When did all of this dyeing of the Chicago River and St. Patrick’s Day Parades begin?

Today, it is amazing how popular St. Patrick’s Day has become for little ones at school. Their major focus is trying to build traps to catch leprechauns, which I didn’t do, though my kids did at home, opening windows to grab those creatures. But for many suburban Chicago kindergarten children, several talked about taking a family fieldtrip to see the river dyed green. One girl brought pictures to show the beauty of the green Chicago River. One talked about seeing the parade with Aunt Sue. One mentioned her friend who was Irish step dancing in the parade. In the 1970’s, I also remember viewing the river one year celebrating lunch with friends in college, but we were standing closer to Union Station. In the 1990’s, I remember standing with my own little ones near the bridge by the Wrigley building; fascinated by the river as well as the pipe and drums of the bagpipe players. In 1962, the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Union Local 130 dumped 100 pounds of the dye into the Chicago river just to have some fun. It was green for an entire week. Ever since, it has become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition; happening prior to the infamous St. Patrick’s Day parade, which became an official event in the 1950’s.

According to NPR, the green dye was originally part of the city’s effort to clean up the river’s waterfront areas, which had long been a depository for Chicago’s waste. Mayor Richard Daley had originally proposed dyeing part of Lake Michigan green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, he was persuaded by his friend Stephen M. Bailey, who was the business manager of the Chicago Plumbers Union. They used to use an oil based dye but now the dye is a powder that spreads easily. Two boats are used; one to drop the dye into the river and the other to actually steer it. Over the last 65 years, this has become such a proud tradition that other Chicago suburbs have dyed lakes or streams in their area such as Lake Katherine in Palos Heights for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Throughout the United States, other cities such as Tampa, Florida and cities in Texas, are following Chicago’s tradition.

According to Choose Chicago, Chicago is one of several U.S. cities that drew large numbers of Irish immigrants in the 1800s. By 1850, about one-fifth of the city’s population was Irish. What was an unofficial parade that began in 1843, became legendary and official. The parade also has a parade queen and Grand Marshal every year. The city of Chicago actually has three parades that are extremely popular. The South Side Irish Parade and the The Northwest Side Parade. Alone, this year over 100 floats and 15 bands was involved in the South Side Parade. The parades are probably some of the largest in the country.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd opened on May 30, 1932 and for some time it has been the largest indoor facility in the world. I vaguely remember trying to catch site of the floating seahorse with plants in the background, which was new to the Shedd back in the 1960’s; it is home to many species. The highlights for me was the beluga whale or the sharks. I loved watching the trainers give toys to the whales. The Caribbean Reef exhibit was built in 1971, making me approximately 15 years old then, on the site of the aquarium’s very first exhibit, the Tropical Pool. A feature of this exhibit is a diver that interacts with the animals while talking with the people. A part of the exhibit is a 90,000-US-gallon (340,000 l) circular tank that allows for maximum walk-around viewing. My own daughter was going to be a dolphin trainer or a marine biologist which she never became after bringing her to visit in the 1990’s. We loved spending time checking out the beautiful Chicago lakefront and eating lunch on the outdoor patio.

Shedd Aquarium was the gift of retail leader John G. Shedd, a protégé of Marshall Field (benefactor of the adjacent Field Museum), to the city of Chicago. Although Shedd only lived long enough to see the architect’s first drawings for the aquarium, his widow, Mary R. Shedd, cut the ribbon at the official opening ceremony. Shedd has expanded twice, with both additions carefully respecting the original architecture that earned the aquarium a National Historic Landmark designation. The modernistic Abbott Oceanarium, which opened in 1991, was linked physically and philosophically to the original structure by using the same white Georgia marble on its exterior. Wild Reef, which opened in 2003, was constructed 25 feet below street level under the original south terrace.

Today at Shedd, you should check out the Giant Pacific Octopus. The average arm span is 14 feet. With no bones to encumber it, however, this soft-bodied animal can slip through a hole no larger than its hard beak—2 inches or less. It’s also great at camouflage, blending its color, texture and shape into the seascape to ambush fishes, crabs and other prey. Watch them feed the sharks. Bearing horns and hammers, stripes and spots, sharks come in all shapes and sizes. They’re found in every ocean, in habitats ranging from shallow tropical reefs to the deep, cold seafloor.

