The Battered Helmet

Born in Chicago 12 May 1905, he was Nellie O’Boyle’s son, He began his career in the 1928 Chicago Fire Department candidate class.   He served in the Navy in World War II, He was decorated for heroism during a three-day battle against a fire on a tanker loaded with aviation fuel. . he then served just shy of 50 years with the Chicago Fire Department.

He proudly wore a battered helmet, who in a 1971 interview  said “I wouldn’t trade it for a solid gold one. I have worn that helmet since it was given to me the first day I entered the fire academy as a recruit. It was my good luck charm.”

He invented a most innovative piece of fire fighting apparatus, the snorkel.

Continue reading “The Battered Helmet”

Shoot the Chutes!

For just a moment, “ laugh your troubles away”, savoring Chicago’s Riverview Amusement Park. Among others, please thank two bakers and an architect, now buried in our Chicago area cemeteries, Graceland, Oakland Memory Lanes in Dolton, and Eden Memorial Park in Schiller Park.. One of those men  had a special connection to that iconic  225 foot long “Shoot the Chutes” and it’s two creaky elevators.gate

For those of us who are old enough to remember, Riverview was our beloved go-to park for many years.  Once billed as the world’s greatest and largest amusement park, it reigned supreme from 1904 to 1967.

Continue reading “Shoot the Chutes!”

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 Rest of Paul Aurandt’s Story

He was a larger than life American with much to say. His words went near and far every day until his death in 2009.  His voice now silent, he is entombed in a modest family mausoleum in Section 49 of Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park.

Born Tulsa Oklahoma in 1918 to Harry Harrison Aurandt,  a policeman killed .  Paul found his calling early in Tulsa, and later moved to Chicago to continue his craft. In addition to his chosen profession, he was an avid pilot. . He was a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, but neither defines his talent that we know.

He woke every morning at 3:30AM in his River Forest home, followed the same daily routine, and then drove to downtown Chicago to his work. There he spoke to all of us in the heartland, serving  enduring family values and the old-fashioned plain talk we once heard around the dinner table. Continue reading “The Rest of Paul Aurandt’s Story”

Why are Cemeteries where they are?

To most of us, Chicago seems quite flat and for good reason.  Most of the city was once a giant lake bottom, a product of glaciation..  Glacial Lake Chicago was at its maximum about 12,500 years ago when it covered what is now the entire city of Chicago.

lakeAs a result, early cemeteries in low lakefront sand fared poorly.. Back in the 1800’s we buried our relatives where they lived, along the then lakefront and Chicago River, with mixed results.

The Tribune of 1897 state “..that all along both sides and partly under its present bed, from Market Street to Dearborn or State, bodies of early Chicagoans are thickly laid.” The Daily Democrat reported “Two coffins seen floating down the river (were) supposed to have been from some burying ground on the North Branch of the Wabansia Division.”

We soon realized newer cemeteries would do much better on higher ground. As an example, the many cemeteries along Clark street took advantage of the fact that Clark follows along an ancient geological feature named the “Graceland Spit”. Likewise, Rosehill Cemetery (AKA Roe’s Hill) sits on the “Rosehill Spit”.

SPIT
Continue reading “Why are Cemeteries where they are?”

The “Empty Mausoleum” wired for Electricity

On the main road at section “O” of German Waldheim /Forest Home Cemetery sits a huge but unoccupied mausoleum. It was even wired for electricity, supposedly for interior lighting and even future outdoor lighting. Go figure!

The so called “Empty Mausoleum” was originally built and owned by Ernst Johann Lehmann, who established Chicago’s successful Fair department store in 1875. Continue reading “The “Empty Mausoleum” wired for Electricity”