Friday, December 15, 2017

Kiddy Town Amusement Park, Norridge, Illinois. (1953-1964)

Kiddy Town was located at the north side of the Harlem Irving Shopping Center, 4250 N. Harlem (at Cullom Avenue) in Norridge, Illinois. They opened in the summer of 1953.
An aerial view of Kiddy Town looking north. Harlem Avenue is on the right with part of the Harlem & Irving  Shopping Center shown at the bottom. Long gone Howard Johnson’s is shown at the bottom right. At the top right is the 35 foot electric Kiddy Town sign located at the intersection of Cullom and Harlem Avenues. The sign has a clown pointing towards the 450 parking space area with his other arm waving patrons in by way of flashing neon lights. This photo was taken in the off-season sometime in the late 1950’s.
Some of the rides were the Tilt-a-Whirl, an Allan Herschell Co. Merry-Go-Round, 
Philadelphia Toboggan Co. Little Dipper (installed in 1956), Mangels Co. Whip, Boats and Sky Fighter, Herschell Kiddie Tanks, Eyerly Co. Midge-O-Racer, Handcars, Gasoline powered Cars, a Tractor ride, a 5 car Ferris Wheel, and a Miniature Train with twin diesel engines. Pony rides were also available at the 5-acre park.

The kiddie train had a 150-foot curved tunnel, bridge and elaborate depot for the 2,000-foot miniature railroad. The Ferris Wheel was “kiddie sized” with the riders locked into cages for the duration of the ride. The Handcars were self-propelled cars on little train tracks; a rider would sit on the car with their leg stretched forwards and their hands paddling a bicycle peddle-like device.

On the weekends, sometimes a small red fire engine with “Kiddy Town” written on its side would sound its loud siren telling all the children in the neighborhood that some lucky kid is having a birthday party and they’re all going to Kiddy Town. Their first ride, of course, would be in the fire truck. Each year in September the organization of the Bakers Club of Chicago would rent the whole park and treat as many as 500 orphaned children to a day at the park. Besides the rides and hot dogs, the children would receive specially baked cakes and cookies. Sometime in the early 1960’s, Kiddy Town closed down and sold all the rides.

As many other Chicagoland "Kiddie Parks," Kiddy Town had a fire truck which was used to pick up birthday party guests at their homes and deliver them to the amusement park. When the truck wasn't picking up party goers, it was used as a ride in the park. 

It was replaced by the Unity Saving Bank and their parking lot. Now the location is a Panera, Chipotle, Forever Yogurt, Red Robin Sports Authority, X-sport Fitness and Mattress Firm.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Visit the Gift Shop.

Photo by Carol Houfek.

Photo by Walter Rieger.
Photo by Carol Houfek.

Photo by Walter Rieger.

This photo was taken after Kiddy Town’s final season from the roof of the Wieboldt’s Department Store in the Harlem Irving Shopping Center. The last ride to be moved was the Little Dipper roller coaster. The Little Dipper was a mirror image of the Little Dipper at Kiddieland in Melrose Park, Illinois. Across Harlem Avenue at the top of the picture you can see Stark’s Warehouse (open 7 days a week). Stark’s had a warehouse of army surplus stuff to sell. You could spend hours looking at everything.
The last ride to be taking down and moved was the Little Dipper roller coaster in 1966. Hillcrest Park in Lemont, Illinois purchased it for $6,000.00 but it cost them $66,000.00 to move it. It reopened in 1967 in Hillcrest Park where it thrilled youngsters until that park closed in 2003. It was again moved and found new life as the Meteor in Little Amerricka in Marshall, Wisconsin. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Rosenberg Fountain "Hebe" in Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois.

The Rosenberg Fountain is of the Greek goddesses of Mount Olympus "Hebe," sculpted by artist Franz Machtl.
{Hebe is the daughter of Zeus and Hera. She is a cupbearer to the gods, and myth holds that Apollo dismissed her after she indecently exposed her breasts while serving drinks. 
Zeus is the sky and thunder god in ancient Greek mythology and religion who ruled as King of the Gods of Mount Olympus. Hera is the goddess of women and marriage in Greek mythology and religion. She is the daughter of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. Hera is married to her brother Zeus and is titled as the Queen of Heaven.}
While working as a newsboy in Chicago, Joseph Rosenberg (1848-1891) could never convince local merchants to spare him a drink of water. He vowed that if he were ever to become wealthy, he would create a fountain where newsboys could get a drink on a hot day.

Joseph Rosenberg was the son of Jacob Rosenberg, co-founder of Michael Reese Hospital and of Chicago’s first Jewish congregation, KAM Temple. After leaving Chicago and making his fortune in San Francisco, he left a $10,000 bequest for an ornamental drinking fountain to be erected on a prominent corner somewhere on the South Side of Chicago. 
The miniature Greek temple with fluted Doric columns was designed by Chicago-based architects Bauer & Hill serves as the base for the figure Hebe. It originally housed an illuminated fountain. The inscription reads, “Presented by Joseph Rosenberg San Francisco, Cal.” Rosenberg’s fountain was installed in 1893, two years after his death. The South Park Commissioners installed the fountain sculptor near Rosenberg’s childhood home close to Grant Park at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and East 11th Street.
The original conception for the sculpture was to depict Hebe in the nude. The executors of the will, however, were worried that some visitors might be offended, and they did not want to tarnish to the memory of Joseph Rosenberg. They thus decided to present the goddess in draped clothing. The female figure holds a cup in one hand and pitcher in the other - a pose consistent with many other neoclassical depictions of Hebe. In 2004, the Chicago Park District restored the Rosenberg Fountain and its sculpture. 

