Rod Sellers
Southeast Chicago
Historical Society

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Southeast Chicago Historical Society News
April, 2009        Newsletter Editor Rod Sellers      Volume XXIII No. 2

A Few Words From the President:

      Thanks to all our members who were able to attend our Annual Meeting at the Calumet Park Field House on Saturday March 28, 2009.   Treasurer Caroline Mulac gave us a treasurer’s report which showed we are fiscally sound.. We had some expenditures for equipment last year which include a laptop computer and projector as well as a digital frame for the museum.  A membership report showed that we have approximately 220 members, about half of them life members.  A prospective slate of officers was announced by the Nominating Committee.  There were no other nominations from the floor at the meeting and the current officers were reelected unanimously.  However they need the help and full cooperation of the membership to make this a growing and successful organization.  Officers officially reelected at the meeting are:
    President        Barney Janecki
    Vice President        Jim Ostarello
    Treasurer        Carolyn Mulac
    Secretary         Gloria Novak   
      A report was made about the past year’s activities and our partnerships with other organizations and projects.  It has been another very busy year.  The meeting concluded with a virtual helicopter flight down the Calumet River courtesy of our new lap top computer.
                     Our annual dinner will be again held at the Crow Bar Inn which, I believe everyone will agree, has treated us well.  It will be held May 17 with a cost of $18 per ticket.  Again we are trying to keep the cost down in spite of rising prices.  An order form for tickets is enclosed with this newsletter.  Please get your tickets as soon as possible so we can have an accurate count for our dinner. 
       Calumet Park has a new supervisor, Beverly Kress, who has taken over from John Durnik who recently retired.  We will miss John and look forward to working with Beverly and continuing the great relationship we have with the Park District. 
       Congratulations to Joann Podkul - Murphy who recently received the “Citizen of the Year” award at  the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce 74th Annual Educator of the Year Awards.  Joann is a life member of our historical society and a dedicated volunteer in our museum.  She is a community activist who belongs to numerous organizations, is an officer of the Calumet Stewardship Initiative, is a graduate of the Chicago Conservation Corps program and more.  She richly deserves the award for her many contributions to the community and our congratulations go out to her.
       There is a correction to the President’s column from our last newsletter.  The St. Francis yearbooks from 1970, 1971, and 1972 were donated by Jim Novak son of Gloria and John Novak   Thanks, Jim.
       Our museum continues to receive donations of interest.  Mike Garvey donated a rare 1947 Bowen Yearbook, one of the few which we were missing.   We are only lacking a few more to make a complete collection.  Gail Galbraith donated 3 Washington High School year books from 1963,1964, and 1965.
Theresa Stevens donated various dance cards from the 1930's and 40's. They had popular songs printed on them which many of us would recognize.  Bob Sheldon, who has a large collection of pictures and materials related to Chicago movie theaters, donated a 5x7 picture of the Gayety theater and photos of the Chelten theater, the Calumet theater and the Commercial theater taken in 1920.  Len Kurdek, a volunteer at the Polish Museum, gave us the latest copies of the Polish Museum of America newsletters.  They feature the continuing story of John Majciek who was in prison for killing a police officer.  His mother knew he was innocent so she worked for 15 years saving enough money to give a reward to anyone who had information about the murder.  A Sun Times newspaper reporter saw the ad and decided to pursue the story.  Based on this incident a movie was made with James Stewart portraying the reporter. The movie was named Call Northside 777 even though it took place on the south side.
       A couple of reminders from your president.  Remember 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.  Remember don’t throw it out throw it our way!  And don’t forget to keep your dues paid up to date. 
    If you have any questions or comments stop by the museum or e-mail 
And check out our web site at:     
Barney Janecki                President

SECHS Installation Dinner
    The Southeast Chicago Historical Society will hold its annual dinner on May 17, 2009 at the Crow Bar Restaurant.  See letter which follows for information on the dinner and how to get your tickets.

9801 S. Avenue G
                                    Chicago, Illinois 60617

                                    April 6, 2009

Dear Member and/or Supporter:

We invite you to the 26th Annual Installation of Officers and Dinner for the Southeast Chicago Historical Society on Sunday, May 17, 2009 at the Crow Bar Restaurant, located at 106th and Avenue C, Chicago.  A social hour will begin at 12:30 pm and dinner will be served at 1:30 pm followed by the installation and program.  The cost of the dinner is $18 per person to be paid in advance. 

Reservation deadline is May 10th.  Tickets may also be purchased at the East Side Chamber of Commerce Office or at the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum located in the Calumet Park Field House at 9801 S. Avenue G in Chicago.  The museum is open on Thursdays between 1 and 4 pm.  Paid ticket orders may be picked up at the door on Sunday. 

We are indeed grateful for your past support and hope you will be able to join us on this historic occasion.


