When the Dept. of Homeland Security recently got rid of the rainbow threat level system (that seemed to always be orange) it reminded me of this Cold War era card I had seen in my Grandfather’s billfold. CONELRAD was part of Civil Defense, the Great Great Grandfather of the Dept. of Homeland Security.
The CONELRAD (CONtrol of ELectronic RADiation) system was set up in 1951 with a dual purpose in mind. The first was the shutting down of radio (and eventually TV) signals so that enemy bombers couldn’t use their transmission as a homing beacon to large cities. This method of navigation had been used during WWII including by the Japanese when they attacked Pearl Harbor. So there was some good basis for this step.
The second purpose of this system was the taking control of the airwaves. What would happen is all stations would go off the air and then different stations would take turns broadcasting emergency information on AM 640 or 1240. This would mean that the origination of the signal would geographically come from different locations, thus making it useless as a beacon. The government could then broadcast to the public prior to and after a nuclear attack. This information could come from a local State run agency or all the way up to the President. The government viewed this system as such an important part of Civil Defense that a law was passed stating that all radios manufactured must carry the CD logo on the dial at 640 & 1240. The advent of ICBMs made the idea of mixing up the transmission locations useless so the law was rescinded in 1963 when CONELRAD was replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System. (If you ever see a radio with the CD triangle on it, you can know with certainty that it was built sometime between 1953 to 1963.)
Chicago was always considered a major Soviet target, so keeping a card like this in your wallet was probably not unreasonable. Though the idea that you were supposed to have the wherewithal to be able to remember that you had this card after hearing those horrid air raid sirens (the same used to announce tornados), that is bit beyond me. I would have been too busy whimpering in a corner to bother reading both sides of these little instructions.
Paulina Street is where my Grandmother and Grandfather lived while growing up in Chicago. So having a token from an establishment on that block isn’t that surprising. Unfortunately, not only is the Old Village Inn gone, the building has disappeared as well.
I tried looking up info on the Chicago History Museum’s web site and found nothing (including the Encyclopedia of Chicago which brought back way too many entries to try and weed through). If I was still in Chicago I could try searching old city directories for a possible lead, but since I’m not I’m limited to the internet. I then hit the archives for the Chicago Tribune. I came up with some leads on articles with titles about some banquets. Since I don’t want to pay the Trib to read these pieces, I’m going to assume that the dinner mentioned was taking place at the Old Village Inn. (The best title was a 1953 article: “Women of Moose Group to hold benefit dinner.”) This would make sense since the now empty lot is a pretty good size and could have easily held an old fashioned banquet hall.
The last remaining question (besides why did they keep this token) is what could you have gotten for 25 cents in trade?
This is a postcard of The Skyride, which was a big feature of the 1933 World’s Fair. It wasn’t a tram like you see at an amusement park but was an actual bridge that these cars traveled across (the technical name is a Transport Bridge and here is a view of the full thing). Two large towers were constructed, one located at the southeast corner of Soldier Field and the other directly east across the lagoon at the narrowest part. As a matter of fact you can partly see in this postcard the bridge that was also constructed there, and was later torn down as well. According to the Century of Progress guide at 628 feet the towers were the tallest structures in Chicago at that time. Each had an observation deck at the top that gave a panoramic view of the city. The double-decker “rocket cars” traveled the 1,850 feet on cables at 200+ feet above the ground. At night the towers were lit up and had “great searchlights that (would) sweep the sky.” There were five companies that were behind the creation of this ride including Otis Elevator and the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company, which I think it is safe to say were the designers of this bridge.
Sure wish I had a chance to see it.
Over the years I’ve overlooked these two little tickets because they looked like something you would get at a local festival. It wasn’t until very recently, while organizing all of this stuff, that I took a closer look and realized what exactly these stubs were for… The 1934 Stanley Cup Series
These tickets are a great example of the growth in popularity of hockey over the years. Back then hockey was the redheaded stepchild of the American sports world. Unlike World Series tickets from that era (see these Cubs World Series tickets) the Stanley Cup Final’s tickets were nothing special. Like their roots, this was the blue collar no thrills sport and the tickets reflected it. It was all about the game, so why bother making some fancy-pants souvenir. As a matter of fact, if my Grandfather hadn’t penciled in “1934” I would have had to guess when these were from. Also, check out that price, and remember that ticket price wasn’t for a normal season game.
That series also has some interesting history. It was the Blackhawks’ first time they brought home The Cup. In game one, which was played April 3rd (not June), Chicago beat the Red Wings 2 to 1 in double overtime. Chicago won the series 3-1, and the last game was also won in double OT with a score of 1 to nothing. The hero being their team Captain and goalie Chuck Gardiner (the only goalie Captain engraved on The Cup). Sadly, the Scottish born Gardiner didn’t get to enjoy the taste of victory for long and died of a brain hemorrhage only two months later. He was 29.
