A heart as big as Albany Park

Manny Weincord

Manny Weincord

Ever since I first heard about former Roosevelt High School basketball coach Manny Weincord, I’ve wanted to meet him. He’s known by everyone I’ve ever talked to about Albany Park way back when. Coach Manny not only grew up in Albany Park, he worked there as an adult. Who better to tell me how things used to be?

First we talk about how it is going into his 49th year of coaching. Actually, he retired 9 years ago but for Manny, life after retirement isn’t much different from life before retirement. This season he is working as assistant basketball coach at Northside Prep.

“Hey, you’re back in the old neighborhood,” I say. “Yes,” Manny replies, “right where Lerner’s was.”

This is what is so remarkable about writing about where I grew up. It takes two minutes for us, despite being years apart in age and just meeting for the first time, to discover we share a memory of a long-gone hot dog stand.

Growing up in Albany Park

Manny’s family lived at several Albany Park addresses, but the address he remembers exactly is the one where his grandparents lived: 4708 N. Central Park Avenue. They were 16 people in a three-bedroom apartment. Twenty-two relatives living within a block and half of their home.

His grandmother spoke—more accurately, screamed—all day long in Yiddish. (Maybe it was the 16 people in one apartment?) During her tirades, Manny’s grandfather, an ex-prizefighter with extraordinary patience, kept quiet and winked at Manny. Only once did his grandfather lose his temper, and that time his fist left a gaping hole in the kitchen wall.

Manny attended nearly all the Albany Park schools: kindergarten at Hibbard; 7th and 8th grades at Haugen and high school at Roosevelt. He played sports at the Albany Park Boys Club and Max Strauss JCC, where he moved through various jobs and eventually became athletic director. He was leader of his club, the Condors, and sponsor for the Torpedoes.

Manny, called Mendel at Hebrew school, had his Bar Mitzvah at the Drake Avenue Shul. He remembers seeing movies at the Alba, Terminal, Admiral, Drake, Rivoli and Commodore and playing sports at Jensen Park. The hot dog stands, soda fountains,  delicatessens of his day were the Purity (“50¢ corned beef!”), the Bagel, the Terminal Grill (“15 stools, no booths”), Maury’s (“a philosopher and an inspiration”), Lerner’s, Rudisches, Cooper & Cooper, Glick’s, Al’s Hot Dogs and Korb’s Delicatessen. The drug stores, bakeries, butchers and grocers were Lesser Drugs, M&B, Karl’s, Fine’s, Becker’s, and Kuznitsky’s. And the people, well, too many to name here.

From his freshman year, 1946, Manny played sports at Roosevelt. At that time, the school fielded a basketball team in the lightweight division for boys 5’7” and under. The team had strong players and they often beat the school’s varsity team in scrimmages. The boys were short but  fast and agile. Manny was so fast he placed second in the city in the 100-yard dash.

Back in those days, 700 to 800 spectators filled the stands for Roosevelt basketball games. Manny compares the turnout to his later years coaching at Roosevelt, when often there were more players on the floor than spectators in the stands.

Coach Manny at Roosevelt

Talking about the empty stands reminded me of a basketball game when I was at Von. It was  1971 or ’72, Von playing at Roosevelt, when was called a riot broke out. As a result, when the two teams met again, no spectators were allowed in the gym.

“The whole thing was planned in advance,” Manny tells me. “Kids–who knows if they were students–came up on the El specifically to start something. They rushed the floor, were throwing things. People got hurt, I was hit in the head. If I had known ahead of time they were going to disrupt the game, I would have cancelled it.”

Talking to Manny, I get the feeling he knows everyone and everything about Albany Park. All the stories I’ve heard, all the wonderful characters my readers have shared with me, Manny knows. As we end the conversation, I casually mention that the only time I was at Roosevelt was for driver’s ed, 1972. Manny tells me he taught driver’s ed back then.

