Fond Memories-Walter’s Waterfall

s-l1600 Walter Eugene Olson was born February 18 1884. If you are a real Chicagoan, and a bit old, you might well remember the gift he gave to all of us. It was the  22 acre Olson Park and Waterfall which opened September 27, 1935 on the northwest corner of Diversey and Pulaski (back then Crawford Avenue). in Chicago. factoryHe wanted to “transplant some of the Wisconsin out of doors spirit to the then somewhat drab factory grounds.”

 

ghjhgNext to his massive carpet factory there was this landmark park made of 800 tons of stone,  800 yards of soil, 3,500 perennials,  junipers, spruces, and pines. There were paths with birch railings and foot bridges that allowed visitors to walk across the waterfall, a birch bark canoe, a teepee, a statue of a Native American, and more. There was a rock garden, picnic area, bird sanctuary, a duck pond, ravines and caves. In 1942 there were peacocks, golden pheasants, and even Corriedale sheep! Continue reading “Fond Memories-Walter’s Waterfall”

100 Million Gallons of Beer

 

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The World’s Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago on May 1 1893 and drew 26 million visitors. There were inventions, music, the ferris wheel and electricity. Edibles were introduced including Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Juicy Fruit gum, Crackerjack,  and Vienna frankfurters (the revered Chicago hotdog).

. And there was beer. Lots of beer. Beer was a serious issue. Continue reading “100 Million Gallons of Beer”

Give the Lady What She Wants

 

This is the story of two legends.  Marshall Field and Potter Palmer both now resting in Chicago’s Graceland cemetery.

palmer facepalmer tomb

Potter Palmer’s monument is a bit more upscale , Marshall Field’s not so much.220px-Marshall_Field_circa_1915_(cropped) mei

Both were two of the wealthiest men in Chicago,  mastering the world of retail. More important, they both totally understood the women who would shop at their stores.

.Potter Palmer was born May 20, 1826 in Albany County, New York, the fourth son of a Quaker family,  Benjamin and Rebecca (Potter) Palmer. In 1852, Potter Palmer founded, Potter Palmer and Company, a dry goods store on the then fashionable Lake Street in Chicago.  He focused on women and encouraged their patronage. Palmer practiced a “no questions asked” returns policy and was the first owner to advertise with large window displays.  In 1865 because of ill health, he brought in partners Marshall Field and Levi Leiter. The trio joined forces and renamed the firm Field, Palmer, Leiter and Company. After the devastating Chicago Fire,  the store’s name eventually was changed by 1881 to “Marshall Field and Company”.

Marshall Field practiced the maxim that the customer was always right, He pioneered free, same-day delivery service to customers’ homes via a horse and wagon. He like Palmer, offered unconditional refunds, In 1885, he began selling in the basement dubbed the “Budget Floor” with incredible sales numbers. These were just a few of his many groundbreaking innovations designed to please his guests.

 

28shopcoronetThe story is told that he once found a retail manager speaking heatedly with a woman customer. “What are you doing here?” asked Field. “I am settling a complaint,” he replied. “No, you’re not,” snapped Field. “Give the lady what she wants”! He was one of the first to concentrate on the retail needs of women, a new concept for the time.

Marshall Field was born on a farm in Conway, Franklin County, Massachusetts, the son of John Field and  Fidelia Nash.

At the age of 17, he first worked in a dry goods store in Massachusetts before coming to live with his brother in Chicago, Illinois at age 26. Field married twice. First in 1863, he married Nannie Douglas Scott of Ironton, Ohio.  They had two sons and a daughter,  one son, Louis, died in 1866 as an infant. The surviving children were Marshall Field Jr. and Ethel Field. After the death of his first wife Nannie in 1896, Field married Delia Spencer Caton. They had no children together.

Potter Palmer was born Albany County, New York, the fourth son of Benjamin and Rebecca (Potter) Palmer.  He married Bertha Honoré In 1871., she gave birth to a son in 1874, Honoré, and in 1875, she gave birth to another son, Potter Palmer II.

 extralarge Marshall Field pioneered quality retailing, but we all will remember the famous clock at State and Washington and the enchanting and elaborate Christmas windows,  where visiting them at Christmas was a wonderful family traditionftgghyywindow

clockIn later years, Marshall Field and Company was known for the Walnut Room, Frango Mints, Uncle Mistletoe, and over 100 departments. There was the enchanting toy department, magical before Christmas. There was a stamp and coin department, a book department where he pioneered book signings.untitledfrangoGoddard-image-5-600x475

marshall-fields-company-building-interior-macy-s-state-street-field-state-street-chicago-illinois-36128327And behind the scenes:fghyh

 

The magical toy department

 

rugIn the 1920’s, the Marshall Field company pioneered machine-made oriental design rugs of high quality at realistic prices. under the Karastan name from his own mills in North Carolina. They wowed tens of thousands of visitors at two World’s Fairs. Consumers quickly learned that the Karastan name means quality, beauty, and durability. an exciting and innovative product . The company built the massive Merchandise Mart for $35 million between 1928-1930 for their wholesale operation, but the depression did not treat it kindly. It was sold to Joseph Kennedy for $12 million in 1945. Fields owned around 30 mills, most producing or converting textiles. which marketed sheets, towels, bedspreads, and blankets under the Fieldcrest label.

