Rod Sellers
Southeast Chicago
Historical Society

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Southeast Chicago Historical Society News
October  2009        Newsletter Editor Rod Sellers      Volume XXIII No. 4

A Few Words From the President:

       The celebration commemorating the 1909 Burnham Plan for Chicago continues during this, its centennial year.  The Southeast Chicago Historical Society is participating as a Program Partner, along with dozens of other organizations, institutions, and agencies.   Our contributions included several presentations in the community and creating an exhibit at our museum of posters, maps and drawings that relate the impact of the Burnham Plan on the Southeast Side and how it impacted subsequent planning initiatives for the area.  One of the key aspects of the Burnham Plan was to improve the lakefront and to increase public access to the lake.  The Southeast Side will hopefully see additional park land on the lake front on both sides of the Calumet River where it meets Lake Michigan.  This includes the former U. S. Steel South Works site, the Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) and portions of Iroquois Landing.  This project is being promoted by Friends of the Parks through its “Last Four Miles” initiative.  Our Burnham exhibit will be replaced soon by an exhibit which is part of “Chicago Artists Month 2.0" program being promoted by the city of Chicago.  Please stop by the museum for a visit and see the wonderful art work we will have on display.  Our Artists Month exhibit will have two themes.  The first is using the community as a source for art.  The other is how artists use technology to create and distribute their work.  In case you have not seen our Burnham Exhibit there is still an opportunity to do so since many items from the exhibit will be displayed at the Vodak East Side Library. 
       Another member of our staff is being honored with an award.  We are very proud of Gloria Novak, who is being given the Community Leader of the Year award from the East Side Chamber of Commerce.  She will be receive her award on October 22nd at the annual East Side Chamber of Commerce dinner.  Our congratulations to Gloria.  She continues to be a great asset to the community and especially to our organization.  Gloria is the  Secretary of our society and a regular volunteer in the museum.  A number of our staff hope to attend the dinner to show our appreciation for all she does.  If you are interested in attending the dinner contact the East Side Chamber at 773-721-7948. 
           On July 19, 2009 I attended the Chicago 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame Inductee Ceremony at Forest Park.  Two of the players in the Softball Hall of Fame are Tony "Buzz" Norka and his brother Stan Norka.  They were both from the southeast side and were outstanding baseball players. They played in the 40's and 50's when the parks were filled with players and spectators for the many games played.  There was a lot of competition since there were so many good teams.  Games drew big crowds to Calumet Park, Bessemer Park, Mann Park, Russell Square Park and others. There were many games which these teams played in other parts of the city.  There are stories that there was a lot of money exchanging hands after the game was played.  I am sure many of you remember the beer games that were played where the losing team had to pay for all the beer and hot dogs after the game.  Another inductee is Bob Pagorek, still living on the East Side.  Bob played , managed and was an organizer for a great number of years.  I was introduced to Art Lurie, one of the organizers of the Hall of Fame, and he would like to visit our museum to research South Chicago baseball teams.  His research would be shared with their museum and be entered on their web page  They have been working on this project for a number of years and hope to expand on their holdings.  They also are looking for uniforms, jackets, trophies and other artifacts to place in their museum.  They are have an annual game in July with the North Side playing the South Side. When that time comes we will pass more information to you.
       Our own Kevin Murphy has written another book,  a murder mystery entitled Out of Order.  It can be purchased on line at  Other items written by Kevin, including Degrees of Murder,  are also listed.  I am sure you will find them to be interesting reading.
       If you have visited the museum or Calumet Park recently, and were wondering about the dust and activities taking place in the room across the hall from the museum, here is what is going on.  The park is converting the meeting room to a fitness center.  It should be completed shortly.  If you are interested in lifting some weights or engaging in other  physical fitness activities it will cost $3 per session or $60 for the quarter.  Park staff hope to have meetings and other activities in the room behind the desk in the main lobby of the field house..
       Please make sure you dues are up to date.  Yearly membership is $10.  A lifetime membership is only $100.  This is a great deal and you will never have to worry about paying dues again.
       It is only October, but our next newsletter will not be published until January.  So we want to wish you Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year.
      If you have any questions or comments stop by the museum or e-mail  And check out our web site at:     
Barney Janecki                President

Limited Time Sale
       Are you looking for a gift for that special person in your life?  Our museum is having a special sale on the book,  Chicago’s Southeast Side Revisited . Regular price is $19.99 but you can buy it until the end of the year for $15.  We have a limited supply so hurry and get your copy at this special price.  Historical photographs also make unique gifts.  Choose from our extensive collection of historical photos of the Southeast Side and get an 8x10 or 8.5x11 unframed black and white print for only $10. 

Important Announcement
       The East Side Chamber of Commerce has relocated to the Park National Bank (formerly the Calumet Bank) 3501 E. 106th Street.  As a result, our new mailing address is the Southeast Chicago Historical Society, c/o 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.  Please update your records and help to spread the word about this important change. 

Museum News
       We continue to receive valuable donations from our members and even from non-members.   We encourage people to bring their historical "stuff" to us if you have no need for it, and feel the items should be preserved.  I am sure many of us have thrown valuable historical things away and years later wish we had not.  We can also pick up your articles if you cannot personally bring them to the museum.  We are particularly interested in old telephone directories, plant magazines, school memorabilia, church histories and historical photographs.
       Don Obara donated numerous items relating to the rededication of the veterans memorials at Wolf Lake, the dedication of the Nike Missile monument, and the visit of the Vietnam Moving Wall all of which took place in  September of 1999.  Included was a directory of all of the names on the wall along with various photos taken at the event.  He also gave us a booklet listing the memorial markers at Wolf Lake.  For a long time these markers, originally placed in 1946, were buried and obscured from sight and largely forgotten.  Students from Washington High School, under the direction of their teacher Rod Sellers, began a project to restore those markers.  The project eventually involved veterans groups and community organizations and culminated in a ceremony held September 18, 1999.  The theme of the ceremony was “Let Us Not Forget” and, ten years later, it is time to remember.
       Lorraine Buchanan donated a number of Daily Calumet articles and stories relating to her husband, Alderman John Buchanan. They make for interesting reading.  Credit must go to James Novak, son of Gloria and John Novak, for donating the 1970, 1971, and 1972 St. Francis de Sales High school year books.  We only have a few yearbooks from St. Francis De Sales, so if you are ready to deep-six your  year books we would be glad to have them for safe keeping.  Lucille Blasko, daughter of Alex Savastano, donated a 1958 Bowen year book, one of the very few Bowen yearbooks we were missing.  You may want to come in and browse through these books and see some of your friends from yesteryear.  Arlene (Graczyk) Kaslewicz parted with her St. Michael High School sweater which still looks brand new.  She graduated in 1959 and just recently celebrated a 50 year reunion with her classmates at the Carmelite Monastery in Munster Indiana.  We also received a vintage baseball uniform from a Hegewisch baseball team.  The uniform is made of a heavy wool fabric and it is hard to imagine playing baseball in 90 degree weather in such an outfit.  Another donation came from Sue Ramirez,  a souvenir creamer which has a painting of the Bessemer Park field house.  It is quite a collectible, dating from the 1930's.  Perhaps someone can come in and give us some additional information about this historical artifact.
       Last month a number of former Sundodger players visited our museum. The Sundodgers were an outstanding baseball team, led by Jim Fitzgibbons.  We have a great many trophies awarded to them in our museum.  The former Sundodgers were in town for their annual reunion.  Among the visitors was Southeast Sider Eli Grba, who played for the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels. They enjoyed looking at our Sundodger scrapbook and articles which appeared in the Daily Calumet.  It was fun hearing them reminisce about their playing days.  They hope to invite more of their members to visit the museum next year.
       We have completed our project to digitize all the slides and negatives from the Southeast Chicago Historical Project.  Over 2000 slides and almost 5000 negatives were scanned.  Many were of photographs not formerly displayed or available. 
      Visit the Hegewisch branch of Citizens Financial Bank and view the lobby display of historical photos from the early days of Hegewisch.
       Our museum will be open on Friday, December 4th from 5 to 9 pm, Saturday, December 5th  and Sunday, December 6th from noon to 4 pm in conjunction with the Lake Shore Model Railroad open house.  You may want to take advantage of this opportunity which occurs only twice a year. Tell your friends and neighbors and especially the kids.  If you like model trains you must not miss this event. And don’t forget to stop in our museum and say hello.

Taking the Heat
       Fighting fires in the colonial era was achieved by bucket brigades which were organized to pass buckets of water from one person to another in a two line formation. The empties were retrieved, often by children, and refilled.  The supply probably came from a well or some other source of water. Later, firefighting methods improved, and by the mid 1800’s, volunteers struggled to manually pull wagons containing large amounts of water and with pumps on the bed of the wagon. They worked the pumps by pushing long handles up and down. Gradually steam operated pumps, in horse drawn carriages, replaced the hand pump equipment. 
       The Great Chicago Fire on October 8, 1871 was a great disaster to the city.  It engulfed miles of property in its path and claimed 300 lives. On the very same day, a forest fire in Peshtigo, Wisconsin broke out, and killed 800 persons. Another chapter in Chicago fire history occurred in 1903 when another fire took the lives of 575 people at the Iroquois Theater in downtown Chicago.
       The difficulties with which the first firemen were confronted, as well as the limited apparatus with which they were equipped, led to the development of modern types of equipment such as ladder trucks, pump trucks, ambulances, etc. The firemen staffed by the city are trained in CPR, water recovery methods , hazardous materials, communications, and advanced firefighting techniques. Of the total number of firemen in the United States, 72 percent are volunteers, who not only fight the fires but often provide EMT services. They are also trained in the same advanced firefighting techniques as salaried firemen. They are the guys who work side by side with regulars who come when you call.
       The first fire station on the East Side was a frame structure built in 1891 at 10615 Ewing Avenue where a fire house remains today. The early stations were called “fire barns” because they housed the horses which pulled the wagons. It still proudly boasts of Engine #74. The original building was a one bay, two story, with the engine opening on Ewing Avenue. Because of the turnover due to safety, the building was replaced by a brick firehouse on the same site.
       As the need for another station grew on the East Side, a new fire station was built at 11657 Avenue O in 1971. It appears more sophisticated with its three bays, accommodating an ambulance, ladder truck and Engine #104. Like all other firehouses, it has sleeping and eating facilities.
       Engine #97 is housed at the Hegewisch fire station on 13359 Burley Avenue, and was built in 1887 as a frame structure. It was torn down in 1927 to make way for a new brick building, and is still located at the Burley Avenue address. When the firehouse was first built it was annexed to the community’s police station in the 16th Police Precinct, and later was put into a separate unit.
       The first firehouse in South Chicago was originally built in 1884 at 9321 South Chicago Avenue, and was the first of its kind to be built for fire protection.  It was remodeled so that the doors faced 93rd Street at the rear of the house with an address of 3027 E. 93rd. The structure was torn down and rebuilt in 1932.  It houses Engine #46 and Engine #87. In 1908 Engine #87 was temporarily relocated to a new firehouse on 8701 Escanaba but later returned to its original location.
       The firehouse in South Deering , located at 10458 Hoxie Avenue, was originally built in 1890 as a frame, two-story with one bay and housing Engine 81. In the early years Engine #81 carried hard suction apparatus, which was rarely used, but provided a type of equipment used to draw water from the Calumet River to fight fires in areas close to the river.  Fire boats were also used to combat fires along the Calumet River. In 1893, the Chicago City Council appropriated funds for organizing a fire boat with Engine #58 at the west approach to the 95th Street Bridge. Later in 1900, it was relocated to the east approach of the 92nd Street Bridge along with a fireboat house. In earlier years, the banks of the Calumet River were dotted with industries and grain storage buildings.
       In 2004 and 2005, a firehouse “hot chili” cook-off contest was inspired by David and Chris Gomez of the East Side Florist, along with Alderman John Pope and the Knights of Columbus Trinity Council #3755.  Five of the community’s firehouses competed. Each station offered its own recipe for sampling and judging. South Chicago’s Engine 46 won the first prize for two years.
       If you are wondering what has happened to the Fire Box Alarms that were located mainly located in front of schools and large public buildings, they gradually disappeared in 1978. Today, only a scarce few can be found.                        
by Gloria Novak

Fire in the Bush
       The preceding article brings to mind a huge fire  which occurred on July 23, 1919.  15 houses were destroyed, 40 families were left homeless, and a fire captain, Hugh Murray of Engine Company 46, died as a result of the fire.  The inferno occurred on Buffalo, Burley and Mackinaw Avenues between 85th and 86th Streets.  Our museum has several detailed photos of the devastation after the fire and digital copies of articles from the Daily Calumet describing the fire. 

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.   Check our web site for other events:
The Southeast Chicago Historical Museum is no longer open on the first Sunday of the month. 

HOLIDAY CLOSINGS!                                                                                                                                                 
December 24, 2009        Christmas Eve                                            
December 31. 2009        New Years Eve
Due to the holidays the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum will not be open on the above dates. 

Exhibit at the Vodak East Side Library                                                                                                               
“The Burnham Plan: Impetus for Change on the Southeast Side”                                                                      
The exhibit portrays the aspects of the 1909 Burnham Plan that relate to Chicago’s Southeast Side and subsequent planning initiatives for the area. 
The exhibit was originally displayed at the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum.  See for more information.

Lake Shore Model Railroad Open House / Southeast Chicago Historical Museum Special Hours             
December 4, 2009           Friday                     5:00-9:00 pm                       Calumet Park Field House                           
December 5 & 6, 2009    Saturday/Sunday    Noon to 4:00 pm                  9801 S. Avenue G, Chicago                    
The Lake Shore Model Railroad Association, located in the lower level of the Calumet Park Field House, is celebrating its 63rd year with an Open House.  The Southeast Historical will also be open during the same hours as the model railroad Open House.

Teachers' Center
National Endowment for the Humanities
Illinois University