Terri – When the Dead Gained Power

She came into thousands of Northwest side Chicago homes every week and was simply known as “Terri”. You need to know her.

lomnbgghjTheresa “Terri” Ann Kruszczak  (1956-1998)  was the most capable staff writer and managing editor of the Times’ six weekly editions, the largest group of the Lerner Community Newspapers, later known as Pulitzer–Lerner newspapers. Terri tirelessly attended community meetings, neighborhood events and school board proceedings in search of her next story.. She wrote thousands of articles that appeared weekly in the Harlem Irving Times, Jefferson Mayfair times, Harlem Foster Times, northwest times, Uptown News Star and other editions. After dinner, she would often return to her office alone late at night to write that one more story before deadline.

Her professional life changed forever in March of 1989 when bones and dead bodies were uncovered on the site of the Cook County Poorhouse and Insane Asylum, later renamed the Chicago State hospital.

Weekly headlines revealed a gruesome story every week:

1990 bones on curb at se corner of Belle Plaine and Neenah“Remains Found at Dunning Work Site”, “ Bone sites multiply”, “Discovery of remains halts project”, “Civil War vet burial could jinx developers”

 “Bones litter the site. Long leg bones and pieces of skulls protrude from piles of dirt. Outlines of bodies can be seen in trenches.” Bones of Human skeletons have remained laying on the ground for over two months after they were uncovered during excavation work”

 Please read on to meet the very special and talented Theresa “Terri” Ann Kruszczak, who as part of her work as a reporter and newspaper editor helped preserve a lost cemetery.

Continue reading “Terri – When the Dead Gained Power”

The Golden Age of All Night Radio

I invite you to flash back to the 1950’s through the 1970’s , a time well before the internet, Facebook, Twitter, and media streaming.

frankPicture yourself driving down the road late at night when between 11:05 PM to 5:30AM, Franklyn MacCormack, and his memorable All Night Meister Brau Showcase would waft through your car radio. He could effortlessly  put you to sleep while you were at home or behind the wheel. MacCormack smoothly  interspersed romantic on-air poetry readings with great music from years past.

Please read on and actually hear his voice. There are just some people we cannot forget or throw away Continue reading “The Golden Age of All Night Radio”


images7GUI8QAVWooden cemetery markers are mostly gone these days, but a few can still be found. Why wood? I n the early days it was simply the norm, inexpensive and easily made, but not long lasting or impressive as a 70 foot marble obelisk or mausoleum.

Back in the day there were thousands of these simple wood grave markers in our cemeteries. They largely predated marble and limestone monuments designed and cut by professional cutters.rosehill-cemetery10

Most families could not afford a work of art and marked their graves with either a wood slab or cross.

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I was most curious to learn more about Mr. and Mrs Joseph Maier and why their graves were marked with wood. You might well be surprised to know about their interesting background! Continue reading “THE BAIERS – BURIED UNDER A WOOD GRAVE MARKER”


81962878_2543761639056088_4571878440461926400_nI invite you to meet someone you should know. Meet Tony (Rosario) Manno, the owner of “Tony’s Pump Room”, (not to be confused with the real Pump Room in the Ambassador East Hotel). He was born Ventimiglia di Sicilia, Palermo, Sicilia, Italy on January 8 1894

82576128_2543760295722889_852299525035917312_oBeginning 1953 or earlier, Tony sold hot dogs from his  white hot dog cart, an icon and fixture on Chicago’s North side. He and his cart moved around from time to time, selling at various intersections, He was often found at the corner of  Addison or Waveland and Lake Shore Drive, but sometimes at the corner of Addison and Ashland , sometimes on Southport, other times at Addison and Sheridan, or Irving Park and Sheridan. His Pump Room was mentioned more than once in the Chicago Tribune as the best place to find a real Chicago dog.hklkjkjlkjk


I know people, including my friend Franny, who swears  “The best hot dogs I ever had were from Tony’s Pump Room”. You had the choice of either the Vienna or Oscar Mayer frankfurter. Most of us would tell Tony “everything on”.

 We don’t know a whole lot about Tony yet, when he died, or where he is buried, but we fondly remember him for being a champion of the “Chicago hot dog”.

But all is not well in Chicago, because our beloved hot dog sparks a fierce debate between the two types of Chicagoan’s, those who choose ketchup on their hot dog or those who defend the traditional yellow mustard.

Hot-dog-manufacturer-faces-53k-OSHA-fine_wrbm_large Read on and take your side. Continue reading “KETCHUP OR MUSTARD?”

