Monday, June 3, 2019

The History of the Andy Frain Usher Service.

Chicagoan Andrew T. Frain began his career at 14 years old, after graduating 8th grade, his highest level of formal education. He started renting seat cushions, at 10¢ per game, to patrons of Comiskey Park during White Sox baseball games. Andy further added to his income by retrieving empty pop bottles and returning them for the deposit.
Andrew T. Frain
Andy Frain Services was started by Andrew T. Frain in 1924, born in Chicago's "Back of the Yards" neighborhood of the "New City" community. Family legend is that he learned the art of crowd engineering (as Andy coined) by directing his 16 siblings in and out of the family’s single bathroom.

Frain started the usher service as a way for owners to end the gate-crashing and usher-bribing that was rampant at sports venues in those days.

He rounded up some burly friends from the neighborhood and convinced the White Sox that he could do better with his honest, unbribable ushers.

Four years later, Andy won Wrigley Field’s business, too. William Wrigley Jr. advanced him the cash to buy the blue uniforms with gold braid trim that became a Frain hallmark.

Pretty soon, Andy Frain ushers became an institution themselves. If anything was happening or if anyone of note was in Chicago, an Andy Frain usher was there. Frain, who barely finished grade school, eventually expanded the business across the country.
Frain ran the company with military discipline. Most of his ushers were high school or college students, 6 feet tall or more, with white teeth, short haircuts, clean-shaven, wore white gloves, and gleaming shoes. Their uniforms were snappy blue and gold, colors Frain selected because they were the same as his favorite team's, Notre Dame. When he began hiring female ushers, Frain said he hired women who used “soap and water, not paint and powder.” Ushers were required to use polite language and not allowed to slouch, smoke, chew gum, eat or drink in front of spectators. Many former ushers attributed success later in life to the training they received as Andy Frain ushers.
Andy Frain Service at a Beatles concert.
Andy Frain's family carries on Dad's business at Comiskey Park in May 7, 1964.
And their expertise extended beyond crowd control. Andy Frain ushers would get hired as drivers, parking attendants, pallbearers, even emergency prom dates for jilted girls.  At hockey games, an Andy Frain usher would sometimes be dispatched to sit in the penalty box between players who had been fighting on the ice. Frain said in an interview that he even offered professional criers to show up at funerals.
Vintage, Iconic Andy Frain Cap made by Maier Lavaty Co.,
on Adams Street in Chicago. (circa 1950)
Chicago Cubs Wrigley Field Andy Frain Coat (circa 1970)
Andy Frain died of a heart attack on March 25, 1964, in Rochester, Minnesota. His three sons successfully took over the business until they sold it to investors in 1982. After that, the company went through a string of bankruptcies and ownership changes until 1996, when the trade name was purchased by the new owners, who have offered security services under the Andy Frain name ever since.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

8 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I was an Andy Frain usher1958-1960. Frain offices were at 1819 W. Madison in Chicago. I was hired by Andy senior after being proposed to him by my Aunt, Genevieve Leach. She was the manager of the nearby Chicago Stadium and worked closely with Andy Frain for years in handling the stadium crowds at Blackhawks hockey games, Bulls NBA performances. Ice Capades, Roy Rogers rodeos, Loyola U.basketball games.... virtually all events there.
      We ushers also were used for Grant Park classical music concerts. professional wrestling matches, rodeos, circuses and political conventions at the Chicago Amphitheater, There were professional polo games at the Chicago Coliseum , Cub ( and originally Bears) games at Wrigley Field, White Sox contests (and 1959 World Series) and original Chicago Cardinal NFL games at Comiskey Park, horse racing at Washington Park and Arlington Park and PGA golf at various area courses.
      The pay during my tenure was $6 to $7 per baseball or football game and similar pay for the other events.
      I particularly liked the fact that Mr. Frain had so much clout that he could call my Catholic School principal and summon me to special events that would be going on during school year days, This was a unique standard practice and honor bestowed throughout the city upon us "worthy, reliable students". i got to go to the 1959 World Series that way, for instance.
      Mr. Frain was a tough, vivacious and very smart and charismatic individual. He could always be seen chomping on a cigar while laying down the law instructing both his "White Hat" Chief ushers and Blue hat regular ushers. He was a very devoted husband and father with the strongest of family values which he insisted that all his employees reflected. In time , he brought his sons into the company leadership.Michael, the eldest son was handed the company reins when he suffered the tragic loss of his wife. She had taken an early flight to Churchill Downs to meet up later with Andy. Andy had contracted for usher services for the Kentucky Derby and the trip was to be a business/pleasure jaunt. That plane crashed en route and Andy was devastated and heart-broken. He lost interest in his iconic business and let his boys take over from that day on.

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  2. Noticed in the photo above the policeman was clowning and putting his fingers in his ears, but the Andy Frain ushers were like the Buckingham Palace guards, although they would and did smile! I was just thinking about them the other day, how they were always at Wrigley Field and the Shrine Circus and was wondering if they were still around, now I know! Thanks, Neil!

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  3. My husbands Aunt Sis (Evelyn) White and Shirley White worked for them for many years, and always spoke highly of them.

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  4. I was an usher for the Ed Sullivan show with the Beatles and soon after the the Clay Liston fight. Great experience

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  5. I was an usher in the 3rd base box seat area back in the 50's while going to high school. We didn't get uniforms, but could work if we showed up well groomed and wearing a blue suit, white shirt and tie. They gave us hats and gloves, and when we turned them in after our shift, we each got paid $5... but most of us would have done if for free, because we got to see the games, and streetcar fare was really cheap - and when Wayne Terwilliger played 2nd for the Cubs in 1951 I often rode the Kedzie and Addison St. buses to work with him because he lived around the corner from me.

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  6. Anyone remember Jack McDonald, a Frain executive who worked out of the Chicago Avenue office?

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