Rod Sellers
Southeast Historical Society

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 Southeast Historical Society News

January,  2004                                                                    Volume XVII No. 4

A Few Words From the President:

     First of all we wish to extend a ‘Happy New Year’ to all.
     As we reported in our October newsletter, in September 2003 a recommendation by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks was sent to the City Council to declare the Drake Fountain (Columbus Monument) a Chicago Landmark.  Upon recently checking with the Alderman’s office we find that this action is still pending. With the many serious tragedies and other major problems our council is involved with we can understand where this item is not at the top of the list.
     On Sunday, January 4 we received some very interesting historical information about our area from Craig Ostrowski, who is researching his family history. Thanks to Craig, we will be publishing this information in this and future issues of our newsletter.
     During a recent stay in the hospital for a very bad chest cold, I was informed that I had a case of treatable lung cancer. As I receive chemotherapy my strength has been affected a little; however, the infected area has already been reduced by 30%.
     Though I had quit smoking over 30 years ago, the damage to my lungs had been done – should just not have been smoking - enough said… 
     Joseph A. Mulac
Reader Response
     We are grateful for those taking time to remember and to write us about 100th Street and Indianapolis back in the late 20's and early 30's.  I received the following from my cousin, Marie Deecken Plack, and will pass it on to you.
 “Going north on the west side of Ewing Avenue was a deli store where I worked after high school - then came a large dry goods store (about 4 lots) then came Staff’s Bakery where I packed cookies on Friday nights.  We lived upstairs at 10036 Ewing.  Brin’s Drug Store was located at 10034 and their family lived upstairs - then the hardware store, Brickett and Glass.  Apartment buildings followed to where Indianapolis was opened up to Avenue L and where Hummel Square was located.  My grandfather, Charles Deecken, owned all this land at one time and had a coal and feed company in the back of the property.  This is where I grew up from the age of 5 until the street cut through to Avenue L and points west.  Our house was still there at 10036 Ewing but half of the living room was taken away to cut the street (Indianapolis) to the west.  We then moved to Avenue F and 104th Street.” 
     By Gloria Novak
(Editor’s note: Can any readers help us determine when the railroad tracks at Hummel Square [100th Street and Ewing Avenue] were raised and the viaduct constructed?)

South Chicago Sports

     We are seeking information about the 1931 championship South Chicago American Legion baseball team.  Notify us if any information is available. 
     A recent obit in the Tribune told of the death of Arnold William Haarlow.  Arnold was a 1932 graduate of Bowen High School and a standout basketball player.  He is credited with being one of the first to use a one handed shot and was the first Chicago prep to score more than 50 points in a game. 

BBC Story Features Southeast Side

     Rueben Rios of Slag Valley informed us about a story on a BBC News web site which told of communities of microbes thriving in the slag dumps of the Lake Calumet region of southeast Chicago where the water can reach a pH of 12.8.  This is like living in caustic lye or floor stripper.  Alkaline groundwater in the Lake Calumet region was created when steel slag was dumped and used to fill in wetlands and lakes.
An estimated 21 trillion cubic feet of contaminated industrial fill was dumped in southeast Chicago and north-eastern Indiana, about half of which is thought to be slag.  Scientists call these microbes extremophiles - microbes that can thrive in super-hostile environments. 

Annual Meeting

     The Southeast Historical Society will conduct its annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, March 20, 2004 in the Calumet Park Field House at 9801 Avenue G at 11 AM.  All members are urged to attend and vote on the new slate of officers at this meeting.  Nominations may be made from the floor.  The officers presented by the nominating committee will be announced at a later date.  Refreshments will be served.

