Rod Sellers
Southeast Chicago
Historical Society

Southeast Side Home Page
Southeast Historical Society Introduction

 SEHS  Events / Calendar
 Chicago's Southeast Side Revisited


Take a tour of Chicago's Southeast Side
Southeast Chicago Historical Society

January, 2006                                                                                               Volume XX No. 1

A Few Words From the President:
    Happy New Year to all our members and friends.  The New Year is a time to reflect on the past year and to make plans for the future.  The past year has been a particularly difficult one for the society with the passing of our president, Joe Mulac.  We miss his leadership, companionship, and sense of humor.  One of Joe’s legacies is his body of artwork, particularly scenes of the Southeast Side.  We have recently completed digitizing Joe’s portfolio so that his wonderful paintings will be preserved for posterity.  Stop in at the museum if you would like to see this artwork in digital format.  The executive board of the society has begun meeting quarterly to deal with the many tasks and issues facing our organization.  A more complete report of these meetings will be given at our Annual Meeting (see following article).  Over the past year we have begun to work closely with other groups in cooperative projects that benefit our organization.  We have done tours and presentations with the Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF), the Friends of the Parks (FOP), and the Calumet Stewardship Initiative (CSI).  A listing of events in the area is published by CSI quarterly and copies are available in the museum and at other area locations.  I have been assisting the Calumet Ecological Park Association with a video focusing on the Calumet area and the final product should be available very soon.  We have reached the final draft stage of production and will keep you posted on the final release date.  See the next page of the newsletter for information about recent donations and projects for the museum.  Over the past year we have reorganized our web site to create easy access to back issues of our newsletters.  Go to:
and click on the date of the newsletter you want to read.  Our newsletters, as far back as December 1999, are on-line and there are some very interesting articles in those newsletters.  Newsletters prior to December 1999 are available at the museum.  By the way, an interesting newsletter article (Jan 05) by Gloria Novak about Bowen High School was posted on the Bowen HS Class of 1968 web site.  I also received a lengthy e-mail from a Las Vegas resident who left the SE Side 40 years ago about another article (Oct 05) that Gloria wrote, this one about St. Francis De Sales High School.  The article prompted numerous memories of the neighborhood. Congratulations Gloria!
    With regards to the future we are moving ahead, in light of critical shortages of manpower, space, funding, and time, as best we can, to further
organize our wonderful collections and the materials in the museum and to make them more accessible and more usable to researchers and to the public.  We do our best to systematically catalog and file donations of historical items.  We would like to reorganize our vertical file system and video collection system which over the years have become somewhat unwieldy due to the large number of items we have accumulated.  We also hope to purchase the necessary equipment to digitize our VHS tapes and convert them to DVD format.  These are very time-consuming projects, which are difficult to accomplish with a volunteer staff in the limited hours that the museum is open.  Our all- volunteer staff does wonderful things, but we cannot expect them to accomplish miracles. 
    We are cooperating with other local historians in seeking funding for a project to digitize images  related to the industrial history of Chicago’s Southeast Side.  Our contribution to the project would be our photo collection related to area mills including Wisconsin Steel, U. S. Steel South Works, Republic Steel, Acme Steel and others. 
    Welcome to new life members of our society Jim Ostarello (Jim is also one of our regular volunteers), Tom Shepherd, Robert Trojan, and Mel Chase.  A reminder: a life membership in the society is only $75 and makes a wonderful gift.  And becoming a life member means that you will never again have to remember to pay annual dues and will never become past due with your membership.  We have recently removed from membership any whose dues have not been paid beyond 2003.  Stop by the museum to reinstate your membership if desired.  Thanks to all members who have paid their dues.
    We are always looking for ways to improve our effectiveness.  If you have any suggestions for projects or programs that you would like to see us undertake, please let us know.  Stop by the museum or e-mail
Rod Sellers
President / Newsletter Editor

Annual Meeting    
     The Southeast Chicago Historical Society will conduct its Annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, March 25, 2006 in the Calumet Park Field House at 9801 Avenue G at 11 AM.  All members in good standing (dues up to date) 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.  Refreshments will be served and a short program will be presented.  All members are urged to be sure that their dues are up to date. 

SECHS Member in the News
    Harold Handley, life member of our society and Chicago police officer, was in the news recently for his efforts as a member of the “God Squad,” a group of volunteers who are responsible for setting up the Nativity scene in the Daley Center Plaza each year.  Handley was pictured and quoted in articles, which ran in the Daily Southtown and Sun Times in mid December.  A copy of the article is available for reading in the museum.  Good job, Harold!