Still later,  as the company grew, there were to be over 60 stores, mostly in the Midwest. In the Chicago area, There was Oak Park and Evanston, but other stores were built as shopping malls became popular like Old Orchard, Oakrook, and Park Forest.

1905 s prarieBoth Palmer and Field were very wealthy and lived well during those early years. Marshall Field had a mansion at 1905 Prairie Avenue, a street of wealthy and prominent Chicagoans.

 

 

300px-Palmer-8174-1Potter Palmer built his opulent mansion at 1350 N Lake Shore Drive. He also built a luxurious hotel, the Palmer House, as a wedding present for his wife.

.Potter Palmer died in his home of a heart attack on May 4, 1902. The Palmer house is still a Chicago landmark.

imagesVN9CNEW5Marshall Field died in New York City, New York, on January 16, 1906 at age 71 from pneumonia contracted after playing golf with Abraham Lincoln’s oldest son Robert Todd. The Field Museum of Natural History was named after him in 1894 . The University of Chicago was founded in part by Marshall Field.

Fields was sold to Dayton-Hudson in 1990 which later changed their name to the Target Corporation. Target then sold Fields to Macy’s. And there went the golden age of retailing.

Next time you are in downtown Chicago, meet me under the clock.

Win a $5000 Savings Bond!

To a kid, it was Chicago’s own“Field of dreams”.

 It was a miniature version of a big league ballpark just like Comiskey or Wrigley Field. It was complete with lights for night games, a public address system, grandstands seating over 2400 northside fans, concessions, an electric outfield scoreboard, an announcer’s booth and more.

It was Thillen’s Stadium at 6404 North Kedzie Avenue, the generous gift of Mel G. Thillens I1914-1993) and his company, the Thillens Armored Car Check Cashing Company.truck

facility-stadiumdevonkedzie It was a place where some 17,000 kids could play Little League baseball every year at no cost.

 

And the deal was, if you could hit the sign of armored truck on top of the outfield scoreboard, you would win the $5000 savings bond. Three talented little leaguers did just that, hitting a baseball 300 feet. The place made kids feel that they were big league players at Wrigley or Comiskey. Continue reading “Win a $5000 Savings Bond!”

The Beast in the Basement

Anyone who is really old like me and/or lived in the Chicago area might well remember going to the Hub Roller Rink on Harlem Avenue in Norridge. What made roller skating so very special there was the genius of Leon Berry playing the mighty pipe organ way up above our heads. imagesTM4I2BM4But even more interesting was that he built a full sized pipe organ in the basement of his house. Read on!

Leon Clay Berry was born  July 2 1914 in Burnsville, Dallas, Alabama to Paul Burns Berry and Anna Ida Kramer. He began playing the organ in church back in Selma, Alabama. In the Chicago area , after military service, he worked at Hammond Organ for a time,  he played in barrooms, The Trianon Ballroom on Cottage Grove at 62nd, the Arcadia Roller Rink at Broadway and Montrose, and most famously the Hub at 4510 N. Harlem. After his time at the Hub, he played at the Orbit Roller Rink in Palatine for a time. 2501125812_fa53ab79d8_zHe cut several great LP albums including my favorite “Beast in the Basement.  But wait there is the “Beast”!    Read on

Continue reading “The Beast in the Basement”

Mr. Chicago: A Life Well Lived

Although he was not buried in one of Chicago area cemeteries,  you need to meet and celebrate this famous Chicago north side citizen.

He was born about April 1928 and arrived in Chicago in April 1930 as a penniless immigrant. He could not speak English, but yet went on to be a powerful public figure admired by all.

He never ran for office and completely avoided politics and discrimination. He had only one address but never owned a house or drove a car. He was never wealthy, and certainly never a hoarder.

He was however the consummate showman.  Over his lifetime it has been estimated that he performed and entertained some two million people every year, some 100,000,000 during his career. Entertainers, sports figures like Babe Ruth, the music world, and politicians all posed for pictures with him.

Genial, outgoing, treated most everyone equally and with respect. He was a true gentleman, affectionate, honest, smart, fun loving, sometimes sad. He loved people but demanded their respect.

Before you click the “continue reading” try to guess who this great man was. 100 cemetery points if you have guessed correctly, nothing if you have no clue. Continue reading “Mr. Chicago: A Life Well Lived”