May 13, 2011

My Neighborhood, Uptown Chicago

Bill Matteson
Uptown Chicago History Correspondent

Editor's Note: Bill lived on Kenmore from 1942 to 1952, and shares his memories of that time. If you have memories of Uptown or photos you'd like to share, e-mail us at editor @ compassrose.com.


MY NEIGHBORHOOD

I loved the area where I grew up. It wasn't fancy or upscale, but it was real, with real people. I loved swimming at the New Lawrence Hotel. For 30 cents we could swim all day, with unlimited hot water in the showers. I think that was the real treat.

Over at the Aragon, me and Jimmy Thomas would help sweep up the floor on Sunday morning, sometimes on Friday afternoon. I would come home and tell my mom that I met Eddie Howard. She had a crush on him, I think (I have a cassette of his in my car). Eddie would send me or Jimmy to Happy Jacks Deli on the S.E. corner of Lawrence and Sheridan. He liked their corn beef on rye.  I always thought it was disgusting, until I was about 25 yrs old and I tried one. Wow, all those wasted years.

On the north side of Lawrence just west of the El tracks was an old junk yard; this became our playground. Those old cars were our spacecraft ala Flash Gordon or a Pershing Tank or whatever we wanted it to be

At the S.W. corner of Kenmore and Lawrence was the Viceroy Hotel, later to become the Wilton. West at the corner of the alley and Lawrence was the Ritz Grill. The Ritz made hamburgers, fries, and chili. I have never found their equal; I have searched and came close a few times, but never the same.

West of Winthrop was a barber shop with a watch repair guy in the front window and next to the tracks was Marquis Lunch , a cafeteria.

The Uptown Bank building was the tallest structure in the area at that time. Me and Norman Sobiesk would take the elevator to the top floor; he had a pair of binoculars and we would look out at the Lake.
Most of the time we would get caught by someone and kicked out.

Just west of the El was Clifton Ave; this was a scary street in the dark, but we would walk it at night just to prove how brave we were. The east side was railroad/El embankment and the west side was the backs of stores.

At Clifton and Broadway was the Undertakers and the Uptown Chicago Boys Club and a men's clothing store.  I bought my first pair of Levis, a Levi jacket, and a wide belt with a big trophy buckle--total price was about $12 /13.

The Levi's we wore had exposed copper rivets . Our principal from Stewart School, "Mary Sullivan," hollered at us because the rivets were scratching up the desks and chairs. We were all afraid of Mrs Sullivan; she would pound her fist on the desk, veins would pop out on her forehead; she'd get beet red in the face when she hollered at us.

Then Levi's came out with covered rivets. Evidently, Levi's was afraid of Mary Sullivan, too.

On Broadway we had shoe stores. Father and Son, Thom McCann, Red Goose, Flagg Bros. They would even x-ray our feet in the shoes to see if they fit right, and we could get a free gift, usually a model airplane.

I liked the pawn shops; they all had neat stuff.

At Broadway and Leland was the Majestic store for men. There was a shop on Broadway under the El tracks, The Hasty Tasty Barbecue. They would have ribs, chicken, and beef on a rotisserie. I can't forget "Val o Wil" chicken, a poultry shop; their motto was "milk fed chicken."

Leland and Broadway had Kresge 5 & 10. Towards Wilson Ave was Woolworth's 5 &10. I liked Woolworth's because I could enter on Broadway and go out the "secret door" onto Winthrop Ave.

On Leland just east of Kenmore at the alley was a men's store; I bought my first One Button Roll Suit. It cost $16 and it was powder blue.

The N.E. corner was Barneys Tavern; the N.W corner was Leibermans Drug Store

Bill Matteson
4737 Kenmore
1942-1952

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good Article, I grew up on Kenmore in the 4800 block. From 1955 to 1965, Moved to Malden in the 4700 Block. I remeber alot of the places you talked about. I bought alot of clothes at Majectics. I worked for a while at the Ace Hardware on Broadway and Clifton. I will never forgot the Uptown Area, alot of good time . Thanks for the memories.

