My first good taste of downtown came in 1978. I was 12 and caught the Jeffrey bus to the Loop with some buddies to see second-run (if not third-run) kung fu flicks at the Oriental Theatre.
I missed most of the movie because I was instead staring at the theater's ornate interior. And look where that got me.
Downtown was different then. There were the still-young postwar skyscrapers, but they shared the streetscape with aged buildings, time-warped restaurants, men's shops with Superfly-grade clothes and other places. Randolph Street was a faded rialto where rats were as plentiful as the cheap double-features. And across the river, Michigan Avenue seemed swank and cosmopolitan to my young eyes.
Pardon the flashback. But it comes courtesy of the above clip, posted on YouTube by user Anila from Poland. Shot in 1978, the nine-minute Super 8 film appears to begin somewhere in the Northwest suburbs, then finds its way downtown--along the way, a nice shot at 0:56 of the Howard Johnson's restaurant that once spanned the O'Hare oasis. The Old Country by the Michiel Borstlap Trio provides the score as we see the new downtown coexisting, and yet emerging, from the old.
Some scenes are surprisingly unchanged since then.