Archive for the 'GENERAL' Category

Our Daley Bread

Today would have been Mayor Richard J. Daley’s 116th birthday.  In his honor, I’m posting an artifact from his last campaign, in 1975.  Here we have a recipe from the mayor’s wife, Eleanor “Sis” Daley.

The recipe is in a pocket-size 32-page booklet titled Shopping Tips—Compliments of Mayor Richard J. Daley.  It’s actually a pretty useful tool for your trip to the grocer.  There are tables of weights and measures, a guide to the amount of vegetables to buy based on the size of your family, as well as homey reminders to always shop from a list, check expiration dates, look for seasonal sales, and so on.

I must admit that our family never did try Mrs. Daley’s white bread recipe.  If anyone does do that baking and you like the result, please tell me—or better still, tell Rich Daley.



Lost on the Dan Ryan

Signs on expressways are supposed to help you find streets.  Driving north on the Dan Ryan, you encounter a series of overhead signs directing you to the express lanes.  The signs also warn that if you enter the express lanes, the next exit is 22nd Street.

Chicago doesn’t have a 22nd Street.

Dan Ryan @ 59th Street

There was a 22nd Street in the city until 1933.  Then Mayor Anton Cermak was killed, and the name was changed to Cermak Road.  In some of the western suburbs, it’s still called 22nd Street.  But those towns are at least ten miles away from the Ryan.

True, most of the streets crossing the Ryan have numbers instead of names, so why not have the signs be consistent?  But Roosevelt Road doesn’t have signs announcing “12th Street.”  Pershing Road is not called “39th Street.”  Maybe there’s some anti-Bohemian prejudice at work here.

Dan Ryan @ 47th Street

But keep heading north on the Ryan to Exit 53A.  There the sign reads “Canalport Avenue-Cermak Road.”

They finally list Cermak Road, and they’ve still made a mistake!  It would make more sense for this sign to announce “18th Street.”  That’s the major cross-street a block from the ramp.  When you get to this exit, you’ve already overshot Cermak, and have to backtrack three blocks.

Dan Ryan Exit 53A

So what’s the reason for all these misleading signs?  It’s probably very simple:  somebody made a mistake when the Ryan opened in 1962, and the city has never fixed it.

Those expressway signs are pretty big, but they can be changed.  Until 1968, the next-to-last exit on the Stevenson was labeled “South Park Way.”  When the street was renamed for Dr. King, the old exit signs were quickly replaced.

The Ryan was rebuilt some years ago, and all the overhead signs were temporarily removed.  That would have been the time to correct the mistake.  I still can’t figure out why it wasn’t done then.

Nobody knows how many drivers have gotten lost following these bogus signs.  After 56 years, isn’t it time to make things right?



You might know about Ragtime.  That was a 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow.  Set in and around New York City during the first decade of the twentieth century, it was notable for having several real-life historical people interact with the fictional protagonists.  Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, Booker T. Washington, Emma Goldman, and J.P. Morgan are among those celebrities who help drive the novel’s plot.

Bagtime was a novel published in 1977.  The setting is the Chicago of that day.  Bagtime also interweaves actual contemporary celebrities with its fictional characters.  The author is listed as Mike Holiday.

Before it was a novel, Bagtime was a serial.  It began running as a daily feature in the Chicago Sun-Times on August 9, 1976.  The real authors were two of the paper’s reporters, Bob Greene and Paul Galloway.

“We meant it to be a pleasant diversion, something to get us and the newspaper through the dog days of summer,” Greene/Galloway later wrote.  But Bagtime soon developed a cult following.

The story is told in the first person.  Mike Holiday introduces himself as a 26-year old with an A.B. in Sociology from Urbana, who now finds himself working as a grocery-bagger at the Treasure Island supermarket on Wells Street.  People tell him he looks like Chevy Chase.

