In a previous post I recalled Chicago Daily News (and Sun-Times) columnist Sydney J. Harris and my fondness his weekly columns titled “Things I Learned While Looking Up Other Things.” I’d like to close out 2011 with a post in a similar vein, without elaborating on the fact that now we all learn things “While Looking Up Other Things” on the Internet.
I should mention I didn’t actually look up all the things on my list; many were sent by much-appreciated readers who make writing this blog so worthwhile.
1. Gold Medal Cleaners was opened by Max and Sam Fishman at 3340 Bryn Mawr in 1927. Not only did they survive the Depression, this family business is still in operation in its fourth generation, now in Wilmette. Biltmore Cleaners, at 3216 Bryn Mawr is the business that has remained opened the longest on Bryn Mawr. I don’t know exactly what year it opened, but it was open in 1947. The second longest running business on Bryn Mawr that is still operating in its original location is Davis Imperial Cleaners, at 3325 Bryn Mawr.
You tell me: what is about the dry cleaning business? Why are three dry cleaning businesses that started on Bryn Mawr in Hollywood Park more than 50 years ago the last ones standing?
2. The owner of Cooper & Cooper, the famed hamburger joint on Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park, doubled his meat order every Yom Kippur. Usually he ordered 25 lbs of ground beef daily. On Yom Kippur, he asked for 50 lbs. This is no urban legend, but a fact; I got it from the butcher’s son.
3. Mrs. Wright was a teacher at Peterson School in the 1950s. She told her students that her husband invented the dial telephone.
4. There was a time you could get fresh bagels and lox on Bryn Mawr. There was an indoor miniature golf range in a Bryn Mawr store front. There was a place called The Egg Store on Bryn Mawr, where they sold nothing but fresh eggs.
5. Bob, the barber who worked at Irv’s Barber Shop told one of his young customers that he learned how to cut hair in prison. The barber who cut hair at the shop kiddy corner from Irv’s, next to C.V.’s Snack Shop, was a Holocaust survivor who had a number tattooed on his forearm.
6. The owner of the house at 5531 N. Spaulding sold the place to a family in 1976. She left all the furniture in the basement, telling the buyers she couldn’t go down there because it was haunted. They are also rumors in the neighborhood of a body buried in Hollywood Park. I never heard that when I was growing up but I know a few people who might like Hollywood Park to be their final resting place. Other supposedly haunted places in Hollywood Park: the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium and the Parental School. Might as well throw in the Skokie Channel by Kedzie and the cemeteries on Pulaski and declare the whole area a hot spot of paranormal activity.
7. Pheasant also haunted the grounds of the TB Sanitarium. Some folks remember people jumping the fence to hunt them. Now the grounds are overrun by deer, but no one is hunting.
8. There’s more than one of us remembering Hollywood Park and Von Steuben in their glory days. Check out these memories .
9. The mystery of the cement block at Hollywood Park is more or less solved as far as I’m concerned. There’s an identical one at River Park, though it’s been painted green. That cement block is identified as belonging to the Chicago Water Dept. Oh, well; so it’s not where the alleged body was buried.
10. Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal once owned a hot dog stand near Lawrence and Kedzie in Albany Park. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, see Casino. Robert DeNiro plays Rosenthal. When he was in the hot dog business, Rosenthal let the neighborhood boys hang out at the stand and they remember him as being a brilliant guy, “a genius with numbers.”
Among several places in Albany Park and Hollywood Park where bets might be placed were Terry’s Smoke Shop, the Leland Pool Room, Nick the Greek’s newsstand, and a location above a Bryn Mawr storefront, address to be confirmed. I’ve been told Albany Park in the ’40s and ’50s was a place where people bet on anything and everything, even what color gumball would come out of the machine next.
11. The country’s largest WWII Victory Garden was located on the grounds of the Parental School at Foster and St. Louis. 800 families farmed that potato patch. Another Victory Garden was located where the River Park pool is now. Someone drowned on the day they first opened the River Park pool.
12. The last thing I learned this year is that this blog has given me the great gift of connecting with so many interesting, warm and fun people from my old neighborhood, many of whom lived there decades before I did. Thanks to all for your comments and emails — keep ’em coming.
Photo credit: Davis Imperials Cleaners photo from http://davisimperialcleaners.com/about/history