“Wait a minute,” I say. I can’t for the life of me picture the face of the man who sat next to me in the front seat as I learned to drive west on Lawrence to Pulaski to Elston to Montrose. “Were you my driver’s ed instructor?” I ask Manny.

“Who knows?” he says. “I taught a lot of kids.”

Two hours isn’t long enough to hear about all Manny has done in his life and continues to do.

“What’s your secret?” I ask.

“Happiness,” Manny replies, “comes from making others happy.”

 

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47 Responses to A heart as big as Albany Park

  1. Dennis Briskin November 12, 2013 at 12:26 am #

    Well written and recalled, as usual, Frances. Bravo!

  2. Debbie B November 12, 2013 at 4:00 am #

    What a beautiful story, thank you Frances!

  3. Arnie Solars November 12, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    Manny was my camp counselor while I was in young.He came to RHS in my senior year.The greatest person always smiling and happy.

  4. Frances Archer November 12, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Thanks, Dennis. Nice to hear from you. I am feel pretty lucky I got to meet Manny. He is an inspiration.

  5. Frances Archer November 12, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Hi, Debbie. Thanks for comment and stopping by.

  6. Frances Archer November 12, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Hi, Arnie. I totally agree with you!

  7. Paul November 12, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    What ever happened to Mr Edelcup the basketball coach 1956-?

  8. Everett Melnick November 12, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    What a trip down memory lane! I too attended Hibbard, but graduated 8th grade while Manny was teaching at Rosevelt. I went to Roosevelt for 2 yrs. but not high school. Hibbard was over crowded in 1954-56 so many of us were sent over to Rosevelt for 6th and/or 7th grade. I rode the EL train every morning, getting on at Francisco and off at Kimball, the end of the line. If the weather was real nice, I would save the fare and walk home to our house in Ravenswood Manor, down Lawrence Ave. to Manor Ave., then south on Manor to Giddings St. Our house was on the corner of Giddings & Manor. My two cousins lived on Kewanee Ave. west of Pulaski and south of Lawrence, and they went to Haugen. My grandfather was a Sexton at the Drake Ave. Shul. When I first started to drive, my mother would let me take our ’54 Buick to pick Pa up at the Kewanee Ave. address and take him to shul, to the doctor or to Walgreens to get his monthly supply of vodka which was always on sale.

    During the summer, Roosevelt ran a summer swimming/ life saving class sponsored by the Red Cross. After graduating from Hibbard in ’57, while all of my classmates went to RHS, I went to Lane Tech. Other than memories, I never really reconnected with Albany Park. Reading the familiar names and places makes me happy yet sad that I lost touch with those dear friends from was arguably the best 14 yrs. of my life.

  9. Frances Archer November 12, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

    Funny you should ask! Manny mentioned his friend Mr. Edelcup. Mr. Edelcup’s wife was the P.E. teacher at Solomon — in Peterson Park.

  10. Dennis Briskin November 12, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    Her first name was Gertrude. Quite memorable woman.

  11. Dennis Briskin November 12, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    I recall her teaching group dance at an after school program called Lighted Schoolhouse.

  12. Frances Archer November 13, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Dennis, we had lighted too at Peterson. One of the best programs ever! Our P.E. teacher, Mr. Kaz, was also one of the people who ran our Lighted. The best part was that in 7th and 8th grades it was on Friday night. Not so good of course for the observant Jews who attended Peterson, but for the rest of us it was a place to go before going to the park.

  13. Merle Monroe November 13, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    I took those summer swim classes at Roosevelt. Also learned the word Natatorium….it was carved into the stone above the pool entrance! As always, thanks for the memories, Frances.

  14. Jan Kodner November 13, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    “and a heel and a toe, and a heel and a toe, and slide, slide, slide”……anyone who attended Solomon has fond memories of Mrs. Edelcup and her dancing class…..I was also at the riot game at Roosevelt—I remember rumors that a fight was brewing. My friends and I stayed in the balcony where it was nice and safe. Great article, as always, Frances.

