Archive for the 'GENERAL' Category

“The Chicagoan” magazine—1973 version

City magazines have been around for a long time.  Their modern era dates from 1968, when New York magazine was launched as an edgier alternative to The New Yorker.

Something similar happened in our city.  By 1973 Chicago Guide had become established as the local city monthly.  Jon and Abra Anderson, a columnist couple at the Daily News, felt there was room for another magazine.  That October they launched a new monthly with an old name—The Chicagoan.

October 1973--The first issue

October 1973–The first issue

The first issue laid out a perspective.  The staff of The Chicagoan liked Chicago, but didn’t like “baloney.”  The magazine would be open to any stories that were truthful, interesting, and well-written.    Phony boosterism was out.  Still, as Jon Anderson noted, “we are not going to be nattering nabobs of negativity, either.”

Anderson also asked readers to be patient while the magazine found its way.  He noted that the new Channel 2 news team of Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson had been launched with a huge wave of publicity, but were only now finding their style.

The Chicagoan quickly achieved its own style.  Each issue began with an introduction from Jon Anderson, followed by a group of short, topical pieces gathered under the title “The Frontlines.”  Then came a listing of the month’s special events and entertainment.  Regular columns included Abra Anderson’s pieces about food and drink, as well as others devoted to music, movies, media, art and architecture, theater and dance, and books.

December 1973--What Fun To Be a Bear!

December 1973–What Fun To Be a Bear!

The feature stories were heavy on politics—after all, this was the era of Daley the First.  Will Ralph Metcalfe run for Mayor?  Will Dan Walker or Charles Percy run for President?  Will Jim Thompson run for anything?  And who will be the Machine Boss of the Future?

Like the political articles, the features capture the special flavor of their times.  Oak Park is trying to stabilize as a multiracial village.  The Near West Side is struggling to survive.  Fast food joints have overrun Elmhurst Road.  Circle Campus is killing its students with coldness.  A new movie called The Sting is filming in town.  The Bears are having a lousy season.

Then there were the light-hearted odds and ends.  A Chicagoan board game. Various trivia quizzes.  A survival guide to O’Hare.  A dictionary of “Talkin’ Chicawgo.”

After nine wacky and wonderful issues, the Andersons sold the magazine.  The new owners kept The Chicagoan going through October 1974, then closed up shop.


“Chicago”—a lost magazine of the Eisenhower Age

The current Chicago magazine grew out of the small monthly program guide for classical music radio station WFMT. When the publication expanded and began concentrating on stories, the title was changed to Chicago Guide. In 1975 it became simply Chicago.

June 1954--with Mayor Carter Harrison Sr.

June 1954–with Mayor Carter Harrison Sr.

Nearly forgotten today was an earlier Chicago magazine. That one first appeared in March 1954.

Introducing their new publication, the editors claimed that Chicago was really two cities. While the city was notorious for crooks, gangsters, and grafters, there was another, less-celebrated city which has been “the principle seedbed” for some of the most revolutionary aspects of American life. Chicago the magazine would attempt to cover both.

Each monthly issue opened with a listing of upcoming local events, followed by short snippets of city life gathered under the heading “West of the Water Tower.” Pictorial essays visited points of contemporary interest like Riverview, Sieben’s Bierstube, and Maxwell Street, as well as the annual Chicago Cat Show and the Old Town Holiday Fair. There was also poetry and fiction, either every good or very bad.

Chicago-the-city was tearing down and rebuilding in the mid-‘50s. The magazine did a story on the demolition of South Side slums. Another time there was a “Sidewalk Superintendent’s Guide” on where to best view the construction of the Prudential Building and similar architectural wonders.

Contemporary issues, like the recent racial conflict in Trumbull Park, were analyzed. Studs Terkel contributed regular articles about the newest medium, television. Reform-minded Alderman Robert Merriam wrote a piece titled “Why Reformers Fail”—and a year later lost the mayoral election to Richard J. Daley.

"Chicago" contributor Studs Terkel

“Chicago” contributor Studs Terkel

Feature articles profiled Admiral Dan Gallery, Sewell Avery, Fritz Reiner, Tom Duggan, and other local celebrities. Advice was proffered on “How To Beat a Traffic Ticket.” The opposite ends of the music world were covered, with visits to the National Barn Dance and to the new Lyric Opera. Another story tried to determine who was the richest Chicagoan (It was either Henry Crown or John Cuneo).

