Saturday, May 30, 2020

Paying Homage to Restaurateur Burt Katz; The Inferno, Gullivers, Pequod's and Burt's Place. He is the "Father of the Caramelized Pan Pizza Crust."

Bert Katz (1937-2016) was born in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Burt attended Roosevelt High School in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and studied history at Roosevelt University. Bert spent 25 years, on and off, as a pit-trader at the Chicago Board of Trade.

On December 6, 1962, Burt and Sharon started a year-long, around-the-world honeymoon road trip in Japan. They bought a rare Toyopet Stout truck, an original Toyota, then drove through several countries including Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. Photographs show the then 24 and 25-year-olds with their truck, on which they stenciled their many stops. In Lisbon, they shipped the truck to Chicago, but never drove it again. Katz donated it to a friend’s auto museum which closed and sold it for scrap. When the salvage yard owner saw the stenciled country names, he could not bear to crush the truck, so again it sold.
In 1963 Katz became an owner-partner in the pizza restaurant called The Inferno on Central Street in Evanston, a north suburb of Chicago. For the first time, Katz introduced a new kind of pizza to the Chicago area consumers, a caramelized crust. The Inferno was the first place he would eventually fully own, but it would be far from the last.

He sold his share in 1965 and opened up Gullivers, a pan-pizza Restaurant, with partner Jerry Freeman. Katz named it as a tribute to “Gulliver’s Travels.” His original Gullivers Restaurant only had one dining room and was flanked by a pottery shop and a delicatessen in the same building. It's still located at 2727 West Howard Street in Chicago’s West Ridge community. Freeman developed a passion for antiques and filled the restaurant with stained glass lamps, statues, and other items. The two soon split up. Katz would go on to sell Gullivers and enter into the business world and he would not emerge into the pizza industry again until 1970.
In 1970 Burt Katz decided he didn't enjoy the futures trading business any longer. After a confrontation with his boss, he quit his job He still needed a job to support his wife Sharon and three children. 

So, turning back to the pizza industry and the unique caramelized pizza he had created years before, he opened the original Pequod's Pizzeria at 8520 Fernald Avenue in Morton Grove in 1971 (their menu and website incorrectly say 1970), a north-west suburb of Chicago. He named it Pequod's after the whaling ship in “Moby Dick.” The original restaurant is still located at 8520 Fernald Avenue, in a converted house. Its original logo was just a whale, although it has since been modified to be a whale wearing a thong on his head.

Katz sold Pequod's in 1986 to Keith Jackson who still owns the restaurant. Katz simply says he got 'burned out' at Pequods, but of course, he couldn't stop.

Always changing his pan pizza (said 'PAN PIZZA' on every restaurant menu) recipe from place to place, Katz finally opened up Burt’s Place in suburb Morton Grove, which he operated with his wife Sharon. The pizza at each establishment that Burt had left his caramelized recipe which was different at each place. 

I was first introduced to Pequod's in Morton Grove, by a friend who took me there in 1975. It is just off of Lincoln Avenue at the alley at 8520 Fernald Avenue. Burt was always in the kitchen but would step out into the dining room to see if he knew anyone!

Burt, a radio collector, filled the interior with beautiful vintage console radios, table-top radios, microphones, ham radios, and the QSL postcards of people’s ham radio call letters stapled to the ceiling beams. There was a backroom filled with Burt's most precious items of his collection. Not many people were invited by Bert to see his radio collection.
Chicago Tribune, January 20, 1980.
"Antiques by Anita Gold" column.
One of those QSL cards was from a friend of mine. His call letters were: WB9VLV
QSL Card from the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress World's Fair.
Burt added cheese between the edge crust and the hot pan when placing the pie back into the oven after turning it 180° to finish baking. This is what gives the edge of the crust its burnt look and delicious taste. 
Bert took the aged pizza pans from Gullivers when he sold it in 1965, so by the time he opened Burt's Place in 1989, the seasoned pans were almost 25 years old.
Bert's Well Seasoned Pizza Pans.
Pequod's pan pizza is to die for. I personally rank it higher than Giordano's, The Original Gino's, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's, Uno's, and, yes, even Burt's Place.

