enormous picnic Grove that could hold 10,000 people. Picnic groves, beer gardens and summer gardens in Chicago were very popular places to drink dance and be entertained. There was Sieben’s Beer Garden, Scheiner’s Grove within Bohemian cemetery and Kolze’s Electric Park   just to name a few

Kiddieland on North Avenue and Hollywood Kiddieland at McCormick and Devon were magical places for us kids. They even had a fire engine come and pick up you and your friends a birthday party. And just across the street from the Hollywood Kiddieland were several miniature golf courses, a trampoline center, and the Bunny Hutch

chicagoandcookcountycemeteries.com/2018/12/11/hooray-for-hollywood/

I still remember Leon Berry at the pipe organ the Hub roller rink on Harlem. I never learned how to skate backwards. He had his own pipe organ in the basement of his home and recorded an album titled “Beast in the Basement”. Pipe organs were majestic instruments in many of the Chicago theaters. Organists like L Carney, Pearl White, Virgil Fox and Hal Pearl entertained us.

Going to the movies on a Saturday or a Sunday to watch cartoons and then a double feature for a quarter. Popcorn was a dime at George’s candy store next door to the Nortown. Movies of my youth were High  Noon with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.  There was the House of Wax in 3-D, the High and the Mighty, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. up my way there was many movie theaters like the 400, Adelphi, Devon, Uptown, the Howard, Riviera, the beautiful Granada and others. In my parent’s day, the glamorous movie theaters promoted “air-cooling” and often gave away free dishes to boost traffic.

Downtown there was the crown jewel Chicago Theater with it’s beautiful pipe organ, and stage shows. I saw Jack Webb, Jackie Gleason, and more on stage. And there was Cinerama, a massive movie experience using three screens.

And don’t forget the drive-in theaters where the whole family could watch a movie wearing pajamas. And as a teenager the drive-in was a great place to take young lady to steal a kiss. There was the Sunset on McCormick, Harlem Irving drive-in, the Oasis and many more. Who can forget the “Trunk Boy” episode on Cheers where Frasier had to ride in Ma Clavin’s trunk to avoid paying.

Airplanes and Trains

Midway Airport once the busiest airport in the United States was the place to go to see airplanes. I never flew in an airplane growing up. There was no money for that. The closest we ever got to an airplane was the observation tower at Midway Airport for $.10. There was an airplane turned into a restaurant on the south side. So many airlines have gone out of business . There was Midway Airlines, TWA. Saturn Airways, Capital, Eastern, Pan Am, Chicago helicopter Airways and dozens more.

Hiawatha

Chicago was the railroad capital of the United States with hundreds of trains daily. There was the Burlington, Illinois Central, Chicago and Northwestern, North Shore, and many more My dad loved trains and took me to watch the speeding Milwaukee Road Hiawatha speed through on a summer’s night at the Edgebrook station.

Burlington

Edgebrook Station

North Shore at Chicago’s loop

In 1949 my dad took me to Chicago’s Railroad Fair held on the lakefront

Chicago was a huge manufacturing hub. There were large factories like Coleman, Lincoln logs, Zenith, Kraft Foods, Western electric, Bell & Howell or the Dodge Chicago plant.  Lyon and Healy made harps. There was Brach Candy Co, Curtiss, Tootsie Roll, and Mars all making candy.

On a summer’s night dad would take me to fill Thillens stadium to watch a free Little League game.

With a school friend I went to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs or a school field trip to Comiskey Park for the White Sox. In 1959, Fire Commissioner Robert Quinn ordered the air raid sirens to be sounded to celebrate the White Sox world series victory. Scared most everybody in Chicago thinking the Russians were bombing us.

January 1967

Most everything I have mentioned is gone but not forgotten. I am now happily retired in Phoenix Arizona because i didn’t want to shovel Chicago snow anymore.

Many of us might well remember the January 1967 blizzard.

But when I do go back to Chicago for a visit, it’s not the same. I hardly recognize today’s downtown, the neighborhoods or major intersections like Six Corners or Lincoln/ Lawrence anymore. So many landmarks were torn down like the Potter Palmer mansion, the Coliseum (once Libby prison), the Union Stockyards, the original Comiskey park and the International Amphitheater. The original McCormick Place built in 1960 burned in 1967. but was rebuilt.