Mike hears rumors that his ex-wife Chay has unwittingly become part of a bisexual thrill ring with various members of the White Sox and Bears.  He still has feelings for Chay, so he decides to delve more deeply into the matter.  Along the way he meets different women who are attracted to him.  He also meets Hugh Hefner, Walter Jacobson, Norm Van Lier, Jane Pauley, Arthur Rubloff, and the Beatles, among others.  The story moves through familiar locales of the time, with a rousing finale at still-new Water Tower Place.

Years later, co-author Greene dismissed Bagtime as “a stupid newspaper serial.”  It’s not great literature.  From a 2018 perspective, some of the stereotypes are cringe-worthy.  And unless you lived through the era, you’ll probably miss many of the in-jokes.  But when I stumbled across my old paperback copy, I had fun rereading it.  Bagtime is a marvelous piece of nostalgia.

It also seems to be a rare book.  None of the local libraries have it, and the one I found online has an asking price of $100.  So now my copy of Bagtime will be joining the 1950s baseball cards in the safe deposit box.


The Mystery of Woodward Drive

Anyone interested in Chicago history should get a copy of Streetwise Chicago. This 1988 book by Don Haymer and Tom McNamee lists the origins of thousands of the city’s street names. They gathered their information mainly from files at City Hall or the Chicago Historical Society.

There are a few gaps. Woodward Drive, a little roadway in Garfield Park, is dismissed with “source unknown.” Obviously the Park District didn’t keep very good records.

Woodward Drive

Chicago’s Woodward Drive

I have no way of proving it, but that roadway was probably named for Augustus Brevoort Woodward.

Woodward was quite a character. For one thing, when he was born in 1774, his given name was actually Elias. He later changed it to Augustus, after the first Roman emperor. That fact alone tells you something about the man’s opinion of himself.

He came from a prominent New York City merchant family. After graduating from Columbia Woodward got a job in the Treasury Department, and eventually became a lawyer. Along the way he became friends with Thomas Jefferson.

Woodward, Augustus

Augustus Brevoort Woodward

By 1805 Jefferson had become president and appointed Woodward one of the federal judges for the Michigan Territory.  Woodward took up his post in Detroit just after the little settlement had burned down. He immediately went to work rebuilding it.
Woodward put together a grand city plan based on Washington, D.C. Most of it was never realized, though he did name the main street Woodward Avenue, and that stuck. The Judge claimed that the name was merely descriptive of the street’s general direction toward the north woods—“wood-ward.”
He was greatly interested in science and education, and in his spare time developed  a prospectus for a school he called the Catholepistemiad. Again, only some of Woodward’s ideas were adopted. His school later became the University of Michigan.
Woodward scheduled court sessions according to his whims. In summer they were held outdoors under a pear tree. “He was known as a two-bottles-a-day man,” one historian wrote. “It was not unusual for him to fall off the kitchen chair he used as a bench and go to sleep on the ground.”
The Judge did draw up most of the territorial laws of Michigan, known as the Woodward Code. Still, he had to be the top dog in whatever he did. He quarreled constantly with his fellow judges and the governor. They finally succeeded in getting rid of him.
In 1824 Woodward was shipped off to Florida as the territorial judge for the new territory. He died there three years later. A bachelor with no family to mourn him, his grave has been lost.
As far as anyone knows, Augustus Brevoort Woodward never visited Chicago. But isn’t he the sort of person who deserves a street in our city?

Why the Outbound Kennedy Backs Up Past Montrose

If you’ve ever driven the Kennedy Expressway to O’Hare—or to the far Northwest Side—you know about this bottleneck.  You sail through the Edens junction, and suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt. Traffic crawls along for the next few miles, until you pass Harlem Avenue.  Then the highway opens up again.

Why does this happen?  It all goes back to the original design.

No backup? Well, it was a Sunday morning!

