the Chicago typewriter – February 14, 1929

Today, your computer keyboard uses the QWERTY system, (the first six letters on the top line of your keyboard). It is a carryover from the mechanical typewriter that most of us older folk remember.  The first commercially successful typewriter was invented and patented by four Milwaukee Wisconsin men in 1868 . It was produced by E. Remington and sons.

The “Chicago typewriter” however was quite different, something never needing paper or an ink ribbon . Its use on Valentine’s Day February 14, 1929 is legend. It. Like a mechanical typewriter, it was well used to send a message. The Chicago typewriter is a slang term for the Thompson submachine gun which from a distance sound somewhat like a typewriter.

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Music in the trolley barn – February 5, 1971

North Chicago Street Railway Car #8, built 1859

Horsecars, cable cars and streetcars needed a place to sleep at night. They had been called trolley barns, car barns, car houses or more recently bus barns. Some are still around in Chicago, but many of the early structures are long gone or have been repurposed.

One such “trolley barn” was a modest brick building at 329 Lincoln Ave. on Chicago’s North side. About 1909, Chicago renumbered all streets, so 329 Lincoln became 2356 N. Lincoln.

This building housed horse-drawn street cars owned by the North Chicago Street Railway Co. serving both the Fullerton and Lincoln Avenue lines and possibly others. The first horsecar line in Chicago opened on State Street in 1859, replacing the even earlier horse-drawn omnibuses. One of the benefits of the horse drawn streetcars was the use of fixed rails in the streets, enabling the horsecars to travel slightly faster and providing the passengers with a somewhat smoother ride. Horse-drawn streetcars also predated the short era of cable cars in Chicago which ended in 1906 only to be replaced by electric streetcars.

After its life as a “trolley barn” it had several later tenants. In 1916 it was home to the 1st Battalion Engineers and the Battery Field Artillery of the National Guard. In 1921 trucks were being sold out of that location. Rent in 1926 was only $125. it was used as a warehouse, the Steiner furniture store circa 1952 and the Bargain Center warehouse.

And finally in about 1969 the old trolley barn was converted to a theater.

And as Paul Harvey would say “and now for the rest of the story”

2356 N. Lincoln began became the Kingston Mines theater one of the first theater companies to be part of the storefront theater scene along Lincoln Ave., Halsted, and other nearby Northside streets. It was named after an actual town of Kingston Mines Illinois in central Illinois.

On February 5, 1971, in that old trolley barn, the Kingston Mines Theater Company premiered a play written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. The play was Grease!

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Mr. Ofstie may have sold you a car!

He was born Burton Adolph Ofstie on January 30, 1911 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Rev. Hans Adolf Ofstie (1881-1977) a Methodist pastor and Lena Peterson (1889 –1981) 

We knew him well by his trademark “Linn Burton for Certain”and his very plaid suits.  

He is still remembered for his commercials for Bert Weinman Ford.” Chicago’s number 1 Ford dealer”. He was “Your TV Ford Man” selling cars for over 25 years between 1964 and 1989 on WGN-TV in Chicago. Linn Burton had a great radio voice and personality.  Hewould urge us viewers to “Buy now and save” at  “3535 North on Ashland Avenue”.

Many people didn’t know that he was only a spokesman and never a salesman for Bert Weinman Ford. In fact, it was not uncommon for a prospective car buyer to come into the dealership and ask for Linn Burton! He actually did his work in the WGN TV studio with a specially revolving floor where the cars slowly turned under the bright lights..His commercials were incredibly effective. In addition to that great voice, he had believability. He wasn’t slick or crafty. It was just Linn simply selling cars. And he was just really good at it!

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Elin Felt: Someone you should know

Many people live ordinary lives never achieving fame or fortune, but nevertheless would accomplish much in their lives or simply excel in their field. These people deserve recognition.

I would not be writing this blog today without the influence of just one person Who fit this description.

Elin Felt spent her entire career teaching English, most of her years were at Lane technical high school on Chicago’s North Side.

Elin Marie Louise Felt was born in Chicago on October 4, 1904, one of six children, the daughter of Charles John Felt (1864 – 1943 ) who was born in Ostergstland Sweden, immigrated to the United States and was a grocer in Chicago at 1918 Winnemac. Her mother was Ellen C. Larson (1866-1955)

Ellen had four sisters and one brother.

Elin was baptized March 12, 1905 at Messiah Lutheran Church in Chicago. She attended both Augustana College in Rock Island Illinois (circa 1923) and the Chicago Normal College (circa 1926)

Never married, her entire life was all about teaching English. By 1930 she was teaching for the Chicago Board of Education.

In 1949 she was on the faculty of Marshall high school.

Between 1951 and 1970 she was in the English department at Lane technical high school in Chicago’s North Side. In her career lasting at least 40 years I estimate that she might have taught as many as 1200 students.

Lane Tech 1951

And at Lane Tech is where I knew her, she was my wonderful English teacher at Lane. Quiet, small in stature, never heavy-handed, always smiling, a personality that just earned and deserved respect.

Lane 1964

She left such a positive impression on me that I did not fully grasp at the time.

But if you really want to know the truth,  English class was not that all that important to me at the time, but was simply a necessary class stuck between drafting, shops and the lunchroom.Why would I know what a participle was, or how to diagram a sentence? I was much more interested in operating a South Bend lathe or a Bridgeport Milling machine.

Lane 1966

But what I didn’t realize was that she taught the important foundation for writing. She taught us to choose our subject wisely, use index cards to gather major thoughts and do quality research before beginning to put words to paper.

For my semester project I chose of all things to write about, the hydraulically operated concrete barriers that were in the middle of Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive. Raising and lowering them on Lakeshore Drive afforded what we know of today as reversible lanes. In order to research the subject, I read through traffic management magazines at the downtown library. I am not sure whether Miss Felt had much knowledge about hydraulic lane delineators but gave me an “A” for my work.

I have not found too much about her personal life other than she lived at 1918 W. Winnemac and later in Chicago’s Sauganash neighborhood. She did travel a bit. I do remember that she thought that the two most beautiful words in the English language were “cellar door”. Go figure.


Elin felt died December 7, 1996 at the age 92 in the Swedish covenant convalescent home near Foster and California. Her funeral was Immanuel Lutheran Church 1500 W. Elmdale. She is buried at Graceland Cemetery among her parents and siblings.

If you had Miss Felt for English at Lane tech high school, please tell me what you remember. If not, please share your memories of an outstanding teacher that you remember in the comments below. You will receive bonus points if that teacher was at Lane Tech. You also can just email me at

And for another great story about Lane tech high school please click the link:

Three LANE Schools over a Clay Pit – Chicago and Cook County Cemeteries