 Some things never do change like our cemeteries, the Chicago River, our parks, and our beautiful lakefront.

1945- I am in the back row. Mom holding me up

But the most important thing for all of us not to forget is family. It’s really all about family. Remember and celebrate those have passed on, and hug those that are still with us.

And one more thing, feel free to count all the places in this blog that you too have been. Let me know in the comments or email me at bartonius84@hotmail.com. tell me about those memories from your childhood that I missed. Such fun. Thanks for reading. Barry Fleig

74 thoughts on “Growing up in Chicago in the 1950’s”

  1. Thank you for that lovely look back at those times. I was born mid 1940’s in Rogers Park so remember all those things very well. The one thing that will never change is that everything will always change. We can look back, but we can’t go back. Future generations will wistfully look back at today’s times as ‘the good ol’ days’.

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  2. Yep, sounds real familiar. I was on the far south side in Beverly Hills/Morgan Park as a kid. We had a Kiddieland someplace on 95th Street (I think between Pulaski and Cicero, might have been west of Cicero). You could send a 5 year old kid to the local deli to get a loaf of bread because it was just down the street an all the neighbors would keep an eye on them as they dawdled along eating half the loaf on the way home. We caught garter snakes in the prairie lot on the corner, climbed trees, learned real fast not to eat the green apples from the tree in the parkway by Graver Park. The old neighborhood still looks mostly like it used to, the shopping areas near the Rock Island stations are more changed and 95th Street is very different as is Western Avenue. Basically that was how my childhood was too, safe and free, able to ride around on my bike till the street lights came on then I’d better be home. We went to Brookfield Zoo once during the summer. My mom and I would take the Rock Island downtown then the bus to the Museum of Science and Industry, or the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium or the Planetarium, on a Saturday or Sunday, even the Art Institute once in awhile. A visit to the top of the Board of Trade or the Prudential building was also possible. We had Bowman Dairy delivering our milk, the Good Humor truck for ice cream and the drug store (Johnson’s) with the soda fountain for Green River or a milk shake. It was a wonderful way to grow up. I feel kind of sorry for kids now who have to have so much protection that they can’t do what we did as kids, it helped make us independent and confident adults who weren’t afraid to go places or do things. Thanks for tickling the memories.

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      1. Thanks Barry, you did well, & I grew up in the same area, as you well know, but now live near Houston Tx! Tell Linda Hello

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  3. Grew up in Albany Park with similar memories. Great times! You mention Superdawg on Milwaukee being gone, it’s still there and going strong.

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  4. And then there were the myriads of kids with the cost of a bus/trolly ride could go to one of five stables around Lincoln Park and learn to ride a horse for just a dollar or two an hr. A great many kids with the fondest of memories until the gentrified moved in and complained about the manure and smell out on the bridle paths. The last stable closed in 1967. Today, the bridle path and horse fountains
    are running, jogging, walking, biking paths.

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    1. Thank you for the memories of wonderful cricardo I remember most everything that you sent
      Thank you very much Jeff if you have a chance give me a call (818) 730-6047

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  5. I grew up in Edison Park on Talcott Ave. My Aunt worked for Brach’s Candy Company for 32 years. One of her jobs was being a ‘Taste Tester.’ Loved the Como Inn. And you mentioned Two Ton Baker–I remember him on TV singing “Stars Are the Window to Heaven.” It was a summer night treat to go to the Olson Rug Garden and Siebens Beer Garden where the kids had root beers and pretzels and mustard. So many great memories!! Thanks for writing the article.

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      1. You forgot the Peter Hand Brewery, I think it was on North Ave, east of the river – they sold out to Miller Brewing. The Peter Hand beer formula became “Miller Lite”…..

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  6. I worked at the railroad fair in Chicago for two years. Was A switchman for the antique trains for the show that they put on sure was an experience for a young kid actually worked For the Illinois Central, Railroad

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  7. Wow! Thank you Barry for the walk down memory lane!! Awesome!! I was born in 1949. I grew up on the West side of Chicago in the 1950’s, Madison and Pulaski area. Fond memories. Olsen waterfalls, fruit trucks ringing a bell going through the alley, playing outside in summer with Hula Hoops and so much more! Then we moved further west to the Austin neighborhood. I attended Austin High School. I remember going to football games where Austin played against Lane Tech! So many great memories!! Loved reading your post! Thank you!!

