Your Kind of Town
"...each time I roam, Chicago is calling me home, Chicago is one town that won't let you down," Frank Sinatra famously sang.
Does Chicago call you home? What's your Chicago story? Tell us about your favorite historical place in the city, or your family's roots there. Send in your stories about Chicago, and we'll post the best ones on this page.
My ancestors Robert ODonnell and Mary Fox ODonnell left Ireland in 1849 during the height of the famine. They arrived in NY in April but soon travelled to Chicago and arrived in 1850. Their first of 4 children was born here in 1851. Robert started off without resources but as the city rapidly grew he was able to benefit. He was a drayman or a teamster.
He hauled goods with his horses and wagons. According the to the 1870 census his business had a value of $3000. From 1860 to 1880 he and his family lived in the Old Town area at 106 Sigel (now Evergreen). His home was in what is now the west parking lot of the Franklin School on Evergreen Street near Wells. About three summers ago the parking was removed for repaving. I drove by one afternoon and noticed the outline of a foundation. I explained to the workers what this foundation meant to me and I was able to harvest bricks and limestone foundation material. Some of the material appears to be charred. I have passed these out to family members. I am proud to represent a family which has continuously lived in Chicago since 1850.
I live right across the river from Manhattan. I love the city, and would never insult it. But my week-long trip to Chicago was truly a wondeful experience. It bustles with a vibrancy unequaled in any city I've ever been to, and its architecture is beautiful and bold. The people are friendly, the food is wonderful, and ther is never a lack of things to do.
It has some problems, like a vast inequality of wealth, but overall it is a great city, and I hope to visit it more often. It is about time a documentary was made about this wonderful and fascinating city.
I'm a northsider born and bred. But I am a Sox fan. When my mother's brothers immigrated to Chicago north side from Ireland they learned to love the game by going to Comiskey Park. I asked them why they went all the way to the south side when Wrigley was much closer. Their reply was that because they had jobs they couldn't attend day games. So the night games at Comiskey were the only way they could see a game in person. Besides this was the 50's when the Sox were battling the Yankees and always coming in a few places behind them. Till '59, of course, when they finally beat them for the AL title. The Cubs were being the Cubs working on that string of waiting till next years.
Well by the time my Mom came over her brothers were big Sox fans.She was to learn to love baseball as a Sox fan. So when I came along I was also taught to be a Sox fan.
Now my father, another Irish immigrant, never became a big baseball fan. He would watch a game but he never had that emotional tie a real fan will have for their team. But we lived near Montrose and Broadway and he owned a tavern near Belmont and Clark. So he would walk under the Howard St. el tracks (Don't you just hate these new color names for the El!) going south coming out at Irving Park and follow the spur line tracks down to Wrigley Field. There he would purchase a couple of bleacher seats.
He would always let me pick our seats. But that was easy. For the most part the place was empty. My dad would take off his shirt and lay down and sunbathe. I would watch whomever the National League had sent to Chicago to beat the Cubs that day.
After the game Dad would give me money for the bus home. He would walk down Clark St. to the tavern. I would take the money, walk home, and buy a comic book at the local drugstore.
I tell this story beacuse we all know that the bleachers have become the "hip" place to watch baseball in Chicago. So hip that people are paying to sit across the street from them, in another building ! You will hear how Wrigley has always been full, especially the bleachers. Well, it's not true! For most of my life if I wanted to go see a game at Wrigley a seat in the bleachers was easy. So ignore those stories of how the bleachers at Wrigley have always been filled. There were plenty of seats available thru the 60s and 70s.
By the way I do expect you will see something from some Cub fan regarding this memory. It will make reference to attendence at Wrigley vs. Comiskey. It is an argument that is will not go away in Chicago. It's a silly argument that is not about baseball and winning. It's about Cub fans searching for something that their team has done better. Because we all know that hasn't happened on the north side. Not that it's happened out south either.
My earliest memory of growing up in Chicago was attending the ticker-tape parade for the Apollo 11 astronauts downtown. I was five years old. I remember standing in a crowd with my family for hours, bored and complaning. Suddenly, people started screaming and strips of paper began falling from the sky. I wasn't bored any more. Police motorcycles and tricycles roared by, followed by squad cars with sirens blaring. Then the crowd screamed even louder as the car carrying the three American heroes drove by. My mother kept a piece of the ticker-tape in a photo album for years, but it eventually fell apart. But I will never forget that day.
As a boy growing up in Chicago in the 50s I have many memories. Among them are living on S. Loomis Boulevard and attending kindergarten and 1st grade at Cook School. In 1957, Wilson Sporting Goods, my father's employer, moved their plant to River Grove, and we joined the start of the suburban exodus, moving to Morton Grove.
A favorite trip was going downtown via the Edens Expressway to where it ended at Foster Ave. Then we'd go over to LakeShore Drive.
There were many dips on the Drive, which my father delighted in thrilling me with. I always noted the Nike missile sites along the lake shore, and snaking around the famous S curve.
Broken Arrow, OK
Growing up on the West Side in the 80s, about 4000 West and 2600 South, I always knew Chicago was a special place. I would venture to the Sanitary & Ship Canal and catch measly fish, take a hike west toward "Spaghetti Hills," separating Chicago and Cicero. Walk north toward Ogden Avenue, where many lots still remain burnt out from the MLK riots. Walk east up to the Cook County jail on California. Within walking distance from my parents' home, I could be in a different place in a matter of minutes.
My father was a pipefitter and he told the story of Tom Kelly, an old time pipefitter, who in the early days of unionizing in Chicago got into a gun fight. Evidentally, strikebreakers and scabs wanted to take over an all-union job site. Push came to shove, to the swinging of pipe wrenches to finally a number of men on both sides firing shots at each other across the Chicago River. Having worked as a union "fitter" for a time myself, I felt proud to be associated with men who so committed to what they believed in.
My family's history is deeply intertwined with that of Chicago, particularly the Uptown neighborhood. One Saturday night in the 1940s, my grandmother got all dolled up to go dancing at the Aragon Ballroom. When she got to the Aragon, she realized she was a nickel short. The movies were cheaper, so she went to the Uptown Theater instead. She met my grandfather there. Funny how a nickel can change everything!