Press releases we didn’t finish: “Youngsters from kindergarten to the fourth grade will get to meet and talk with a mechanical robot talking tooth who will visit your city. . . .”
“Nearly everyone had to move,” says Pearl Rebbe, a former tenant at 533 W. Barry (two blocks south of Belmont). “We just couldn’t go up to $750 a month with $70 for parking”–a 230 percent increase. The upheaval came because the building’s owners decided to exercise their option to pay off a federally subsidized mortgage after 20 years and gentrify the building. According to Anne Conley, writing in The Network Builder (March/April 1987), similar prepayments and federal housing program expirations mean “a giant catastrophe is on the horizon which could erase more than 20,000 low-income units from the city of Chicago over the next ten years.”
“Maybe it’s because I have a large ego,” says Eugene (Edaw) Wade, explaining his interest in mural painting in City, a journal of the City Colleges of Chicago (Spring 1987). Wade teaches art at Kennedy-King College and was one of the creators of the 1967 “Wall of Respect” and many more recent indoor and outdoor murals. “But there are also practical factors. Earlier when I had been doing large paintings, I always had to worry about the door size. You get into trouble by stretching the painting larger than the door size and not being able to get it out. It didn’t make sense to put up with this limitation.”
And this, children, is what we call responsible unionism. In 1980, Chicago Teachers Union president Robert Healey cut a secret deal with the Board of Education negotiator and agreed not to pursue teacher grievances over maximum class sizes, according to testimony by former school superintendent Angeline Caruso reported in Substance (May 1987). The teachers’ contract’s limits on class size remained on paper, but Healey’s secret deal let administrators save money by laying off hundreds of teachers and forcing the rest to teach overly large classes. The informal arrangement may still be in effect, but Healey himself has moved on: he’s now president of the entire Chicago Federation of Labor. Wonder what favors he’s done the city lately that we’ll be hearing about in the 1990s?
You blinked. You missed the Golden Age. “In Chicago today,” says the New Art Examiner (May 1987), “new commercial gallery after new commercial gallery opens for business, secure in the belief that our art market is healthy and there is always room for one more.” April’s unveiling of the Terra Museum of American Art gives downtown Chicago its third major art museum. Funding sources aplenty are still to be found, the alternative galleries jostle and plan, artists continue to arrive, critics continue to find venues. . . . Could it have been only a decade ago that none of the above was true? . . . that there were only a handful of galleries, few exhibition opportunities for artists, a dearth of institutions. . . ? The 1970s were the pioneer years of Chicago’s art community, and today we have already settled into smug contentment; whenever it was, the Golden Age that lay between the two was remarkably brief.”
“One of the main reasons businesses leave Chicago is to expand,” writes David Moberg in The Neighborhood Works (May 1987), “but Chicago has an abundance of empty manufacturing space and lots of vacant land, even some very large parcels. [Ted] Wysocki [executive director of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations] thinks the City needs an early warning system for plant expansions as well as for plant closings.”
To avoid becoming victim of a “smash and grab” attack on your car, says Gregory Moore, CPP (Certified Protection Professional), in the Greater North Pulaski Business Times (February/March 1987): “At stoplights or traffic congestions, always leave a full car length between you and the car in front of you so that you may take evasive action.” Hmm–it might work. When other cars cut in front of you, just start backing up, and pretty soon you’ll be going full speed in reverse . . . which should solve the “grab” part of the problem, anyway.
Most exchange programs send kids to other countries–but the predominantly black Dyet Middle School (555 E. 51st) and the predominantly Hispanic Seward School (4600 S. Hermitage) have a cultural exchange program that just takes them across town. According to the Chicago Public Schools, “the students began as pen pals and have since travelled together on field trips and attended various presentations at the two schools.” Plans include a food festival featuring dishes from both cultures. Maybe these children’s children can have a cultural exchange in the same classroom?
“Nobody eats salads for their own sakes,” writes James Krohe Jr. in Illinois Times (May 14-20,1987). “The poorer peoples began it because greens are cheap and filling and made them feel as if they’ve eaten enough when they hadn’t, while the rich continue it to keep them from eating too much when they oughtn’t. I eat them anyway, as a penance for the sins I commit against my lower intestine. Lettuce and other such fodder thus occupy roughly the place in my life that God occupies in the life of the weekend Christian. Its presence marks the triumph of prudence over appetite.”
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.