Everyone knew his name

Ned_Singer

From Montrose to Peterson, Kedzie to Pulaski and far beyond, generations of kids knew Ned Singer’s Sports.

It was where Von Steuben, Roosevelt, even Mather and Sullivan high school students bought the required school gym uniforms, where guys bought Converse All-Stars and jock straps, where SAC members bought their club jackets, and where several Chicago schools and community recreational centers bought sports equipment.

For more than 20 years at River Park, a Little League team wore Ned Singer’s Sports on their uniforms. Ned Singer’s Sports also sponsored softball and basketball teams–close to a dozen teams–on the North Side and on the West Side. Sponsoring youth sports meant the store donated team uniforms and jackets.

Howard Glantz, a Von Steuben alum (class of ’55), played on softball and basketball teams sponsored by Ned Singer’s Sports. He recalls going to the store to buy a jock strap for the first time. He knew Mrs. Singer worked at the store and he didn’t want to go in when she was there. Every day after school he’d peek in the store window and see her. At the end of the week, he couldn’t put it off any longer. Mrs. Singer was working that day and asked Howie what he was looking for. He told her, an athletic supporter.

“What size?”  Mrs. Singer asked.

Howie didn’t know what size. He panicked, thinking he’d have to take off his pants and get measured.

Then Mrs. Singer quickly said, “Your waist size.”

* * * 

Like many of his Albany Park neighbors, Ned Singer came from Chicago’s West Side. His Eastern European Jewish parents were so poor they were evicted from another apartment every third month. Singer attended Manley High School, played on the basketball team.

After the war, he worked at Marshall Field’s on State in the gun repair department. (Who knew?) One day a loaded shotgun accidentally went off. Buckshot lodged in the ceiling. Singer looked for a safer job.

Bea_and_Ned Singer_1960s

Bea and Ned Singer in the 1960s

He became a sales clerk at a sporting goods store at 3344 W. Lawrence called Vange’s, then bought out the business in 1952. Singer’s wife, Bernice Pomerantz Singer, worked the store office when she wasn’t taking care of their five sons. Like other local business owners, they lived in the neighborhood.

Over the years they moved the business, first to 3334 Lawrence, then 3247 Lawrence. They opened a second store in Skokie, where many Albany Park Jews had migrated. They ran the pro shop at the East Bank Club for the first five years of the club’s existence.

Ned and Bea retired in the late 1980s and moved to Florida. He suffered a stroke, then developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. When his son Jeff called from Chicago in early 1996, asking did he want attend the first ever Von Steuben-Roosevelt alumni game, Ned said no. He was tired, had just gone through chemo.

Bea told Jeff, leave your father alone, his immune system is compromised, he’ll die if he travels on a plane. As the weeks passed, Jeff asked again and again, until finally Ned told him, back off.

On Friday, February 23, the day before the game, Ned called Jeff to say he’d be on a plane to Chicago.

Jeff met his father at O’Hare on Saturday afternoon and drove straight to Von Steuben. They parked on Kimball Avenue near the school entrance and several guys came out to help Ned up the building steps.

Ned_Singer

Robby Polovin, Bob Briskman, and Ned Singer

The gym was packed to the rafters, 600 people squeezed into stands that hold 500. Ned and Jeff entered the gym and slowly circled the perimeter of the floor. As people recognized Ned, they stood and cheered.

Von_Roosevelt_alumni_game

Ned is shaking hands with Lonnie Dienstag Goldberg, to her left is Howard Weisman and Bonnie Baron Weisman.

Men walked up to Ned and introduced themselves as the kids who once played on teams he sponsored, the kids who bought their first pair of school gym shorts at the store on Lawrence. At half-time Marshall Waldo introduced Ned over the P.A.  and the place went crazy.

When he was growing up in Albany Park, Jeff felt being Ned Singer’s son was something special. At the alumni game, the feeling was more than special; it was  indescribable. From his expression in these photographs, Ned must have felt the same way.

