April 27, 2012

Clarendon Park Field House

Bill Matteson
Uptown  Chicago History Correspondent 

As I look back, it was a long walk from Lawrence and Kenmore to The Clarendon Park Field House, and we thought nothing of walking that distance in the middle of winter with ice skates tied together by the laces and flung over the shoulders.

About six blocks there, then skate for a few hours, six blocks home. I don't ever remember getting cold. Now if it's under 70 degrees I wear a sweater.

As soon as it got cold in the late fall, we would speculate as to when "they" would freeze Clarendon. I always thought they had some kind of machine that put ice down until I watched a city worker use a big fire hose. He was covered in ice when he was finished; we all cheered him

It usually took a few days of applications before we had a good skating surface. There were always big shovels with two handles in case it snowed, then we volunteered to shovel the ice.

We would go in upstairs then down to ground level, put on our ice skates, and leave our shoes under the bench. No one would ever steal them. After skating a while it was a treat to come back in the warm basement and have Hot Chocolate from the concession stand, listen to the juke box at 5 cents a tune or 6 for a quarter, or play ping pong. We could get the paddles and balls from the counter. Everything was free in those days. 

Before it became the Clarendon Park Field House, it was known as the Clarendon Park Beach  House because at one time the beach was right on the east side of it. Then progress and landfill pushed the lake even farther east to its present location. In and about the 1949/50 time bracket, someone decided to open a teen center in the building just south of the field house. We went there a few times, but our group didn't like it because there was too much supervision.

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