Reader Contributions 

Walt Sobolewski sent an e-mail regarding Gloria Novak’s article about Madura’s Danceland and the bands who played there.  Walt states:
“In your news letter of Oct. 2003,Gloria Novak talks about all the bands that played at Maduras Danceland, but she left out one local band that was a favorite. That was Johnny Kay.  I played with the band from 1947 to 1953.  We had lines waiting all the way around the corner to get in on a Tuesday night.  We played all the New Year Eves between those years and were considered the house band.  As far as I know, I am the last survivor.  I moved to California in 1963 and continued playing dances in the Los Angeles area.  Sure miss Danceland, the good times, but not the snow and blizzards.  I was born in South Chicago and went to Bowen High.  Enjoy reading your news letters.”
     Museum volunteer Barney Janecki contacted Walt and discovered that they were neighbors and that Barney attended dances at the Masonic Temple while Walt was playing with the Johnny Edwards band.  Barney brought a 1931 Immaculate Conception class photo into the museum.
     We were also seeking information about the date that Indianapolis Boulevard was extended from Ewing Avenue to Avenue L.  Southeast Historical Society member Craig Ostrowski found an article in the January 9, 1928 issue of the Daily Calumet which revealed some interesting facts about the project.  The headline for the article reads, “Plaza at 100th Ewing when Indianapolis is finally cut through”   The article also states “the new plan is to have a plaza at the southwest corner of 100th Street and Ewing Avenue, perhaps with a fountain in the center of it.”   Although a fountain was never built, Hummel Square (the current location of a Veterans Memorial and an Abrams Tank) was the result.  This tends to verify our original hypothesis that the extension of Indianapolis Boulevard occurred shortly before the Host House was built for the Century of Progress (1933 World’s Fair). 
 Craig also brought in an article from the June 10, 1923 Daily Calumet which talked about the visit of Babe Ruth to Saint Michael’s Church at 83rd and South Shore Drive.  The event was a stag for the St. Michael’s Parish Club honoring the baseball team sponsored by the parish.  Father Dankowski, the club chaplain called the Bambino who said that he would attend.  Many felt that the Babe would be a “no show”.  But the article states:
“Mr. Ruth is known to his friends as a man of his word, and sure enough, at 8:15, in company of Fr. Dan and some mutual friends, the “King of Swat” arrived.  To see the thousands lining the corners of 83rd and South Shore Drive. one would think that the president was coming.” 
2500 attended the meeting in the parish hall.  (By the way, how many American Presidents have ever visited the Southeast Side?  Your responses will be published in the next issue of the newsletter.)
     Craig is an excellent amateur historian who has been researching family history in the Daily Calumet.  He has brought to our attention numerous interesting articles which he has encountered in his extensive research using the Daily Calumet. He brought in two articles which discuss local ties to major events in American history.  An article in the July 3, 1940 issue of the Daily Calumet discusses “The Battle of South Chicago” which occurred on December 5, 1780 during the Revolutionary War.  Author of the article, James McCarthy, using as sources Currey’s History of Chicago and the Chicago City Manual of 1912, states that the incident happened after a raid by a Captain Hamelin on St. Joseph Michigan.  Accompanied by  Lieutenant Brady and 15 soldiers, they attacked a fort at St. Joseph.  The raid was successful and the soldiers were returning to Fort Cahokia, Illinois with their plunder.  The commander of the British pursued the raiders and caught up with them “at the Calumet, a few miles southeast of Chicago”.  A battle ensued and Captain Hamelin and four of his men were killed.  Others were taken prisoner and a few escaped. 
Craig also brought in an article about “the Battle of Calumet Heights” which allegedly occurred during the Civil War.  Prior to April 1, 1865 there were rumors that a Confederate force was headed toward South Chicago with the purpose of taking the town, the sailing vessels in the harbor, and then moving on through the Great Lakes, to Buffalo New York and then to attack Grant’s army.   At first glance this article seemed authentic but now appears to be a spoof, probably written by the Old Settlers Association of South Chicago.   It used prominent community figures and quite a lot of “tongue in cheek humor”.   Peter Pernod, R. E. L. Brooks, Tom Tobin, Tom Wall, Dr. Walter Titzel and others (all members of the Old Settlers) were mentioned as historical figures in the article.  The article also talked about a gun that shot around trees, a General Minton Julep, and shooting buffalo with a sling shot to feed the troops.  This was supposedly the reason for the naming of Buffalo Avenue.  Copies of the above referenced articles are available at the Museum for any who wish to read them in their entirety. 
    Thanks to our readers who respond to our articles and requests for information.  Your expertise and contributions are greatly appreciated. 

