|The entrance to Tower Cabana; show your pass and get a towel. (September 1961)|
In 1955, on a narrow, two-block strip of land, leased from the North Shore Sanitary Canal and overlooking the canal, a total of 6.75 acres east of Jersey Avenue on Peterson Avenue is where Brotman built his Tower Cabana Club.
|The former Tower Cabana Club site.|
NOTE: The McDonald's on the SE corner of Peterson and Jersey Avenues was next door to the Tower Cabana Club. It was the first McDonald's IN the city of Chicago (the first McDonald's in Illinois was in Des Plaines). It was opened by James E. Maros, and was an original red & white tiled, eat-out-side building, located at 3241 West Peterson Avenue. It opened in late 1955 and is still a McDonald's.Brotman's family plan for "poolside living" was extensive, costing $300,000 in 1955 ($2,845,000 today). The club had a snack bar, a wading pool designed for the toddler set, day camp activities under competent instructors, and a playground area far enough away from the cabanas to ensure a little peace and quiet for parents. Outdoor dances were scheduled for summer evenings.
|And at the end of the day, there's dancing. Dapper Dan Belloc's combo (they're the ones in the cool Bermuda shorts) provide the music while the high school set does the hokey-pokey. Every day is a busy one at the Tower Cabana -- and the teens have great fun, from early morning arrival until parents call a curfew -- or perhaps, join them for a swim.|
Other activities included the Aquacade show; water skiing in the pool, surfboard ballet, daredevil diving. Dancing for teens with entertainers like Ralph Marterie, Lola Dee, David Carroll, Eddy Howard, Nick Noble, the Crew Cuts, Len Dresslar, Georgia Gibbs, and many other famous people have performed at Tower Cabana Club over the years.
|David Garfield, 17, and Linda Silverstein, 13, enjoy a go at the shuffleboard court. From David's expression, it would be safe to assume that Linda is winning this one!|
|The slide that Dede and Dave are shooting down is different from those you see at most playgrounds. This one deposits the daredevils in the Water!|
|Looking north at the Tower Cabana Club (circa 1958). Note the natural gas storage tank 1 mile north on Kedzie and Whipple. Sometime in the mid-1970s, the tank was being dismantled and it caught fire. You could see and smell the fire for miles.|
A new device that is often helpful in teaching children to swim was called "swim trainer," which was an inflatable rubber bag that is strapped to the back and gives the learner confidence and helps keep him in position.
|Sherwin Winer, Chief swim instructor at Chicago's Tower Cabana Club encourages Marty Scott to try the inflated device called "swim trainer."|
|Sherwin Winer lowers Lawrence Wolf into position. The "swim trainer" permits the free use of arms.|
|Sherwin Winer buckles the device on Deborah Witkin, while Marcia Omens watches. Marcia's type of float does not put her in a swimming position so easily.|
|Sherwin Winer takes off, while his class swims along in his wake.|
|Decoma Day Camp had its swimming activities at the Tower Cabana Club starting in 1956. Uncle Deutsch (left) and Uncle Miltie (right) were Decoma Day Camp co-directors.|
|Steve Citrin on the Tower Cabana diving board.|
|Steve Citrin on the high dive springboard.|
|Steve Citrin tries out the lifeguard post at Tower Cabana.|
|Jack Citrin standing in front of the cabanas.|
|Rose Citrin playing Mah Jongg at Tower Cabana.|
The city of Chicago argued they had zoned the land for single-family dwellings, but the judge ruled the city didn’t have the right to zone Sanitary District property. Not to mention the land was 50 feet west of a waterway used to drain sewage from North Shore suburbs into the city. Brotman won round one on January 30, 1955.
|Refreshment time -- and relaxing on the lounges -- at the same time picking up a little sun are Heddy Greenberg (left), Roberta Lakes, and Jay Dushkin, all 13-year-olds.|
|Lifeguard Ronald Gordon, 16, makes sure that 16-year-old Leslie Duboe is safe at one end of the pool. Safe? She's touching the bottom.|
During the zoning battle, Hollywood North Park Civic Association (HPNCA) came into existence. Founded by Gerald Specter and other local residents for the purpose of blocking construction of the club, HNPCA fought Brotman on several issues to preserve the neighborhood’s quiet character and its property values.
Cold weather brought more controversy.
In November 1955, Brotman came up with the idea of offering club members ice skating during the off-season. His was no ordinary flood the backyard plan; Brotman enlisted the engineers of the Burge Ice Machine Company to build an icy surface over the pool that would stay frozen even in 60° weather. The ice froze but outdoor lighting and piped music heated up the neighbors.
|Merle Citrin skating at Tower Cabana Club. (November 1957)|
Brotman’s ingenuity as a set designer was once again evident in December 1956 with the transformation of the palm trees into 45-foot Christmas trees. “No one would ever guess,” Brotman told the Tribune, “that I had those eight evergreens hauled down from Michigan by special truck, lashed them as close as possible to the palm trunks and steadied them with guy wires.”
Brotman won that round but lost the next one. His scheme to boost revenues by adding a golf driving range met with neighborhood disapproval. “A pool is one thing, but a golf range in a quiet area is ridiculous,” said Specter. “I don’t want to see neighbors kids dodging golf balls.”
Specter and the HNPCA won the round of golf. The experience of challenging Brotman’s Tower Cabana Club served Specter well for a history-making battle nearly twenty years later.
In 1974, the city closed the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium, also located in Hollywood Park. The first Mayor Daley wanted to give the land to developer Harry Chaddick, who had plans for a shopping mall and high-rise apartment buildings. Specter and others fought to preserve the land for public use.The end of an era.
Specter was a huge player in keeping the Tuberculosis site out of the hands of commercial developers. He fought the Daley machine and won. As a result of the North River Coalition, the land occupied by the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium became Peterson Park and North Park Village.
In 1966 Tower Cabana Club went out of business and its facilities quickly deteriorated, helped along by nature and vandals. HNPCA begged for its demolition and in 1968 the Sanitary District finally obliged. They then leased the site for a dollar a year to the Chicago Park District and to this day it remains a free and open space with a bike/walking path.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.