Home alone and more of John Hughes

It had occurred to me to write about this Chicago based movie last year since in 2020 we would be celebrating its movie anniversary, produced in 1990 but the draft had been put on hold. Everybody was writing about the infamous movie’s anniversary. Then I talked to a student at school this month and he could not stop talking about his field trip from Downers Grove, Il to the northside. He wrote about it in his first grade journal. He saw the Home Alone house! The Home Alone house is located at 671 Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, Illinois. and so I pulled some pictures online for him to verify. Oh my,,,,that was it though I had to be extremely careful. He knew the difference between older pictures of the home that did not have a fence around the house. The fence was fairly new to the property; keeping current onlookers at a distance.

My 30 + year old daughter and I have taken several field trips to the house too; some years ago with Starbucks in our hands. No fence! Home alone was and still is one of the favorite movies in our family. My daughter became a connoisseur of John Hughes films, especially produced in Chicago. Another family favorite was Sixteen Candles is a 1984 American coming-of-age comedy film starring Molly RingwaldMichael Schoeffling, and Anthony Michael Hall. It was written and directed by John Hughes in his directorial debut. In 1985, he produced the Breakfast Club. It stars Emilio EstevezAnthony Michael HallJudd NelsonMolly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy as teenagers from different high school cliques who spend a Saturday in detention with their authoritarian assistant principal. (Paul Gleason). Again, we traveled to Maine North High School in Des Plaines, Illinois, which had been closed in May 1981 and filming took place here for the Breakfast Club and Molly Ringwalds home in Sixteen Candles. Again, Sixteen Candles was mainly filmed in the north suburbs of Chicago. The Baker house is located at 3022 Payne Street in Evanston. The church (Glencoe Union Church – 263 Park Avenue) and parking lot where the final scenes take place are in Glencoe. Glencoe has become our favorite spot for a field trip to walk the beach.

Home Alone premiered on November 10, 1990, in Chicago, and entered wide release in the United States on November 16, 1990. With a total gross of $476.7 million, it was the highest-grossing live-action comedy until 2011. An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation. Home Alone has won one award after another and is considered one of the best Christmas films of all time. A sequel, Home Alone 2, Lost in New York was released in 1992. According to NBC Chicago, this year you can actually book a one night stay at the Home Alone house this holiday season. This can be found on Airbnb’s website for only 25 dollars, but you must pay for travel expenses to Chicago.

Chicago’s Oak Street Beach

It was in the 1970’s during my high school and college years that I remember traveling with friends to Chicago’s Oak Street Beach for a summer field trip from the south suburbs of the city. We would also pick out high rise apartment buildings we wanted to live in after college. And I remember it crowded with beach chairs, towels, bicycles and of course, numerous bathers and acrobatics. I remember male friends wanting to be a life guard as a summer job there; where prestigious life began. Oak Street Beach is located at 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive at Oak Street and Lake Michigan near the Gold Coast/Streeterville neighborhoods.

According to the Chicago Park District, Lincoln Park and Lake Shore Drive suffered constant damage from storms and lake shore erosion. The city built a breakwater made of pilings, planks, and stone on the lake’s edge between Oak Street and North Avenue in the 1870’s. This device could not protect Lake Shore Drive, so in the late 1880s, the commissioners began working with the Army Corps of Engineers to design a seawall between Fullerton and North Avenues to provide better protection. Lake Shore Drive was also extended south from Oak Street to Ohio Street.

The park district claims property owners helped pay for the landfill extension, which included a breakwater to protect the lake shore and roadway from erosion. Constructed in the 1890s, the project included a 50-foot-wide roadway as well as an extensive granite-paved beach, stone sidewalks, bicycle path, bridle path, and luxury lawns with elegant trees.

The beach was extremely popular in the early 1900’s but rich, mansion property owners complained about how small it was so it was extended in 1923. My father remembers living in the city in those early years as a child attending the beach. According to sources, over 50,000 visitors were known to travel to the beach during that time. The Chicago Park District offers some wonderful history on all Chicago area parks and when they can be used.

Today, Oak Street has gone through many renovations and has a outdoor cafe though with Covid restrictions, not available at this time. Currently, the beach is closed but when opened, you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas and cabanas. Of course, public restrooms are available. Usually, various vendors carts are seen along the path. Besides swimming, many beach goers play volleyball or just sit, taking pictures of amazing sunrises and sunsets. Still, a beautiful place to visit.

