Favorite Chicago land clubs, taverns and suburban bars: Gone but not forgotten

After exploring extinct restaurant favorites in one article, I decided to check out the bar scene; the gone but not forgotten taverns/clubs in the Chicago land area. Though I don’t drink today, my most frequented places were generally lounges attached to restaurants. I visited my first vodka gimlet and last vodka gimlet at Cavalinni’s in Dolton on Sibley and Chicago Rd. My first was wonderful but after visiting again years later, my last vodka gimlet took everything out of me. I was celebrating a South Suburban College dedication which was once known as Thornton Community College; not knowing I had a serious case of mono. That drink lead me to a doctors visit and was confined to bed for three weeks.

Balducci’s in Willowbrook when my children were little was another lounge/restaurant I liked to frequent with my husband. However, during a Halloween party after trick or treating with my little ones covered in trash bags due to the rain, my stamina was not there. One shot sent me home shivering. Maybe that is why I don’t drink!

After my research, two that I enjoyed during my hayday or whatever it was called was Lassens in Homewood and  Blarneys Island where you traveled by boat to the wild island in Fox Lake. Still open today, Lassens has not changed. Blarney’s Island, located in Grass Lake ,was and still is, the place you wore your swimsuit, danced to local bands , drank alot of beer, always got picked up: catching a ride in a boat. Today, when Blarneys Island is mentioned, I get the usual wide eye looks like you went to that place. Yes, I, too had my moments.

The following gone but not forgotten bars and clubs may bring that smile of oh no, (or oh yes) to your face too!

Nicks Sports Page  was filled with autographed sports stars and pennants because this truly was the American sports bar and only appreciated by the oldtimers from Dolton, Riverdale and South Holland.  For me, Nicks was the best place for a beer and they had excellent hamburgers if you were hungry.

Jukebox Saturday Night had three locations; one on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, Oak Forest and Lisle. Lisle is where I went for a casual return to the 50’s with a girlfriend that always said this was the place she could release all tension and get crazy. It was here that we danced are problems away with contests that included the twist and you could show off your expertise with a hula hoop.

Studebakers owned by Walter Payton was located in Schaumburg/Woodfield Commons and was quite a success. People really had fun with an active dance floor, crazy bar attendants and not potentially dangerous in anyway. They closed but opened to another venture-Thirty Fours. All of this between the late 80’s and early 90’s.

PJ Flaretys in Evergreen Park hosted many rock legends that included Three Dog Night, Edgar Winter,Leon Russell,  Rare Earth and the list goes on since they really tried to pack in new local and national talent. They had a capacity for over a 1,000. Blue Oyster Cult played there on Feb 8th, 1992 with a set list till available on line. You had to buy tickets in advance which were only about 10 dollars and 12 dollars at the door.  Today, that would be the cost of your drink.

Poor Richards Pub in Gurnee was a northside landmark finally torn down and located on Grand Avenue. I remember the bar back in the late 70’s and they actually held one of the largest Miller beer accounts. Halloween parties were always fun while always hosting special events.  It was a comfortable place to wind down and meet people.

Last Chance Saloon was a Grayslake institution for nearly 20 years owned by father and son. Again, known for some fun parties that took place surrounding a Western decor. I actually remember making my first toga and toga party at the Last Chance with a date. It is now Emil’s Tavern on Center street.

Finally, Fiddlesticks in Lincolnshire was a place I enjoyed with a square bar where you could sit on one one side and flirt with others, not too far away, but far enough if you decided it wasn’t the right move. A small, crowded dance floor existed behind one end of the bar.  People always talk of the bars that they met their significant other and I, too, met the man I married and had two children in this bar on Olde Half Day Road. He was quiet…not your average flirt who liked to read books on bar stools rather than assume the normal pick up role. And I loved to read.

(Picture:  a Chicago Speakeasy 1920)

Chicago land vintage amusement parks

All summers in the 1960’s always included a trip to one of my favorite amusement parks. Only about three or four years old, the first I can remember was to Riverview where I traveled in the tunnel ride with my aunt and got a tiny stuffed animal, a monkey, no less, as a souvenir. One of my father’s favorites was the Kiddieland on 95th street in Oaklawn across from the old Branding Iron restaurant; my parents looking forward to a cocktail and dinner after my rides on the flying planes and the toy boats. The Little Dipper was the best at the Kiddieland in Melrose Park and Adventureland was the largest amusement park in Illinois from 1967-1976. Today, Santa’s village continues to capture the excitement of our children, grandchildren and some great grandchildren. The following offers more historic information on each park and the anticipated adventure every vintage child shared.

Riverview operated from 1904 to 1967….closing over 50 years ago this year. My aunt who took my father to Riverview in the early 1920’s remember him being deathly afraid of what became the most popular ride; the Bobs.  She also told me about her and my uncle Frank in the Tunnel of Love….though harmless for lovers in tunnels. Riverview was located in an area bound on the south by Belmont Ave.,on the east by Western Ave, on the north by Lane Tech High School, and on the west by the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Green Oaks Kiddieland located at 95th and Pulaski Road was the closest for me to visit as a south side child in Chicago and was closed in 1971… now a KMart. Opening in the late 1940’s, it offered all sorts of rides that were great for the very young such as army tanks. a beautiful merry-go round and a small Ferris Wheel which my Mom was always afraid. The Branding Iron restaurant across the street continued on until the 1980’s and had a second location in Downers Grove.  My father loved to bowl so having lunch or dinner at the Branding Iron was a treat since Oaklawn bowl was a part of the establishment.

Funtown Amusement  was located at 95th and Stony originally called Kiddietown. This park used to have a fire truck that would pick kids up for birthday parties. This kiddieland I did visit with my neighbors since it was in the same neighborhood I lived and do remember the moon rocket and go carts.

Kiddieland Amusement Park in Melrose Park  at the corner of North avenue and First Avenue was opened in 1929 finally closing in 2009. Now home to a Costco store. It began as a pony ride park and then a few years later, they added miniature gasoline-powered cars  which my family loved. The train, the German carousel and of course, the Little Dipper were my loves. The Little Dipper I could never tire even attending the park with my own children; all of us loving that thrill  when taking off and arriving  back in one piece. It was just enough to ride the coaster over and over again.

Adventureland was originally a restaurant know as Paul’s Picnic Grove and an attraction from 1958-1961 known as Storybook Park. This was the largest park in Illinois until Great America opened in 1976, another an amusement park that deserves its’ own article soon. Adventureland offered numerous rides that included Italian Bumper Cars and the Italian Bobs. But I always wanted to visit the Storybook Park that included Cinderella’s Coach and Prince Charmings Castle.

Santa’s Village, now called the Azoosment park,  is located in Dundee, Illinois, a field trip we would have to plan in advance when I was a child as well as taking my own children. Probably the most fun for myself and family were the bumper cars, twirling inside a snowball during summer and the pumpkin coach. On Memorial Day, in 1959 Santa’s Village opened and many went a few years later to the state of the art ice rink. Over twenty million people have visited Santa’s Village through the decades.