All the posts (and your great comments) on this blog connect in some way with where I am from and the experiences of others who also grew up in Hollywood Park and surrounding neighborhoods, but some posts have closer connections to Hollywood Park than others. This guest blogpost, written by Howard Korengold, really hits close to home.
Howard’s a fellow Peterson Elementary School and Von Steuben High School alum and also shares with me the good fortune of having lived on on Central Park Avenue across from the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium (now North Park Village). That’s him pictured in the photograph above, standing on Bryn Mawr with Central Park Avenue in the background, around 1940.
Howard and I lived two blocks apart–Howard at 5741 and me at 5915–though we were separated by a couple decades. From 1947 when Howard graduated from Peterson to 1970 when I graduated from Peterson, Central Park Avenue and the surrounding streets underwent a complete transformation.
As a kid walking back and forth between our house and Peterson Elementary School I took a little for granted Hollywood Park’s lovely tree-lined streets and charming Tudor Revival buildings. If I had tried to describe them, I would have simply said it was all–both the buildings and the neighborhood–very old. To me, modern meant Lincolnwood and Skokie.
If you showed up in the Hollywood Park neighborhood after the great post-war building boom, as my family did, you missed the wide-open prairie landscape of Central Park Avenue. And for whatever reason, it seems the post-war developers built apartment buildings and houses that looked exactly like those very first Hollywood Park structures that had gone up in the late 20s — bungalows and a mix of design elements borrowed from English Tudor and cottage styles. It wasn’t that the homes in my neighborhood were old, as I used to think; they just looked that way. In the mid-1940s, they were still using the architectural plans popular in the late-1920s.
My interview with Howard answered several questions I’ve had for some time now about how the area evolved, but I’ll write another post covering what we discussed. For now, I have reprinted the lively recollections he sent me. And by the way, this is Howard’s second appearance on the blog–he is pictured in the blogpost about Peterson Elementary School’s earliest social clubs, the Vulcans. Thank you, Howard, for sharing your stories about our neighborhood!
A GUEST BLOGPOST BY HOWARD KORENGOLD
If you go west on Bryn Mawr, to the second lot west of Drake Avenue, you will see a three-flat building. That is where my family lived from 1938 to 1941. I was five when we moved in and my sister Esther was born a few months later. On the north side of Bryn Mawr, ours was the only building. To the west there were vacant lots, which we called prairies, up to Central Park Avenue, which was gravel, not paved. Then the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium took up four block until Crawford (now Pulaski). The Sanitarium buildings occupied a small part of the site, which was fenced in on all sides and left in a wild state.
[Editor’s note: in the aerial photograph below, the building Howard lived in is visible above the letter “M” in Bryn Mawr. In 1939, when Howard lived there and this photgraph was taken, Howard’s building was the only structure on Bryn Mawr between Central Park and Bernard. Click on photo for an enlarged image.)
On the south side of Bryn Mawr there was, and is, the Bohemian National Cemetery. Giong east on Bryn Mawr there was 2-3 blocks of prairie before civilization. On the site of Northeastern Illinois University was the Chicago Parental School, bordered by Bryn Mawr, St. Louis, Foster and the cembetery. The Parental School was occupied by kids who were either in trouble or had been abandoned. Every day staff would take large groups of boys for walks around the neighborhood. I remember them passing our building. On Saturdays, the kids were marched to the Terminal Theater on Lawrence Avenue to see the double feature. On the Bryn Mawr side of the school lot, there were corn fields. I don’t know if the kids farmed the fields or the land was rented out to farmers.
Yes, there were still farmers in Chicago and I remember other farm sites. We played in the prairies, the main crop of which was ragweed. Ragweed could easily be yanked out of the ground and stripped of its leaves. You then had a 2 to 3 foot long sword for good sword fights.
I started Peterson Elementary School in 1938. There were no buses and we walked in any weather. I remember we played pinners in the playground and line ball on Thorndale or Ardmore, where there were no houses.
We moved in 1941 and I transferred to Volta School in Albany Park. My father, Maurice Korengold, who everyone called Korny, enlisted in the Navy and we moved some more and I went to Gale and Stone schools. We moved around a lot and so did many families, especially during the Depression.
When my father got out of the Navy in November 1945, he went into the construction business and built our house at 5741 North Central Park Avenue. We moved into our new house in 1947 and I went back to Peterson School six weeks before graduation. I graduated with the some of the same kids I started kindergarten with. But the cornfields were no more. My father built several houses on Central Park using the same plans. If you see other houses like ours, my father probably built them.
In 1947, the cornfields on Bryn Mawr had been converted into a trailer camp. During the war, there was housing shortage and the trailers were occupied by war workers. After the war, the trailers were occupied by veterans and their families. The Parental School was still there.
Central Park Avenue from Peterson to Bryn Mawr was the last street in Chicago to have gaslights. I suppose there were plans to switch earlier, but then the war intervened. I remember the lamplighter coming every evening and morning. In 1948 or so, Central Park Avenue joined the 20th century.
In November 1950, at the end of the soccer season, the entire Von Steuben High School soccer team was drafted into the ROTC. Usually the school gave you a choice, gym or ROTC, but we didn’t get a choice. They must have been afraid North Korea would invade Hollywood Park and wanted us to prepare for the attack. I remember on a December afternoon we were given rifles with no bullets or bayonets and marched down Foster Avenue to the vacant lots on St. Louis. We were taught to assault a North Korean stronghold in the vacant lots. We were victorious, but I cut my knee on a rusty tin can. We marched back to school. I think they called my mother and I ended up getting stitches. The government still owes me a Purple Heart.
The phrase “go by Koepke” sticks in my mind. Bob Koepke lived on Central Park a few houses north of Peterson. That area was really barren in the late 40s. On a tree next to Bob’s house was a basketball backboard. It was a great place to play street basketball because of the paucity of traffic, I remember the thrill of seeing guys from all over Chicago and who were All City, playing there.
by Howard Korengold