Archive for the 'THIS DATE IN CHICAGO HISTORY' Category

Parking Prices On the Rise (8-13-1970)

On this date Chicagoans were concerned about the high cost of living.  Downtown parking was getting expensive.

“Drive to the Loop to save money?  Forget it!”  the Tribune said.  And it did seem like the CTA offered a cheaper alternative.  The basic bus or ‘L’ fare was 45 cents.  Even if a 10-cent transfer were added both ways, that worked out to $1.10 for a daily round trip.

That cost compared to a minimum of $1.50 for all-day parking at the least expensive Loop garages.  Luckily for the car-driving public, gas prices were holding steady at 40 cents a gallon.
The problem was supply-and-demand.  There were about 53,000 parking spaces in the central part of the city.  But new construction on the edge of downtown was taking over land occupied by parking lots.  At the same time, that new construction was bringing more auto commuters into the area.

Parking rates varied by geography.  Garages near State and Madison were most expensive—the typical charge was $4 for eight hours, with some places edging up to $6.  As you moved outward, prices dropped.  North and west of the river, you could expect to pay $1 or $2 for the same eight hours.

Like any wise shopper, you could save money by doing comparison shopping.  One Lake Street garage charged $1.50 for the first hour, and $3.50 for an eight-hour stay.  A half-block down the street, the prices were $1.15 for the first hour, and a flat $3 for anything up to 24 hours.


The best rates were offered by the Grant Park Garage.  Since it was owned and operated by a government agency, the garage was treated as a public convenience.  More than 3,500 cars could be stored in the underground lot, with the maximum eight-hour price set at $1.70.

So now you are in the year 2017, and you read this story, and you see the cheap parking prices of forty-seven years ago.  You feel a little envy.  But remember, all things are relative.  Back in 1970, the newspaper that reported the story cost only 10 cents.


Are You Ready For Marriage? (8-9-1899)

In 1899 society expected the husband to be the sole breadwinner in a marriage.  On this date, Chicagoans were talking about how much money a couple needed to begin married life.

The Tribune had asked the question, “Should men who earn small salaries be allowed to marry?”  They surveyed clerks in some of the big State Street department stores.  Both men and women were asked their opinions.


Most of the female clerks felt a man needed a certain minimum salary before getting married.  The general consensus was at least $15 a week ($420 in 2017-dollars—for current values of 1899-dollars, multiply by 28).  “A young man should wait until he is able to support a wife,” one woman said.  “No salegirl wants to keep selling after she’s married.”

A Carson’s clerk was willing to make exceptions.  A man making only $9 a week might have “the possibilities of greatness” in him.  In that case, the potential wife should overlook his current situation, trusting her instinct—and her heart.  “[Why should she] discard him and his $9 if she loved him?” the Carson’s clerk asked.

The male clerks were also divided on the money question.  Some said it was okay to get married on a low salary—if the woman was willing, why not?  Other men weren’t so sure.  A clerk at Marshall Field’s feared a couple on a tight budget couldn’t afford to live in the city.  Then they might have to move to the suburbs!

Men who’d been married for awhile were practical.  One senior clerk declared it was “the duty” of the older men to discourage the young guys from marrying too soon.  Some of these rookie husbands were starving their wives.  “If he loves her, he should get a better job,” the senior clerk said.


The Tribune also talked to three “sociological students.”  All three were women.  All three were in favor of early marriage.

One of these scholars was Mrs. A.P. Stevens of Hull House.  She claimed that matrimony was being delayed because employers didn’t pay a living wage.  “Every salesman or laborer has a right to be paid enough to support a wife and maintain a home to American standards,” said Stevens.

So it was in 1899.  By the way, the average age at marriage then was 22 for women, 26 for men—about what it is today.


Practical Tattoos (8-1-1950)

The city’s health experts were urging all Chicagoans to get a tattoo.  The Soviet Union had developed an atomic bomb, the Korean War was raging, and the Chicago Civilian Defense Committee painted a grim picture of what might happen if The Bomb were dropped on the Loop.  Dr. Andrew Ivy said that a nuclear blast would kill 61,000 people outright and injure 231,000.

Dr. Andrew Ivy

In such an event, emergency blood transfusions would be necessary.  Treatment would be easier if a victim had a tattoo identifying blood type.  Dr. Ivy suggested that the best place for this tattoo would be below the left armpit, an area that would likely be protected from the blast.

Dr. Henrietta Herbolsheimer, the only woman on the committee, had a different idea.  She said that future fashions in women’s clothing were difficult to predict, and that a location on the inside of a leg might be better.  In the meantime, the committee said that a list of facilities where the public might obtain the medical tattoo was being developed.


A Wedding in the Clouds (7-25-1925)

Even in 1925, brides were looking for ways to make their weddings distinctive. Dorothy McGonigie was set to marry Hartley Berglund. Her intended husband was a student aviator. That gave Dorothy the idea of staging Chicago’s first airborne wedding.

At 1 p.m. this Saturday afternoon, the two planes in the bridal party took off from the new flying field at 97th and Western. A crowd of 2,000 people waited on the ground. The planes climbed to 5,000 feet, then began a long glide downward.

Rehearsal Photo?

Rehearsal Photo?

In the first plane, the bride and groom stood before Rev. Fred Line of St. Paul’s-on-the-Midway Church and were joined in marriage, with the best man and maid of honor handling the rings. The second plane flew above, allowing the two flower girls to drop red roses on the newly-married couple. When the planes returned safely to earth, Rev. Line could joke that now he really was a “sky pilot.”

What happened to the newly-married couple in later years?  I don’t know.  But I’d love to find out.


CTA at War (7-7-1956)

The Chicago Transit Authority was going to war.  The enemy was pigeons.

The birds had been a nuisance at ‘L’ stations for decades.  CTA had been trying to get rid of them, but was hampered by city laws, which said that pigeons couldn’t be shot, poisoned, or otherwise hunted.  The Anti-Cruelty Society had also been watching how the transit agency dealt with the birds.

Now CTA had called in the professionals. A St. Paul Company, Twin Cities Pigeon Eliminating, was given a contract to do some pigeon eliminating.  Twin City’s method involved traps baited with enough pigeon food and water to keep the birds comfortable until they were collected.  The pigeons were then gassed.  This was considered a humane method of disposal, since some exterminators sold the captured birds to gun clubs for target practice.  Twin City’s traps were being set up in five Loop ‘L’ stations, as well as at the Wilson Avenue and the 63rd-Cottage Grove stops.

About the only person objecting to the program was Jerry Scalzo, owner of a hat-cleaning service on Wabash Avenue.  “What are they trying to do?” he asked. “Ruin my business?”


Almost Perfect (6-27-1958)

Back in the 1950s, the era of the Go-Go White Sox, Billy Pierce was arguably the best left-handed pitcher in the American League. Whitey Ford got the most publicity because he was a Yankee. But whenever the two aces went head-to-head, Pierce usually came out on top.

Besides, in the 1955 season, Pierce posted an ERA of 1.97. That was remarkable for such a high-scoring era.

Billy Pierce

Pierce was a power pitcher, always among the leaders in strikeouts. That was also remarkable, since he wasn’t a big man. His full overhand delivery was the likely explanation.

On the evening of June 27, 1958, Pierce took the mound at Comiskey Park. The Sox were playing the last-place Washington Senators. About 11,000 people were at the park. I was ten years old and listening on the radio, trusting I could stay awake despite Bob Elson’s droning play-by-play.

The Sox scored a run in the third, and added 2 more in the eighth. Meanwhile, Pierce was shutting down the opposition. Going into the ninth inning, he had retired the first 24 Senators in a row.

Pierce quickly disposed of Ken Aspromonte and Steve Korcheck. With the pitcher due up next, the Senators sent in a right-handed pinch-hitter.

Ed FitzGerald

Ed FitzGerald was an eleven-year veteran. The Senators’ roster listed him as a catcher, but at this stage of his career, he was mostly a pinch-hitter. He was good at it, too, batting better than .350 as a sub in 1958.

The book said FitzGerald was a first pitch, fastball hitter. Pierce wound up and threw a low curve. FitzGerald swung, slicing the ball down the right field line. It landed fair by a foot.

As FitzGerald chugged into second, the park erupted in boos. At home I vented my disappointment by shouting a bad word at the radio. I don’t recall what Bob Elson said.

The perfect game was gone. So was the no-hitter.  Then Pierce struck out Albie Pearson on three pitches to end the game. Afterward the police escorted FitzGerald from the park.

In 2014 Billy Pierce was honored at Sox Park for his charitable work. He died in 2015.

Ed FitzGerald celebrated a birthday last month. He is now 93. He has not been seen in Chicago for some time.



A Forgotten Tragedy (6-22-1918)

It happened 99 years ago today.

Just before dawn, a Michigan Central train plowed into the rear of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train just east of Hammond.  The cars in the circus train caught fire, and 61 people were killed, most of them as they slept.  The Michigan Central engineer said the warning semaphore he went through had been obscured by steam.

The victims’ remains were buried in a mass grave in the Showmen’s Rest section of Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park.   Despite the elephant monuments—and contrary to urban legend—only human performers are interred at the site.


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