Alumni_bench

 Organized by then Von Steuben Athletic Director and alum Richard Wiener, the historic game drew former players from both schools. None of the players were under 40. Maybe none were under 45. Don Wilens (who played for Von in ’53 and ’54) coached the Von Steuben Panthers and Manny Weincord coached the Roosevelt Rough Riders. Marshall Waldo, Von class of 1962, did the player intros over the P.A. Roosevelt won by one point.

Several months after the game, Ned passed away in Florida. His family established the Ned and Bernice Singer Memorial Athletic Scholarship, which continues to be awarded annually to a Von Steuben student.

* * * 

As a girl growing up in that community pre-Title IX, I never participated in organized sports. The first time I walked into Ned Singer’s Sports on Lawrence was in the fall of 1970, the start of my freshman year at Von Steuben. All I bought was a gym uniform, but it was a rite of passage of sorts and the memory, so closely tied to the trauma of  freshman P.E., remains with me. We were meeting so many girls from different schools for the first time and the embarrassment of those one-piece sleeveless gym suits with bloomer bottoms, not to mention the shapeless swimsuits and curtainless shower stalls, brought us  a bit closer together as a class.

So, it’s been some 40 years I’ve known Ned Singer’s name, but never knew his story. Turns out the story was as memorable as the name.

Acknowledgements:  Thanks to Jeff Singer for sharing his parents’ story and photographs. Thanks to Rich Wiener for providing details about the alumni game and the Von Steuben Alumni Association, and thanks to Howie Glantz for sharing his wonderful stories.


alumni_game

Jerry Shapiro greeting his former employer. Jerry worked at Ned Singer’s Sports in the late 1960s-early ’70s. Prior to that he worked at Deborah Boys Club as a recreation coordinator.

alum in hall

Fred Greenberg, owner of a Chicago day camp and a great ball player (so I’m told), with Ned Singer.

 

alum

Allen Pritikin reminiscing with Ned Singer

 

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49 Responses to Everyone knew his name

  1. Jerry Pritikin September 27, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    Great Story. I remember my brother buying his Jagaur Softball team shirts there in ’46. I remember going to the Terminal theater on a Sat. in October of 1946. . On coming out of the theater instead of listening on the radio the World Series between the Red Sox and Cardinals. Singer posted on their store window that te Sox’s won on a Rudy York homer 3-2. The following week, I was able to see highlights of that game in the Newsreel.

    My brother bought a basketball hoop($5.) and net that my dad mounted on our garage to replace the bushel basket. The only problem, so many of the kids kept banging into the garage doors and broke them. Our Hibbard class softball team in ’47 decided to name our team the Rockets( like Buck Roger’s in the 25th Century and it sounded futuristic) and I designed a T-shirt. However Singer had no illustrations of Rockets, so we changed the name to the “El Diablos” !

  2. Jerry Pritikin September 27, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    I just realize that picture 1 and 3 is my brother Allen in mod sweater with black coller. I am sure he knows the others and I just sent him an email. Will he be surprised!

  3. Frances Archer September 27, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    No way! Jerry, that is amazing.

  4. Frances Archer September 27, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Thanks, Jerry, great memories as always. I love that about the scores in the store window.

  5. Jeff Singer September 27, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    That is Jerry Shapiro in photo wearing a blue sweatshirt with the letters OSU. Jerry used to work at Ned Singer’s in Albany Park for several years in the late 60’s/early 70’s after working as a recreation coordinator for a few years in the early 60’s at the Deborah Boys Club. Regrettably, Jerry passed away just a few months ago.

    I believe the man in the blue tee shirt with the alumni basketball game logo is Freddie Greenberg–who, like Jerry Shapiro, worked at Deborah Boys Club in the early 60’s.

  6. Allan Zirlin September 27, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    I knew there was a gun repair shop at Fields, I once brought my grandfather’s 1868 Sharps 4-barrel pocket pistol in to be fixed. I worked on the 5th floor of the annex building in the sport wear and gear shop, which included guns and archery equipment.

  7. Allen Pritikin September 28, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    Another great article that brings back fond memories. The two people in the photo are Allen Pritikin and Richard Lazer with hat and back to camera. The coach of Von Steuben was Don Wilens who was an outstanding player on the 1953 team with Charles Faso, Vic Elias, Mel Kupcinent, Howie Rosenthal, Dick Ahlman, Harold Maizel. Charlie Goldstein was the coach of the team. I apologize for not knowing the names of the remaining players.