  15. Dennis Briskin November 13, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    Does anyone else remember she wore a culotte, at least when she taught dance?

  16. Frances Archer November 13, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    Hi, Merle. I didn’t know about those swim classes. Maybe they were discontinued. Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Frances Archer November 13, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    Thanks, Jan. One of things Manny and I discussed was how good most P.E. teachers were back in our day. Mr. Kaz at Peterson would be outstanding by today’s standards of fitness training. I didn’t know all the PE teachers at Von, but the ones I had were really good too.

  18. Alan November 14, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Excellent article…everything in the article is true,..From his days as a councilor at The Max Strauss Center to a coach and at Roosevelt..As a young kid I was in awe in his athletic prowess…and he would always take time to talk .

  19. Frances Archer November 14, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    Thanks, Alan, for stopping by. So nice to hear from those who know Manny. He is one of the great talkers!

  20. Mark Jass November 15, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    I remember Manny from his days at Max Strass Center all the way through high school at Roosevelt. He was the best friend a teenager could have. Always a smile on his face and a hand out to help you if you needed it. He is a real inspiration to all who know him. God bless you Manny and thanks for the memories.

  21. Frances Archer November 15, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Hi, Mark. Thanks for stopping by. You speak for many of us who have been lucky to meet Manny. I include myself even though I met him a month ago, or perhaps 40 years ago if was indeed my drivers’ ed teacher.

  22. Manny Weincord November 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    IT was a pleasure meeting you.Your article was great. It was great knowing that an Old Timer may have some thing to offer. Most important i consider you a friend

  23. Frances Archer November 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    Thank you! I’m glad I’ve become one of the many who know you!

  24. Manny Weincord November 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    Frances My father was a conductor on the Ravens wood L train When the train would approach the Kimball and lawrence station he would sing s over the loud speaker i Yiddish. Passengers would enjoy his cheerful ness and his singing.

  25. Frances Archer November 21, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Manny — that is a wonderful memory to include here. I bet a lot of Chicago transportation history fans would also enjoy that detail about your father.

  26. Ben Molodow November 28, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

    This was a great story about Manny. I too attended and graduated from Roosevelt HS
    Class of 1964 50th coming up next year. Manny was a wonderful man.He has done alot for young kids, and should be a inspiration for all.

  27. Frances Archer November 29, 2013 at 12:22 am #

    Hi, Ben! Thanks for visiting. Enjoy your reunion.

  28. neal weintraub December 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    I saw Manny just a few weeks ago.
    Please do not forget the Roosevelt Reunion in July.
    Feel free to E mail me, if you need more information.
    yourfilled@yahoo.com

  29. Frances Archer December 29, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    Neal, thanks for stopping by and I apologize for the delay in posting your comment. The holidays got in the way. We’re happy to post details about the reunion here on the blog.

  30. Lynne Aronov Hydinger January 9, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    I do not remember Manny but do remember everything else he talks about. I took the train from Kedzie and Lawrence many times while I worked part time in High School. I worked at Continental Ill National Bank and trust. I lived on Christiana and Sunnyside for 19 years of my life. I went to Patrick Henry and then Roosevelt. How the years have flown. I was fortunate enough to see many people from high school at a reunion this past August 2013. Memory fails me about so many things but it is so wonderful to hear about the old neighborhood.
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I live in Colorado but went back to Chicago for 5 years.
    Sincerely, Lynne Aronov Hydinger

  31. Frances Archer January 9, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    Lynn, thank you for visiting my blog and I’m glad you enjoyed reading the stories.

  32. Shawn Mac Lean January 27, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. He is a wonderful person. Had a positive impact on my life.

  33. Frances Archer January 28, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by Shawn. I’m sure Manyy enjoys hearing from old friends.

  34. Alan Hoffman February 1, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    Art:
    Thanks so much for all you are doing..
    Manny looks great.