Photo courtesy of Greg Wass

Chicago’s impact on Fox Lake

By Caryl Clem:

Chicago Trading Company, a giant distributor of crops by trains and ships that resulted in Chicago becoming the largest grain port in the world by 1854. When the Wisconsin Central railroad connected to the Chain O’Lakes area in 1882, a resort haven for wealthy Chicagoans was created. Chicago Board of Trade members decided to build a private grand hotel in Fox Lake, The Mineola on 91 North Cora Avenue in 1884. The three story structure with a two tiered veranda featured one hundred private room suites with hot and cold running water available for $2.00 daily. Labor statistics in 1884 for Chicago day laborers averaged about $2.20 a week. The hotel sold to a new owner in 1891 that expanded business by going public. Weekends at the hotel featured entertainment while enjoying the surrounding scenery. Sightseeing steamboats carried tourists to” Egyptian Lotus “beds flowering on several lakes.

In 1897, The Chicago Board Trade members shifted focus to opening a private boating enterprise, The Pistakee Yacht Club still in operation today. Boat racing competitions attracted powerful men. In 1922, Cook County Board President, Anton Cermak, thrilled 5,000 spectators victorious in his “City of Chicago” boat. Governors of Illinois, Otto Kerner, William Stratton, Fred Busse, and Big Bill Thompson all relaxed in the Chain of Lakes summer activities. Gatsby era mansions appeared along the Chain of Lakes coastline as families claimed their summer retreat territory. Fox Lake became the summer hot spot; leisure time could be spent boating, fishing, hunting, gambling, dining and dancing.

When the Nippersink Station opened connected to the Milwaukee railway in 1901, a broader financial spectrum of people arrived. In 1907, permanent residents in the Fox Lake area numbered around 500, soaring to over 20,000 during the summer months. Over 45 liquor licenses were issued in the Fox Lake area just before the Prohibition hit. By 1910, The Chicago Tribune reported the Mineola Hotel lacked morals and was not a proper place to spend time since excessive drinking, prostitution and gambling existed. The Fox Lake village did not place any limits on profitable business practices. During the 1920’s Prohibition era liquor flowed freely throughout the area.

By the “Roaring Twenties” Fox Lake became the choice hangout for mobsters and gangsters. Al Capone, head of Chicago’s North side battled “Bugs” Moran head of Chicago’s South side for control of the booze trade, during beer wars in Chicago. Both owned property near Fox Lake. On June 1, 1930 the feud came to a head at Manning’s Hotel in Fox Lake when 3 of Moran’s crew were shot dead, commonly referred to as the Fox Lake Massacre. A year earlier, Capone had lost lives to Moran in the St. Valentines’ Day Massacre. Moran, outmaneuvered, losing power left the Chicago area shortly after this attack. Fox Lake today continues to grow and change remaining a favorite summer retreat.

Chicago’s Rainbow Beach

During the early 1960s, I always wanted a backyard pool as a child. My best friend had one above ground and we could swim often. When she wasn’t around,I got stuck with a sprinkler in my backyard instead. But we did travel from Calumet Heights to Rainbow Beach on hot summer days. I remember the alewives the most. Large die off’s of this fish littered the beaches and Rainbow was one of them. I also remember some of my first sunburns at Rainbow Beach being treated with Solarcaine, Noxzema or Calamine lotion but as long as you had a portable radio, you didn’t care. I was in my pre-teens when attending Rainbow. Many who were a few years older took the bus or learned to drive in their parking lot.

Chuckman’s Places on WordPress offers some wonderful Chicago pictures from the past as well as vintage post cards. John Chuckman grew up in Chicago having one of the best collections of vintage photography. He is a former chief economist for an oil company in Canada. He lives in Canada and his writing appears on many internet sites.

Rainbow Beach was named for the U.S. Army’s 42nd Rainbow Division that fought in World War I and began its journey in 1908 as two beaches. Rocky Ledge Beach was crowded with changing rooms and bathrooms illuminated with electric lights. The city bought more land and expanded in 1918 officially naming the beach Rainbow. Located at 75th street and Lake Michigan, for many years the park lacked sufficient indoor recreational facilities, so in 1999 the Chicago Park District constructed a large field house designed by David Woodhouse Architects. Today, Rainbow Beach features a gymnasium, fitness center and multipurpose rooms, handball courts, and one of the oldest community gardens in Chicago.