In 2004, the Chicago Park District restored the fountain and the sculpture that was cast in Munich, Germany. Artist Franz Machtl’s design features an 11-foot tall bronze figure depicting Hebe, daughter of Zeus and Hera. She is the Goddess of Youth and the Cupbearer to the Gods symbolizing rejuvenation. 

Today, this monument functions as an ornamental fountain, but no longer provides drinking water. 

The "Goddess of Youth" fountain in the Lincoln Park Conservatory also depicts the goddess Hebe.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Lost Towns of Illinois - Science, Illinois

Science, Illinois was a community in LaSalle County, Illinois, located along the bottomlands of the Illinois River, just south of modern day Utica. The Village of North Utica is the proper name of what is more commonly referred to as Utica. The earliest reference to Science, Illinois is in 1822 when plans for the development of the I & M Canal were conceived. 
The canal survey nine years later moved the canal terminus from Utica to Peru and then later to LaSalle. The relocation of the canal terminus away from Utica not only limited water and rail transportation but also the general growth of the community.

In November of 1836, the Deputy County Surveyor filed a plat map for Utica at the recorder’s office in LaSalle County with Science, Illinois being included.
Simon Crosiar’s sawmill, carding machine, warehouse, store, and dock were among the first business establishments. Other business establishments in the 1830s included Thomas Brown’s store (1836); George Armstrong’s tavern (1836); four frame buildings containing two stores, a warehouse, and tavern; and Norton and Steele’s cement plant (1838). The cement plant primarily manufactured cement used in the construction of the I & M Canal. Construction of the canal was temporarily suspended in 1841, and as a result, the cement company closed.
The cement plant was reopened in 1845 under the ownership of James Clark. The James Clark Cement Company was later changed to Utica Hydraulic Cement Company. In 1848, James Clark constructed a stone warehouse to store grain. Clark’s stone warehouse also served as a post office, general store, livery, and at the turn of the century, as a motorcar wash.

It is unclear when North Utica annexed Science, Illinois, but by 1950s Utica maps, Science is nowhere to be found.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

The Nymph Fountain in Chicago, Illinois. (1899)

The Nymph Fountain was installed in June of 1899, under the darkness of night, on the south lawn of the Art Institute by students of Lorado Taft, Chicago’s foremost sculptor in that time period.
Lorado Taft never built a permanent version of the Nymph Fountain because Chicagoans were "shocked" and vandalized the fountain.
The forty-foot-diameter fountain featured eight larger-than-life nude female figures in sensuous poses. The work was a class project, made of temporary materials, but Taft hoped to build it in “imperishable bronze.” Given the reception the work of art received, that would never happen.

The Nymph Fountain created a stir and attracted crowds that at times required police to manage. It became the “talk of the town,” with politicians, editorialists, and religious figures weighing in. “The nymph is not an intellectual goddess... [and] stands for nothing related to high or noble intellectual accomplishments,” said the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Such negative reactions left Chicagoans open to ridicule. The New York Times opined, “Preachers, or some of them, think the nymphs should have been provided with mackintoshes [raincoats], while even the most ultra of Chicago’s art cliques would not resent a shirtwaist as a sop to the prudish majority of the city’s population.”

Not everyone in Chicago objected. Mayor Carter Harrison Jr. “trundled down to the lakefront on his bicycle... to take a look at the fountain” for himself and proclaimed it “not in any sense objectionable,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Nevertheless, the prevailing sentiment was shock. Within a few weeks, vandals had “practically ruined” the Nymph Fountain, the Boston Evening Transcript reported. “Nearly every figure in the fountain had been mutilated, and many nymphs had their hands and arms broken off.” The article did not specify whether upright or uptight citizens did the damage.

No, nineteenth and twentieth century Chicago was not like Paris, despite Chicago's efforts to elevate itself out of the mud and burnish its reputation built on butchering hogs. In another instance, a fountain created in 1908 by Leonard Crunelle that featured a nude boy was initially welcomed as part of an art show in Humboldt Park organized by the Municipal Art League “to forward the beautification of the city.” The handsome sculpture was “set like a jewel” in Humboldt Park, said the Tribune. “It’s evident at a glance that the scene is improved by the statue, and that the statue is set off by the scenery without the slightest incongruity.”

But after the exhibit, Crunelle’s piece was installed in an alcove on the north wall of the Sherman Park field house near 52nd and Throop streets, where it troubled the Felician Sisters who worked across the street at Saint John of God Church. They objected to the subject’s frontal nudity. The park district removed the sculpture, which has since disappeared. The alcove and basin are still there, the latter used as a planter.