    The comments by Howard Glantz put a smile on my face. Howard is a little guy with a big heart.
    I suggest that you get the old timers from Von Steuben and Roosevelt and have a Reunion
    dinner at Marie’s Pizza on Lawrence Avenue.

    Allen Pritikin

  8. Frances Archer September 28, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    Allen, thanks for visiting and for identifying the people in the photographs. I’ve already been researching the basketball teams of 1951-53, and hope to write something in the future. Maybe you should join Howard and me next time we do an interview.

    I think you have a good idea for a meetup. Will pass it on to Von Steuben Alumni Association to see if they want to help organize.

  9. Howie Glantz September 28, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    In the third picture down Ned is shaking hands with Lonnie Dienstag Goldberg, to her left is Howard Weisman and Bonnie Baron Weisman.

    I think the Von Coach was Don “cussy” Willens, played for Von in 1953 & 4. Had a great jump shot. I don’t remember a Dan Wills.

  10. Frances Archer September 28, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Oops. my mistake. It was Don Willens.

  11. Hope Owens October 15, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Your description of the girls’ locker room and our one-piece gym uniform brought back so many memories. I recall those horrid, revealing bathing suits we were required to wear. One year I was scheduled for swimming on a Monday. The pool temp was brutally cold. We didn’t have time to dry our hair, and my unruly curly hair would go nuts afterwards. Does anyone recall the name of the very tall gym teacher? I graduated in ’73.

  12. Frances Archer October 15, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    Hi, Hope. The pool was brutal. Miss Pufundt was the teacher you’re thinking of. I had her freshman year. Thanks for stopping by.

  13. Harriet Berger Miller November 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Oh do I remember those ugly gym suits. Inspection every Monday morning. Gymsuit had to be washed and ironed. Gym shoes polished and laces white. We all knew Ned Singer’s Sports. That’s where we all went for our gym suits. Thanks for sharing a great article with us and bringing back great memories of growing up in Albany Park.

  14. Frances Archer November 26, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Hi, Harriet. I forgot about having to iron the gym suits. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know about the Riverwoods program connection to Deborah.

  15. Dave Basten January 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    After I got out of the army in 1968, Ned and Bea gave me a job, and a chance to learn the Sporting Goods business. They took me in as part of the family, even if I didn’t like Lox. Ned always had great ideas and dreams, Bea was always more realistic. I moved away from Chicago area in 1974 and always regret not seeing them again.

  16. Frances Archer January 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Dave, thanks for visiting and sharing your story about Ned and Bea Singer. Their sons Joel and Jeff may remember you. Any other recollections of Lawrence Ave. from those days?

  17. Jerry Gleicher March 5, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    grew up in Albany Park from 1943 until 1955.
    Jensen Park, Max Strauss center,Rudisch’s,Haugan and Roosevelt.
    The Terminal,Metro and Maries Pizza.

  18. Frances Archer March 6, 2012 at 6:23 am #

    Hi, Jerry. Thanks for stopping by. Those were the hot spots!

  19. Mark Magel August 24, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Bought all my stuff at Ned Singer’s including my club jacket “Characters”. Attended Hibbard and Von from early 50’s to mid 60’s and I have an interesting story.
    I was really into sports and baseball and played at River Park and the Mighty Mites. I was always after my dad to get me a new glove and finally he said OK. Took me to Ned Singer’s and my dad told Ned I needed a good glove but the budget was tight. Ned told us he had the perfect solution. It seemed the store had been broken into and a bunch of new gloves were taken but eventually found by the Police. Ned couldn’t sell them as new but he brought out about 10 of these gloves and told my dad and I to pick one. I picked this beauty and he gave us a greatly discounted price and i used that glove forever. God bless Ned Singer and his family for being such an important part of my youth in Albany Park.

  20. Frances Archer August 24, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Mark, that’s such a wonderful story about Ned, and so typical of what we’ve heard about him. I can’t help but wonder if there actually was “stolen” merchandise.