Chicago seemed to be aiming at upscale readers. The real estate ads were heavily geared to North Shore and Gold Coast properties. Art galleries, furriers, financial brokers, and high-end auto dealers regularly bought space.  So did the city’s “better” radio stations.

It was a fun magazine. Sadly, it didn’t last. Three years after rolling out its first issue, this version of Chicago magazine ceased publication.


Bowling Time-Out

Today I was interviewed on “The Phantom Radio” podcast about my latest book, The Bowling Chronicles.

Here’s the link to the interview–


Tomorrow, I go back to Chicago History here!


Wide and Wonderful Sunnyside Avenue

Like most kids, I asked my parents a lot of strange questions.  One of them involved a street a couple of blocks from my home, Sunnyside Avenue.

At 4500 north, Sunnyside was supposed to be a side street.  Yet it was just as wide as Montrose, Austin, or any of the other arterial streets in my neighborhood.  The parkway between the curb and the sidewalk was also generous, leaving room for two more traffic lanes, if the city decided to widen Sunnyside even more.

I remember asking my Dad about it.  He didn’t know why Sunnyside was so wide.  Dad suspected that some politician’s relative had a lot of extra paving material he wanted to sell to the city.

Sunnyside Avenue @ Lockwood Avenue, view west

Sunnyside Avenue @ Lockwood Avenue, view west

I later found that there are a few other unnaturally-wide side streets around Chicago—for example, Catalpa Avenue between Western and Lincoln.  However, most of them are only a block or two long.  The wide section of Sunnyside runs for over a mile, from Milwaukee to Austin.

I’ve come up with two possible explanations for Sunnyside’s extraordinary width—(1) Sunnyside is on the right-of-way of a railroad freight line that was never built, or (2) Sunnyside was originally intended to be part of the Chicago Park District boulevard system.  However, these are only conjectures.  I have no proof of either one.

This blog has a few thousand readers who collectively have a pretty impressive knowledge of Chicago.  If anyone knows the reason why Sunnyside Avenue is so wide—and can document it—please let me know.


My Latest Book


Okay.  This isn’t Chicago history, exactly.  But it is history.  And now for the commercial—

The Bowling Chronicles has just been published.  The book contains a selection of 90 columns and feature articles drawn from those  I’ve written for Bowlers Journal International since 1990.  Available in print or on kindle, it’s 248 pages long, with 36 photos from the BJI archives and my own collection.

Here are the great bowlers—Carter, Weber, Varipapa, Ladewig, Welu, Hardwick, Anthony, and the rest.   Here are the historic events—Therman Gibson’s big jackpot . . . Ed Lubanski’s TV Double 300 . . . the greatest team match . . . the greatest action match . . . the first national tournament (and it wasn’t the 1901 ABC) . .  . Dreamer, bowling’s first feature film (and it wasn’t as bad as some people claim).

Here are the offbeat stories—the bowling ball that went around the world . . . the 300 game that took a week to bowl . . . the bowler who won an ABC championship with a total score of 41 . . . strange bowling inventions . . . strange bowling injuries.

And here are the colorful people—the hustler who passed himself off as a German nobleman . . . the A-List movie star who was a serious bowler . . . the traveling bowling fan who gave away over 11,000 cases of Coca-Cola . . . Johnny Small and his magic ball . . . Johnny King and his magic cigar.

You can order The Bowling Chronicles on Amazon, or direct from McFarland Publishing.



Annie Oakley Busted in Chicago!

During the 1880s and ‘90s, Annie Oakley was the star attraction of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. She was a pretty young lady, a sharpshooter who could hit a dime tossed in the air thirty feet away, or split a playing card edge-on.  Once she shot the ash off a burning cigarette held in the mouth of the German emperor.  “Little Miss Sure Shot” was known and loved by millions of fans on three continents.

Then, in the summer of 1903, came the shocking news. Annie Oakley was in jail in Chicago!

The August 11 issue of the Chicago American told the story.  A scruffy-looking woman had been arrested for stealing the pants of a man who’d befriended her.  While in custody she’d admitted that she was the famous Annie Oakley.  She had stolen the pants to support her cocaine habit.