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  8. Barry that was beautiful. I had a tear in my eye at the end. Although the sirens were for the American League Championship. Alas the White Sox lost the World Series to Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers.

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  9. Thank you so much! Took me down memory lane. I remember so many of these places. Grew up on 57th and Christiana. Better times than now. Such innocence!

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  10. I hung on to each and every word you wrote and 95% of your story brought back my youth. I was born in 1936 and grew up in Albany Park. I went to nearly all the same places you went to and your memories are mine, for the most part. Thanks for sharing. I still have one childhood friend from 2nd grade and when she visits me (here in Florida) I will share your story with her. I’m sure we’ll need to share a box of kleenex as well. Please keep writing.

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  11. I was born in April of 1953 and remember many of those places. I lived on Elston Ave and went to Lane Tech HS, I also worked and skated at Riverview roller rink until it burned down in 1971. I wish there had been some pictures of the roller rink. I worked for the phone company most of my life, although I was a Firefighter, EMT, and Rescue and Recovery Diver in Hanover Park and a Cook County Deputy for four years.
    I live in Lecanto Florida on ten acres now.

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  12. I loved this! I was born in ’43 so remember almost everything you talked about! I only have one correction – it was Mangam’s Chateau – considering the length of your memories, to have just one correction is remarkable! Thanks for doing this!!

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  13. Thank you so much. I was born in Berwyn Hospital and lived in Berwyn during the war and then on Cicero Avenue across from Western Electric until I was 8. So I have the same memories that have been enunciated. My first bike was a blue 24″ Schwinn which helped open the world to me. I can’t believe that my folks were okay with me going downtown on the el with my friends with no adult supervision.
    Riverview park got some of my vomit after I rode the roller coaster. The parachute ride cured me of ever wanting to skydive. Jim

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  14. Hi,

    Bob Janke here. I’ve been reading these posts for a long time but never got around to replying.

    Barry, our childhoods in Chicago were very similar.

    I was born on the North-East side on Hermitage Ave. We lived in a small apartment which is now part of an expensive condo area.

    We moved to our first house on Christiana Ave. near Kimball and Belmont. It currently is much nicer than the dirt basement one bath house that it was. It’s amazing how some neighborhoods have held up while others have gone downhill.

    I graduated from Lane Tech in1964 and went straight into the Air Force which left me in Viet Nam in 1965. After my 4-year tour I joined the Space Program which I stayed in until my retirement in 2007. I didn’t want to stay in the cold of Chicago so I spent 30 years in Houston and retired to the green hills of Tennessee.

    Yes, we used to play softball in the alley between garages and spent a lot of time retrieving our ball from neighbor’s yards. In winter we used to forge the ice and snow as we walked to grammar school at Avondale. For high school, riding the bus was always a case of waiting for the conductor to re-hook the trolleys to the overhead lines.

    My brother and I used to ride our bikes up to the forest preserves. My dad died when he was hit by a car on Cicero Ave. That was my sophomore year at Lane.

    We spent a lot of time at Riverview park as kids. It was strange to go to high school at Lane right down the block.

    I went back for my 50-year reunion. What a change with no shops and now computer labs. Not to mention girls. I guess I should have went to Schurz with my brother.

    The school class pictures reminded me of mine. Pictures were taken each semester in the library at Avondale.

    I’ll keep watch on the web and talk more later.

    Regards,

    Bob

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    1. thanks so much for your memories. You mention retrieving the softball from yards. we had the added problem of getting ours from flat alley garage roofs. I too took a reunion tour of Lane (me 1962) and missed those shops as they were the best part of my days. But to be fair i was amazed at how many new courses have been added in subjects unheard of back then. The bar seemed to have raised many feet. Don’t think I would do well in the current classes. So cool. So sorry about your dad. Mine died suddenly in my freshman year at Lane. Bob , feel free to add more of your memories. all the best, barry

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      1. Hi Barry,

        Yes, we also had several flat garage roofs. I wonder in these times if homeowners would freak out having kids climb up on their garages. It was worse when we played in the streets using car tires as bases. We managed to hit cars often but with our worn-out pillows of softballs, no damage done.

        They used to flood the playground at our grammar school for ice skating.

        There were places where freeways were just being built and the hills made for great snow sledding. We did have to be careful at the bottom as we would be headed right for a street.