Buckingham Fountain

My first experience visiting Buckingham Fountain was not pleasant. I remember my Dad and I walking very close to edge of the fountain; terrified of the Art Deco seahorse that was, supposedly, a state staring at me, spouting water. I began to cry; only in kindergarten at the time. The fountain represents Lake Michigan, with four sets of sea horses (two per set) symbolizing the four states—Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana—that bordered the lake. Setting gracefully in Grant Park since 1927, from afar, Buckingham Fountain was absolutely beautiful whether it was during the day or watching the light show at night. I remember many summer evenings driving “downtown” as we described it then to gather at the fountain.

In 1924, one million was donated to the city to build the fountain by Kate Sturges Buckingham, philanthropist and art patron in memory of her brother, Clarence Buckingham, who was director of the Art Institute. My grade school built in 1962 was named after Kate Sturges Buckingham so I know the name well. Work began in 1925; taking two years to build. The fountain is one of the finest ornamental structures though not always appreciated for its elegance The Buckingham Fountain was manually operated from 1927 through the 1970s and my significant other who was 18 was arrested for the first time swimming drunk in the fountain with his friends one night. Back in the 1970’s days, they were arrested but let go, generally without legal consequences, after their parents picked them up.

For years, the fountain was entirely manually operated by two stationary engineers who each worked a daily twelve-hour shift. Historically, the major water displays occurred only twice a day, three times a week. These displays were so popular that they began to be offered every day in the late 1950s. According to the Chicago Park District, they used a keyboard with twenty-one electric switches that could fade, brighten, and blend colors to create numerous light effects. Although the light show was first automated in 1968, the water continued to be manually operated until 1980, when the operations were fully computerized. There were some years that the fountain was not operated here in Chicago but in Atlanta. The Chicago Park District offers some wonderful information concerning the structure, the fountains water capacity and upgrading the computer controlling the fountain in 2013 as well as water display hours.

In accordance with the stay home order, all Chicago Park District fieldhouses and playgrounds will remain closed until April 30th. But generally the fountain does not open until mid May through October, so visiting would be a great trip to put on your wish list.

My Dad, Happy Fathers Day

When I looked up the definition of father, I was amazed at how many categorized fathers we have today. From the weekend/holiday fathersurprised father, stepfathersecond father to just mothers partner or husband; all of which define “the Dad”.  And, believe it or not, there is the DI Dad who is the social/legal father of children produced via donor insemination.

Father is also considered a founder of a body of knowledge or institution like George Washington; the Father of Our Country. And now I can understand why fathers are seen as authority figures and are suppose to possess experience and knowledge in life to pass onto others. That is what being a father is about; the active father who speaks of wisdom and guidance.

My father passed away when I was twelve and Fathers Day was not a Hallmark occasion that was at the top of my list. He was several years older than my Mom and always wanted a little girl. My mother never re-married and someone said that a father is a girl’s first love. Only he could push me on my new swing set at our home in Chicago.

With time, I realized my father, John, was gone and could not be replaced though I would always be grateful for the strong memories of his love for me. Some didn’t have any example in their lives. And as the years passed, I figured out that I could have as many fathers as I wanted; a trusted male friend who nurtures and helps you live a more fulfilling life.

They can be a neighbor that offers support when you struggle, comfort when you are down and their snow blower when there is a foot of snow in your driveway. They can be a manager who reminds you that you are truly worth it regardless of your awkward stumbles at work. They can be a co-worker that offers you a smile, something to laugh at, thumbs up and a cup of coffee when you are having a bad day.

They can be a brother who offers unconditional love and commitment regardless of how you frustrate him. They can be any relative who is protective, concerned and sees your success rather than incompetence. They can be your best friend’s father who spent hours tutoring you in math and building your self-esteem in a subject you never thought possible.

They can be the salesman or contractor that is really looking out for your safety and best interests. They can be your postman who always makes sure your mail is delivered on time and doesn’t rush off without saying hello. They can be teachers and role models to all children of any age and family.

Most of all, they can be the one above…you may not be able to see, but truly loves you.

(Re-posted-originally published June 17, 2018)

We share our memories of the Chicago blizzard: January 26th 1967

The following describes my experiences along with friends, family and acquaintances caught in the blizzard in 1967. What about you?

My Mother was so grateful we had just has the furnace filled with oil prior to the blizzard since oil trucks could not get through!”

Many wore professional mountain snow shoes to get through the streets.

It took my father what was usually a 15 minute ride from work in his car, two and a half hours to get home because the cars were not moving at all.