Similarly, in 1887 the commissioners of Lincoln Park ordered that the private parts of Storks at Play’s Merboys (Mermen are mythical male equivalents and counterparts of mermaids) be covered with fig leaves. The coverings were later removed.

The original design of the 1893 Rosenberg Fountain in Grant Park portrayed the Greek goddess Hebe, topless. Hebe is a cupbearer to the gods, and myth holds that Apollo dismissed her after she indecently exposed her breasts while serving drinks. The fountain’s sculptor originally portrayed Hebe topless, but the executors of benefactor Rosenberg’s will selected a safer design out of deference to public taste. The fountain, which still stands at Michigan Avenue and 11th Street, depicts Hebe wearing a clinging diaphanous gown and exposing only one breast - a design the Tribune dubbed “Hebe the Second.”

By Greg Borzo
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

First Subscriber to the Telephone Exchange in Homer, Illinois, 1899

Dr. G. L. Williamson, who is always quick to take advantage of modern methods and the latest practical way of doing things, was the first subscriber to the White Telephone Exchange.
Homer, Illinois' First Telephone Exchange. Circa. 1900
The doctor took a phone first because he believed the telephone would be beneficial to his business. And now since he is receiving from one to five calls for professional services over the phone daily and as high as three in one night, he feels that he did not err in his judgment. What the telephone had done for the doctor, it will do for all other lines of business in Homer. The telephone is not only a great labor and time saver, but a business bringer as well. No business man should think of doing business without one. 

Homer Pilot, Homer, Illinois
October 25, 1899 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

O'Hare Stadium Midget Car Racing in Schiller Park, Illinois. (1956-1968)

O’Hare Stadium, part of the Chicagoland racing scene for 13 years, was located just southwest of the corner of Mannheim and Irving Park Road in Schiller Park. The speedway, which operated between 1956 through 1968, was initially surrounded by farm fields and was situated just south of Chicago’s famed O’Hare International Airport.
Records show that the track, which for a number of years was in the planning stages by a group which included former midget racing ace, Bob Muhlke, opened its gates for the first time on June 17, 1956 with stock cars and midgets on the inaugural card.
Chicago Tribune Ad - Opening Day, June 17, 1956.
Tom Croft, wheeling a 1950 Mercury, won the 25-lap stock car main event on opening night with Ernie Zartler capturing the special 15-lap midget event. Other stock car drivers in competition during the inaugural program included Red Swanberg, Tony Venturini, Howard “Marblehead” Thome, Vince Rizzo, Jack Holbrook and Ben “Shorty” Michonski.

Gene Marmor claimed the track’s late model stock car championship that first year, which also saw modified stock cars in competition. Marmor and his Chevy topped Tom Cox and Fred Lorenzen in the final standings in ’56.

Under the promotion of Bill Cherney and Tex Wooten, the speedway would see Marmor win the late model title again in 1957. Marmor in a ’56 Chevy again bested Cox, who was trailed by Kenny Paulsen.

1958 saw Lorenzen, a 23-year-old Elmhurst resident, win the track championship.  Lorenzen, who would later go on to fame in NASCAR Grand National racing, captured 17 feature races that year in his Talarico Brothers 1957 Chevrolet. Lorenzen finished ahead of Bill Lutz and Arnie Gardner in the standings.
1958 O'Hare Stadium Program Cover.
Lutz, who commuted from his home in Louisville, Ky., was Lorenzen’s chief  rival in ’58 and the overall champion of the three-track “Chicago City Series” that included top drivers from O’Hare as well as Raceway Park and Soldier Field in a series of three special feature events.

Lorenzen, who would also capture the 1958 and 1959 USAC “National” stock car championships, won the features at both O’Hare and Soldier Field. Lorenzen came home fifth in the Raceway 100 lap chase that was won by Raceway regular Bill Van Allen and his ’58 Studebaker Hawk late model. Lutz and his 1956 Chevy finished second in all three races and missed winning the finale at Raceway when a rear tire exploded with one lap to go.

Lutz was the late model track titlist in 1959, taking season title laurels over Marmor and Lorenzen.

NASCAR sanctioned the late model racing at O’Hare in 1960 and 1961.  Roy Czach was the man to beat in ’60 and ’61, winning back-to-back titles. Czach, who won six feature races in his Hollywood Automotive-sponsored ’57 Chevy, was crowned the 1960 Midwest NASCAR Champion ahead of Skippy Michaels and Lorenzen. Czach was again O’Hare’s NASCAR late model champ in 1961, winning seven main events and topping the points over Erik Johnson and LeRoy Roberts.

Johnson, in his Reno Martinelli-prepped ’61 Chevy “hardtop” No. 7, was the champion in 1962. Johnson won a single-season record 18 features during the campaign and finished ahead of Lutz and “teammate” Martinelli in the standings.
Erik Johnson is joined by Miss Chicago and starter Art Kelly after a big win at O'Hare in 1963.
During 1963, 1964 and 1965, O’Hare rules, under the guidance of Frank “Ham” Lobaza, called for all late models to be strictly convertibles. Marmor and his ’63 Chevy “rag top” garnered this third title in 1963 over Johnson and Lutz, while Lutz repeated his title-winning efforts in 1964 in his Grand Car Wash-sponsored ’63 Chevy convertible. Lutz bested William “Whitey” Gerken and Bob Urban in the final standings. Martinelli was the champion in 1965, defeating Lutz and Czach.

