Saturday, March 23, 2019

March 23, 1910 -- Chicago Police Silence the Oom-Pah Music
March 23, 1910 – Trouble on Quincy Street as a police officer, one William Rourke, “a County Kerry man,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 24, 1910]  stops outside a saloon as he hears a six-member oGerman band playing inside.  According to the Tribune’s report, "Rourke steps into the saloon and commands, 'In the name av the state av Illinois.  I command yez to stop this.  It’s gone far enough.'”  The band leader puts down his E flat coronet and asks the officer what the problem is. “Can ye play Th’ Wearin’ av th’ Green? No?  Well, then can ye play Th’ Wind that Shakes th’ Barley?  No?  Well, then, d’ ye know Tatter Jack Welch?  No?” With no answer forthcoming to his liking, the officer orders the band members to follow him to the station house, proclaiming, “I’ll not have this kind av a nuisance on my beat.”  At the First District police station Lieutenant Ben Reed asks the band members what they have to say for themselves.  Again, according to the Tribune, the leader answers, “This policeman he sait to me ‘Can you blay The Green Is Wearing Off?’  I sait no, we din’t had the music.  Then he ask me to blay The Vind Dot Shakes the Wheat. Once more alretty I sait to him dot ve didn’t blay dot kind of music.  The he sait 'Come with me to the station.’”  The lieutenant allows the musicians to leave, making them promise “that they would never invade the loop district again [or] he would put the whole bunch downstairs  if they didn’t get back to the ‘nord seit.’”

March 23, 1921 – Two gifts of $50,000 are unveiled, one from William Wrigley, Jr. and the other from the trustees of the Ferguson Fund, with the money underwriting a plan “to make the new Michigan avenue bridge with its approaches one of the show places of the world and a link between the Chicago of today and the village of the historic past.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 24, 1921] Charles H. Wacker, Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission, says, “Not only for the direct result, but also for its influence toward the finest and better city of the future, do we value these public spirited benefactions.  They cannot fail to point the way to others who will be called upon to aid in embellishing the improved South Water street.  Decorative features and sculpture must be provided to make the Chicago river attractive like European water courses, and an object of beauty instead of ugliness.” The plan is to create bridgehouses on each corner of the bridge that will present the history that has taken place in the location where the new bridge crosses the river.  The bridgehouse at the northeast corner stands approximately at the spot where the first non-native American settler, Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, built his home.  At the southwest corner stood the site of Fort Dearborn.  The sculptures that grace the bridgehouses today are a direct result of the gifts of 1921.  Wrigley’s contribution made possible the work on the north side of the bridge. The Discoverers by James Earle Fraser shows four early discoverers who explored the area in the seventeenth century. The Pioneers depicts early settler John Kinzie leading a group through the wilderness.  The sculptures on the southern bridgehouses were commissioned by the B. F. Ferguson Monument Fund and are the work of Henry Hering.  Defense depicts Ensign George Ronan in a scene from the 1812 Battle of Fort Dearborn, and Regeneration depicts workers rebuilding Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. As a kick sometime when you are passing by the Regeneration sculpture on the southeast bridgehouse, check out that funky salamander nipping at that stalwart female’s ankles.  Symbolism a-plenty.

March 23, 1963 – An estimated half-million people turn out “in sparkling spring weather” [Chicago Tribune, March 24, 1963] to greet President John F. Kennedy, jamming the route of his motorcade “wherever he traveled during his four hour stay.”  Secret service agents and police officers scramble at one point as the president orders his limousine stopped on the Cumberland Avenue overpass and gets out to shake hands with members of a crowd of several hundred people who had gathered at that location.  Under the Lake Street viaduct on the expressway workers remove the plastic bubble top of the limousine and haul it away in a city truck.  “Then, with the warm spring breezes ruffling his hair, Mr. Kennedy began his entry into the Loop, an entry made almost triumphant as the nation’s biggest Democratic organization turned all-out to greet the President and their mayoral candidate [Mayor Richard J. Daley] in the April 2 election.”  Another moment that took the motorcade by surprise occurs on Jackson Boulevard, which is “the domain of the various ward organization delegations.”  The bridge tender on Jackson gives the procession a salute by ringing the bridge’s bells and activating its flashing lights.  The bridge remains stationary, though, and where “Jackson boulevard slashes thru the city’s financial district, the air was filled with confetti and ticker tape.”  With temperatures near 60 degrees and bright sunshine throughout his short stay in the city, the president doubly felt the warmth of his Chicago welcome.

March 23, 1946 -- The United States Navy announces that the 265-foot U. S. S. Willmette will be sold, closing a chapter in Chicago history that began in 1903 when the ship was built as a freighter. It was almost immediately converted to a passenger ship that could hold as many as 2,000 people. The name of the ship was the Eastland, the ship that took 812 people to their graves when it capsized in the Chicago River on July 24, 1915. After she was raised, the Navy purchased the hulk and converted it to a training ship with a new name. Captain E. A. Evers, who lived in Willmette, and other interested citizens, were successful in having the ship named after that North Shore community. The Navy found no buyers for the ship, and it was decommissioned and broken up for scrap in that same year of 1946.

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