When Chicago was our suburb …

Growing up on Chicago’s south east side in the ’50s and ’60s, I thought we lived in the big city. We were no different than the city kids with – as far as I could tell – the same governor and the same mayor and baseballs teams and radio stations.

So why last week while watching WTTWs “Remembering Chicago Again” did I feel like an outsider?

Thanks to growing up next to Chicago, I watched Miss Frances and Ding Dong School. Had my very own Miss Frances tray – boy, I wish I still had THAT relic.

My old friend Miss Frances (photo thanks to Craig's Lost Chicago.)

My old friend Miss Frances (photo thanks to Craig’s Lost Chicago.)

Do you remember Miss Frances?

Wikipedia said her show first aired in 1952. We must have gotten our first TV soon thereafter. What a warm memory, balancing a bologny sammich and a glass of milk on my special green, half-moon tray – replete with Ding-Dong School stickers AND a groove for crayons, which also served as a milk-catcher in case your glass happened to tip over en route – to have lunch with Miss Frances.

We were city kids, weren’t we?

Otto Kerner was our governor, as far as I knew, and Richard M. Dailey was mayor. We listened to WLS and WCFL, traded Silver Dollar Surveys, went to concerts at the International Amphitheatre to see – well, YOU might have gone to see the Beatles, but Mickey and I went to see Paul Revere and the Raiders!

My dad said Chicago was OUR suburb. After all, living in Robertsdale, Indiana we were closer to State and Madison than a lot “official” city kids.

I remember after a hard morning with Miss Collins and my Franklin School kindergarten class, I got to ride downtown with my dad to pick up bowling shirts. He was the area distributer for those cool shirts with the colored vents, plus most of the other team shirts and jerseys you saw around Whiting. It was a quick 20 minute ride up the Outer Drive – before the Skyway was built! Why would I think I lived anywhere but Chicago?

Weren’t we city kids? Waking up with Howard Miller on WIND every morning. Because of him I know the words to so many old songs. I often imagined myself winning big on Name That Tune.

We weren’t outsiders when we listened to Franklyn MacCormack’s All Night Showcase. Shall I thank him and the Meisterbrau Showcase for my love of Benny Goodman and Anita O’Day? Having those lyrics in my little pea brain came in handy in high school.

In fact, raise your hand if you remember Mr. Church leading the George Rogers Clark Concert Choir in hits from the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s during Spring Sing each year!

And while you’re at it, remember dancing and singing in the aisles of the auditorium – wearing bell bottoms and tie-dyed shirts – singing “Age of Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine?”

We weren’t outsiders. We listened to The Outsiders, and the Buckinghams, and New Colony Six.

Okay, okay. We weren’t city kids. We were Whiting kids, or Robertsdale kids. But, oddly, enough, neither were we Hoosier kids.

When I went to downstate to school I was pretty surprised to learn some folks from south of US 30 had a bit of “an accent.” Kids from Chicagoland didn’t say UM-brella or motorSICKLE. We didn’t know from IN-surance or Christmas DEE-cor.

I wonder if those of us who grew up in northwest Indiana are Chicago wannabes? What about you? Do you wish you grew up in Chicago instead of next to it?

Not me. I love Hoosierville. I love that I grew up equidistant from The Beautiful Confines and the Indian Dunes National Lakeshore. I loved taking the Outer Drive downtown for movies, taking the elevator to the top of the city’s tallest building – the Prudential.

In fact, if I’d grown up in Chicago, I would have missed the smell of french fries on a rainy day. Write if you know what I’m talking about!

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4 responses to “When Chicago was our suburb …

  1. Nancy Zrenchik

    Amen!

  2. Bernadette Dvorscak

    I don’t think it cost more than $2. Once, in college I had lunch at the Top of the Rock. The bill was around $5. The current rate for the Willis Tower and the Hancock is $18 for an adult. It’s cheaper to go to the bar at the Signature Room one floor below in the Hancock and order a Coke. The view is the same. Or better yet, go to the Signature Room for the buffet lunch on Friday or Saturday and get the view and a meal for $20.

    It’s a shame that the Prudential observation deck is no longer open to the public. The view over Millenium Park and the future Maggie Daley Park must be magnificent.

  3. Bernadette Dvorscak

    I, too, was Whiting kid but now, living on the Near North Side, I’m a Downtown Girl. (Uptown has a very different meaning in Chicago). I always thought that we were a neighborhood of Chicago. The Loop was where we went to shop at least once a month. Even now there are a few “ghost signs” visible on some of the older buildings south of Madison; they refer to businesses that I vaguely remember. Starting in sixth grade, I’d get permission to go to movies downtown. After all the South Shore ran almost every half hour. When I got to know people who grew up in Chicago, I discovered that they went downtown far less frequently than I did. There downtown was Milwaukee Ave., Halsted St., 18th St., or Devon St. Chicago is still a city of neighborhoods. Even today there are many people who do not venture out of their own neighborhood to go downtown. Last May, a group of students who live in the vicinity of North Ave. and the Kennedy Expressway took a field trip to the Cultural Center. Most of them had never been to the Chicago Cultural Center which is a treasure offering hundreds of free programs every year in a gorgeous setting. The kids (and even some of the adult chaperones) stood on the sidewalk staring upwards with gaping mouths. How sad to live less than five miles away from a major city and never experience it! I’ve encountered students who live just west of the Dan Ryan on the Near South Side who asked me what all that water was over there– Lake Michigan!
    I think that Whiting’s proximity to Chicago was, and is, an asset. What’s more of an asset, though, are parents who are willing to venture beyond their own area and to open this broader world to their children.

    • Hi, Bernadette – thanks for your comment. It’s sad to think of the Chicago kids who’ve never seen the lake, or visited the aquarium or the Art Institute. Do you remember how much it used to cost to go to the top of the Prudential Building? Best, WordScarab

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