A Personal Story
Pequod's is a great informal, cozy date-place, and the greatest pan pizza anywhere. I took a girlfriend there, her first time, in 1976. She absolutely loved their pizza. We went back shortly thereafter. We were seated at the 2-topper table at the front window. While waiting for our salad and pizza order, I commented about how cool it would be to live across the street in one of those houses. You could call in your order, go across the street to pick up your order and bring home a scorching hot pizza. 
Well.. just as I finished my statement, the front door of the house directly across the street opened, and a man crossed the street and came into Pequod's, picked up his order, and went home with it. We nearly got kicked out of the restaurant because we were laughing so hard tears were rolling down our cheeks. Truth be told, we were a little loud too. The waitress came to our table and I managed to tell her why were couldn't stop laughing. She chuckled and explained that it happens a lot from the neighborhood residences.

If you've ever been to the Morton Grove Pequod's, before Katz sold it in 1986, and used the tiny, and I mean TINY, restrooms that, at least the men's room, had the walls painted black and bathroom humor phrases and words were painted in different colors on the walls, and not from customers or taggers. The restroom doors were slatted both the upper and lower half of the door and angled down so you couldn't see inside. Sometimes you could hear someone expelling gas, making grunting noises, or hear tinkling sounds. Creepy... but as soon as someone started to laugh... nobody could stop.

When the two-way swinging kitchen doors opened, viewable from only one or two tables in the back, you could see {new} women's undies, bras, and panties, hanging from the ceiling. No lie! 

In 1989 Burt and Sharon Katz opened the restaurant "Starback" at 8541 Ferris Avenue in Morton Grove, which was renamed "Burt's Place" a number of years later because of a trademark conflict with Starbucks.
NOTE: The sign in the right window says "Morton Grove's 1st and Finest pan Pizza Since 1971." Burt's pizzas were pan pizzas. See videos of Burt making his famous pan pizza below. April 1994
Charles Peschke and son George at his Blacksmith Shop at 8541 Ferris in Morton Grove, Illinois in the late 1800s. The early blacksmith provided essential services to local farmers and industry by crafting specialized tools and repairing anything made of metal. Horseshoeing was only one part of his work. Charles Peschke also served as one of Morton Grove's first police marshals and helped organize Morton Grove Volunteer Fire Department. The houses in the background are on Callie Avenue.
Burt's Place building was built in 1912. There is an apartment on the 2nd floor.
Burt was the sole operator in the kitchen, while Sharon was the only waitress, phone-order taker, and front-end manager." Burt believed if you want something done right, do it yourself, and he did.

A photograph of a slice of pizza from Burt's Place was featured on the cover of the October 2007 issue of the magazine Saveur with an accompanying article; a huge reprint of the cover was displayed on the wall next to the kitchen entrance.
He achieved worldwide fame after being featured on a Chicago-themed episode of Anthony Bourdain's television documentary series "No Reservations" in 2009.
Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations"
on the Travel Channel.

In 2012, based upon a survey involving 85,000 votes, the editors of the magazine Men's Health selected Burt's Place as the USA's Best Pizza Parlor.

Due to Burt's health problems, he closed Burt's Place in 2015.
Meet The Pan Pizza Superhero
Burt's Place, Chicago's Best Viewer's Choice

Burton D. Katz died on April 30, 2016. Burt was survived by his wife Sharon, their three children, and six grandchildren; he was predeceased by one grandchild. Burt Katz is buried at Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois.
May Burt Katz's memory bring joy to all who knew him
and think of him with every bite of pizza you take.
Remembering Burt Katz: The Pizza Show

In 2017 Burt's Place was reopened by Jerry Petrow and John Munao, former futures traders and first-time restaurateurs, who were selected and trained by Burt Katz when he knew he was dying of cancer. Petrow said he wrote down everything Bert told him from memory.

