What's Real Chicago to you?

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Tell me about a place in your neighborhood where folks can have an authentic Chicago experience — a special that captures your idea of the essence of our city.


I'll pull together the best of the bunch for a future neighborhoods spread on Real Chicago.

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10 Comments

Dear Mark,
I devoured your the-real-truth piece on that God-awful Roosevelt Square development.
The architects that designed this bland, cookie cutter place have no idea how to design a real neighborhood place. There is no heart & soul in Roosevelt Square.

My favorite real neighborhood place is Caputo's Market. This place is buzzing with good people vibes the minute you walk through the door. While it's origins are pure Italian, their second location on Harlem is a United Nations today. Food is always a big draw for bringing people together. Everyone is picking over the huge produce section. The butcher's line in non-stop and someone is always ready to help grind your favorite parmesan.

Developers aren't about building genuine community and our department of planning and development should be renamed the aldermanic-rubber-stamping department.
Thanks,
Katharine Boyda

Real Chicago

I was brought up in a slice of Real Chicgo for sure. My entry would be that section of Wells Street, that anchors at one end with the famed Wells-Grand Chicago Hotel, owned by Studs Terkel’s father, so lovingly described in Studs’ new memoir. The other end would at Wendell and Wells, a block north of Oak, where I spent my boyhood, from 1928 on through 1950. During that time, I attended James Sexton School, on Wendell and Wells, and since my sister Esther, a budding singer and actress was part of our family, and a good friend of Studs, it was not unusual to have him at our “house”, a flat above the Vail Laundry, that my Dad owned and which provided our total wherewithal during the Depression.

It was from that location that my sister preceded me in volunteering to serve in World War II. She wound up in North Africa, running a Red Cross canteen and radio show, and I made it to the beaches of Normandy. Studs, as he describes in his book, was blacklisted because of his connections with left wing groups, like the one my sister belonged to!!! That’s my slice of Chicago life!!!! BILL SHELDON

HEY MARK HOW ARE YOU?I REALLY ENJOY YOU COLUMNS. I WANT TO JOIN IN THE CONVERSATION ABOUT "REAL CHICAGO" THE WAY IT IS AND THE WAY IT WAS. I GREW UP ON THE WESTSIDE OF CHICAGO, AND HAVE LIVED ON THE SOUTHSIDE AS WELL AS THE SOUTH SUBURBS. BUT MY REAL REMEMBERANCE OF "REAL CHICAGO DATES BACK TO WHEN THERE WERE COBBLE STONED STREET IN THE LOOP, AND ALLTHE DIFFERENT MOVIE THEATERS WERE UP AND RUNNING. THE CHICAGO THEATER, STATE AND LAKE, ROOSEVELT, ALL LINED UP ON STATE STREET. THEN ON RANDOLPH, YOU HAD THE UNITED ARTIST, THE ORIENTAL, AND THE WOODS. ALL OF THESE MOVIES HOUSES AT ONE TIME SHOWED A FEATURE FILM, FOLLOWED BYA BIG STAGE SHOW. I'VE SEEN DUKE ELLINGTON, LOUIS ARMSTRONG, COUNT BASIE, TO MENTION A FEW. ALTHOUGH I WASN'T OLD ENOUGH TO REALLY APPRECIATE THEIR GENIUS AT THE TIME. "REAL CHICAGO TO ME IS THE WESTSIDE OF CHICAGO. I LIVED IN "K" TOWN, ON JACKSON AND PULASKI. I REMEMBER GOING TO THE MALBORO SHOW ON MADISON. SHOPPING ON MADISON STREET, WHEN YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO GO DOWNTOWN, BECAUSE YOU HAD PREMIUM STORES IN THE NIEGBORHOOD. ROOSEVELT ROAD HAD SO MANY UNIQUE PLACES,BARNEY'S RECORD STORE, SEVERAL MOVIES THEATERS, VARIOUS RESTRAURANTS AND HAMBURGER PALACES GALORE. ALTHOUGH I ALSO REMEMBER WHEN BLACK PEOPLE DIDN'T LIVE OR SEEK TO GO ACROSS KEELER AVE GOING WEST ON JACKSON, FOR FEAR OF BEING CHASED BY YOUNG WHITE DUDES IN OLDER MODEL CARS, I.E. 52 FORD, 57 FORD, AND OTHERS. WE HAD TO ATTEND THE MARLBORO SHOW DURING THE DAY, BECAUSE IN THE EVENING IT WAS FREQUENTED BY YOUNG WHITE GUYS, AND GANGS AND IT WAS NOT SAFE. BUT I REMEMBER WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED IN MY NEIGHBOR HOOD THE DAY DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING WAS KILLED. I WAS ALREADY IN THE MARINE CORPS, ON LEAVE IN ROUTE TO VIETNAM. AND I REMEMBER THE RIOTS AND WATCHING MADISON STREET BURN AND BEING ABLE TO SEE FROM THE CORNER OF JACKSON AND PULASKI THAT ROOSEVELT RD WAS ALSO IN FLAMES. THAT WAS VERY SAD. NOW CHICAGO IS TRYING TO "GET REAL AGAIN". PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT WHO CAN LIVE IN CERTAIN PLACES AND WHAT THEY CAN AND CAN'T HAVE IN DIFFERENT NEIGHBORHOODS. I THINK IT'S EMBARASSING. WHAT THE DUDE D'ANGELO IS TRYING TO DO TO THE BROTHER(WHEN I SAY BROTHER, I SEE NO COLOR)WHO WANTS TO OPEN A TATTOO SHOP IN THE "ITALIAN VILLAGE.. GIVE ME A BREAK D'ANGELO. I REMEMBER GOING TO THAT NEIGHBORHOOD AND BEING GREETED WITH OPEN ARMS AS A BLACK YOUTH, WHEN I WANTED THE BEST "ITALIAN ICE" IN THE WORLD. SO LET'S STOP THE SEPARTION AND DISCRIMINATION THAT CAN RUIN A CITY AS BEAUTIFUL AND WORKABLE AS CHICAGO. BECAUSE IT'S LIKE I TELL MY FRIENDS, "THERE IS NO OTHER PLACE I'D RATHER LIVE, CAUSE IF YOU CAN'T MAKE IT IN CHICAGO, YOU MAY AS WELL PUT YOUR HEAD BETWEEN YOUR LEGS AND KISS YOUR BUTT GOODBYE. I THANK YOU FOR GIVING PEOPLE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GIVE YOU THIER INSIGHT.