In the 1950s, when Chicago’s expressways were being built, they were geared toward moving traffic to and from the center of the city.  Crosstown travel was rarely factored into the planning.  Therefore, there was no ramp from the inbound Edens to the outbound Kennedy.  Likewise, there was no ramp from the inbound Kennedy to the outbound Edens.

The Kennedy-Edens junction was complicated enough, with three railroad lines and busy Cicero Avenue right there.  Building two additional ramps would involve additional land clearance and be wildly expensive.  Therefore, the planners didn’t bother with them.

During the 1960s, a Crosstown Expressway was proposed as an extension of the Edens south along Cicero. This meant that a full Kennedy-Edens interchange would be built.  But the Crosstown was never constructed, and the Kennedy-Edens junction remained as it was.

So today, if you’re on the inbound Kennedy (I-90) and want to access the outbound Edens (I-94), you drive through the junction and take the first exit at Keeler.  Then you turn left on Keeler, drive under the Kennedy, and take another left up the next ramp.  Now you’re on the outbound Kennedy, and can get to the Edens.

You can follow the same procedure going from the inbound Edens to the outbound Kennedy—drive through the junction, then use the Keeler exit/entrance maneuver.  But for this one, most drivers follow a different route.

Inbound Kennedy to outbound Edens, via Keeler Avenue

Want to get from the inbound Edens to the outbound Kennedy? Exit at Cicero-Foster, then drive west on surface streets.  After a mile or so you can get on the outbound Kennedy at Foster, or at Nagle-Bryn Mawr.

Now you have all this traffic getting on the outbound Kennedy at Foster, and at Nagle-Bryn Mawr. Meanwhile, there’s a significant curve in the expressway that slows things down in the stretch between these two entrances.  Result—a three-mile jam back to the Edens junction.

So, how to solve this mess?

1—Eliminate the Sayre exit. This exit was actually meant to serve Talcott Avenue, which was Illinois Route 62 when the expressway was constructed.  The exit is little used today, and is only a few hundred feet from the Harlem exit.

2—Build segregated acceleration/deceleration lanes along the outbound Kennedy between Nagle and Harlem.  Segregated lanes were recently added to the westbound Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) west of the interchange with I-290-IL 53.  Now traffic moves more smoothly there.   The same idea would work on the Kennedy.  There’s lots of space for these new lanes west of Nagle, though the greenery would have to be sacrificed.

OK, this will cost a ton of money.  But what’s a better use of our gasoline-tax revenue?


The Balbo Column

In 1933 Chicago staged a World’s Fair in Burnham Park. July 15 marked one of the Fair’s highlights. Shortly after 6 p.m., the Balbo Air Squadron arrived in the waters of Lake Michigan.

Aviation was still exciting and dangerous in 1933—only six years had passed since Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight. Now General Italo Balbo, head of the Italian Air Force, had brought his fleet of twenty-four seaplanes on a goodwill trip from Rome to Chicago. Because of bad weather and an accident along the way, the journey had taken two weeks.

But now they were here, safely moored off Navy Pier. A few minutes after the landing, Balbo himself strolled onto the deck of his seaplane, coolly surveying the cheering thousands who had gathered on shore—he looked as if he were “going to afternoon tea,” one reporter wrote. He lit a cigarette and smiled.

General Italo Balbo

For the next three days, the city went Balbo-crazy. The General and his fliers were feted with a rally in Soldier Field, speeches, parades, banquets, and official proclamations. Seventh Street was renamed Balbo Drive. The hoopla was later spoofed by the Marx Brothers in their movie A Night at the Opera. Then, at the end of the three days, the intrepid crew flew back to Rome.

That’s the way it looked in 1933. But as Paul Harvey used to say, now for the rest of the story.

The Italian government that sponsored the Balbo Air Squadron was the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini. Balbo himself was a true believer, often referred to as the Duce’s “right-hand man.” The brutality of the Fascist regime was already well-known. Yet many apologists accepted such “difficulties” as the price of progress. One bit of wisdom declared: “Mussolini may be bad, but he makes the trains run on time.”

Mussolini also knew something about public relations. On the first anniversary of the flight, he sent Chicago an ancient temple column as a gift—though he sent it by ship, and not by plane. Balbo himself spoke from Rome via radio-phone at the dedication ceremony. “Let this column stand as a symbol of increasing friendship between the people of Italy and the people of the United States,” the General said. The Balbo Column, as it became known, was erected in the park east of Soldier Field.

General Italo Balbo was killed in 1940, his plane hit by friendly fire. There was suspicion that Mussolini ordered an assassination to remove a popular rival.

Following fascist Italy’s defeat in World War II, the new government’s ambassador to the United States suggested that marks of respect to the Mussolini regime be removed. Shortly afterward, a Chicago alderman proposed renaming Balbo Drive, though nothing was said about the Balbo Column. In any case, both the street name and the column remained.

The Balbo Column

Time appeared to heal the wounds of war. In 1973 the Museum of Science and Industry celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the Balbo Air Squadron with a special exhibit. Each year there were fewer and fewer irate letters demanding that the street name be changed or the monument be removed. Most Chicagoans figured that the street was named Balboa, after the Spanish explorer who sighted the Pacific Ocean.

There was no mistaking what the Balbo Column was about. Carved into its base was a florid inscription in Italian declaring that “Fascist Italy Under the Auspices of Benito Mussolini” was presenting this monument to the City of Chicago in honor of the Balbo Squadron. Instead of 1933, the date of the historic flight is given as “The Eleventh Year of the Fascist Era.”

In 2017 the protests over Confederate statues and other dated artifacts have caused Chicagoans to revisit the Balbo question. Once again, there are calls to change the name of Balbo Drive. This time it may happen.

What to do with the Balbo Column is not so easily resolved—after all, its pedigree predates the “Fascist Era” by two millennia. The area where it stands is now known as Gold Star Families Memorial Park, in honor of police officers who have been killed in the line of duty. Why not put a new plaque on the column and re-dedicate it to them?

But please use an aluminum plaque. A copper one might be stolen.


Chicago’s Mispronounced Street Names

I recently ran across a post about street names that Chicagoans typically mispronounce.  Actually, I’ve run across several posts on this subject.  Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, the same nine street names are cited in just about all of them.

It’s impossible to determine who first drew up the list.  I recall reading stuff like this when I was in my teens, back in the 1960s.  Many of the same names were cited then.

I do have a few quibbles about those nine street names—are we really pronouncing some of them incorrectly?  I also have a couple more that were overlooked.

(1) Devon.  Like those posts note—and like most Chicagoans I know—I pronounce it dee-VAHN.

(2) Leavitt.  Forget the part that looks like “leave.”  It’s LEV-itt.

(3) Paulina.  Not pronounced like the girl’s name.  The street is pull-EYE-nuh.

(4) Armitage.  Locally pronounced ARM-a-tudj, slurring the last syllable.

(5) Honore.  Supposedly, most Chicagoans eschew the French pronunciation, and say HON-or-ee.

Here are a couple that are supposedly mispronounced, but might not be—

(6) Clybourn.  It’s CLY-born locally.  What else could it be?

(7) Wabansia.  We say wuh-BAN-see-uh.  How’s that a local mistake?

Now, two special cases—

(8) Throop.  Yes, my dad always said TROOP.  But I grew up pronouncing the “h” in the name, and I rarely hear it as TROOP any more. (Then again, people tell me that Saint Thecla Church is Saint TECK-la)

(9) Goethe.  The posts say Chicagoans mispronounce it as GO-ith.  I learned how to mispronounce it as GO-thee.  So which wrong way is the right wrong way?

Finally, I have two additions to the list—

(10) Des Plaines.  Like Honore, we forget the French and say des-PLAINS.

(11) Laramie.  I grew up near this street, and we all said LAR-mee.

Anybody else have more additions to the list?