                                    Barney Janecki

Burnham Plan Centennial
     The theme of our installation dinner this year is The Burnham Plan and the Southeast side.  We will display various items from our museum collections related to this topic and there will be a presentation on this topic at the dinner and an exhibit at our museum starting in mid June.

Important Announcements
       The East Side Chamber of Commerce will be moving to its new location at the Park National Bank (formerly the Calumet Bank) 3501 E. 106th Street.  As a result, our mailing address will now be the Calumet Park Field House, the location of our museum, 9801 S. Avenue G, Chicago, IL 60617.  The East Side Chamber will continue to accept phone calls for the society and museum at 773-721-7948.
       Don’t forget the Annual Dinner May 17 at the Crow Bar, 106th and Avenue C.  Tickets are available at the museum and from the Chamber.

Museum News
       A few weeks ago one of the Calumet Park employees stopped in the museum looking for a can opener.  We were able to provide a tool which served that purpose.  While cleaning out a room in the basement of the Field House the park staff had come across several boxes marked Civil Defense rations that were stamped with a 1962 date.  Each box contained 2 large tins (the reason for the can opener) and inside each tin were several cellophane wrapped packages of what appeared to be graham crackers or “survival biscuits.”  The Calumet Park Field House was a bomb shelter during the Cold War era.  We obtained a box, a tin, and a package of the newly rediscovered rations for historical, not hysterical, purposes so if you would like to sample some 47 year old crackers stop by the museum and we will indulge your tastes
       Visit our museum and see our newest toy  (equipment acquisition).  We have obtained a new digital frame which enables us to show digitized pictures of many of the photos in our collections.  Just request a particular set of photos and watch area history unfold before your eyes.  Any picture that is digitized can be viewed on this digital frame. 
       The spring  issue of Chicago Wilderness Magazine  is out and available at newsstands and at our museum.  This  issue focuses on the Calumet area and we provided information and photos for the articles in the magazine.  The issue is also available on-line from the Chicago Wilderness web site ( and has links to other articles about the Calumet region and to organizations working in the Calumet. 
       Work is moving ahead on our next special exhibit “The Burnham Plan and Chicago’s Southeast Side” to open on or around June 15.  If you haven’t yet seen our current exhibit featuring the work of local artists and photographers hurry in and see it before we take it down to prepare our new exhibit.  And be sure to visit the new exhibit in June.
       We continue to be a valuable resource to groups and individuals, many of whom are not from this area.  A few weeks ago a Japanese TV station contacted us by e-mail and asked to use some photos from our collections in a piece they were doing on President Obama.  Although our pictures were “left on the cutting room floor” and did not appear in the final piece which aired on Japanese television, this story shows how widespread our reach is.  In early March Rod Sellers and Joann Podkul gave a tour of the area to a group of folks attending the Main Streets Conference in Chicago.  When conference attendees registered they were given a Chicago map, which interestingly did not show the Southeast Side.  So Joann and Rod introduced the tour as the “Off the Map Tour” while stressing that at no time would the tour leave the City of Chicago.  One the individuals on the tour posted a commentary about the tour available at:  We also gave a tour to a group from the American Academy of Religion annual meeting.  The tour was entitled “Religion and Ecology.”  We will be doing a tour for some students from Knox College about the history of industry and how local communities are responding to the changing socio-economic environment.  And another senior group will be taking our Industrial History tour in May.  If you belong to a group or organization interested in a customized tour contact us and we will work out the details. 
       We are still in need of a garment rack for the museum.  Keep your eyes open for one which does not take up too much space. 

Interesting Questions
       We regularly receive requests for information that lead to interesting bits of local history.  A question about the “Barn” led to the story by Gloria Novak elsewhere in this newsletter.  Another question sought the location of Camp Lange, sponsored by St. Michael’s Catholic church.  We know that it was in Michigan but do not know the exact location.  Can any readers help us?    Another question arose about the large model of a wooden sailing ship named the “Whisper” which is in a glass case in the lobby of the Calumet Park Field House outside the museum.  We have been unable, thus far, to find any information about the “Whisper.”  We received a response to a previous question about the name of any of the school stores near Chicago Vocational High School.  According to John Ryan who attended CVS from 1955-1959 one of the stores was named “Spencer’s”.  Mel Chase told us that based on  information from his cousin, Dennis Fialkowski, who attended CVS in the 50's and said  “from 87th and Jeffery eastward were the following (school stores): The Canteen (owned by the Dorfinkle family), Spencer's, M&M's, and the Knotty Pine.”   Thanks to these gentlemen for the info.

