Name that school

Self-described vinyl junkie and Roosevelt High School alum Mike Wolstein sent in this absolute gem. Released by Chess Records in 1958, Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” topped the charts and was listed as #272 on the Rolling Stone list of the greatest songs of all time.

It took a while, but Mike tracked down which Chicago public school was memorialized in rock and roll history:

The cover of this 1958 Chuck Berry EP (extended play – a 7″ record having 4 songs) depicts a couple walking up the steps of a high school. When I first saw the cover, back in 1976, it looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it. It was definitely a Chicago school, due to the old English script above the doorway.

Well, about 15 years later I got in my car and drove all over the north side, trying to locate this school. After 100 miles and about 20 schools, I gave up. Then, I realized I’d missed one school — one I had actually attended!

I hopped back into the car and drove over to Von Steuben. Lo and behold, that picture was taken at the very spot where I’d sit every morning at 8AM waiting for the bell to ring! (I attended Junior High there when Hibbard became overcrowded).

Chess Records was located at 2120 South Michigan Avenue at the time of the recording. The company was of course owned by Leonard and Phil Chess, who were Jewish immigrants from Poland. The Chess brothers attended South Side public schools, so why did they put a photograph taken at Von Steuben High School on the cover? Does anyone know the story or recognize the couple in the photo?

Mike also sent in two photos taken in Albany Park during the Big Snow. Let’s hope we don’t see this again anytime soon.

 

The photo above shows Lawrence Avenue looking east from St. Louis.  The second photo was taken south on Bernard from Lawrence, and that is Roosevelt High School at the far end of the street.

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Mike Wolstein for sharing his discovery of the photo of Von Steuben High School on the Chuck Berry record cover. His contribution to this blog proves, once again, that if you dig deep enough into the history of Albany Park and North Park, eventually you’ll learn everything about Chicago.

Sources: schmoop.com; wikipedia;  “Sweet Little Sixteen” cover is shown on ebay.

UPDATE! Thanks to reader Alan Raffel for writing in about Leonard Chess’s connection to Albany Park. You can read Alan’s comment below.

Read more Albany Park Memories.

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10 Responses to Name that school

  1. Frances Archer November 25, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Update: Mike tells me that he heard at one time Leonard Chess and his son Marshall lived on Leland Avenue in Albany Park. They may have been out strolling one day and shot that entrance to Von. Can anyone confirm?

  2. Hope Owens February 22, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    My brother, Joel Bolonick, and Mike Wolstein were close friends when we lived in Albany Park. He showed unexpectedly at my Aunt Bea’s condo in Northbrook the day of my father, Jack’s, funeral. That meant a lot to us.

  3. Frances Archer February 22, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    Hope, thanks for visiting. I’ll forward your note to Mike.

  4. ALAN RAFFEL May 10, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    I DON’T KNOW WHO THE 2 PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE ARE, BUT I DO KNOW THAT LENNY CHESS’S WIFE (REVETTA) ATTENDED VON STUBEN HIGH SCHOOL. REVETTA AND MY AUNT EMILIE WEXLER (MAIDEN NAME KLIGER) WERE BEST FRIENDS UNTIL THE DAY REVETTA PASSED AWAY.

    MY GRANDFATHER OWNED A SMALL BUNGALOW ON RIDGEWAY JUST SOUTH OF LAWARENCE AVE. THATS WHY 2 OF MY AUNTS GRADUATED FROM ROOSEVELT HIGH SCHOOL. AT ONE POINT DURING THE DEPRESSION MY GRANDPARENTS LOST THEIR HOUSE AND MOVED TO A LARGE 3 BEDROOM APARTMENT ON THE NORTH SIDE OF LAWRENCE AVE (3718 WEST LAWRENCE). THAT’S WHY MY MOTHER’S 2 YOUNGEST SISTERS GRADUATED FROM VON STUBEN.

    MY AUNT ALWAYS TOLD THE STORY THAT LENNY CHESS AND REVETTA ACTUALLY HAD THEIR WEDDING IN OUR APARTMENT ON LAWRENCE AVENUE BECAUSE LENNY CHESS AT THAT TIME WAS SO POOR AND WE HAD SUCH A LARGE APARTMENT. THIS WAS THE APRTMENT THAT I GREW UP IN.

    IN 1959 SCHOOL BOUNDARIES CHANGED AND STUDENTS NORTH OF LAWRENCE ATTENDING VOLTA ELEMENTARY WERE NOW PART OF THE ROOSEVELT BOUNDARY. THANK G-D. THAT’SWHY I GRADUATED FRO ROOSEVELT IN 1967.

  5. Frances Archer May 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Alan, thanks so much for writing in and clearing up the mystery of the connection between the Chess Brothers and Albany Park. Also, for letting us know the year the boundaries changed.

  6. Al Gordon September 28, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    I went to Hibbard and graduated Von in Jan, 1959. My cousin, who lived in the same apartment building as me and was 2 years younger had to go to Roosvelt. My sister, who was seven years younger, still in the same building, was again in Von’s district. I guess that’s what happens when you build two high schools so close; boundaries shift depending on projected enrollments.

  7. Howard Korengold November 8, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    I was amazed to see the reference to Chuck Berry. One of the strangest memories of my 50+year legal career was flying down to St Louis with a client and trying to sell a cemetery to Chuck Berry. We did not succeed, but the memory lingers on. HK

  8. Frances Archer November 10, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    Just think — if you had known at the time you met Chuck Berry and you could have brought up the Albany Park connection to Sweet Little 16! You might have made the sale.

  9. Martin Horan ( Cohen) April 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

    I graduated from Von Steuben High in February 1941. I remember how excited we were
    when the Steuben Heavies Basketball team I believe came in third in the Illinois
    champion basketball tournament . I notice there was no mention of the Skokie Valley
    Ice cream parlor on Kimball just north of Lawrence . Another interesting thing .to mention is
    that all the janitors in Albany Park were called “John ” How about the Pool hall and
    bowling alley on Kedzie just North of Leland . And the so called ” Smoke Shop on the East side of Kedzie between Lawrwnce and Leland where you also could place a bet..Who remembers the newspaper stand by the Lawence and Kinball ” L” , and the husband
    and wife who manned the Stand. In the winter they looked like snowmen.
    What a great website. I think I could go on forever.
    Marty Horan

  10. Frances Archer April 21, 2016 at 9:42 am #

    Marty, thanks for stopping by and adding your recollections of the old neighborhood. I don’t think anyone has mentioned the Skokie Vally ice cream parlor before. I recall someone mentioning a while back that his mother worked at an ice cream shop on Lawrence, but can’t find the name of it. There have been many mentions of the smoke shop, but I’ve never written a post about it and what people recall. that would be a good story.

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