Belmont-Central Celebration

I recently rediscovered three mystery Chicago photos I snapped during my grade school days about sixty years ago.  The location is no mystery.  The pictures were taken on Belmont Avenue, just west of Central Avenue, in the middle of the shopping district.

1959–Belmont Avenue @ Parkside Avenue, view east

The mystery is—what was going on?  There’s a parade coming down Belmont, so it’s obviously some sort of celebration.  Perhaps it’s the Fourth of July.

1960–Belmont-Central parade

Whatever it was, it must have impressed me in 1960.  Notice that I used color film that year.  That was a luxury I couldn’t afford to indulge, except on special occasions.

1960–Reviewing stand

The last photo shows the reviewing stand near Central Avenue.  Did the stand remind me of Soviet leaders watching the tanks rumble through Red Square on May Day?  And who are the dignitaries in the photo?  Mayor Daley Senior and his crew, maybe?

If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.



Then and Now, Wentworth-Vincennes

1958–Wentworth Avenue @ Vincennes Avenue, view north

2018–the same location

The last Chicago streetcars ran on the Wentworth line, from just north of the Loop to a south terminal at 81st-Halsted.  This is where the cars turned off Wentworth to run on Vincennes to 81st, then on to Halsted.  The car barn was located a few blocks south of here, at 77th-Vincennes.

Streetcar service ended a few days after the older photo was snapped, on June 21, 1958.  The CTA barn at Vincennes-77th still operates as a bus depot.


The Great Chicago Statue Quiz #11—Answers

(1) WHO is this?  Father Jacques Marquette, S.J. (1637-1675)

(2) WHERE is this? 2929 W. 24th Blvd.

(3) WHY does this person deserve a statue?  French Missionary and Explorer

The Great Chicago Statue Quiz #11

(1) WHO is this?

(2) WHERE is this?

(3) WHY does this person deserve a statue?


Then and Now, Milwaukee-Kilbourn

1951--Milwaukee Avenue @ Kilbourn, view northwest

1951–Milwaukee Avenue @ Kilbourn Avenue, view northwest

2017--the same location

2018–the same location

Our location is a few blocks southeast of the triple intersection of Milwaukee-Irving Park-Cicero.  In 1951 one of the city’s natural-gas holders towered over the neighborhood.  The photo was taken from the station platform of the Milwaukee Road railroad.

Today the above-ground storage tanks are seen no more in Chicago.  Town houses have sprung up in this area.  Trains still run on the Milwaukee Road right-of-way, though now they are part of Metra or Amtrak.



Dingbat’s Funeral (3-11-1930)

In Washington today, the big story was the funeral of William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States.  In Chicago, the big story was also a funeral.  The city was saying good-bye to the Dingbat.

The Dingbat was John Oberta, his nickname derived from a comic strip.  He was 27 at the time of his death.  Like Taft he was a Republican politician, the 13th Ward Committeeman.  Unlike Taft, he was a gangster.

Mr. & Mrs. Dingbat

Oberta was a protege of Big Tim Murphy, bootlegger and labor racketeer in the Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood.  One morning Big Tim opened his front door and had his head blown off by a shotgun blast.  A few months later, Dingbat married Big Tim’s widow.

Now Dingbat was gone, too.  He had been found shot dead in his car, along with his chauffeur, on a deserted road near Willow Springs.

By 1930 the garish gangster funeral had become a familiar Chicago custom.  Dingbat’s friends would not scrimp.  “I’m giving him the same I gave Tim,” Mrs. Murphy Oberta told reporters.

Dingbat was waked in his home on South Richmond Avenue.  He lay in a $15,000 mahogany coffin with silver handles, under a blanket of orchids.  Joe Saltis, Bugs Moran, Spike O’Donnell, and all of Dingbat’s pals were present.  So were assorted politicians.

Two priests of the Polish National Catholic Church conducted a brief service.  Then the pall bearers prepared to carry the coffin to the waiting hearse.  Out on the street, a crowd of 20,000 people had gathered.  (In Washington, half as many were reported at Taft’s funeral.)

The scene on Richmond Avenue

“Carry my Johnny out the back way,” Dingbat’s mother wailed.  “Don’t let them see him!  They didn’t care about him!”  The pall bearers ignored her and brought Dingbat out the front door.

The coffin was loaded, then the hearse moved away.  Following it were four carloads of flowers and a procession two miles long.  When the funeral cortege arrived at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, hundreds more curiosity seekers were there to greet it.

Dingbat was laid to rest a few feet from Big Tim Murphy.  There was just enough space between them for another grave.  Presumably that spot was reserved for their mutual wife.

The murder of Dingbat Oberta was never officially solved.  And with the Great Depression fast descending on the country, the gaudy gangland funeral went out of fashion.


Then and Now, Grand-Kolmar

1972–Grand Avenue @ Kolmar Avenue, view west

2018–the same location

Our location is a few blocks east of Cicero Avenue, just north of North Avenue.  Three railroad lines cut through here, which made the area attractive for industry.  The utility poles on the right side of the older photo provide power for the electric trolley buses.

Today some of the factories and warehouses continue operating.  However, a large parcel of land just west of the viaduct in now occupied by a Walmart.  The electric buses are gone, and so are those old utility poles.