It’s not New York, it’s not a diner, it’s not an image of urban loneliness, but Allan Zirlin’s photograph of Segal’s Shoes at the corner Lawrence and Sawyer reminds me of Edward Hopper’s painting, Nighthawks. Albany Park native Zirlin shot this photograph out a car window sometime in the 1950s.
Zirlin’s been a Chicago street photographer since the early 1950s, but before that he was a native son of Albany Park. He graduated from Hibbard Elementary School in 1948, Von Steuben High School in January 1952.
He lived at several addresses in Albany Park; back then it was common for families to move around within a neighborhood. His family lived with Allan’s grandparents on the 4900 block of Ridgeway; 4927 N. St. Louis, and 4952 N. Bernard by the river. (Update: In the mid-1950s, Bernice and Ned Singer (Ned Singer’s Sports) and their sons, Joel, Jeffrey, Neal, Rick and Bob, moved to the Zirlin’s family’s former home at 4952 N. Bernard. )
One of his memories I found amazing was that from his third-floor porch they could see the chutes dropping at Riverview and the Lindberg Beacon atop the Palmolive Building (later the Playboy Building).
Recollections of Albany Park
“Bonfire was our spot, with the Junior Achievement group upstairs above it. Each booth at Bonfire had those jukebox players. Kids hung out there after the movies. We also went to Terminal Inn and Wing Lee for Chinese food, Kushner’s deli on the north side of Lawrence, east of Kedzie, and S&L on the corner of Kedzie and Lawrence. Also we went for challah, bagels and bialys, and kaiser rolls to Kuznitsky’s Bakery–they were part of our family.
Every graduation class from Von had a lunch at Purity Restaurant, which was a Kosher deli on Lawrence near Kimball. We made speeches and teased each other.”
I asked Zirlin if he remembers any other businesses from Lawrence Avenue in its heyday. He remembers: Woolworth’s; Hurwitz Men’s Wear shop; Tots ‘n Teens; Community bakery (another branch was on Bryn Mawr); and the Karmelkorn shop next to the Terminal. Central Cigar store on Kimball and Lawrence; Steiner’s Tavern; Skokie Valley ice cream shop on Kimball north of Lawrence. Lester’s toy store on Lawrence, where Zirlin got comic books and toys, of course; Rudich’s soda fountain; A&P on Kedzie; Heinemann’s bakery; Knopov bakery; Kaplan bakery; Albany Park Masonic Temple north of the Ravenswood L (Brown Line) station; Sonny’s Pool Hall on Lawrence; Singer’s Drugs; and Rol-a-Way bowling alley on Pulaski north of Lawrence, where everyone from Von and Roosevelt went.
You can’t help noticing there were a lot of Jewish bakeries in Albany Park. Here’s an excerpt from an essay Zirlin wrote for the Skokie Public Library recalling the Jewish bakeries of Albany Park:
“Shortly after WWII ended, a baker named Kaufman came to Chicago and opened a small bakery on Kedzie Avenue just north of Lawrence. Bagels have never been the same since. Mr. Kaufman created a new kind of bagel, one without the bullet-proof skin, one that you could bite into with ease yet still had that satisfying al dente feel. He created the now-famous double-bagel, one bagel made from the dough normally used for two. And it had a twist, literally, not just a flat uninteresting appearance.” –quoted from Bagels, by Allan Zirlin
Kaufman’s bakery, now at 4905 Dempster in Skokie, still turns out my favorite bagels, though I miss the Kedzie Avenue experience on Sunday mornings.
Thanks to Allan Zirlin, I’ll be able to do for Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park what I’ve done for Bryn Mawr in Hollywood Park. And, as I mentioned, Zirlin’s been taking photographs of Chicago street scenes since the 1950s. On Monday, I’ll share some of my favorites photographs of his. But you can check his work out now on his website.
Credits: Thanks, Allan, for permission to publish your photographs, and for bringing old Albany Park back to life for me.