Roadhouse Terror

They were up to 500 Roadhouses in the Chicago area, nine in Morton Grove alone, places of gangsters and jazzy women, gamblers and drinkers, partygoers and criminals. They were often speakeasies sometimes disguised as summer gardens, clubs or even “soft drink parlors”, Many were gangland haunts, with a side dish of violence, murder or kidnapping. Many roadhouses burned, some of arson. Most all were the epicenter of prohibition between January 1920 and December 5, 1933.

The Chicago area had names like like The Dells, Ferris Inn, The Studio, Club Del Rio, Murphy’s, The Bungalow, Villa Venice, The Purple Crackle, The Garden of Allah, The Triangle Café, The Lincoln Tavern, Niles Tavern and dance hall on Milwaukee Avenue, Casino Gardens in Robbins, Cyprus Inn in  Northbrook, McCormick’s in Lake Bluff and hundreds more.

Most were located on main roads on the outskirts of Chicago from Chicago Heights to Blue Island to Robbins, Winfield, Evergreen Park, several in Glenview, Rondout,  and beyond. Evanston being dry was spared the roadhouse scene.

They took on many styles, like an old roadside tavern once a stagecoach stop, some raunchy, shady and dimly lit, with all the charm of an odorous beer hall. At the other end was a 2500 seat two-story palace with a breezy terrace, orchestra, stage shows, a dance floor for 300 couples,  beautiful girls and gorgeous costumes and an eight course dinner for $1.50. Many were run or control by gangsters, cronies or henchmen. And even legitimate roadhouses were forced to buy their liquor from the boys.

Morton Grove , just north of Chicago and about  5 miles west of Lake Michigan was way more than just bedroom community. was the centerof what came to be called “Rural Bohemia,” an area of that large roadhouse district north and northwest of Chicago frpm the Chicago city limits up into Lake County.  

Arlene Harvey

Late in the day on March 24, 1935, Arlene Harvey left her parents’ house at 8023 Kilpatrick in Niles Center (now Skokie). Although she went by the name of Arlene Harvey, her real name is Ruth Arline Pearsall, age 22, born October 8, 1910, to Charles and Leand Pearsall. She was an only child, engaged to be married in June 1935 to Clifford Peterson. Sadly on the last day of her life she arrived at her job as a checkroom girl at the Club Rendezvous at 5931 W. Dempster one of nine busy roadhouses in Morton Grove.

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Electric car for sale – BRAND NEW – $2475 call Ralph

1909 BAKER EXTENSION ELECTRIC – NEW – IN STOCK.

 Up to 200 miles on one charge. Perfectly quiet with six speeds forward and three speeds in reverse. fine broadcloth upholstery and silk whipcoard trimmings. An ideal in town or suburban vehicle, safest for a woman to drive.  Comfort, style, convenience and dependability in both summer or winter., A tiller instead of a steering wheel. Armored wood frame.  Patented ball joints. Spring suspension. 32 inch pneumatic tires. Weston Ammeter/Voltmeter.. Less maintenance than a team of horses. Every two weeks a skilled mechanic will call at your home or garage and examines your Baker in detail. Any work can be done in our modern service department. Every car comes complete with a battery charger for your garage.   $2475.00

 For a test drive call or visit the Ralph Temple Automobile Co. at, 1219 – 21 South Michigan Ave just south of 12th St. (Roosevelt Road). in Chicago or call Calumet 3347 today!

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A treasure on the sixth floor

Meet Kenneth F. Little who had an awesome knowledge of Chicago streets way before computers and GPS. He was the retired senior fire-alarm operator with the Chicago Fire Department.  I was honored to know Ken Little and have him as a good friend   He had hundreds of friends and touched and influenced many more.  Who knows how many people he helped, mentored, inspired and even saved.. Ken Little was a invaluable one-of-a-kind resource for the Chicago Fire Department.  He co-authored six books literally writing the book on the History of the Chicago Fire Department including the incredible four volume History of Chicago Fire Houses.

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Fire at 1200 feet over Chicago

 

It was a warm 83 degrees in Chicago on Monday, July 21, 1919.  The movie “Daddy Long Legs” starring Mary Pickford was playing at the biograph theater. Vaudeville was alive and well at the State-Lake theater. All seats $.25. Ten thousand were cheering the end of the stockyards workers strike. A brick bungalow could be had for $4000. A loaf of bread seven cents. A quart of milk was nine cents.

On that day,  Evelyn L Meyer, 28 years old,  made her daily weekday trip downtown from her home at 5135 Blackstone Avenue on Chicago’s far south side. Evelyn was a teller at the llinois Trust and Savings Bank at 231 S. LaSalle, corner of Jackson Blvd. in downtown Chicago. She earned about $15 a week.

Evelyn and 150 bookkeepers and clerks were closing up  the bank at about 4:55 PM in and around the main banking hall. Built in 1897, the bank featured a beautiful open lobby, topped by an enormous skylight over a marble columned rotunda.  

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