Val Stevens
       Val W. Stevens,  Southeast Side music educator, entertainer and decorated World War II veteran passed away recently at the age of 84.  He fought in Europe, entering France in July of 1944, shortly after the D-Day invasion and he participated in the Battle of the Bulge.  He was wounded in action and received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart although not until many years after the war.   He also received the Jubilee of L:iberty Medal from the French government.  Stevens, originally from Binghamton New York, changed his name from Nunzio Nanni after he left the military and began a show business career. He has his own star on Binghamton’s Walk of Fame.  His show business years included appearances on the Arthur Godfrey and Perry Como shows and singing with a band at many venues in Miami and south Florida. 
       He moved to the Chicago area in the early 1950s and worked as a music instructor at the Stark Music Center in the East Side neighborhood of Chicago.  Eventually he bought the business and renamed it Stevens Academy of Music.  His music school was located on Ewing Avenue and as the business grew he moved to larger quarters on the same block, the 105th block of Ewing Avenue in Chicago.  His motto was “Where Music Is an Education.”  At one time there were almost 1000 students taking weekly lessons on accordion, piano, organ, guitar and other instruments.  In addition to receiving private lessons his students participated in bands and smaller ensembles as part of their musical education.  Students performed at area churches, for community groups and at numerous musical competitions.  During the 1960s he took local students to musical competitions in Springfield, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Detroit, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Buffalo.  The most ambitious of these endeavors involved 492 students and parents attending the American Guild of Music convention in Buffalo in July 1963. His pride and joy was the “Bell Accordion Choir” a concert band made up of 30 young musicians which he directed and led to numerous awards.  Another well known group from his music school was the “Epiphone Singing Guitars.” 
       After the business became smaller he moved to 100th and Ewing and he expanded his business interests to include making custom trophies.  Stevens continued to perform at local functions with various bands and musical groups well into his 70s.  His singing style was patterned after Frank Sinatra and he also performed songs done by Perry Como and Tony Bennett.  Many area residents will remember him as a teacher, entertainer and friend.
by Rod Sellers

Southeast Chicago Historical Project
       One of the most valuable collections in our museum is the Southeast Chicago Historical Project (SECHP).  The project compiled a comprehensive history of the Southeast Side and was conducted by faculty and students of Columbia College in Chicago and community residents, most notably Jim Fitzgibbons, for whom our museum is named.  The project was in operation from 1981 to 1984 and collected or copied materials which were donated or loaned to the project by local residents and organizations.  In 1990 the SECHP materials were donated to our museum by director of the project, Jim Martin.  Although some materials were missing the bulk of the collection is housed in our museum.  We have completed scanning all of the slides in the SECHP slide collection, a total of 2166 images and have scanned six of the eleven books in the SECHP negative collection.  2773 images from negatives have been scanned with about 2500 still to complete.  There are many images in the negative collection which have not been previously accessible and in effect have not been seen for over 25 years.  There is a wealth of historical information in the SECHP Collection and we are reminded of the tremendous debt of gratitude we owe to local historians who collected and contributed materials to the SECHP and to our museum.

“The Barn”
       A few weeks ago at the museum, questions relating to an old bar on the East Side, once called “The Barn”, popped up.  Not too many folks from that era, the late 1930s through the 1950s, still reside in the neighborhood to help answer the mystery surrounding the location and the owners of “The Barn.”  After some investigation, an East Side couple volunteered the details we were looking for. 
       “The Barn” was located at approximately 114th and Avenue G and was actually an old barn located near a horse riding establishment.  The area resembled a marsh land with trees filling in the landscape.  This was before construction and development of new homes and streets provided by builders such as Burnside, Costello, Dunlop and Fair Elms builders who entered the scene approximately 50 years ago. 
       The owners of the local establishment were Harold Brayshaw and Bob Smith.  According to East Side seniors, the bar was the scene of wild activities at times, some of which involved guns, but fortunately no one recalled any fatalities. 
       If this story rings a bell in your memories and you would like to add to our information about “The Barn” let us know.  
by Gloria Novak

SE Chicago Historical Society Calendar

Thursdays            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.  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. 

Southeast Chicago History Series   Vodak East Side Library    3710 E. 106th Street   Chicago, IL         
Programs are scheduled on the first Thursday of the month and begin at 7:00 pm. The presentations will be followed by a question and answer session.  Schedule is as follows:
       May 7, 2009 Calumet River Past and Present
       Join us to learn about the changes in our local river over the course of the last century.
      June 4, 2009 The Burnham Plan: Impetus for Change on Chicago's Southeast Side
       How did Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan for Chicago relate to Chicago’s Southeast Side?

May 17, 2009    Sunday        12:30 pm    Crow Bar Restaurant                                 
26th 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. 

Exhibit coming in June 2009   
Burnham Plan Centennial at the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum“The Burnham Plan: Impetus for Change on the Southeast Side”
The exhibit will portray the aspects of the 1909 Burnham Plan that relate to Chicago’s Southeast Side and subsequent planning initiatives for the area.  See for more information.

Teachers' Center
National Endowment for the Humanities
Illinois University