Petrow and Munao used the same fresh ingredients (shopped for every day), recipes, methods, and the pizza pans that Katz left them. "There were some rumors out that we weren't using the same pans," Munao said. "That is false."
Burt's Place New Interior.
The entrance had a small ramp installed because it was necessary to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, as are the two newly designed restrooms to become ADA compliant.

John Munao ventured out on his own, taking Burt Katz caramelized pizza crust secret, and opened Lefty's Pizza Kitchen in Wilmette in 2018. The pizzas are a New York style with the crust being double thin in thickness or as Chicagoans call it, Eastern Style.

Keith Jackson bought Pequod's in Morton Grove in 1986 from Katz for about $300,000 (per the Cook County Assessor's Office). Jackson said the sale price was for the business as well as the building.

Jackson would go on to buy the building in Chicago's Lincoln Park in 1991 to open the second Pequod's Pizza at 2207 N. Clybourn Avenue
When asked if there was any bad blood between himself and Burt Katz, Jackson, a radiant 60-year-old with blue eyes and a peace and love mentality, merely said “let bygones be bygones.” Jackson did add however that it was “disappointing that he opened up Burt’s Place right up the street from our Morton Grove location.” Jackson understands that it’s a competitive business and despite this fact, his business does very well, especially in the booming Lincoln Park community.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Hotel Alcazar in Chicago. A "Green Book" Approved Hotel for Negro Guests.

Hotel Alcazar, 3000 Washington Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois. — Tel: VAn Buren 6-7500 (826-7500)
The Hotel Alcazar on Washington Street at Sacramento Avenue in Chicago. 1920s
The Hotel Alcazar was one of the businesses listed in the "Green Book" in 1961-1964 and 1966-1967. In the June 1963 Ebony magazine, Hotel Alcazar was listed with 200 newly furnished rooms with private baths.
The Hotel Alcazar Lobby
The Hotel Alcazar Lobby, 1965
The first edition of the Green Book, officially known as the "Negro Motorist Green Book," was published in 1936, initially as a guide solely to the New York City metro area. 

The popularity of that inaugural issue prompted publisher Victor Hugo Green to expand the Green Book to cover the entire U.S., and eventually destinations outside the country. Aside from the years 1942-1946, when the publication was suspended during World War II, editions were released annually until the final double issue of 1966-67. 

By the mid-1960s, the final issues of the Green Book included listings for previously whites-only hotels including the Conrad Hilton, the Ambassador East, and the Ambassador West, and the famous, 5-star, Drake Hotel.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Real Blackhawk Restaurant's Famous Spinning Bowl Salad Dressing Recipe, created by Otto Roth.

The Blackhawk Restaurant's Famous Spinning Bowl Salad was created by Otto Roth and made and served tableside. Before Don Roth made the salad from scratch in front of the diners.
INGREDIENTS (Do not skip or substitute a single ingredient or change the proportions.)
  • 3 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 3 ounces crumbled blue cheese
  • 5 tablespoon of water — (5 to 6)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot mustard
  • 8 cups torn salad greens (romaine)
  • 1 chopped hard-boiled egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Beat cream cheese and blue cheese in a small bowl until smooth. 
  • Beat in water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is pourable. 
  • Set aside. 
  • Combine egg, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup oil in a blender and mix on medium speed for 15 seconds. 
  • Increase speed to high and add remaining oil in a slow, steady stream, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the container. 
  • Add mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, chives, Worcestershire, salt, paprika, garlic, white pepper, and mustard and blend until smooth. 
  • Combine salad greens in a large bowl with enough dressing to coat. 
  • Sprinkle with chopped egg and seasoned salt and pepper and toss gently. 
  • Add 2/3 tablespoon cheese mixture and toss again. 
The remaining dressing and cheese mixture can be covered and kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Otto Roth's Blackhawk Restaurant, Chicago, Illinois.