From 1962 through 1966, the speedway, now under the sanction of the American Racing Organization, would host the O’Hare American 500 each year with the 500 lapper being the longest contest in the area. Lutz, with two victories, along with Gerken, Johnson and Martinelli, were winners of the 500 lap grinds.

Teammates Johnson and Martinelli would dominate the track’s late model action in the speedway’s final years. Wheeling their “Pride of Half Day” mounts, the duo would claim the final four track titles with Martinelli and his red and white ‘64 Chevy convertible winning it in 1965 and 1966 and Johnson capturing back-to-back titles in 1967 and 1968. Johnson used his Martinelli Brothers-owned, Wing & Wheel Café-sponsored ’68 Chevelle to grab the ’68 crown.
1964 O'Hare Stadium Poster.
With property values rising, the track, which also featured cadet (sportsman), figure eight, Volkswagen and midget racing over the years, was demolished weeks after the final race program on September 7, 1968. Martinelli was the winner that night of the late model 30-lap feature.
April, 1968 saw Jerry Kemperman (left) drive Dave Roulo's "full-size" Chevy to the victory in the opening night late model feature at the O'Hare Stadium in Schiller Park, Illinois. Joining Kemperman after the win is Art Dexter, who lettered Kemperman's Raceway Park championship car.
Longtime officials, in addition to Lobaza, included starter Art Kelly, assistant starter Jack Minster, scorer Elmer Steinbeck, timer Keith Switzer and pit steward John Stanek, along with public relations man Bud Booth. The announcing chores were handled mainly by the legendary Ed “Twenty Grand” Steinbock and Art Hellyer. Don Theobold provided the laughs as “T-Bone” the Clown.

Visit the Souvenir Shop 

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Wimpy Grills in the Chicago, Illinois Area. (1934-1978)

Originally called Wimpy Grills, the Wimpy brand was incorporated on September 12, 1934 by Edward V. Gold, when he opened his first location in Bloomington, Indiana. The name was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar. "I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

First Logo Trademark
March 16, 1937
To promote repeat business, Gold copyrighted the slogan "Join the Wimpy Lucky Club" in February of 1935.

Although the Wimpy name is most closely identified with the city of Chicago, Gold did not open his first Chicago area location until two years later in 1936, and after opening units in five other Midwestern cities. 

When Wimpy's leased the Northeast corner of Randolph Street and Wabash Avenue in 1940, making that unit the 10th Wimpy Grill in Chicago and the 25th restaurant in the United States.

Approximately eight million hamburgers were sold in the Chicago area in 1940.

The Wimpy hamburgers were steamed, 5 hole round patties, with a 'special sauce.' Apparently, they used the same hamburger vendor as White Castle, which opened in 1921, 13 years before Wimpy's. 

                                                                 Edward Gold, Founder of Wimpy Chain, Dies.
                                                                 Chicago Tribune, October 16, 1977
"I would gladly pay you Tuesday
for a hamburger today.

Services for Edward V. Gold, 70, founder of the International chain of Wimpy hamburger restaurants, will be at 2:30pm, Tuesday in the chapel at 5206 North Broadway. Mr. Gold, of 1150 North lake Shore Drive, died of an apparent heart attack on Friday, October 14, 1977, in the Crane Restaurant, which he owned, at 69 West Washington Boulevard.

He and two friends founded the Wimpy Grills Inc. in 1934. Eventually he had more than 25 restaurants throughout the United States. In the 1950s, he closed most of them and expanded his operation to Europe, working with J. Lyons & Co., a British catering company. In 1967, Mr. Gold sold the foreign business, which had expanded to 1,500 restaurants, to Lyons, but kept the U.S. restaurants. At his death there were nine Wimpy restaurants, all in the Chicago area, and two downtown Crane restaurants. Mr. Gold, an ardent collector of painting and sculpture, was a former director and treasurer of the Chicago and Illinois restaurant association.

Wimpy's for Sale; is there 2d Ray Kroc?
Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1978

Wimpy's, one of the better known names in the hamburger, is up for grabs. U.S. rights to the name and trademark are being offered by the estate of the founder of the holding company of Wimpy Grills, Inc., a Chicago firm established in 1934.

"It's a good name and we hope somebody takes it and runs with it," says Tom Moran, a principal of Rothbart, Stein & Moran, attorney's for the estate of Edward V. Gold, Wimpy's founder. Gold, who dies in October of 1977, once had 25 Wimpy's restaurants in the U.S. There are only four left - all in the Chicago area, - with ownership in the estate. Gold had sold the rights of Wimpy's overseas, where 1,500 Wimpy's are operating in 39 countries.

