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”

The Golden Era of Chicago Movie Theatres

bk5Two great families buried in the Jewish Waldheim Cemetery at Forest Park changed Chicago entertainment forever.

maxwellIsrael Balaban (1862-1931) a Jewish immigrant arrived in Chicago in 1882 from Odessa Russia along with his wife Augusta “Goldie” Manderbursky (1868-1936). They opened a grocery store and fish shop on Chicago’s famous Maxwell Street. They and their five sons and  daughter lived in the back of the store.

 

By 1910 the family had moved to the west side where two of their five sons,  Barney Balaban (1887-1971) the oldest son,  and A. J. Balaban (1889-1962) along  with partners Sam Katz (1892-1961) and Sam’s father Morris Katz (1869 -1939)  became the genius behind the Balaban and Katz chain of palatial “movie palaces “.  These wonderful theatres shaped how almost every one of us and our parents sought entertainment and viewed the Hollywood movies. Continue reading “The Golden Era of Chicago Movie Theatres”