Southeast Chicago Historical Society News
January, 2008 Newsletter Editor Rod Sellers Volume XXII No. 1
A Few Words From the President:The passing of Ora Coon on November 5th.was a great loss to the community and especially to our society. Ora was one of the founding members of the East Side Historical Society (the original name of our group) in 1977. I became a volunteer in 1993 and Ora was already with the museum for 16 years. It wasn't until about 2 years ago she decided to lessen her work load since she was involved in other activities. Upon meeting Ora, she impressed me with her intelligence and general knowledge. She was interesting to talk to since she had so much to offer especially about the history of the East Side. Ora was an asset not only to the society but to the community which she served. She will be remembered and missed.
October was American Archives month. An Archives Fair was held at the Newberry Library on October 20th. Our historical society was one of the 29 fair participants. Tables were set up to showcase the collections of the various repositories. As expected our display was the one of the best. It gave our society and our museum exposure as well as finding what other groups were about. This annual event is getting larger each year.
Vice president of our society, Jim Ostarello, and I recently visited the Wheaton Museum. They became interested in one of our museum’s artifacts, the port hole from the S.S. Eastland. The port hole was donated by George Kettell in 1993. His father came into possession of the port hole while he worked on the ship at the Calumet Ship Company prior to its ill-fated excursion. TheWheaton Museum has a large display and archival materials related to the S.S.Eastland and they would like to borrow it for a period of time for their museum. The SECHS board has agreed to do this. In 1915 the Eastland capsized at the pier on Clark St. with the tragic loss of over 800 lives. There were over 2000 people on board the ship when it sunk. The ship had been leased by Western Electric for a picnic excursion to Benton Harbor, Michigan. The ship rolled over and capsized before leaving the dock. The Wheaton museum also houses a display and archives related to "Red" Grange who came from Wheaton and was a great football player for the University.of Illinois and the Chicago Bears. They also have a display of early golf memorabilia and golf history since Wheaton was home of the first 18 hole golf course in the country. I recommend a visit to this fine museum.
Thanks to the Green Olive Restaurant, 13501 S Avenue N and owner Joe Pope for their recent generous monetary donation to our society.
Enclosed with this newsletter is a copy of a new brochure developed by Kevin Murphy, Joann Podkul and other members of our board. It will be used to promote and advertise our fine museum. Please do not forget our Annual Meeting to be held March 29, 2008. If you have any questions or comments stop by the museum or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org And check out our web site at: http://www.neiu.edu/~reseller/
Barney Janecki President
Membership InformationWelcome to the following new life members of the Southeast Chicago Historical Society: Linda Ruxton, Dr. Trudy Wallace, Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, Sheldon Siegel, Nick Radakovich, Gene Lozzi and Mary Ann Timlin. Thanks also to our regular members who have renewed. On January 1, 2008 our regular dues increased to $10 per year and our life membership increased to $100. The benefits of membership in our historical society were detailed in our July 2007 newsletter available at: http://www.neiu.edu/~reseller/sehsnwsl0707.html You can renew your membership by coming in to the museum or using the form on our web site. http://www.neiu.edu/~reseller/sehsmembrship.html
SECHS Annual MeetingThe Southeast Chicago Historical Society will conduct its Annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, March 29, 2008 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. The officers presented by the nominating committee will be announced. Nominations may be made from the floor. 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.
Don’t Throw It Out!We want your “historical stuff.” Help us preserve the rich history of Chicago’s Southeast Side by donating your artifacts, photos and memorabilia to the Southeast Chicago Historical Society. Our historical area of interest is the history of the communities of South Chicago, South Deering, the East Side and Hegewisch. We are particularly interested in and in need of historical photographs, maps, area directories, school yearbooks and school newspapers, local newspapers, and other materials from area schools, churches, businesses and industries. How about materials related to neighborhood teams and athletics? Please contact us or bring your donations in to our museum located in the Calumet Park Field House at 9801 S. Avenue G in Chicago. We are open on Thursdays from 1-4. If in doubt don’t throw it out, throw it our way!