"Maybe there's another Ray Kroc (founder of McDonald's Corp.) around for the 1980s, a man who can do a job with Wimpy's in the fast-food or hamburger business," said William Norwell, a trust officer with American National Bank & Trust Co. The name and trademark would be sold by American National Bank, co-executor of the estate.

By today's standards, the Wimpy's outlets would not be considered fast-food outlets, though the chain was a pioneer in the fast-service restaurant business. There once were more than 10 Wimpy's outlets in this market. Wimpy's has Loop units at 17 East Washington Street, 159 North Wabash Avenue, and 20 West Monroe which is adjacent to the Shubert Theater. The Wimpy's unit in Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg is being sold. According to the co-executor of the estate, the Loop outlets also are for sale. If they are sold [separately], the buyer would not have rights to the Wimpy's name and trademark unless he bought them [all] as well.

Though Wimpy's has high name recognition, it may not be easy to re-establish the name in the $20-billion-a-year fast-food business. But that growing figure suggests a sales opportunity, considering that hamburger outlets account for a least $10 billion of the total.

"For a long time McDonald's was king (in the hamburger set) and they are still tops - but look at what Wendy's (International) did coming from scratch in the last decade," says an industry observer.

Gold’s U.S. stores received no offers and the units were shuttered.

Visit the Souvenir Shop 

Wimpy Grills at 1 North Clark Street, Chicago, on the north east corner. 1958

Wimpy Grills at 1 North Clark Street, Chicago, on the north east corner. Circa 1955
Wimpy Grills at 1 North Clark Street, Chicago, on the north east corner.  1955

Wimpy Grills at 1 North Clark Street, Chicago, on the north east corner. 1957

Looking east on Monroe Street from Dearborn Street, Chicago, 1966.
Wimpy Grills at 20 West Monroe is on the near side of the Shubert Theater.

Looking north towards Lake Street. Wimpy Grills at 159 North Wabash Avenue, Chicago.
Circa 1952
Wimpy Grills at 4861 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago (July 4, 1965)

Wimpy Grills at 17 East Washington Street at Wabash Avenue, Chicago. (year unknown.)
Note: Not all location were open during the same time period. Some stores moved to a new location and some locations were closed. These are the restaurant locations I could verify.
1st - 307 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago; 8th Floor
             the general office moved to:
2nd - 140 North Dearborn Street, Chicago; 12th Floor
             the general office moved to:
3rd - 22 West Monroe Street, Chicago; 2nd Floor

CHICAGO LOOP LOCATIONS (beginning in 1937)
1 North Clark Street, Chicago (@ Madison St.)
17 East Washington, Street, Chicago (@ State St.)
20 West Monroe, Street, Chicago (@ State St.)
50 East Randolph, Street, Chicago (@ Wabash Ave.)
140 North Dearborn, Street, Chicago (@ Randolph St.)
159 North Wabash Avenue, Chicago (@ Benton Pl.)

1055 West Lawrence Avenue
1461 East Hyde Park Boulevard
2104 North Harlem Avenue
3309 North Ashland Avenue
4861 North Milwaukee Avenue
5146 West Madison Street
5322 West Lawrence Avenue
5500 South Lake Park Avenue
6206 West Cermak Road
6350 North Lincoln Avenue (Drive-In w/Car Hop Service)
7133 South Kedzie Avenue
7935 South Halsted Street

5 Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg (lower level next to Fannie Mae Candies) open 1971
6200 Roosevelt Road, Oak Park
9501 South Western Avenue, Evergreen Park
98th Street and Western Avenue, Evergreen Park (Drive-In w/Car Hop Service) open 1968
Evergreen Plaza - 9500 South Western Ave, Evergreen Park
Lakehurst Shopping Center - 83 Hurst Road, Waukegan (lower level by J.C. Penny)

Today all of the U.S. Wimpy’s are long gone.

In 1954, Gold sold a licence to J. Lyons and Co. to use the Wimpy name in the United Kingdom. Subsequently, in 1957, Wimpy Grills Inc. of Chicago formed a joint company with Lyons called Wimpy's International Inc., based in Chicago, to operate Wimpy Grills in the rest of the world.

The joint company eventually grew to 1,500 locations, and Gold later sold his share to Lyons prior to his death. After obtaining full control of the international licensing outside of the United States, Lyons and its successors handled global franchising through their United Kingdom based subsidiary Wimpy International Ltd. This arrangement ceased when Wimpy UK became a subsidiary of South Africa-based Famous Brands in 2007 and the South African company started to handle worldwide franchising duties directly from Johannesburg.

Lyons obtained a licence to use the Wimpy brand in the United Kingdom, from Edward Gold's Chicago based Wimpy Grills, Inc. and, in 1954, the first "Wimpy Bar" Lyons was established at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London.
Britain's first Wimpy Hamburger Parlor in the Lyons Corner House cafe (as a Wimpy franchise) on the corner of Rupert Street and Leicester Square, London. 1954
Originally, the bar was a special fast food section within the more traditional Corner House restaurants, but the success soon led to the establishment of separate Wimpy restaurants serving only hamburger based meals.

