Born into a large Jewish Albany Park family at the height of the Depression, Myles “Mickey” Golde knows a thing or two about the neighborhood. He knows the places where children played their games, where teens hung out, where sports teams competed, where bets were made, and where people went to eat, work and pray.
Like a lot of families during the Depression, the Goldes moved to a different apartment every time they couldn’t pay the rent and were evicted. Between the moves and school boundary changes over the years, the five Golde children ended up attending different grade schools. Some went to Volta, some to Hibbard or Peterson, but between 1943 and 1950 five Golde kids graduated from Von Steuben High School. They all loved it.
The late 1940s were a legendary time at both Von Steuben and in Albany Park. After the war, life became more vibrant. People were making some money, going out and having fun. Oh, and there were a lot of kids around.
“Albany Park was a fabulous community in the forties,” recalls Golde. “It was full of colorful, interesting people. There were smart people, hustlers–all kinds. At the time I was growing up, Albany Park was 90 percent Jewish. It felt like a big club. We all knew each other or you knew someone they knew. ”
From Lawrence to Peterson Avenue, Albany Park to Peterson Park, all the public grade schools fed into Von Steuben. The kids had so many places to hang out. Besides parks and Jewish community center, there was Rudisch’s, Purity, Cooper & Cooper, Glick’s drug store, and Lou’s pool hall, to name a few. On weekend nights there were hundreds of kids at these places.
Golde has taken all these rich memories, mixed in some history and imagination, and written a colorful novel. Simply titled Albany Park, it’s a work of fiction but you’ll swear you know these people and their lives. The story follows two Von Steuben freshmen who are in and out of love with each other for fifty years. Although the characters leave Albany Park and venture into the world, Albany Park never leaves them.
If you enjoy reading about old school ethnic Chicago, you’ll enjoy this light journey back in time to the latter half of the 20th century. You’ll especially enjoy this book if you remember Albany Park in its glory days, or if like me, you wonder what you missed. While I recognize most places named in this book, they just weren’t the same by the late sixties and early seventies. I’m glad I finally had the chance to experience them in Golde’s novel.