I really wish I had found these last year when the Blackhawks won The Cup. Better late than never, which could have easily happened if I hadn’t been paying attention and had tossed these into the trash. That would have been truly a loss.
This postcard from the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago depicts the “Court of Electrical Group,” which had various electrical displays from 20 different companies. According to the guide, the bas-relief sculptures are 40 feet high, and appear to be outstanding examples of Art Deco. The interior had many exhibits including a “fever machine” that had something to do with medicine that is only explained as a “gift of science.” Other displays include a mockup of a living room with various futuristic uses for electric and also a farm which had an exhibit on how electricity could be used for “bug killing.” In other words, this may very well be the introduction of the bug zapper.
One thing I hadn’t noticed until I scanned this card was the photo credit in the upper left-hand corner for Kaufmann & Fabry. This company managed to get the pretty sweet gig of being the official photographers for the Fair. This meant all postcards, posters, ads, official photo books, etc, were all shot by this one company. Looking them up on the web I found plenty of examples of their photographs ranging from photos of the 1929 Cubs to rail road images, but next to nothing about the company itself. The only reference I could find about the company is from the Encyclopedia of Chicago site. They briefly mention that Kaufmann & Fabry (1910 – 1963) were part of a new wave of photographers that focused on architecture and advertising instead of running a portrait studio. Whomever they were, they left a wealth of images of early 20th century Chicago.
I came across this 1963 annual report from the Chicago Public Library at the bottom of a box. Now finding library related material isn’t that strange being my Grandma Alice was a head librarian for them, along with her sister being a career librarian, and even my Mom worked for CPL for a while. So really, I should expect as much. But why an annual report? The 5th page answered my question.
The B&W photo in the upper left has my Grandmother standing next to Mayor Daley (his son Richard M. just retired from being Mayor of Chicago and his son Bill is the current White House Chief of Staff). This was at the grand opening of the Albany Park Branch in Chicago. An 8x10 of this photo hung in our basement when I was a child growing up (it was one of those Chicago basements – if you’re from there you know what I’m talking about), and I currently have the photo in my bedroom. The thing was that I never knew the story behind the shot. From finding this annual report I now do.
This branch not only still exists but from the exterior looks exactly like it did when it opened 48 years ago. Even the big block lettering on the Foster Ave side is original. I remember going to this library in the 1970s even though it wasn’t our local branch. To me, for better or worse, this style of architecture will always remind me of my childhood.
The College All-Star Game was a preseason game between the NFL champions and a team made up of college All Stars including recent graduates. The game was the brain child of Arch Ward a sports editor for the Chicago Tribune. (He is also credited with getting the baseball All Star game going.) The first College All-Star match was held in 1934, so this ticket stub of my Grandpa’s was from the second hosting of the game. These games continued all the way up to 1976, which was when it was finally canceled. There were a few reasons for the game being terminated. One was that teams weren’t exactly too keen to the idea of possibly losing a new draftee to injuries suffered in a meaningless preseason game. Another reason was professional football players had become bigger over the years and were pretty much impossible for a college team to handle. For example, the Steelers played that last game in 76 and their team included the likes of Franco Harris, Bradshaw, and Mean Joe Greene. It frankly sounds like it became a bit unfair.
The Bears played in that 1935 game, which was held at Soldier Field on August 29 (and apparently cost 55 cents more than a World Series ticket and 90 cents more than a Stanley Cup game). I found a UPI story about the game from the next day and overall it sounded rather miserable. It poured rain, turned into a defensive battle, the Bears managed to lose over 112 yards in penalties, and the end score was Bears 5, All-Stars 0. One interesting note to this game was the All-Star’s center. He was the MVP from the University of Michigan and I believe this was his last time on the grid iron… Gerald Ford. Yep, President Ford played in that game, which with that rain may have reinforced his decision to not accept the offers to go pro.
Not sure why my Grandfather kept this ticket stub. I can’t find any reason other than Notre Dame was a favorite but got blanked 20 to nothing by Northwestern. Maybe that was reason enough to keep it. Though most likely he just had a good time and kept it as a souvenir. Whatever the reason the art used has that classic old college football look, which is enough reason right there to keep it.
One thing of interest is that the price of this ticket seems pretty high. Even my 1945 Cubs World Series ticket was less than half of this one. Maybe these were particularly good seats.
