WBEZ | Curious City http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en What Happened to Chicago's Rifle Ranges? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-happened-chicagos-rifle-ranges-114738 <p><p dir="ltr">In Chicago, talk of guns generally revolves around gun violence and gun control, so it&rsquo;s no surprise Curious City sees many questions along those lines.</p><p dir="ltr">One question broke that mold, though; it&rsquo;s about gun ranges and shooting as a sport. The guy behind the question is Bob Collar, from Homewood, Illinois.</p><p dir="ltr">Bob grew up shooting a smallbore rifle, which is a kind of gun (also known as .22 caliber), but it&rsquo;s <a href="http://competitions.nra.org/how-to-get-started/smallbore-rifle-competition.aspx">also a competitive sport</a>. Bob says shooters used to practice at ranges all over Chicago. Off the top of his head, Bob can rattle off a long list of range locations: the ComEd building at Cermak and Wabash, the University of Chicago, the Madison Street Armory, and the Chicago Armory, to name a few.</p><p dir="ltr">Chances are, you&rsquo;ve never heard of any of these ranges because they no longer exist. In fact, there isn&rsquo;t a single shooting range open to the general public in Chicago today, for rifles or otherwise. That&rsquo;s what makes Bob&rsquo;s question so great:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><strong><em>What happened to all the indoor </em></strong><em><strong>smallbore</strong></em><strong><em> rifle ranges I used to frequent?</em></strong></p><p dir="ltr">While uncovering the fate of Bob&rsquo;s old stomping grounds, we look back to a time when some Chicagoans had a different relationship to guns, and we also found someone trying to bring shooting ranges back to the city, but likely for different reasons than Bob&rsquo;s rifle sport.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Chicago at the shooting range</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr">There have been rifle clubs in Chicago since the Civil War, but rifle really took off during World War I, thanks to support from Chicago&rsquo;s main power utility, Commonwealth-Edison. The company wanted to popularize the rifle sport and help prepare civilians for combat. In 1918 ComEd built its own rifle range in the middle of downtown, and it <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1918/01/20/page/13/article/rifle-league-formed-by-six-chicago-clubs">sponsored a city-wide rifle league</a>. That year, the <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1918/01/27/page/16/article/indoor-rifle-range-in-chicago-loop/">Chicago Tribune declared the league a great success</a>: &ldquo;Every week now clubs are inquiring how to join and the attendance of fans is increasing with every shoot.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1918/01/27/page/16/article/indoor-rifle-range-in-chicago-loop"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/indoor%20range%20chicago%20loop%20chi%20trib%201918.PNG" style="height: 436px; width: 620px;" title="A 1918 Chicago Tribune article announces the opening of Commonwealth Edison’s new shooting range. The business would go on to sponsor a city-wide rifle league where teams like The Edisons of the Chicago Gun Club, the City Hall Engineers and the Centennial R.C. Quintets would regularly play each other. (Source: Chicago Tribune archives)" /></a></div><p dir="ltr">At the time, it was common for big corporations to sponsor sports and other recreational activities for their workers. Through the 1960s, Chicago had a <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1186.html">vibrant culture of industrial sports leagues</a>. Companies competed against each other in bowling leagues, basketball, <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1918/03/03/page/20/article/edison-rifle-team-still-shares-lead-with-centennials">and yes, rifle</a>. Aside from ComEd, companies like People&rsquo;s Gas, Kodak, and Bell Telephone all sponsored their own rifle clubs.</p><p dir="ltr">When Bob started shooting, in the 1960s, he was competing in the very same rifle league that ComEd started back in 1918. He even shot on a ComEd range. By Bob&rsquo;s era, though, Chicago&rsquo;s industrial sports leagues were on the decline. The city lost manufacturing jobs, and as companies tightened their budgets, sport rifle went down, along with billiards and bowling.</p><p dir="ltr">Bob quit shooting for a time, and when he came back in the &lsquo;80s, his rifle club had lost access to the ComEd range and moved to the suburbs. He doesn&rsquo;t know what happened to the old ranges.</p><p dir="ltr">So, where did they go?</p><p dir="ltr">The quick answer is that the ranges were torn down. The ComEd range at Cermak and Wabash is now just an empty lot. The same is true for the <a href="https://johndcramer.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/chicago-west-towns-lost-132nd-regiment-armory/">West Town Armory on Madison</a>. The University of Chicago had a range underneath the stands of Stagg Field, but that entire complex was torn down in 1957. <a href="http://shifting-grounds.net/armory/building-changes.html">The Chicago armory</a> was demolished in 1993 to make way for the Museum of Contemporary Art.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/range-for-web-2.png" style="height: 436px; width: 620px;" title=" Students in the advanced rifle marksmanship class at the University of Chicago practice shooting in the university’s West Stand range. Students in the advanced class, sponsored by the Institute of Military Studies at the time, regularly passed tests for the highest Army small-bore ranking. (Photo courtesy University of Chicago Photographic Archive, [apf4-00833], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.)" /></div><p dir="ltr"><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Shifting attitudes</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr">Another major reason for the decline of rifle sports in Chicago is that public opinion about guns shifted. Gerry Souter documented the shift in his book<em> <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007MCSC8Q/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?ie=UTF8&amp;btkr=1">The American Shooter: A Personal History of Gun Culture In The United States.</a></em> He grew up in Chicago in the 1950s, when competitive rifle was a popular sport for young people, and rifles were considered wholesome Christmas gifts.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It was just like kids get skates or a baseball glove,&rdquo; Souter says, &ldquo;but a rifle, that really showed your parents respected your ability to discipline yourself and your use of it.&rdquo; (Incidentally, Souter learned to shoot with his Boy Scout troupe. His high school ROTC rifle team competed against teens across the city, at schools such as Lane Tech and Hyde Park High School.)</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20Woodlawn%20rifle%20team%20-%201956.jpg" style="height: 515px; width: 620px;" title=" Gerry Souter, second from the left in the middle row, stands with his rifle team at an American Legion range in 1956. Souter says, at the time, rifle-shooting was considered a wholesome sport, but political polarization around guns changed that perception in the 1960s and 1970s. (Photo courtesy Gerry Souter, from his book ‘The American Shooter: A Personal History of Gun Culture In The United States’)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Why didn&rsquo;t competitive rifle stay popular? Souter says that political polarization around guns is to blame. On one side of the gun debate, there&rsquo;s the National Rifle Association. The NRA started as a sportsman&rsquo;s group, dedicated to promoting marksmanship, hunting, and gun safety. But in the 1970s, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-nras-true-believers-converted-a-marksmanship-group-into-a-mighty-gun-lobby/2013/01/12/51c62288-59b9-11e2-88d0-c4cf65c3ad15_story.html">the N.R.A. took a sharp turn to the right</a>. It became a politicized lobbying group, and began promoting guns not just for sport but for self-defense. Souter is a member of the NRA, but he says the political shift was alienating. &ldquo;It actually injected a fair amount of paranoia into the sport,&rdquo; Souter says. &ldquo;They created a &lsquo;them or us attitude,&rsquo; and that soured many shooters.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, gun violence was increasing in Chicago and around the country. <a href="http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/05/07/gun-homicide-rate-down-49-since-1993-peak-public-unaware/">According to Pew Research Center</a>, the national gun homicide rate began rising in the 1960s and surged in the 1970s. In big cities like Chicago, this steep increase was especially startling. <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-08/site/ct-per-flash-1974-murders-0708-20120708_1_first-homicides-deadly-year-chicago-police">1974 was the city&rsquo;s deadliest year on record</a>, with 970 people killed by gunfire.</p><p dir="ltr">As gun violence rose, so did anti-gun sentiment. The Chicago city government <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/557.html">took a hard line on gun control</a>, and, Souter says, parents really didn&rsquo;t want their kids around guns. &ldquo;The parents didn&#39;t want them to have their eye shot out,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;or they feared the elements that would come to these ranges or come to these gun stores, and that was a negative that just really killed the sport.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Not a shooting range in sight</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr">Today, there are commercial <a href="http://wheretoshoot.org/Find_Range/index.asp">shooting ranges in suburbs like Lombard, Lyons and Des Plaines</a>. If you drive further, you can find private rifle clubs in Wheaton, Elgin, or Rockford. Still, there isn&rsquo;t a single range within Chicago&rsquo;s city limits where Bob can shoot his rifle.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2010, the Daley administration<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2010/july_2010/0701_supreme_ct_gun.html"> imposed a blanket ban</a> on shooting ranges, while also requiring that anyone seeking a gun permit must undergo an hour of range training. In other words, Chicago residents were required to travel to a range in the suburbs in order to receive their permit.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/daley%20for%20web.jpg" title="In this 2006 Associated Press photo, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, right, examines assault weapons at a news conference in Chicago. The original caption reads: ‘Daley is one of the country's most vocal supporters of gun control. While many Chicago suburbs and neighboring communities are rushing to repeal their gun bans following the June 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed the right to keep guns for self-defense in the home, Chicago is standing firm despite the court's decision. Chicago, San Francisco and Washington are all being sued over their bans.’ (Source: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)" /></div><p dir="ltr">In 2011, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the gun range ban. In response, the City Council passed new ordinances for licensing and zoning gun ranges. The ordinances regulate everything from security, to air ventilation, to the hours that a range is allowed to operate. In addition, the zoning ordinance requires that a rifle range can only be opened in a manufacturing district. It must be more than 500 feet from any residential area, school, park, or place of worship.</p><p dir="ltr">The city&rsquo;s law department argues that Chicago&rsquo;s gun range ordinances &ldquo;set reasonable, common-sense health and safety restrictions and are a collection of best practices from around the country.&rdquo; According to the department, these restrictions protect public safety by &ldquo;reducing the risk of danger from lead contamination from ranges, and by preventing gun trafficking.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Gun ranges&#39; return?</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr">Even though gun ranges are technically legal in Chicago, many gun ownership advocates believe the licensing and zoning requirements are onerous enough to comprise a de facto ban. Using that argument, the Second Amendment Foundation <a href="https://www.saf.org/court-sides-with-saf-on-key-points-in-challenge-of-chicago-gun-range-law/">took the city to court</a> in 2014. That case is currently on appeal.</p><p dir="ltr">The current court action hasn&rsquo;t stopped Christopher O&rsquo;Connor from scouting locations for <a href="https://www.crowdfunder.com/firearms-defense-training-cent">The Firearms Defense Training Center</a>, a gun range and store that he plans to open in Chicago. O&rsquo;Connor believes the zoning ordinances are designed to make his job impossible, but he&rsquo;s confident he can outsmart City Hall.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&#39;m not even looking for a loophole,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Connor says. &ldquo;I&#39;m looking for a hidden gem. I&#39;m looking for a thing that they overlooked and the places that they may not conceive of.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">O&rsquo;Connor says he&rsquo;s collected market research that suggests a real demand for a gun range in the city. &ldquo;Anyone that owns a gun will tell you they don&#39;t get enough time at the range,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;In the city of Chicago, that&rsquo;s excruciating because you have to leave Chicago city limits to go to a gun range and practice to make sure that you&#39;re proficient and safe.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Would Bob shoot at O&rsquo;Connor&rsquo;s range? He says he doesn&rsquo;t think so. Bob is looking for an old-style range for small bore rifle. Though O&rsquo;Connor would welcome rifles, he plans to gear his range more toward handguns and self-defense.</p><p dir="ltr">Even though we couldn&rsquo;t find Bob a place to shoot his rifle, he&rsquo;s glad to show Chicagoans that there&rsquo;s another side to firearms.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think there&rsquo;s more people like me that truly love shooting because it&rsquo;s a sport,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I&#39;m just hoping that there might be enough people with enough open-mindedness left that would look at the question and think that maybe it&rsquo;s not all bad.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>A final note about this story: We limited the scope of our investigation to rifle ranges (as opposed to handguns, trap, or skeet). We know that rifle ranges disappeared from Chicago, but even our sources had a hard time nailing down exactly when the last one went dark. If you have suggestions or leads about that, we&rsquo;d love to hear from you and update the story. Please leave a comment or write: <a href="mailto:curiouscity@wbez.org">curiouscity@wbez.org</a></em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Who&#39;s Bob Collar, anyway?</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bob%20collar%202-1.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Bob Collar of Homewood, a suburb south, had practiced at several of Chicago's former rifle ranges. (WBEZ/Ellen Mayer)" /></p><p dir="ltr">If you&rsquo;re confused how to pronounce Bob&rsquo;s last name, he&rsquo;ll clear things up for you right away: &ldquo;I&rsquo;m Bob Collar, like you got on your shirt.&rdquo; He adds, &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve heard all the jokes.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Bob spent his early childhood on the city&rsquo;s South Side, but his parents moved to Homewood, a south suburb, because &ldquo;they decided that I couldn&#39;t go to an all black school.&rdquo; His family ran a hardware store in Chicago&rsquo;s Woodlawn neighborhood.</p><p dir="ltr">After school, he used to take the commuter rail into Chicago to work a few hours at the family store. Then he&rsquo;d head to the rifle range. (This was back when it was perfectly normal to carry your rifle on the train!) For Bob, the community aspect of his rifle club was just as important as the sport itself.