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Summer days gone by

Photo courtesy of Chicago Architectural Photographing Co.

We have been through many summers over the course of our lives. When we were young, we could hardly wait for sunny summer days to run to Roseland’s baseball fields or playgrounds. Swimming was always available regardless of the weather thanks to the indoor pool at West Pullman Park.

Back in the day, horseshoe equipment was put in the boxes at the end of the horseshoe courts for everyone’s enjoyment. A variety of classes were offered in park field houses such as sewing, cooking, puppetry, gymnastics, exercise and weightlifting. Roseland parks with their baseball and soccer fields, tracks, and tennis and hardball courts were always an option to fill a summer day.

If being active in the parks wasn’t your thing, just hanging out in the neighborhood with your buddies or friends was another option. By late afternoon, that choice usually led to walking down to “The Ave.” (Michigan Avenue). It’s not like there were a lot of things to do on The Ave, but there were people and record stores and Gately’s or Penney’s or any number of stores to check out. Running into someone you knew on The Ave could lead to any number of situations — especially if a car became part of the story.

Finding someone you knew with a car was the next best thing to flying! Everyone piled into the car, eventually pooled their change for gas and the night was complete with constant trolling The Ave looking for friends, girls, boys and anyone we knew. Of course, The Ave got longer once a car was involved due to the fact that The Ave no longer ended at Roseland Plaza at 115th. With a car, 127th Street became the end street for cruising The Ave.

Cruising The Ave going north always ended somewhere past the State Theater and Nick’s Fat Boy either shortly thereafter, or at 107th or 103rd and Michigan Avenue, depending on if anyone in the car knew anyone that hung out that far down. Cruising going southbound was much more interesting, starting from about 111th.

In the ’50s and early ’60s the East Side had some restaurants and the Parkway Theater with the adjacent Olympic Grill (“The O”) and on the corner Chicken Unlimited. Chicken Unlimited was a restaurant started by the Gregosian Construction Co. These brothers had designed their building so well that, though it has housed a variety of businesses throughout the past 60 years, it is still standing. Not only is Roseland’s original Chicken Unlimited building standing, but across the country, wherever there was a Chicken Unlimited location, many of those buildings are still standing. The Gregosians may not have been able to keep their chicken business going but they certainly knew how to design and build.

Let’s get back to The Ave. heading south past Andes Candies, Thom McCann Shoes, Bovenkirk’s, Perfecto y Garcia Tobacco Shop Indian, Union National Bank and the women’s clothing stores. A whole group of non-descript shops filled The Ave and the cruise south. Among those were the original American Sales store, Kresgee’s, Woolworth’s and the Roseland Music Shop. Of course, the biggie on the block was Gately’s People Store, which provided the jobs that provided the gas money for many of those cruising The Ave.

Friday nights, meant The Ave was open later, which fit in perfectly with the opportunity for guys and girls to get together. If there was no official date involved, it didn’t matter. Everyone just rode around for the sheer enjoyment of it. If it ended up with pairing off, so be it. These memorable night often led to boyfriend and girlfriend relationships.

Photo courtesy of Paul Petraitis.

Passing 115th and Roseland Plaza meant just chilling for the next 20 minutes while driving straight to 127th and the land of carhops. Just the word “carhops” brings back a lot of memories. Many of Roseland’s young ladies got their first jobs at the 127th Street drive-ins. Vinci’s, Chicken Little, and the BBQ Pit were the three in a row that became the hangout after The Ave stores closed.

All of those Ave “cruisers” are now at the point in their lives where they have to explain to their children and grandchildren what carhops were, what drive-ins were, and what “cruising” was. All of the aforementioned are residents of our minds. It’s unfortunate that in all the years since I and Paul Petraitis and Dan Bovino began the Facebook page “Roseland Roundtable,” no one has ever posted or offered a photo of any of Roseland’s drive-ins.

Today with Roseland’s current status, The Ave is just a memory that exists in our minds and is sparked to life by the occasionally sharing of a pre-’70s Roseland photo. There are a couple of sites that offer a glimpse of Chicago’s past and occasionally a Roseland photo pops up there.

Speaking of Roseland-related sites, I would like to take a moment to remember Roseland’s Tom Gromak Sr., who recently passed. Way back when the internet was a complex tool and the ease of Facebook hadn’t even been thought of, Tom created and maintained “Roseland Golden Years.” It was a difficult task that Tom took great pleasure in doing. Tom’s was the first comprehensive effort to impact our memories of Roseland in a positive way. His hard work throughout the years is appreciated especially considering his inspiration for future endeavors in maintaining Roseland’s narrative from years gone by.

The Pullman Artspace Lofts are coming along nicely. The outer walls have been completed and the floor supports have been put in place. It is now time for the interior construction to begin and, as the weather improves, the exterior brickwork should be heading toward completion by the time you read this column. There is always the opportunity to find current status information on the construction and leasing information regarding the Artspace Lofts. The Pullman Artspace Lofts page is now “live” on Facebook. Leasing information sessions for interested artists will start in early May. Email info@pullmanarts.org with your name and email to be put on the email list to receive current leasing information. If you have any artists in your family, or know of any artists that could benefit from living in artistic, low-income-supported residence, please pass this information on to them. Once they initiate the process they will be made aware of necessary requirements regarding income, good credit standing, and field of art. For information, visit https://www.artspace.org/pullman.

For those of you haven’t heard yet, St. Anthony’s will remain safely under the guardianship and management of Fr. Mark Krylowycz for the next three years. Fr. Mark requested the extension when he learned the Archdiocese could not guarantee the continued success of the policies, organizations and religious strides he had made for the St. Anthony parishioners in the past 12 years.

Now that summer is definitely here, if you do find yourself in Pullman, please drive with care. We Pullmanites often have to deal with drivers ignoring stop signs when they see how quiet Pullman is. The problem is that they fail to drive more carefully when there is increased child and adult traffic due to tourists visiting the area.

Pullman has many summer activities, beginning with the Historic Pullman Garden Club on June 29 followed by the Aug. 3 Pullman Family Reunion Picnic, and winding down with the Pullman National Monument Labor Day Celebration. If there are any questions regarding any Pullman events, feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to provide the information.

Contact me at 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756; or cjfranoi@yahoo.com

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.