“An uncontrollable appetite for drugs has brought me here,” she told the judge when arraigned at the Harrison Street Police Court. “I began to use it years ago to steady me under the strain of the show life I was leading.  Have pity on me.”

The judge was unmoved. He imposed a fine of $45 on the woman, committing her to jail until it was paid.  “A good, long stay [there] will do you good,” he said.

The story was soon out on the wire services around the country. It was read with particular interest by Mrs. Frank Butler of Nutley, New Jersey.  She was the real Annie Oakley.

Oakley immediately started writing to the newspapers, exposing the impostor. After investigating the matter, the Publishers Press wire service issued a retraction.

The woman in Chicago turned out to be Maude Fontanella, who’d once performed in a burlesque Wild West show as “Any Oakley.” After her arrest, Fontanella had “accidentally” told a matron that she was the noted sharpshooter.  The matron had tipped off an American reporter.  The reporter had interviewed Fontanella, and she had conned him as well.

Now the papers began printing retractions. Apologies poured in to Oakley.  That was not good enough for her.   She decided to take legal action.  Perhaps having to pay out money would make the press more careful in their reporting.  She felt that she was being reasonable in taking this approach to the insult.  “In the South they simply kill the man who slanders the good name of a woman,” she told a reporter.

Over the next seven years, Oakley brought suit against fifty-five newspapers. She traveled from city to city to personally testify.  William Randolph Hearst, whose American had printed the initial story, hired a detective to look for any dirt that might be used against Oakley.  Nothing was found.

In the end, Oakley won judgments or settlements from all but one of the fifty-five newspapers. The total awards came to $625,000—the equivalent of $25 million today.  Taking into consideration legal fees, travel expenses, and missed income, most historians conclude that Oakley had actually lost money in her pursuit of justice. But her reputation had been restored, and the case is considered a landmark in celebrity libel law.


Grandpa, Politics, and the Ward Picnic

My grandfather, Fred Price, was a Democrat precinct captain in the 41st Ward from 1932 until his death in 1961.  My parents and I lived upstairs in Grandpa’s bungalow when I was growing up.  I spent a lot of my childhood drinking in local politics.

In fact, my first real job came in 1958, when Grandpa paid me a couple of dollars to put up posters for Roman Pucinski, who was running for Congress. I was 10 years old and hung hundreds of them. Pucinski had lost the last time around, but in 1958 he won.  I like to think that my efforts had something to do with it.Cowhey

As a young man Grandpa had been a building contractor and a Republican. The Depression killed his business, so he switched parties and became a Democrat captain. Around the same time he got a city job with the Bureau of Sewers.

Grandpa eventually became a crew foreman. Chicago politics being what it was, that allowed him to spend some quality afternoons with me at the Cubs games. My dad had a non-political job, so he never got home before 6 o’clock.

Our ward committeeman was Bill Cowhey, who owned a coal yard and served three terms as alderman.  One of my favorite political souvenirs is the program book from his 41st Ward Picnic of 1949.

The first few pages are a portrait gallery of Democrat elected officials, from President Truman on down to the local bosses. Whoever wrote the captions for these pictures was in love with adjectives. Individual pols are referred to as gallant, illustrious, distinguished, untiring, fearless, and so on.  Today we’d call this “laying it on thick.”

After five pages of pictures, we get to the real meat of the program book—191 pages of ads. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to let Mr. Cowhey know how gallant/illustrious/distinguished/etc he was. So they bought space in his book.

Taverns . . . funeral homes . . . gas stations . . . barber shops . . . insurance brokers . . . labor unions . . . banks . . . grocers . . . real estate agents . . . a miniature golf course . . . a music school . . . they were all Friends of Bill (Cowhey).

Precinct Captain Card - Copy

A few brother committeemen bought entire pages of the book. So did a number of well-heeled precinct captains from the 41st itself.  Grandpa settled for purchasing a two-line listing as a Patron.

Kozy’s Grove, the picnic site, was some sort of beer garden. I was told that I attended a few of the ward fests as a toddler.  However, I have no memory of the place.  The city later bought the property and it became Merrimac Park.

My program book doesn’t mention any of the activities that took place at the ward picnic. If anyone is old enough to remember, please let me know.  I’d like to figure out whether I had a good time.