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It was a chance for me as a male to be around males of different generations,&rdquo; Bob says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard for me to really explain that bonding. I don&rsquo;t know what the fancy words are, but it was really good for me to be judged by my peers of different ages.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Today, Bob still lives in Homewood and works as a handyman. He&rsquo;s a lifetime member of the NRA, and he&rsquo;s still looking for a place to shoot his German smallbore rifle. He says, &ldquo;I guess my itch can&rsquo;t be cured without a time machine.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Ellen Mayer is a Chicago-based journalist. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/ellenrebeccam">@ellenrebeccam</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:43:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-happened-chicagos-rifle-ranges-114738 If You Toured Chicago in 1910, What Would You Do? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/if-you-toured-chicago-1910-what-would-you-do-114606 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/thumb-touringchicago2.png" alt="" /><p></p> Mon, 25 Jan 2016 14:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/if-you-toured-chicago-1910-what-would-you-do-114606 That Time Chicago Sent a Trainload of Snow to Florida http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/time-chicago-sent-trainload-snow-florida-114494 <p><p>Chicago loves winter. Talking about it at least. Inevitably, you&rsquo;ll lament the most recent snowfall with your neighbor. Inevitably, a Facebook friend will post a screenshot of Chicago&rsquo;s zero-degree forecast. &nbsp;And, inevitably, a media outlet like us will bring up the Chicago Blizzard of 1967 &mdash; if only to remind everyone that today&rsquo;s bad weather could always get worse.</p><p>But this isn&rsquo;t a story just about that blizzard; it&rsquo;s also about how the media talks about its aftermath. It&rsquo;s been nearly 50 years since the largest single snowfall in Chicago history, and not only are <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/chi-chicagodays-1967blizzard-story-story.html" target="_blank">local news outlets still publishing retrospectives</a>, they&rsquo;re also still hung up on a single, microcosmic detail &mdash; <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20150109/downtown/history-of-winter-chicago-it-could-be-worse-definitely-was" target="_blank">written in a sentence or two</a> or in a quote like this one, usually below the fold:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Some of the snow from 1967, there was so much of it, they didn&#39;t know what to do with it,&quot; said Peter Alter, resident historian at the Chicago History Museum. &quot;They put it on train cars, and they shipped it to Florida for kids who had never seen snow.&quot; -<a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20150109/downtown/history-of-winter-chicago-it-could-be-worse-definitely-was" target="_blank">DNAinfo, January 9, 2015</a></p></blockquote><p>It was a tidbit like this that inspired a question that came all the way from a classroom of fourth and fifth graders in High Point, North Carolina. They had learned about the &lsquo;67 blizzard and, being school kids themselves, they were particularly enamored with the Chicago-to-Florida snow train delivery. So, they asked us for help filling in the blanks:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Was there really a trainful of snow surplus shipped from Chicago to Florida school kids? How did that even happen?!</em></p><p>I&rsquo;ll tell you right now: It happened, all right, and the story&rsquo;s details are worth revisiting. Because when you retrace the making of this Chicago mini-legend, you can see click-bait journalism being written across the front pages of mainstream newspapers &mdash; 40 years before its time.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Not all snow trains lead to Florida</span></p><p>The story of the Chicago Blizzard of 1967 starts on January 26, when it snowed for 29 hours straight. Having been 65 degrees just two days before, the storm took many people off guard. More than two feet of snow covered the region, with reports of drifts up to 10 feet high. Cars were discarded like cigarette butts over expressways. There was no public transportation, no access to grocery stores, no way to get to work. Twenty-three people died in the Chicago area, mostly from heart attacks while shoveling snow.</p><p>It took three weeks for the Department of Streets and Sanitation to plow the city streets. Desperate for places to put the stuff, they dumped it in any vacant lot they could find: Park District land, neighborhood lots, <a href="http://www.trbimg.com/img-563cc845/turbine/chi-110131-snowstorm-1967-pictures-010/1300/1300x731" target="_blank">even the Chicago River</a>.</p><p>Some Chicago rail yards came up with their own solution for snow that built up in their depots. It&rsquo;s kind of bizarre in its simplicity: Shove it on freight trains already heading south. The warmer weather would do the job, melting the stuff in transit.</p><p>&ldquo;They sent it because they wanted to get rid of it,&rdquo; A.W. Pirtle, supervisor of the Illinois Central Railroad&rsquo;s Memphis depot <a href="https://www.newspapers.com/clip/3848614/mt_vernon_registernews/" target="_blank">told the Associated Press</a> (probably rolling his eyes). And in Chicago, the ordeal made front-page news:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1967/02/11/page/37/article/hundreds-of-freight-cars-used" width="600"></iframe></p><p>Dozens of train lines followed suit, and this solution &mdash; extolled in headlines such as this &mdash; grew into a national story. It was picked up by the Associated Press, and photographs of trains carrying heaps of sooty, Chicago snow from the blizzard appeared in papers around the country as the rail cars made their way to Tennessee, Alabama and Texas.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">A 1,300-mile regift, remembered</span></p><p>The story was even picked up by national television, and eventually reached the ears and eyes of a 13-year-old girl in the town of Fort Myers Beach, Florida.</p><p>We found that girl through the White Pages. Her name is Terri Bell (last name Hodson at the time), and, at age 61, she still lives in Fort Myers Beach.</p><p>She says after hearing the broadcast about trainloads of Chicago snow heading south, she wrote a letter to William Quinn, the president of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, asking him to send her some snow because, as a Floridian, she had never seen any.</p><p>And he did.</p><p>It&rsquo;s just that 13-year-old Terri Hodson hadn&rsquo;t realized that all of the other southbound snow was shipped in uninsulated cars &mdash; the whole point being to <em>melt</em>. But Quinn, possibly sensing a brilliant PR stunt but possibly out of the goodness of his heart, had the snow shipped to Florida in refrigerator cars.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/curiouscity/that-time-chicago-sent-a-trainload-of-snow-to-florida" target="_blank"><strong>Hear Terri tell her own story of getting Chicago shipped 1,300 miles to Florida</strong></a></p><p>And if the media went bananas over Chicago railroads sending snow south in uninsulated cars, they went banana sundaes when they heard about the special, frozen shipment to school kids in Florida.</p><p>Headlines from Pennsylvania to California read:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://img0.newspapers.com/img/img?id=51235319&amp;width=557&amp;height=1226&amp;crop=3338_6901_824_1847&amp;rotation=0&amp;brightness=0&amp;contrast=0&amp;invert=0&amp;ts=1452895228&amp;h=8ae3bfd79913bdd017c5e1edbec509e4" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/youthsnowanswered.png" title="" /></a></div><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>The Mercury</em>, Pottstown, Pennsylvania</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/floridagirltoget.png" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><em>Lincoln Journal Star</em>, Lincoln, Nebraska</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://img0.newspapers.com/img/img?id=17862377&amp;width=557&amp;height=1263&amp;crop=46_2385_468_1081&amp;rotation=0&amp;brightness=0&amp;contrast=0&amp;invert=0&amp;ts=1452894834&amp;h=d11eda3334b31dd27ff4730e3090f6a9" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/floridasnowrequest%20california.PNG" style="height: 201px; width: 400px;" title="" /></a></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Independent</em>, Long Beach, California</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>And in Chicago, yet another front page story:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1967/02/21/page/1/article/train-heads-south-with-snow-for-girl" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Terri became a local hero and a national celebrity. She appeared on talk shows and was quoted in papers across the country. The town of Fort Myers Beach even held a special ceremony for the occasion, in which a local hardware store gave her a sled that was shipped to them by mistake. (She still has that sled, by the way.)</p><p>On February 27, 1967 &mdash; after almost a week in transit &mdash; the snow came rolling into the Fort Myers train depot, where thousands neighbors, parents, and kids were waiting. Some were skeptical, but a good number of the kids looked forward to playing in the white, fluffy, powdery stuff they&rsquo;d never seen before.</p><p>Except, Terri got something else entirely, after she&rsquo;d cut the ribbon to the train cars and a couple guys used a front-end loader to shovel the snow into the parking lot:</p><blockquote><p>I had expected it to be soft and powdery. You know, like, dripping snowflakes and it would just come pouring out of the car. Unfortunately after a week&rsquo;s ride in a refrigerator car it was no longer soft powdery snow. It was quite icy.</p><p>You could still kind of form it a little bit and do something with it and people were trying to build snowmen and snowballs and make snow angels and do the best they could with it. But, it was still snow and I could say I saw snow.</p></blockquote><p>Nearly 50 years after the event, Terri remembers playing in the snow was not that much fun.</p><p>&quot;It was the fact that I really got it, and all the cool things that happened to me around that,&quot; she says. &quot;Everybody says you&rsquo;ll have a claim to fame once in your life. That was the most exciting thing that happened in my life.&quot;</p><p>And though the snow melted almost immediately in the 80-degree Florida heat that February day in 1967, the short buzz of fame Terri felt has stuck with her ever since.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://img0.newspapers.com/img/img?id=36758128&amp;width=557&amp;height=694&amp;crop=1720_873_1676_2128&amp;rotation=0&amp;brightness=0&amp;contrast=0&amp;invert=0&amp;ts=1452895281&amp;h=1e086e25e489fdf1b852dc52b699bf6b" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chi%20snow%20shipped%20to%20fla.png" style="height: 635px; width: 620px;" title="A photo of Terri on the front page of the Charleston Daily Mail the day after the snow's arrival. " /></a></div><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Vintage virality</span></p><p>The story about the Florida snow train had a lot of heart, but why was it enough to make the era&rsquo;s national media go berzerk?</p><p>Bruce Evensen, director of Depaul University&rsquo;s journalism school, says part of the explanation is that there were few media outlets at the time. Evensen, who&rsquo;s now 64 and was 16 during the blizzard, reminds us 1967 wasn&rsquo;t the age of social media. Cable television was still relatively new, and NPR hadn&rsquo;t even been founded.</p><p>He says the issue wasn&rsquo;t just that there was less &ldquo;news&rdquo;; hardly any of it was &ldquo;second day&rdquo; or feature stories. Basically, in 1967, &ldquo;news&rdquo; was hard news, and the Chicago-Florida snow train story was not only an exception, but an exceptionally popular one. Why?</p><p>&ldquo;A story of what to do with the snow when a city reaches the point where it can&rsquo;t handle snow is an interesting thing,&rdquo; Evensen says. And what made that irony particularly resonate, Evensen says, was Chicago&rsquo;s nickname as the &ldquo;Phoenix City,&rdquo; coined by Chicago Tribune managing editor and later city mayor Joseph Medill after the Great Fire of 1871.</p><p>&ldquo;So the joke &mdash; the parlour game &mdash; was that Chicago was not going to be stopped by the fire. Chicago was not going to be stopped by this paralyzing storm, even though it<em> was</em> stopped for 24, 36, 48 hours,&rdquo; Evensen says. &ldquo;[It] just was another suggestion of the city&rsquo;s sort of ironic muscularity: &lsquo;You want some snow? You can have it!&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>The story&rsquo;s news hook was its irony factor &mdash; a gesture of Midwestern politeness and can-do spirit, a simultaneous high-five and slap in the face while the city dug itself out of a frozen hell. And, considering the story&rsquo;s national virality as a slice-of-life spinoff outside the breaking news world, it&rsquo;s fair to call it a harbinger of a media landscape to come. It was a hashtag before its time.</p><p>Evensen suspects that, &ldquo;properly handled and exploited,&rdquo; the Chicago-Florida snow train story would get even more press if it happened today rather than in 1967. One reason: There are more news outlets and more competition for stories between them. Another reason: The media offers more social and cultural context to news stories than ever before, and coverage continues as long as there&rsquo;s proof of listener interest, Evensen says.</p><p>&ldquo;Even the mainstream media now is much more attentive than ever before to how the story is <em>going</em>,&rdquo; Bevensen says. &ldquo;What kind of visibility is it getting? You can measure this. So I think if they found that that kind of curious, funny story was getting attention initially, it might be boosted even higher.&rdquo;</p><p>So, to the Floridians out there looking for their claim to fame: consider the next northern blizzard your big break.</p><p>And pro tip to Chicago journalists and bloggers: Fact-check the legends. Some are still in the White Pages.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Logan Jaffe is Curious City&#39;s multimedia producer. <a href="http://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">Follow her on Twitter</a> for more of these kinds of shenanigans.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Fri, 15 Jan 2016 15:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/time-chicago-sent-trainload-snow-florida-114494 The Fall of Chicago's 'Porkopolis' and the Rise of Niche Meat http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fall-chicagos-porkopolis-and-rise-niche-meat-114271 <p><p>Like a lot of American kids, Pam Monaco read <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jungle" target="_blank">The Jungle</a></em> when she was in high school.</p><p>In case you don&rsquo;t remember, it&rsquo;s Upton Sinclair&rsquo;s 1906 indictment of the conditions in Chicago&rsquo;s meatpacking industry at the time. And it left an indelible impression on her. Monaco says even when she was living in Kansas, she&rsquo;d see livestock trucks heading north from Kansas and wonder if they were going to Chicago.</p><p>So, not long after she moved to the Chicago area, Monaco asked Curious City whether there are any meatpackers left in Chicago and, if not, where they went.</p><p>Borrowing from yet another literary classic, she specifically asked:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Does Chicago &mdash; the former <a href="http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/2043" target="_blank">hog butcher for the world</a> &mdash; still do any of that kind of work?