Museum Visitors

     We have had some interesting visitors to the Southeast Historical Museum over the past few months.  They come for many different reasons and often raise interesting questions, some of which we are unable to answer. 
     On October we opened the museum for a group who was attending a reunion of the February 1958 class of Bowen High School.  Among the visitors were Alex Savastano’s daughter, Lucille and Diane Butler.  Diane e-mailed us later about Chicago police officer Robert Gallowitch who was killed in the line of duty on May 24, 1972.  Gallowitch was an East Side resident and Diane wanted us to be aware of his sacrifice.  She thought that he was the only police officer from the East Side killed in the line of duty.  She has promised to send us information about this unfortunate incident.  Are any readers aware of any other local police officers who gave their lives?  In the late 1980's Police Officer Irma Ruiz was killed and a museum visitor said that she was a southeast sider.  However at the time of her death she was living in the Beverly area.  Are any readers aware of Irma Ruiz’s connection to the southeast side? 
     On November 11 thirty University of Michigan  students who are studying urban planning visited the museum.  They were accompanied by their professor  and by Dr. Lynne Westfall a Research Social Scientist
with USDA Forest Service.  The students were particularly interested in materials on industrial development in the area and also in our environmental history collection.
     The museum opened during the Lake Shore Model Railroad Open House because of the large volume of visitors to the Field House.  Among the visitors to the museum were 2 model builders who were working on various railroad layouts.  One was interested in building a model of a railroad bridge located at 96th and the Calumet River.  This bridge was involved in a accident with a ship in the late 1980's and demolished so it was impossible to get a current photo of the bridge.  We were able to get several different views of the bridge, mostly from the 1910's, which made one model builder very happy.  The second model builder is working on a layout which includes the Torrence Avenue lift bridges.  We were able to provide him with photos of the bridges which were different from some sketches which he previously had. 
     Rod Sellers assisted the City of Chicago with two tours of Hegewisch for architects who are entering the Ford Calumet Environmental Center design competition.  The competition is to design the environmental center to be located on the Hegewisch Marsh located south of the South Shore Railroad tracks along 130th Street and west of Torrence Avenue and east of the O‘Brien Locks.  ( Several of the architects visited the museum and were particularly interested in our 1938 aerial maps of the Hegewisch Marsh.  Those maps show that the original course of the Calumet River ran through the marsh and crossed Torrence Avenue at about 135th Street.  It  was later straightened.  The original junction of the Little Calumet River and Grand Calumet River was located east of Torrence Avenue.  After the straightening of the river this junction is now located west of Torrence.  In February, Rod will be giving another tour to the members of the jury who will select the winning design. 
     Two graduate students visited us recently to research projects.  One from the University of Chicago was researching U. S. Steel and found numerous useful photos and maps.  The other from Yale University is looking at rank and file workers and union members and was particularly interested in  looking at the Daily Calumets and issues of the Local 65 newspaper which we have in our collection. 
Book News
     Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago: Workers on the South Side, 1880-1922 by Dominic Pacyga is being reprinted with one important change.  The cover photo of the new edition was provided from the collection of the Southeast Historical Museum. 
      Calumet Beginnings the story of the creation of the physical geography and settlement patterns of the Calumet region by Kenneth Schoon was released recently.  The book covers the Calumet region in both Illinois and Indiana.  Some of the research for the book was done at our museum and some photographs from our collection are included in the book.
     Cynthia Ogorek, former Director of the Matteson Historical Museum stopped by the museum to look at photos related to the Calumet River.  Cynthia is exploring the possibility of doing a pictorial history of the Calumet River system in Illinois and Indiana. 
     John Kuenster, author of To Sleep with the Angels, the story of Our Lady of the Angels school fire, is finishing a book about Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Shrine of Saint Jude.  Several photos from our collections will appear in the book. 

 Web Site

     We are currently experiencing difficulties (“glitches”) with our web site which make it impossible to access.  Hopefully these will be corrected soon.

SE Historical Society Calendar

The Calumet River: Past, Present, Future
Aaron Rosinski of the Southeast Environmental Task Force and Rod Sellers of the Southeast Historical Society will present a slide show and discussion about former and potential uses of the Calumet River.  The program will take place on January 31, 2004 at the office of the Calumet Stewardship Initiative, 13300 S. Baltimore Ave. from 11:00am to 12:30pm..  A Calumet River exhibit will remain on display at the CSI office afterward until February 14th.

Chicago’s Southeast Side Revisited
Rod Sellers presents a slide show based on his book Chicago’s Southeast Side Revisited.  This event will take place at the Orland Park Public Library 14760 Park Lane, Orland Park, Illinois from 7:00pm to 8:30pm on Wednesday, March 3, 2004.  Audience participation will follow the slides.

History of the Southeast Side of Chicago Slide Show
Rod Sellers presents a slide show telling the story of this community.  Audience participation will follow the slides. 
The presentation will take place on Thursday, March 11, 2004 from 7:00pm to 8:30pm  at the Calumet Park Field House, the site of the Southeast Historical Museum, located at 9801 S. Avenue G in Chicago. 

East Side of Chicago Historical Walking Tour
Join local historian Rod Sellers for a walking tour of the East Side.  The tour begins at the Southeast Historical Museum on Sunday, April 4, 2004 from 1:00pm to 2:30pm..  Wear comfortable walking shoes.  The Southeast Historical Museum is located at 9801 S. Ave. G in the Calumet Park Field House.

Teachers' Center
National Endowment for the Humanities
Illinois University