Remembering Chicago street cars

She was 100 in 1999 and said the biggest change she had seen during her life in Chicago was not having streetcars though that was before the Internet and cell phones. She probably would have spoke differently. At one time, Chicago had the largest railway system in the world. The street cars began in 1859 with a horse-drawn cart running along a single rail track down State Street. However, they were replaced with cable cars and then replaced again with electric streetcars powered by an overhead trolley. Over 3,000 passenger cars existed.

As a girl, my Aunt used to ride the red street cars for only a nickel back in the early 1900’s and she said she could go anywhere in the city of Chicago for that cost. They also had a free transfer privilege where you could switch from one car to another. The streetcar industry began to decline in the 1920’s because of automobiles but at the time her family could not afford a car so she was a regular streetcar customer. A white band surrounded a pole to indicate where the car would stop. And according to my Aunt, you only had to wait a few minutes for the next car. There were over 100 routes throughout the city. A motorman stood in front of the car while the conductor was in the back where people loaded onto the car. The conductor rang a trolley bell to let the motorman know they were ready to go.

The PCC car was her favorite which only last a short time from 1945-1946. The streetcar company known as Chicago Surface Lines would not give up on their streetcars. Four companies formed the CSL: the Chicago Railways Company, Chicago City Railway, Calumet and South Chicago Railway, and Southern Street Railway which continued with Hammond, Indiana until 1940.

The new public agency Chicago Transit Authority took over Chicago Surface Lines and the streetcar system in 1947. They began to integrate the surface lines with the city’s elevated train network. The last street car journeyed down Vincennes Avenue on June 21, 1958. James O’Neil talks about his memories as a child with streetcars and living near a large streetcar, later bus, “barn,” as they used to call it. He used to have quite a collection of paper transfers.

Many years ago, I took my son to Illinois Railway Museum where he saw the red street car that my Aunt talked about. He was too young when she passed away but his love for everything on rails was passionate. The Illinois Railway Museum is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization which is owned entirely by its volunteers. The museum receives no state or federal money for its operations. All capital and operating costs are paid by individual donations and revenue derived from tickets and on-site sales. Currently, they are closed until early May but they are always looking for volunteers.

 

 

Forgotten Malls: Lincoln and Lakehurst

After moving to the south suburbs in the early 1970’s, I had friends that moved even further south. Spending time with friends in high school and college, it was time to hang out in the nearest mall. Besides, River Oaks in Calumet City, we went to Lincoln Mall in Matteson which opened in 1973 with anchors Carson Pirie Scott, Montgomery Ward, Wieboldt’s, and JCPenney. B Dalton Bookstore was another favorite there. The one place I remember the most was riding the glass elevator at Lincoln Mall. The Mall was developed by Randhurst Corp, the same developer consisting of Wieboldt’s and Carson’s executives who developed Randhurst Mall and Lakehurst Mall.

Moving to Waukegan in 1978, to teach at Warren Township High school, shopping after school or on weekends was an important event especially since we had a dress code. Besides Marshall Fields, another favorite was Carsons in Lakehurst Mall. Pier I, Service Merchandise and Red Lobster, some of my other choices were built on the outskirts of the mall. My mother loved to visit and treat me for dinner at the Red Lobster. Lakehurst Cinemas were also popular built across the street.

Lakehurst Mall was the first regional shopping complex in the northern Chicago suburb of Waukegan. The mall officially opened in 1971. It was built to service the growing town of Waukegan, the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, and the northern suburban sprawl of Chicago. On August 8, 1991, Gurnee Mills opened seven miles (11 km) away from Lakehurst. The newer, larger Gurnee Mills proved a much larger draw than expected, devastating Lakehurst’s retail base.

After several years of decline, Lakehurst closed in 2001, and was demolished in 2004. Lincoln Mall was demolition in 2017. Matteson casino group gets the ok, just a few months ago,to make old Lincoln Mall site its new proposed location.

Playing jacks and cats cradle

When I was young, bored and had few to play with, jacks would keep me occupied. I vaguely remember getting a set in a cloth, draw-string bag. You can play alone or with friends. And metal jacks with a ball were much easier to pick up then plastic jacks. But it was a great stay at home game…especially now. It was also called Knucklebones, known as Tali, Fivestones, or Jacks, which is a game of ancient origin. First, you need a set a jacks and a ball. Begin by throwing the jacks on a smooth surface or on ground in front of you. The old way to play the game is throw the ball into the air … pick up one jack … then catch the ball after it bounces one time. Continue picking up the jacks one at a time. When you have collected all the jacks, throw them again and start picking the jacks up two at a time. When you get to three you have to pick up the three sets of three first, and so on. Continue until you are at ten. Amazon still sells the old-fashioned metal set and ball with the pouch which is great to keep all the jacks in one place.