Anonymous said...

Bill,
Did you happen to see the movie Dilemma? It was shot in Chicago and you wouldn't believe a scene that was shot by the El tracks somewhere in the city was the store "The Majestic Store for Men." I had just read your article yesterday and watched the movie last night. I couldn't believe me eyes. I don't know if the Majestic is still in busiess or if the movie company made the scene realistic.
Pretty cool.
I had written about the Ritz as well. I remember the white building trimmed in red and the best greasy fries ever. A whole bag for a quarter. I would get them after visiting my grandma at 4838 Kenmore and would eat them on the El ride home.
Great article. I had it in my mind that the head Sister at St. Thomas of Canterbury was Sister Mary Sullivan. I went to Graeme Stewart School 1st through part of 3rd and I find it hard to believe I would remember the principle's name from Graeme Stewart but I don't doubt that you are right.
Cheryl Peck Deters

Anonymous said...

Bill, I currently live in 4737 and would like to exchange any old images you may have of the building or block during that time.

Tonia said...

The Woolworth's is now Family Dollar and there's still a "secret exit" -- right acorss the street from my house!

meg said...

So interesting, thank you for sharing!

fishing adventures said...

bill thanks for answering back about the movie theaters trust me on this the vogue was on broadway between grace and sheridan west side of the street how do i know because i lived on grace and was there all the time the little theater east of broadway on sheridan south side of the street was called the essex thanks for the acknowledgement marilynne

bill Matteson said...

Fishing adventures, I bow to your memory, my wife agrees with you
and I hope that, if any readers has any other memories,or corrections please let us know, We want to be as accurate as possible.

ANNONYMOUS at 4737 Kenmore

please write me wgmatteson1@att.net

or any reader with questions

Valerie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Valerie said...

What a great description! I live in Uptown now (near Wilson/Magnolia), and back in the late 1940's/early 1950's, my parents lived at 4640 N Kenmore.
Here's a picture of the building today:
http://www.trulia.com/property/photos/3006951155-4640-N-Kenmore-Ave-1S-Chicago-IL-60640#item-0

Your post helped me "see" what the neighborhood looked like back then. Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

Great stuff! I lived at 4401 Beacon St. from 1963-1973..Remember going to many of the places along Broadway..Woolworth's which had a lunch counter..Walgreens...Goldblatts..as well as Bissets and National food store on Sheridan Rd...My Father banked at Uptown Federal Savings bank...I remember going to the Wilson Ave fire station where they had a swimming pool in the back...our Doctor Walter Karsten was in the McJunkin building on Broadway...I still remember that old elevator and hearing the El train rumbling by behind the building..The neighborhood has changed but the memories are lasting!

Anonymous said...

What fun to go back in time with all of you who lived in the wonderful Uptown area. We lived on Sunnyside right across from the Clarendon Beach House where we skated all winter and used the playgrounds all summer. We were just a few blocks from Stewart School ann the West and the Montrose harbor and beach on the East. You remember more than I do about the stores and places to eat. (I know we didn't eat EVERY meal at home). I only remember Goldblatt's, the small dress shops and shoe stores. I remember the principal as MISS Sullivan. Right - she was a terror. I remember Mrs. Paulson but can't come up with the name of the male teacher who taught 7th and 8th in the early 50's. I remember trading cards, and relieveo (sp?) on the girl's side at recess. A few years ago I learned that Buena Memorial Presbyterian Church was torn down because it lacked a parking lot. Pity - it was beautiful inside and out. Thanks for all the memories, it was a unique and wonderful area.

bill Matteson said...

who are you and what years did you go to Stewart write me at wgmatteson1@att.net

415ino said...

Great article. I lived on Gunnison St from 1954-1970.
Your accounts brought back many fond memories. Thanks.

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