Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Frankenstein's Bar, 2235 West Howard Street, Chicago, Illinois.

Frankenstein Lunch Lab & Boogie Castle was a couple of doors west of the Fish Keg.
I went there most Thursday nights in 1979-80. I got in even though the legal drinking age had just changed back to 21 years old from 19 years old for beer and wine in Illinois.

Many times I'd stop at the Fish Keg, pick up a pound of shrimp, perch or some other totally delicious fresh fried fish, 1/2 order of French fries and go into Frankenstein's, sit down at a table and order a beer with dinner. YUMMY!

They had a nice sized dance floor, a couple of pinball games, and good music.

Visit our souvenir shop.


Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

"The Magic Door" TV Show, a part of Chicagolands Sunday Morning Programming.

The Magic Door (AKA: The Magic Door Television Theatre) was a Jewish educational television series aimed at providing kiruv (outreach) to Jewish children in the Chicago, Illinois metropolitan area.
Tiny Tov and his Acorn House in Torahville.
Temmie Gilbert was an inspirational theater teacher, arts patron and civil rights activist who won three Emmys for her TV work, one of them for producing one of Chicago’s longest-running children’s programs, “The Magic Door.”
Temmie Gilbert
The goal of the show was teaching without preaching. The show was focused more on the Jewish culture. The idea was to give children good moral values by having themes from jealousy to litterbugs. Ninety-five per cent of the audience wasn't Jewish. The funny thing is that countless non-Jewish Chicagoans loved the show without knowing what they were watching.
The half-hour show was produced by the Chicago Board of Rabbis and premiered January 1, 1962 and ran weekly until 1991. It aired at 8:30 AM (floating between 7 AM to 9 AM depending on the year) on Sunday mornings on WBBM-TV Channel 2.
There were two main theme songs for the Magic Door. The first was based on an Israeli Children's song, "A Room Zoom Zoom."
"Ah room zoom zoom, ah room zoom zoom, gily gily gily gily gily a sa sa. Come through the Magic Door with me, just say these words and wondrous things you'll see."
The second theme song was written by Charles Gerber and was set to a melody from Beethoven's "Pastorale" Symphony No. 6:
"Open, come open the Magic Door with me, With your imagination there's so much we can see. There is a doorway that leads to a place. I'll find my way by the smile on your face."
Set in "Torahville," the main characters of the series included "Tiny Tov" (a character "reduced" to appear as a kind of miniature elf) and his cousin "Tina Tova". Tiny lived in a nicely decorated house that was made out of an acorn, the entrance was "The Magic Door". Before Tiny would enter his dwelling, he would sing "A Room Zoom Zoom."

In addition to Tiny and Tina, there were other puppet characters including: Boobie Beaver, Icky Witch, Rabbi and Mrs Moreh, Deedee, Max the Mailbox, Rumplemyer Dragon, Bunny Rabbit, Buddy, Worthington Warlock, Scrunch and human characters also participated. All of the characters were Jewish except Reverend Raymond from nearby Chapeltown.

In the early days of the series, Tiny Tov would travel back to biblical times by riding on his Magic Feather. Tiny would say "Aleph bet, gimel hay, magic feather, move away!" Later on the program evolved into moral topics. There would be a "Hebrew Word of the Day" that related to whatever values were being taught. Each week Tiny would educate children on Jewish history, sharing stories from Torah and discussing Jewish tradition. Every episode would include a brief Hebrew lesson, stepping through the Aleph-Bet (Hebrew alphabet).

The character of Tiny Tov was created by Irv Kaplan, who later moved to Israel and was instrumental in the creation of Israeli Public and Educational Television. There was only one Tina Tova played by Fran (Uditsky) Moss.

There were three Tiny Tov's in all. From 1970, Tiny Tov was portrayed by Emmy-nominated actor Jerry (Jerome) Loeb until he moved to California in 1973. The second Tiny Tov was played by Charles Gerber, who also created the song lyrics. The third Tiny Tov was played by (Rabbi) Joe Black.

The Magic Door Theme Song

WBBM TV The Magic Door 25th Anniversary Show.

I received an email from Marty Zitlin, on May11, 2019, co-producer of The Magic Door show from 1977-1981. He included this picture of their 1980-81 Chicago Area Television Emmy Award for The Magic Door Series.
 

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

The History of Isaac Woolf, "Newsboy's Friend," and Owner of Woolf’s Clothing Store, Chicago, Illinois.