Cats cradle is one of the oldest games of all time and has always used string and more than one player. You build a string configuration using two hands and your partner tries to take it off one hand onto his or her fingers Actually, you complete three shapes..passing back and forth. The idea is too see how far you can keep going. I had to watch the video since I forgot a few of the shapes in between. Mom’s Minivan provides a demonstration of how to play the game solo. There is a book that describes Cat Cradle and different string figures you can make such as the Eiffel Tower, Jacobs Ladder,Cup and Saucer, and the Witch’s Brew.

Mission of Our Lady of the Angels needs your help

When we hear of Our Lady of Angels in Chicago, for Baby Boomers, our first thought is the tragic fire over 62 years ago that killed 92 children, three nuns and hundreds who walked away with significant injuries in West Humboldt Park. Today, school fires of this magnitude rarely exist because of major fire reform. The Our Lady of Angels parish, that we knew, closed in 1990. But today, an amazing, gracious, community of young men and women serve and live at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. Side by side, with the angels who help them, they continue offering their assistance during the economic impact of COVID-19. Those that believe everything was lost …then and now…maybe not. Gods love never stops.

The school was a charter school until 2017 when given back to the Franciscans at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels . Fr. Bob Lombardo came to Chicago in 2005, at the special request of Cardinal George, to set up a mission outreach to help the poverty- stricken neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. Fr. Bob has functioned as the founder/ director of the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, founder/ superior of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, a newly established religious community of young men and women living and serving at the Mission of Our Lady of Angels.

The Mission of Our Lady of the Angels is currently taking food donations. Their monthly food pantry provides food to about 1000 families a month. They provide fresh produce, non-perishable food, clothing, and household goods to about 250 families every Tuesday at their Mobile Pantry. On St Patricks Day, they transitioned the pantry outside and served 260 families. And, yes, the pantry will remain open.

Presently, they are concerned about food supply streams and are welcoming all donated food still! They have also partnered with the Chicago Police Department to bring food to home bound seniors. The mission is asking individuals to call before dropping off food donations in person at its West Side location. People can also buy food for the Mission’s pantry on the Amazon wish list.

In times of greatest need, we turn to prayer. The Mission of Our Lady of the Angels continues to pray for the children, families and friends lost in the tragic fire decades ago. Their prayers are constant for all of us as we face a new crisis. In many places, public masses have been suspended in an effort to help stop the spread of coronavirus. However, masses our being streamed and the mission will rise to every challenge they meet. As one nation under God, let’s continue to pray, spread the word, donate and purchase what we can so that the Mission can provide food security to the increasing need in our communities. Acts of compassion are greater than any hardships we can ever face.

Typewriters for sale

The kindergarten students saw a picture of Dr. Seuss typing his famous manuscripts and somehow the subject of typewriters came up. Some did know what a typewriter was. For me, speed was a major issue when learning how to use a typewriter because of an incessant teacher making sure my hands were positioned perfectly over the keys at Thornridge High School in Dolton. I was a piano player…I could do this…the teacher said during my class back in the 1970’s and I got a D first semester. Though I continued on taking shorthand with Mrs Whitesec who calmed me down and helped me to advance at my own pace. 

My mother had an old, manual, black typewriter that was not easy. It sat in a case and was my grandmothers who was a professional writer. She had written for newspapers and loved writing poetry. Kind of like me. My mother worked as a secretary where she typed quite well and loved it. 

The first commercial typewriters were introduced in 1874, but did not become common in offices until after the mid-1880s. It was widely used by professional writers, in offices, and for business correspondence in private homes.

Typewriters did not possess the means to communicate to the the world but they did the trick when typing a simple letter and believe it or not, they are still for sale. If we still couldn’t fix it, the handyman’s shop down the street could repair it and you could kill two birds with one stone, another expression you don’t hear much anymore, by taking your clogged vacuum to him as well. 

You can still buy brand new typewriters at Typewriters. com  Some businesses still use type writers for typing quick documents such as funeral homes as well as federal prisons for inmates. Vintage typewriters are available at Ebay and those that still work can be expensive. One Vintage IBM Correcting Selectric lll Electric Typewriter is priced at $150.00.

At any rate, owning a typewriter would be a fabulous addition to your collectibles and would be available in the event of a major solar flare break or something to play with while hunkered down because of the virus. Have your grandchildren take a seat in a stiff back chair in front of it, shoulders back and eyes on a sample text to the left of the typewriter. Have them insert a piece of blank paper all by themselves. Command them to flex their wrists properly, not look at the elevated keyboard and see what they can accomplish. Now, you are finally in control and are able to give back all those times that they thought they knew something you did not. Have a wooden ruler in hand to threaten them with a generous tap if their fingers flop. Show them who’s boss!

Becareful, however, with ruler tapping since they could have you arrested for assault. The ruler may also create another distracting problem since they may not even know what a ruler is.

River Oaks Mall

Moving from the south side of Chicago to the south suburb of Dolton in 1971, the first shopping trip my mother and I took in the south suburbs was River Oaks Mall in Calumet City. We always parked in front of Marshall Fields, my mother’s favorite, which is now Macy’s. Early in the 1970’s,  a women drove her car into Green Lake which was quite a talked about story. The Forest Preserve is still across from the mall, though not sure what happened to the women driving into the lake. Some say there were children in the car as well. Sears was positioned at the far end of the open air mall. While in late high school and early college, many of my friends worked at Sears. Next door to Sears, I took a job at Kresges, right next door to Sears one summer in the diner part of the store. Many did offer food back in the day. I was a very poor waitress, my uniform always covered in some condiments. One day I fell and hurt my back. Don’t remember if it was at the store or at home but I quit shortly after.

River Oaks opened in 1966 and was a development of KLC Ventures a firm that included the pioneering developer Philip M. Klutznick and his son Tom. The elder Klutznick had developed Park Forest, Illinois, after World War II, as well as Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook in 1959 and Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie in 1956. Kresge s closed in 1987 and became a theater. Today, River Oaks is enclosed, In 1994, the redevelopment was completed. 

The Forest Preserve has become much larger providing different groves, hiking paths, fishing, ice fishing and walking events.

Its been a long time since I have been to Rivers Oaks and the theaters next door which are closed and demolished. I did see the first Stars Wars at the theater. Unfortunately, the crime has escalated in the area and people have been shot in the mall. Though violence and gangs have always existed, I truly miss the way things were. However,  Trip to the Mall provides some wonderful photos showing how the mall is today inside.

 

Hokey Pokey and the Bunny Hop

Once again, the kindergarten brain break video displays another old favorite that I could not believe popular.You put your right foot in, You take your right foot out, You put your right foot in, And you shake it all about, You do the hokey pokey And you turn yourself around, That’s what it’s all about. For me, it was Ray Anthony’s original hit version of the party dance favorite “The Hokey Pokey” released in 1952. And it was on the B side of the Bunny Hop record. The Bunny Hop dance was created by students at high school in San Francisco as a variation on the conga line and the dance soon caught on across the U.S. Participants dance in a line or a circle, holding on to the hips of the person in front of them. They tap the floor two times with their left foot, then with their right foot, then they hop forwards, backwards, and finally three hops forward to finish the sequence, which continues throughout the tune. The first person in the line or the open circle leads the group around the floor. Even as a child, I wasn’t as fond of the Bunny hop as the Hokey Pokey.

Both were extremely popular at at wedding receptions in which everyone in the 1950’s and 1960’s joined in. Even those who hated dancing, the Hokey Pokey always put a smile on the faces of those listening.

In 1942, Irish songwriter and publisher Jimmy Kennedy, best known for “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” created a dance, and an instructional song to go with it, called “The Hokey Cokey.” And other versions existed also but according to Mental Floss, the earliest accurate record,  from an account, dated 1857, of two sisters from Canterbury, England, on a trip to Bridgewater, New Hampshire. On their visit they taught the people they met a song: I put my their right hand in.. and on it went.

Today, every dancer and singer does the Hokey Pokey for children. Hokey Pokey is a popular children’s dance song becoming an award-winning CD, “All-Time Children’s Favorites”. Certainly, the Hokey Pokey Song is a old time favorite song.  However, many child educators believe the performers online today such as Debbie Doo Kids TV, Go Noodle, Jack Hartman Kids and the Learning Station that perform the Hokey Pokey helps to improve young children’s listening and instruction taking skills. Who would have thought from wedding receptions and 1960 parties to 2020 You Tube videos putting my right food in and shake it all about once again.

Stretching your pennies and dollars

By Caryl Clem:

As the weather progresses towards spring, the winter wardrobe dominated by dark colors casts a shadow on ensuing longer and brighter days. January was the warmest on record for over 25 years, and February followed that same trend.  If you are thinking about Easter finery, decorating or just wearing lighter, brighter clothing turn your shopping navigator towards a charity thrift store. You can shop guilt free knowing you are helping others.

The growth of the resale market keeps climbing in sales. In previous times, a stigma was attached to shopping at a thrift store; it meant you were poor. The thrift store image has undergone a major face lift.  There is a web site devoted to catchy thrift store names. Federal funding assists Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries operations as well as many other charitable organizations. Social media is a vehicle for advertising merchandise, sales and reward points. The finer merchandise from charities can be found on E-Bay.  Retail stores donate inventory to reduce loss costs, tags from the store can be seen on the dresses and gowns. You can find designer wear clothing hanging on a rack for a price 75% cheaper than in a store. Hospitals, churches, and multiple charity causes sponsor thrift store locations.

Several categories consistently save big bucks. Kitchen appliances and cookware at thrift stores average 50% less than retail prices. For example, a food dehydrator new was $10 dollars vs. over $50 at Wal-Mart,  a Calphalon skillet and lid $5.00, over $38.00 online, Mr. Coffee machine $3 vs. $18 at Target. If you need furniture, you can find end tables under $50.00 that feature names like Bassett or Kincaid. A new couch will cost under $300 or used under $150 and less depending on condition of material.  An Ashley couch for $500 looks just like a couch for $125 in the Libertyville location of Saint Vincent DePaul. Another frequently bought item, shoes unless otherwise marked are $3.00.  Purses are $3.00 unless a designer name. Readers, browse our bookshelves, books are 30 cents including hardcovers.  Thrift stores are a soup to nuts treasure hunt.

With the Paying It Forward Movement, spreading good deeds should include supporting the charity of your choice.  It’s a win/win move to spend your dollars helping others.  Salvation Army ranks as the 4th biggest charity on Forbes 2019 list while Goodwill was ranked as 14thSparrows Nest Thrift Stores – Home of the Sparrow supports abused women with 8 locations in the Chicago suburbs. I volunteer at Saint Vincent DePaul where a customer in the store could be a neighbor, flood victim, cancer patient, newly homeless due to a family disaster, fire disaster victim or frugal bargain hunter. The members of SVDP screen applicants and provide household items and clothes at no cost to those in immediate need.  Everyone in the store is treated with dignity and respect while helping them locate necessary items.

Forgotten malls: Evergreen Plaza

From the southeast side of Chicago, my best friend and I were allowed to ride the bus at the age of 12 in 1967 down 95th street west, passing Beverly, crossing Western into Evergreen Park where we exited at the CTA bus stop right in front of the Evergreen Plaza Shopping Mall  which is still there.  I can remember visiting Chandlers Shoes, Lyttons, one of my Mom’s favorite stores as well as Chas A Stevens. Before Montgomery Ward on the North end and, it was The Fair. Of course, Carson Pirie Scott which was located on the far south end from 95th street. My aunt worked there in jewelry for awhile. If we had money, we headed to Walgreens for candy after our lunch. There was a Wimpy’s where we had lunch.

The Evergreen Plaza operated from 1952 to 2013 and the first regional mall in the nation; the second indoor mall. It was originally designed as an open-air shopping center developed by Arthur Rubloff, one of, if not, the first of its magnitude in all of Chicago land. Actually the mall was enclosed in 1966. The center also contained a Jewel supermarket, which featured a conveyor belt that carried groceries from the store to a parking lot kiosk.The mall’s Walgreens was the second self-service Walgreen pharmacy in the chain; it was also the chain’s first location in a shopping center.

Two theaters were added in 1964; fairly new for us growing up, located on the south end by Carson’s and they were huge. I saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid at one of them but those were closed in 1999.

Today, Evergreen Market Place is a contemporary outdoor mall replacing the former Evergreen Plaza anchoring the corner 95th Street and Western Avenue in Evergreen Park. It offers approximately 22 stores such as Planet Fitness, TJ Max, Whole Foods Starbucks and Petco.