Time for a snow story.
In 2013, city snow removal is fairly routine–send out the snow plows! But a century ago, cars and trucks and motor vehicles were rare. And Chicago already had 2 million people. How did they get rid of the snow?
If a street had a streetcar line down the middle, you could attach a plow to the front of a work car, run it down the tracks, and clear a path that way. But there was still snow piled up on either side of the tracks. Besides, most streets didn’t have tracks to operate those plows.
Well, how did you get rid of snow before you had your Toro? Right–you shoveled it! Before there were motorized snow plows, men with shovels had to clear most of the city’s streets. That's the way it was done in 1907.
On December 16 that year, Chicago was just getting through a major snowstorm. Clearing the streets in and around the Loop was a priority.
Snow removal was then the responsibility of each ward superintendent. Downtown, in the First Ward, the super hired 312 day laborers to remove the snow.
A few weeks ago Lee Bey posted a great video of a 1970s ride on the Dan Ryan Red Line. That inspired me to digitalize some of my old Chicago ‘L’ home movies.
Right up front, I’m offering a warning—my films are strictly amateur. I’m not a film-maker, and my equipment was a tiny, hand-held Super-Eight silent movie camera. Since I had to change cassettes every four minutes, there are many gaps in the action. I’m sharing the video because it provides a look at how some parts of Chicago have changed in the course of three decades.
Today’s film shows the second half of a 1981 ride on the Ravenswood ‘L’ (Brown Line), from Roscoe junction to the Loop. It runs about 8 minutes, and includes audio commentary.
Academy Awards this Sunday! While we’re in the movie mood, let’s talk about a minor bit of Chicago film-noir called City That Never Sleeps.
This 1953 movie opens with a tracking shot of the Chicago skyline at dusk. Then comes an echoing voice, seemingly from heaven: “I am the city. Hub and Heart of America. Melting pot of every race, creed, color, and religion in humanity . . . .” And so on.
Michael Cassius McDonald had spent much of his 67 years staying one jump ahead of the law. On this February 21st in 1907, his young wife was in the custody of the law. The charge was murder.
Old newspapers are a fascinating source for historical information. On this February 19th in 1894, the Chicago Record was giving the public a lesson on how their city council did business. The story didn’t read like any civics textbook.
It’s the first episode of Kelsey Grammer’s Boss. On the roof of Chicago City Hall, fictional mayor Tom Kane is talking about one of his real-life predecessors.
“When Cermak was mayor, he used to come up here all the time. He was a Bohemian, an immigrant. He utterly lacked charisma, but he formed the first truly dominant political force this country had ever seen, because he understood something basic about people—they want to be led.