Isaac Woolf was born in London, England on January 4, 1852. He came to the U.S. as a child with his parents and they settled in Lafayette, Indiana. His family was poor, and he began his business life as a newsboy.

From that he went to stripping tobacco, but he found time to attend school and also to enroll at a business college.

He spent several years in Cincinnati learning the clothing business and then came to Chicago where he was employed as a retail salesman by the Barbe Bros. clothing house. In 1880 he embarked on the clothing business on his own account with his brothers at 183 W. Madison Street in Chicago.

In 1896 he opened his establishment at 160 S. State Street. His brothers Benjamin, Edward and Harry took employment at Woolf's Clothing Store.

Isaac Woolf decided it was time to give something back.  He decided to provide a full Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings for any and all newsboys in Chicago who wanted to attend. 

The tradition began in 1882 when owner Isaac Woolf invited about a hundred newsboys to join him for Thanksgiving dinner. Called “newsies,” the boys were employed as the main distributors of newspapers to the general public. Typically earning about thirty cents a day, they were wretchedly poor, often sleeping on the streets. 

Having been a penniless newsboy himself, Woolf understood their plight and that of others who were impoverished. Paying for the meals out of his own pocket, the kind-hearted retailer expanded his annual dinner to include other poverty-stricken families and destitute elderly couples, as the ranks of the poor swelled during the severe economic depression of the 1890s (aka: the Panic of 1893).
By 1895, Woolf was providing over 10,000 dinners each year to those in need on Thanksgiving evening. Everyone was welcome.

On March 17, 1898, Isaac Woolf opened his grandest store yet at the southwest corner of State and Monroe, Chicago. He billed his store as "The store with a horseshoe over the door and the Palmer House over the way."
In the afternoon of November 28, 1900 it was unseasonably cold; the temperature had already dropped into the teens when the store clerks sprang into action. In what had become a well-orchestrated ritual, they stored away the goods and removed the counters from the main floor. Next, the tables were brought in, covered with marbled oilcloth, and decorated with flowers, fruit, and pyramids of small cakes. After carefully arranging a thousand place settings, reportedly with as much precision as you would find at a fine hotel, the clerks donned white aprons and jackets just before opening the doors at 6 PM, ready to serve old-fashioned turkey dinners to the multitudes who would begin filing in from the frigid weather.

For twenty-four years Woolf, president of Woolf's Clothing Store closed early on the day before Thanksgiving, as it had done for years, in order to get ready to serve a holiday dinner for the poor of Chicago. 

Woolf died after 2 days sickness on October 21, 1906. Woolf Clothing Company was in trouble without Isaac at the helm. Within two years, Woolf Clothing Company filed for bankruptcy.
Chicago Examiner, December 31, 1908
This impressive monument marking his burial place can be found in Section L of Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.

Legal Alcohol During the Prohibition Years in Illinois and the Country.

Prohibition began on January 16, 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect. Most people think that Prohibition meant there was no legal alcohol. There were lots of exceptions. And those exceptions were quickly abused.
For example:
1. Churches and synagogues could buy and serve sacramental wine at Communion or with a certification from a Rabbi. Suddenly, a lot more wine was being purchased by religious organizations. The number of Rabbis also increased dramatically.
2. Hospitals could order alcohol for cleaning purposes. The hospitals that used to order rubbing alcohol by the quart now ordered it by the boxcar. (Note: there was a way to chemically change rubbing alcohol into drinking alcohol.)

3. Patent medicine had always had a large percentage of alcohol. That percentage grew larger. And physicians were prescribing a lot more medicine. Sometimes doctors got a couple dollars kickback for every prescription they wrote for a certain liquor.

Whiskey could be obtained by prescription from medical doctors. The labels clearly warned that it was strictly for medicinal purposes and any other uses were illegal, but even so doctors freely wrote prescriptions and drug-stores filled them without question, so the number of "patients" increased dramatically.

4. Industrial use of alcohol was still legal. Many industries needed a lot more alcohol than they used to.

5. People could legally make hard cider, beer, or wine at home for home use only, so Pabst and Anheuser Busch sold malt extract and other products for home brewing. California grape growers sold wine grapes, which had never fetched more than $30 to $105 per ton. The price spiked for a short time in 1924 to $375 per ton!

6. People could still drink any alcohol they had leftover from pre-prohibition days. Knowing that, many individuals and private clubs stocked many years' worth of alcohol in anticipation.

7. Alcohol was legal on ships that were outside the 3 mile limit. Needless to say, this technicality was exploited by everyone including the State owned shipping line. 

