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 never even 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 1950s)
Chicago Cubs Wrigley Field Andy Frain Coat (circa 1970s)
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 Neil Gale, Ph.D.

2 comments:

  1. 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!

    ReplyDelete

The Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal™ is rated PG-13. Please comment accordingly.
Comments not on the articles topic will be deleted as well as advertisements.