Museum News
    Among our most important tasks at the museum is the ongoing job of inventorying, cataloging and filing donations.  The person most responsible for this is Barney Janecki.  He does a wonderful job, which enables us to locate donated items when needed.  Among recent donations are numerous materials related to industrial history, especially of Wisconsin Steel, Republic Steel and Acme Steel. 
    The Harold Washington Library Special Collections Department has an ongoing exhibition on Amateur Sports in Chicago.  Several items from our museum’s collections are part of the exhibition.  The exhibition will run until Fall 2006 in the Exhibit Hall on the Ninth Floor of the Harold Washington Library.
    Thanks to volunteers Jim Ostarello, Alex Savastano, and Clarence Wigsmoen for their work in reorganizing our collection of political and other buttons.  Some of the most interesting buttons are those not related to political campaigns.  Many of the buttons are on display in the museum and duplicates have been sorted and stored.  There are many which have not been completely  identified, especially regarding dates of elections.  Stop by the museum, view the displays, and give us your input. 
    Thanks to life member Ed Sadlowski who provided us with copies of the death certificates of the ten people who were killed in the Memorial Day Massacre.  We created a chart that summarizes information from the death certificates.  Only three of the victims were listed as SE Side residents and only one was listed as an employee of Republic Steel at the time of the incident.  Coroners inquests declared all of the deaths to be “justifiable homicide.”  We have a growing body of information about the Memorial Day Massacre, which is one of the most important events in national labor history and it occurred in our own backyard. 
    We continue to get numerous requests for information and comments generated by our web site.  An author working on a book about the Great Lakes is looking for information on bars and taverns that catered to sailors.  He was particularly interested in a couple of owners by the names of “Horseface Mary” and “Peckerhead Kate” as well as establishments like Mama Kay’s Pilot House Tavern, the Shipyard Inn, Kate’s Tavern, and others.  If any readers have additional information we will pass it on the author.  
    We were contacted recently by Christopher Devane of Big Stick Inc. (
publishers of a Chicago Neighborhood map. They are working on a third edition of the map to be released very soon.  Christopher was looking for suggestions to make the SE Side portion of the new map more accurate.  We have the first and second editions of the map on display at the museum.  The first edition included (in addition to South Chicago, South Deering, the East Side, and Hegewisch) Jeffery Manor but missed other SE Side neighborhoods.   The second edition added the Bush but again missed well known local areas, at least well known to locals.  Places like Slag Valley, Vet’s Park, Avalon Trails, and Arizona are nowhere to be found.  Hopefully this will be corrected in the upcoming edition.  Of course historically well-known areas like Irondale, Millgate, Cheltenham, and even lesser known places like Yaptown will not be included because they are terms no longer commonly used by area residents, at least by younger residents.

Forgotten SE Side Notable
    Received the following from Dan Yovich,, retired professor from Purdue Calumet and  former SE Sider:
Podbielniak Inc.
8300 South Chicago Avenue.
This is a single floor block long building.
Dr. Walter Podbielniak, an internationally famous petrochemical engineer choose this location about 1940 for his manufacturing and research center. At that time, he was making custom made fractionating laboratory equipment for the petroleum industry. He had dozens of major patents in this field. It was about 1944 that Doctor P decided to tackle a problem then perplexing the drug industry. Penicillin at that time could not be made in continuous batch formulations. The idea on how to do this came to him one evening while he was playing the piano in the plant. The idea eventually was called the hyd-robot. This radically designed and manufactured piece of equipment worked in a spectacular way. It was based on a counter current centrifugal force solvent extraction. This process and equipment now made penicillin available to everyone and help save millions of lives. His customers included Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Merck, Upjohn and Abbott. Pharmaceutical manufacture was never the same after his invention and innovation.
He moved his facility to larger quarters at 341 E. Ohio Street in Chicago in 1947. Two highly recognized scientists worked for Dr. P. They were Peter Turkal and Richard Schoenenberger. The company was later bought by Dresser Industries. Ken Collins, a South Chicagoan of many years, worked for Podbielniak at that time. He lives in Schereville, Indiana. I recommend that someone get an oral history from him. There are only a couple or so employees left from those discovery days including Collins. He could explain how horse urine was used in the penicillin manufacturing process.

Newsletter Article
    The article on the next page of your newsletter was written by SECHS member Tony Arduino.  He came across the information while doing family history research.  The article has been edited but the original version of the article may be read on our web site newsletter.  The unedited version includes information about Tony’s research and findings.  Thanks to Tony for his contribution.