  21. charles waldman August 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    Most importantly, Ned carried and sold the single most imporant immortality item that housed the goods that result in procreating generations; alas I’ve tipped my hat and I don’t recall if there were different sizes. If so size was probably related to waist, not joyrod..

  22. Mark Magel September 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    In this article is a picture of Jerry Shapiro. I have rerally wonderful memories of Jerry at Deborah. I was in an SAC called the Characters and Jerry was assigned as our Supervisor or adult leader. This was back I would say in 1962 to 1964 or so. He was always there at our weekly meetings but never ever got too involved but always gave us advice that teenagers sometimes needed. I remember 1 year he was able to get Deborah to host us on a sleepover on a Saturday night. We had full access to the club and played basketball and poker all night long. Great times and even better memories of a really good guy.

  23. Frances Archer September 16, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    Hi, Mark. Thanks for adding more notes to the history of the area and recalling Jerry’s contribution to the community. Anyone know if Jerry is around? He’d be a good interview for this blog.

  24. Frances Archer September 16, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    Hi, Mark. Thanks for adding more notes to the history of the area and recalling Jerry’s contribution to the community. Anyone know if Jerry is around? He’d be a to interview for this blog.

  25. renee chernoff October 17, 2012 at 5:48 am #

    well, I hate to be the one to say this but the Von swimsuits were pretty good if you were a good swimmer. I was one of those and always had a nice, one-piece blue or black suit (cannot remember between the years I spent swimming in high school and then swimming in college at U of I/Chicago…the gym suits were a real piece of work and it was Miss Pufundt who was the tall gym teacher. I remember she was my drivers ed classroom instructor and one thing she said that always made a deep and lasting impression on me: She was covering the area of giving pedestrians the right of way on the roadway and she said, “If you are the one walking, move it along and walk a little faster”…ah, what memories!!

  26. MIKE STEIN October 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    THE PERSON NEXT TO NED IN THE BLUE SHIRT IS FRED GREENBERG. HE IS THE OWNER OF A DAY CAMP IN CHICAGO AND A GREAT BALL PLAYER.

    MIKE STEIN

    TOP HAT

  27. Frances Archer October 17, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    I was not a good swimmer. I’m still not. I had Miss Pufundt too. Miss Bulmash attended the recent reunion at Von.

  28. Mark Magel October 17, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    If thats the Freddy Greenberg I knew than yes he was a great athlete. We had a basket in the alley between Bernard and Kimball almost directly in front of Von Steuben. In the early 60s we had some great choose up games and Freddy who went to Roosevelt and played basketball there would be part of the gang. Nicer guy you would never meet and I remember him always adjusting his glasses. Just a few memories from the old days..

  29. Terry Bauer February 14, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    I worked at the Ned Singer sports in Skokie during my high school years from 1971-75. Although Ned did not work at that store he came in often. I remember one time a young high school kid came in one time and purchased a pair of shoelaces. Although I did not treat the customer badly I just took his money (I think it was 35 cents) and was indifferent. Ned asked me why I did not engage with the customer. I said its only 35 cents. Ned said he may have only spent 35 cents today, but he could spent $100 the next time he comes in. Almost 40 years later I still remember that. I also remember Joel his son hiring me and treating me very well. I often made deliveries to the store on Lawrence in his red Buick Skylark covertable. I never told him on the way back I drove by my girlfriends house hoping she would see me in that great car. She never was home though. Great memories. I think I strung 2 million tennis rackets there.

  30. Bruce Berman March 5, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    I went to Elementry and High School with Jeff and would love to hear from him.
    I will be in Chicago March 21-25 from Austin Texas and would love to try to see him and catch up .
    Cell # 512-750-6611 email me at either bbhomes4u@aol.com or Bruce@Austinsbesthomes.com
    Thanks

  31. Frances Archer March 6, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    Bruce, I will forward your note in case Jeff doesn’t see it here. Thanks for stopping by. I will email you directly because by chance i am working on an project that has to do with Austin Texas.