The History of the "Original" Blackhawk Restaurant on Wabash Avenue in Chicago's Loop.

The Blackhawk restaurant satisfied diners' sophisticated palates and music lovers from the moment Otto Roth opened the doors at 139 North Wabash Avenue on December 27, 1920, the same year Prohibition began, until his son Don Roth closed it 64 years later. 
Looking South at the Blackhawk Restaurant on Wabash Ave., Chicago's Loop. 1952
Note the name of their bar, "INJUNBAR."
Looking North at the Blackhawk Restaurant on Wabash Ave., Chicago's Loop. 1952
Father and son were savvy innovators, tapping into diners' desires and setting trends before the word "trendsetter" became part of America's vernacular.
Looking South on Wabash from Randolph at Don Roth's Blackhawk Restaurant on Wabash at Randolph in 1979.
Classical musicians played from the balcony as diners ate. He hired Carlton Coon, Joe Sanders, and their Kansas City Nighthawks for their bandstand.

With Prohibition in place, Otto searched for a way to attract more customers. In 1926, he abandoned the classical music format and installed a dance floor and stage. The shows featured popular dance orchestras.

 "Live! From the Blackhawk!" was aired live on WGN Radio, 720AM on the radio dial; a 50,000 Watt 'Clear Station' that reached 38 states at night. "Live! From the Blackhawk!" became so popular that entertainers like Louis Prima, Glenn Miller, Perry Como, Kay Kyser, Chico Marx, Ozzie Nelson, Doris Day, and in 1929, a 4-year-old Mel Tormé entertained dinners and the dancers alike. The radio show became famous and Western Union put a telegraph machine on the bandstand to field song requests from across the country. 
Menu Cover
Otto Roth had become one of the first restaurateurs to mix dinner and dancing. Otto was known as a savvy promoter, attracting female shoppers for a "dainty lunch," executives dining with clients, and sweltering Chicagoans to enjoy "cooled air."
In 1944, Otto died suddenly, and his son Don, who was working as a booking agent, took over. "We were a hearty restaurant," said Don, "But we knew that we had to replace the big bands with something revolutionary if we were to survive." During Don's reign, he did away with the stage and live music, preferring to "Made Food the Show."
Don's tableside theatrics featured prime rib and later, roast beef, served from food carts rolled through the dining room. His signature spinning salad
 bowl, set on ice and surrounded by 21 ingredients, including their secret "spinning-bowl" dressing, which he later bottled and sold via local grocery stores. His signatures of the restaurant included a 15-shrimp cocktail and Boston scrod.

The Real Blackhawk Restaurant's Famous Spinning-Bowl Salad Dressing Recipe.

The restaurant was also the first to have art exhibits in the 1940s, a salad bar, and one of the first restaurants to have black and white waiters working alongside each other, claims Ann Roth, Don's wife.
NOTE: The Tip Top Inn Restaurant in Chicago's Pullman Building at 79 E. Adams Street, employed negroes as waiters, sometime in the late 1890s, and later negro woman for their more reasonabley priced Black Cat Inn Restaurant, but the waitstaff was not integrated.
“He was a very imaginative person and was extremely creative. My husband, Don, loved the business, and he was a very, very charismatic person," said Ann.

The original Blackhawk Restaurant on Wabash Avenue closed in 1984.

The restaurant, a legend to several generations, was named for the U.S. Army's Blackhawk infantry division, which in turn was named for Black Hawk, the chief of the Fox and Sauk tribes in Illinois. The restaurant proved just as resilient. 

A stink bomb was tossed into the restaurant on opening night, which cleared the restaurant until "a lake breeze supplied a new atmosphere," according to news reports, sending guests back into The Blackhawk to continue celebrating. 