        My brother and I loved to go down to the railroad yards and check out the trains.

        The method of gathering kids to play would be strange for people today. Just go stand in front of a house and call “yo” (kids name). We also used to be able to travel cross wise through blocks by cutting through yards and jumping fences. Today someone would get shot! As a kid, I never saw a gun.

        Bob

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      2. I was a Lane Tech graduate …the year we won the city championship 1960….Pete Stamison, jerry Morezek…Chuck Logan….good times, l probably wouldn’t;t have made the grade there and would have had to go to Shurz….ugggggg.

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    2. Bob, great story as reply to this incredible and relatable article about Chicago during OUR time. Me too N Side 1219 W. George St, across from chicken and beef processing and distribution. Lane 63 then Army, nam, and into business, eventually retired now in Fort Myers. I put this on my FB page in hopes to have more reply and maybe discover more of OUR era. Maybe more readers will do the same. All the best. Rich

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  15. Thanks for the memories (Bob Hope).

    Some of the best time in my life was in Chicago. I was born on March 4th 1945 at Mother Cabrini Hospital and lived on the West Side. I mention my birthday because it was always displayed on the side of every garbage truck in Chicago. That was the day that Chicago was incorporated of course in 1837.

    I pleaded with my parents to go to Lane Tech. But they said I was going to go to Saint Mel on Madison Street with my older brother. We use to laugh when we had air raid drills…St. Mel is on the corner of Madison and Kildare just about the geographic center of the City.

    My Ma and Dad had a Barber and Beauty Shop at on West Chicago Ave for over 40 years. Dad refused to leave until the 70’s. He lost everything, business and home. I’ve been back there. It’s hard to believe.

    But your article brings back an experience that I hope and pray every kid gets a chance to have. We were very fortunate to have grown up in such a wonderful place.

    Memories are Forever

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My cousin lived on Kildare and Gladys…he went to St. Mel’s but they threw him out after 1 month firefighting with the brothers,..he’s a little older than you by about 7 years…he went on to be a barber and had a shop on Madison St. and Austin…next to a corned beef place l think called Carls(?)…nice neighborhood until it all changed …his dad lost everything also when he bailed out of that 3 flat building.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. On the south side, we had the mosquito abatement truck travel down the alleys in summertime, spraying a huge white cloud of DDT, and all of the neighborhood kids would run down the alley in the cloud for blocks. We now know that the DDT was killing a lot more than mosquitoes.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I was born in Illinois masotic 1945 and lived at Southport in Roscoe . I was a booster boy delivering the learner newspaper in the neighborhood And was one of the lucky 8 booster boys that One the all expense pay trip to Hollywood that year Where we went to Disneyland and met many movie stars.
    At night from my bedroom window I could hear the Ravenswood line running up the
    L tracks at Southport Avenue. And we could take a short walk Up the railroad tracks to Wrigley field to see the cubs play.
    Mom would take us roller skating at the Arcadia roller rink down on Broadway and when the family moved a little further West we started going to the hub roller rink where I was happy to meet Leon Berry the organist. We became friends and a couple of us family people went to Leon’s house and saw and heard his beast in the basement Organ. My brother still has some of Leon’s L p’s

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I also went to Lane Tech (class of 62). I grew up around Crawford and North Av. Everyone in my neighborhood worked at Schwinn. I to had a blue Schwinn like the same model as yours. It was great to relive my youth in your story. I also had Miss Flynn for an English class.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I was born on September 29, 1941 at Illinois Central hospital. Born and bred Southsider. We lived on 64th street between Stony Island and Harper. A couple of blocks from Mt. Carmel H.S. on the west and Jackson Park on the east. My grade school, Sir Walter Scott, was across the street on Harper. The street car end of the line was in front of our apartment building and the end of the line for the EL was one block north on 63rd.
        So you see, the Noth side was foreign territory to me. Except for skipping school ,when I could get away with it, to take the EL to Wrigley field to see my beloved Andy Pafko play for the Cubs (a team hated for life after they traded him to the Dodgers in 1951 for Bruce Edwards) and a occasional visit to Riverview I never went north.
        I had a wonderful life going up in my neighborhood!
        For the past sixty years I have lived in Bloomington,Indiana . My sister and her husband left Chicago much later for Atlanta where they were transfered for their jobs have since retired .
        Every Saturday morning we talk for an hour plus and at least half of the conversation is about Chicago as was. They are the ones who introduced me to your wonderful writings.
        Thank you so much for your priceless capturing of history and its importance to Chicagoans every.
        God bless.
        Take care.
        Gary Demes