In 1955 newspaper column, Art Buchwald, syndicated writer for the Washington Post, wrote about the recent opening of a "Wimpy's Hamburger Parlor" on Coventry Street and about the influence of American culture on the British.

Buchwald wrote, "Food served at the table within ten minutes of ordering and with atomic age efficiency. No cutlery needed or given. Drinks served in a bottle with a straw. Condiments in pre-packaged single serving packets." In addition to familiar Wimpy burgers and Whippsy milkshakes, the British franchise initially had served ham or sardine rolls called torpedoes and cold frankfurter with pickled cucumber sandwiches called Freddies.

During the 1970s Wimpy refused entry to women on their own after midnight. Some sources speculate that this may be because of an assumption they might be prostitutes.

By 1970, the business had expanded to over 1,000 restaurants in 23 countries.

In July 1977, the business was acquired by United Biscuits. By the end of the 1980s, Wimpy was beginning to lose ground to McDonald’s, which had opened its first restaurant in the country in 1974, and so the new management of Wimpy began to streamline the business, by converting some of the traditional table service restaurants to counter service.

When United Biscuits decided to divest its restaurant division in 1989, it sold the business to Grand Metropolitan (now Diageo). At the time of the sale, there were 381 locations in the United Kingdom. Grand Metropolitan had acquired Burger King the previous year, and it began to convert the counter service restaurants to Burger King, since it had a greater global brand recognition.

In February 1990, the remaining 216 table service restaurants were purchased by a management buy out, backed by 3i. These were locations that were considered less desirable by Grand Metropolitan. At the time of the buyout, there were also 140 franchised locations outside of the United Kingdom. In October 1999, Wimpy rolled out a chain of restaurants known as Dr Beaks, to take on brands such as KFC.

A second management buy out occurred in May 2002, backed by the Bank of Scotland. At the time of the sale in 2002, there were approximately 300 locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Their food was served on real plates with silverware.
Although Wimpy outlets have decreased in numbers in the United Kingdom, they are still found in many cities, and at seafront/seasonal locations, such as Clacton-on-Sea, Clarence Pier in Southsea, Porthcawl and Brean Leisure Park in Somerset. By the beginning of the 21st century, most Wimpys were found in less desirable low rent locations that primarily cater to pensioners and others on a fixed income, and not in their former high street locations of their earlier days. Another big change from earlier times was that most locations were now franchises, and not company owned operations.

On 27 February 2007, Famous Brands, which owns the Wimpy franchise in South Africa, announced that it had acquired Wimpy UK. Having acquired the brand, Famous Brands has re branded Wimpy in the United Kingdom, to bring it in line with Wimpy South Africa. The "new" logo is actually one used by Wimpy UK from the 1960s until the 1980s.

In November 2009, Famous Brands began to upgrade its 170 locations in the United Kingdom to resemble United States style diners.
By June 2017, only 80 restaurants remain in the United Kingdom, down from over 500 during its height in the 1970s.

Wimpy International opened its first South African location in Durban in 1967. The South African restaurants were sold to Bakers SA Ltd in the late 1970s, which in 1987 sold the South African chain to Pleasure Foods, then known as Juicy Lucy SA. Famous Brands Limited, then known as the Steers Holdings Limited, acquired Wimpy when it bought Pleasure Foods in 2003.

In February 2007, Famous Brands acquired the United Kingdom based Wimpy to become the parent company for the chain, and become in charge in collecting the franchise fees from the other franchises.
The new style of Wimpy Restaurant in Komani/Queenstown, South Africa.
By 2011, Famous Brands had 509 Wimpy restaurants in South Africa, making it the largest franchise in the Wimpy franchise system. 

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Autos Scare Horses, Three Women Injuried in Homer, Illinois, November 21, 1907


Since three serious accidents have occurred lately to ladies in this vicinity directly attributable to horses being frightened at automobiles, this question has become an important one and a word of warning to automobile drivers has become necessary.
Downtown Homer, Illinois in 1908 as viewed from the Rose Grain Elevator.
We believe that Homer owners and drivers of automobiles are desirous that their machines not prove a menace or a disturbance to the community, yet many are that claim and circumstances to prove it. Many horses never will become accustom to these horseless conveniences, and since horses were here first and must necessarily remain, the auto drivers must do all in their power to avoid accidents in the best interest of everybody. 

Homer Enterprise Newspaper, Homer, Illinois
November 21, 1907 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Electric (Amusement) Park, Kankakee, Illinois. (1894-1934)

Electric Park opened at the end of Kankakee's streetcar line on Osborn Avenue in 1894. The park was considered the "Coney Island" of Kankakee. It was located on what was then the eastern limits of Kankakee, on the edge of the city. The name "Electric Park" was itself a draw. For these were the times before modern street lights. Most streets in the city were unlit. A place with lighting after dark was enchanting.
The amusement park was an Emory Cobb[1] promotion. Cobb was an early Kankakee entrepreneur responsible for several municipal improvements, including the town waterworks and Hotel Riverview, which opened in 1887 at a cost of $80,000 ($2,128,481 today). The hotel consisted of 80 guest rooms, an immense covered veranda, tennis courts and croquet grounds, and beach access to the river complete with rowboats.

