February 7, 2012

The Viceroy Hotel at Lawrence and Kenmore and Duke the German Shepherd, Uptown Chicago

Bill Matteson
Uptown Chicago History Correspondent

The Viceroy Hotel on the S.W corner of Kenmore and Lawrence changed it's name to the Wilton and then to the Lorali. The Viceroy was a swank place, but not as a swanky as the New Lawrence Hotel.
On the Lawrence Ave. side of the Viceroy was a restaurant that featured Friday night fish fries. It was a treat to eat there.

A World War 2 Vet lived in the Viceroy with his German Shepard "Duke," and the neighborhood story was  Duke was in the German Army and was saved by the WW2 Vet, or he saved the vet, it was never clear as to who saved whom, but to us kids, it was the stuff movies were made of.

In those days guys hung out on corners or in front of the Viceroy Door. Just to the south of the Viceroy was an empty lot, and a lot of guys would stand around there swapping war stories, smoking cigarettes, and drinking wine with the bottles in paper bags. I never could figure out why they went through all that trouble to disguise the wine. Everyone knew what was in the bag. You could always tell the wine connoisseurs in the neighborhood, they used clean bags.

Duke and his owner were always there. Myself and all the neighborhood kids liked Duke. We would walk by and pet him or at least say hi when we walked by.

One day Duke and his owner were outside when some idiot drunk walked by and threatened Duke's owner. The Owner said something in German to Duke. Duke's facial features changed to wolflike characteristics, fangs were bared, and the meanest low growl came out from the inside of Duke.
We all stood there in amazement, the drunk took off very quickly; I think he had a very sobering moment.
Duke got a pat on the head, and was back to being Duke.

That's all anyone ever knew of Duke and his owner. But we always felt there was a fantastic story about them finding each other.

The empty lot was our domain. Baseball, football, ring a leave o, catch one catch all, kick the can, draw around circle and hide and seek. I don't think kids know what games those are today; we had no cell phones even a phone in the house was rare, so if you wanted to talk to a friend, you walked to see them, usually into the back yard, and then it was "yoohooooooo Johnny oollie ollie oceans freeee."

One day, we found some refrigerator packing cases in the alley and they were made out of sturdy plywood. So with a few more pieces of scrap lumber and some Kenmore Avenue ingenuity, we built a club house. Well that only lasted until the older boys in the neighborhood took it over for drinking and shooting craps. One night it burned down. I figured some neighbors did it to get rid of problems it caused. Maybe it was the first Uptown Urban renewal project.

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