As for the stadium it sill exists in Evanston, though it has been renamed Ryan Field. When it was built in the mid 1920s it was considered one of the best college stadiums around. The Bears even considered making it their home (after the NFL told them to move out of Wrigley) but the citizens of Evanston petitioned against it and the Bears ended up at Soldier Field. Besides, Evanston is a dry town, and can you imagine professional football playing at a dry stadium? Hm, that wouldn’t have lasted long.
This is an Elgin National Watch Company pocket watch. Elgin was THE name in watches of the 19th century and well into the 20th. They were an official maker of time pieces for the railroads, which meant they had to follow their very strict guidelines for accuracy, and it is estimated that about ½ of the 19th century pocket watches made were from Elgin. Chicagoans may recognize their name from the large clocks at Union Station that state “Elgin Central Time.” This isn’t declaring that the trains run according to the time of a particular suburb but are actually advertisements for a company that no longer exists.
I finally figured out which ancestor owned this watch by matching the photo inside to a recent collection of old photos my Dad gave me. It appears to be my Great Grandmother Katherine Winsel McDermott. Also, there is a 4 leaf clover in the rear compartment, so guessing that this came from the Irish side of the family was a pretty safe bet.
I decided to date the watch, which I figured wouldn’t be that hard since a serial number was printed right under the photo. Turns out that long ago when you bought a watch it was very common to buy a case that you liked and then match it up to a movement you fancied. This meant that the number really had nothing to do with the age of the actual watch. To date the watch you have to open up the casing to reveal the mechanics and use that number. I was a bit leery of this. Images of springs flying, ala a Warner Bros cartoon, came flooding into my brain. But, according to a web site I found it really shouldn’t be that difficult, and it wasn’t. It just opened right up and exposed the inner workings. The photos don’t do justice to how cool they look in person.
The serial number inside dates the watch as being made in 1893. This was the same year as the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. (Check out The Devil in the White City for a good read and a great account of this event.) I found references about watch companies doing a huge business at their exhibits during the Fair. I also have some memorabilia from the Fair so I know my family attended. Thus I believe it is pretty safe to say that this watch was purchased during one of their visits. The odd thing is that my Great Grandfather Frank McDermott was only 14 when the Fair took place. So to further my guessing, I’m going to say that my Great Great Grandfather purchased the watch, and then it was handed down from there.
Another postcard from the 1933 A Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. This card is of Fort Dearborn which was the original army outpost that was erected in 1803. The Fort itself has a rather ingloroius history. After war with Great Britain started in 1812 the inhabitants of the Fort and the neighboring civilians were told to march back towards Michigan. Soon after they left they met hostile Patowatomi Indians and most were killed. After that the Fort was looted and burned to the ground.
According to my guidebook from the Fair this replica of the fort was built to be exactly like the original. Inside there were various history related displays. I can’t say as to how accurate all of this was, but the list of contributors was pretty impressive. They included: The Chicago Historical Society, The Army & Navy, The Smithsonian, and West Point - Just to name a few.
My Grandma Alice told me a family story about how my ancestors owned a house (or cabin) on the site of where the fort stood. I’ve never been able to confirm that tale, but maybe that is the reason why she kept this postcard. The real fort was located at roughly the corner of Whacker & Michigan Avenue (across the river from the Wrigley Building). I was walking down there a year or two ago and noticed that there was a marker in the ground with an outline of the footprint of the fort. So if you’re ever walking down Michigan Avenue don’t forget to look down for the marker (but make sure you don’t blindly walk out into traffic).
My Father said this pistol belonged to my maternal Grandpa. It is a Harrington and Richardson Top-Break Auto Ejecting .38 S&W (the Smith & Wesson here refers to the caliber type and does not mean the gun was made by them). This handgun looks pretty old so I decided to see what I could find out about it on the web. Turns out that was more difficult than I thought it would be.
With most firearms (that I’m familiar with) it’s pretty straight forward when looking up the basic information. You get the model type and look up the serial number. Some companies require you to contact them directly while others have the basic info online. Not the case with this one. To begin with the company no longer exists so that ruled out contacting them directly. The next step was to look for a serial number list that could give me the year of manufacture. Sadly this simple approach wasn’t going to work. The company made many multitudes of this handgun for many years, in different calibers, and even changed up the manner of how they used serial numbers by adding letters and changing up the sequential order. There is also no fancy model name for this type. To pin down the year it was made I had to go mainly by the caliber and the exact wording of what was printed on the top and the side of the barrel. For example: If the word Massachusetts was spelled out on top, then it was year X – if abbreviated then W, Y, or Z. Then on the side if the words “Auto-Ejecting” were used it could be X or Y, but only if these exact patent dates were listed but not these, and if no dates it could be W or Z. Then if after the words “Auto-Ejecting” you see “No.25” or “No.20” it could be one of two different years… etc, etc.