RESPECTRFULLY SUBMITTED
THEODORE S. DONAHUE

What have you got against change; against evolving neighborhoods? Like all cities, Real Chicago is a place in a constant state of flux. If you look all around Little Italy you'll see new and old "cookie cutter" residential buildings surrounding it on all sides... some of the housing went up right after WWII; some yet newer, some older. There's actually far more variety in Roosevelt Square than there is where Maxwell Street used to be!!! Your story in Friday's paper made me very sad; why not open up to the possibilities of this new place actually working? People who have lived there over a year are part of an emerging neighborhood that seems to be all right to me. Why are you so negative, and dismissive of Mr. Bird, who seems to love it there? There are new communities sprouting up all over that look way way more bland and homogenized than this place. Lighten up, will ya?

As a child and up to the age of 17, I lived on the 1700 block of N. Honore Street, in a 2 bedroom "cold water" "flat" on the 3rd floor with my mom and dad and 3 younger brothers. My maternal grandparents lived a few houses away on the same block, and my paternal grandmother lived on the 1700 block of N. Wolcott. Not to mention a few aunts and uncles living walking distance away. I remember walking to Vera's, when I had a few pennies for candy. This candy store was right across the tavern my grandpa spent a little to much time in.
Milwaukee Ave was walking distance and we called it just the Avenue. There was RB, Wiebolts, Woolworths, the Royal show, Army surplus store,F & T resturant, so many stores running from Damen to Ashland on Milwaukee Avenue. Saint Mary of the Angel's Church, where I made my first holy Communion to my Wedding and 25 years later our renewal of vows.
I still live in Chicago, (Jefferson Park) we moved away twice, but always came back. There is no place like Chicago and I am blessed to have been a part of the Real Chicago.

Thank you,

Diane Zalazinski

Chicago was truly the city that worked as I was a child growing up in the 1950's. Sadly to say it can no longer be called that.
"Real Chicago" has become a facade of a city that once worked for all people without all the political greed, corruption, in your face political hiring and the likes of the Stroger family!

