Talking Chicago’s Bowling History on the Radio

4874 N. Lincoln Ave.

4874 N. Lincoln Ave.

Yesterday Chicago lost its oldest bowling alley–Lincoln Square Recreation burned down.  Last night I talked about Chicago’s bowling history with Justin Kaufmann on his “The Download” show on WGN-Radio.  Here’s the link–

The Last Year of Chicago Trolley Buses

I’ve noticed from the stats that one of my most popular posts is “The Last Trolley Bus in Chicago (3-24-1973).”  That post has some historic pictures of those buses through the years.

In 1972, when CTA announced it was getting rid of the buses with the sticks on top, I started taking pictures of them in earnest.  I didn’t have a great camera then, so the results are spotty.  Still, I’m posting nine pictures from that final year of trolley bus operation, one for each of the last nine lines.


#12—Roosevelt.  We begin at Roosevelt Road and Paulina.  Note the old arrangement of this stretch of Roosevelt, with two service lanes flanking the main roadway.

6-16-1972--Roosevelt @ Paulina

6-16-1972–Roosevelt Road @ Paulina


#53—Pulaski.  At Pulaski and Grand, the large building on the left (behind the auto dealer sign) was a generating plant for the electric buses, and is gone.  But Jimmy’s Red Hots is still there.

2-12-1973--Pulaski Road @ Grand

2-12-1973–Pulaski Road @ Grand


#54—Cicero.  The Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroad, just north of Roosevelt, still hauls freight, and is unlikely to be converted to a bike path in the near future.

3-15-1973--Cicero Avenue @ B&OCT RR

3-15-1973–Cicero Avenue @ B & OCT RR


#65—Grand.  The viaduct in this Grand Avenue photo, just west of the Chicago River, has been torn down.  Traffic now crosses the railroad tracks at grade.

7-19-1972--Grand Avenue @ CMSP & P RR

7-19-1972–Grand Avenue @ CMSP & P RR


#72—North.  North Avenue near Goose Island was mostly industrial when this photo was snapped.  Note the still-new John Hancock Building in the distance.

2-25-1973--North Avenue @ Magnolia

2-25-1973–North Avenue @ Magnolia


#74—Fullerton.  Since there was no room for an off-street terminal at the east end of the Fullerton line, trolley buses looped via Lincoln and Orchard.

6-16-1972--Lincoln Avenue @ Orchard (Fullerton line)

6-16-1972–Lincoln Avenue @ Orchard


#77—Belmont.  Belmont-Central, pictured here, is still a busy outlying shopping district.  Notice the newsstand, once a common feature at major intersections.

11-8-1972--Belmont Avenue @ Central

11-8-1972–Belmont Avenue @ Central


#78—Montrose.  I rode the Montrose Avenue trolley bus to high school and college.  This picture is a few miles east of my home.

7-25-1972--Montrose Avenue @ Ravenswood 'L' (Brown Line)

7-25-1972–Montrose Avenue @ Ravenswood ‘L’ (Brown Line)


#80—Irving Park.  The final picture documents the last day of service on the Irving Park line—by the time I found this out and got my camera, it was already getting dark.  Here Lakeview High School dominates the Irving Park-Ashland intersection, just as it has since 1898.

1-13-1973--Irving Park Road @ Ashland

1-13-1973–Irving Park Road @ Ashland


Then and Now, Ashland-70th

1944--Ashland Avenue @ 70th Street, view north

1944–Ashland Avenue @ 70th Street, view north

2015--the same location

2015–the same location

The large building on the left side of the older photo is a Chicago Surface Lines car barn.  Used for storage and repair of streetcars, over a dozen of these structures were sprinkled throughout the city.  The block-long Ashland-69th barn was one of the biggest.

In recent times, with fewer people riding surface transit, CTA is able to get along only seven garages for its bus fleet.  The site of the Ashland-69th facility is now occupied by a strip mall.


The Fairway Flapper (8-25-1924)

On this date, for the first time, a golfer was featured on the cover of Time magazine.  This particular golfer was also the first female athlete to make the cover.  She was Chicago’s own Edith Cummings.05-15--Edith%20Cummings%20(8-25-1924)

Born in 1899, Cummings grew up among the city’s social elite.  She attended the best schools, made her formal debut, and along the way became a golfer.  When she started playing in tournaments, she became a favorite of the galleries.  She was young, beautiful, and—as Time put it—“bursting with boyish energy and spirit.”

Cummings became known as The Fairway Flapper.  There were no female golf pros yet, so the biggest tournament was the U.S. Women’s Amateur.  In 1923 Cummings broke through to win the event.  She did it in grand fashion, beating three-time champ Alexa Stirling in the final match.

Cummings became a national celebrity.  Her story was featured in newspapers and all the “ladies’ magazines.”  The Time cover was the climax.  A year had passed, Cummings was about to defend her title, and was heavily favored to repeat.

But the magic was gone.  Cummings was eliminated in an early round of match play.  After 1924, she seemed to lose interest in competitive golf.  She never won another tournament.

In 1934 Cummings married businessman Curtis Munson.  When she died in 1984, most of the sporting world had forgotten her.  And yet, Edith Cummings did attain her own bit of indirect immortality.

Alexa Stirling (left) with Edith Cummings and Edith's father and brother

Alexa Stirling (left) with Edith Cummings, and Edith’s father and brother

While in high school, she’d met a young Princeton student named F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Years later, in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald created the character “Jordan Baker”—a champion golfer—based on Cummings.  Trouble was, in Gatsby, the lady golfer is a cheater.

