Rod Sellers
Southeast Chicago
Historical Society

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 Southeast Chicago Historical Society News

October, 2005                                                                    Volume XIX No. 4

A Few Words From the President:   

       Happy Fall and Happy Halloween to all our members and readers.  Also let me be one of the first to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays since your next newsletter will not arrive until January.
       I am happy and grateful to report that donations in memory of our former president Joe Mulac have been received in the amount of $1500.  Thanks to all who donated and a reminder that it is not too late to make additional contributions.   
       By the time you receive this newsletter two interesting events will have already occurred.  The Calumet Heritage Partnership sponsored the 6th Annual Conference at Chicago State University on Saturday, October 8.  The title of the conference was "Steel in the Calumet: Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow".  The morning sessions included presentations on the historical background of steel in Illinois by yours truly and in  Indiana by Stephen McShane of Indiana University Northwest.  A panel discussion followed with Robert Bruno Associate Professor at UIC, Roberta Lynch AFSCME Deputy Director, and Jack Metzgar Professor at Roosevelt University.  The panel was moderated by Mark Bouman of Chicago State University.  The afternoon session was a tour which visited the Mittal Riverdale Steel Plant and the Acme Coke Plant, site of the proposed steel workers museum.  There was an exhibit area which included several items from our museum.  Members of our society should have received a registration form by mail.  If you were unable to attend, a videotape of the conference should be available for viewing at our museum. 
       The second event was a half hour program which aired on Channel 19, Cable Access Network TV in Chicago.  The title of the program, which was produced by Senior Network and arranged by society member Martha Wilson, was the "Southeast Chicago Historical Society".  I was interviewed by George O'Hare who discussed the development of our historical society as well as my own interests and connection with local history.  If you missed this program on Channel 19, a copy is available for viewing at the museum.
        The Executive Board of the Southeast Chicago Historical Society, made up per our by-laws of the officers of the society and chairs of committees, has begun to meet quarterly.  One of the items discussed at our last meeting was the question of past due memberships.  We have a membership list of over 200 but several members have not paid dues in a timely manner.  One of our largest expenses is duplicating and mailing out our newsletter four times per year.  Without your dues we cannot continue to do this.   This will be your last newsletter if your dues are more than one year in arrears.  Our dues are for a calendar year (Jan - Dec) and should be renewed in January.  Next to your name on the address label for this newsletter is the last year that you have paid dues according to our records.  If you are a life member there is a letter "L" next to your name.  Our dues are minimal at $5 per year.  Let me recommend that you consider a life membership, a true bargain at $75.  And you will never have to remember to send in dues again.  Approximately one third of our members are life members already.    Sorry to sound harsh but we are a non profit, low budget (some would say no budget!) operation and we need your dues to support our efforts.
       I encourage you all to be active members of our historical society.  What does this mean?  What can you do to become more active?  Visit our museum and talk to the volunteers who guide visitors, fill requests for information, and try to keep things organized.  In fact consider becoming a volunteer.   Donate historically important items to our museum.  These items include newsletters, bulletins, magazines, and other publications from local employers, churches, schools, and community organizations.  Of particular interest are school yearbooks, church anniversary books, and plant magazines.  Do you have any historically significant photographs or postcards that you would be willing to donate?  Attend events sponsored by our society and partner organizations.  These include tours, presentations, and other events.  If you have a request for a particular type of event let us know.  Would you like to conduct a tour or do a presentation about local history?  Consider writing an article for our newsletter.  Topics might include your memories of your job, stores and businesses in the community, your family and daily life in the "good old days".   And don't forget to pay your dues!
Rod Sellers
President / Newsletter Editor

In Memoriam
       We were saddened to learn of the recent passing of society member Alvin Themander.  Our prayers and fond memories go to his family and friends.  Some thoughts from members:

From Frank Stanley:
Alvin A. Themander, August 29, 1916-September 13, 2005  In 1985, when our museum first opened and money was scarce, we turned to volunteer community carpenters to build shelves, cabinets, etc. Alvin Themander was just such a person and was a willing worker. He spent many hours doing carpentry work for us, and always with a smile and a funny story. (Later, Ed Bonk, John Novak, Al Lerch, and others also provided carpentry skills.) Alvin was an historian, himself, and when we were developing historical files on sports for the museum, heCalong with Augie Ruf, Ed Kucic and othersCprovided a treasure trove of memories they experienced in their younger days. Alvin's achievements in the community at large were many and impressive. He taught tennis in Calumet Park; he taught history and humor to the elderly at St. Francis de Sales Center; he participated in East Side Pride program; and supported fund-raisers in all the churches. Alvin will be greatly missed by the South East Historical Society and his many friends.

From Joann Podkul:
For the tennis fans in the community, Alvin will be remembered for the Sunday morning tennis tournaments at Calumet Park where, until arthritis intervened, he could still prove that age was no barrier to skill and achievement on the courts. He would take on opponents half his age and show them how to improve their game in the process.

From Kevin Murphy
A veteran of World War II, and fluent in German, Alvin served as an Army interpreter in Europe. He worked for the government until his retirement

From Rod Sellers.
A walk around the museum reminds us of the efforts and contributions of Alvin and others like him who gave so generously of their time and talents.  

A Proclamation
       State Senator Donne E. Trotter presented a proclamation by the Senate of the 94th General Assembly to the family of Joe Mulac.  The proclamation recognizes Joe's many accomplishments and service to his community.  A framed copy of the proclamation is on display at the museum.

The Bell
       Near the entrance to the museum is one of our newer and larger acquisitions.  It is a large bell from a railroad locomotive donated by Jim Rice, former president of the Chicago West Pullman and Southern Railroad (CWP&S RR).   The bell which is very large and very heavy was delivered to the museum by volunteer Clarence Wigsmoen.  Here is the story of the bell written by Jim Rice:
"This bell came from a steam locomotive owned by the CWP&S RR.  The locomotive was bought back in the early 1920s at a cost of around 15 thousand dollars, delivered from Baldwin locomotive works...some of the steam units were Alcos.  Following World War II the CWP&S, along with 90% of other lines, converted to diesel-electric  locomotives.  Those first bought were Baldwins, the rest were EMDs (built by General Motors).  The steam engines were scrapped or sold.  Those scrapped had their bells removed (they were solid brass or brass alloy).  Most disappeared.  One remained - the one you have. 
       For many years there were warning towers at 103rd Street and 106th Street.  This bell was attached to the tower so that the watchman on duty could warn pedestrians of approaching trains.  This tower was manned 24/7.  This was a costly operation.  Some years after Jim Rice became president of the railroad and, after paying off several loans and developing a profitable operation, changes occurred.  The crossing herein referred to was automated and the bell stored at the engine house store room.  Quite a few wanted to carry the bell home, Rice decided to keep it as a relic from a different era.  The bell remained in storage for several years when Rice decide it could be put to a better advantage.  He contacted an individual at Wisconsin Steel, showed him the bell and asked if it could be cleaned up.  Not only did he clean it, he polished it, made the acorn nut for it, made the brass arch for it, made the maple stand for it and brought it back to the railroad.  The president kept it on his desk until he retired.  To protect this masterpiece Rice kept it until an appropriate time, which is now and hopefully it will remain in a prominent place for those present and in the future to see.  It is only fitting and proper that this bell be a part of history representing the Chicago, West Pullman & Southern Railroad and memories of Wisconsin Steel Works both important divisions of what was once International Harvester."

Our thanks to Jim Rice for the donation of the bell and for his account of the historical importance of this interesting artifact.  Please visit the museum and see this new addition to our collection.

St. Francis DeSales High School
       One of the oldest co-educational high schools in Chicago, St. Francis De Sales High School had its beginning as a small two-year commercial high school on the second floor of the original church on 102nd and Ewing Avenue in 1908. It was staffed by one Franciscan teacher until 1930 when the high school was expanded into a three-year program. In 1938, due to the increase in the demands for higher education, St. Francis DeSales High School became a four year institution with an enrollment of 180 students. The Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate of Joliet, Illinois, who had staffed the schools of the parish since 1893, named Sister M. Lucretia, O.S.F., the first principal. Sister Lucretia, who herself attended St. Francis, remained as principal until 1945. Diplomas were awarded to the first graduating class of 21 seniors on June 11, 1939. 
     During the tenure of Sister M. David, O.S.F., who was appointed to head the school in 1953, the enrollment increased significantly . It became evident that if DeSales were to meet the educational challenges before it, the expansion of the facilities was necessary.  The challenge was readily accepted by the East Side community. The desires of the parishioners, combined with the untiring efforts of Samuel Cardinal Stritch and Msgr. Alphonse Memmesheimer, then the pastor of the parish, along with the continued support from Albert Cardinal Meyer, met with success.  On February 19, 1956 ground was broken for the new high school and two years later, on April 29, 1958, Msgr. Memmesheimer and Sister David presided at the dedication.
     Father Timothy Sullivan was appointed the first superintendent of the high school by the Archdiocese of Chicago . At this time, the Franciscan Sisters relinquished the direction of the high school but remained as teachers. Father Sullivan brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the school and was named principal in 1962 and served until his death in 1965.
     St. Francis DeSales has been sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago since 1962. Today, St. Francis DeSales High School serves a co-educational student body of 350 drawn from almost every area of the Southeast Side of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. It is staffed by lay women and men with Mr. Richard Hawkins at the reins as principal.
by Gloria (Heinkel) Novak, Class of ‘44

Do you have any fond memories or interesting stories about your school days?  Drop them off at the museum or e-mail them to and we will try to include them in our next newsletter

Museum News
     Among recent donations to the museum are several items related to the steel industry.   We acquired several copies of “Sparks”, the Wisconsin Steel plant magazine, from 1938 to 1949.  There are some very interesting stories about the plant and especially about the workers.  We also received a donation of newspapers from Local 1033, the union that represented workers at Republic Steel.  The papers date between 1971 and 1986.  These recent acquisitions complement other items in our collection including plant magazines from the State Line Generating Station and newspapers from Local 65, the union that represented workers at U.S. Steel South Works.  We continue to receive items related to Acme / Interlake Steel.  Dr. Raymond Boothe of Jackson Ohio sent over one hundred pictures, most of the Acme Furnace Plant at 108th and Burley.  These pictures, designated for the proposed Steel Museum at the Acme Coke Plant, are currently available for viewing at the Southeast Historical Museum. 
     Numerous students and researchers have used our collection in recent months.  A student from Dartmouth University is researching the South Deering community and the Trumbull Park riots.  She found our collection of bulletins from the South Deering Improvement Association of great interest.  She also interviewed museum volunteer Alex Savastano about his memories of the events.  A post graduate student from Loyola University is researching the Memorial Day Massacre and a student from Roosevelt University is interested in ethnic change on the Southeast Side.  We have wonderful materials related to the above topics. 
     Another researcher is interested in the Roby family and their estate which was located between 108th and 109th Streets from Avenue H to Avenue J.  This is the present site of Jane Addams School.  We did find a few things but there was not much.  I was particularly disappointed at not finding a good picture of the Roby estate which was referred to as “Loyal Hall”.  Another local figure who lived on an estate was James H. Bowen.  However his estate, named “Wildwood”, was located on the Little Calumet River near the Acme Bend at approximately 127th and State Street.  We have no pictures of the Bowen estate.  The Taylor estate was located at approximately 9731 Avenue G (behind the Calumet Park Field House).  We do have a good picture of that particular mansion.
     We conducted a walking tour from the 92nd Street bridge to the 95th Street bridge on Sunday September 25.  Despite a Bears game and a steady downpour four hearty souls with umbrellas attended.  We visited the von Zirngibl grave which was in good shape.

SE Chicago Historical Society Calendar

October 29, 2005    Saturday    10:00 am - 3:00 pm    All Terrain Bike Tour of Calumet Wetlands
Meet at Eggers Grove Forest Preserve on 112th Street and Avenue E, Chicago Illinois.  John Pastirik will lead an all terrain bike tour of the Calumet Wetlands in the Calumet area. Bring your own lunch.  All terrain or cross bike required.  Call John (773-768-4663) or Judy (773-646-4773) to register. Sponsored by Calumet Ecological Park Association (CEPA).

November 4, 2005    Friday        12:00noon - 9:30 pm    Lake Shore Model Railroad Open House
November 5, 2005    Saturday    12:00noon - 4:00 pm
November 6, 2005    Sunday        12:00noon - 4:00 pm
Lake Shore Model Railroad is located in the basement of the Calumet Park Field House at 9801 S. Avenue G in Chicago IL.  Come on Sunday and visit the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum between 12 and 3.  Sponsored by Lake Shore Model Railroad Association.  Check for more information.

November 15, 2005    Tuesday    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm    Hegewisch Marsh Update Meeting
Meeting at Hegewisch Library 3048 E. 130th Street Chicago.  Come hear a progress report about how site plans are progressing and provide us with feedback.  Call Donna Cicinelli at 312-747-5917 or e-mail for more information.  Sponsored by City of Chicago Department of Environment.

Teachers' Center
National Endowment for the Humanities
Illinois University