Bagels and Yox

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This is a flier for the number one entertainment for the American-Jewish people, “Bagels and Yox.” This particular run was to open on Sunday, May 11, 1952 at the Blackstone Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.

I can’t find too much information on this particular run of the show. I did find a 1951 review of the play in the New York Times theater section. The Blackstone Theatre is still around but is now known as the Merle Reskin Theatre.

Barton Hotel Fire, Chicago, Illinois – February 12, 1955

City in Ruins

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WHAT: Hotel fire
WHEN: February 12, 1955
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
FATALITIES: 29

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The Decatur Daily Review, February 12, 1955

HUMAN TORCH BLAMED FOR START OF FIRE

At approximately 2 a.m. on the morning on February 12, 1955, C.W. Harvey, night manager of a  West Madison Street (Skid Row) flophouse called the Barton Hotel heard a commotion coming from the second floor of the 49 year-old hotel so run down that it had chicken wire instead of actual ceilings. What Harvey found in the hallway both singed and confused him, There, standing before him, was a ball of screaming and flames that was 70 year-old Joe Armatzo.

Armatzo was a regular at the Barton Hotel and was known to use and excessive amount of baby oil on his body. According to eyewitness accounts, it appeared that Armatzo actually dropped a lit cigarette which ignited a small pool of baby oil on fire in 4 x 6 x 7″ room. He attempted to put out the flames, but was so covered in baby oil that the flames spread to his body turning Armatzo into a human torch. With his room and body on fire Armatzo rushed outside for help but actually caused the fire to spread rather quickly.

C.W. Harvey, seeing this grotesque sight, did not immediately ring the fire alarm to alert the fire department, instead he and others attempted to put out the fire temselves causing the fire spread faster. After 30 minutes the fire department alarm rand and then Harvey ran through the hotel banging on the doors in attempt to wake the sleeping patrons.

Most of the 245 men staying in the 65 to 75 cent a night Barton Hotel heard the commotion, alarm and knocks and quickly hurried without shoes or socks in the frozen streets. Not everyone made it out.

 

Some of the men slept through the noise and burned or died from smoke inhalation. Some, either unable to move due to malady or injury were unable to escape and died in the rooms. Some attempted to escape by breaking the window panes and jumping out.

Firefighters, arrived and knew this was going to be a battle. The hotel’s conditioning were appalling and caused the building to ignite in flames very quickly. To add to that, a 20 mile an hour wind spread the flames and lead to even colder temperatures in the already below freezing February morning. After more three and half hours, the firefighters finally snuffed on the blaze.

When daylight broke that morning, firefighters were shocked and horrified at the aftermath of the conflagration. Searching through the rubble they encountered the badly charred remains of one person after another. After nearly a week of sifting through the debris twenty-nine bodies were found.

Coroner Walter McCaron would later state he was appalled that than many people were staying in such a small place. He called for an immediate investigation in Chicago’s flophouses. A few days later a crackdown began and many of the Skid Row “hotels” were closed.

Two weeks after the fire a coroner’s jury said the owner, two operators, Anthony Dykes, night watchman of the hotel and Harvey were negligent by not reporting the fire immediately. Ben Glassman, one of the operators would fined $200 for a building code violation for not having sprinklers.None of the five charges would ever be indicted. The 29 bodies were buried in cemeteries around Chicago by the end of February.

Crystal Pistol – Chicago, Illinois

Cardboard America

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1452 N. Wells – Chicago – WH 4-9231
OLD TOWN’S AUTHENTIC WILD WEST SALOON
Western Style Steak, home-made Chili, Steer Berger, Served by Our Pistol Packin Mamas! Featuring Largest Stein in Old Town – 12 oz.
Entertainment Nightly

The Crystal Pistol opened sometime in the 1960s as a sort of Old West burlesque saloon in the middle of Old Town Chicago. Enticing customers with swinging doors and go-go dancers in the windows, the Crystal Pistol served up stiff drinks and bawdy nightlife.

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Chicago Tribune – April 25, 1973

The atmosphere would change in 1973, as the Crystal Pistol and 13 other establishments in Old town were raided and charge with illegal solicitation of drinks and/or keeping a disorderly house.

 

The Crystal Pistol didn’t last much longer. The best I can figure is that the raid, combined with changing tastes were the causes of death.

Frtizel’s – Chicago, Illinois

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New York Public Library

Fritzel’s was an incredibly popular place. For more than 30 years, the restaurant at 201 N. State Street in the Loop was the place to be seen. Friztel’s catered to the celebrity, politician, athlete and upper crust of society in and visiting Chicago.

Famous sports names such as Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle would visit when the Yankees were in town. Joe Dimaggio was said to be a lifetime member, and during the halcyon days, then-wife Marilyn Monroe would accompany Joltin’ Joe.  Mayor Richard J. Daley, singer Tony Bennett and comedian Phyllis Diller were just some of the Fritzel’s regulars.

