Then and Now, Milwaukee-Montrose

1974–Milwaukee Avenue @ Montrose Avenue, view northwest

2020–the same location

In 1974 three propane-fueled CTA buses can be seen moving up Milwaukee Avenue.  Along the east side of the street are a series of electric utility poles, which once carried current for streetcars, and later trolley buses.  This block features a collection of 1920s commercial buildings.  Among them is Empire Bowl (aka Portage Park Recreation), where I bowled for 26 years.

In 2020 the propane buses are gone, the electric utility poles are gone, and Empire Bowl is gone.  However, the street now has better landscaping and more interesting street lights.  And that delivery truck confirms that Miska’s Liquors is still in business.

—30—

4 Responses to “Then and Now, Milwaukee-Montrose”


  1. 1 Andy Polizzi March 4, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    I bowled at the Empire Bowl many times. If I remember correctly it was 50 cents a line or three lines for a dollar on Saturday mornings. We would bowl and then go to the C&L Grill on the southeast corner of Milwaukee and Montrose. I also went to a barber shop, Sam’s, on Milwaukee, next to the bowling alley I believe. Sam was an older Italian gentleman who worked the chairs with his son.

    I can’t remember exactly where it was, I think further north on Milwaukee, but does anyone remember the Varda Drive In restaurant? I think it debuted to compete with the new McDonald’s at Cicero and Pensacola.

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt March 4, 2021 at 1:01 pm

      I believe Varda’s was on the west side of Milwaukee Avenue, between Agatite and Sunnyside.
      –JRS

    • 3 J.R. Schmidt March 27, 2021 at 7:59 am

      Andy–
      If you’re looking for other places where you bowled, scroll down to the Blogroll and click on the link to my other blog, DR. JAKE’S BOWLING HISTORY BLOG. Once you’re on that site, scroll down to Categories and click on the link to OLD CHICAGO BOWLING ALLEYS.
      –JRS

      • 4 Andy Polizzi March 27, 2021 at 12:27 pm

        Great site, I really enjoyed scrolling through it and finding more than a few alleys I bowled. As a junior I bowled in Saturday morning leagues at Monte Cristo Bowl on Montrose. Habetler’s was a favorite with it’s red head pin sometimes earning a free game. I remember when the super-modern Strike ‘n’ Spare lanes on Harlem Avenue opened, 64 all-new modern lanes. Wow! A long way from Monte Cristo’s eight upstairs lanes.

        Ironically, my wife and I had our first apartment on Drake Avenue directly behind Drake Bowl at Montrose and Central Park. We could lie in bed at night and hear the balls rolling and pins falling. The plus side was we always had free parking in their parking lot.


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