On January 10, 1952, when a statewide horse-meat scandal erupted, civic authorities closed the Blackhawk Restaurant. Roth challenged the charges in court, where a jury found the restaurant not guilty. Upon reopening, business exploded. 
Don Roth prepares the spinning bowl for diners including
actor Buster Keaton (at the right).
The secret recipe spinning bowl dressing was so popular Don Roth bottled it.
Don Roth opened several other restaurants on Michigan Avenue, on Pearson Street, and on Wabash Avenue north of the Chicago River, but they were all short-lived.

"Don Roth's Blackhawk" in Wheeling, Illinois, opened in 1969 and ran 40 years before closing in 2009. Much of the original Blackhawk Restaurant's memorabilia became part of the Wheeling location.

Don Roth, one of the creators of Taste of Chicago, also was involved in national and local restaurant organizations, often serving in leadership roles. Don Roth died on November 21, 2003. 

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Chicago in the Early 1800s.

An Area in Transition.
Chicago's early history, consecutive movements of population, the encroachment of commerce and industry as the settlement crossed the north branch of the river and sprawled northward, have all left their impressions.

Indians camped along the river where great factories smoked and thousands of vehicles clamor at the bridges. Indeed, it is just over two hundred and forty years ago, as tradition has it, since a black man from San Marc, Haiti, bearing the ornate name of Jean Baptiste Point de Sable (the "du" of Point du Sable is a misnomer. It is an American corruption of "de" as pronounced in French. "Jean Baptiste Point du Sable" first appears long after his death), built the first log cabin in 1779 of what was to be the settlement called Chécagou, on the north bank of the river.

Antoine Ouilmette was the first permanent white settler of Chicago building a cabin at the mouth of the Chicago River near du Sable's cabin in July of 1790 (see illustration below)

Du Sable's cabin was later acquired by John Kinzie in 1804. Kinzie's cabin became the center of a little settlement near the stockade of the long-vanished Fort Dearborn
Jean Baptiste Point du Sable built a cabin just north of the Chicago River near Lake Michigan in 1779 (approximately where the Tribune Tower is today) where he established a trading post. (claimed to be the first house build in Chicago). Du Sable sold his property to Jean Baptiste La Lime, who in turn sold it to William Burnett, John Kinzie's business partner. In 1804 Kinzie buys the house and property from Burnett and keeps the property until 1828. The house of Antoine Ouilmette is seen in the background. Illustration from 1827.
After the War of 1812 and the Fort Dearborn Massacre, a village grew up between the northern and southern branches of the river and Lake Michigan. 
With the dredging of the harbor, in 1833, the village became a town. Wharves were built along both banks of the river. Chicago's first packing house was built at this time. Immigrants from the East came crowding in, and by 1837, the year in which Chicago was incorporated as a city, it had become a community of several thousand and had pushed northward to North Avenue and Lincoln Park. It was expected that Kinzie Street would be the business street of the new city, and Chicago's first railroad, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad, was brought down the center of Kinzie Street in 1847. The lumber business was then located along the river, and things were in a state of the boom. But Chicago was still a frontier town. 

In 1845 there were only about 5,000 white people between Chicago and the Pacific Ocean.
The United States and Territories in 1840-1842
Note: There was no California in 1840. The 1st California Census was in 1850 and reported 92,597 citizens after the California Gold Rush in 1848. The 1890 Census was the first one to count Indigenous people throughout the country.
On the northwest corner of Michigan Boulevard and Lake Street was a very large, vacant field, which was usually filled with camping parties; whole communities migrating from the East to the West. It was a common sight to see a long line of prairie-schooners drive into this field, with cows tied behind the covered wagons. There they would unload for the night. There was always mystery and charm about their evening campfires.

The greatest excitement was the arrival of the weekly boat from Buffalo, New York. These boats brought many supplies and our only news from the outside world. In those days the great West Side, as we know it now, did not exist; and even the North Side seemed like a separate town because there were only one or two bridges connecting the two sides of town.