There is so much of this going on every day that no one has the time, ideas, or cares to stop it. The buck just keeps passing and passing from office to office then the Mayor goes out of town.

Chicago, the city on the lake that still works?
No, now it is run by political greed and political perks!

Dear Mark,
I was raised on the north side in the 1960's. We lived at 5330 N. Magnolia ave. Our neighborhood was collectively Uptown, Andersonville, and Edgewater. A group was formed and it is also known as Lakewood-Balmoral. It was a wonderful place to grow up and I feel privledged to have been raised there. We moved away in 1972 and there are still at least 4 neighbors still living on the block. It is a place that proves you actually can go home.
We knew all of our neighbors and they really did look out for you. When someone was sick your mom brought over a meal to help. We had Doc's drug store and Carl's food shop. Wonderful mom and pop stores among many others. Our piano teacher neighbor Mrs. Gladden taught everyone piano from my mother on down to my nephew. Oh and everyone else in the neighborhood.
We went to the Uptown theater to see Disney movies and my younger brother and I walked there ourselves. We lived close to the lake and went to the Foster ave. beach and rode bikes on the lakeshore path. We had block parties and celebrated in each others accomplishments. Neighbors in their 40's got college degree's and we would have a huge party for them.
I remember stealing 5 bucks from my dad and going to Doc's drugs. By the time I got home later in the day Doc had already called my parents wondering why I had so much money. I was found out. Oh and this was in the day of 5 cent candy bars and penny candy. Carl's food shop had a wonderful oak cabinet with a glass front from which you could buy penny candy. Bazooka gum, whoppers, kits, and wonderful pretzel rods in a glass container with a metal top. It was the kind of store with a tin ceiling and a grabber to reach the cereal boxes on the top shelf.
We played with our friends on the block and walked to school. We also of course came home for lunch for an hour and watched Bozo. We stayed out late in the summer often after dark. We played Kick the can, kitty want a corner, red light green light, tag, hide and seek and we rode our bikes endlessly.
Chicago today is an amazing place. I have taken my children on the lakefront to ride bikes. We have ridden the L many times to go downtown. My sister son and I have done walking tours through Uptown, Oldtown and into the Gold coast on State Pkwy. It is wonderful to go to the old neighborhood and visit and walk around.
Those wonderful neighbors in small ways have made a great impact on shaping who I am. I grew up with a very eclectic and educated group of people. It was a wonderful time back then and it is wonderful to visit now.
Chicago is my favorite city and I will forever be linked to that wonderful neighborhood and people of my youth.

Last November, my wife Julie and I were in Chicago to celebrate our anniversary. We stayed downtown (at the Allerton) and on the morning before our anniversary, took a cab out the south side. We had the cabbie stop at 7446 S. Rhodes, where my parents and I lived when I was a little kid. We moved to the north side in 1953, when I was eleven years old. The old two-flat still looks really good. Then we went around the corner to Army & Lou's for a late breakfast. That little slice of Chicago was a really nice trip down memory lane.

Irving Park- that was the neighborhod in the 50's. The Commodor theater at Albany and Irving,the hugh swimming pool at Califorina park and the YMCA at Kedvale on the north side of Irving. Independence Park and the horseshoe pits where us kids often watched and listened to the "old men" discussing war,women and the fine art of gambling.When the Kennedy (Northwest) expressway was built in 55-56 we had hundreds of vacant homes to explore and fantistic backdrops to play guns,cops and robbery and cowboys and Indians. Delivering newspapers on Kimball Ave from Irving to Montrose every morning before daylight continues to make for great heart stopping memories.The great coal piles at Kedzie and Addison provided many adventures for us pre-teens.Every person on the block knew everybody else; fathers worked and mothers supervised the household ,the kids and everyday life in the neighborhood.

Real Chicago to me is the 'Smells' of Chicago. as you drive in different neighborhoods in Chicago, some of the smells are from: Blommer's Chocolates, Hero's Submarines, Maurice Lennell, Smoked Sausages from Polish Deli's, Gyros from the Atheneian Room or in Greektown, Gonnella Bread, and Garrett's Popcorn

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Mark Konkol

Mark Konkol covers city neighborhoods for the Chicago Sun-Times. You can e-mail him or call (312) 321-2146.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Konkol published on December 21, 2007 3:27 AM.

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