Prohibition was repealed on December 5, 1933.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Robert Pershing Wadlow, World's Tallest Man, Alton, Illinois. (1918-1940)

Robert Pershing Wadlow, born February 22, 1918 to normal parents in Illinois, Robert Wadlow weighed a healthy almost nine pounds. While this may seem like a normal start to life, who could have guessed that the baby would one day be known as the Giant of Illinois.
By the time Robert turned one-year old he was already over three-feet tall, and weighed 45 pounds.

His growth spurt started in infancy, and he kept growing throughout his entire life thanks to a hyperactive pituitary gland problem. The condition caused his system to produce an abnormal amount of human growth hormone. Robert would continue to grow until the end of his short life.
In his early teenage years he was well over seven-feet tall which, combined with his quiet disposition, earned him the nickname “gentle giant.” He was a Boy Scout, and enjoyed photography and guitar.
 
 
In high school Robert was popular and active in many extracurricular activities, even serving as the advertising manager for the yearbook. He was completely accepted by his peers. However, when he attended college he lost that acceptance and struggled with the stares. It bothered him so much that he dropped out and returned to his parents quite penniless.
That is when his brief stint with Ringling Bros. began. His 1937 contract was brief and had strict conditions and terms. First, Robert would only attend shows at Madison Square Garden and the Boston Garden. He would display himself only two times a day for three minutes. He refused to allow any exaggeration of his height via media releases or standard height enhancing sideshow trickery like platform shoes, top hats and trick photography. Furthermore, Robert would only display himself in the centre ring and refused any association with the sideshow. Despite all of these restrictions, Robert proved to be incredibly popular.

Robert was so popular that following his time with Ringling Bros. he signed a fabulous contract with The International Shoe Company. The deal included quite a bit of travel and personal appearances and in just under a year Robert had made over 800 appearances and traveled over 300,000 miles.
Perhaps most importantly, the company provided Robert with free shoes – a big deal when you are a size 37 and your shoes cost over $100 a pair (today $1,675).

Robert broke the world record as the tallest man in history when he was 19, but he didn’t stop growing. He measured in at eight-feet, four-inches tall at that time.
In addition to requiring custom clothing to accommodate his size— he required massive 37AA size shoes— he needed to have customized furniture as regular table and chairs were not large enough.

Eventually his hands would grow to be too large for him to participate in his favorite hobbies, but this wasn’t the only downside to his larger frame. The physical toll on his health would ultimately bring his life to an abrupt and premature end.

He suffered from weak legs, and commonly experienced loss-of-feeling and numbness in his limbs and extremities. He depended on specially designed leg braces and a cane in order to move around—although he never used a wheelchair.

It was during an infection from a blister caused by one of these ill-fitted leg braces that Robert’s health took a serious turn for the worst. He underwent blood transfusions and emergency surgery in an attempt to save him, but ultimately the efforts of doctors were futile. His condition continued to decline because of an autoimmune disorder, and he succumbed to the infection. He died in his sleep on July 15 1940 - he was only 22 years old. When he passed away, he measured 8 feet 11.1 inches and weighed an astounding 439 pounds.

Robert Wadlow's body was viewed by 33,295 within 28 hours after his death. His funeral was attended by 40,000 mourners. It took twelve pallbearers to hoist his thousand pound casket. Robert was buried in Oakwood cemetery in Alton, Illinois on July 19, 1940 and required two normal size grave plots.
A life sized statue of Robert Wadlow still stands in his hometown of Alton, Illinois.

The Story of Robert Wadlow.
[runtime - 26:38]

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The January 16, 1967 McCormick Place Fire, Chicago, Illinois.

McCormick Place, an exhibition center on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, opened in November 1960. The center included a theater, several restaurants and banquet rooms, and over 500,000 square feet of exhibition space.
In January of 1967, McCormick Place hosted the National Housewares Manufacturers Association Show, which featured nearly 1,250 booths selling kitchen and household appliances. The event was scheduled to open on Monday, January 16, but, at around 2 AM that morning, McCormick Place janitors noticed smoke rising from a small fire at the back of an exhibition booth.
The janitors waited to raise the alarm and instead attempted to extinguish the fire themselves by beating at it with brooms and pieces of carpeting. The flames quickly spread to the walls of the booth, prompting the janitors to call the Chicago Fire Department. Firefighters responded immediately and, within five minutes of the first alarm, an officer on-scene ordered a second alarm.
By 2:30 AM, five alarms were sounded, bringing 94 apparatus and over 500 fire and rescue personnel to the scene. Fire fighting efforts were severely delayed, however, as four of the seven McCormick Place fire hydrants were shut off.
To attack the flames, firefighters had to draft water from Lake Michigan and rely on fire hydrants a quarter-mile away. The fire was extinguished by 10AM, around the time the N.H.M.A. show was scheduled to begin, but McCormick Place was essentially destroyed.
Initial investigations by the City of Chicago exposed several serious fire safety issues that had been overlooked by McCormick Place management. The exhibition area did not have fire sprinklers or fire walls, and fire proof materials did not protect the steel roof supports. Also, most of the electrical wiring for the booths did not follow electrical safety standards, as the facility was still using temporary electrical systems for the exhibition are as. Most tragically, one McCormick Place security guard was killed in the fire, presumably because he could not find an unlocked emergency exit. Other employees who escaped the blaze confirmed that they had never been told how to find unlocked emergency exits.

In the months following the fire, the Illinois Inspection and Rating Bureau launched a comprehensive investigation into the McCormick Place Fire and published a detailed report on its findings. The investigators did not determine a definitive cause, but it is assumed that the temporary electrical wiring started the fire. The report did, however, shine light on many of the difficulties the firefighters faced, noting how “firefighting was seriously hampered because of lack of adequate water, intense heat, rapid fire spread, early roof collapse and unstable exterior panel walls.” The report helped to bring about numerous changes to the Chicago Municipal Code, as ordinances on exhibition halls, electrical facilities, emergency exits, fire walls, and smoke and heat vents were soon revised based on the lessons learned from the McCormick Place Fire. 

by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Kiddieville (Amusement Park), Niles, Illinois. (c.1936-c.1966)

Amusement Park Name History: 
Kiddieville (Amusement Park), Niles, Illinois (ca.1950 – ca.1966)
East Maine Miniature Rides, Niles, Illinois (ca.1939 – ca.1949)
East Maine Miniature Train, Niles, Illinois (ca.1936 – ca.1939)

Long ago, the property at the very north end of what is now Golf Mill shopping center was owned by farmers John and Anna Schwinge (pronounced 'swing'). He owned the 80 acres bounded by Greenwood on the west, Golf road on the north, the Bruhn farm on the south (approximately where Emerson Street is now) and crossed over Milwaukee Avenue.
Sometime around 1935, Anna Schwinge was approached by a carpenter from the northwest side of Chicago named Herbert Fritz (a relative of Art Fritz, the founder of Kiddieland in Melrose Park, Illinois in 1929), who had purchased a miniature train in Chicago. He didn’t have room for it in the city, so Herbert offered to purchase 10 acres from Anna. It was a nice location, on the northeast corner of the Schwinge's property, which was located at the south east corner of Golf road and Milwaukee Avenue (Milwaukee Avenue was the only paved road back then). Anna agreed, and by the following summer the “East Maine Miniature Train” was selling Rides for 3 cents to all the area families and travelers from the City. There was a story about Herbert Fritz attending the Bruhn-Pries wedding in the late 30s and took the entire wedding party on a midnight train ride. The train track was a huge oval running north and south along the east side of Milwaukee Avenue up to Golf Road at the north end of the property.
Over the next few years, Fritz and his wife, Laura, bought and built new rides, including pony rides. Three years later they changed the name of the park from “East Maine Miniature Train” to “East Maine Miniature Rides.” Their son, Herby Jr., joined the armed forces in 1942 and after his tour of duty ended in 1946 he joined in the family-run business.

The business began to flourish as G.I.s came home from the war and started families. They added a merry-go-round, a boat ride, a Ferris wheel, a small car ride, a tilt-a-whirl ride, airplane ride, fire truck ride, rocket ride, and finally added the miniature roller coaster. The name was then changed to “Kiddieville” soon after.


 
 
Many of the local children and adults were employed at Kiddieville. The miniature railroad was expanded with more train cars and a longer track, which by then, had encompassed the entire ten acre park.

 
There were plenty of jobs to be had there, from selling tickets, walking the ponies, operating a ride, or working in the concession stand. Some of the rides were rickety and unsafe, and Herby was sued a few times by riders claiming injuries.
Herbert sold the park in the mid 1960’s and it eventually became the location of the “Children’s Bargain Town, U.S.A.” toy store (now the Toys R Us) and “Finks Links” miniature golf course and properties. 

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.