In the decade and a half before the Civil War the city grew rapidly, and by 1860 there were 29,922 people living north of the river. During the years between 1850 and 1860 nearly half of Chicago's increase in population was by foreign immigration; as it was, also, between 1860 and 1870. 

And while previous to 1860 the population of the North Side was mainly Indians, the first statistics available on the composition of Chicago's population by wards, those for 1866, show that there were then a considerable number of Irish and Germans living in the North Division. The Irish, the first of five waves of immigration that were to sweep over the Near North Side, began coming soon after the Irish.

The commercial importance of the North Branch continued to grow. The tanning and meat-packing industries were located along the river. The lumber business was rapidly increasing; warehouses were rapidly being built. In 1857 Chicago's first iron and steel industry began on the banks of the Chicago River with the opening of the North Chicago Rolling Mills Company, about two and a half miles northwest of the city's center

Later, as railroads came into the city, a number of machine shops were built on Clark, Wells, State, Erie, Kinzie, and Division streets, and on Chicago and North avenues, thus binding the North Side more closely to the activities of the city as a whole. 

Starting in 1858, horse-drawn streetcars began to run lines on Clark, Wells, and Larrabee streets, and across Chicago Avenue and Division Street run by the Chicago City Railway Company and the North Chicago City Railway Company.
Although the Chicago Surface Lines built some replica vehicles in the 1930s, North Chicago City Railway Company's Street Railroad car № 8 is not among them. The original, built in 1859, we see it here in demonstration service during the 1948 and 1949 Chicago Railroad Fair (link includes both years Official Guide Books in PDF) on the lakefront. This car № 8 is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum.
Meanwhile, some small retail businesses were springing up on the streets near the river. 
From Schiller Street North to 12th Street (Roosevelt Road) South Side. 1868
The tendency to the segregation of population on the basis of race, nationality, and economic status, which is an inevitable accompaniment of the growth of the city, was becoming evident at this early date. The more well-to-do and fashionable element, and the Irish and German immigrants, as well as the laboring population and a small group of riff-raff and transients, were beginning to live in groups to themselves and to characterize certain streets, sections, and divisions of the North Side. 

The Near North Side has always been, more or less, the fashionable residence district. In the 1860s the fashionable and aristocratic residence section of Chicago on the North Side was in the district from Chicago Avenue south to Michigan Street (Hubbard Street), and from Clark Street east to Cass Street (Wabash Avenue). Residences on Ohio, Ontario, Erie, Superior, Rush, Cass, Pine (Michigan Avenue), Dearborn, and North State streets appear frequently in the "society columns" and Chicago directories of the 1860s. It was on these streets that the leading families of the early settlers and the early aristocracy lived and with South Michigan Boulevard, were the fashionable streets of the day. It was not until the 1890s that Lake Shore Drive became 'the' place to live.

One of these early aristocracy writes:

The North Side was "home," and a lovely, homelike place it was. The large grounds and beautiful shade-trees about so many residences gave a sense of space, rest, flowers, sunshine and shadows, that hardly belongs nowadays to the idea of a city. There was great friendliness, and much simple, charming living.
 Over between Clark, Illinois, Dearborn, and Indiana streets stood the old North Side Market, where the men of the families often took their market-baskets in the morning, while the "virtuous woman" stayed at home "and looked well to the ways of her household." 

Another institution of our day was the custom of sitting on the front steps though even then there were those who rather scorned that democratic meeting place. But for those of us who did not rejoice in porches and large grounds, they had their joys…. In fact, it was even possible for unconventional people like ourselves to carry out chairs and sit on the board platforms built across the ditches that ran along each side of the street, and on which carriages drove up to the sidewalks. 

