I take you back 100 years to Christmas Eve, December 24, 1919 just as the fire bell is shattering the quiet in Engine 47’s firehouse at 7531 S. Dobson. “Squad 5, you are due to respond to the still alarm”.
The term “still” originated from the days when most fire alarms were transmitted by a street pullbox. A still alarm was considered “silent” when called into the fire department by telephone or by a means other than the loud clicking telegraph signal from the street box. Hence the term “still”.
The post office, in 1919, had been delivering 24 million pieces of Christmas mail and 2 million parcels. Products of the day included Belmont biscuits, Cuticura soap, and Christmas candies at $.80 a pound. Victrola’s were in vogue selling for $25 and $700. There were movies with Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. On stage there was Ziegfield Follies.
In most homes, lighted candles illuminated Christmas trees, an extreme fire hazard which kept the Chicago Fire Department very busy during the holidays. Continue reading “STILL ALARM! Christmas Eve 1919”
For fifteen years the large Forest Park Amusement Park was smack dab adjacent German Waldheim and Concordia Lutheran Cemeteries in Chicago’s western suburb originally called Harlem.
Opened in 1908 at Des Plaines Avenue and West Harrison Street, it was built as an “end of line” amusement park and was served by the Metropolitan West Elevated “L” line, surface line street cars and the Aurora and Elgin interurban rail line. The park, was quite popular, but was a noisy neighbor to the adjoining cemeteries, giving new meaning to the phrase “enough to wake the dead”.
Continue reading “ROLLER COASTERS BETWEEN TWO CEMETERIES!”
Come with me on a late night automobile ride north from downtown Chicago, 21 miles to the quiet suburb of Wheeling. Let’s choose 1924 for our trip, in a spiffy Studebaker touring car. As we drive north on Milwaukee Avenue we bypass a corridor of roadhouses, taverns, mob hangouts, hotels, arriving at 2855 Milwaukee Avenue.
We drive through a main gate and enter an extravagant resort called Villa Venice where we will have a seven course dinner, drink adult beverages, watch a Las Vegas style revue, dance until dawn, gamble and ride in authentic Italian gondolas.
But behind all the glitter and glitz is a dark side, that later in this story will end us at the beautiful Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Hillside.
Continue reading “From Venice to Mount Carmel Cemetery”
It is well known that George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., 1859-1896 a structural and civil engineer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, built the colossal Chicago Wheel for Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. What is not as well known is where the huge wheel reappeared after the fair had ended.
The fair wanted a landmark, something daring, and unique. They wanted something that would surpass the Eiffel tower which was built in 1889. Ferris’s enormous vertical structure served their purpose, which rotated around a massive center axle weighing 71 tons, and featured 36 gondolas capable of holding up to 60 people each—for a total capacity of 2,160 people. It carried some 38,000 people daily who each paid 50-cents for a 20-minute ride. Some 2.5 million people rode the wheel before it moved to a quiet northside Chicago neighborhood.
Continue reading “THE WHEEL AND A CEMETERY NEARBY”
Cemeteries and Amusement parks share a common geographic trait, that both were on the “end of the line” of street cars, “L” lines or interurbans. The owners of transportation companies realized that amusement parks could be a boon to weekend revenues.
Cemeteries on the other hand, often were at the end of the line, because as early as 1865, Chicago banned burials within the city limits, banishing cemeteries well out of the then city. Before motorized hearses, funerals to these outlying cemeteries depended on funeral trains and street cars for transportation. Hearses pulled by horses did not fare well on long trips and muddy rutted roads.
Continue reading “THE END OF THE LINE (no pun intended)”
There are no words to describe the horror of the Chicago’s worst school fire. We should never forget the 92 children and 3 nuns who perished in this awful disaster. So with all due respect to their memory, I offer a link to my post a year ago.
Thanksgiving is our special time to give thanks for all we have and enjoy turkey dinner with friends and family. But today I connect that popular blue and yellow box of mac and cheese to the story of a Chicago area cemetery. Continue reading “Mac & Cheese and a Farm Cemetery”