How did the restaurant get so popular? The answer: food. Their menu of as many as one hundred exquisitely prepared items dazzled. The restaurant was spotless. No detail was overlooked. Joe Jacobson was the man responsible for Fritzel’s success.

Ironically, Joe Jacobson was more identified with Frtizel’s than Mike Fritzel, Jacobson’s former partner. The two were proprietors of the Chez Paree nightclub at 610 Fairbanks Court in Chicago and opened Fritzel’s in 1947. Mike Fritzel retired in 1953 and Jacobson became sole owner. Fritzel’s really started then.

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The menu with lots of options – New York Public Library

“Joe was very particular about the food,” Nancy Jacobson, his widow, recalled in the 1980s.”He would go into the kitchen, and if he saw a baked potato outside an oven, he would throw it in a wastebasket and tell the kitchen help, ‘Don’t ever send anything out to anyone unless it’s straight from the oven.'” The staff was also under strict cleanliness and preparation guidelines. Joe Jacobson was no-nonsense.

Jacobson himself was always incredibly neat and tidy. With a trademark, long black cigar, the debonair restaurateur would often walk the floor and became well-known to the clientele. He was a celebrity to the celebrities.

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Frtizel’s boomed through the 1950s and ’60s. However, tastes were changing and the restaurant would soon struggle. Fritzel’s fell victim to negative perception about the clout of its patrons. Dennis Swenie, a former police officer in Chicago, allegedly told a grand jury that “it’s taboo for policemen to write tickets for autos illegally parked in front of Fritzel’s.” The restaurant also felt dated. The interior was a reminder of the “good old days” that people wanted to move past in the late 1960s.

In the late 1960, Fritzel’s attempted to modernize with an expensive redecoration. People interested in the new Fritzel came to see it, but only once. The Loop was no longer very safe at night and the style of the restaurant was still just too passe.

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Fritzel’s closed in June 1972, when the then Genral Manage Wayne Boucher (Jacobson sold out in 1968 to food service business Interstate United Corp)  determined that the restaurant was not meeting it’s break even point of $125,000 and closed the restaurant for good.

Way Out, Man!

Come Home Soon

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Mailed from Chicago, Illinois to Lyle Kline of Huron, South Dakota on November 28, 1959:

Palos Park, Ill
Friday Night
Hi!
We’re having a good regional council meeting, but I’d much rather be downtown – so many “big name” stars are in Chicago this week! Went to a “real cool” jazz place last night – way out, man! Have to tell you about it later. See you in history class Tuesday! “Park”

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Greyhound Bus Station – Chicago, Illinois

Cardboard America
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Postcard view showing the bus station shortly after opening

The Greyhound Bus terminal, located at Clark and Randolph, was originally planned to open in the early 1940s. The land was purchased in 1941 for $2,250,000 but World War II interfered with the plans. In 1945, plans were started again in earnest.

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The Pantagraph – March 19, 1953

It was announced that when the new hub opened both of the Greyhound stops – one a cubbyhole ticket office a mile south of the Loop and a small room on State St. – would close.

The opening was planned for January 1953. However, difficulty obtaining materials and two Greyhound driver strikes delayed the opening until March 19, 1953.

The new station cost more than $10,000,000 and was the Loop’s first multi-million dollar structure in nearly 20 years. The five-story building took up the entire block.

One week before the station opened, a new restaurant attached to the building and fronting Randolph Street had their ribbon cutting ceremony. Toffenetti’s, a Chicago and New York favorite, had leased the space for their newest restaurant.

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The exterior of the bus station and Toffenetti’s on the far right

Toffenetti’s had been a staple of downtown Chicago for 30 years and had several other locations around Chicago. This location was the biggest yet. The new restaurant had a staff of over 250 workers and sat around 600 patrons at a time to handle the 5,000-10,000 people that would be coming through the station at one time. The future of bus travel was bright for Chicago.

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Curt Teich postcard from around 1953.

The interior of the bus station featured several escalators, an information kiosk, numerous ticket agents and “The Arcade,” which featured 18 shops selling all sorts of wares for the traveler on the way to their next stop.

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Later 1950s view of the lobby, escalators and a small portion of the Arcade

Throughout the 1950s and early-mid 1960s the Greyhound station was a relatively safe, family friendly station to help get you where you wanted to go. As the late 1960s dawned, the Loop was starting to change. The area had basically become a working area during the day and a place for ne’er-do-wells, addicts and vagrants at night.

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View of the main lobby area from the escalators

By the middle of the 1970s, it had all fallen apart. A scintillating five-page article entitled “The Bus For Rapists, Pickpockets, and Vagrants Is Now Loading” written by Jack Star appeared in the November 23, 1975 issue of The Chicago Tribune.