Nobody ever accused Edith Cummings of any rules-bending or underhanded play.  Win or lose, the Fairway Flapper from Chicago was always a credit to the game.



Miracle at Glenview (8-19-1948)

American Airlines.jpg

“There’s good news tonight!”  That was the greeting often spoken by a popular radio commentator of the 1940s.  On this date in Chicago, there sure was.

World War II had been over for three years.  Though civilian air travel was starting to grow, much of the public was still nervous about getting on a plane.  There always seemed to be some spectacular air crash in the headlines.

American Airlines Flight 383 was routed from New York to Chicago, with three stops along the way.  It was scheduled to arrive at Midway Airport at 4 p.m.  On the final leg of the trip, pilot Eddie Cycon discovered that the plane’s front wheels were jammed and would not descend.

Cycon’s twin-engine, propeller-driven craft was cruising at 300 miles-an-hour, and had 250 gallons of fuel left.  He radioed Midway traffic control.  After consultation, Cycon was advised to set down at Glenview Naval Air Station, which had the best facilities for handling emergency landings.

Before he could attempt a landing, Cycon had to burn off the excess fuel.  So when he reached Midway he circled the field for over an hour.  Meanwhile, back in the cabin, stewardess Agnes Mae Vaughn was soothing the 35 passengers and making sure they were all securely strapped in.

At 5:15 Cycon notified Glenview he was ready.  He came in nose-up.  The plane touched down on its rear wheels and skidded for nearly a half-mile.  Despite Cycon’s best efforts, the front of the craft dipped as it slowed down.  The nose hit the runway.  Sparks flew.  A last, harrowing 300 yards—and the plane stopped.

The five emergency doors opened, and the passengers quickly exited, sliding down nylon ropes.  Within two minutes the plane was empty.  Over a hundred naval fire-fighters were standing ready.  But an examination of the plane showed there had been no structural damage.

Except for a woman who fainted and had to be carried off in a stretcher, there were no injuries.  Pilot Eddie Cycon and First Office Erwin Boldt were hailed as heroes.  Stewardess Agnes Mae Vaughn was praised for her calm, professional performance.

Only Vaughn knew how much effort that had taken.  American 383 had been her first flight.


The Cow Path in the Loop

There’s a service door next to the main entrance of the Hyatt Centric Hotel at 100 West Monroe Street.  Step through it, and you enter a quaint bit of Chicago history.

Cowpath01 (2015)

Chicago was incorporated as a town in 1833. That same year a man named Willard Jones purchased a 90-foot-wide piece of land northwest of Clark and Monroe Streets from the state of Illinois. The price was $200.

Some sources tell us that Jones was a farmer. Whatever his occupation, he could appreciate rising land values. In 1844 Jones sold the southern half of his property to Royal Barnes. However, Barnes got only an 80-foot-wide lot, with Jones retaining title to a 10-foot-wide strip at the west end.

There was pasture land just to the south, where the Board of Trade now stands. It’s presumed that Jones kept that corridor along the western edge so he could lead his cows out to graze.

Two years after the Barnes sale, Jones sold the northern half of his original property to Abner Henderson. Written into the deed was a provision that Henderson would have access to Monroe Street via that 10-foot-corridor west of the Barnes land.

Cowpath02 (2015)

Decades passed. In 1927 the owners of the old Barnes property were ready to erect a 22-story office building at Monroe and Clark. By then they’d acquired title to the 10-foot-corridor. But the owners of the Henderson plot to the north still had that right-of-way guarantee, and refused to surrender it.

The courts ruled that work could go ahead on the Barnes property, but only if the access corridor were retained. So architect Frank Chase redrew his plans. In the end, the 100 West Monroe Building was constructed with an 18-foot-high tunnel through its western edge, big enough for any farm animals or hay wagons that might be passing through the Loop.

It was a story that a politician couldn’t resist. In 1937 Mayor Ed Kelly affixed a bronze historic marker on the side of the building, proclaiming the tunnel was “reserved forever as a cow path.”

Cowpath03 (2015)

Well, not quite. In 1969 the First National Bank of Chicago built an annex north of the 100 West Monroe Building. The new building blocked off the northern part of the old cow path, diverting traffic into an alley. According to a 1979 Tribune article, both Chicago Title & Trust and the Chicago Historical Society declared that the action was legal, and there don’t seem to have been any court challenges to it.

When Hyatt began converting the 100 West Monroe Building into a hotel, connoisseurs of Chicago trivia feared that the cow path would be totally obliterated. Happily, hotel management has a sense of history, and has preserved it. You can still use the bovine tunnel as a shortcut through to LaSalle Street, if that’s your pleasure.

And Hyatt also has a sense of whimsy. One of the hotel’s conference rooms is named for Willard Jones.


Then and Now, Milwaukee-Lawrence

1955--Milwaukee Avenue @ Lawrence, view northwest

1955–Milwaukee Avenue @ Lawrence, view northwest

2015--the same location

2015–the same location

During the 1850s, the Jefferson Park community began growing up near the point where the Chicago & North Western railroad crossed Milwaukee Avenue.  The photo location is a few blocks south of there.  By 1955 the Milwaukee-Lawrence intersection was a well-established and prosperous shopping district.

Sixty years later, many of the old stores are gone.  However, Hoyne Savings still does business on the southwest corner of the intersection.  And just up Milwaukee Avenue, the Jefferson Park Blue Line station has joined the long-established railroad station to provide a steady flow of foot traffic through the area.




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