Monday, October 21, 2019

October 21, 1950 -- Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal ... Bad Neighbor?
October 21, 1950 – A Chicago Daily Tribune reporter reports on a trip he took on the previous day in an effort to determine living conditions along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.  Reporter Harold Smith heads downstream as far as the Argonne Forest Preserve below Willow Springs.  Within the city Smith describes the waters of the Chicago River as “not particularly odorous,”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 21, 1950] but below the treatment plant of the Chicago Sanitary District at Stickney “the stench began in earnest”.  The reporter “barged in” on football practice at the Lincoln Elementary School in Cicero, asking about the odors from the canal.  “How about em,” exclaims one 15-year-old player.  “Say, when my ma hangs her wash outdoors it comes back smelling of garbage, she says.”  A 14-year-old player says that he hasn’t noticed the smell so much … until he returns home from another neighborhood.  “it’s worst when you come back from where the air is fresh,” he says.  A Berwyn housewife tells Smith southerly winds are particularly offensive, saying, “It’s especially bad on rainy days.  We live a half mile from the canal now.  But even when we lived a mile farther north it used to bother us.”  At Lemont Smith turns around and heads back to the city, “reflecting on the wide uninhabited swath which lies along the big ditch.  This could be highly desirable farm, home, industrial and recreational territory, and planners say it would become that if Lake Michigan’s abundant waters were flushed more adequately to cut the canal smells.”  The above photo shows the canal today as a far less offensive body of water.

October 21, 1946 – Governor Dwight H. Green and Chicago Mayor Edward J. Kelly preside over the dedication of the Chicago branch of the University of Illinois at Navy Pier.  Along with George D. Stoddard, the president of the university, they raise the American flag over the complex that the United States Navy had lowered upon vacating the pier it had used for training electronic and radio personnel throughout World War II.  Green tells the assembled students and dignitaries that the G.I. Bill of Rights is “a monumental achievement, in which, for once, America has taken care of its own.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 22, 1946] The makeshift college is set up to handle about 4,000 students, seventy-five percent of whom will be veterans. Almost every student wiil be a commuter who holds a part-time job.  And almost all of the students are first-generation college students. The school is only a two-year college, which poses a problem for many students who will eventually have to decide between continuing their education at a more expensive private school in the area or transferring to the main university downstate. As the initial group of veterans moved on, the Navy Pier institution became more and more impractical.  In a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune in 1960, one student wrote, “We students at the U. of I. branch at Navy Pier are shoved into a warehouse that stinks of dead fish in the summer, and in winter is so cold that teachers tell their students to bring jackets to class.  Are we to take a back seat to politics and pigeons?” [Chicago Tribune, July 8, 2016] In 1961 Mayor Richard J. Daley brokered a site for a U. of I. at Chicago campus on Chicago’s near west side, a campus that opened in February of 1965.  It would be decades before Navy Pier would find a way to work its magic on Chicago once again although it did serve for many years as a key location in attracting Great Lakes shipping to the city.

October 21, 1965 – The Chicago Tribune reports that Lake Point Tower, “a broadly curved three-winged high rise of 900 apartments” [Chicago Tribune, October 21, 1965] will be built east of Lake Shore Drive not far from Navy Pier.  It will be the world’s tallest reinforced concrete building.  The paper reports, “The tower, sheathed in glass and aluminum, will dominate a landscaped base structure covering the block bounded by Grand avenue, Streeter drive, Illinois street, and Lake Shore drive on the west.”  Two developers – Harnett-Shaw & Associates, a New York firm and Fluor Properties of Los Angeles – will back the project.  The land on which the building will be built is leased property from the Chicago Dock and Canal Company, a company that traces its origins all the way back to Chicago’s first mayor, William B. Ogden.

October 21, 1974 – The largest cash robbery in the history of the universe is discovered early in the morning on this date at the Purolator Armored Express vaults at 127 West Huron Street.  Over $4.3 million in unmarked bills is taken from one of the vaults. Gasoline bombs are left to explode and cover up any evidence, but a lack of oxygen in the vaults causes the fires to burn out quickly.  Detectives say that there are no signs of forced entry to the vault, which has concrete walls that are over a foot thick, a pretty obvious indication that this is an inside job.  It doesn’t take long for the crime to unravel.  Tony Marzano, a 33-year-old scam artist, enlists his cousin, Charlie, to go in with him on the robbery.  They get their pal, Ralph Marrera, to hire on as a night watchman on weekends, and through him are able to paw through the offices of a senior officer of the company, where they find the combination to the vault’s lock.  Things begin to break bad when another hood, Pete Gushi, fails to arrange for the boat intended to take the robbers from Miami to Grand Cayman, where they plan to stash the cash in a “no questions asked” bank.  The Marzano’s eventually get the cash to Grand Cayman, but the bank won’t accept it because it doesn’t have the staff necessary to count 700 pounds in unmarked bills.  Gushi sings, Marrera attempts suicide, and the whole case is wrapped up within a month.

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