“Star-gazing on the Southeast Side”A few weeks ago when our vice-president Jim Ostarello turned on the museum’s DVD player, the last 50+ years disappeared as Hollywood icon Alan Ladd came to life on the screen in South Chicago at Immaculate Conception Church, there to defend a brave nun who had witnessed a crime. With him in “Appointment with Danger,” donated to the museum by life-member Bob Lalich, came Jack Webb, Henry (“Harry”) Morgan, Jan Sterling and an array of then-young stars and starlets. The following week, museum visitors connecting their memories to our Commercial Avenue diorama, recalled the same movie in the making. To this they added another recollection: Roy Rogers riding his horse down Commercial Avenue in a promotional performance for a local business.
Since then, in conversation with community residents, we have discovered that there is much more to learn about movie making on Chicago’s Southeast Side, so much so, in fact, that we feel the need to create a special file for the museum. If you have stories, photos or other such memorabilia related to movies made in our community that you would like to share, please contact us at the museum. Be our "movie scout."
by Kevin Murphy and Joann Podkul
The Winds of HistoryJust before Christmas an icy winter storm hit the Southeast Side. Signs and shingles flapped in the wind. Traffic signals malfunctioned and power lines went down. At one point most of the East Side was without electricity. The little Italian Stone Pine on our front porch toppled over, even though it was in a heavy pot weighted down with stones. Christmas decorations flew from one end of the block to the other, and I found the red velvet bows that once decorated our porch railing in a neighbor’s front planter. A weird cloud floated past the kitchen window and I realized it was the plastic cover from another neighbor’s outdoor furniture.
Driving down South Chicago Avenue, I noticed that three of the four flag poles at the Columbus Monument/Drake Fountain had snapped and their flags drooped on the ground. One flag pole remained vertical, though, and it was the one bearing the Italian flag. Several days later, it was still the only one standing. That Italian flag was at the monument because of the efforts of Alexander Savastano who passed away last year at this time. I thought about Alex, and also about my Dad, Joseph A. Mulac. I remember how he wrote letters and attended meetings of the Landmarks Preservation Council to help the monument receive landmark status. They were both so proud of their heritage and of their Irondale roots. Through the years, as the waves of change battered the Southeast Side, they, and many others, stayed the course and kept the SECHS alive. Because of the SECHS the history of the Southeast Side of Chicago will not be forgotten. If you are not already a member, why not follow in their footsteps and support this important work with a membership? And if you have a one-year membership, why not sign up for a lifetime membership?
by Carolyn M. Mulac
Memory LaneA Bowen alumnus, Emil Groth, has posted on-line a number of issues of the school newspaper the Bowen Arrow, photos of the faculty from the school yearbook, and some audio files of the Bowen band, orchestra and chorus from the 1960s. For an interesting trip down memory lane go to: http://www.doe.mtu.edu/~ehgroth/school/
Recently I received an article about the Southeast Side that has been “floating” around the internet. Our vice-president Jim Ostarello received the same article but from a different source. The article quoted Frank Stanley, Ora Coon, Barney Janiecki and Alvin Themander. After some research I was able to determine that the article was written in 1995. See: http://nwi.com/articles/1995/10/08/export115956.txt
IHACCR WebsiteA new web site developed for the Industrial Heritage Archives of Chicago’s Calumet Region is up and running. Over 1100 images related to industrial history from our collections are accessible on this web site. The URL for our portion of this new site is:
The IHACCR Project is a collaboration of Pullman State Historic Site, the Southeast Chicago Historical Society, and the Calumet Heritage Partnership.
Our contribution to this website is to showcase the history of heavy industry other than Pullman and any of the Acme / Interlake Companies in the Calumet area. We concentrated on U. S. Steel, Wisconsin Steel, Republic Steel, Youngstown Steel and other industries such as General Mills, the State Line Generating Station, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, and area shipyards. There are also numerous images of the four Southeast Chicago communities, the Calumet River and labor history. There are some amazing images, many of which are available to the public for the first time.
The Pullman State Historic Site (http://www.pullman-museum.org/), a partner in the project, concentrated on the Roseland and Pullman area and on the Pullman factory. The Calumet Heritage Partnership (http://calumetheritage.org/) focused on the history of the Acme / Interlake Corporation and its three area facilities. Let us know what you think about this new web site. Contact us at: email@example.com
OraWe will all miss Ora Coon who passed away recently. Ora was a founding member of the East Side Historical Society in 1977, a dedicated museum volunteer from the day that the museum opened in Calumet Park in 1985, trusted treasurer of our organization for many years, and keeper of the flame of our neighborhood’s history. Much of the following comes from a piece written by her daughter Pam:
Ora was born June 22, 1913 at 9047 Exchange Avenue. The family soon moved to 9932 Avenue H until her marriage to Arthur D. (Del) on January 4, 1947. They bought a house on 109th and Avenue C, the house Ora lived in her entire life. They had two children Delbert and Pam. Ora went to school at Douglas Taylor Elementary School and Bowen High School and earned an associate’s degree from Crane College. She led an incredibly active life which included positions as secretary for Dr. Harrison Brown, a physicist at the University of Chicago and work with Rotary International. She was active in and held leadership positions with the Chicago Region PTA and with the Girl Scouts. She served as an election judge for many years and was active in her church.