A couple of years ago, when tsk tsking about the Loop and how it “just isn’t safe at night” was at its peak, one of the truly unsafe places downtown was the Greyhound bus station, at Clark and Randolph Streets. It attracted all sorts of undesirables” pimps in search of new girls, pickpickets and purse-snatchers after fast cash, “midnight cowboys” on the prowl for homosexuals, rapists hunting prey, baggage thieves watching for easy pickings, con artists in need of “pigeon drop” victims, bums looking for a place to drink and flop.”

It had actually gotten so bad that a women and children’s safe zone, patrolled by security, had to be established for the comfort and safety of travelers.

The article goes on to state that a new “get tough” policy would be enforced in the station. The policy stated that everyone who entered had to have a ticket or be locked up.

The new plan worked for a while, but by then the place had such a terrible reputation that local Chicagoans mostly avoided the place.

Finally, in 1989 the old junkie haven was torn down in a Lopp revitalization plan. The bus station with a bright future lasted only 36 years.

There is Pep All The Time

Come Home Soon
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Boston Store – Chicago, Illinois

Mailed from Chicago, Illinois to Mr. & Mrs. Burt Cedars of Kokomo, Indiana on August 26, 1940:

Greetings!
We are way up high! Went to the Brookfield Zoo yesterday – ’twas fun to see all the many animals and a bear fight! I may be home Wed, but am not sure. It is so cool here. We are shopping today. Russell should have come, a girl, 18 yrs. old is here, too from Wisc. so there is pep all the time! She is a soph. at Univ. of Wisc.
Love, Mary C.

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The Prudential Building – Chicago, Illinois

Cardboard America

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This small pamphlet/brochure, produced around 1959/1960  about the recently opened Prudential Building in Chicago

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These are just a few facts about Chicago’s first new skyscraper built since 1934. A few more facts (from Chicago Architecture info).

  • Construction started in 1952 and was completed in 1955. The opening date was December 8, 1955

    Southern Illinoisan – December 9, 1955

  • Designed by the Firm of Ness and Murphy
  • 41 stories tall

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This great fish-eye Panorama map from the Prudential features a numbered map of the Chicago skyline when this one printed.

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With a charge of 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for Children, the Prudential really did offer “The Most Dramatic View in Chicago.”

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Found Kodachrome slide

This found photo from the Summer of 1958 shows the view towards Buckingham Fountain and the Field Museum.

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This view, from a different series of found slides, is from the Summer of 1960 and features the down Michigan Avenue with the Mandel-Lear Building and the Wrigley Building in the fore front.

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View down Michigan Avenue towards the Prudential sometime in the late 50s.

The view wasn’t just for sightseeing. Stouffer’s Top of the Rock was the place for visitors to see and be seen. According to language on the back of a late ’50s postcard, the restaurant and cocktail lounge was the place to:

Enjoy “cocktails in the clouds” in Stouffer’s fabulous glass-enclosed “Top of the Rock” lounge and see one of the most spectacular views in the Midwest! On a clear day you’ll see way beyond Chicago . . . to Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin!

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Late 1950s postcard

Eventually tastes changed and The Top of the Rock fell out of favor and closed along with the Observation Deck.

 

I will do a write-up on the history and imagery of Stouffer’s Restaurant and the other Top of the… Restaurants at a different time.

The Prudential is still standing tall in Chicago and is now known as One Prudential Plaza.. A second skyscraper was built on 1990 and is known as The Prudential Tower.

I highly recommend this 2012 post from Connecting the Windy City for facts and insight on the Prudential.

Dam Planes Anyway

Come Home Soon
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McCormick Place – This 35 million dollar lakefront convention center, situated on 30 1/2 acres along Lake Michigan, contains 300,000 square feet of exhibition space and can handle 30,000 arrivals and departures an hour.

Mailed from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Mrs. Doris Butler of East Dedham, Massachusetts on August 31, 1965:

The road was rough maybe go home by train or bus. Dam planes anyway. I walked five miles in this terminal to get to the next plane. Love, Sue.

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There Are Ever So Many Nice Things

Come Home Soon

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Mailed from Chicago, Illinois to D.K. Stevens, Esq. of Boston, Massachusetts on October 11, 1911:

Wed. Oct. 11-1911
1235 Dearborn Ave.
E. is full of enthusiasm about the A.G.T. and their plans for his work. He says he thinks it is just the kind of work he wants. There are lots of apartment possibilities for us, and we are working hard investigating them. Our furniture is on the way, so we’ve got to get some things settled soon. It’s lots of fun exploring this city, and I think there are ever so many nice things about it. Lots of Love, K.

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