Rod Sellers
Southeast Chicago
Historical Society

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Southeast Chicago Historical Society News
October, 2008             Newsletter Editor Rod Sellers          Volume XXII No. 4

A Few Words From the President:
       October has been designated as Chicago Artists  Month.  In conjunction with this program our museum is hosting a special exhibit. We will be showing art by local artists including Gloria Novak, some great photography by Rod Sellers and a number of watercolors by Joe Mulac, our former friend, volunteer and president.  Don't miss it and bring your friends along.  The exhibit will be available for viewing during regular museum hours, Thursdays from 1-4 pm.  The museum will also be open on Saturday, October 25th from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.  While you are there you can browse around and see the latest additions to our collection.  In the meantime I suggest you log onto our website.  Rod Sellers keeps updating and adding all sorts of interesting information. You may also suggest to your friends and school children that they use our resources as an aid in researching information.  The website is devoted to Southeast Chicago and the Calumet region.  
       Our congratulations go out to our treasurer, Carolyn M Mulac, for receiving the 2008 Reference Services Award given by the Illinois Library Association.  The award is presented yearly to a librarian based on special or innovative programs or services.  Carolyn has distinguished herself in the field of reference over the course of her 30 year career at the Chicago Public Library.  I might add that her influence extends not only to Illinois but also nationwide. We are proud of her achievements.
       On a sad note we would like to announce the passing of some friends:
Floyd VanBarriger, owner of Willy Hardware, former Bonivir and South Chicago YMCA member and avid handball player
F. Ronald Bouscio, son of Judge Felix and Zora Buoscio, practicing local attorney for 57 years
James McNulty, former East Sider,  retired Chicago fireman, member of Bonivirs football team
Our condolences to family and friends.  
       Get well wishes to Pat Wigsmoen and Marian Byrnes who are recovering from recent medical setbacks.  We look forward to both of them getting back into the “swing of things.”
       On Saturday September 20th a ceremony was held dedicating the East Side Mural at 100th street.
It is a picturesque and colorful piece of artwork.  Noel Morales an art teacher at St. Frances De Sales High School designed the mural and was instrumental in getting this project completed.  SECHS officers Kevin Murphy and Joann Podkul and other volunteers took  part in painting the mural.  On your way to the museum stop by and admire the work of these fine artists.  The mural features many images that represent  Southeast Chicago and its history.  See how many you recognize.  
       Special thanks to Jack Dorrigan and his assistant who brought five vertical file cabinets from the estate of John Buchanan to the museum.  Storage materials are always welcome although it took a little ingenuity and rearranging to make enough room for the new  cabinets in our cramped quarters.  We appreciate the donation and the donated labor involved in getting them to us.
       We encourage members to get in touch with us if you have any comments or suggestions regarding our museum.  Your input is always appreciated..  Please e-mail  or  And check out our web site at:      
Barney Janecki                                                                                                                                                                               President

Holiday Closings
       Since Christmas and New Years fall on Thursday this year the museum will not be open.  Our volunteers will receive some well earned rest.  If it is important for any members or friends to visit the museum during the holidays contact us and we will try to get someone to open for you.

Don’t Throw It Out!
       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.  We are making a special request in honor of Washington High School’s 50th Anniversary for GWHS yearbooks.  We are especially interested in the following yearbooks which are not available in either our museum or at the school: 1973, 1983, 1984, 1988, 1995.  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!
Membership Matters
       Please make sure you dues are up to date.  We will soon be deleting from membership any who are behind in their dues.  Yearly membership is $10 and a lifetime membership is only $100.  This is a great deal and you will never have to worry about paying dues again. You can renew your membership by coming in to the museum or using the form on  our web site at:

Museum News      
       A recent donation from Don Obara included materials related to the rededication of the veterans memorials at Wolf Lake and the visit of the Vietnam Moving Wall which took place in September 1999.  It includes correspondence, programs, photos and other memorabilia of the event as well as a directory of all the names on the Wall.  It is hard to imagine that this wonderful event took place almost ten years ago.
       We received some materials from Lorraine Buchanan.  They included several issues of the Daily Calumet and other items. 
       Anthony Lowery donated copies of “Good Fellowship” a U. S. Steel South Works magazine from August, October and December 1943.
       We received, via e-mail, digital copies of the “Gallistel Gazette” from June 1, 1955.  Pictures and names of the June graduates are included.  It includes an interesting article “Twenty Years from Now” predicting future occupations of many of the graduates.  Among the predicted careers were a sheep rancher, a taxi driver, an elevator operator, a minister, and a dictator as well as many others.  I wonder how many of these became reality for the graduates.   

More News and Events
       We have conducted a number of recent tours since our last newsletter.  The Calumet Area Industrial Commission Calumet River cruise was held on July 16 and, in spite of some very high temperatures, a good time was had by all who attended the sold out event.  On July 24 a tour was given to a group of 5 college interns (3 from Purdue Cal, 1 from Valpo, 1 from CSU) working as "Calumet interns" this summer. They were placed with local environmental agencies and once each week convened at a particular site or with a particular organization to learn more about work in the region.
We visited the South Works site with a representative of McCaffery Interests, the developer of the site, saw  former industrial sites in the area and finished with a tour of the Calumet Industrial Heritage Project (CIHP) at the Pullman State Historic Site. 
       On August 20 I had a wonderful experience flying over the Calumet area in a helicopter to shoot video footage for a documentary program to be used at the Ford Calumet Environmental Center at Hegewisch Marsh.  I took advantage of the opportunity to take a large number of photographs from the helicopter which had the doors removed to facilitate filming.  The photographs and video provide a most interesting perspective of area sites.  A few of the pictures were featured in the September 24 issue of the Observer and they are also accessible from our web site.  There are some very good pictures of the John Sherwin, a lake boat that had been docked at the Lake Calumet grain elevators since September 2006 and was being used as a grain storage barge.  The Sherwin has been out of active service since 1981.  Two days after photographing the Sherwin at Lake Calumet in August the ship was gone.  Further investigation revealed that the ship had been towed to Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin for refitting and return to active service in spring of 2010.   There are also good pictures of the decommissioned Coast Guard cutter, Acacia, currently docked in the North Slip at the former South Works site. 
       September 20 was a busy day beginning with a ceremony at the new East Side Mural at Hummel Square on Fitzgibbons Drive.  A large crowd was present as the new art work was dedicated.  That event was followed with a walking tour of the area near the 92nd Street Bridge.  The highlight of the tour was a visit to the Von Zirngibl grave site in the middle of the scrap yard near 93rd and Ewing.  The current operators of the scrap yard, Sims Metal Management, were very cooperative about allowing the tour group to visit the grave and the site is in good condition.  It is certainly not an idyllic place to be buried but, given the situation, it was nice to see grave site is being maintained.  The tour also had a river level look at the EJ&E railroad bridge and the Calumet River.  The day ended on the Calumet River just south of the O’Brien Locks at a fund raiser for the Southeast Environmental Task Force. 
     On September 28 we led a group of students and professors from the Center for Land Use Interpretation of Oberlin College on a tour of former industrial sites in the Calumet region.  Among the locations  we visited were former South Works, Youngstown, Interlake, Republic and Wisconsin Steel sites. 
       Photos from many of the above mentioned events may be accessed from our web site at:

More SE Side Movie Trivia
       The April 1992 issue of the Washington High School “Patriot” revealed that a scene from “Home Alone 2" was filmed at the railroad crossing near 98th Street and Avenue G near the Field House and our museum. 
     Although I have not seen the movie, the new Batman movie reportedly includes scenes filmed at the grain elevators at Lake Calumet.  If any readers can verify this please let us know. 
       In September, scenes for the new A & E television series, “The Beast”, starring Patrick Swayze, were filmed along the Calumet River.  The show is scheduled to air next year.

Calumet Area
             The following is from opening remarks by Joann Podkul at a recent meeting of funders and environmental, educational, cultural and civic organizations on both sides of the Illinois-Indiana State Line,  sponsored by the Calumet Stewardship Initiative:

       “To place things into a larger historical context, about 50 years after the opening of the Calumet River to industry, this one-time sportsmen’s paradise was celebrated by the publication called the Calumet Record, which boasted 500 manufacturing plants on its roster and boldly declared, “The potentialities of the Calumet Region challenge imagination.”  That was in 1925.  The best was yet to come.
       What remains today of this once world-class industrial region is but a shadow of its former self, yet the challenge remains.   After decades of battling against brownfields and airports and landfills, the community continues to look to the landscape and imagine: 
       a national park linking the I and M Canal Corridor with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore;
       a steel museum emerging from the remnants of a coke plant;
       the resurrection of a safe house on the underground railroad from the barest foundations of a farm along the Calumet River;
       a state of the art computer center from a shuttered local tavern;
       a LEED Platinum+ environmental center from marshland until  recently overrun with invasives;
       and habitats carved out of barren wastelands  or corporate campuses.
       And, if Millennium Park in downtown Chicago can have solar-powered trash compactors, why can’t Southeast Chicago have them?
       The community has done more than simply imagine.  Member organizations have combined their efforts to begin developing a comprehensive Calumet curriculum ranging from pre-school through graduate level, using the natural areas as a living classroom.   A significant number of images of the industrial history have been digitized as part of a larger archival collection. Stewards and volunteers have been trained to restore and preserve the natural environment.  Members collaborate on seasonal festivals, teacher conferences, bus and bike tours and on-going  programs and special events to promote the economic welfare, health and sanity of the region.“
 Another speaker at the same meeting spoke of a “Calumet Moment” or a “Tipping Point” in attitudes and awareness of the fact that “the Calumet is a place like no other place.”  The Last Four Miles initiative the Ford Calumet Environmental Center, South Works redevelopment, the 134th Street development, and other projects will change this area tremendously.  The magazine Chicago Wilderness will be devoting their entire spring issue to the Calumet.  It is an exciting time for the region.  Stay tuned!

Washington High School Trivia
       While preparing a presentation on the history of Washington High School several interesting facts were uncovered.  An organization named the “Southeast Federation” was formed in 1951 to lobby for a new high school on the southeast side to serve the communities of the East Side and Hegewisch.  The original East Side high school was to have been built at 108th and Avenue H.  Plans for this school were dropped and Jane Addams elementary school was built at that location instead.  When the movement to build a high school on the East Side was finally successful, the site at 114th and Avenue O was chosen.  The Board of Education announced plans to build  two new Chicago high schools in September of 1953.  The schools were Dunbar Vocational at $7 million and an unnamed elementary and high school at 114th and Avenue O at $3 million. The Southeast Federation recommended naming the school for Wilson Frankland, a former Board of Education member from the Southeast Side and a member of the Southeast Federation.  The Board disagreed.
       The school was formally dedicated on April 9, 1958, which is the rationale for a 50th Anniversary being held in 2008.  But the first students actually entered the school in February 1957.  Our museum has photos of the first two “divisions” at Washington High School taken in June 1957.  Washington opened as a somewhat experimental school.  It was a k-12 school housing elementary and high schools in the same building under a single principal, Thomas Coffey.  This would change in 1973 with the opening of the new Washington elementary school. 

School Stores
       While researching materials for the Washington High School history presentation I was reminded of the disappearance of a venerable neighborhood  institution, the school store.  A conversation with a friend brought up memories of a school store located
at 11257 Green Bay.  The students from Washington ate breakfast and lunch or just “hung out” there in the days before “closed campuses.”  The school did not like students “hanging out” at the school store but could not do much about it.  If any readers have any memories or good stories about school stores send them to us and we will include them in our next newsletter.

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. 

Saturday     October 25, 2008     10:00am-2:00pm      Washington High School 50th Anniversary Celebration
The celebration will be an open house / all years reunion for any and all graduates of the school. The school will be open for tours, there will be displays and presentations about the history of the school, and former faculty members will be on hand to meet and greet guests.

Saturday     October 25, 2008     11:00am-4:00pm      Chicago Artists Month      SE Chicago Historical Museum
Artists and Photographers – for natural inspiration try the Calumet Region!
Come and see what local artists and photographers have done using the Calumet Region as their subject.   During the month of October the Southeast Chicago Historical Society Museum, 9801 S. Avenue G, in the Calumet Park Field House, will feature an exhibit of the work of local artists and photographers.   Works by Joseph Mulac, Rod Sellers, Gloria Novak and 100th Street muralist Noel Morales will be displayed.   The regular hours of the museum are 1-4 on Thursdays and the museum will be open on Saturday, October 25 from 11 am to 4 pm.

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