Of course there were "high teas," when our mothers and fathers were regaled with "pound to a pound" preserves, chicken salad, escalloped oysters, pound-cake, fruit-cake, and all other cakes known to womankind; and where they played old-fashioned whist and chess. 

...Parties usually began about half-past seven or eight o'clock, and "the ball broke" generally about eleven or twelve o'clock; where there was no dancing it ended at ten or eleven o'clock.
 Of course there was no "organized charity," as we know it nowadays, but there was much of that now despised "basket charity," when friendships were formed between rich and poor.
Between Clark and Wells Streets, south of Chicago Avenue, was a neighborhood of storekeepers and merchants; while west of Wells lived the laboring people. In this area there were a number of laborers' boarding-houses and cheap saloons. At this time there was nothing but a sandy waste between Cass Street (Wabash Avenue) and the lakefront.

And there was an unsavory population on the sand flats at the mouth of the river and immediately along its banks, known as “Shanty Town,” and ruled over by the “Queen of the Sands,” Emma "Ma" Streeter. A memorable event of the decade was the raid on the “Sands” led by “Long John” Wentworth, then-mayor when the police razed the Sands brothels amid the mingled cheers and hisses of the populace. 

The Irish had settled along the river, to the south and west. The settlement extended as far east as State Street immediately along the river, but most of the Irish lived between Kinzie and Erie, in the vicinity of old Market Street. 

In 1853, William B. Ogden, a Chicago real estate developer, built a channel to provide a more straightforward alternative to Chicago River’s winding North Branch. The result was an island, the only island in Chicago. This river settlement along the North Branch was known as "Kilgubbin," or more often, as "the Patch". It quickly became a haven for Irish immigrants who were so poor they couldn’t afford proper housing. The island was dubbed Kilgubbin, after the area most of them were originally from. Taking a cue from the life they left behind in Europe, they built flimsy wooden homes with gardens and farms where they raised cabbage and vegetables and livestock. As the city grew around them, the island got a few factories, but other than that, it barely changed. Chicagoans came to see the residents as backward, treating them with a mixture of pity and mockery so they called Kilgubbin “Goose Island.” 

The Irish were then mostly laborers, not having been in America long enough to have exploited their flair for politics. They were already displaying their love of a fight, however, and a solidly Irish regiment was recruited from Kilgubbin during the Civil War. Kilgubbin was in reality a squatters’ village, and contained within it a lawless element. In an article printed in the Chicago Times, in August of 1865, some account is given of Kilgubbin and its population:
At the head of the list of the squatter villages of Chicago stands "Kilgubbin," the largest settlement within its limits. It has a varied history, having been the terror of constables, sheriffs, and policemen. It numbered several years ago many thousand inhabitants of all ages and habits, besides large droves of geese, goslings, pigs, and rats. It was a safe retreat for criminals, policemen not venturing to invade its precincts, or even cross the border, without having a strong reserve force.
The Germans, on the other hand, were gardeners rather than laborers. Very few went into business, though there were three breweries owned by Germans where the Chicago Water Tower's pumping station now stands. But the majority of the Germans lived north of Chicago Avenue and east of Clark Street, in cottages on small farms or gardens, and did truck farming. There were German families scattered along Clark, La Salle, and Wells streets. And the German element for a time found the center of its social activities in the vicinity of the German Theater, at the corner of Wells and Indiana Streets (Franklin Boulevard). This theater was supported by a German musical society, offered "the first purely musical entertainment ever presented in Chicago," and for years continued to present dramatic sketches in the German language.

The city limits extended at this time, 1860-70, to North Avenue. But until after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, the area north of Division Street, and even north of Chicago Avenue to the west, was practically still the "country."

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Real Story of Minky's Bicycle Shops in Chicago.

Seymour (Shim) Nimerov (born in 1917) opened "Minky's Hobby & Sports Store," at 3330-32 West Roosevelt Road in 1938, the large apartment building with retail stores on the ground floor his parents owned. Shim incorporated his business as the "Seymour Nimerov and Company," but did business as (dba) "Minky's Hobby and Sports Store."