The idea behind the amusement park was, in part, to sell more streetcar tickets. Admission to the amusement park was a nickel, but it was free if you used the trolley. Use of the bath house, to change into your swimming suit, was an extra one and a half cents[2]. In the winter the park offered ice skating. The theater on the site could hold 700. The dance pavilion was named the "Green Lantern."

Over the years Electric Park held boxing matches and dance-a-thons. Special events at the theater, like a play or an orchestra performance, would command an extra dime for admission.

Electric Park was part of a time when Kankakee served as a Northern Illinois tourist mecca, drawing customers out of Chicago. The Hotel Riverview, the Great Interstate Fair (located where Old Fair Park is today), steamboats and amusement parks were all part of that time. From 1897-1899, the YMCA operated an Athletic Park, which included bicycle racing, adjacent to Electric Park.

Electric Park was designed to be family-friendly. No alcohol was sold. It was a competitor to the rougher Gougar's Grove further up the river. Gougar's Grove began to decline when the Sunday laws against beer sales and gambling were enforced.

The advent of the automobile helped lead to the demise of Electric Park. The park became part of the Kankakee Parks system in September, 1928. The coaster and buildings were dismantled by 1934.

[1] Emory Cobb was the first settler to what would become the Riverview Historic District in Kankakee. Cobb was instrumental in the founding of Western Union, but retired in 1866 at age 34. He moved to Kankakee at this time and built his house at the southwest corner of what is now River Street and South Chicago Avenue. Cobb owned much of the land that would become the district, which he initially used as pasture. Heavily involved in Kankakee's early commercial development, Cobb decided to build a resort hotel on his property. The Riverview Hotel, located in what is now the triangle formed by Park Place, South Chicago Avenue, and South Greenwood Avenue, opened in 1887 and operated for ten years before it was destroyed in a fire. After the fire, Cobb subdivided most of his property for residential use.

[2] The half-cent is the smallest denomination of United States coin ever minted.
First authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792 on April 2, 1792, the coin was produced in the United States from 1793 to 1857. The half-cent piece was made of 100% copper and was valued at one two-hundredth of a dollar. It was slightly smaller than a modern U.S. quarter with diameters 22 mm (1793), 23.5 mm (1794–1836) and 23 mm (1840–1857). The half-cent coin was discontinued by the Coinage Act of February 21, 1857. They were all produced at the Philadelphia Mint.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The history of Cantonment Wilkinson (Army Base), located in the Indiana Territory, (now Pulaski County, Illiniois) 1801-02.

Cantonment Wilkinson was a large U.S. Army base located in the Indiana Territory, (now Pulaski County, Illiniois), from January, 1801, to April, 1802. “Cantonments” were essentially large temporary camps that lacked stockade or fortification walls. At its peak, cantonment Wilkinson was the largest military base in the country containing approximately 1,500 Infantry, Artillery, and Dragoon (cavalry) soldiers. 
The cantonment had its inception in a late 1790s diplomatic crisis between the United States and France. The French had begun seizing American ships on the high seas and it appeared that all-out war was imminent. In response, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton developed a plan for a large American military base or cantonment in the Ohio River valley. Once the war started, troops from this “Reserve Corps” would move into the Mississippi River Valley and capture the river and New Orleans and from the Spanish who were expected to ally themselves with the French. 

The contonment was established by Lieutenant Colonel David Strong in 1797 as a post of the United States Army. General James Wilkinson[1] (1757-1825) was put in charge of this operation despite rumors that he was a traitor in the pay of the Spanish Government as "Agent № 13," known as the "Spanish Conspiracy."[2]

Wilkinson ordered smaller posts such as Fort Massac[3] to be abandoned and added their garrisons to the Reserve Corps. Commonly alleged is that Wilkinson actually plotted with the Spanish for their seizure of Fort Massac in the so‑called "Tom Powers Plot."[4]

On November 14, 1801 Lewis and Clark deliberately passed the fort on the far side of the river and did not stop because they were worried about the motives of General Wilkinson being a conspirator for the Spanish.
General James Wilkinson
The crisis ended in late 1799 with the signing of a treaty between the U.S. and France. Despite this, ardent federalists such as Alexander Hamilton still hoped for war and plans for the cantonment continued. The first troops arrived at Cantonment Wilkinson in early January, 1801, and immediately began constructing log huts for shelter. According to an 1803 traveler’s account of the abandoned cantonment, it contained “2 to 3 hundred logged houses… built for our army in regular streets as a post or place of arms.” 

Some 500 to as many as 1500 men were stationed here during the period of 1798-1805, which was commonly called Fort Wilkinsonville.

As this description indicates, the cantonment was essentially a large camp of huts and other buildings used by the Army. The camp lacked a stockade wall with the boundaries of the camp instead patrolled by sentinels. Other features of the cantonment included quarter master supply buildings, hospital, bakery, brick works, powder magazine, commanding officer’s quarters, vegetable gardens, parade grounds, a boat yard and a log palisade enclosing the compound. About 400 acres were cleared with the site overlooking the Ohio River at the head of the Grand Chain of Rocks, about 14 miles above the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

The cantonment reached its peak strength in summer, 1801, when it contained approximately 1,500 soldiers and an unknown number of civilians including laundresses, nurses, sutlers (peddlers), and boat men. During this same time a deadly illness struck the cantonment with a reported 70 soldiers dying from what appears to have been a combination of malaria and dysentery. These soldiers and the base commander Lt. Col. Strong, who died of an unrelated illness, were buried in the cantonment cemetery, the location of which is now unknown.

The majority of the troops moved to the mouth of the Tennessee River following Colonel Strong’s death with Major Jonathon Williams, a grand-nephew of Benjamin Franklin and the later founder of West Point and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, left in charge of approximately 70 soldiers including those sick who could not be moved. The 2nd Infantry troops at the mouth of the Tennessee River returned to the cantonment in the fall of 1801, raising the garrison strength to approximately 800 men.

Final abandonment of the cantonment appears to have occurred in April, 1802, following the election of Thomas Jefferson and his subsequent reduction in size of the U.S. Army. Following the departure of the last of the soldiers.

The abandoned structures later became the small community of Wilkinsonville. Approximately 200 Cherokee occupied the abandoned cantonment buildings for several years.

These buildings appear to have gradually collapsed or been destroyed for their wood although scattered accounts exist that indicate the Cherokee burned the buildings. The last known account of still-standing structures at the abandoned cantonment dates to 1817. After that, the abandoned cantonment became the site of a small settlement named Wilkinsonville consisting of no more than a few buildings that appeared on maps throughout the early nineteenth century.
The marker is located just south of New Grand Chain,
on the east side of IL Route 37.
On the Ohio River three miles south of here Cantonment Wilkinson-Ville, named for Gen. James Wilkinson, was established by Lt. Col. David Strong in 1797 as a post of the United States Army. It was garrisoned until 1804. Here are buried Colonel Strong and scores of soldiers who died on duty. Erected by the State of Illinois, 1935.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] The The Complete Three Volume Set: "Memoirs of My Own Times" written by General James Wilkinson, published in 1816; in my Digital Research Library of Illinois History® 

[2] In April 1787, Wilkinson made a highly controversial trip to New Orleans, which was the capital of Spanish colonial Louisiana. At that time, Americans were allowed to trade on the Mississippi River, but they had to pay a hefty tariff. Wilkinson met with Spanish Governor Esteban Rodríguez Miró and managed to convince him to allow Kentucky to have a trading monopoly on the River; in return he promised to promote Spanish interests in the west.

On August 22, 1787, Wilkinson signed an expatriation declaration and swore allegiance to the King of Spain to satisfy his own commercial needs. The "Spanish Conspiracy," as it is known, was initiated by Wilkinson's "First Memorial," a 7,500-word report written before he left New Orleans for Charleston, to the Spanish concerning the "political future of western settlers," and to convince Spain to "admit us [Kentuckians] under protection as vassals (a person or country in a subordinate position to another.)." This was encoded with myriad symbols, numbers, and letters that was decoded via a complex English-Spanish cipher code-named "Number 13," which became the basis for his pseudonym, "Agent № 13."

Upon returning to Kentucky in February 1788, Wilkinson vigorously opposed the new U.S. Constitution. Kentucky had nearly achieved statehood under the old Articles of Confederation, and there was widespread disappointment when this was delayed because of the new constitution.

When the United States government reorganized the Army as the Legion of the United States, President George Washington was faced with the decision of whom to name as its commanding general. The two major candidates for this promotion were James Wilkinson and Anthony Wayne. In the end, the cabinet chose Wayne due to Wilkinson's suspected involvement with the Spanish government. The cabinet promoted Wilkinson to brigadier general as consolation, since President Washington was aware of Wilkinson's fragile ego.

Wilkinson developed a jealousy of Wayne, but he maintained an ostensible (stated or appearing to be true, but not necessarily so) respect toward the general. However, when Wayne wasn't invited to Wilkinson's Christmas party, Wayne developed a full-fledged hatred for Wilkinson, deeming it to be an act of disrespect.

Wilkinson proceeded to file formal complaints with President Washington, against Wayne and his decisions. Upon finding out about the complaints against him, Wayne decided to fight back, launching an investigation into Wilkinson's history with the Spanish. During all of this time, Wilkinson had renewed his secret alliance with the Spanish government (through the Governor of Louisiana Francisco Luis Héctor de Carondelet), alerting them to the actions of both the U.S. and the French occupancy in North America. When Spanish couriers were intercepted carrying payments for Wilkinson, Wayne's suspicions were confirmed and he attempted to court martial Wilkinson for his treachery. However, Wayne developed a stomach ulcer and died on December 15, 1796.

[3] Some historical references seem to confuse Fort Massac and Cantonment Wilkinson. Fort Massac is a state park in the west edge of Metropolis, also along the Ohio River. The two are separated by about 15 miles.

[4] Under this plan Fort Massac was to be taken by the Spanish and mounted with twenty guns. The plotters were also to have a sum of $100,000 for raising and maintaining forces there.