Chicago Goes Dry (1-17-1920)

At midnight, as the calendar clicked over onto January 17, Prohibition became the law of the land.  Chicago’s reaction was a big yawn.

Okay, we all know about Chicago in the Roaring Twenties.  We know that the city became the bootlegging capital of America.  We’ve seen the gangster movies.

1-17--last call.jpg

But that was all in the future on that January evening in 1920.  The crowds at the taverns were no larger than on a typical Friday.  When the clock struck 12, the patrons downed their drinks and left, the bartender locked up . . . and that was that.

The Prohibition law said that the manufacture, sale, or distribution of intoxicating beverages was illegal.  However, people were allowed to have booze and beer in their own homes for their own use.  They could keep all the beverage they wanted, as long as they bought it before January 17.

So Chicagoans began stocking up.  Liquor stores had raised prices, but the public kept buying.  In the final days, autos and trucks were also in demand—for some people, the first time they drove a car was the day they hauled their liquor home.

1-17--booze cartoon.jpg

Major A.T. Dalrymple was the local head of Prohibition enforcement.  He announced that people would have ten days to report the exact quantities of beverage they held in their homes.  That was a matter of law.  There should be no fear that government agents would raid a private residence.

Dalrymple said his men were ready to deal with any businesses that tried to evade the law.  Enforcement would be strict.  The major had vaults ready for storage of illegal beverage seized in raids.  If the vaults weren’t large enough, more would be built.

There were some exceptions to the law.  Churches could use wine for religious services.  Druggists might sell up to one pint of liquor to someone with a doctor’s prescription.  Hospitals could use liquor as part of the “tapering off” treatment for alcoholism.

1-17--Mr. Prohibition.jpg

Meanwhile, the evening’s biggest party was at the Stevens Restaurant.  A dry group, the Chicago Sunday School Association, was celebrating the new era of sobriety.  They drank a series of toasts—with grape juice.

But eventually, those private stocks of liquor would run out.  And yes, we all know what happened after that.




Then and Now, Madison-Wells

1897–Madison Street @ Fifth Avenue (Wells Street) view east

2018–the same location

In 1897 the Union Loop over four downtown streets was completed.  Now the different elevated lines had a common terminal.  And now photographers had a raised platform to record Chicago scenes.  At that time Wells Street had been renamed Fifth Avenue, to spruce up its image.

Wells Street got its old name back in 1913.  Today trains still run on the Loop tracks.  A photographer can still snap a picture of Madison Street from the station platform.  But just about everything in the view has changed.


Chicago Trivia Quiz #10—Answers

1.  Before O’Hare Airport, where was the official Chicago weather station located?

(B) Midway Airport

2.  The most snow recorded in a single Chicago snowstorm is __________.

(C) 23.0 inches (January 26-27, 1967)

3. The highest official temperature recorded in the City of Chicago is __________.

(B) 105  (July 23, 1934—an unofficial 109 was recorded the same day)

4. What was the Chicago seiche?

(B) a destructive wave on Lake Michigan (June 26, 1954)

5. Why is Chicago known as the Windy City?

(D) None of the above (1890s Chicagoans were said to be braggarts—“windy”)

Chicago Trivia Quiz #10

A quiz on Chicago weather—

1.  Before O’Hare Airport, where was the official Chicago weather station located?

(A) City Hall

(B) Midway Airport

(C) Navy Pier

(D) University of Chicago

2.  The most snow recorded in a single Chicago snowstorm is __________.

(A) 21.5 inches

(B) 22.4 inches

(C) 23.0 inches

(D) 24.7 inches

3. The highest official temperature recorded in the City of Chicago is __________.

(A) 102

(B) 105

(C) 108

(D) 111

4. What was the Chicago seiche?

(A) the first recorded tornado in Chicago

(B) a destructive wave on Lake Michigan

(C) another name for the Great Fire of 1871

(D) a celebrated Potawatomi weather forecaster

5. Why is Chicago known as the Windy City?

(A) Chicago was nearly destroyed by four tornadoes in one month.

(B) Chicago has the highest average wind of any large U. S. city.

(C) The highest single wind ever measured in the U.S. was in Chicago.

(D) None of the above.


Then and Now, 63rd Place-Oak Park

1946--63rd Place @ Oak Park, view west

1946–63rd Place @ Oak Park Avenue, view west

2016--the same location

2018–the same location

In 1946 streetcars on the 63rd Street line jogged a block south to 63rd Place at Central Avenue, then continued west.  Past Austin Avenue, 63rd Place existed only on paper, and the cars ran through open country to a terminal at Oak Park Avenue.  Here they connected with a single-track shuttle line to Argo.

CTA cut back the 63rd Street line to a terminal at 63rd Place-Narragansett in 1948.  The Argo shuttle car was eliminated at that time.  Seventy years later the neighborhood is fully developed, and buses run on 63rd Street itself.


Then and Now, Pulaski-Lawrence

1961--Pulaski Road @ Lawrence, view north

1961–Pulaski Road @ Lawrence Avenue, view north

2016--the same location

2018–the same location

Pulaski Road marks a transition in the Albany Park Community Area.  East of here large apartments are common.  To the west, in the section known as Mayfair, there are more bungalows.  The 1961 photo shows part of the ribbon commercial strips that developed along streetcar routes.  By that time the streetcars were gone, with Pulaski and Lawrence both served by electric trolley buses.

Today the trolley buses are also gone.  The old commercial building on the intersection’s northwest corner is gone.  Street lights and traffic signals and cars are more modern.  There are more trees, too.


Best Wishes from Leo (12-29-1923)

Today some 160 Chicagoans received New Year’s greetings from Leo Koretz.  The cards were inscribed with verse:  “If I could be transported/ This moment to your door/ I’d bring you smiles by dozens/ And good wishes by the score/ —Leo Koretz”

Leo Koretz

Those 160 people certainly knew Leo Koretz.  He’d convinced them to invest $10 million to develop oil land in Panama, then disappeared with the money.  His plan turned out to be a giant con.

So where was Leo now?  The cards had been mailed in Chicago.  As it turned out, he was in Nova Scotia, living it up with assorted women.

Koretz was extradited, convicted of his swindle, and sentenced to state prison.  He told reporters he’d never serve his time.

Before he could be transferred from the county lockup, one of his lady friends brought him a five-pound box of chocolate.  Koretz ate it in one sitting and keeled over dead, as he’d planned.  He was a diabetic.