Archive for the 'GENERAL' Category

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?



Chicago’s 1925 Eclipse

Monday’s solar eclipse should be quite a show. Though the major blackout will be taking place further downstate, over Chicago the moon will cover 86 percent of the sun.  This will be the closest the city has come to a total total eclipse since January 24, 1925.

In 1925 Chicagoans knew the eclipse was coming. Scientists had announced that 94 percent of the sun would be blacked out locally. Sunrise on January 24th would be at 7:10 a.m.  Four minutes later, the eclipse would begin.

Oak Street Beach, 1925—“They should’ve scheduled our eclipse for August!”

Prof. H.B. Lemon had said that industrial smoke over the city might obscure the viewing. Still, people gathered by the thousands, in parks, on beaches, on the upper floors of tall buildings, on city streets, watching the sky.  It was a Saturday, and a day off for many.  And the weather had been tolerable for January.

However, as the countdown began, clouds began drifting overhead. By 7:10 sunrise, all that could be seen over the lake was a faint glow in the east.  Meanwhile, the steel mills in South Chicago and over in Gary were providing their usual airborne smoke and flame.  When the eclipse did start at 7:14, a few people in boats on the lake caught a glimpse of the darkening sun, before the clouds shut off their view.

Back on land, the people waited. Just after 8:00 there was a break in the clouds.  Hey, look—there’s the moon—go, go, go, block that sun!  But after about three minutes, a new group of clouds rolled through, and that was that.  By 9:30 it was over.

As the Chicago Evening Journal reported, “Chicago’s view of the nearly total eclipse was practically a complete failure.”  And as a local news story, the eclipse itself was eclipsed by the shooting of ganglord Johnny Torrio.  That event proved to be of greater historical significance as well, since Torrio decided to retire and left his empire to his lieutenant—a fellow named Al Capone.

Bryan views the eclipse

The East Coast had better weather than Chicago, and a better view of the heavens on Eclipse Day 1925. And if you think that only our modern-day leaders inject politics into every event, you’re wrong.

In Washington, three-time Democrat presidential nominee—and three-time loser—William Jennings Bryan was photographed observing the eclipse through a hand-held viewer.  A reporter asked him to comment on the grand celestial phenomenon.  “The eclipse is just like the Democratic Party,” Bryan said.  “The sun will shine again for us.”


WBEZ will have special segments on the eclipse during Jerome McDonnell’s “Worldview” program on Monday.  I’ll be doing a bit on some historic solar eclipses.  Tune in 91.5 FM between noon and 2 pm.  Or if you’re not in Chicago, check out the podcast later in the day at

“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.