A few things

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.


Photo from the Davis Imperial Cleaners website

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.


Near the main entrance guardhouses at the former Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium.

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 .


The key to the mystery of the cement block at Hollywood Park: the cement block at River Park.

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 


26 Responses to A few things

  1. Jerry Pritikin December 31, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    I remember In the 40s and 50s, many barber shops were bookies.The Sun-shine Cleaners on Lawrence between Troy and Kedzie you could get sameday service for 25 cents extra. The Terminal Inn Chinese Restaurant on the 2nd floor at Lawrence and Christiana. Happy New year everyone…

  2. Frances Archer December 31, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    Jerry, I figured you’d come through with a few more names for the list of bookies. Happy New Year and thanks for all your terrific contributions to the blog. Hope to see you in the new year.

  3. Dave Gudewicz December 31, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    Another great article Fran. Thank you.

  4. Frances Archer December 31, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Dave, good to hear from you. Thanks and happy new year.

  5. Richard Alcalde January 2, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    I lived at 5531 N Spaulding from 1976-1986. In fact I frequent the old “hood” often. I have wonderful memories of growing up there and reliving old memories as well as old friends long gone. The house I grew up at 5531 N. Spaulding caught fire a year ago. The garage my dad used to spend all his time in has been torn down. The inside of the house was gutted with only the original bricks and beams being exposed. It now has a new garage, the tree I used to play on when I was kid has been torn down and the entrance to the basement from behind the house has been filled in with landfill. Makes you wonder what other secrets are covered by that house. The basement was creepy and you had the feeling something bad or evil had happened there once and could happen there again. I never saw anything but my friends never wanted to play down there since it “just didnt feel right,” Anyways I love your articles and your posts. I wish I could find out who the original owners were of 5531 N Spaulding and the history of the house. I also wish I could see pictures of Peterson School from the 20-30’s. If you could assist in that I would be grateful. Please contact me should you have any questions about anything on Bryn Mawr/Spaulding.

    Richard Alcalde

  6. Frances Archer January 2, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    Good to hear from you and thanks for providing one of the things I learned this year. I have a couple old exterior photos of Peterson, but guess what? It looked exactly the same as it did in my day. In the mid-70s the school did replace the old wood desks, but those were still around in my day. I’ll have to check out 5531.

  7. Richard Alclade January 4, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    Good to hear from you Francis (a fellow Cubana). It would be interesting to see the pictures from the 70’s of Peterson School. I attended there from 76-84. When I got there the old wood desks were already gone. They had just painted the halls this battleship gray that was aweful. I can still smell the paint if I think about it. The house is unimposing when you see it but the basement had an amytiville horror feel to it. And speaking of Hollywood park I remember being a little kid standing by that concrete block and wondering what the heck that was. I look forward to reading more stories here from everyone. I frequent Peterson Park often and am still amazed that was once a TB sanitarium. Chicago is so rich in history that it will sweep you off your feet…………………..even when the wind is still!

    God Bless

  8. Frances Archer January 4, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    It’s a shame they painted the halls. Now their bright yellow, which isn’t easy on the eyes. The original colors were earth tones and rather soothing. The lighting was all different too. I guess there were gas lamps when it first opened. But all in all, the school hasn’t changed that much.

    Did your family ever go to Cuban restaurants. We did, especially Liborio on Irving Park, but also La Lechonera on Broadway. Great places with great food.

  9. Richard Alcalde January 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    My cousin used to own Rancho Luna right by Hollywood Park off of Kimball. Today it is a KFC. I never attended the other Cuban retaurants. Hopefully they are still around as I would love to go there. I am dying to see what Peterson School was like in the 20-30’s. What an era. The roaring 20’s; Prohibition. The cars, the music. I wish I could go back in time to experience it. That era had a sense of elegance and a dawn of what was to come. Gas lamps in Hollywood NorthPark. That must have been a sight!

  10. Frances Archer January 6, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    Oh, Richard. What a small world. Your cousin may remember my father, Dr. Domingo O’Cherony. He hung out there A LOT. I ate at the restaurant a few times, but more often we ordered carry out dinners for the whole family gathering.

  11. john erickson January 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    I well remamber gas lamps along the streets in the neighborhood in the 30s with a man coming by at dusk to turn up the light. It didn’t seem anything unusual at the time. I also recall Spaulding Av. being torn up and repaved by the WPA – and our concrete paved alley while a block away they were gravel. (Chicago politics?) Harry Wickstrom’s dad was caretaker of the apartment-retail block on Bryn Mawr between Sawyer and Spaulding just across the alley from 5531 in the 30s. That must have been before the haunted house idea.

  12. Frances Archer January 8, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    Happy New Year, John. In an earlier comment someone mentioned that Central Park was the last street to change from gas street lamps. Interesting about the alleys and I’m sure politics must have played a role. I recall the precinct captain paying regular visits prior to elections. And I also recall when I was growing up, Central Park had no curbs, from Peterson to St. Louis. My mother didn’t like that. When it rained hard, the water flooded up into the parkway grass. Good to hear from you.

