Great column on the Chicago River [“Tres Cities,” Private Eye, July 29, City Weekly]—it brought to the forefront a few great memories.
As a lad, I used to ride the GMO passenger train (prior to Amtrak) from central Illinois into Union Station and meet with one of two uncles living in Chicago several times per summer. Which uncle depended upon which team was in town—White Sox or Cubs. I’d walk from the station and meet him as he was getting off work. Usually, we’d walk to a corner tavern, where he would have a beer, and I’d drink a Pepsi and listen to the locals talk of politics, civil-rights issues and, of course, the Chicago sports teams.
It was Chicago where I was first exposed to corruption on the part of government officials. Both uncles worked for the Public Works Administration and they acknowledged the weekly payoff required to ensure their jobs remained secure. As one uncle had a car, he was also required to slip a few dollars to the beat cop to ensure his car remained parked on a city street, free from ticketing and towing.
As I became older, I picked up a newspaper route for the Chicago Daily News, the paper that started my lifelong daily newspaper-reading ritual. On one trip into Chicago, I was given a tour of the newspaper plant and met Mike Royko, a columnist I faithfully followed. Somehow the same day, I met Studs Terkel, and as I had just finished Division Street: America, we had a short talk and I became a devoted fan. His advice to me was: “Don’t stop reading and learning.”
On Saturday, I’d go with the uncle of the weekend to get a Chicago-style pizza (each had his favorite joint) prior to catching the ballgame.
When I think of Chicago, my first thoughts center upon Riverview Park, Maxwell Street, pizza, Shad Aquarium, Buckingham Fountain and, of course, the Museum of Science and Industry.
It remains a great city.
San Antonio, Texas