On a recent bus tour of the old Jewish neighborhoods of Chicago, I was lucky to be sitting behind two brothers who grew up on the West Side. One of the brothers said he was 90 years old; I didn’t ask if he was the older or the younger one. Their running commentary–which included the words I used to title this blogpost– gave those of us who could overhear them a wonderful sense of the liveliness of the Lawndale neighborhood back when it was a large Jewish community.
The Chicago Jewish Historical Society offered the tour and author Irving Cutler was the official guide. Like the two brothers seated in front of me, Mr. Cutler provided first-hand recollections of growing up in Lawndale. He also shared the mic with others on board who recalled the penny candy stores, movie theaters, delis and, of course, hot dog stands.
When I started writing about Chicago in this blog, I had no plans to narrow my focus to Hollywood Park, the North Side neighborhood where I grew up. But I quickly realized to make sense of how I experience Chicago, I had to understand my neighborhood.
And although I’ve been uncovering fascinating stories about Hollywood Park for going on four years now, one of the first things I learned was that to understand the Hollywood Park of my childhood, I had to learn about the West Side of an earlier generation. Because before there was the Fluky’s hot dog stand on Western Avenue not far from Hollywood Park on the North Side, there was the Fluky’s hot dog stand somewhere in Lawndale on the West Side.
I have more photos and more to say about my experiences on the West Side, but I’ll be spreading them over several posts.