We played tackle football games a lot and my Mom sent me to the A&P pulling a sled to pick up groceries. The store shelves were pretty empty and I kept tipping the sled on the way home”

My friends Dad was stuck at his office for 2 days.” All he wanted to do was take a bath when he got home and sleep.”

“My aunt grabbed a bus after getting off the Illinois Central railroad. It was a long wait for the bus and when she finally got on, the bus only made it 2 blocks but couldn’t get past the snow drifts. She had to walk the rest of the way home.”

“I laid down in the snow; made snow angels and felt like owned the world.”

“Made over $40 dollars shoveling.”

“My Dad got stuck downtown and ended up hitching a ride home from a Chicago Police Officer.”

I was a newlywed of just 1 month — we were happily snowed in!

I was a Jr. in High School. I drove that day because I was taking finals. It took me over 3 hours to get home. Normally less than 20 minutes. My dad was furious with me…like I knew this was going to happen. School was closed for a whole week.

My Mom was really tiny and she got planted in the snow.  It took several neighbors to get her out.

The Blizzard of 1967 trapped people in cars and public transportation was nonexistent. Many had abandoned vehicles and walked to gas stations, churches and schools to spend Thursday night, January 26th.  By Friday, the city was a standstill. The snow had stopped at 10am with a total of 23 inches, the greatest snowfall in Chicago’s history.

In the city of Chicago 20,000 cars and 1,100 CTA buses were stranded in the snow. People walked to stores to clear the shelves of bread and mild.  Helicopters were used to deliver medical supplies to hospitals and food and blankets to those stranded. Expectant mothers were taken to hospitals by sled, bulldozer and snow plows. Looting became a problem on the west and south sides of the city. All houses were heated by oil added to the furnaces. Oil trucks could not get access to buildings.

Because of high winds, drifting could be over 10 feet in places which included front doors and garages. Many had died from trying to shovel the snow. For the first few days, children were sent to stores for supplies with sleds and snow shoes to pick up food. Many of the stores shelves were empty.

By Saturday the 28th, Chicago was beginning to dig out. The city sent a workforce of 2,500 people with 500 pieces of equipment and other states also sent heavy equipment to help with the snow removal. Snow was hauled and dumped into the Chicago river. O’Hare finally opened around midnight on Monday. Schools did not re-open until Tuesday.

 

Do you remember the Edgewater Beach Hotel?

My friends father was a stagehand for a few years during the 1940’s. He helped take the stage curtain down to replace, clean and helped with lights for live shows. His father was a kid then and would sometimes also help in the radio booth since a radio program did evolve from the hotel.  It was a strictly formal environment even though he had to get his hands dirty sometimes. He met Zsa, Zsa Gabor, Debbie Reynolds, Vic Damone as well as many other headliners.  The dining room, alone, could seat over one thousand people. He worked there for about four years. My parents also stayed their for relaxation to celebrate the new year and to see my mother’s favorite, the Tommy Dorsey Band. As WTTW tells us, it was a Chicago landmark — a lavish pink resort that stood on the lakefront at Sheridan near Foster for almost half a century. The Edgewater Beach Hotel has been closed since 1967, yet the memories linger on.

The hotel was huge and besides the hotel’s own radio station, a precursor to WGN with the call letters WEBH, there was a heliport, a print shop and a movie theater. It opened  on June 3, 1916 and anyone who was a star sang and danced at the hotel.  In the winter months, the bands played in the Marine Dining Room and, in the summer months, outdoors on the marble-tiled Beach Walk. Many parents of friends celebrated their proms or attended wedding receptions. Many visited taking romantic walks on the massive private beach.

According to Wikipedia, The 1951–54 extension of Lake Shore Drive from Foster Avenue to Hollywood Avenue reduced direct access to Lake Michigan, leading to a reduction in business. After the hotel was cut off from the lake by the new drive, a swimming pool was added in 1953. In 1960, in order to compete with popular downtown hotels, the Edgewater Beach underwent a $900,000 renovation which included the installation of air conditioning. King gave a major address at the conference to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation at the hotel. The hotel closed in 1967 due to financial reasons. Demolition of the hotel complex began in the fall of 1969 and was completed by 1971.

However, a portion of the complex is still available to visit. In 1994, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and also belongs in the Bryn Mawr Historic District. Currently known as the Edgewater Beach apartments, there is still a lush foyer, a small library, a cafe, private gardens and a indoor pool.