</em></p><p>The short answer is &ldquo;yes&rdquo; and we&rsquo;ll introduce a few of the shops that do. But what&rsquo;s most interesting is what&rsquo;s changed in the local industry. One hundred years ago the city was an international slaughtering juggernaut that helped establish a mass-market industrialized food system. Today, the remnants of slaughtering in Chicago are sustained by niche markets not well-served by that modern system: immigrant communities, trendy gourmands and people who cook traditional dishes in traditional ways.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Why did Chicago become a &lsquo;Porkopolis&rsquo;?</span></p><p>Dominic Pacyga, author of <em>Slaughterhouse: Chicago&rsquo;s Union Stock Yard and the World It Made</em>, says the principle reason is that by 1865, the city was the nexus of at least nine rail lines, and that nexus put Chicago close to the center of the nation&rsquo;s livestock growth areas.</p><p>&ldquo;After the Civil War the Great Plains were opened up to Texas cattle and they could be driven up north to [railroad stops] and brought into Chicago,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Later on, when you had refrigerated railroad cars that could take chilled beef east, Chicago really dominated even the Eastern and even the California meat markets.&rdquo;</p><p>The center of activity was the Union Stock Yard, a concentrated square mile on the city&rsquo;s Southwest Side. The yard acted as a market for the sale of large mammals: mostly cows, pigs and sheep. Some animals sold at the yards would be sent on to new owners beyond Chicago, but the rest would head for local slaughterhouses where they were killed, broken down and shipped out as chilled carcasses or canned and cured meats.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Livestock_chicago_1947.jpg" style="height: 447px; width: 620px;" title="The Union Stockyards in 1941. (Courtesy Library of Congress)" /></div><p>Companies such as Armour, Swift and Morris used new processing technologies and the yards&rsquo; massive scale to become international meatpacking giants.</p><p>&ldquo;It took a skilled butcher and his apprentice about eight to 10 hours to dress a steer in 1890,&rdquo; explains Pacyga, &ldquo;but it took about 35 minutes at Armour &amp; Company.&rdquo;</p><p>For many decades, the number of animals that passed through the stockyards just got bigger. Pacyga writes that the whole thing peaked in 1924, when 18.6 million animals went through the stock yard. On a single cold day in December that year, he says, it took in more than 122,000 hogs. To handle those animals, the stockyards made jobs for an estimated 40,000 workers at at time.</p><p>Early on many of the waste products from the animals ended up in the south fork of the Chicago River &mdash; a section <a href="http://www.chicagojournal.com/News/09-16-2009/There_are_still_bubbles" target="_blank">unaffectionately dubbed &ldquo;Bubbly Creek.&rdquo;</a> This improved a bit when meatpackers launched byproduct businesses that used the fat, blood, hair, organs and more to make soap, buttons, furniture stuffing, medicine, glue, paintbrushes, instrument strings, etc. Still, between the livestock, manure and the rendering plants, the smells generated could travel all the way to the North Side on hot summer nights.</p><p><a name="littleeddie"></a>But this didn&rsquo;t stop the tourists. As many as half a million a year flocked to the yard to see the latest in meat technology.</p><p>This modern meat show even became a popular destination for Chicago Public Schools field trips. WBEZ volunteer Ed Kramer remembers going to the stockyards in 1941 with his 8th grade class. He says he remembers taking the &lsquo;L&rsquo; from Wicker Park down to the yards and standing over the pens on a catwalk.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/239447357&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;Down below us, cows were being led in through a chute,&rdquo; he recalls. &ldquo;A chain was whipped around the back legs of the cow and they were hoisted up in the air. Someone came along with a huge wooden sledge, hit on the head and it stunned them and then their throats were cut. At that point a half a dozen people in the group began to erp.&rdquo;</p><p>Despite its popularity with the kids, the stockyards were already on the decline by the 1940s. Modern trucks and an extensive highway system made it easier to ship livestock to exact destinations by truck, rather than relying on fixed rail routes. Plus, farmers started to make deals directly with packing houses, eliminating the need to send their livestock to a central market.</p><p>These circumstances shrank the number of animals moving through the yard. In 1970, fewer than 1 million hogs arrived at the yards, leading officials to close the hog market that year. The closing of the cattle market soon followed, and the stockyards closed their doors forever in February 1971.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20stockyard%20graphic%206.png" style="height: 381px; width: 620px;" title="A depiction of the decline of the Union Stockyards as major meatpacking companies relocated. Based on Dominic Pacyga's book, Slaughterhouse: Chicago’s Union Stock Yard and the World It Made. (Graphic by Logan Jaffe/WBEZ) " /></div><div>Today, hog and cattle slaughtering and butchering facilities are in small towns all over the Midwest &mdash; mostly in Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota. They&rsquo;re closer to farms, easy highways, cheap land and fewer neighbors to complain about the stench.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:24px;">Chicago&rsquo;s slaughterhouse holdovers</span></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There&rsquo;s still a smallish meatpacking district near Fulton Street. The city also hosts 11 official slaughterhouses. These are mostly neighborhood spots that focus on poultry, but three process mainly sheep, goats and pigs. Those are: halal processor Barkaat, in the old Chiappetti plant at 38th and Halsted Street; Park Packing at 41st and Ashland Avenue; and the little Halsted Packing House at Halsted and Hubbard Streets.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Even combined, the scale of these three processors is dwarfed by the scale of the former Union Stock Yard. Based on interviews with the operators, together they process approximately 1,000 animals per day, whereas the old yards could take in 100,000 hogs alone in a single day.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>These operations don&rsquo;t share much with the old stockyards other than the fact that they all slaughter or process animals. During visits to two of the three remnant facilities &mdash; one slaughterhouse and one packing house (meaning: no slaughtering, just packing) &mdash; we see that these operations are almost an antidote to the mega industrial meat industry the Union Stock Yard helped establish. Instead, they base their business on fresh custom cuts, personalized service and (sometimes) religious traditions.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:24px;">Halsted Packing House: The family business </span></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Halsted Packing House quietly operates on the 400 block of North Halsted Street, within walking distance of some of the city&rsquo;s top restaurants. On most days, you&rsquo;ll find a fresh stack of gossip magazines and either Cookie or Callie Davos at the front of the house. They&rsquo;re sisters (trained respectively in chiropractics and accounting) who never expected to run a slaughterhouse. But then, one day in 1994, their father had a sudden heart attack.</div><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="423" id="iframe" scrolling="no" src="//flickrit.com/slideshowholder.php?height=413&amp;width=620&amp;size=medium&amp;setId=72157662665264866&amp;click=true&amp;caption=true&amp;counter=true&amp;credit=2&amp;trans=1&amp;thumbnails=0&amp;transition=0&amp;layoutType=fixed&amp;sort=0" width="620"></iframe></p><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;So we came down here to figure it out and reassure everyone that they still had jobs,&rdquo; Callie remembers, adding that the shop was male-dominated at the time. &ldquo;We were rookies and had no clue, and I think all the men were taking bets on how long those two girls are going to last.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Twenty one years later the sisters still oversee a staff of mostly men between taking orders, &nbsp;balancing the books and greeting customers. Many of those customers are immigrants, like Joe from West Africa.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;In this store here, everything is fresh and that&rsquo;s one of the reasons why I come from miles away to patronize them on a weekly basis,&rdquo; he says holding a bag of goat meat. &ldquo;I eat goat meat and cow tails and I cooked stews, vegetables, some African stuff. Spicy and delicious.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>You don&rsquo;t get delicious meat without a kill floor, but the one at Halsted Packing House is nothing like the massive assembly line kill factories that epitomized the stockyards at their height. Here it&rsquo;s just one small, intense room where young pigs bleed out, tumble in the dehairing machine, and then get disemboweled before heading to a large cooler. There, they join lambs and goats of various sizes.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Although Halsted Packing House offers retail sales to the public, its no-frills presentations and earthy aromas can startle some.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of odd reactions you get when people walk in here,&rdquo; Davos says. &ldquo;They expect everything to be in a beautiful little plastic package and freshly scented smells in here. We actually slaughter and we have live animals come in, so we have all sorts of smells.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Halsted offers customers the option of sacrificing their own animal for special traditional or religious observances. On the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, for instance, she says &ldquo;The place is packed. There are lines out the door waiting to get in and follow their tradition after their prayer.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Still, some animals also have their beginnings at Halsted. Davos says several sheep have been sent to her pregnant and have given birth right there at the packing house. &nbsp;&ldquo;So many times I&rsquo;ve taken a baby lamb home and fed it every two hours, &ldquo; she recalls. &ldquo;Then I find a home for it on a farm.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Despite the support Davos receives from the city&rsquo;s ethnic communities, she&rsquo;s not sure the family business will last after her generation.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;People just don&rsquo;t cook the way they used to, so there&rsquo;s just less demand for what we offer,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s sad. But I&rsquo;m glad that I was a part of it.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:24px;">Grant Park Packing: Custom cuts</span></div><div>&nbsp;<iframe frameborder="0" height="423" id="iframe" scrolling="no" src="//flickrit.com/slideshowholder.php?height=413&amp;width=620&amp;size=medium&amp;setId=72157660396416863&amp;click=true&amp;caption=true&amp;counter=true&amp;credit=2&amp;trans=1&amp;theme=1&amp;thumbnails=0&amp;transition=0&amp;layoutType=fixed&amp;sort=0" width="620"></iframe></div><div>Just about a mile away from Halsted Packing House is the old Fulton Market area. During a recent visit, Joe Maffei, owner of Grant Park Packing, watches dozens of already-eviscerated hog carcasses glide through his receiving room on hooks from a truck. Although meatpacking can include slaughtering, the meatpackers at Grant Park Packing are just in the packing part of the business: They break down carcasses into cuts for sale to delis, restaurants, stores and even home cooks who want special cuts like coppa or guanciale for curing.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;The meatpacking business that&rsquo;s left in Chicago is on the smaller scale,&rdquo; Maffei says. &ldquo;All the big guys have left the Chicago area. They&rsquo;re out in the boondocks where they have a lot more space and are able to ship a lot more quantities than we do.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Still, he says that rising rents and local and state rules are making it harder to go on. Maffei&rsquo;s been in the Chicago meatpacking business for almost half a century. But he reports with a sigh, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s almost all gone, including us pretty soon.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Really?&rdquo; I ask. &ldquo;How many more years will you be here?&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He asks back: &ldquo;Months, you mean?&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:24px;">More about our questioner</span></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Pamela Monaco is a dean of graduate studies at North Central College in Naperville and a fan of public radio. Before coming to Chicago about two years ago, Monaco and her husband lived in Kansas, which also once hosted a big central stockyard.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Today Monaco lives in Naperville with her husband and three cats, but says she spends her free time exploring Chicago&rsquo;s food, theaters and museums. She was a little surprised by the outcome of the investigation she started on meatpacking.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s fascinating that the remaining meatpacking in Chicago is connected to the city&rsquo;s ethnic population and a continuing demand for speciality cuts,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It all gives me more food for thought and pondering.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org.</em></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 23 Dec 2015 13:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fall-chicagos-porkopolis-and-rise-niche-meat-114271 Curious City: The Mystery Collection http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/curious-city-mystery-collection-114226 <p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s a funny thing, the curiosity business.</p><p dir="ltr">One week you&rsquo;re solving whodunnit mysteries, demanding answers from shadowy figures who know a thing or two about gym shoes on power lines. The next week you&rsquo;re investigating a case about missing starlight, traversing the silent seas of Lake Michigan by sailboat in search of clues.</p><p dir="ltr">For the past three years, Curious City&rsquo;s team of gumshoe reporters has been cracking <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/" target="_blank">the cases you&rsquo;ve assigned us by way of questions</a>. And as we&rsquo;ve tracked down answers, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city" target="_blank">we&rsquo;ve filed each case away</a> in the form of written and <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/curious-city/id568409161" target="_blank">recorded reports</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">But some investigations are just too intriguing &hellip; too curious &hellip; too <em>mysterious</em> &hellip; to file away forever. That&rsquo;s why we&rsquo;re dusting off some of Curious City&rsquo;s most curious case files to bring you a collection of our favorite mysteries. Call it a holiday present. Call it a stocking stuffer. Heck, call it a mitzvah.</p><p dir="ltr">Regardless, just let loose. Kick back in your favorite armchair with your favorite pipe. Turn the shades down, turn the volume up, or just get reading. And whether our mystery files make you wonder if there&rsquo;s more to Chicago than what there seems, or make you think twice about that strange thing you pass every day &hellip;. Well, <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/" target="_blank">you know who to call</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">&lsquo;Til next time,</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Curious City</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Public radio&#39;s private eye</em></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ccPRIVATEEYE3.png" style="height: 210px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="" /></div><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Case #112575: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shoes-wire-untangling-urban-myth-112575">The Mystery of the Hanging Gym Shoes</a></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Reporter Meribah Knight investigates Matt Latourette&rsquo;s question: What&rsquo;s with all the gym shoes hanging from power lines</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Case #82: T<a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/poop/">he Disappearing Stool</a></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Reporter Shannon Heffernan investigates 6-year-old Satchel Lang&rsquo;s question: Where does poop go when you flush the toilet in Chicago?</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Case #651: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what%E2%80%99s-bottom-chicago-river-102651">They Found It At the Bottom of the River</a></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Curious City founder Jennifer Brandel investigates Mike Mitterman&rsquo;s question: What&rsquo;s at the bottom of the Chicago River?</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Case #98: &nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-another-bull-shark-story-112347">We&rsquo;re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat</a></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Producer Jesse Dukes investigates Hilary Winarz&rsquo;s question: Can we please get a final ruling on whether or not one young George Lawson was actually attacked by a shark, in Lake Michigan in 1955?</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Case #110578: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-do-chicagos-bats-hang-out-110578">Die Fledermaus</a></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Reporters Logan Jaffe and Jennifer Brandel investigate Rory Keane&rsquo;s question: Where do Chicago&rsquo;s bats hang out?</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Case #111111118: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/star-light-too-bright-112452">Dude, Where&rsquo;s My Stars?</a></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Reporters Jesse Dukes and Logan Jaffe investigate Paula de los Angeles&rsquo; question: What are the best spots in Chicago or the suburbs to stargaze?</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Curious City tweets <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezcuriouscity" target="_blank">@WBEZCuriousCity</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 18 Dec 2015 16:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/curious-city-mystery-collection-114226 Ferry-tale: Could a Chicago-to-Michigan Ferry Return from Extinction? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/ferry-tale-could-chicago-michigan-ferry-return-extinction-114151 <p><p>Barbara Laing is a vibrant, five-cups-of-coffee-a-day kind of person. And that caffeine does not go to waste; Barbara owns and operates a small <a href="http://paintedlightphotoframing.com/" target="_blank">photography and framing shop</a> in Chicago&rsquo;s West Andersonville neighborhood, and she has to hustle to keep all the balls in the air.</p><p>Come summertime, Barbara needs a breather. An escape. So, occasionally she&rsquo;ll set aside a weekend and venture to Southwestern Michigan to get away from the stress of her business and to-do lists: &ldquo;I just love to kind of poke around. I love to relax ... take walks down by the lake. There&rsquo;s lots of beautiful rocks that you find on Lake Michigan over there on the sands.&rdquo;</p><p>But when Barbara gets in her car to head back to Chicago on Sunday, I-94 looks more like a parking lot than a freeway. That&rsquo;s when her internal dialogue begins: &ldquo;I&#39;m just like, take yourself out of this moment, keep your eyes on the road, but just remember that walk you took on the lake. Remember that nice meal you had ... and remember it will be over in, oh, I don&#39;t know, three or four hours.&rdquo;</p><p>One day while strolling along Lake Michigan, Barbara dreamed of an alternate way to make the trip, and asked us to investigate: &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Has there ever been a ferry between Chicago and Michigan, and why isn&#39;t there one now?</em></p><p>Barbara has always had a certain reverence for Lake Michigan (&ldquo;It&#39;s kind of poetic to be out on the water,&rdquo; she says), but even if you don&rsquo;t share her feelings, you&rsquo;ve probably been stuck in a horrible car trip at some point and can relate to rooting for an alternative.</p><p>So could a lake ferry be that alternative &mdash; a waterborne savior, if you will? Are your finger&rsquo;s crossed?</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">When Lake Michigan was Chicago&rsquo;s superhighway</span></p><p>Turns out, there was an alternative! It&rsquo;s just that, at the time, people called them steamers, not ferries.</p><p>In the mid-19th century, back before cars or trucks paved roads, the Great Lakes were the region&rsquo;s superhighways. Grand steamships darted from harbor to harbor, making money by moving products and people.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20The-excursion-boat-Theodore-Roosevelt-heads-east-under-the-State-Street-bridge-in-1910.jpg" style="height: 395px; width: 620px;" title="The excursion boat Theodore Roosevelt heads east under the State Street bridge in 1910. (Source: The Lost Panoramas, published by CityFiles Press) " /></div><p>Ted Karamanski, a public historian at Loyola University, emphasizes that both revenue streams were vital to the profitability of the steamship industry.</p><p>&ldquo;These were steamships that carried excursionists out for a day of fun on Lake Michigan, or they would carry light manufacturing goods and then, of course &hellip; fresh fruit from Southwest Michigan to the Chicago produce markets,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>In the 1880&rsquo;s, passenger traffic was thriving. There were two different kinds of tourists on the lake: the daytrippers and the overnighters.</p><p>Daytrippers went from &ldquo;Chicago to Michigan City, or Chicago to St. Joseph, relatively short three, four, five hour trips&rdquo; across the lake, says Karamanski. St. Joseph, Michigan, even became known as <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/30/travel/lake-michigan-tour.html" target="_blank">Chicago&rsquo;s Coney Island</a>. People would picnic and lounge and splash about and then jump on the boat at 5:00 p.m. and be back in Chicago by nightfall.</p><p>The overnighters took 12-hour trips up to Northwest Michigan, bringing tourists to destinations like Grand Traverse Bay, Little Traverse Bay, even some to Mackinac Island for longer stays, Karamanski says. These were usually wealthy travelers who could afford to spend weeks or even months away from the city. &nbsp;</p><p>But not all of the region&rsquo;s tourists traveled simply to unwind. Before antihistamines, many Chicagoans escaped their allergies in the crisp air of Northern Michigan. Little tent cities popped up along the shore; they were called &ldquo;achoo clubs.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;They would usually be organized by different religious denominations,&rdquo; Karamanski explains. &ldquo;So the <a href="http://www.bayviewassociation.org/" target="_blank">Methodists</a> would have a club where people could go, and the Presbyterians would be in another place, the Baptists somewhere else.&rdquo; That way, husbands who stayed in the city for the summer to work could rest assured that their wives and children were escaping the heat and histamines in a safe, morally righteous place. Over time the small tent colonies developed into clusters of cottages, and eventually those cottages became enormous Victorian manors.</p><p>At the turn of the last century, Petoskey was just one of the many popular destinations that catered to Chicago tourists along the northern shoreline of Michigan. (Fun fact: In 1882 the Western Hay Fever Association christened Petoskey as its official headquarters.)</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/petoskey%20image2.png" style="height: 366px; width: 620px;" title="A postcard from the New Arlington Hotel, in Petoskey, Michigan, where many Chicagoans flocked in the summer months to escape the summer heat and histamines. (WBEZ/Courtesy of Little Traverse Bay History Museum)" /></div><p>Jane Garver, Co-Executive Director of the Little Traverse Bay Historical Museum in Petoskey, imagines the area offered a literal breath of fresh air to jaded Chicagoans: &ldquo;If I got off the boat from Chicago &hellip; I would be so relieved to arrive here on Little Traverse Bay: cool breezes, a beautiful area, million-dollar sunsets, and plenty to do without being so overwhelming that you wouldn&#39;t know what to do.&rdquo;</p><p>There was an opera house and dance halls and tea rooms &mdash; you name it.</p><p>&ldquo;People might be surprised to know that there were so many well-known names that visited here,&rdquo; Garver says. &ldquo;In fact, I&#39;m surprised when I go through records and see ... &lsquo;Oh yes, Amelia Earhart, she came here and spoke here.&rsquo;&rdquo; <a href="http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/onstage/wrldtr6.html" target="_blank">Mark Twain</a> gave a lecture, and <a href="http://www.petoskeyarea.com/ernest-hemingway-192/" target="_blank">Ernest Hemingway</a> wiled away his childhood summers at his family&rsquo;s cottage. The list goes on.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The decline of steamships</span></p><p>But, you should know, a voyage on a steamship was not all fun and games. Karamanski noted that, in high winds, it could get a little bouncy on the lake, &ldquo;which could make this nice little cruise ship what sometimes they used to call a vomit comet.&rdquo;</p><p>And sometimes, the boats were just plain unsafe. Like the <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-eastland-disaster-kc-met-0726-20150725-story.html" target="_blank">S.S. Eastland</a>. You may have heard about this: On July 24, 1915, about 2,500 people boarded the Eastland for Western Electric Company&rsquo;s annual employee picnic when the boat <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2015/02/26/more_graphic_footage_of_eastland_di.php" target="_blank">tipped into the murky Chicago River</a>.</p><p>844 people died in the accident, 20 feet from dry land. &ldquo;You would think that this might be sort of the death knell of steamships,&rdquo; Karamanski explains. &ldquo;But it wasn&#39;t.&rdquo;</p><p>Cars were.</p><p>Steamships took a huge hit after the introduction of the automobile. People and products &mdash; the two legs that the steamship industry stood upon &mdash; were no longer bound to the waterways. Karamanski emphasizes that not everyone defected from the steamers right away: &ldquo;Steamers were still very popular through the early &lsquo;20s, but beginning in about 1925, we see a steep decline in the number of people traveling by steamship, and this is tied to the improvement of roads, particularly in Michigan. Since Michigan was the center for the automotive business, they invested a lot of money in good, modern roads.&rdquo;</p><p>And, over time, it only got worse. During the 1950s, the interstate highway system began to zigzag across the nation. As infrastructure improved, more and more people abandoned lake ferries in favor of their cars.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/ferry-tale-could-chicago-michigan-ferry-return-extinction-114151#mapnotes"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ferry%20graphic5.png" style="height: 444px; width: 620px;" title="This map depicts 1947 and 2015 travel times from Chicago to St. Joseph and South Haven, Michigan, via ferry and car travel. For details on data and sources, click on image. " /></a></div><p>There were consequences for people and communities on both sides of the lake.</p><p>Karamanski believes Chicagoans lost a historic, intimate connection to the lake, which had helped the city develop in the first place.</p><p>&ldquo;Just steps away from the pavement of Chicago, we got three-hundred miles of wilderness, an alien environment, which if you don&#39;t take care, it will kill you,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Most Chicagoans just don&#39;t appreciate that. It&#39;s just taken for granted like the water in our taps.&rdquo;</p><p>On the Michigan side of the equation, Garver says that the highways drastically changed the face of Petoskey. Back in the day, &ldquo;when travelers arrived by steamship or by train here ... they had their choice of 15 different luxury hotels,&rdquo; all centrally located in the heart of downtown. Since the age of the automobile, all but one of the those 15 hotels either went out of business or burned down and was never rebuilt. Today, plenty of hotels dot the interstate on the way into town, hoping to be the first place you see well before you reach Petoskey&rsquo;s historic city center.</p><p>The ferry-less fate of the Chicago region was sealed in 1958 with the completion of the <a href="http://www.chicagoskyway.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Skyway</a>. As Karmanski explains, the Skyway was &ldquo;designed specifically to get people, fast, from downtown Chicago via the Dan Ryan Expressway to Southwest Michigan. So why take a boat when you can do it in an hour and a half?&rdquo;</p><p>But these days, in bad traffic, that same trip might take closer to three hours. Which leads one to wonder: Could ferries make a comeback?</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Is there a case to be made for a Chicago lake ferry revival?</span></p><p>Remember: Questioner Barbara Laing&rsquo;s interest in the history of lake ferries is not simply nostalgic. She&rsquo;s a business woman and she knows a money-making opportunity when she sees one.</p><p>&ldquo;Here&#39;s the thing,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;As a small business owner, you look for business ventures, and you think well what else could I do?&rdquo;</p><p>A Chicago ferry came to mind, she says, but, &ldquo;I don&#39;t have a captain&#39;s license, so it&#39;s not within my realm of experience. But somebody should do it.&rdquo;</p><p>After all, there are two ferries that operate on the lake today. <a href="http://www.lake-express.com/">Lake Express</a> runs from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Muskegon, Michigan. <a href="http://www.ssbadger.com/" target="_blank">The S.S. Badger</a> operates between Manitowoc, Wisconsin and Ludington, Michigan. It stands to reason that Chicago, with its lakeside location and enormous metropolitan population, brimming with potential customers, could have a modern ferry service, too.</p><p>Right?</p><p>Wrong, says Ken Szallai, president and founder of Lake Express. His professional opinion: &ldquo;Running a ferry parallel to the interstate highway system is not a feasible ferry operation.&rdquo;</p><p>Szallai explains that a Chicago ferry would compete with the interstate and <a href="http://www.amtrak.com/michigan-services-train" target="_blank">Amtrak&rsquo;s Pere Marquette line</a>. Milwaukee&rsquo;s ferry doesn&rsquo;t have that problem; the Lake Express&rsquo; route is a straight shot across the water, which helps customers cut out hundreds of miles of travel around the lake.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20lake%20express.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="The Lake Express is a high-speed ferry from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Muskegon, Michigan. President and founder Ken Szallai says the business is feasible from Milwaukee, but would compete too much with the Interstate if he opened up shop in Chicago. (Flickr/Lake Express)" /></div><p>Szallai says when you factor in the fierce competition, plus operating expenses and the short operating season thanks to the region&rsquo;s fierce winter &hellip; Well, he&rsquo;s not going to invest in a Chicago ferry anytime soon.</p><p>But that hasn&rsquo;t stopped other people from trying. Douglas Callaghan of Grand Rapids, Michigan, chuckles when asked about a business venture he pioneered over a decade ago: &ldquo;Oh yes, the infamous ferry.&rdquo;</p><p>Why was it infamous, you might be wondering? &ldquo;Well, because it never made it into the water,&rdquo; Callaghan retorts.</p><p>In 2003 and 2004, Callaghan&rsquo;s small company, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2003-01-12/news/0301120281_1_lake-michigan-passenger-and-vehicle-ferry-new-york-harbor" target="_blank">LEF Corp (Lake Express Ferry)</a>, attempted to reinstate a ferry service between Chicago&rsquo;s Navy Pier and Benton Harbor in St. Joseph, Michigan. They conducted a <a href="http://www.sname.org/HigherLogic/System/DownloadDocumentFile.ashx?DocumentFileKey=b07d8b5d-54a8-4577-9203-a3d728680a19" target="_blank">feasibility study</a>, analyzing travel demand and what type of boat would be best suited to the project. And, as Callaghan puts it, &ldquo;there were about five super-rich lovers of catamarans &mdash; not all American &mdash; who invested in our proposal.&rdquo;</p><p>Kim Gallagher of the <a href="http://www.swmpc.org/" target="_blank">Southwestern Michigan Planning Commission</a> was a consultant on LEF Corp&rsquo;s proposal at the time. She remembers that the local community was delighted when investors were brought in for a tour of the port: &ldquo;The Benton Harbor, St. Joseph area was very supportive of the project because it offered an additional mode of transportation to get around the lake in two and half hours.&rdquo;</p><p>Both Gallagher and Callaghan agree that the primary reason for the proposal&rsquo;s failure originated on the other side of the lake. &ldquo;I think somewhere along the line, a message came down from on high in Chicago that said we&rsquo;re not going to do it,&rdquo; Callaghan recalls. &ldquo;Every time we turned around, another issue would come up.&rdquo;</p><p>After awhile, it became clear to Callaghan that the proposal was dead in the water and LEF Corp disbanded.</p><p>When asked to comment on the reasons that Callaghan&rsquo;s proposal fell through, Nick Shields, Director of Communications for Navy Pier, Inc., has this to say: &ldquo;It is our understanding that the company went out of business in 2004 and we did not receive a final proposal before then.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, Shields affirms that Navy Pier remains open to the idea of a ferry revival: &ldquo;Yes, Navy Pier, Inc. would consider a future investor&rsquo;s proposal. We view the idea as a unique opportunity to bring new visitors to Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Who knows? If maritime technology improves and ferries get faster while Chicago-area traffic gets worse, and global warming heats up the planet and eliminates our icy winters, maybe, just maybe, someone will revive a Chicago-Michigan ferry.</p><p>Should that day come, Barbara Laing will be the first in line to go out on the water and float all the way to Michigan, just like the generations of Chicagoans before her: &ldquo;It&#39;s something that people long to do, I think. If there&#39;s water there, you want to go out in it.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20chloe%20and%20barbara.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Reporter Chloe Prasinos and questioner Barbara Laing at WBEZ. (Logan Jaffe/WBEZ)" /></div><p><em>Chloe Prasinos is an independent reporter and producer based in Chicago. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/chloeprasinos" target="_blank">@chloeprasinos</a>.</em></p><hr /><div><strong><a name="mapnotes"></a>Notes on map:</strong></div><div><p dir="ltr">Ferry travel times for 1947 were calculated with an average speed of 19 mph and based on the routes depicted in <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1947/04/24/page/7/article/how-ferry-would-cut-mileage/" target="_blank">a related infographic from <em>Chicago Tribune</em> archives</a>. Ferry travel times for 2015 were calculated with an average speed of 35 mph and informed by our interview with Ken Szallai, president and founder of the Lake Express ferry in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Car travel routes from Chicago (Navy Pier) to St. Joseph and South Haven, Michigan, depict general directions, not exact directions over specific streets, highways and interstates. The 1947 route includes US 41 and Red Arrow Highway, with an average speed of 45 mph established in consultation with Joseph Schwieterman of DePaul University&rsquo;s <a href="http://las.depaul.edu/centers-and-institutes/chaddick-institute-for-metropolitan-development/Pages/default.aspx" target="_blank">Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development</a>. The 2015 car travel time was suggested by Google Maps with a route via I-90/94.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the timeframe during which the U.S. Interstate Highway System affected transportation options and habits. The correct decade for delineating the start of that program is the 1950s. &nbsp;</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></div><div>&nbsp;</div><p>&nbsp;</p><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><p>&nbsp;</p><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 11 Dec 2015 17:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/ferry-tale-could-chicago-michigan-ferry-return-extinction-114151 Swinging Times: Why Chicago has so Many Revolving Doors http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/swinging-times-why-chicago-has-so-many-revolving-doors-114058 <p><p>Sometimes, it takes a visitor to notice something unusual and special about your city. That was the case for Flora Alderman, a lifelong Chicagoan who, in her retirement, leads walking tours in downtown Chicago. She turned several observations from her tour-goers into a question, and then sent it our way:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why does Chicago have so many revolving doors?</em></p><p>At first, Flora thought her tour-goers may have been from smaller towns, where revolving doors were less common; but she&rsquo;s even heard the same question from a tourist from New York City, which made Flora start noticing just how many revolving doors we have.</p><p>We quickly learn that she is on to something.</p><p>Angus MacMillan, the national sales manager for <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcGV2_EgNUk" target="_blank">Crane Revolving Doors</a>, says Chicago and New York are the biggest markets for revolving doors, and that Chicago was the No. 1 market for decades. He thinks downtown Chicago may have more revolving doors per block than New York: &ldquo;I get my [sales] reps in from all around the country, and I&rsquo;ll take them to downtown Chicago, and they&rsquo;ll count more revolving doors in one block there than they have in their whole city.&rdquo;</p><p>But the <em>why </em>part of Flora&rsquo;s question &mdash; why the revolving door found such a hospitable home in Chicago &mdash; takes a bit more digging and is even more interesting.</p><p>The bottom line is that revolving doors have been solving several of the city&rsquo;s architectural challenges for about 115 years and, though the basic technology hasn&rsquo;t changed, the reasons people install them have actually expanded.</p><p>If you think these seemingly simple devices aren&rsquo;t worth considering, we have a question for you: Can you think of another century-old invention that works the same way as it did when it was created, but has only become increasingly relevant?</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">When this invention took its first revolution</span></p><p>While there&rsquo;s evidence of revolving doors in Chicago just after the turn of the century, they were actually invented twelve years earlier. In 1888, Theophilus Van Kannel of Philadelphia filed a U.S. patent for his new invention, an improvement on an earlier German invention. In his patent description of what would soon come to be known as a revolving door (most commonly now with four leaves), Van Kannel touted the many benefits over a swing door. For one, crowds of people could easily move in and out of the building in a continuous flow, without anyone having to wait. Beyond that, snug weather stripping around the doors could stop air from directly passing from the outside to the inside. The doors also prevented dirt and noise from getting inside as well.</p><p>Despite the practical benefits, the new contraptions took some getting used to. Revolving doors debuted in New York City in 1899, and early accounts include stories of people (New Yorkers, no less!) afraid of using Van Kannel&rsquo;s invention. Tourists visiting from small towns were even mocked in the newspapers for their revolving door naïveté.</p><p>&ldquo;Laws a-me!,&rdquo; a New York Times essayist claimed to hear from a visiting woman. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s dreadful like a threshing machine. &hellip; These new-fangled things&rsquo;ll kill me yet!&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="600" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1959/08/09/page/238/article/peoples-dizzy-doings-in-a-revolving-door" width="650"></iframe></p><p>Still, the &ldquo;revolving threshing machines&rdquo; caught wind in other cities, particularly Chicago. By 1901, they&rsquo;d become a bit of a local, pop culture curiosity. That year, the first mention of revolving doors in the Chicago Daily Tribune tells a fictional (perhaps?) tale entitled &ldquo;The Romance of the Revolving Door.&rdquo; In it, two young lovers have quarrelled and broken off their engagement, only to be reunited months later in a downtown department store. Of course, when they are suddenly trapped face to face in a stuck revolving door. (Spoiler alert from the young lady: &ldquo;There isn&rsquo;t any use of us trying to quarrel, John, when even these awful revolving doors conspire to keep us together in this way.&rdquo;)</p><p>While we don&rsquo;t know exactly how many revolving doors were installed in Chicago during the early 20th century, brochures from the period suggest the city was the major market in North America.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/VAN%20KANNEL%20FOR%20WEB%202.png" style="height: 345px; width: 620px;" title="A Van Kannel revolving door installed at the Pittsfield Building at 55 East Washington. (WBEZ/Jennifer Masengarb)" /></div><p>You can still see some of the originals today. Just walk through the Loop or Streeterville: Plenty of the buildings date back to the early 20th century with <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rinses/6069531531/in/photolist-69pnFa-7wwk6b-yYsuV4-wBoaU-8DoMrg-RKMC2-tdz999-s9TPh7-3p1VBD-6rT7Na-n1k52L-ANge1-9a7ew6-7c7sex-4rRJPb-7pdY1J-4dyiS-afkWgn-qC18jU-kjj6uX-5HoksX-9rA9YC-4ayYSv-6cUhgi-9yfFa-JgKA5-vP8Vo-7bgT2r-7YCK22-fjVgM-9fevy4-cxNXrs-9KXbYT-iXHZ3n-brf1Vy-8cFhhD" target="_top">classic revolving doors</a>, including a few from the original Van Kannel Company. But the doors&rsquo; initial appeal and utility to keep coal dust and soot out of buildings soon gave way to other useful applications, particularly as Chicago&rsquo;s skyline grew taller.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Chicago stacks up</span></p><p>Architect Patrick Loughran of <a href="http://www.gpchicago.com/profile/leadership/" target="_blank">Goettsch Partners</a> says Chicago&rsquo;s still got a lot of revolving doors because we have so many tall buildings.</p><p>&ldquo;Any high rise building is going to have to have elevator cores that take people from the bottom all the way up,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Those big open tubes create the stack effect where heat and air rise, and it creates this suction at the base of the building.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/STACK%20EFFECT%20FOR%20WEB.png" style="height: 624px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>The stack effect, or suction, comes from the air pressure differential between the inside and outside. On very cold days, that differential is extreme. Warm air collecting at the top of the elevator shafts is much lighter than the denser cold air at the base. The low pressure area pulls air into the first floor lobby and actually makes it difficult to pull swing doors open.</p><p>Revolving doors don&rsquo;t have this problem, because they block air that would otherwise rush in from the outside. As such, Loughran says tall buildings either need a revolving door or a vestibule with two sets of doors. The vestibule solution doesn&rsquo;t always effectively counter stack effect.</p><p>Loughran explains that while revolving doors are more common in cooler climates, warm climates have their own version of this problem. &ldquo;In Southern climates, you get the reverse effect, where doors are pushing out,&rdquo; he says. That can make it difficult to close outward swinging doors, allowing cooled air to escape.</p><p>Whether the effect is pushing inward or outwards, as the doors reach the closed position, the air rushing through can be audible.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s almost like a flute,&rdquo; Loughran says. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">We hate cold air in the North</span></p><p>Concerns about the stack effect in highrise buildings only partially explain why the revolving door is so common in the Chicago landscape. Because, if you take a stroll around the Loop, you&rsquo;ll see contemporary low rise buildings with revolving doors as well: drug stores, restaurants, cafes, and clothing retailers. The likely reason doesn&rsquo;t have to do with countering the stack effect. According to MacMillan, it comes down to comfort and economics &mdash; the need to maximize floor space.</p><p>Consider a restaurant in the winter. If it&rsquo;s got tables right next to a regular swing door, MacMillan says no matter how great the food is &ldquo;those first tables are going to really cold. That&rsquo;s the last thing you want for a dining experience.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Restaurants could solve that problem with a vestibule and two sets of swing doors, but that option takes up valuable space. The revolving door&rsquo;s smaller footprint, on the other hand, keeps cold out while allowing space for two or even three extra tables. MacMillan says that bit of extra profit can help offset revolving doors&rsquo; higher initial costs. The same principle applies to retailers, who want to protect customers from winter chills and maximize floor space at the same time.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_4217" scrolling="no" src="https://www.scribd.com/embeds/292130274/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Space isn&rsquo;t the only thing saved by revolving doors, according to MacMillan. He says in Chicago and other cold cities, the doors cut heating bills by keeping out so much cold air. He&rsquo;s convinced revolving doors could also save money for building owners in warmer climates, too. He says it&rsquo;s actually cheaper to heat a building during a cold Chicago winter than it is to cool a similar building in the midst of a hot summer in Atlanta or Houston. But, he says, Southern building owners typically don&rsquo;t follow through by installing revolving doors &mdash; mostly because building owners are driven by whether people feel comfortable: &ldquo;People in the South, they don&rsquo;t mind if their cold air is blowing out. Up in the North, we mind if the cold air is blowing in. That&rsquo;s what we hate.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>MacMillan says if you&rsquo;re looking for one last reason to explain why some regions might not install revolving doors, consider that some people might still be a little afraid of them.</p><p>&ldquo;You look at California. They really look at revolving doors like a meat grinder,&rdquo; he says, echoing the woman in 1899 who likened New York&rsquo;s newfangled doors to a thresher.</p><p>MacMillan says builders in warm climates are finally catching on to revolving doors, and he says the industry is selling and installing more than ever. But Chicago remains a city with a very high, if not the highest, density of revolving doors in its downtown.</p><p>When you think about what factors make revolving doors attractive to developers and building owners, Chicago covers all the bases. A history of soot and smoke? Check. Supertall buildings and stack effect? Check. A high density of retail and restaurants? Yep. Temperature extremes? Got that one, too. Minneapolis might be colder and New York may have tall buildings, but Chicago uniquely combines all the important factors.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Still revolving, still evolving</span></p><p>Today&rsquo;s revolving doors look sleek and modern, designed to complement transparent building entrances like the eye catching lobby at the UBS Building at <a href="http://www.conferencecenteratubstower.com/" target="_blank">One North Wacker</a> designed by Goettsch Partners. But if you compare those doors to the sketches in <a href="http://i2.wp.com/99percentinvisible.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/van-kannel-1-1.png" target="_top">Theophilus Van Kannel&rsquo;s 1888 patent</a>, you can see the basic principal is the same.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SLEEK%20DOOR%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Light passes through the revolving doors at UBS Building at One North Wacker. (WBEZ/Jennifer Masengarb)" /></div><p>One hundred thirty seven years later, and revolving doors keep on spinning (get it?). That long life cycle (groan) strikes us as neat. That same principle of creating an efficient air lock, first designed to keep out dust and soot, now helps buildings counteract the stack effect, keep customers comfy, and save on heating and cooling costs.</p><p>Angus MacMillan, revolving door salesman, says that&rsquo;s OK by him.</p><p>&ldquo;Every building should have a revolving door,&rdquo; he says.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Our Questioner, Flora Alderman</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FLORA%20ALDERMAN%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="Flora Alderman turned over questions she received from Road Scholar tour-goers into a Curious City question. (Photo courtesy of Flora Alderman)" /></p><p>Flora Alderman lives in Chicago&rsquo;s Harbor Point, aka, New East Side. She&rsquo;s a retired Jewish Community Center Director and still leads trips for<a href="http://www.roadscholar.org/" target="_blank"> Road Scholar, a project of Elderhostel</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>She splits her time between Chicago, and Delray Beach, Florida. She&rsquo;s there now, and we asked her to be on the lookout for revolving doors, especially since they could save building owners and businesses in Florida on air conditioning costs.</p><p>She says she hasn&rsquo;t seen a single one.</p><p><em>Jesse Dukes is Curious City&rsquo;s Audio Producer. Jen Masengarb is Director of Interpretation and Research at the<a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank"> Chicago Architecture Foundation</a>. Follow her on Twitter at<a href="https://twitter.com/jmasengarb" target="_blank"> @jmasengarb</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 04 Dec 2015 17:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/swinging-times-why-chicago-has-so-many-revolving-doors-114058 Half Day Road and the Origins of a Semantic Slip-up http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/half-day-road-and-origins-semantic-slip-114041 <p><p>If you&rsquo;ve traveled anywhere near Vernon Hills, Lincolnshire, or other Chicago suburbs in Lake County, you&rsquo;ve likely encountered the rush hour misery that is Half Day Road, also known as Illinois Route 22. That two-to-four-lane, rural-feeling stretch of road can sometimes take you 40 minutes to drive only 10 miles.</p><p>The name feels fitting, though probably even more so during the early 20th century, when travel to and from Chicago was conducted via slower modes of transportation. Travel time forms the basis of a common theory about the name&rsquo;s origins.</p><p>Questioner Anita Silvert, who grew up in Skokie, remembers her father&rsquo;s explanation: &ldquo;All he said was that it took a half-a-day to get there.&rdquo;</p><p>It was an answer she accepted as fact until she grew up, and began wondering ... half-a-day to get where? With a little bit of suspicion in mind, she asked Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What is Half Day Road in the northern suburbs a half day from? Who made the trip, and on what kind of vehicle?</em></p><p>As we dug into the area&rsquo;s history we learned something quickly: The idea that the road was named for the amount of time it took to travel from somewhere to ... somewhere else ... is a misconception. It&rsquo;s actually a misconception within a misconception: It&rsquo;s a miscon-Inception!</p><p>And we say that not to poke fun at folks who&rsquo;ve lived with the wrong idea for years but because &mdash; in a strange twist of fate &mdash; the semantic slip-up associated with &ldquo;Half Day&rdquo; isn&rsquo;t limited to Lake County. Nope, this seemingly unique naming quirk extends well beyond the Chicago region; it&rsquo;s repeated nearly 600 miles away.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Many a Half Day</span></p><p>The crux of the misconception is that it used to take a half-day to travel from Chicago to Half Day the town, which hasn&rsquo;t existed for about 20 years.</p><p>If you lived in the area, you might remember the place. Or not. It was an unincorporated area with just a few hundred residents. It was originally bordered by Vernon Hills and Lincolnshire, and it sat atop the intersection of Olde Half Day Road and Milwaukee Avenue. <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1995-08-24/news/9508240238_1_annexed-unincorporated-land-half-day" target="_blank">In late 1993 it was annexed, with Vernon Hills taking large portions and Lincolnshire grabbing most of the remainders.</a></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1861%20Half%20Day%20map_L%20Gast%20Brothers%20and%20Co%20St%20Louis%20MO_courtesy%20Lake%20Co%20Discovery%20Museum%20web_0.jpg" style="height: 620px; width: 620px;" title="A map of the town Half Day in 1861. (Courtesy Lake County Discovery Museum)" /></div><p>Half Day was a town of many firsts for Lake County. Established in 1836, it was the site of the county&rsquo;s first post office, its first school and &mdash; just a few years before &mdash; its first permanent non-native settler. The road came after the town, and with it, a cascade of mistaken origin stories.</p><p>As such, Half Day&rsquo;s fake origin story has long held up in Lake County &mdash; even to those closest to it.</p><p>Take Louis Tricoli, the co-owner of the historic Half Day Inn, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2007-04-06/news/0704050671_1_big-box-daniel-wright-local-lore" target="_blank">which had stood for more than 160 years before its demise in 2007</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;I had heard that it was a half-day&rsquo;s ride from Chicago,&rdquo; Tricoli said, adding that it wasn&rsquo;t until he and his partner purchased the place that he dug deeper into the history.</p><p>&ldquo;I started going to the library and the village hall and ended up putting a little brochure together that I put in the tables,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It wasn&rsquo;t just a building sitting there. It had a lot of history to it.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The man behind the name</span></p><p>Here&rsquo;s the real scoop Tricoli wanted his customers to have: The town of Half Day, and later the road, got its name from a Potawatomi chief named Aptakisic, who was said to have lived with his tribe along the <a href="http://rpwrhs.org/w/index.php?title=Half_Day" target="_blank">Fox River</a>. Aptakisic&rsquo;s name roughly translated to &ldquo;center of the sky&rdquo; or &ldquo;half day.&rdquo; Other accounts suggest the name meant &ldquo;He who could do a whole day&rsquo;s work in half a day.&rdquo;</p><p>While there isn&rsquo;t a ton of information out there about who Aptakisic was as a person, Diana Dretske, a historian with the Lake County Discovery Museum at the Lake County Forest Preserves, said we do know what impression he left on non-natives. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Aptakisic was known to have been very welcoming to the settlers,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Henry Blodgett, the son of a DuPage pioneer, wrote in a letter that Aptakisic had helped protect his family and others from an attack during the Black Hawk War in 1832, leading them from Downers Grove to Fort Dearborn along the Chicago River.</p><p>The letter, published in the book DuPage Roots by Richard A. Thompson, read:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;... There had been a council held that night at West Valley where Aurora now stands, between Black Hawk and a band of chiefs of the Potawatomi and Win&shy;nebago. They had been urged to join with Black Hawks&#39;s tribe in a general attack upon the white settlements in northern Illinois, but refused. As soon as the council broke up, [Aptakisic] had mounted his horse and ridden as fast as he could by way of Naper Settlement to give the alarm so we might get away before the Sauks could get there.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p><a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=rBsvCSJbDqcC&amp;pg=PA227&amp;lpg=PA227&amp;dq=%22treaty+of+chicago%22+aptakisic&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=TdM8tx3YyF&amp;sig=fua0RnDp_bEA2NpB4fcqepWrr3U&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwib45j4vrfJAhXCYyYKHeQDC8AQ6AEIPTAG#v=onepage&amp;q=aptakisic&amp;f=false" target="_blank">It was Aptakisic</a> who decided that all of the young Potawatomi warriors be held in a camp along the Des Plaines River until the end of the Black Hawk War, lest they be tempted to join the fight against the white settlers.</p><p>Lake County&rsquo;s first permanent white settler, Daniel Wright, recalled that the chief and his tribe helped him build his home, tended his crops, and cared for his family after he moved to the area in 1833.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Painting%20by%20Les%20Schrader%20courtesy%20of%20the%20Naperville%20Heritage%20Society%20at%20Naper%20Settlement%20WEB.png" style="height: 341px; width: 620px;" title="In this painting by artist Les Schrader, Potawatomi Chief Aptakisic says goodbye to Naperville settlers after escorting them to Fort Dearborn in Chicago during the Black Hawk War of 1832. (Courtesy of the Naperville Heritage Society)" /></div><p>Aptakisic&rsquo;s tightness with the area&rsquo;s settlers becomes even more clear, as Blodgett recalls the painful goodbye he and his family exchanged with the chief before he and the other tribes were removed to a reservation west of the Mississippi River in the fall of 1837. The move was part of the Treaty of Chicago they agreed to with the United States in 1833. (The treaty was ratified in 1835):</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;I well remember the sad face of the old chief as he came to bid our family goodbye. ...We all shed tears of genuine sorrow &hellip; his generous kindness to my parents has given me a higher idea of the red man&rsquo;s genuine worth.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>We can&rsquo;t, however, say for sure whether Aptakisic was &ldquo;kind&rdquo; because it was in his nature, or because he felt it was the best political strategy for his people.</p><p>&ldquo;It seems that the people that he did get close with tended to be the people who ended up being the leaders of the community, people who were respected,&rdquo; Dretske said.</p><p>In her book <em>Rising up from Indian Country: The Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago</em>, author Ann Durkin Keating writes that Potawatomi leaders in Illinois feared joining Sauk warrior Black Hawk in his eponymous war against the United States because such an alliance might &ldquo;lead to an &lsquo;uncompensated removal&rsquo;&rdquo; from the land.</p><p>If this was indeed one of their motives for remaining peaceful, it worked in their favor: In addition to exchanging five million acres of land in northeast Illinois and southeast Wisconsin for five million acres of land west of the Mississippi River, the Treaty of Chicago afforded the Potawatomis between $500,000 and $1 million in immediate payments, including thousands of dollars in annuities.</p><p>Keating writes: &ldquo;They were among the first Native people subject to the Indian Removal Act, but their acquiescence to removal came with compensation to themselves and their creditors, as well as a negotiated destination. Their leaders proved to be &lsquo;tough, capable, skilled negotiators&rsquo; who took &lsquo;the best advantage they could from an impossible situation.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Aptakisic was among the leaders who helped negotiate the treaty. <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=aKgKCioMi9wC&amp;printsec=frontcover&amp;dq=The+Potawatomis,+Keepers+of+the+Fire&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwik8pzWr8DJAhWCLSYKHcBSBm0Q6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&amp;q=Aptakisic&amp;f=false" target="_blank">It was unclear, though, whether he agreed with the details of the final agreement or not.</a></p><p>Regardless, it was in 1836 &mdash; after the treaty was signed but before the Potawatomi were expelled &mdash; that the area&rsquo;s settlers decided to name their town after the soon-to-be-departing chief.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Well ... why?</span></p><p>Edward Callary, author of <em><a href="http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/33nxw6km9780252033568.html" target="_blank">Place Names of Illinois</a></em>, said the name &ldquo;Half Day&rdquo; and its variations follow a popular mid-19th century trend, when many American communities, post offices, railroad stops and other places were named for local Native American leaders. The names were often applied long after Native American influence in the area had ceased.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s sort of nostalgic,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We give the names of things that used to be important in the area.&rdquo;</p><p>Callary says Native American names were great candidates for place names because, to white settlers, they evoked the memory of something great that no longer posed a threat. It&rsquo;s no wonder that, beyond Chicago&rsquo;s hockey team, &ldquo;Black Hawk&rdquo; is a familiar name around Illinois; there&rsquo;s a Black Hawk Elementary School in Springfield, an unincorporated town in northwestern Illinois called Blackhawk, a Black Hawk State Historic site, and Black Hawk College. The list goes on.</p><p>Aptakisic, however, didn&rsquo;t appear to pose any threat. The settlers&rsquo; choice to name the town Half Day seemed to have originated from a place of love &mdash; or at least admiration and respect.</p><p>Remnants of Aptakisic&rsquo;s legacy can be found across Lake County: Aptakisic Road, Aptakisic Creek, the old Aptakisic community, the Wisconsin Central Railroad&rsquo;s Aptakisic stop, Half Day Road and Olde Half Day Road, which was the original Half Day Road, before it was replaced by the longer, modern-day Half Day Road.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">How did the name&rsquo;s meaning get confused? And, when?</span></p><p>Perhaps right around the time the town was being named.</p><p>Some sources, like<a href="http://livinghistoryofillinois.com/" target="_blank"> Living History of Illinois and Chicago</a>, say that the town&rsquo;s true name was Halfda, in honor of the chief, but that it changed when an early cartographer spelled it &ldquo;Half Day.&rdquo; This isn&rsquo;t so confusing that we lose the meaning of the name yet, but it&rsquo;s confusing nonetheless.</p><p>Dretske believes the real confusion over the name&rsquo;s origin began around the 1840s, when non-residents began paying visits to the newly-built Half Day Inn near the intersection of present day Milwaukee Avenue and Olde Half Day Road.</p><p>&ldquo;Just knowing how fast a horse and buggy can move on a dirt road, it could take you part of the day to get out there,&rdquo; Dretske said. &ldquo;So you can kind of see how people would make that assumption.&rdquo;</p><p>Dretske adds that the name&rsquo;s mistaken meaning was kept alive when the Wisconsin Central Railroad began making stops at Prairie View in the late 1880s, which would have taken quite a long time to get to from Half Day, and vice versa.</p><p>She points to one early piece of evidence (or at least an allusion to it) within a historical account of the town written by the students of Half Day School in 1918. In it, <a href="http://livinghistoryofillinois.com/files/Half%20Day,%20Illinois.pdf" target="_blank">they explain that the town was named in honor of the Pottawatomi chief &ldquo;Hefda,&rdquo;</a> and that the town was located about halfway between Chicago and northern Lake County.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Lost in translation &mdash; not once, but twice</span></p><p>Considering his celebrated past, it&rsquo;s unfortunate that the translation of Aptakisic&rsquo;s name ended up describing so perfectly the experience of traveling to and from the area during the 19th century. Beyond that, Callary said, people like to make up stories explaining why places have their names, regardless of accuracy: &ldquo;We hear something that we don&rsquo;t understand, and we make up a story to explain it.&rdquo;</p><p>He gives the example of Quiver Township in Mason County, Illinois, which he said is named after Quiver Creek.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the local stories is that when you stand near this river and rock back and forth, you can see the land around you quiver,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Makes sense, right?&rdquo;</p><p>Right! But, of course, this has no basis in fact.</p><p>&ldquo;Rather, the early French explorers named this the Cuivre River from their word &lsquo;cuivre,&rsquo; which means &lsquo;copper,&rsquo; because they mined copper from the river,&rdquo; Callary says.</p><p>There are tons of examples like this, he says, and Half Day is just one of them.</p><p>Which makes us wonder: With a name like Half Day, was there ever a chance that Aptakisic&rsquo;s legacy could have lasted longer than a decade or so?</p><p>Consider this: <a href="http://www.longgrovehistory.org/lghsNewsletter09.pdf" target="_blank">When Aptakisic</a> moved west towards Kansas, per the Treaty of Chicago, and ended up near Elmont, he met white settlers that grew fond of him, and later named a creek and a cemetery after him.</p><p><a href="http://cjonline.com/stories/022201/nli_coder22.shtml#.VmCUKnarS01" target="_blank">If you Google it</a>, the author of at least one local newspaper article asked a question that should be eerily familiar:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;I couldn&#39;t help but wonder about the name. How did it originate? Was it half a day&#39;s journey walking or riding a horse from some place to another; to Topeka, eight miles south, for instance? I know that there are streams on trails through the area that are named because they mark distances. For example, 110 Mile Creek on the Santa Fe Trail. But that&#39;s more exact. Half Day, like Elmont, is so unspecific.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>And, as that author did his own research into Kansas&rsquo; own &ldquo;Half Day,&rdquo; he eventually found Aptakisic and &mdash; as we know by now &mdash; a much more meaningful origin story.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Elmont,+KS+66618/@39.1613332,-95.7111252,16z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x87bf00694f1bfca9:0x9446f9cad1816f32" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/halfday%20creek%20elmont%20kansas2_0.png" style="height: 345px; width: 620px;" title="" /></a></div><p><em>Laura Pavin is a freelance journalist in Chicago and reports for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow her on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/laurapavinnews">@LauraPavinNews.</a></em></p><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 03 Dec 2015 14:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/half-day-road-and-origins-semantic-slip-114041 Fare Game: When do CTA Buses Break Even? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fare-game-when-do-cta-buses-break-even-113884 <p><p>The midnight ride started it. Actually, it was about half past midnight. That&rsquo;s when Fred Pineda, who moved to the city seven years ago to attend the University of Chicago, would climb aboard the #6 bus to take him back to Hyde Park once he was done partying downtown. Fred says he made the trip often and &ldquo;usually there would only be about four or five of us on that bus, especially during weekdays. I was thinking, &lsquo;There&rsquo;s no way the CTA is making money off this route.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Fred has since moved to the North Side, and hasn&rsquo;t taken that trip in a while. But a question from those days has stuck with him, the same question he&rsquo;s posed to Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How many fares does it take for a bus to get to the break even point?</em></p><p>The &ldquo;break even point&rdquo; is that sweet spot where the amount of cash coming into the farebox on a given bus line matches what is going out to cover the bus&rsquo;s operating costs.</p><p>This is a big question for the second-largest public transit system in the country. Just in the first half of this year, about 869,000 weekday trips were taken on CTA buses. The agency spends $764 million to maintain that service, with a good chunk of that amount coming from public funds.</p><p>Technically, the CTA <em>could</em> break even &mdash; &nbsp;at least on paper. To get at exactly how, we ran a two-part thought experiment. The first looks at what the break even point actually is, while the second investigates what the CTA would have to change in service, pricing, and access in order for bus operations to pay for themselves.</p><p>In laying out the serious financial gymnastics required to create a wholly self-sufficient CTA bus service, we realize this story is more complex than finding a magic price point: There&rsquo;s often an impulse to make people who use a service pay its full cost, but when it comes to public transit, even some fiscal watchdogs agree that the goal of &ldquo;breaking even&rdquo; is not all it&rsquo;s cracked up to be.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Breaking even</span></p><p>To answer Fred&rsquo;s question, we have to determine what CTA buses earn, and compare that to what it costs to run the system. Most of the CTA&rsquo;s expenses fall into one of two categories: 1) overall costs (fuel, driver salaries, maintenance, and administration); and 2) capital costs (the price tags for new buses). According to transportation figures which the agency reports to the federal <a href="http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram/">National Transit Database</a>, the CTA lines up fare collection data against its overall operating costs and excludes capital costs, since operating costs are where the bulk of the annual budget is directed.</p><p>The CTA&rsquo;s overall bus costs added up to $764,280,757 in 2013 &mdash; the latest year for which data are available.</p><p>In that same year, CTA buses earned $298,824,494 just in fares, or 39 percent of what it spent on its overall costs. The remaining 61 percent was mainly paid for with state and city subsidies deriving from sales taxes and Chicago&rsquo;s real estate transfer tax.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fareboxrecoverycomparison.PNG" style="height: 388px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Although the CTA prefers not to look at its bus service through the &ldquo;break even&rdquo; lens, some of its buses do cross that threshold in certain circumstances, according to Yonah Freemark, a city planner who specializes in transportation and development policy for the <a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/people/staff-member/?id=67">Metropolitan Planning Council</a>.</p><p>Freemark bases his calculations on RTA data, as well as figures from the National Transit Database. He says it costs about $132 per hour for the CTA to operate a bus. Therefore, Freemark figures, in order to cover the full cost of its operations over a single hour, one bus would have to earn $132 per hour at the farebox. That covers costs for the driver, gas, administration, and maintenance. (Again, it leaves out capital costs, such as the bus itself.)</p><p>With a <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">f</a><a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/" target="_blank">ull fare set at $2 per person</a> (or $2.25 if you pay cash) a CTA bus would seemingly need just 66 passengers to come aboard during that hour in order for that bus to break even. But in 2013, the <em>average</em> rider only paid about a dollar per trip. This is because, in compliance with state and federal regulations, the <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/travel_information/fares/reduced.aspx">CTA offers a large number of riders free or reduced fares</a>, including students, seniors, people in the military, and disabled passengers. There are also unlimited ride passes, and multiple rides taken via transfers.</p><p>&ldquo;Given the fact that the average passenger on a bus is only paying about $1 per trip,&rdquo; says Freemark, a bus needs about 132 riders over the course of an hour in order to cover its costs.</p><p>With 128 bus routes operating throughout Chicago and 35 suburbs, it seems that if you add up all of the service hours throughout the entire CTA bus system (math that the CTA has been reluctant to do or share, citing considerations of staff time), you are likely to find that (a) most buses most of the time do not break even, and (b) breaking even is most prone to occur during peak hours, and not on every line.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The cost of breaking even</span></p><p>The CTA has not announced plans to raise fares any time soon, and actually, a thought experiment may help understand why: What if the CTA wanted to break even? That is, what if the agency paid for all of its bus operating costs solely with what it earns from bus passengers?</p><p>According to Freemark, the fare price would have to skyrocket. &ldquo;You would need to increase the fare to $5.12 per trip,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s an increase of 156 percent.&rdquo;</p><p>That new $5.12 figure would be the equivalent of today&rsquo;s &ldquo;full fare&rdquo; price of $2.00. Under this scenario, reduced fares for veterans, seniors, and children would also rise proportionately, and Freemark&rsquo;s math accounts for the effects of free transfers and monthly passes. The bottom line, though, is that higher sticker price would fetch enough bus fares to cover the bus system&rsquo;s operating costs.</p><p>Freemark&rsquo;s take on this: &ldquo;Doing that would immediately result in a significant decline in the number of people taking the buses.&rdquo;</p><p>Freemark points to the <a href="https://hbr.org/2015/08/a-refresher-on-price-elasticity">concept of price elasticity</a>. As the price of something goes up &mdash; a candy bar, or a gallon of gas &mdash; the number of people willing to pay goes down. Transit elasticity, Freemark says, has a formula that&rsquo;s about -0.4, meaning every time fares increase by 10 percent, the number of riders drops by 4 percent. A full fare of $5.12 would equate to a price hike of 156 percent; Freemark expects CTA bus ridership would fall by 62.4 percent.</p><p>To test this thought experiment, we run our hypothetical price hike by Chicagoan Quinn Naughton, a regular bus rider who says &mdash; thought experiment or not &mdash; the CTA should never consider such a dramatic increase in fares.</p><p>&ldquo;People should protest, people should actually revolt,&rdquo; he says, adding that under our scenario, he would have to move &mdash; probably out of Chicago.</p><p>If the CTA wants to break even, Freemark says, the agency has a couple of other options, like increasing ridership. But, he warns &ldquo;if we more than doubled the number of people riding the bus everyday, you&rsquo;d need many, many more buses, so you&rsquo;d dramatically increase the cost of operations of the bus system.&rdquo;</p><p>Translation: You&rsquo;ll just end up spending more than you recover in fares. Freemark says faster buses with dedicated lanes and traffic signal priority would certainly boost ridership, and may bring the buses closer to breaking even. But that scenario would require political changes as well as new capital funds to adapt infrastructure.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Fending for itself</span></p><p>So far, our experiment&rsquo;s gone into the mechanics of what policy-makers and transit planners call the &ldquo;<a href="http://publictransport.about.com/od/Transit_Funding/a/The-Basics-Of-Transit-Funding.htm">farebox recovery ratio</a>,&rdquo; which compares the money collected from transit riders and operating costs. Again, CTA&rsquo;s recovery rate for its bus system was close to 39 percent in 2013. Why doesn&rsquo;t the agency try to break even?</p><p>Some of the answer has to do with the consequences Freemark laid out: If CTA hiked bus fares, it might actually lose riders. But another part of the answer is that the agency&rsquo;s not required to break even. The state of Illinois requires agencies under the Regional Transportation Authority &mdash; including CTA (bus and rail combined), Metra, and Pace &mdash; to collectively meet a 50 percent farebox recovery ratio, meaning that those agencies earn at least about half of their operating costs just through fares.</p><p>The farebox recovery ratio was originally established to prevent transit agencies from building more train and bus lines than the public would use.</p><p>Laurence Msall, President of the <a href="https://www.civicfed.org/">Chicago Civic Federation</a>, a nonpartisan research group that studies fiscal sustainability, says the recovery ratio mandate also ensured that the CTA, along with the other agencies, &ldquo;wasn&rsquo;t running significant deficits, that it was collecting as much as it could in terms of the farebox, and that we weren&rsquo;t giving away the system.&rdquo;</p><p>In recent years, the region has consistently met or surpassed the state-mandated minimum, but on occasion there are calls for CTA to adopt plans to boost recovery rates. (Just one example: During the transit funding crisis of 2007, representative <a href="http://ilga.gov/house/transcripts/htrans95/09517001.pdf">Dave Winters of Rockford argued for fare increases and higher recovery rates</a> in Chicago-area transit agencies: &ldquo;The users of those services need to carry their own weight.&rdquo;)</p><p>As for the CTA&rsquo;s own take on the &ldquo;break even&rdquo; idea, agency spokeswoman Tammy Chase says &ldquo;that&rsquo;s not a calculation that we ever make or would. It&rsquo;s moot for us.&rdquo; She says the agency regards public transportation as a public service, &ldquo;not just providing customers service from Point A to Point B. It&rsquo;s broader than that; there&rsquo;s a broader economic good, for all of the public. It&rsquo;s more than a ride to us.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, the agency does pay attention to basic laws of economics. For example, Chase says CTA determines bus routes based on the projected needs of riders: &ldquo;We pay attention to ridership demand, where the most riders are.&rdquo;</p><p>That translates into a metric the agency calls &ldquo;productivity,&rdquo; or the average number of passengers on a bus during one hour. &ldquo;You want to be ideally between 35 and 55 customers on a bus,&rdquo; Chase says. The CTA&rsquo;s most common buses seat around 35 passengers. &ldquo;If you&rsquo;re getting to above 50 riders, some are standing. It&rsquo;s still a comfortable experience. If you&rsquo;re getting to around 70 people, that&rsquo;s a crowded bus.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/cta/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CTA%20productivity%20screen%20grab%20embed2.png" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="" /></a></div><p>Chase says CTA adjusts schedules, the number of buses and even the size of buses to hit a standard for normal service hours. The overarching goal, she says, is to have no passenger in the city wait more than 30 minutes before the next scheduled bus arrives. (Disruptions in these routes can often lead to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-buses-arrive-bunches-110941" target="_blank">&quot;bus bunching,&quot; which is tough to tackle.