  32. Bruce Berman March 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    What ever I can do to help.
    I will be happy to.

  33. Barry Dredze May 1, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Hi,

    Great story. I stumbled on it while doing an unsuccessful image search on Google for the Ned Singer Sports Supply logo. My dad was Vice Principal at Von Steuben’s upper grade center until about 1980ish. We lived in Skokie and I played on a Bernard Horwich JCC little league baseball team sponsored by Ned Singer Sports Supply in the summer of 1969 (the fields have since been covered by the Winston Towers condominium development).

    Thanks for a surprising treat!
    BD

  34. Frances Archer May 1, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Hi, Barry. Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for your contributon to the Ned Singer story. Some of the younger readers may recall your father — I didn’t know the upper grade center. We also have the J in common — I went to day camp and to after school programs there for a number of years. Did you know Micky who ran the drama program?

  35. Barry Dredze May 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    My memories are rather hazy from back then. I don’t even recall the names of any of our coaches and only remember one of my old teammates. We started strong but faded, finishing in 3rd (no bronze medals).

  36. Barry Dredze May 1, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    By the way, I still have a team photo. If you like, send me an email and I can attach a copy.

  37. Marty Silber June 13, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    My Dad (Norman Silber) was a Manley teammate and good friend. He owned and operated Seminole Day Camp. I used to go to Nes Singer Sporting Goods every summer before camp season to get out supplies. My Dad passed away last December.

  38. Frances Archer June 14, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    Hi, Marty. I’m sorry to hear of your loss. I can certainly remember Seminole Camp. Thanks for stopping by.

  39. charles waldman June 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    MARTY, I worked for your dad as a bus driver,camp conselor, and teacher at Lane. HE WAS THE BEST PRINCIPAL DURING MY TENURE, 1961-1993. UNLIKE THE OTHERS HE WAS A NO NONSENSE GUY WHO SAW THRU BULLSHIT AND TRATED EVERYONE FAIRLY. I AM VERY SORRY THAT HE DIED. chas. Waldman

  40. Alan Marks June 29, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    Truly wonderful memories about Von Vs. Roosevelt and Ned Singer’s Sports. I still have a pair of Chuck Taylor All-Stars that, of course, were purchased at Ned Singer’s Sports. They are a little faded but a treasure. This site has really wonderful, heartwarming memories. I believe my Anaconda and then later Condor Club Jackets were purchased at Ned Singer’s.

  41. Frances Archer July 5, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    Alan, thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you’re enjoying what everyone’s so generously shared with us here.

  42. BarBeQue Man Larry Gerber February 21, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    My late cousin Jeffery lived in Skokie and we lived in Des Plaines, every weekend I’d hang out with him! We’d go to Ned Singers on Lincoln Ave just south of Oakton St. Neds was the first place to stock the old WHA Chicago Cougars uniforms! I bought my first Blackhawk uniform and CCM Tacks skates there. There catalog was outstanding as well!

  43. BarBeQue Man Larry Gerber February 21, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    Sorry, typo! Their catalog was awesome!

  44. Frances Archer March 2, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your memories of Ned Singers.

  45. David Zverow July 29, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

    I was a regular at Ned Singer’s from about 1954 to 1964, when I graduated from Von Steuben. I
    bought baseball gloves, balls, bats and bikes from him. But my favorite memory was looking for the “livest” pinners ball. There were Spauldings and there were Pennsy Pinckies (from the Pennsylvania Rubber Company, I believe). I would spend 15 minutes bouncing dozens of balls from two big boxes and comparing their bounce until I found the ball with the most rebound. Ned showed great patience through the entire procedure. I paid my quarter, and was out the door headed for the Hibbard pinners walls.

  46. Frances Archer July 30, 2016 at 9:40 am #

    Hi, David. Love this story. Thanks for stopping by.

  47. Bruce Berman July 30, 2016 at 10:23 am #

    Great story.graduating Von in 68

  48. Frances Archer July 30, 2016 at 6:25 pm #

    Glad you enjoyed it. I should update with the new stories I’ve heard.

  49. Bruce Berman July 30, 2016 at 6:31 pm #

    That would be great

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