Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Messy Streets -- March 10, 1900 and March 10, 1903

Not a Whole Lot of Fun (Chicago Daily News Archive)
Back on this date, March 10, in 1900 a spring thaw was quickly melting the winter’s snow in the same way that the city is shedding its winter coat these days.  Streets Commissioner McGann said, “The state of affairs is worse than at any time in the history of the city.  It is doing material damage to business . . . The Street department has disbanded the extra street cleaning force which it put to work during the snow-storms, but the regular force is doing all it can to clear the streets.  It is a hard job, however, because the men cannot shovel water.”  [Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1900]

Passersby crossing State Street at Van Buren took their lives in their hands as the entire intersection was buried in slush and water.  Van Buren and Lake Street, farther north, were covered with slush that horses and wagons splashed onto the pedestrians as they walked down the sidewalks.  North of Randolph Street on La Salle sidewalks were covered by slush and water that was several inches deep.

Three years later things hadn’t changed much, and The Tribune ran a series of poems – once again on this date – lamenting the deplorable condition of the city’s streets, beginning with this short ditty:

Full of mud and full of holes,
Streets that vex all kinds of soles.
When you cross one, say “goodby,”
Speed the day when we can fly.”

Halsted Street received this pearl:

Would you see the worst?
      Go take a view
Southward from Archer Avenue
Where the street cars run
      Through miles of slush,
A measley, Blackened,
      Horrible mush;
A thoroughfare
      Where people trudge
Through nasty, sticky,
      Bottomless sludge;
Where the wagons bump,
      Ker-chuck!  ker-chuck!
O’er the frazzled and worn
      Old cedar block!
A dirty, pasty,
      Slobbery mess,
A six-mile stretch
      Of foul morass;
A smear on the face
      Of the town of Lake
Is Halsted “street”—
      It takes the cake!

It Couldn't Have Been Much Fun on Halsted Street, either
(Chicago Daily News Archive)
And here’s a little tribute to a street that is now the heart of Streeterville, St. Clair, today the home of Tru and the Captial Grille . . .

There’s a street they call St. Clair,
       (It would make the angels swear)
And it’s rocky as the road to Dublin town
       Bumps and mudholes everywhere
       (O, the cuss words in the air),
It’s the ******** street in town.
O, this poetry’s not good , nor even fair
       This, too, would make the very angels swear),
It has corns and warts and knobs upon its feet
       But my muse lives on St. Clair
       (And she does her walking there),
And her poetry’s no rottener than the street.

Finally, a “Rush Street Rhapsody” . . .

   Muck, slime, and slush!
   A mingle mush
Of filth and nameless nausea!
   Black, nasty shoals—
A sudden sickness cause ye!

   I hold my nose,
   Walk on my toes,
And leap form crag to cobble,
   But if I slip—
   My clothes will drip
As home I hump and hobble.

   A hog would flush
   A barnyard blush,
To view the slimy ruin!
   O! Carter, say
   That some glad day
There will be somethin’ doin’!

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