Milton (Minky) Nimerov (born in 1915) was Shim's older brother who sold the name of "Minky's" to Shim claiming Minky's was a catchy name and would be easily remembered. Shim obviously thought so too. Besides bicycles, they sold sporting goods, hobby and crafts merchandise, toys, and were a Lionel train dealer.  
Oil painting of Minky's Hobby & Sports Store at 3330-32 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago.
Sent to me by Shim's Granddaughter, Denise Kase-Nabat.
Shim was the business owner, Minky took care of new bicycle assembly and mechanical repairs, and Charley Nimerov assisted Shim in the sales and management of the Roosevelt Road store.
Minky's Hobby & Sports Store, 3330-32 West Roosevelt Road, Chicago, Illinois
Left to right: Unknown, Minky, Shim, Charley (the brother who helped Minky run the Roosevelt Road store).
Shim advertised to purchase stamps collections.
Chicago Tribune, January 16, 1944.
Shim opened a second store, Minky's Bicycles & Toy Store at 2840 West Devon Avenue around 1954.
Minky's Bicycles, 2840 West Devon Avenue, Chicago, Illinois
My sister and I bought our Matchbox cars from the Devon Avenue store, which Shim always had the newest models in stock, and would order any available Matchbox car models for customers. Minky's store had a large variety of kid pranks, i.e. whoopie-cushions, fake vomit, hand-buzzards, etc., and sold Spalding "Pinkie" high-bounce balls mostly used to play the game called "Pinners."
Chicago Tribune Ad, February 24, 1958.
Bicycles were shipped in boxes and assembled at the dealerships. Many bike shops around the country had their own head badges and would replace the manufacturer's head badge with their own.
Chicago Tribune Ad, May 29, 1958.
Minky's on Roosevelt Road was burned to the ground during the Chicago riots in 1968. On April 5, 1968, violence sparked because of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on the West side of Chicago, gradually expanding to consume a 28-block stretch of West Madison Street and leading to additional fire damage on Roosevelt Road. The riot was finally contained on April 7, 1968.
Chicago Tribune Ad, June 9, 1968
Chicago Tribune Ad October 7, 1972.
Proof to debunk that Minky owned the Minky's Bicycle shops. Shim thought 'Minky' had a memorable 'ring' to it. Eve Nimerov Obituary, Chicago Tribune, October 6, 1997, Seymour's Wife.
Minky's Devon Avenue store was closed when Shim died in 1983Seymour Nimerov is buried at Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois.
Milton Nimerov died 26 years after his brother Seymour. Wouldn't you think that if Minky really owned the Bicycle shop, it would have remained open for some time longer? 

Copyright © 2020 Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

NOTE: Minky's son, David Nimerov has maliciously lied about his dad, Milton Nimerov, being the owner of Minky's and has done so for years, as he must have thought there was no proof of ownership still in existence. 
After talking with Shim's family members, I did in-depth research to find out the truth.

During my written conversations with David Nimerov, he made these statements to me: "My Dad Milton Minky Nimerov was the owner. Shim was his younger brother and the salesperson." "There’s a reason the stores were named Minky’s Bicycles." "If I recall, my dad gave Eve [Shim's wife] $3,000 to walk away."

I don't know why he felt it necessary to propagate these lies for so many years. Perhaps just to be spiteful towards Shim's family. In my opinion, David's claiming Minky was the owner is like a person claiming to have served in the military but never did. That's called "Stolen Valor!"  
Both Seymour and Milton served honorably in WWII and I have a copy of both draft cards with service release stamps.
I ousted David to set the record straight. David is still lying and it's just plain wrong. It's hurtful to his own family too, which I have had personal contact with. In Yiddish, David is called a Schmuck!

Seymour Nimerov's immediate family preapproved and condoned the information I wrote in the above note before I made this article public.