        Liked by 1 person

  19. I must be old too!
    I certainly remember just about everything You talked about here. Where have all these years gone? It has been a slice going down memory lane in Chicago.
    Thanks for sharing all this with me!
    Nancy Toffel Gatta

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I was blown away reading this about growing up in Chicago. I was born in 1945 on the North-side (1219 W George St.) and can relate to every word. Do I have your permission to use some of this in a book I am writing as long as I give you DUE CREDIT as the resource?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I worked at the first Mc Cormick Place as a bus boy, be fore it burned down. I lived in Chinatown, which looks the same, other than the shops have changed hands. My father owned the “Dragon Q” pool hall on the NW corner of Cermak Rd. and Wentworth Ave. He had Minnesota Fats and Willie Musconi put on exhibitians. Every kid in the neighborhood hung out there.
    Just south is Ricobene’s Steak Sandwich on 26th St. opened in 1946. Back then it was a regular two car garage with a window in the wall. You could get a special for 10 cents which was a piece of Italian bread dipped in gravy.
    Just south of there was the old White Sox Park.
    Almost very place you mentioned, I have been there. I used to hand letter Como Inn’s vans, Wing Sign Co.
    Don’t forget the Century Theatre and Parkway Theatre on Clark St. & Diversey. How about Whealen Pool at 6200 Devon.
    I’m tearing up just from the memories, thanks for your trip down Memory Lane, loved it. I’ll watch for more.

    Like

  22. Thanks for all the memories. I went to Stewart and Boone, then Senn high. I actually taught at Lane in 1964 and had to compete with the cheers from Riverview in the spring. I worked at Marshall Fields for three Christmases and got to wait on several movie stars. We lived on Montrose near the lake, went to the Bowlium on Broadway and walked to Stewart. If we were lucky, we’d be there when the delivery truck would be throwing live chickens into the basement windows of a butcher store on Broadway. I do remember cherry cokes at the Ford Hopkins drug store on Lawrence near Broadway too. Wow! Thanks again. Now in Albuquerque, a world away.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Thank you for writing about these great memories. While reading this it felt like you were talking about me. Almost everything you have written about; I have also experienced. Only from a southside view. Thanks for helping me relive my youth!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Also remember White Castle sliders, and the Colleen Moore dollhouse at the museum. The Art Institute Lon’s are still in front, the beautiful Tiffany dome at the old Chicago Public Library on Michigan Ave., John M. Smith Furniture stor ar 12 N. Michigan, Belgian Waffles in Old Town on Wells, Carson’s Ribs, Fireside Ribs on Wells,Woolworths on N. Michigan Ave, the Playboy mansion on Dearborn, Biggs Restaurant. I was born at Swedish Covenant Hospital, lived in Streeterville for 22 years and miss Chicago more than I can say! It will always be “Sweet Home Chicago” to me. Diana Waters Henry

    Liked by 1 person

  25. This is Fabulous, thank you for the trip down memory lane. My father grew up on Gordon Terrace, it was the 2nd house from the beach before the outer drive was there. He told me stories but most of these places I remember. I grew up in Wilmette 4 blocks from the beach. I took the EL to school and home sometimes and when I worked at the Ohio National Bank and Michigan & Ohio after college I took the EL and subway. We would go downtown often because Daddy Loved the city. I remember the Good Humor man on Sheridan Rd. across from the cemetery where we stop for a treat on the way home when he could pick me up after work.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Wow! What a memory. I was born in 1944 went to Jamieson Elementary, 1 year of Amundsen HS and transferred to Mather HS when it opened in September of 1959. We lived in the Bryn Mawr and California area. Yes, it was the golden age to grow up in Chicago. I loved your article, please keep our childhood alive

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I remember most of everything. I played softball & other sports at the playground of Brentano grammar school . I delivered the Herald American, & collected the fees for 3 years, 1951 to 1954
    We used to hitch hike to Lake Michigan to swim at Diversey harbor. Thanks for sharing

    Like

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