Windy City Rememberances

writestuff By writestuff, 14th Aug 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>History

Revisits Urban Legends and Childhood Memories of Chicago

Remember When?

Regardless of neighborhood or community area generations of Windy City residents have consistently embraced yesterdays' allegiances. When it comes to commemorating past events, Chicagoans adhere to an unwavering legacy of selective memory. Urban lore does not recognize new brand naming rights. Ballpark carry-all trays have slots for peanuts, Crackerjacks, hot dogs and beer but not a cellular phone. Comisky Park is the home of the White Soxs. Wills what? It's Sears Tower! No self-respecting Chitowner would ever dress a Chicago-style dog with ketchup. Furthermore, New York's Macy's is not Chicago's Marshall Field's Department Store.

Adorning the Loop area's Euro-centric lamppost and barren trees with strings of bright colored lights assist in warding off SDS, but it's not Christmas. Chicago's storied Christmas festivies begin with visits to the Museum of Science and Industry's Christmas Tree Exhibit, viewing the charming traditional Yule tide window displays and lunch at the Walnut Room beneath the Great Tree. Throughout my life experiences, preparing and sharing home- cooked meals with loved ones, dining out with family or enjoying tea with friends at a favorite Chicagoland eatery are my fondest and most comforting memories. Field's celebratory seasonal cuisine dictates an entrée salad: Peach Nest, chicken salad in a nest of Shoestring Potatoes with peaches, grapes, strawberries and a trio of breads and a Martini cocktail before ordering Mrs. Hering's traditional homemade Chicken Pot pie. I and several generations of Chicagoland families view these experiences and customs as beloved Windy City remembrances.

Water the Chicago Way

My home town has over-come several man-made tragedies, horrendous public disasters and calamitous occurrences of Nature. We simply chose not to rebroadcast reports of our rare, but deadly Lake Michigan seiches and the insufferable summer heat waves. We are known for honoring the past and much to the chagrin of many tourism ad content writers, stubbornly display a collective memory of faithfulness. Chicagoans are definitively optimistic. We are extremely loyal. We are tenacious. We are certainly brazen and we are also stout-hearted people.

In many ways our historic association with the Chicago River mirrors the unique Windy City spirit. The confidence of river boat tours was slowly restored after an earlier tour boating misadventure. This Chicago River excursion disaster took the lives of 844, Western Electric Company employees and/or their family members This public disaster occurred in 1915. Today, 9 micro-biographies of Chicagoans lost upon the S.S. Eastland on that ill-fated Saturday afternoon are featured on the bottle neck of the Commemorative 844 Brew. Moreover, what could be more brazen than the 'correcting' of Mother Nature by reversing the course of the Chicago River? But in 1900 it was just a common sense engineering project that would be of benefit to city residents for generations to come. We've got the best drinking water in the Great Lakes region! 5 will get you 10 that your costly bottled water probably also comes from Lake Michigan via one of our carefully guarded water filtration pumps.

In Chicago boldness truly matters. Mindful again of the importance of water and the general welfare the old river boat 'Cap' must be recalled. This colorful and fondly remembered con man was know as Captain George. He was alleged to have been a riverboat captain, real estate genius and Ponzi schemer. Legends records that the epic center of concentrated real estate wealth, aka Streeterville was the direct results of his outlandish waterfront land grabbing's and the lucrative illegal land holding- dealings of the infamous squatter, Captain George Streeter. Of course, Captain George Streeter also has a Commemorative Statute.

Fire & Smoke

Urban lore records that Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern setting the world-famous, bustling wooden- structured New World's metropolis ablaze in 1871. Undaunted, upon the ashes of ruins the fine citizenry of Chicago without hesitancy, rebounded and rebuilt the Windy City after the devasting Great Chicago Fire. This historical event is remembered by a Commemorative Star on Chicago's Flag. As is with most urban legends, the passage of time and a fresher eyes often bare witness to the truth. It has recently been reported that this urban legend was not only erroneous but was in fact a rumor spread to boost newspaper sales by a local reporter.

No matter how we try to suppress uncomfortable events, some are seared in our memories forever. In time the pain of these events lessen but the memory remains always lingers just below the surface. Unless I hear the unscheduled, whining blast of the old air-raid sirens or continuous blaring of horns followed by the clanging of fire truck bells, I no longer have vivid flashbacks of my most catastrophic childhood experiences. These occurrences are tucked away in the forgotten memory boxes. Chicagoans of my generation know that if the sirens are sounded at anytime other than 10:30 A.M. and the White Sox have not won the World Series Championship it's a warning of impending danger. Years ago, a frighten child's memories were abruptly summoned by these haunting sounds. As though it was yesterday, I remember the tight smothering grip of my mother's arms. Additionally, I remember the unfamiliar stench of smoke on my mother's tailored clothing instead of the comforting, familiar scent of Evening in Paris. She was not herself. She was an unsettled professional overwhelmed by compassion and grief. Although mother was employed as a caseworker servicing active duty military families, in an emergency her duties were often subject to change. Like many official 1st responders and disaster-work volunteers my mother, a social worker for the Mid-America Chapter of the American Red Cross was also pressed into service for a 5-11 fire alert alarm. This was such an occasion and it was also my first public disaster experience. Most importantly this was a seminal moment as this disastrous event opened my channels for real concern, compassion and empathy towards other.

Numerous warning blasting horns and the constant ring of fire engine bells were also triggers especially for many of my former Park Manor neighbors. My 2nd public disaster experience occurred just a few blocks away from our family home at Wabash Avenue and 61st Street. During this era, the Park Manor community was a blended social-economic neighborhood. Grown women were crying. Women elders were wringing their hands, pacing and low-humming, silent prayer so the devil could not understand their humble request. This rush hour tragedy saw men of all ages, ethnicity and social status hurrying to assist at the site of this tragic event. Whether legend or not Chicago residents are faithful to Chicago's hype. With no shame in our attitude game, to tell the real Windy City truth: Chicagoans are just ordinary spunky people that do extraordinary things - our way. Our way previews the future via our imaginations and reviews the past via our memories and for most Chicagoans both are real.

Fire House photo - Public Domain courtesy of Pixabay
Chicago Winter photo - Public Domain courtesy of Pixabay
High Tea at Drake photo - courtesy of Beth Poindexter


African-American Experiences, Chicago Fire, Chicago History, Childhood Memories, Forgotten Memories, Public Disaters, Southside Chicago History, Urban Legend, Urban Life

Meet the author

author avatar writestuff
C.A. Lofton is a proponent of Positive Thinking. Her creative works: lyrics, short stories and poetry. B.A. in English and certificates in counseling and publishing. Website:

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author avatar Carol Roach
3rd Sep 2015 (#)

good recap, I remember avon and evening in Paris as part of my childhood memories

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author avatar writestuff
9th Sep 2015 (#)

Thanks again for your read and support. That was great era full of dreams and hope. Thanks for sharing your childhood memory also.

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