A Basket of Roses from Al Brown

dean and violaThe poster child for lavish funeral floral tributes was clearly Charles Dean O’Banion, (1892‑1924) the North Side gang leader/ florist.

Aside from his darker gangster pursuits, he was co-owner of Schofield’s Flower shop, 738 N. State in the shadow of Holy Name Cathedral.1981b140 The rooms above Schofield’s were used as the headquarters for his North Side Gang. Schofield’s was the premier florist of choice for Chicagoland’s gangsters, Dean and his partner Walter Schofield made huge amounts of money supplying floral arrangements for the dearly departed of Chicago’s organized crime. Sadly, “Deanie”, like most other underworld figures of the day, also violently left this earth, killed by rivals right in his own flower shop.

ob10His lavish sendoff was over the top attended by thousands of mourners, elected officials, and a mile-long procession. His funeral alone cost $10,000 and that was before the many thousands of dollars of flowers which needed 26 flower cars and trucks to take them to the cemetery,




One rather simple basket of roses near his casket stood out from all the others. The attached condolence card read “Al Brown, Used Furniture Dealer”

alAl Brown was none other than an alias for Dion’s fierce rival, Al Capone who had arranged Dion’s murder. Capone was known for sending flowers to rival gang member’s funerals; In fact in one funeral alone he spent over $5,000.

Several gangster funerals both before and after O’Banion had flowers costing in excess of $20,000 and well higher.

I was originally inspired to name this story “Please Omit Flowers” or “In Lieu of Flowers” (and will write about that in a minute) but I could not pass by “Al’s” basket of roses.

Please read on, smell the roses and understand why there was a  need for fragrant bouquets, wreaths, casket blankets, and sprays.

Continue reading “A Basket of Roses from Al Brown”

“Absolutely fireproof” –A human Tragedy


 It was Wednesday, December 30, 1903, the end of a festive Christmas week. The weather in Chicago was fair, temps in the low teens, a hint of snow flurries forecast for the evening and heavier snow later in the week.

Annie Bergch, her husband Arthur Sr. and their 11 year old son Arthur James left their five room, two bedroom three story brownstone built 1895  at 4926 S. Champlain. They made their way seven miles to downtown’s vibrant theatre district, eager to see the 2PM afternoon matinee of Mr. Bluebeard.

tribbestThe Bergch family was just three of as many as 2200 theatregoers, mostly women and children, arriving at the Iroquois Theatre at 24–28 West Randolph Street, between State Street and Dearborn Street. There were only 1,602 seats in this new theatre so several hundred had standing room only tickets  causing people to be four-deep behind the last row of seats and many others sitting in the aisles..

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Annie Hedges Bergch was 32 years old, the daughter of James and Mary Hedges. She was born August 21 1871 in Canada. Annie married Arthur Bergch, on November 17, 1891 in Chicago, IL. He was engaged in the wholesale tobacco business.

arthur bTheir son Arthur James was born oct 22 1892 and their youngest Edward George born June 28 1899. Edward did not go to the theatre probably because of his young age. He would lose his mother on this day, then be raised by his grandparents and later marry.

Annie, her son Arthur and some 600 others would die that fateful afternoon, most of them to the toxic fumes and smoke in the worst theatre fire in the United States. And it was the worst disaster in Chicago’s history, inflicting a greater death toll than the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, in which about 250 died.

How could this possibly happen in a city so aware of the dangers of fire? Continue reading ““Absolutely fireproof” –A human Tragedy”


Yes, you read correctly!  The article was dated January 31, 1921

For all you hard core fans of  Riverview, this proposed amusement park was just wrong, motivated by spite and revenge. A few men were quite serious in stealing business away from our beloved Riverview Park at Belmont and Western. Two disgruntled former officials of Riverview Amusement Park, investors,  and their associates planned on building an “end of the streetcar line” park on Chicago’s far Northwest side. It would have been on Milwaukee Avenue just north of Devon Avenue (6400 North) and directly across the street from St. Adalbert’s Catholic Cemetery.

Had it been built, the cemetery would have has a very noisy neighbor.

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This new park was even planned to front the North Branch of the Chicago River much like Riverview at Belmont and Western, but some 8 ½ miles north. Had it been built, it might well have had an advantage over Riverview with the option of expansion as it gained popularity.woodlawns overview locater

Continue reading “FLASH NEWS BULLETIN!”