Riot in Winnetka (9-14-1957)

Ah, the 1950s on the North Shore!  The tranquil afternoon of the Eisenhower Era.  Peace, prosperity, and apple pie.  Beaver Cleaver could have been growing up here.

Then there was this day.  The day of the Great Winnetka Riot.

At New Trier High School, they were playing a football game against Harrison High of Chicago.  New Trier defeated the invaders, 46-20.  When the game ended, one of the local kids snatched a football.  School officials caught the culprit and held him in the gym for police.

 New Trier High School

New Trier High School

Soon afterward, officer Edward Jacobs arrived.  He was inside the gym, dealing with the football theft, when a student barged in.  It seemed that a crowd was wrecking the officer’s squad car.

Jacobs ran outside and found a bunch of students surrounding the squad.  Some of them were trying to tip it over, while others were attempting to shove lit firecrackers into the front grill.  Jacobs pushed through the mob and got inside the car.  With the students refusing to disperse, and blocking the squad so he couldn’t drive away, he radioed for help.

A second squad appeared, then a third and a fourth.  Meanwhile, over a thousand young people had gathered.  A few of them began throwing firecrackers.  One boy was arrested and put in a squad.  But the crowd charged through the police and rescued him.

Riot ringleader?

Riot ringleader?

Just up the lake from Winnetka was the army base at Fort Sheridan.  Once upon a time, Chicago’s moneyed elite had gotten the government to build the fort, so that troops would be handy in times of civil unrest.  Local officials weren’t ready for this step . . . yet.

So now the Fire Department was summoned.  Like the police, the firemen exercised restraint.  They could have blasted the rampaging students with their high-powered hoses.  Instead they sprayed the water into the air.  The water dropped gently to earth, like a soft rain.  Thus dampened, the mob began to break up.

In the end, two students were arrested for disorderly conduct.  Winnetka was peaceful once more.

The producers of Leave It To Beaver did not base an episode on the incident.



4 Responses to “Riot in Winnetka (9-14-1957)”

  1. 1 benson September 14, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Funny thing is, Ken Osmond (Eddie Haskell) became a decorated L.A. police officer.

  2. 3 G. Odoreida September 14, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    I always thought Ken Osmond took up singing and became Alice Cooper.

  3. 4 The Duke September 14, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Ken Osmond as Alice Cooper is an urban legend. But Lumpy Rutherford did become Chris Christie.

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