After all of that, I figured out that this Harrington & Richardson is the “Second Variation” (there were 8 versions) of this model and was manufactured between 1909 – 1912, which means my Grandfather definitely didn’t buy it new. I’m thinking he inherited it from his Uncle William H. Ehemann, who was the former Alderman in Chicago at the turn of the century, worked for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and later the County Agent for Cook County. Also, this revolver is only a 5-shot, which makes the cylinder smaller, and has very small grips, meaning it was made to be carried concealed (and not just kept at home for protection or in an exposed holster). So I think it’s a pretty safe bet that Wm. H. carried this pistol around inside his suit or topcoat a century ago as he walked the streets of Chicago.
This is a promo for the War Bond drive effort of WWII. It’s about an inch long, and has a little lip on the back end. I think this was meant to be put over the breast pock of your shirt. Otherwise, I can’t really think of where else this was meant to be displayed. The company, Stewart-Warner in Chicago, was where my Grandpa Ehemann worked. I know that he was a radio maker and also a model maker (industrial models), both of which would have been employed by this company (they also made instrument gauges like speedometers). Though at this time I’m not sure what he was exactly doing. I do know that his job gave his the standing of being part of the war effort, which allowed him to have a larger gas ration.
The 7th drive of the war loan campaign began after V-E Day and became the most famous of the drives because of its artistic use of the flag raising on Iwo Jima with the tag line of “Now - All Together.” (There was even an 8th drive that began after V-J Day.) It’s surprisingly hard to find a listing of all of the campaigns but thanks to Google I was able to track down this announcement of the launching of the 7th campaign in a newspaper.
As for this little lapel pin (or whatever you want to call it) I gave it to my brother in-law. He loves WWII stuff and it’s only fair to share the wealth.
Most likely this pin belonged to my Grandpa Pete Kownacki, though it was mixed in with items from the other side of the family. So… Anyway, the story goes that Pete would pick up seasonal work with the Post Office while he was attending grad school at Loyola. This would have been in the 1930s. I recently found this bit out about him, which could also explain why I now have this old metal postal badge in my possession. The coloring of this pin is really bizarre and must be some form of water damage.
I can easily see how something like this ends up lasting longer than the owner. Think about it… How many random things do you have in the back of a dresser drawer that just sit there? Of course nothing is written down about the significance of them, or why it is you even own a particular item. Decades later it gets passed down to some future ancestor that will have absolutely no clue as to where it came from. Think about that one next time you fill up your life with stuff.
This caliper belonged to my Grandpa Ehemann. I’m not 100% sure what he did for a living other than my Grandma told me he was a model maker. (Obviously with an instrument like this he was a technical model maker of some sort.) I know that he worked for Stewart-Warner in Chicago during The War, and they made various gauges and instruments. He also had his own side company for a bit fixing radios.
I thought that this cool little case came from this Brown & Sharpe box, but the case is actually a bit too big to fit (the case is just under 6” long by 3” wide). As I mentioned on that other page, Brown & Sharpe still exist making uber high tech instruments. As for this this tool and box, well I doubt I will ever have a reason to obtain such a fine measurement of anything. This doesn’t mean I won’t keep it. It’s just too cool looking to give up.
This tie-clip (at least that’s what I’m assuming) is about an inch and a half long. I hadn’t noticed until recently that it’s marked as the “C&NW Pioneer.” Now my Great Grandfather McDermott, and also his Father, worked for the Chicago and North Western railroad. Since I’ve already made one assumption about this piece, I’ll make another and guess that this most likely came from my Great Grandfather. (I doubt it’s old enough to date all the way back to my Great Great Grandfather.)
The Pioneer is an actual train that I found plenty of references about on the web. It was the very first locomotive to run in Chicago back in 1848 (built in 1837 and delivered by schooner to the new city). I’m not sure for how long it was in service, but I do know that a new tender and car where built for it to be part of a display at the 1948 Chicago Railroad Fair (that I also have something from). (I also found this site that someone posted old slides they had purchased, one of which is of the Pioneer on its display train for the Fair.) Today the engine sits in a new display area at the Chicago History Museum.
The C&NW was bought by the Union Pacific in 1995. At one point the C&NW operated over 12,000 miles of track, but by the time they were purchased it was down to around 5,000. I’m not a train historian by any means, but to me this is an example of where we have gone wrong with transportation in this country. Maybe someday we will be able to once again not only rival, but beat other countries when it comes to good rail service. At least I sure hope so.