  13. Richard Alcalde January 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Wow that was a great commentary John. Do you have any pictures of the old hood back in the 30’s? So when spaulding ave street was torn up what was it before? Was it those brick layers that they used to use as streets? Does anyone know if Bryn Mawr had a trolley system back then? And when did they build that bridge on Bryn Mawr to cross over the river by legion park? It terms of haunted stories. There is a Redbricked apartment building just before the corner of Bryn Mawr and Spaulding. So if you are going down Spaulding towards Bryn Mawr you will see my old house on the right hand side; red brick house (something about those red bricks) at 5531 and the towards Bryn Mawr right across the alley on right hand side is the red bricked apartment building. In one of the apartments there was a murder in the 20’s I new the people renting it when I was a kid and the landlord had the news paper articles to prove it. Ironically in the apartment above it in 1981 there was another murder. That one I remember all the cops being there and the whole deal. Anyways the apartment that murder took place was re-rented every year like clockwork. Landlord used to tell us that weird things happened in that apartment and no one wanted to stay. Dont know if any of that stuff is real but makes a fun story.

  14. john erickson January 10, 2012 at 6:21 am #

    The WPA tore up an asphalt street and replaced it with asphalt. If there ever was a Bryn Mawr trolley it was gone by 1930.

  15. john erickson January 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    Richard, it occurs to me you might be thinking of what we called the “Feeder Bus” – a trolley bus which ran on Kimball from Peterson to Lawrence to connect to the Ravenswood el. It was discontinued when WWII forced us to take the Kedzie street car to the el station. After the war the Kimball buses ran from Peterson to Logan Square

  16. Len January 16, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    In the 60’s Kimball Barbershop was on the north side of Bryn Mawr just east of Kimball. The owner Norman, was a survivor. Not sure if that is the same shop/barber you reference.

  17. Frances Archer January 16, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    That was the one, and I didn’t know the name, of the shop or the owner. thanks for providing the information … I’ll add it to the list of Bryn Mawr businesses.

  18. Len January 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    If you undertake the Lawrence avenue businesses in Bryn Mawr type detail, I can help especially on the west end in the late 50’s. I will watch the blog.

  19. Frances Archer January 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    This will be a team effort. I’m going to send out my list of Lawrence Ave. business to you by the end of the week. There are a few other Albany Park regulars who will also receive a copy of the list, and together we should be able to recreate the Mecca of Albany Park, Lawrence Ave.

  20. Donny February 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Wow! My dad used to take me with him when I was 8 years old to Terry’s Smoke Shop. They didn’t like it, but my dad had pull :)) All the action was in the back room complete with cigar smoke and tall tales. Everybody was “on the take”. Afterwards, we went to S&L for food.

    I used to take my bike ride home from River Park along the Chicago River up past Foster, Bryn Mawr, and then to Petersen Park. It was quite magical especially in the summer time. Cheers!

  21. Everett Melnick April 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    I remember walking to Hibbard school from where we lived on Whipple near Ainslie Street before we moved to Ravenswood Manor. Kedzie Ave. used to be cobblestone with streetcar tracks down the middle. It must have been the early 50’s when they broke up Kedzie Ave. and poured a new concrete road minus the tracks. I stood on the corner of Kedzie and Ainslie watching the workers mixing concrete until the crossing cop told me to hurry up or I would be tardy to school. The policeman knew our names since we passed him every morning and afternoon on our way home. The sidewalks were permanently stained from the wax from the sugar-water filled containers and wax lips sold at Millies on Kedzie. Those were good old days.

  22. Frances Archer April 6, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Interesting to know that Kedzie used to be cobblestone. I knew about the streetcar, and that the line ended at Bryn Mawr. I wonder if they left the cobblestones in place and poured the concrete on top. At North Park Village Nature Center, which is on the grounds of the old TB sanitarium, they built a fireplace out of large bricks they found under Peterson Avenue when the road was dug up to rebuild it. Candy stores were the bright spot of my day.

  23. jm April 20, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    Peterson School is continuing the great gardening tradition with the Jo Katter Children’s Garden! Check it out!


  24. Frances Archer April 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Thank you — I’m adding your link to the post.

  25. Dennis Cotter July 20, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    Totally enjoyed your effort at recalling memories from Albany Park. I lived near Berteau and Francisco attended Our Lady of Mercy grammar school 1944-1951. Today all the maps I can find indicate that I lived in the area called Irving Park but in my youth I never heard that reference, we always called our home ground which was basically Kedzie to the Chicago River and Irving Park to Wilson Ave – a part of Albany Park, of course some of that was also Ravenswood Manor. I later lived at the south west corner of Wilson and Kedzie over the tavern and in 1954 moved to 3016 Wilson in 1956 I moved to Mozart and Cullom leaving this neighborhood in late fall 1957.

    I belonged to a SAC called El-Nobile (The Nobelmen) which existed from about late 1951 to
    1954, in 1955 we called ourselves the Outlaws and our softball team played at Horner and Independence Parks, our Basketball team played at River Park and Independence Park.
    Does anyone remember Manny Schwartz who ran River Park, what a swell guy.

    I have a picture in my El-Nobile Jacket. Have plenty of other memories if your interested.

    In 1956, I joined the Sportsmen AC, a fairly well know softball team who played at Horner and Portage park plus in the Claraden (sp) Park league near the lake.,however no picture of their jackets

    Either way thanks for your historic effort.

  26. Frances Archer July 22, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    Hi, Dennis. Thanks for visiting and glad you’ve enjoyed browsing my blog. I hadn’t heard of your SAC, but of course the Outlaws name has history here. Many people remember Manny Schwart — I was hoping to do a story about him, but haven’t found a connection to someone who knew him really well.

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