When we were kids and on our way to Wrigley, we’d always take note of the house. It was hard to miss. The neighborhood along this stretch of Addison Street was all old two-flats and older frame cottages, except for the one modern ranch home at the corner of Wolcott.
We knew that Charlie Weber lived there. And after August 16, 1960, we knew that he had died there.
Charlie’s duchy took in much of the old German neighborhood along Lincoln Avenue. His headquarters was a bierstube next to St. Alphonsus Church. He had a mania for keeping the ward clean. Besides the regular city crews, Charlie hired his own fleet of street sweepers. He also had a snow plow and a leaf-burner hauled around by a vintage Rolls Royce.
But that was grown-up stuff. What impressed me most–and impressed every kid within fifty miles–was that Charlie owned a piece of the Riverview amusement park. Each summer there’d be a “Charlie Weber Kids’ Day” where we were given the run of the place. Charlie himself used to walk through the crowds and pass out silver dollars.
Charlie had served as a state senator for thirty years. By 1960 he was 66, and preferred to stay in Chicago as an alderman. On the evening of August 15 he attended a political meeting until 11:30, then left for home.
The next day a friend phoned Charlie and didn’t receive an answer. After repeated calls the man went to the house to investigate. He found Charlie and his wife lying dead on the floor.
Carbon monoxide poisoning had caused the deaths. The Weber home had an attached garage. One of the cars had the key in the ignition and an empty gas tank. It seemed likely Charlie had forgotten to turn off the engine before going to bed.
That was over a half-century ago. The Germans of Lincoln Avenue have dispersed. Riverview is gone. Even the 45th Ward has been moved, with that number tacked onto another district a few miles to the west.
The Webers had no children of their own. I don’t know who lives in the house at Addison and Wolcott now. But every time I pass by, I remember Charlie.