</a>)</p><p>Adjustments only go so far, though, and the agency does keep run some low-productivity lines. Chase says those examples exemplify how the CTA emphasizes public service over bottom line considerations like breaking even. Several buses provide essential transportation, if only to relatively few people: say, to those who might have no alternative for getting to school, to work, a pharmacy or grocery store.</p><p>Interestingly, even the Civic Federation&rsquo;s Laurence Msall says the break even idea is &ldquo;not a reasonable expectation,&rdquo; and the government needs to subsidize public transit in some form.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a very strong argument to be made that if Chicago, if the State of Illinois was in better financial shape, that it should be investing more in the public transportation system,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We basically should be reducing even more the cost of riding the CTA to attract more riders or to expand the system.&rdquo;</p><p>Msall says the CTA has struggled with inefficiencies in the past, but right now, he thinks, the system can&rsquo;t get cheaper. It just costs too much to operate. It&rsquo;s worth the price, because CTA buses earn their keep everyday by cutting rush hour traffic and improving air quality.</p><p>Chicagoan Sarah Erwin, who relies almost solely on the CTA system to get around, agrees.</p><p>&ldquo;If you could have really great public transportation, you wouldn&rsquo;t have to have as many cars,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t own a car. We specifically chose Lakeview where we can walk or get public transit or a Zipcar to where we need to go. So, it&rsquo;s vital to us.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fred%20pineda%20crop.png" style="height: 285px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="(Photo courtesy Fred Pineda)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">More about our questioner</span></p><p>Fred Pineda got his doctorate at the University of Chicago in medical physics. Now he works at the university developing MRI technology. It makes sense that a science guy would ask such a numbers-heavy question. But Pineda, a native of Mexico City, also regularly rides the CTA, where he spends about two hours on his daily commute. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Christopher Johnson is an independent producer and reporter based in Chicago.</em></p></p> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 17:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fare-game-when-do-cta-buses-break-even-113884 Mold-A-Rama-rama! The secrets behind Chicago's plastic souvenir empire http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/mold-rama-rama-secrets-behind-chicagos-plastic-souvenir-empire-113794 <p><p><em>&ldquo;Jack put the coins in and I remember standing with him at the machine saying, &lsquo;Look at how f---king cool this is! Look at those dials moving! This is so bad--s!&rsquo;&rdquo;</em></p><p>How often do you hear a story about a rock star freaking out at a museum? According to Ben Blackwell, head of production at Third Man Records, this was Jack White&rsquo;s reaction when he purchased a John Deere tractor mold from the Mold-A-Rama machine at Chicago&rsquo;s Museum of Science and Industry, which they visited together during some downtime on the White Stripes&rsquo; 2005 tour.</p><p>That&rsquo;s right, Mold-A-Rama: that space-age looking vending machine found at most major Chicago tourist spots, including both zoos, the Willis Tower, and the Field Museum. Here how it works:</p><p>You insert two bucks, and hydraulic arms under a plastic bubble press two halves of a metal mold together.</p><p><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/moldarama/moldgif11111.gif" style="width: 479px; height: 270px;" /></p><p>After 60 seconds of histrionic gadgetry, the contraption spits out a polyethylene tchotchke that smells like melted spatula.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/moldarama/moldgif222.gif" style="width: 480px; height: 270px;" /></p><p>It&rsquo;s an old-school 3-D printer, except it&rsquo;s faster, clunkier and makes only one thing.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/moldarama/moldgif333.gif" style="width: 480px; height: 270px;" /></p><p>White and Blackwell liked Mold-A-Rama so much <a href="http://archive.tennessean.com/VideoNetwork/2196183966001/Third-Man-Records-shows-off-its-Mold-A-Rama" target="_blank">they bought a machine for their record shop in Nashville</a>.</p><p>Julie Piacentine, a Californian who became enchanted with Mold-A-Rama when she moved to Chicago, lacked the funds to do that. So instead, she sent us this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>I heard that Chicago has the most Mold-A-Rama machines. Is that true? How did we get so lucky?</em></p><p>As it turns out, the first part of Julie&rsquo;s question is easy to answer because nearly every Mold-A-Rama machine in a public space is owned by one of two companies: Unique Souvenirs in Lake Wales, Florida, and Mold-A-Rama Inc., in Brookfield, Illinois.</p><p><a name="locations"></a>Here&rsquo;s a tally of Mold-A-Rama machines by metro area:</p><table border="1" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 620px"><tbody><tr><td><p><strong>MIDWEST: &nbsp;66 total</strong></p><p>Toledo, Ohio - 12</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/mold-rama-rama-secrets-behind-chicagos-plastic-souvenir-empire-113794#tally"><em>Chicago-area, Illinois - 27*</em></a></p><p>St. Paul, Minnesota - 4</p><p>Dearborn, Michigan - 10</p><p>Milwaukee, Wisconsin - 13</p></td><td><p><strong>FLORIDA</strong></p><p>Miami - 12</p><p>Ft. Lauderdale - 1</p><p>Tampa - 21</p><p>Sarasota - 1</p><p>Orlando - 6</p></td><td><p><strong>TENNESSEE</strong></p><p>Knoxville - 8</p><p>Nashville - 1</p></td><td><p><strong>TEXAS</strong></p><p>San Antonio - 8</p></td></tr></tbody></table><p>Clearly, Chicago wins, with 27 machines. But it was the second part of Julie&rsquo;s question that&rsquo;s intriguing: How did we get so lucky? To answer that, we need to find out how the Mold-A-Rama business in Chicago came to be, and what makes it tick.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The heart of Mold-A-Rama</span></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="550" src="//cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1N635WIZN1DsMH_aD-AGuRdAS9U7RvaFFMGLZ_82zEQY&amp;font=Default&amp;lang=en&amp;initial_zoom=2&amp;height=550" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;Surrounding Lake Michigan is pretty much the heart of Mold-A-Rama,&rdquo; says Paul Jones, who co-owns <a href="http://mold-a-rama.com/" target="_blank">Mold-A-Rama Inc.</a> with his father, Bill Jones. The company is based out of a small storefront in west-suburban Brookfield, just five minutes from the zoo, and they maintain most of the Mold-A-Rama machines in the Midwest.</p><p>Julie&rsquo;s use of the term &ldquo;lucky&rdquo; is apt, since Bill Jones essentially founded the local company on a whim in 1971. He was a Michigan State grad with a high-paying, but dull job in accounting. His secretary was married to the Mold-A-Rama operator who owned all the machines in Chicago. When she revealed that she and her husband wanted to retire, Bill offered to buy their business.</p><p>&ldquo;At the time my dad made that comment, he did not really know what the business was,&rdquo; says Paul, &ldquo;and having a successful job with five kids, my dad&rsquo;s family kind of looked at him like he was out of his mind.&rdquo;</p><p>The gamble paid off, though, with the business surviving spikes in the price of plastic, sales slumps and the 2008 recession. They&rsquo;ve also been able to raise prices here and there. The figurines originally cost 25 cents; for the past four years, the price has been two dollars. Paul says it will stay there until the price of oil goes up again.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not really movers and shakers, out to take over the world with Mold-A-Rama,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re here to maintain and make a living. I have three college-age kids.&rdquo;</p><p>Paul adds that &ldquo;family&rdquo; is part of the operation&rsquo;s longevity.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/paul%20and%20dad%202015.jpg" style="height: 408px; width: 620px;" title="Paul Jones and his dad, Bill, who co-own Mold-A-Rama Inc. (Photo courtesy Paul Jones) " /></div><p>&ldquo;I get to work with my dad every day, who&rsquo;s one of the coolest and nicest guys you&rsquo;d ever want to meet,&rdquo; he says, adding some of his favorite memories involve early-morning maintenance work at places like Brookfield Zoo. &ldquo;You can walk and watch the animals, and talk to some of the keepers, and you get treated a little differently because you&rsquo;re the son of the Mold-A-Rama man.&rdquo;</p><p>The mold boat is kept afloat by more than family ties, though; it also happens to have a specific business strategy.</p><p>Mold-A-Rama competes with other souvenirs: flashy toys, plush animals, educational videos, reusable mugs and shot glasses. The secret to Mold-A-Rama is that it avoids zoo and museum gift shops altogether. The company has profit-sharing agreements with its hosts, and the machines are scattered throughout client locations, often offering figurine likenesses very near their real-life counterparts. At the Brookfield Zoo, for example, the gorilla figurine is on sale inside the ape house. Clever parents will avoid taking their children to the gift shop for fear of spending too much, only to succumb to a cute, two-dollar figurine.</p><p>Paul claims this strategy was part of Mold-A-Rama from the beginning. &ldquo;The more points of sale you have, the better the retail is,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s an impulse.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/moldfactory.jpg" style="height: 348px; width: 620px;" title="The Mold-A-Rama warehouse in Brookfield, Illinois. (WBEZ/John Fecile)" /></div><p>Another reason why Paul is able to stave off competition is that no new Mold-A-Rama machines have been manufactured since the 1960s. Mold-A-Rama, Inc., and Florida operator Tim Striggow are essentially maintaining the original stocks of machines: cleaning them, making repairs, and adding new parts on occasion. Every Mold-A-Rama machine you can see &mdash; in Chicago or Florida or in Jack White&rsquo;s record store &mdash; is at least a half-century old.</p><p>This is only possible because the machines &mdash; manufactured in Chicago, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/jackpot-chicagos-hold-pinball-industry-and-artistry-110175">along with pinball machines</a> &mdash; were so well-built in the first place.</p><p>&ldquo;In today&rsquo;s world, vending machines are meant to last three to four years,&rdquo; Paul says. &ldquo;They take &lsquo;em out, &nbsp;junk &lsquo;em, make new ones. I think they would laugh if you told them to make you a machine that was gonna last 50 years.&rdquo;</p><p>During a recent walk-through of his warehouse, Paul shows off has a dozen machines in various states of repair. He&rsquo;s nervous about us or anyone else taking photos, though, and maybe he&rsquo;s right to worry; if someone got the details of how his machines function, he says, they could build their own, and that would blow this whole thing wide open. A Disney &ldquo;imagineer&rdquo;, James Asher, <a href="http://ashermade.com/2015/08/07/mini-molder-finished-photos/">actually reverse-engineered his own mold machine</a>, and, while he maintains the project is just a hobby, it&rsquo;s possible to imagine mouse-shaped clouds on the horizon.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The future of mold</span></p><p>What does the future hold for this niche of all niche industries? Costs are low, Paul says, and the strategy is already laid out: keep selling figurines at two dollars a pop. According to him, sales this year are better than ever.</p><p>He feels the company will keep up the momentum, since people just enjoy seeing something tangible made right before your eyes.</p><p>&ldquo;Mold-A-Rama machine is America 20 years ago, maybe 30 years ago, when we were all about manufacturing,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It just brings people back to probably a simpler time.&rdquo;</p><p>We&rsquo;ve been learning that there are more reasons behind the souvenir&rsquo;s longevity, though. An active online community shares photos and stories about the figurines, and our own call for Chicagoans&rsquo; experiences with Mold-A-Rama show people notice &mdash; and even love &mdash; the figurines&#39; quirks: the colors, the designs and, of course, the smell.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/moldarama/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/roundupembed.png" style="height: 378px; width: 620px;" title="Click to explore Curious City's Mold-A-Rama roundup." /></a></div><p>As you can see in the responses, nostalgia&rsquo;s part of the souvenir&rsquo;s ongoing success. Mold-A-Rama fans are a multigenerational bunch, from grandparents who encountered the machines decades ago to grandkids experiencing it for the first time. Collectors often shell out <a href="http://www.ebay.com/itm/VTG-Weeki-Watchee-Florida-Springs-Mermaid-MOLD-A-RAMA-Mold-A-matic-Souvenir-/121794113040?hash=item1c5b7eae10:g:G-EAAOSwrklU9MWs">more than $200 for a rare figurine</a>, and some pay up to $15,000 for their own machine, like Jack White.</p><p>Fifty years of accumulated memories is part of the Mold-A-Rama legacy and a major reason that Mold-A-Rama&rsquo;s &ldquo;luck&rdquo; is unlikely to run out any time soon.</p><p><span style="font-size: 24px;">About our questioner</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/qaskerandmoldville.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Questioner Julie Piacentine and Mold-A-Rama Inc. co-owner Paul Jones at the businesses' headquarters in Brookfield, Illinois. (John Fecile/WBEZ)" /></p><p>University of Chicago librarian Julie Piacentine grew up in California, but lucky for us, she moved to the Mold-A-Rama heartland as an adult.</p><p>&ldquo;I first learned of them in Michigan,&rdquo; she recalls, &ldquo;but it was really in Chicago where it occurred to me that they are thing.&rdquo;</p><p>After telling coworkers that she was heading to the Brookfield headquarters of Mold-A-Rama, Inc., to help report this story, co-workers flew out of their offices with Mold-A-Ramas in hand to share their own stories.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s clearly this persistent love for Mold-A-Rama machines,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Julie herself may have missed out on this quirky regional obsession as a kid, but now she says that she finally has that childhood memory she was looking for, albeit in adulthood.</p><p><em><a name="tally"></a>Special thanks to coin-op history wizard Dave Slabiak for research help.</em></p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this report misspelled the name of a farm implement manufacturer. The correct spelling is John Deere.</em></p><p><em>John Fecile is writer, filmmaker, and current intern at Curious City. Follow him @johnfecile.</em></p><hr /><p>*Our count of Chicago&rsquo;s Mold-a-Ramas included <a href="http://mold-a-rama.com/index.php?p=1_17_Molds-in-Production" target="_blank">machines operated by the Jones family in the city proper and the Brookfield Zoo</a>, as well as privately-owned machines at the <a href="http://volocars.com/">Volo Auto Museum</a> and the Chicago toy boutique <a href="http://rotofugi.com/">Rotofugi</a>, featuring <a href="http://www.roto-a-matic.com/">molds designed by artist Tim Biskup</a>.</p><p>If you know of any other Mold-a-Rama machines in public places that we missed, please notify us by leaving a comment on this page or by emailing <a href="mailto:curiouscity@wbez.org" style="font-size: 10px;">curiouscity@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 17:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/mold-rama-rama-secrets-behind-chicagos-plastic-souvenir-empire-113794