    Al Hoffman (Torpedoe’s) class 0f 1958

  35. Alan Hoffman February 1, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    Art:
    Thanks for all you are doing..It is most excellent.
    Manny looks great.

    Al Hoffman (Torpedo’s) Class of’58

  36. Frances Archer February 3, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    Al, thanks for stopping by. Love hearing from readers.

  37. neal weintraub February 16, 2014 at 4:17 am #

    My first club jacket cost $14.00 bucks.
    And I recall my parents not having the money nor did I.
    So I had to work and wait another week.
    Now if you are lucky if you can park downtown for $14.00 bucks.

  38. Frances Archer February 18, 2014 at 3:59 am #

    Neal, it’s amazing how cheap things used to be, but how expensive they seemed at the time. We were happy with a lot less stuff.

  39. Howard (Bart Meyers) March 19, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Hi Lynn,
    I live in S.Florida and have 3 children. I hope all is well with you. Look forward to hearing from you.
    Take care

  40. Les Gorelic March 23, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

    Just to add a few things to what Manny remembered…which was really good given how many
    years he is going back. First, the “other” drug store was Lessa’s, not Lessers. The kosher butcher shop was Spatz, with all of the sawdust on the floor. There was a fish store owned by the Warshawky family on Lawrence west of Central Park and on the other side of the street from Rudiches, where my mouth used to drop open every time Sam the fishman would pull out his sharp- toothed scaling tool and scale the fish…I always expected to see half of his hand in the refuse along with the scales. And of course, one could never forget the stench that came out of the live chicken store on Lawrence east of Central Park…

    I used to live at 4643 N. Central Park in the Shirley Arms, apparently just a few houses down from Manny.

  41. Robert Kaprelian April 5, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

    The expression, “He is a legend in his own time,” scores a three-pointer when describing Manny. A gentleman and an excellent educator.

  42. Frances Archer April 12, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    Robert, that was my fault. The first time you post on this blog, I have to approve. After that, your posts will automatically show up. Unfortunately, I was out of town and didn’t check for a few days when you posted. I appreciate your visit and your comment and hope you return with more to share.

  43. Art Hoffman May 3, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    Had fun reading this today (when I was able to tear myself away from the Kentucky Derby which is going on today here in Louisville). Have seen Manny from time to time at different RHS reunion events and was privileged to include him in some of the videos I have recorded from those evenings. It occurred to me that to add to the nostalgia outlined in Frances’ wonderful blog here, some folks might like to actually see Manny in action – here he is doing what he does best: talking about Roosevelt athletics. You can see he is still the same warm and humble man. Take a look. And check out any of the others on the playlist if you are so inclined. Some footage of the school and also the El in the background. (Sorry, nothing from Lawrence Avenue…) Looking forward to connecting with folks at our 50th reunion in July, I’ve heard that Manny will be attending.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvUDbrS_9qA&list=PL_dSV5aVKhHuzYWc0yrjbtuHGNbgTRcQR&index=10

  44. Art Hoffman May 3, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    Ooops.

    This is the individual video I meant to highlight in my previous post a minute ago – this should get you directly to the Manny speeches. Sorry.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvUDbrS_9qA&index=10&list=PL_dSV5aVKhHuzYWc0yrjbtuHGNbgTRcQR

  45. Art Hoffman May 3, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    Feeling very stupid – this should be the link with Manny – and if it is not, just go to the sports dinner from 2011 honoring athletes. Sorry for the confusion.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvUDbrS_9qA

  46. Frances Archer May 3, 2014 at 11:28 pm #

    Hi Art. Glad you tore yourself away from the race to leave your comment here. I feel the same way about Manny. I’ll look for the video.

  47. Art Hoffman May 6, 2014 at 7:25 am #

    Great – figured you found the right one by now and enjoyed seeing our Manny in action. Thanks for your original post which prompted me to re-visit his contributions to our Albany Park memories…

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