Heat Wave 1941
by Tony Arduino
       For many years I’ve been working on a family tree project, and just a few months ago my girlfriend Lora asked me for assistance on her family tree. She first told me that her great-grandfather John Cairo was the first family member to immigrate here from Italy. John left his wife and children in Italy, and came to the East Side to work in the mills. Lora had heard from her dad that John died in a ‘heat wave’ that occurred here in 1941. Well I became curious about this occurrence and got in gear to pinpoint on the date when this occurred. Lora knew that John was buried at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, and did have a grave marker. So one day we headed over to Hillside finding that the grave is marked as ‘John Cairo 1882-1941’. I called the cemetery’s office to inquire if they have documents related to burial information. The office could not assist us at this time due to the cemetery’s burial records being in storage for construction purposes. Another option was seeing if John was listed in the death index on the Illinois State Archives web-site. We were in luck he was listed there with a date of death of July 30, 1941. Right away I went to the Cook County Clerk office at downtown Chicago, and made a request to get a copy of John’s death certificate. With in a few days the certificate was delivered in the mail. The certificate stated that his immediate cause of death was coronary thrombosis, due to hypertension. I informed Lora that I seemed that her great-grandfather did not died from the ‘heat’. Her great-grandfather had a heart attack and suffered from high-blood pressure. On the death certificate there was no indication of John having an autopsy either. We then went to Chicago Historical Society of North Avenue to view the ‘Daily Calumet’ newspaper for John’s obituary. We were hoping that we were not wasting a trip, and finding no obituary. But to our amazement the July 31st 1941 newspaper headline stated nice and clear “Seventh, Eight Heat Victims Succumb”. Lora’s great-grandfather was indeed the seventh heat victim mentioned. Well it looked like we’d be at the historical society longer than we thought. The mentioned victims of the ‘heat wave’ are of S.E. Chicagoans whose deaths were reported to the Daily Calumet newspaper.
       The heat wave started in California’s desert region, before turning its devastating force on the Midwest and eastern states. The combination of nearly motionless low pressure over South Dakota and a high pressure over the Gulf States was also the cause. On Saturday July 26th, the high temperature was a humid 95 degrees, with areas near the lake at 88 degrees. On Sunday July 27th the official maximum temperature hit 96.2 degrees. On Monday July 28th the official temperature in Chicago topped off at 99 degrees. In Hammond their recording thermometer recorded a mercury climb just over 100 degrees. At this time there were only two air conditioned rooms in City Hall—Mayor Kelly’s office and the office of the city council finance committee. South Chicago Hospital ran short of ice, but Joe Higgins a tavern owner on E. 92nd St. came to the rescue at the expense of his beer. Later the hospital was able to get an additional supply from an ice company.
      Many thermometers in sections of the nation went over the 100 degree mark. The temperature of Cincinnati was reported at 105; Cleveland 103; Indianapolis 100; Louisville, KY 100; and Charleston, W. Va at 100. The heat which struck the eastern two-thirds of the nation resulted in 60 to 80 deaths. 10 deaths reported in Chicago. The heat forced people to seek comfort at the city’s beaches and parks. More than half-million jammed the public beaches in one day, but there were no drownings on the lake shore. Five drowning deaths were reported in the Chicago area, while parts of the nation reported 91 other drowning deaths. July 28th was the day the ‘Daily Calumet’ began reporting its first heat wave victims of S.E. Chicago:

1st victim—Christian Nelson, unknown age, of 3210 E. 92nd St. Nelson was found dead on the rear porch of his home. He was found by Mrs. Lottie McArthur whose home he had been a roomer for. Nelson was working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
2nd victim—Eric Olson, age 30, of 10419 Avenue H. Olson was stricken with heat prostration and died in front of his home. Olson was a press operator for the Standard Forging Company.
Tuesday—July 29th, the temperature at Chicago’s Municipal Airport reached a peak of 100 degrees. An unofficial reading of 110 degrees was reported by Hammond Police. The water at Rainbow Beach was at 67 degrees. The stifling heat was causing scores of offices and industrial plants to declare half-holidays. Employees were told to go home and find any relief they could. Natural relief was brought on by a thundershower later in the night. Chicago Police were reporting that at least 15 people deaths were now contributed by the heat. Throughout the nation, 106 deaths were reported by heat prostration, and 126 drownings. S.E. Chicago still suffered from the heat which claimed the lives of:
3rd victim—Rudolph Jockisch, age 58, of 7047 Constance Ave. Jockisch succumbed at his home due to heart ailments aggravated by the intense humidity. He was the son of the late Charles E. Jockisch, one of the first Democratic alderman of the old 33rd Ward. Rudolph was a 40 year employee at the South Chicago Sash and Door Company.
4th victim—Emil Asselborn, age 65, of 10718 Avenue O. Asselborn was en route home from the grocery store, when he collapsed from the heat in a vacant lot at 106th & Ewing. East Side Police brought him to the South Chicago Hospital where he died soon after.
Wednesday, July 30th, this day was a little cooler with a high temperature of 85 degrees. Unfortunately the heat was still claiming S.E. Siders.
5th victim—Mrs. John Lemont, age 53, of 8619 Colfax Ave. Lemont was found dead in bed by her husband when he returned home from work.
6th victim—John W. Daniels, age 54, of 13423 Brandon Ave. Daniels became unconscious from heat prostration. He was then transported by ambulance in which the destination was the Hines Hospital in the western suburbs. The ambulance in which he was riding in stalled in front of a Rock Island railroad freight at 147th St. in Midlothian. The train struck the ambulance injuring the driver who was attempting to lift Daniels out. The driver inspected Daniels who showed no evidence of injury. Daniels was placed in another ambulance car, where it was found that he was dead. A coroner’s investigation was ordered to determine whether he died of natural causes or the shock of the wreck.
Thursday, July 31st, the temperature was staying in the 80’s but still had an effect:
7th victim—John Cairo, age 55, of 10035 Avenue L. Cairo succumbed to heart disease aggravated by the heat as Henry Nick’s ambulance was rushing him to the offices of Dr. Harry E.L. Timm at 9901 Ewing. Cairo was an employee of Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company.
8th victim—Albert Blaszek, age 77, of 13237 Houston Ave. Blaszek succumbed at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Hammond.
Friday, August 1st, a high of 90 degrees occurred on this day. The heat reaches another local:
9th victim—Peter Biagi, age 55, of 9658 Avenue N. Biagi died from pernicious anemia, aggravated by the heat. Biagi was an East Side tavern and restaurant proprietor for 26 years. In 1913, he was one of the founders of the Italian Societa Rigveglio of South Chicago.
Saturday, August 2nd, the highest temperature was 87 degrees, near the lake it was 82. The last heat death was reported:
10th victim—Steve Zbierski, age 59, of 8815 Exchange Ave. On July 29th Zbierski was at work in the blacksmith shop at Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corp. when he became overcome by the heat. He was revived by the first aid department of the plant. He was transported to the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park where he died on August 1st.

       A temperature break was brought to the Midwest by a cool gulf air mass, aided by a southwest wind. It’s interesting to compare the reasons why the heat victims are high in the year 1941 and the few heat victims there were in the city in 2005. Back then homes were not equipped with the aid of air condition. I know then, and even now an oscillating fan could not bring complete satisfaction when the temperature hit in the 100’s. Many of the city’s newspapers were publishing photographs of people sleeping on the grass in city parks. People found sleeping on the ground brought more satisfaction and comfort compared to their beds in a humid room. The police had temporary lifted the ban on closing the city parks at 11 p.m. because of the heat. In closing, it was noted that I’ve done genealogy work for quite some years. Wanted to mention that I have extensive volumes of genealogy documents of relatives from the ‘East Side’and ‘Irondale’. Surnames include: Hendron, Hartman, Hardtke, and Chapin (Capin-Tonkovic). If anybody is interested in knowing information on these families, or have information and even old photographs to contribute, please get in contact with Rod Sellers c/o Tony Arduino of the S.E. Side Museum.

SE Chicago Historical Society Calendar
March 16, 2006        Thursday    7:00 pm - 8:30 pm    Calumet Park Field House
            “Industrial History of Chicago’s SE Side”     Slide Presentation   
    Rod Sellers, co-author of Chicago's Southeast Side and author of Chicago's Southeast Side Revisited, presents the history of heavy industry, especially the steel industry, on the Southeast Side.  There will be an opportunity following Mr. Sellers' presentation to ask questions and engage in a discussion.  Program begins at 7:00 pm at the Calumet Field House, 9801 S. Avenue G in Chicago, location of the SE Chicago Historical Museum.

March 25, 2006        Saturday    11:00 am        Calumet Park Field House
             SECHS Annual Meeting
    The Southeast Historical Society will conduct its annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, March 25, 2006 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.  Refreshments will be served. 

April 29, 2006        Saturday    10:00 am - 12 noon    Calumet Park Field House
            Tour of the U. S. Coast Guard Station at Calumet Harbor
Join local historian Rod Sellers and Chief Warrant Officer Herbert "Jim" Harmon for a presentation and tour of the U. S. Coast Guard Station at Calumet Harbor.  Program begins at 10:00 am at the Calumet Field House, 9801 S. Avenue G in Chicago, location of the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum with a brief presentation and continues with a tour of the Coast Guard Station. 

May 21, 2006        Sunday        12:30 pm        Crow Bar Restaurant
            Southeast Chicago Historical Society Annual Installation Dinner
23rd Annual Dinner of the Southeast Historical Society will be held at the Crow Bar Restaurant.  Social hour begins at 12:30 pm. and dinner will be served at 1:30 pm.  Cost of dinner is only $15 and tickets may be obtained at the East Side Chamber of Commerce or at the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum

Teachers' Center
National Endowment for the Humanities
Illinois University