But we will remember Ora most for her incredible knowledge of neighborhood history and neighborhood people. Ora was a fixture at the museum on Thursday afternoons and was a repository of information about our community. She remembered local people, places and things long forgotten and was always willing and most able to help the students, genealogists, authors, researchers and others who sought information in our museum. When a question about local history arose the first reaction was “Ask Ora” and more often than not she knew the answer or knew where to find it.
On a personal note, I worked closely with Ora for many years and valued her insights and assistance. When I first met her I was a teacher whose students were doing research in the museum for History Fair projects. I quickly learned to advise my students seeking help to ask the lady behind the desk at the museum. When I and another teacher at Washington High School came up with the idea for a Museology class we knew that the key to making the project work was to get the support of Ora. High school students working in the museum? If Ora agreed there would be no problem. She did agree and our very successful program was in operation for twelve years. And for twelve years, every week on Wednesday, I would pick up Ora and bring her to the museum where she helped me and the students in the Museology class and kept me from losing my mind. When I worked on the two books about the Southeast Side I had long discussions with Ora about how to deal with particular topics or where to find information or a particular picture for the book. Ora even provided me with a personal picture of Ora and her brothers at the beach in Calumet Park and a picture of Ora at a Girl Scout event for the books.
The past few years have been difficult for our historical society (and for me) with the loss of individuals like Joe Mulac, Alex Savastano and Ora Coon. But their contributions to the history of the Southeast Side live on as does their legacy. We all have an obligation to honor their memory by continuing the work of collecting and preserving the history of the Southeast Side of Chicago.
by Rod Sellers
Southeast Side NewsThe Chicago City Council recently approved official landmark status for 12 Historic Railroad Bridges located city wide. Three of the bridges are on the Southeast Side. The two Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway bridges at approximately 98th and the Calumet River and the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad bridge north of 126th Street just east of Torrence Avenue are now official city landmarks. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks is also in the process of landmarking a number of neighborhood bank buildings including the former Calumet National Bank Building located at 9117 S. Commercial Avenue. Do you know the other official city landmarks on the Southeast Side? Stop by the museum for the answer and for more information about the above landmarks.
A new book “Polish Chicago Our History - Our Recipes” authored by Joseph Zurawski and published by G. Bradley Publishing is now available in book stores. The book tells the story of the Polish community in Chicago and includes numerous images from our collections. We have a copy at the museum. See: http://gbradleypublishing.com/index.html
Former area resident and current San Francisco attorney and author, Sheldon Siegel recently visited the museum and donated a copy of one of his legal thrillers. Sheldon has written several books and his latest novel “Judgement Day” will be published shortly. He went on a tour of the area with Rod Sellers to research potential locations for future novels. He also became a life member of our society. See:
Our condolences to the family of Emily Zinnen who recently passed away. Emily was a long time member and donor of many items to the museum.
SE Chicago Historical Society CalendarThursdays 1:00-4:00pm Southeast Chicago Historical Museum
Regular hours of the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum. Collections and exhibits focus on the history of Chicago’s Southeast Side including the communities of South Chicago, South Deering, the East Side, and Hegewisch. Our museum is located in the Calumet Park Field House at 9801 S. Avenue G in Chicago.
The Southeast Chicago Historical Museum is no longer open on the first Sunday of the month.
March 29, 2008 Saturday 11:00 am Calumet Park Field House
The Southeast Historical Society will conduct its annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 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.
May 18, 2008 Sunday 12:30 pm Crow Bar Restaurant
Southeast Chicago Historical Society Annual Installation Dinner
25th 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. Please reserve this date on your calendars.
For other information about Southeast Side events see the following web sites:
Calumet Stewardship Initiative at:
Southeast Side Events at: