WBEZ | Curious City http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Beyond deep-dish: Exploring Chicago's other native foods http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/beyond-deep-dish-exploring-chicagos-other-native-foods-112815 <p><p>It was just a couple of &nbsp;years ago that some catty remarks on deep dish pizza almost triggered an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/chicago-still-deep-dish-town-fuhgeddaboudit-109417">East Coast-Midwest war</a>. And, by now, most of the foodie world knows Chicago&rsquo;s militance about &nbsp;ketchup-less hot dogs.</p><p>But those dishes have become food cliches, stuff tourists eat when they visit &mdash; not the quirky, lesser-known, culinary gems forged in hot little kitchens across the city.</p><p>Those are the foods that this Curious City questioner Rebbie Kinsella wanted to know about. She wrote:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Besides deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs, what are some other foods with a genesis in Chicago?</em></p><p>Kinsella says it was mostly her longtime interest in Chicago food culture that drove the question. But it was also spurred by a comment that her non-Chicagoan daughter-in-law made on her first visit to the Windy City.</p><p>&ldquo;I turned to her and said, Well, what do you think about Chicago?&rdquo; Kinsella remembered. &ldquo;And she said, &lsquo;Well, it has a lot of meat.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Ouch. But also, kind of true. Meat emerges as a consistent theme throughout the Chicago food pantheon, with only a few vegetarian exceptions. Still, in reporting this story, I realized something else about Chicago food inventions: Most folks have only tried the ones that come from their own part of our <a href="http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-most-diverse-cities-are-often-the-most-segregated/">large, persistently segregated city</a>. North Siders, for instance, can spend years missing out on culinary delicacies just miles away on the South or West sides.</p><p>Yes, there are some Chicago-invented foods that defy geographic and racial boundaries. Rebbie Kinsella referred to a couple, and there are others: gyros, Cracker Jacks, <a href="http://ushistoryscene.com/article/brownies/">brownies</a>, Twinkies and pizza puffs, to name a few. But how many North Siders have eaten a Jim Shoe, a Freddy or Bananamana? And how many South Siders have eaten the Akutagawa, jibaritos or even flaming saganaki?</p><p>Were your afterschool snacks conchas, pickles speared with candy canes, or bags of Cheetos topped with molten cheese? This, it seems, depends heavily on the neighborhood you live in or visit. <a href="http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-most-diverse-cities-are-often-the-most-segregated/" target="_blank">Still, as Nate Silver pointed out</a>, the news isn&rsquo;t all bad: Yes, we&rsquo;re extremely racially segregated, but also highly diverse. And this, I found, is borne out in our native foods.</p><p>As I&rsquo;ve chewed on this topic for the past few weeks, I&rsquo;ve come across dozens of dishes that were arguably invented, developed or perfected in Chicago. I&rsquo;ve pared it down to a list of 15, which is a good start in answering Rebbie Kinsella&rsquo;s question. (Sorry, Rebbie, for folks unfamiliar with the history, I feel we just had to mention hot dogs and deep-dish pizza!) But I&rsquo;ve done a little more than that, too: I&rsquo;ve ordered the list from most familiar to most obscure, and then listed where they can be found. Why? To give you a reason to visit a neighborhood off your everyday path.</p><p>My bet is that few people have tried all 15. If you have, you&rsquo;re probably an adventurous eater with an iron stomach and a deep familiarity with a wide array of Chicago neighborhoods. Congratulations!</p><p>I&rsquo;m ashamed to say, that until recently, I&rsquo;d only made it to No. 8. What about you?</p><p>As you move through the list, let us know if we missed something and how many you&rsquo;ve actually tried. If you&rsquo;ve got alternatives or better suggestions, we&rsquo;d love to see them in the comment section below.</p><p>Bon appetit!</p><p><strong>1.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.viennabeef.com/">Vienna Beef</a> Chicago style hot dog</strong>: It was 1893 when Austrian immigrants Emil Reichel and Sam Landry presented their Vienna beef hot dogs at the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/your-ticket-white-city-108994">Columbian Exposition</a>. The next year they opened a storefront selling bologna and sausages around Roosevelt and Halsted. As for the toppings, hot dog historian Bruce Kraig believes they developed around the Depression, inspired by various ethnic groups in the city. The mustard came from the Germans. Onions and tomatoes from the Greeks. Sweet relish from the Czechs. And the sport pepper from the Italians. Try it at <a href="http://www.geneandjudes.com/">Gene &amp; Jude&rsquo;</a>s in River Grove $2.59 &nbsp;All Neighborhoods.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/deep-dish-pizza-464.jpg" style="float: right; height: 288px; width: 350px;" title="Lou Malnati eating at Chicago's original deep dish pizza place, Pizze Uno, which later changed to Pizzeria Uno, at 29 East Ohio St. " /><strong>2. Deep dish pizza</strong>: Love it or hate it, this slab of thick buttery crust, gobs of cheese and crushed tomatoes debuted in Chicago around 1943, when Pizzeria Uno owner Ike Sewell dreamed it up. Despite all the jealous hate from the East Coast, folks from across the country still line up to taste it at pizza joints all over the Chicago area. Try it at <a href="http://www.unos.com/">Pizzeria Uno on Wabash St</a>. $12.79 for a small cheese.</p><p><strong>3. Gyros</strong>: Spinning stacks of spiced meat can be found all over the world. But it was in 1970s-era Chicago that Greek-Americans decided to grind up the lamb, beef and spices and turn it into a preformed cone o&rsquo; meat known as gyros (that&rsquo;s YEE-ros). One of those guys was Chris Tomaras who started <a href="http://kronosfoodsinc.com/">Kronos</a>, which ships cones all over the country from its Glendale Heights factory. Excellent versions of this shaved meat on griddled pita, topped with tomatoes, onions and tzatziki abound, but we&rsquo;re partial to <a href="http://www.eathubs.com/">Hub&rsquo;s on Lincoln Ave</a>. $6.05</p><p><strong>4. Italian beef</strong>: This sandwich of thinly sliced roast beef, cooked in its own juices and served on an Italian roll with spicy giardiniera and/or sweet peppers is widely attributed to Depression-era Italian immigrants in Chicago. But the folks at Al&rsquo;s Beef, which opened in 1938, lay claim to its eventual development as a popular, often juicy, sandwich. Try it at<a href="http://www.alsbeef.com/"> Al&rsquo;s Italian Beef</a>. $6.35.</p><p><strong>5. Flaming saganaki</strong>: Today it&rsquo;s hard to find sit-down a Greek restaurant in Chicago that doesn&rsquo;t erupt in cries of &ldquo;opaa!&rdquo; as someone lights a block of cheese on fire. But that wasn&rsquo;t true before 1968, when staff at Chicago&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.theparthenon.com/history.html">Parthenon</a> decided to add a dose of theatricality to the fried cheese dish known as saganaki. Usually made with a salty, high melting point cheese like kesseri or halloumi, it&rsquo;s delicious smeared on a chunk of crusty bread. Try it at <a href="http://www.pegasustavernas.com/menu.html">Pegasus Taverna in Greektown</a>. $6. &nbsp;</p><p><strong>6. Chicken Vesuvio</strong>: While it may be true that Southern Italians have been baking chicken with garlic, lemon, white wine and herbs (and serving it with potatoes and peas) for a super long time, Chicagoans can take credit for marketing it as Chicken Vesuvio. Was it because it started at the Vesuvio Restaurant on Wacker Drive in the &lsquo;30s, or was it meant to commemorate the explosion of the Mount Vesuvius volcano? Unclear, but it definitely delivers an explosion of garlic that you won&rsquo;t forget. Try it at <a href="http://www.harrycarays.com/">Harry Caray&rsquo;s</a> $21.95, or a little less at several <a href="http://heartofchicago.com/business-directory/">Heart of Chicago</a> spots.</p><p><strong>7. Pepper and Egg sandwich</strong>: Drop by several Chicago Italian joints during Lent and chances are you&rsquo;ll find this meatless combo of scrambled eggs, sweet peppers (and sometimes potatoes) on a crusty Italian roll. Many places even serve it all year. Though no one has emerged as the official pepper-and-egg inventor, the sandwich is broadly attributed to early 20th Century Chicago Italian home cooks who wanted to create a tasty, packable meatless meal. You can try it at <a href="http://www.ferrosbeef.com/">Ferro&rsquo;s Beef in Bridgeport</a>. $5.99.</p><p><strong>8. Jibaro/jibarito</strong>: When chef Juan C. Figueroa was leafing through a Puerto Rican newspaper in the mid-1990s he saw a recipe for a lettuce and tomato sandwich that used fried green plantains for bread. He beefed it up with seared steak, mayonnaise, American cheese and a schmear of garlic oil and introduced it to customers at his Humboldt Park restaurant as the jibaro. Today dozens of restaurants serve the sandwich all over the country. Try the original Jibaro at <a href="https://www.facebook.com/borinquenresturant5247">Borinquen Restaurant II</a>. $4.95.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/jibaro.png" style="height: 379px; width: 620px;" title="The jibaro was inspired by a recipe in a Puerto Rican newspaper in the mid-1990s. Today, you can find the sandwich in dozens of restaurants in and out of Chicago. (WBEZ/Monica Eng) " /></div><p><strong>9.&nbsp;</strong><a href="http://www.lthforum.com/2013/06/in-search-of-the-jim-shoe/"><strong>Jim Shoe</strong>:</a> &nbsp;I learned about this sandwich through genetics researcher and South Side food buff Peter Engler, <a href="http://www.lthforum.com/2013/06/in-search-of-the-jim-shoe/">who writes extensively about it</a>. He&rsquo;s never pinpointed the inventor but believes the Shoe emerged on the South Side sometime during the &lsquo;70s or &lsquo;80s. At its essence a Jim Shoe (there are many spelling variations) features roast beef, corned beef and gyros on a sub roll, complete with giardiniera and a tzatziki-like sauce. Today the sandwich has spawned the crispy (deep fried) Jim Shoe, the super Jim Shoe taco and even the halal Jim Shoe, which has traveled from the South Side to the North Side through Pakistan &mdash; or at least the Pakistani-American owners of South Side sub shops. They often make the best Jim Shoe, one that&rsquo;s chopped up and griddled before it hits the roll. Try the &ldquo;Delicious Gym Shoe&rdquo; with grilled onions, multiple sauces and Swiss cheese at <a href="http://www.southtownsub.co/">Southtown Sub 240 E 35th St</a>. $6.99 to $10.99.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gymshoe.png" style="height: 360px; width: 620px;" title="The Jim, or sometimes spelled Gym, Shoe blends roast beef, corned beef, gyros, and gyros sauce in one sandwich. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" /></div><p><strong>10. Mother in Law</strong>: This sandwich, featuring a Tom Tom or corn roll style tamal served in a hot dog bun with chili or hot dog condiments, is slowly fading from Chicago menus. It&rsquo;s another South Side oddity that<a href="http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=3932"> Engler has been studying</a> for several years and one whose exact origin also remains elusive. Try it at <a href="http://fatjohnnies.com/">Fat Johnnies in Marquette Park</a>. $2.</p><p><strong>11. The Freddy</strong>: This Italian sausage patty, topped by mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce and peppers on a French roll is also a <a href="http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=14&amp;t=15074">favorite research topic</a> of Engler&rsquo;s. It&rsquo;s a product of the far Southwest Side that he believes was birthed at Chuck&rsquo;s Pizza by Benny Russo, who named it after his son. Engler&rsquo;s pick for a great Freddy is at <a href="http://www.calabria-imports.com/">Calabria Imports</a>. $6.79.</p><p><strong>12. Big Baby</strong>: This double cheeseburger, native to restaurants around Midway Airport, is yet another <a href="http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=2001">area of study for Engler</a>. He dates its birth to around 1969 and probably at Nicky&rsquo;s in Gage Park, which now has other locations. While a double cheeseburger with American cheese, grilled onions, pickles, mustard and ketchup on a toasted bun is not &nbsp;unique to Chicago, the precise order of ingredients, name and geographic specificity of this creation set it apart from others. You can try it at <a href="http://www.nickysrealmccoy.com/">Nicky&rsquo;s</a>. $2.79.</p><p><strong>13. Akutagawa</strong>: Sometime during the late &lsquo;60s &mdash; when Wrigleyville had a large working class Japanese-American population &mdash; a character named George Akutagawa was a regular at a diner called Hamburger King. There he asked his pal, HK&rsquo;s cook and owner Joe Yamauchi, to saute a mix of chopped burger, bean sprouts, onions and green peppers along with a couple of eggs. The dish caught on with other customers and even other restaurants. Five decades, three owners and one name change later, it&rsquo;s still a popular item on the menu, although the diner is now owned by Korean Americans. Try it at <a href="http://www.ricenbread.com/">Rice and Bread</a>. $7.49 with a signature side of rice and gravy.</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/akutagawa.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="Akutagawa blends bean sprouts, onions, burger, peppers and eggs into a beige hodgepodge. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p><strong>14. Jerk Taco</strong>: Chef Julius &ldquo;The Jerk Taco Man&rdquo; Thomas says he uses his Kingston-born great grandfather&rsquo;s jerk recipe to make tender, smokey, perfectly spiced meat that gets stuffed into flour tortillas and topped with cilantro, onions and cheese. Even if it&rsquo;s unclear where and when these jerk tacos were invented, Thomas has put his restaurant on the map; lines can last for more than two hours to get this ultra-generous Jamaican-Mexican mashup, available in steak, chicken, lamb, fish and shrimp. Thomas will now let you avoid lines through online ordering and a $5 convenience charge. You can try one at <a href="http://www.jerktacoman.com/">Jerk Taco Man</a>. $5.</p><p><strong>15. Banana Mana</strong>: Reese Price is an inventor and cook who runs a tiny joint around 63rd and Carpenter. Technically, it&rsquo;s called Mr. Allen&rsquo;s Sweet Shop, but don&rsquo;t look for that on his sign. Instead, look for the billboard that says &ldquo;Home of the Bananamana.&rdquo; This creamy, smooth cross between pudding and gelato comes in a clear cup with vanilla wafers and crumbles tucked around the edges. But Price, who patented the recipe last year, claims it&rsquo;s better for you than banana pudding. You can find his Bananamana in stores and restaurants around the South Side. But for service by the inventor, stop by his tiny shop at 1022 &frac12; W 63rd St. 773-491-8467. $3 per dessert, two for $5.</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/bananamana.png" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="The Banana Mana is the creation of Reese Price, who owns a place named Mr. Allen's Sweet shop around 63rd and Carpenter streets. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee) " /></div><p><span style="font-size:24px;">More about our questioner</span></p><p>Computer tech and mom of two, Rebbie Kinsella, was born in the Chicago area and moved to Beverly about 20 years ago with her husband of 35 years. She&rsquo;s a longtime member of WBEZ and an avid gardener and pie baker.</p><p>&ldquo;I make a mean strawberry rhubarb pie,&rdquo; she reports.</p><p>And as for Chicago food, she loves its diversity whether she&rsquo;s out for Middle Eastern, Latin American, Mediterranean, &ldquo;and you can&rsquo;t beat a good Chicago hot dog with celery salt.&rdquo;</p><p>Kinsella&rsquo;s been thinking about this Chicago food question for a while and had a pretty specific one to add on: &ldquo;Since it&rsquo;s called Chicago Mix, I assume that cheese corn mixed with caramel corn also had its start here?&rdquo;</p><p>Sorry, Rebbie, the folks at <a href="http://www.candylandstore.com/">Candlyland, Inc. of St. Paul, Minnesota</a>, trademarked &ldquo;Chicago Mix&rdquo; in 1992 and, in fact, <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-garrett-popcorn-chicago-mix-lawsuit-20140902-story.html">won a lawsuit against Garrett&rsquo;s about it</a>. Garrett&rsquo;s now calls its blend &ldquo;Garrett&rsquo;s Mix.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 02 Sep 2015 17:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/beyond-deep-dish-exploring-chicagos-other-native-foods-112815 Mystery boat: Alone and idle in a waterlogged corner of Chicago http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/mystery-boat-alone-and-idle-waterlogged-corner-chicago-112735 <p><p>There is something incongruous, maybe even outlandish, about seeing a big rusty ship from a freeway in America&rsquo;s Breadbasket.</p><p>Have you ever seen it? The 620-foot vessel docked up on the Calumet River under the Illinois International Port sign, clearly visible by anyone driving north on the Bishop Ford Expressway.</p><p>Our questioner, Chicagoan Samantha Kruse, saw it while out on her uncle&rsquo;s boat. They&rsquo;d set out for a leisurely cruise on the Calumet River when, there she blew: a giant old hulk of a ship. Seemingly abandoned. Covered in rust.</p><p>She joked with her uncle that it was likely haunted and filled with ghosts. But ultimately, she wondered, &ldquo;What is the deal with that ship?&rdquo;</p><p>So she came to Curious City for help. (As did two other people who asked about this boat).</p><p>An answer, though? This turned out to be a bit of a head scratcher. Initial research brought up very little. And most people we asked had absolutely no clue. Even the security guard who guards the Port&rsquo;s entrance, where the ship is docked, had no idea why the boat was there. He just knew it never moved.</p><p>But we do have an account of the boat&rsquo;s predicament, one that reveals a lot about the fate of a regional industry as well as a waterlogged corner of the city that &mdash; when it&rsquo;s not just passed up entirely &mdash; is probably best known for heavy industry, as well as black clouds of swirling <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/state-city-move-crack-down-petcoke-chicago-109412">petroleum coke pollution</a> or a <a href="http://www.calumetfisheries.com/">colorful shack that produces famous smoked shrimp and sturgeon</a>.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The mystery boat, uncovered</span></p><p>Our research produced a name for the vessel: <a href="http://www.boatnerd.com/pictures/fleet/ctcno1.htm" target="_blank">the C.T.C No. 1</a>.</p><p>The C.T.C No. 1 &mdash; just the latest in a string of five names given by each new owner &mdash; was built in 1942 and moved iron ore to steel mills throughout the Great Lakes. It was wartime, and the country was hungry for raw materials to produce more ships, tanks and aircraft. The ship continued to ferry bulk materials around the Great Lakes until 1980, when it was converted into a cement storage facility, a job it stopped doing in 2009.</p><p>So, clearly the ship had been useful at one point, but what was it doing now? And why didn&rsquo;t it ever move?</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m13!1m8!1m3!1d3325.873456615632!2d-87.58940332364065!3d41.666989634240146!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m2!1m1!1s0x880e26c7283a4ef7%3A0x614fbf32bcd2ea29!5e1!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1440623973334" style="border:0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Even in the Google age, you can&rsquo;t get a succinct account of why the boat&rsquo;s idle. To get a fuller picture, I interviewed people in the ship&rsquo;s neighborhood, a sleepy industrial swath on the city&rsquo;s Southeast Side that&rsquo;s home steel processing facilities, the Ford Motor Co. plant, as well as yacht clubs and tugboat companies.</p><p>I got some of the most useful information from the<a href="http://www.chicagoshipmasters.com/"> International Shipmasters Association</a>, which, lucky for me, was holding its monthly meeting at Georgie&rsquo;s Tavern on 134th Street. Several members said the boat had been a mystery to them, too.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve heard the question many, many, many times,&rdquo; said Marshal Bundren, the chaplain of the shipmasters local. &ldquo;Because there is a great big ship and here we are in the middle of the Midwest on a ten-lane highway driving by. Why is that there?&rdquo;</p><p>But Bob Hansen, the shipmasters secretary, was familiar with the mystery boat and its history.</p><p>&ldquo;[It&rsquo;s the] Bethlehem Steel boat,&rdquo; he said, referring to an earlier owner. &ldquo;It says C.T.C. 1 on it because they use it for storing cement.&rdquo; (The C.T.C comes from its time in service for Cement Transit Co. of Detroit.)</p><p>Hansen went on to say, in rapid-fire succession, what our earlier research had shown: that the ship was built in 1942 and was used to move iron ore throughout the Great Lakes during World War II.</p><p>&ldquo;She&rsquo;s empty and there is no place for her to go. She has no home,&rdquo; Hansen said. He went on to explain that the walls of the ship contain asbestos, <a href="http://www2.epa.gov/asbestos/learn-about-asbestos#asbestos">a highly carcinogenic mineral fiber once commonly used for insulation and fireproofing</a>. Scrapping the boat, he added, would likely require expensive safety procedures.</p><p>And with the shipping industry as it is, struggling, it was too expensive to justify the rehab.</p><p>&ldquo;So for the moment it&rsquo;s sitting,&rdquo; he said of the vessel.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="410" id="iframe" scrolling="no" src="//flickrit.com/slideshowholder.php?height=400&amp;width=620&amp;size=medium&amp;speed=stop&amp;setId=72157657382651669&amp;click=true&amp;caption=on&amp;credit=2&amp;trans=1&amp;theme=1&amp;thumbnails=0&amp;transition=0&amp;layoutType=fixed&amp;sort=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Why it doesn&rsquo;t shove off</span></p><p>Scott Bravener, the president of Grand River Navigation, who owns the C.T.C. No. 1, assured me that the asbestos is well contained, though its future is unknown. He said it would cost the company roughly $30 million to rehabilitate the ship and integrate it back into the company&rsquo;s fleet as a working barge. (The boat no longer has an engine.) The company already owns three of its sister ships. And with the C.T.C.&rsquo;s hull still in relatively good condition, the ship acts almost like an insurance policy if something goes wrong with one of the other vessels.</p><p>It&rsquo;s also pretty inexpensive to keep it where it is. According to the Port, Grand River pays $600 per month to keep the C.T.C. No.1 docked there.</p><p>But, according to Bravener, the ultimate reason the ship sits idle is because there isn&rsquo;t enough demand to justify putting it into service, a view corroborated by William Strauss, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago specializing in manufacturing and shipping on the Great Lakes.</p><p>Strauss said softness in the shipping industry is due to sluggish global growth and a lack of investment in the country&rsquo;s infrastructure for shipping.</p><p>&ldquo;Low commodity prices [and] some struggle with regard to growth of different markets for commodities, has really left a challenge to justify the expenditure,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Overall, the shipping industry is still relatively active, but the Port of Chicago is not the economic engine it once was. According to a 2011 report, the most recent data available, the Port generates nearly 2,700 jobs, 25 percent less than it did nearly a decade prior. And the jobs the Port creates indirectly have dropped by 22 percent over the same period. Industry-wide, shipping on the Great Lakes faces headwinds, due to the phasing out of coal and a steel industry that has yet to return to its pre-Recession peak. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s an industry that will never die. But it will never get better,&rdquo; Hansen said. &ldquo;It just gets smaller and smaller and smaller. As we lose our steel. As we lose our cement. As we lose our coal.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, marine transport is the most economic way to get cargo from one place to another &mdash; <a href="http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11134.pdf">far cheaper than trucking and even rail</a>.</p><p>But a struggling manufacturing sector mixed with low commodity prices, means ships like the C.T.C. No. 1 are left waiting in the wings, stuck in a kind of limbo where they&rsquo;re too valuable to ditch, but not useful enough to repair.</p><p>However, there is one thing working in the favor of Great Lakes shipping. Despite the rusty look of the ship, Strauss said the fresh water of the Great Lakes is forgiving on vessels, nearly tripling their lifespan compared to their ocean-going counterparts. Boats like C.T.C. No. 1 have the possibility of being reintroduced to fleet, even after years spent idle.</p><p>When I told our questioner, Samantha Kruse, that her mystery ship was not abandoned, but just empty and unused, she wasn&rsquo;t all that surprised. &ldquo;I think that is where I thought it was heading,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>What&rsquo;s more, she said she&rsquo;s glad to be reminded that the Calumet River isn&rsquo;t just for recreational boating. That in fact, there is an active shipping industry still there.</p><p>&ldquo;There are all these people working on barges. It&rsquo;s not something I think about everyday,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>One thing she is a little bummed about, she said: &ldquo;That I probably can&rsquo;t make the boat into an awesome haunted house one day.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/samanthastudio.jpg" style="height: 420px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="Questioner Samantha Kruse at the WBEZ studios. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">More about our questioner</span></p><p>Samantha Kruse grew up in the South suburb of Lansing, Illinois. The 27-year-old program adviser at the University of Illinois at Chicago said she noticed the ship &mdash; never moving, always there &mdash; for years. But it wasn&rsquo;t until she saw the mammoth ship from the waterside that her curiosity peaked.\</p><p>She tried the usual Googling spree, but couldn&rsquo;t find much of anything. Only one article that referred to it as simply, &ldquo;a rusted boat.&rdquo; Clearly, she knew that already.</p><p>&ldquo;I was so fascinated that this whole other part of Chicago existed that I never really thought about,&rdquo; Kruse says, referring to the shipping industry on the Great Lakes. &ldquo;Then we came close to that rusted boat and I was like what&rsquo;s the deal with that boat.&rdquo;</p><p>Her family has always been big boaters, but even they didn&rsquo;t know anything about the ship. &ldquo;It was accepted. It was just there,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Kruse lives in Logan Square with her rescue dog. She says she&rsquo;s glad to know the ship had a past, though she&rsquo;s not all that surprised it&rsquo;s idle and empty.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s good to know she had a name and where she was from &hellip; and people cared about her,&rdquo; she says.</p></p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/mystery-boat-alone-and-idle-waterlogged-corner-chicago-112735 Are there fallout shelters left in Chicago? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/are-there-fallout-shelters-left-chicago-112688 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/artworks-000126892821-754uuh-t500x500.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Kyle Bolyard&rsquo;s drive to work as a history teacher in suburban Niles, Illinois, takes him past a strange sign. It&rsquo;s planted on the side of a sturdy, brick building owned by the regional wastewater treatment authority.</p><p>&ldquo;I pass this building every single day and at some some point along the way I just kind of noticed it,&rdquo; says Bolyard, 26. &ldquo;It&#39;s a pretty small sign. It&#39;s kind of rusted a little bit. It says &lsquo;fallout shelter on floors one and in basement.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Fallout shelter, as in nuclear fallout following an atomic bomb blast. The symbol on the sign is familiar to Americans who lived through the Cold War: three yellow triangles circumscribed in a circle, pointing down. That sign got Kyle thinking.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>I was wondering if there were any nuclear fallout a nuclear blast shelters left in the city of Chicago or the area.</em></p><p>By some estimates there were hundreds of thousands of dedicated fallout shelters built in the 20 years following World War II. We looked for one still standing, and we did find some old shelters. But they&rsquo;re hardly the apocalypse-proof, fully-stocked bunkers that were once ready to weather a bomb blast and weeks-worth of radioactive fallout. Still, these remnants of Cold War-era infrastructure do exist across the city. In fact, buildings that served as fallout shelters are often in places you might not expect.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;It was an eerie time.&rsquo;</span></p><p>It feels distant to many people today, but for years the world was gripped with fears of a possible nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States. Each country stockpiled tens of thousands of nuclear warheads in the decades following World War II, pursuing a strategy of &ldquo;deterrence&rdquo; by bulking up to discourage an attack. Meanwhile the now-defunct Office of Civil &amp; Defense Mobilization (commonly called Civil Defense) focused on preparing Americans for the unthinkable. A lot of people from this era remember <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKqXu-5jw60" target="_blank">Bert the Turtle, who taught a generation of kids to &quot;duck and cover&quot;</a> in the event of a bomb.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BFT8hLjHtuE" width="420"></iframe></p><p>They were worried about two things: the actual blast of an atomic bomb, of course, but also its fallout &mdash; contaminated dust and debris kicked up into the air and rendered radioactive by a nuclear explosion.</p><p>Big, industrial cities like Chicago were considered major targets for a possible nuclear attack. Diane Addams, who grew up in the Woodlawn neighborhood during the 1950s, remembers it as an anxious time.</p><p>&ldquo;It was kind of scary,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;People were buying and making fallout shelters, and trying to find out where we could go if there was an attack and all that kind of stuff. And they had those little signs that were saying that you go here, like in the subway, or certain other areas.&rdquo;</p><p>Addams says those who had the money and a little property could build their own bunkers. As apartment dwellers, her family had to have faith in public shelters.</p><p>&ldquo;It was just an eerie time,&rdquo; says Addams.</p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="0.9148073022312373" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_99201" scrolling="no" src="https://www.scribd.com/embeds/275207521/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;access_key=key-MfCvfCEg3HkiBdpwfmVj&amp;show_recommendations=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Cold War preparation really got hot in 1961, when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev threatened to cut off Western access to Berlin, <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/berlin-is-divided" target="_blank">then a divided city</a>. President John F. Kennedy <a href="http://www.presidentialrhetoric.com/historicspeeches/kennedy/berlincrisis.html" target="_blank">addressed the nation, pumping up the Civil Defense budget and urging Americans to prepare</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;In contrast to our friends in Europe, the need for this kind of protection is new to our shores. But the time to start is now,&rdquo; Kennedy said. &ldquo;In the coming months, I hope to let every citizen know what steps he can take without delay to protect his family in case of attack. I know that you will want to do no less.&rdquo;</p><p>Although some historians say the speech was mainly meant to intimidate Khrushchev, one effect was to stoke public anxieties about nuclear war.</p><p>&ldquo;There&#39;s this huge national debate of whether or not to build a shelter. Some magazine called that the question, &lsquo;To dig or not to dig,&rsquo;&rdquo; says Kenneth Rose, a professor at California State University Chico and author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/One-Nation-Underground-Fallout-American/dp/0814775233" target="_blank">the book One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in American Culture</a>. &nbsp;&ldquo;Almost every newspaper and every magazine in the country had articles on nuclear war and fallout shelters.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Local response: Cold War conversions</span></p><p>Like many cities across the country, Chicago designated existing structures as public fallout shelters, typically choosing large masonry buildings with windowless basements and thick stone or concrete walls. Federal officials affixed these buildings with reflective metal signs measuring 10 by 14 inches. In Chicago those included public school buildings, <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1976/10/31/page/4/article/display-ad-526-no-title" target="_blank">City Hall</a> and, indeed, the Terrence J. O&#39;Brien Water Reclamation Plant at 3500 W. Howard St. &mdash; the building that inspired Kyle Bolyard&rsquo;s question.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/nuclearshelters/falloutSheltersThumb.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 487px; margin: 5px;" title="Fallout shelter sign posted at 3500 Howard St, Skokie, Illinois. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>Practically every town in America had some sort of public refuge like this, and Chicago had thousands. <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1967/07/13/page/83/article/civil-defense-devises-methods-to-study-home-shelter-potential" target="_blank">In 1967 the Chicago Tribune reported</a> that Cook county had 2,522 public fallout shelters, of which 1,691 were stocked with food and supplies. About three quarters of the county&rsquo;s 5 million people could have fit in the shelters, most of which were downtown, in the Loop.</p><p>Federal Civil Defense officials were responsible for stocking fallout shelters with everything they&rsquo;d need to survive at least two weeks underground. <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1962/10/26/page/8/article/u-s-spending-80-million-for-shelter-stock#text" target="_blank">Nationally the Pentagon spent more than $80 million on supplies</a>, which included bulgur wheat crackers for nutrition, giant drums of water and &ldquo;sanitation kits&rdquo; for personal hygiene.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://docsteach.org/documents/7386473/detail?menu=closed&amp;mode=search&amp;sortBy=relevance&amp;q=primarily+teaching+2015&amp;commit=Go" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/nuclearshelters/0849falloutShelterSupplyInventory.jpg" style="width: 610px; height: 485px; margin: 5px;" title="Supplies suggested for bomb and fallout shelters around the height of the Cold War. (Source: Records of The Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization)" /></a></p><p>None of the agencies that we talked to &mdash; local, county, state, federal &mdash; could say exactly when they stopped checking up on fallout shelters in Chicago, or even what happened to any of the records about how many shelters existed in the area. It just kind of dropped off.</p><p>And by 1963 some survival kits were already deteriorating in storage. <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1963/11/24/page/12/article/civil-defense-kits-in-storage#text" target="_blank">The Tribune reported supplies for 2.2 million people were sitting &ldquo;virtually untouched&rdquo;</a> in federal warehouses at 39th Street &amp; Pershing Road and at O&#39;Hare International Airport. &ldquo;According to records of the federal government, Illinois ranks 50th in the fallout shelter stocking program. Chicago rates at the bottom of the list of metropolitan cities,&rdquo; <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1963/11/24/page/12/article/civil-defense-kits-in-storage" target="_blank">reported David Halvorsen</a>. Just a few dozen of the 3,000 federally approved shelters had been stocked, months or years after they&rsquo;d been designated as public refuges.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Local response: new construction</span></p><p>In some cases, though, the city did more to adapt to Cold War concerns than just slap a fallout shelter sign onto existing buildings and wait for federal supplies &mdash; a fact that becomes apparent during a tour conducted by Larry Langford, spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department. Langford drives me, questioner Kyle, and his wife, Amanda Snyder, around the South Side to see a few fire stations that had their own dedicated fallout shelters.</p><p>&ldquo;Most of the North Side fire houses have been replaced. So we have to, of course, go to old firehouses to find this,&rdquo; says Langford, who remembers Bert the Turtle&rsquo;s &ldquo;duck and cover&rdquo; drills.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="basement of Chicago Fire Department Engine 15, 8028 S. Kedzie Ave" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/nuclearshelters/doorToTheVaultForWeb.jpg" style="width: 600px; margin: 5px;" title="Basement of Chicago Fire Department Engine 15, 8028 S. Kedzie Ave. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>Today the space under Engine 60 in Hyde Park looks like a lot of basements: Firemen use it to store their workout equipment, as well as bicycles they help repair for kids in the neighborhood. During the Cold War, though, the basement had heavy steel doors that could seal in hundreds of people at a time. The shelter also had a generator and a sophisticated air handling system to keep out radioactive debris.</p><p>&ldquo;The walls are very thick concrete designed to withstand all kinds of shock,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>As for a direct hit by an atomic bomb?</p><p>&ldquo;Nothing&#39;s going to withstand that,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>For questioner Kyle Bolyard, the area looks like what he expected: bare concrete walls, big open spaces and dark, twisting corridors.</p><p>&ldquo;You can imagine just rows and rows of cots or bed mats,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It would be really dark and really cramped.&rdquo;</p><p>Snyder adds: &ldquo;I would imagine it would start to smell really bad after a couple hours.&rdquo;</p><p>All of the shelter&rsquo;s supplies were thrown out a long time ago, says Langford, but the structure remains solid.</p><p>&ldquo;We could still use it if we had to,&rdquo; he says.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/nuclearshelters/gasMeterKyle.jpg" style="width: 610px; height: 405px; margin: 5px;" title="Basement of Chicago Fire Department Engine 60, 1150 E. 55th St. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Local response: private construction</span></p><p>Some patriotic citizens built their own shelters, following the advice of nationally circulated pamphlets and public service announcements preaching vigilance.</p><p>&ldquo;In the event of enemy attack, every item on this list is essential,&rdquo; reads one of the many advertisements placed in Civil Defense literature and popular magazines. Their list includes a personal dosimeter for each member of the family to measure radiation exposure, as well as fire extinguishers, radios, air filters and a toilet for the fallout shelter.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/nuclearshelters/gilhoolyPermit.png" style="width: 610px; height: 348px; margin: 5px;" /></p><p>In 1961 Bernice Gilhooly built Chicago&rsquo;s first publicly authorized, private fallout shelter. <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1961/08/22/page/5/article/county-board-oks-building-bomb-shelter" target="_blank">The Chicago Tribune reported Gilhooly planned to spend $3,500 on her subterranean shelter &mdash; almost $28,000 in today&rsquo;s dollars. But, the secretary and mother of three told the newspaper it was worth it</a>:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Asked if she expected to be the subject of joshing by her neighbors, she said: &#39;I don&#39;t care. A lot of them could look foolish because they didn&#39;t think along the same lines we do.&rdquo; Asked if he planned to build a family shelter, [Mayor Richard J.] Daley replied, &ldquo;After the matter is thoroly [sic] gone over, we will take the necessary steps to protect our family.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>The structure got in the way of property modifications next door, and the shelter was imploded. Today Jim Schaller owns the Bridgeport home, as well as the remains of the bomb shelter.</p><p>&ldquo;It had trundle beds on the wall. It had five gallon glass containers of water. There was a crank to crank air in, air shafts that were sticking out the property next door,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;They locked a heavy door, metal door locked on both sides.&rdquo;</p><p>Schaller says he threw out the old supplies. Now he does his laundry by the patched-over drywall that was once home to the shelter&rsquo;s steel vault door. He and his wife never thought to save the shelter, even though they&rsquo;re old enough to remember those anxious days when Cold War missiles were ready to fly.</p><p>&ldquo;It was a novelty is all it was &mdash; a place to put junk,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Another closet.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What&rsquo;s the use?</span></p><p>In spite of the nation&rsquo;s Cold War preoccupation with preparing for a nuclear attack, many people at the time doubted the shelters&rsquo; effectiveness. They also wondered whether there was any use in preparing for fallout when a blast itself would likely wipe out most Chicagoans before they had a chance to hunker down.</p><p>&ldquo;No other nation, even Russia, is so perturbed about shelters. Could it be that it is propaganda to distract our attention from more immediate problems?&rdquo; <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1961/10/23/page/18/article/bomb-shelter-hysteria" target="_blank">asked &ldquo;E.H.&rdquo; in a 1961 letter to the Tribune</a>. &ldquo;Let us by all means make our homes as safe as possible, but let us not allow &quot;fallout&quot; to become an obsession with us.&rdquo;</p><p>That helps explain why only a minority of Americans built their own shelter. Add that to the fact that an effective shelter could cost about $2,500 (about half of the median family income in 1961), and you have an explanation for why the nation&rsquo;s brief obsession with bomb-proof shelters translated into relatively few structures.</p><p>&ldquo;For a very brief time there was this frenzy of private shelter building. But even the frenzy was only a small number of people. It never really caught on,&rdquo; says Stephen Schwartz, editor of the<em> <a href="http://cns.miis.edu/npr/index.htm" target="_blank">Nonproliferation Review</a> </em>and adjunct professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. &ldquo;I think people just sort of resigned themselves to the fact that if this did happen this was all going to be over pretty quickly. It didn&#39;t matter if you were above ground or below &mdash; you were toast.&rdquo;</p><p>That blend of skepticism and fatalism even spread among public officials.</p><p>&ldquo;Someone asked Chicago&#39;s chief Civil Defense administrator what they should do,&rdquo; says Kenneth Rose. &ldquo;And he said, and I quote, &lsquo;Take cover and pray.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Bernard Kelly, who was the Civil Defense Director of suburban Oak Forest during the early and mid-sixties, says he never thought fallout shelters were an effective response. But the exercises of stocking them and practicing drills proved useful when they needed to deploy responses to natural disasters. And, he says, it was reassuring.</p><p>&quot;There was a general Cold War threat that hung over the nation,&rdquo; he says. &quot;And the alternative was to do nothing. It&#39;s not human nature to do nothing.&quot;</p><p>After President Kennedy called for millions of dollars to stock fallout shelters around the country in 1961, Chicago aldermen and <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1961/08/22/page/5/article/county-board-oks-building-bomb-shelter" target="_blank">Cook County commissioners</a> decided to <a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1961/08/19/page/9/article/bomb-shelter-rules-set-by-city-council" target="_blank">allow Chicagoans to build their own shelters</a>, in case the public network wasn&rsquo;t enough. A reporter for the <em>Christian Science Monitor </em>was at that meeting:</p><blockquote><p>When aldermen were not harassing the discussion they clipped fingernails are gone towards the ceiling for for the most for the most part paying little attention to the government shelter documents handed them at the beginning of the meeting. Few of them asked to vote for the significant ordinance had ever seen the pertinence data previously. Further indication of the perfunctory action apparently expected of the meeting.</p></blockquote><p>So even at the time, the urgency of the threat varied wildly, depending on who you asked.</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago certainly certainly wasn&#39;t unique here,&rdquo; says Rose. &ldquo;American cities simply were not prepared for a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. And we can all thank our lucky stars that this war didn&#39;t happen.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>(See also: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-happened-nike-missile-sites-around-chicago-105087" target="_blank">How Cold War anti-aircraft missiles were stationed across Chicago</a>)&nbsp;</em></p><p>What about today? The U.S.S.R. is no more, and there are far fewer nuclear warheads around now than during the Cold War. But nuclear war is still a possibility. Should we be stocking up and seeking shelter?</p><p>&ldquo;In my opinion,&rdquo; says Rose, &ldquo;living in fear of nuclear war is no way to live a life. And you know there&#39;s plenty of survivalists out there who have spent a lot of money preparing for this ghastly possibility. But as far as I&#39;m concerned that&rsquo;s wasted money, and a wasted way to live your life.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s easy to see fallout shelters as an historical oddity, and even to laugh at people like Bernice Gilhooly, who spent thousands of dollars preparing for a bomb that never dropped. Today we have our own national anxieties &mdash;&nbsp;about airport security, surveillance, terrorism&nbsp;&mdash; with public programs and private responses just as controversial as was a lot of Cold War culture. Someone born today might look back on one of our <a href="http://www.dhs.gov/see-something-say-something" target="_blank">&ldquo;if you see something, say something&rdquo; signs</a> with the same curiosity that drew questioner Kyle Bolyard to that rusty placard announcing a fallout shelter on his drive to work.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Meet our questioner: Kyle Bolyard</span></p><p><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/nuclearshelters/kyleBolyardForWeb.jpg" style="width: 330px; height: 248px; margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Kyle Bolyard at Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois. (Courtesy of Amanda Snyder)" />Kyle and his wife Amanda Snyder both teach at NewHope Academy in Niles. They say they first wondered about fallout shelters in the Chicago area when Kyle teamed up with a literature teacher at NewHope for a humanities class that included a unit on the Cold War. He was hoping to show the class a fallout shelter for a field trip.</p><p>&ldquo;I had them design their own fallout shelter,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Somebody had this huge stack of all the board games they would want to play for weeks &mdash; those kinds of things. A lot of people forgot basic stuff like food and water. But they had games covered.&rdquo;</p><p>Growing up in Edwardsville, Illinois, outside St. Louis, Kyle knew about Nike Missile sites nearby, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-happened-nike-missile-sites-around-chicago-105087" target="_blank">our story about similar sites in Chicago</a> got him wondering about other Cold War infrastructure that might still have echoes today.</p><p>Now that he&rsquo;s seen some old fallout shelters in person, he&rsquo;s satisfied; yes, he expected many bare concrete walls to be left behind, but he was still a little surprised.</p><p>&ldquo;I wondered if they would still be any supplies left around. It&#39;s interesting to hear that those are all removed at a certain point and these are kind of now being used for different things. I guess I didn&#39;t expect to see them as weight rooms now,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Space is so valuable, especially in Chicago, that you would take any available space like that and do something with it.&rdquo;</p><p>As for his own thoughts on what to have in a personal fallout shelter, Kyle boils it down to this: &ldquo;I think it all depends on who you have down there with you.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Chris Bentley is a freelance journalist</a> who reports regularly for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow him at <a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">cabentley.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 19 Aug 2015 18:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/are-there-fallout-shelters-left-chicago-112688 Where are Chicago's poor white neighborhoods? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-are-chicagos-poor-white-neighborhoods-112639 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/whitepovertythumb3.png" alt="" /><p><div><em>Editor&#39;s note: We&#39;re considering additional coverage for this story and we&#39;d like to know which follow-up questions about concentrated white poverty most interest you. Examples: How does Chicago compare to other Midwestern cities? How does this apply to the suburbs? What additional implications does this have for life in our region? If you like one of these or have your own, please place it in the comment section below. Thanks for considering it!</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Martha Victoria Diaz, a lawyer who grew up in Lake View during the late &lsquo;70s and &lsquo;80s, remembers the Chicago neighborhood as being fairly integrated. She remembers many Latino families like her own living on the block, as well as white households. But once the neighborhood began to gentrify, working class people of all races were displaced.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Martha says that got her thinking: It was easy to identify areas of Chicago where low-income Latinos live and, for that matter, where low-income African-Americans live, too. But where had all the white people gone? She followed up by asking:</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: center;"><em>Where are all the poor white neighborhoods?</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Diaz was especially curious because she knows that nationally, most beneficiaries of some poverty programs are white. (We&rsquo;re talking <a href="http://kff.org/medicaid/state-indicator/distribution-by-raceethnicity-4/">Medicaid</a> and the <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/ops/Characteristics2013.pdf">Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program</a>, aka food stamps.)</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>So in Chicago, where are all those people living? We found answers in the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, which reveal striking differences in concentrated poverty between Chicago&rsquo;s three largest racial/ethnic groups. We then called experts to explain how the disparate pictures of poverty in Chicago came to be. They also offered some big takeaways about how our attitudes about poverty and race may be shaped by housing patterns &mdash; and what that means for public policy.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:24px;">First, the data. Where are Chicago&rsquo;s poor white neighborhoods?</span></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>We began with U.S. Census data, which allowed us to drill down to individual census tracts across Chicago. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-are-chicagos-poor-white-neighborhoods-112639#data">After deciding on a methodology</a>, we generated a map showing areas of high-poverty for each of the races.</div><div><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/poverty/" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/mapstillFORWEB4.png" style="width: 620px; height: 395px;" /></a></div><div><div><a name="graph"></a>The data are striking. While it&rsquo;s easy to identify swaths of African-American poverty, and to a lesser extent Latino poverty, Chicago has just two isolated census tracts of white poverty, both of which are tucked away near the lake in the Rogers Park neighborhood. Looking closer, you might notice that those two tracts are in the area adjoining Loyola University&rsquo;s lakeshore campus. We might expect to see this in an area populated by college and graduate students!</div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><p data-pym-src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/white-poverty/child.html">&nbsp;</p><script src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/white-poverty/js/lib/pym.js" type="text/javascript"></script>This is not to say there&rsquo;s no white poverty in Chicago. Indeed, Census Bureau data from the 2009-2013 American Community Survey show 90,328 white Chicagoans living at or below the federal poverty level. But Martha&rsquo;s question is about concentrated white poverty. Our conclusion is that &mdash; those two North Side census tracts notwithstanding &mdash; there really is no concentrated white poverty in Chicago.<p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Why doesn&rsquo;t Chicago have concentrated white poverty?</span></p><p>This follow-up question is a logical one, given that <a href="https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p60-249.pdf">whites represent the largest group of poor people in the United States</a>. For answers, we first spoke with Janet Smith, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Illinois Chicago and co-director of the Natalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement.</p><p><strong>Janet Smith:&nbsp;</strong><em>If I look back 40 years ago, I might have turned to a few communities that I can think of where you had more working poor people. But even then ... Hegwisch for example, you think of the far South Side of Chicago, close to the steel mills. Those were actually good-paying jobs. Even then you had white working class people ... but they weren&#39;t poor necessarily.&nbsp;I don&rsquo;t know if we ever really had concentrated white poverty in Chicago, and part of that is because whites, as opposed to blacks and Latinos, have been able to live just about anywhere. And so part of it is more of a diffusion of poverty among white folks, compared to blacks and Latinos.</em></p><p><em>What we&rsquo;ve seen since the 1970s ... is a shrinking of the white middle-income and lower-income families in the city of Chicago. So where we think they&rsquo;ve gone &mdash; and this is based on data that we get from the U.S. Census &mdash; is that they&rsquo;ve relocated probably outside the city and are living more in suburban areas.</em></p><p><em>I think that part of [why Chicago doesn&#39;t have concentrated white poverty] has to get back to a larger history of structural racism in the United States. And what I mean by that is the ability for different races to move to different places. So whites have long had an ability to move around the country and to move to different places. African-Americans have historically just not had as many choices. And Chicago &mdash; and I can think of a couple other Midwestern cities &mdash; has had a really strong history of race relations that have not been positive for African-Americans. So staying in these neighborhoods is probably a result of having limited opportunities to move elsewhere.</em></p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Why does Chicago have so much concentrated black poverty?</span></p><p>It&rsquo;s clear from the data that different factors are at play within the black and Latino communities. To unpack some of the reasons that have contributed to Chicago&rsquo;s extensive areas of concentrated black poverty, we spoke with Mary Pattillo, the Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies at Northwestern University.</p><p><strong>Mary Pattillo:</strong><em> So the answer to the question of why there isn&rsquo;t concentrated white poverty in Chicago &mdash; and many other cities, Chicago is not alone in this &mdash; rests on two big points. One is racial residential segregation, and the other is the different poverty rates in the various race/ethnic groups. So when you combine those two together, you get concentrated black and Latino poverty, and pretty much no concentrated white poverty.</em></p><p><em>Racial residential segregation ... Let&rsquo;s begin with the fact that Chicago is an old city, much of which was built before the Fair Housing Act of 1968 [and] a lot of which [was] built during a time when we had what were called racial restrictive covenants. [These] were agreements ... that white homeowners entered amongst each other to exclude mostly blacks, but in some cities and in some times they also excluded Jewish people. They also excluded Chinese people, depending on what city and what was the marginalized group at the time.</em></p><p><em>The federal government is not at all innocent in this. The federal government very much underwrote the suburbanization of whites and the concentration of blacks in the city. So the building of the suburbs was very much supported by the federal government&rsquo;s insuring of mortgages, and that allowed the banks to give a lot more mortgages, but they only insured those mortgages in neighborhoods that, as they said, didn&rsquo;t house &ldquo;inharmonious racial groups&rdquo; ... which basically meant if there were any prospect of black people moving in, they wouldn&rsquo;t support the mortgage. So this very much created residential racial segregation, not just in the city of Chicago but also in the metropolitan area, by supporting the suburbanization of whites and the concentration of blacks in the city in &mdash; what the federal government also built &mdash; which were public housing projects.</em></p><p><strong>WBEZ: Do any of these factors still play out today, or have new ones crept in?</strong></p><p><strong>Mary Pattillo: </strong><em>The research today still finds housing discrimination. Sometimes it&rsquo;s the blatant discrimination: A black person calls and the realtor says that apartment&rsquo;s been rented. ... So black folks have to work extra hard to see the same number of units as whites. ... But there is something to preferences and knowledge. What neighborhoods do people know about? And, how do you know about neighborhoods? You know about the neighborhoods where your friends live. And if our friendship patterns are racially segregated, then we know about the neighborhoods where other black people live if we&rsquo;re black, or the neighborhoods where other Latinos live if we&rsquo;re Latino. So there&rsquo;s knowledge, and there&rsquo;s preferences and comfort.</em></p><p><strong>WBEZ: Are we seeing higher-income blacks mix up the incomes in some of these high-poverty neighborhoods?</strong></p><p><strong>Mary Pattillo:</strong> <em>That&rsquo;s an excellent question. Let&rsquo;s say you had complete racial residential segregation &mdash; which we don&rsquo;t have, but in Chicago, we almost do &mdash; so that if the black poverty rate is 30 percent, that means all black neighborhoods should have a 30 percent poverty rate, if everybody is kind of shuffled around. But that&rsquo;s not the case. You have class segregation within race. Class segregation among blacks is higher than among both whites and Latinos. So when you measure, as you mentioned, the evenness of the classes within the predominantly black, Latino or white neighborhoods, you find that there is greater pull-away between poor blacks and upper income blacks than there is between poor whites and upper income whites and poor Latinos and upper income Latinos.</em></p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-are-chicagos-poor-white-neighborhoods-112639#graph"><strong><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Chart: Comparison of Chicago residents living in poverty, by race</span></strong></a></em></p><p><strong>WBEZ: Can we account for the psychology, in any way, behind that high level of class segregation among blacks?</strong></p><p><strong>Mary Pattillo:</strong> <em>It is both that many populations don&rsquo;t want to live around poor people (it&rsquo;s a reflection on them, they think) and because what goes along with neighborhoods that have high poverty rates are things like fewer services, schools that are less well invested. ... I think for many reasons people see high-poverty neighborhoods as lacking in the kind of resources and amenities that they want for themselves and for their kids.</em></p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Why is there concentrated Latino poverty in Chicago?</span></p><p>Our experts told us that some of the factors behind concentrated black poverty in Chicago also apply to the question of why we see some areas of concentrated Latino poverty. Researchers have conducted studies where &ldquo;testers&rdquo; of different races and ethnic backgrounds are deployed to inquire about available housing in cities across the U.S. These studies have exposed disparate treatment of Latinos and whites, just as they have found disparate treatment between African-Americans and whites.</p><p>However, many Latino neighborhoods are also landing spots for new immigrants, so we spoke with Sylvia Puente, Executive Director of the Latino Policy Forum. We asked her how immigration, and other unique explanations, might lie behind the data.</p><p><strong>Sylvia Puente: </strong><em>So Latino poverty, to a large extent, you&rsquo;re really going to see families, you&rsquo;re going to see two-parent households &mdash; a married mom and dad with kids &mdash; but they&rsquo;re only able to earn a wage which doesn&rsquo;t take them past the poverty level.</em></p><p><em>A significant number of adults are working in low-wage labor markets. ... That&rsquo;s among all Latinos, but especially for those who are undocumented or unauthorized in this country. They&rsquo;re living in a shadow economy that sometimes doesn&rsquo;t even pay minimum wage. ... A significant number of Latinos are low-wage workers for a variety of reasons, and then people choose to live where they have friends and family. Where they go to church and Mass is in the language that they&rsquo;re most comfortable in, and they can go grocery shopping and know people from their home communities.</em></p><p><em>It&rsquo;s always, I think, an interesting question to say, &ldquo;Are these ethnic enclaves, or are they ghettos?&rdquo; And I think that a community can be both, and I don&rsquo;t mean ghetto in a negative way. But [with ghettos], we see large concentrations of poverty. We don&rsquo;t see a lot of economic activity. We see large concentrations of people in the same ethnic group living there who don&rsquo;t have a way out. [Whereas] ethnic enclaves have, maybe, a lot of those same characteristics. ... Ethnic enclaves are [where] people are choosing to live in these communities, because certainly with Latinos, they can go to the store in Spanish. They can go to the grocery store and find products from their home country, they can cook meals that are familiar to them. A lot of what we&rsquo;ve seen in terms of Latino concentration are people literally coming from the same village in Mexico or in another country, so you go where you know people. And ethnic enclaves also [are] people choosing to live with people who are like them because it&rsquo;s home, it&rsquo;s familiar. There&rsquo;s a certain comfort in that.</em></p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">What does it mean if, when we talk about concentrated poverty in Chicago, we really are only talking about communities of color?</span></p><p><strong>Sylvia Puente:</strong> <em>One of the concerns that I have around it is that we have two Chicagos. We have a thriving white middle class Chicago who largely lives along the lakefront and on the Northwest Side of the city, and Chicago is big enough that you don&rsquo;t have to go into a South Side neighborhood ever in your whole life. And I&rsquo;m certainly of the belief that to have compassion, to really address all the social challenges that we have in our state, you&rsquo;ve got to get out of your comfort zone and understand how people live.</em></p><p><strong>Mary Pattillo:</strong> &nbsp;<em>I think that that contributes to our misunderstanding of poverty in general, our misunderstanding of welfare and social services, and I think it contributes to a kind of political conservatism because we can point to those &ldquo;other people.&rdquo; If we&rsquo;re white, we can point to those other people (and think) &ldquo;Something&rsquo;s wrong with black people, something&rsquo;s wrong with Latinos. White people &mdash; look, you don&rsquo;t see any poor white neighborhoods.&rdquo; But there are poor white people, there are lots of poor white people. But because they&rsquo;re not visibly located in a single place, it doesn&rsquo;t lend itself to our stigmatizing them.</em></p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Martha&rsquo;s conclusions</span></p><p><a name="data"></a>After hearing input from our three experts, we asked our questioner, Martha Diaz, to reflect on what resonated with her, as a Latina who grew up in a working-class background but attained a college education and lives in today&rsquo;s gentrified Lake View neighborhood.</p><p><strong>Martha Diaz:</strong> <em>Well, I suppose much of the outcome of your life depends on circumstances that are really beyond your control. My parents bought the three-flat that we have in Lake View not because they were speculating, not because they thought that Lake View was going to be the next big thing, but because it was cheaper than the house near the brickyard mall that they had originally been scoping out. And as a result of that, they put themselves and our family in the middle of a community that was about to gentrify. And, as a result of that, my brothers and I had access to better schools probably than our peers did in other parts of the city. And it was serendipitous and wonderful in the example of our family because it made everything for us possible, it made my life possible. But that&rsquo;s obviously not the case for a lot of people in this city.</em></p><hr /><p><strong>How we worked with data</strong></p><p>To get to the bottom of Martha Diaz&rsquo;s question, we had to decide whether a geographic area can be associated with a single, predominant race. We also had to define &ldquo;concentrated poverty.&rdquo; There are lots of ways that one could slice and dice the data, and we took just one approach.</p><p>We started with the 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-year estimates, and examined racial breakdowns within each census tract in Chicago. We decided on a generous definition, characterizing a census tract as predominantly of a single race &mdash; Latino, African-American or white &mdash; if a plurality of people in the tract were of that race.</p><p>Next, we looked at incomes of the predominant races in those census tracts. We used the commonly-accepted definition of &ldquo;high-poverty areas,&rdquo; which are census tracts where the poverty rate (the percentage of people living at or below the federal poverty level) is at or exceeds 40 percent. To find tracts of concentrated white poverty, for example, we looked at the &ldquo;white tracts&rdquo; and asked whether more than 40 percent of those whites are living in poverty. We also disqualified tracts with population counts low enough to raise concerns about statistical confidence. (See &quot;Coefficient of variation&quot; and related listings in the Census Bureau&#39;s <a href="http://www.census.gov/about/policies/quality/standards/glossary.html#c" target="_blank">Glossary of Statistical Quality Standards</a>). &nbsp;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>. Chris Hagan analyzed Census data and generated maps for this story.</em></p><p><em>Chris Hagan is a data reporter for WBEZ. Follow him&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/chrishagan">@chrishagan</a>.</em></p><div><em>CORRECTION: A previous version of this story used a graphic that displayed incorrect figures regarding national poverty rates relative to those of Chicago&#39;s. The graphic has been corrected, suggesting a closer alignment between national poverty rates within white, black and Latino communities and their Chicago counterparts.</em></div></div><script src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/white-poverty/js/lib/pym.js" type="text/javascript"></script></p> Wed, 12 Aug 2015 17:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-are-chicagos-poor-white-neighborhoods-112639 Shoes on a wire: Untangling an urban myth http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shoes-wire-untangling-urban-myth-112575 <p><p>The curiosity about shoes hanging on power lines is practically ubiquitous. Our questioner, Matt Latourette, saw them all the time growing up in the &lsquo;70s and &lsquo;80s in Chicago&rsquo;s Belmont Central neighborhood. And even though he doesn&rsquo;t see as many dangling shoes around neighborhoods today, that didn&rsquo;t stop him from tapping into a sort of collective curious-consciousness and asking about one of the biggest urban mysteries that lurks in the minds of city-dwellers and suburbanites alike:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What&rsquo;s with all the gym shoes hanging from power lines?</em></p><p>Strangely enough, the city actually keeps track of how many pairs of Chicago shoes get hauled over electric or telephone wires. We learned that in the last seven years, city workers have received at least 6,000 requests to remove shoes hanging from telephone or electrical wires. (Similar requests, by the way, have sought to remove everything from a pair of hanging cowboy boots to a stranded rubber ducky.)</p><p>Clearly, gym-shoes hanging on a wire is something that happens. But getting to the bottom of why &mdash; that proved difficult. Despite Reddit threads, a <a href="http://www.snopes.com/crime/gangs/sneakers.asp">Snopes article citing &ldquo;no one definitive answer&rdquo;</a> to shoe-throwing, and <a href="https://vimeo.com/71867019">even a mini-documentary about shoe tossing across the globe</a>, at first all we found were whole lot of theories. But, we were able to turn up enough first-hand accounts and interviews with community leaders, gang members and sociologists to tease out some of the basic theories.</p><p>Among those theories: Shoes are tossed on account of losing a bet or taunting a victim or, from kids just being silly. In a more serious vein, people said the shoes signify where to buy drugs; they memorialize victims of gun violence; or they represent a crew marking their block.</p><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/THEORY%201.png" style="float: left; width: 492px; height: 69px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Let&rsquo;s start with a theory confirmed by an unidentified WBEZ listener who dialed the Curious City hotline and told his own story of shoe-throwing in his youth, which was spent in Cleveland, Ohio.</div><blockquote><div>I think I was 14. It was about 1970, and I was wearing my gym shoes around my neck tied together by the laces. A friend of mine, who was perhaps not the best friend in the world, liked to taunt me to some extent. And he was throwing my shoes up in the air pretending, I think, that he was going to throw them over the wire across the street. But then he succeeded. And there they hung. Eventually, some time later that month, the shoestring broke and I got my shoes back.</div></blockquote><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/theory%202.png" style="float: left;" title="" /></div><div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The wager theory is common across the Internet, too. WBEZ listener Juan Molina dialed us, saying that&rsquo;s how he encountered the phenomenon.</p><blockquote><p>I lost a bet and my buddies throw my shoes up there. So, pretty much what they did was climb it &mdash; &nbsp;a pole &mdash; and threw it up there. Other times we threw it from the street until they got caught. ... We tied the laces together and threw it up.</p></blockquote><p>On his message, Molina gave us another reason: spite.</p><blockquote><p>I did it once because I survived soccer camp. &hellip; I did not want to go to soccer. It was something my parents forced and I ended up throwing it up there. Those were just regular Nike cleats.</p></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/theory%203.png" style="width: 100%; float: left;" title="" />So what about the gang and urban violence angle?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">For that I asked my friend Patrick Starr, a guy I&rsquo;ve known for years who is serving a life sentence in a Missouri state prison. He was a high-ranking member of the Bloods gang back in the 1990s in Kansas City, Missouri. Today, he coaches other inmates on cutting ties with their gang. I figured he might be able to help me get to the bottom of whether shoe-tossing was associated with gangs or urban violence. He said that when he was young, he&rsquo;d throw shoes up on the power lines to let folks know his crew, the 57th Street Rogue Dogs, ran that block.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;To us in Kansas City it was about your crew and y&rsquo;all marking your neighborhood,&rdquo; he said.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">With that, he told me he&rsquo;d ask around the prison yard and get back to me.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The next day I got a call. He&rsquo;d asked fellow inmates and gotten some interesting responses.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;The Chicago guys, and a lot of the St. Louis guys, they said that represented guys who were killed from each neighborhood &mdash; whether it is gang guys or just homeboys from the hood or the block,&rdquo; he said.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">When Starr asked other guys from Springfield and Columbia, Missouri, he said he got a very different response. Around those parts, he said, he was told shoes marked a &ldquo;kill&rdquo; and that &ldquo;everyone the OG [Original Gangster] kills, there is a pair of shoes up there that marks he&rsquo;s knocked one man out of his shoes.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Starr said there were so many inmates that had something to say on the subject, that word started to travel around.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;It kind of turned into a nice little yard topic to where guys were starting to run up and say, &lsquo;Oh, hey, man, this is what that meant in my city or my town.&rsquo; Or, &lsquo;We don&rsquo;t know nothing about that,&rsquo;&rdquo; Starr told me.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/theory%204.png" style="float: left; width: 100%;" title="" />OK, so let&rsquo;s recap. So far we&rsquo;ve figured out that shoes on power lines mean most of what we originally thought: a memorial to a friend who passed, a crew repping their block, a bully, and kids being bored. But we&rsquo;d yet to hear anyone tell us that they sold or bought drugs under a pair of sneaks.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">We talked to Chicago police but they declined to comment.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">So we asked some more people &mdash; kids around the neighborhoods, sociologists, a South Side priest and Cobe Williams, a community outreach worker who has spent years working in troubled neighborhoods in Chicago. When they did have a theory, it was that the shoes were a memorial to someone who died. Not one said they linked it to drugs.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;To me it&rsquo;s like an urban legend, especially the drug spot thing,&rdquo; said Robert Aspholm, a social worker, childhood shoe-tosser and a doctoral student at University of Illinois at Chicago working on a dissertation on African American gang dynamics in Chicago. He was highly skeptical of the drug theory because, as he put it, &ldquo;No one is going to put what they&rsquo;re doing out there in that type of way to set themselves up to be arrested.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Another sociologist I corresponded with, Randol Contreras, grew up in the South Bronx and had his own fun tossing his shoes up on power lines. He now works at the University of Toronto and is the author of <em>The Stickup Kids: Race, Drugs, Violence, and the American Dream</em>.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">He said that when he was growing up, sneakers hung from wires in every single neighborhood he lived in.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;I even threw an old, worn pair of my own sneakers up to hang,&rdquo; Contreras wrote in an email. &ldquo;However, as I got older, I saw it happening less often.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;I remember doing it because that&#39;s what the guys did sometimes with an old pair sneakers to have a laugh. So I never knew &lsquo;why&rsquo; it was originally done; it was just a tradition that produced laughs in the moment.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Aspholm feels the same way. For him, throwing his shoes on the power lines was the pastime of a bored kid who spent a lot of time outdoors.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;As kids you want to make your mark or have some type of impact on your environment,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So that&rsquo;s just throwing your shoes up on the telephone wires is one way to do that. Like graffiti or tagging something.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:24px;">A disappearing mystery?<a name="graphic"></a></span></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shoe%20tossing%20infographic%208.png" style="height: 498px; width: 620px;" title="The number of reported shoe-tossings has decreased since 2008. Data source: City of Chicago" /></div><div>Along with the myriad stories about exactly what shoes on power lines mean, we uncovered some interesting data. According to Mike Claffey, a City of Chicago spokesman, requests for removing shoes from power lines have dropped by 71 percent between 2008 and 2014. This year, as of June, the city has received only 111 requests to remove shoes from power lines, compared to more than 1,100 in 2008. When we pulled similar data from all the 311 calls requesting to have shoes removed, it showed the same trend, with the concentration of the requests coming from the South and West sides with a pocket in the far northeast of the city, around Rogers Park.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>I also spoke with ComEd, who maintains power lines in Chicago alleys. (The city maintains the streets.) A spokeswoman, Liz Keating, told me that while ComEd doesn&rsquo;t keep records of the shoes they take down, anecdotally their technicians notice few on the North Side of the city and far more one the South Side.<a name="map"></a></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shoe%20tossing%20heatmap.png" style="height: 472px; width: 620px;" title="Visualization based on more than 7,00 records obtained from the city of Chicago, then filtered to 5,918 entries relevant to hanging shoes. Map graphic created via CartoDB. © OpenStreetMapcontributors © CartoDB" /></div></div><div>It&rsquo;s worth noting that Aspholm said he believes the reason theories around shoe-throwing so often veer toward gangs and drugs and territory issues, are because there is overlap.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;A lot of times these types of activities take place in marginalized urban areas,&rdquo; Aspholm said. He added that these neighborhoods are often host to &ldquo;open air drug markets, people being killed and shoes going up on telephone wires. &hellip;I think it&rsquo;s within that wider urban milieu that these types of events take place.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Maybe Aspholm is right. Maybe the reason behind shoe-tossing is just this simple: a coming of age story of inner city youth, colored by its own regional quirks and mixed up in the larger urban milieu of gangs, drugs and violence. Any particular pair of shoes could be up there for a variety of reasons, though it&rsquo;s probably <em>not </em>a place to buy drugs.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>And so, we may keep trying to explain sneakers hanging from power lines. But if the data proves anything, this looming question, the mystery of why and how sneakers arrive on power lines, is becoming a mystery of the past.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Matt1.jpg" style="float: left; height: 387px; width: 270px;" title="" /><span style="font-size:24px;">About the Questioner</span></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Matt Latourette, 43, was shocked when we read him the raw numbers of shoe removals: more than 6,000 over the past seven years. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s amazing that there were that many taken down!&rdquo; he exclaimed. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Still, as a kid, he said he saw them all over the city.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Today, Matt lives in Aurora, and rarely sees shoes hanging anywhere since their power lines are underground.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know if I am just not there enough or they are actively taking them down. Or if it&rsquo;s an old thing that just isn&rsquo;t done anymore,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just interesting that everyone is aware of it.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But back in his old neighborhood, it was a different story.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I noticed it all over the city and it was just something that was stuck in my mind. I was always wondering why,&rdquo; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He, too, had heard all rumors about what the shoes meant: drug dealing, bullying, kids being bored. But since he had never tossed his shoes, and didn&rsquo;t know anyone who had, he never learned firsthand why people had done it.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It was always a looming question, he said, shrouded in urban legends.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Meribah Knight is a freelance journalist in Chicago and reports for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow her at <a href="http://meribahknight.com" target="_blank">meribahknight.com</a> and on Twitter at&nbsp;<a href="https://www.twitter.com/meribah" target="_blank">@meribah</a>.</em></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 05 Aug 2015 17:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shoes-wire-untangling-urban-myth-112575 The Great Chicago Dragonfly Invasion, explained http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/great-chicago-dragonfly-invasion-explained-112573 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Dragonflies-5.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>They came like a plague &mdash; thousands upon thousands of them. They rose from the murky waters of Lake Michigan and, when the time was right, they molted in the open Chicago air. Call it the Great Chicago Dragonfly Invasion of 2015.</p><p>Questioner Debbie Yoo noticed it happening as she jogged along the city&rsquo;s lakefront trail. She wasn&rsquo;t expecting to encounter the massive swarms of large-winged insects along the trail that day. But then again, who was?</p><p>&ldquo;They appeared out of nowhere!&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It was crazy, like one of those fables where dragonflies or frogs drop out of the sky. It was like that.&rdquo;</p><p>She wasn&rsquo;t scared of them, per se. But she was curious, enough to send along this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why is there such an influx of dragonflies at the lakefront right now?</em></p><p>We put the question to Doug Taron, <a href="http://www.naturemuseum.org/about-us/senior-staff">curator of biology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum</a>. And the first thing he said was &hellip; don&rsquo;t be alarmed. For the most part, those dragonflies are just green darners, the most common of the city&rsquo;s 50-or-so dragonfly species.</p><p>But, Taron says, they do seem to be having a larger-than-usual convention in Chicago. And he was kind enough to give us the lowdown on why that&rsquo;s happening now.</p><p><strong>People who&#39;ve been enjoying the city&rsquo;s lakefront aren&rsquo;t crazy? This is a thing?</strong></p><p><em>That&#39;s right, several factors have come together at the same time and I know the results have been quite dramatic. I&#39;ve been hearing about things all along the lakefront, from the South Side of Chicago all the way up into Wisconsin. And so there are a lot of feuding swarms that are being observed at the moment.</em></p><p><em>This is definitely one of the larger populations that I have seen in the last 10 or 15 years here.</em></p><p><strong>Why is there a boom now?</strong></p><p><em>It&rsquo;s in the nature of insects to have their populations fluctuate a lot from year to year. ... One thing that might be contributing this year is that the mosquitoes have been really terrible this year and mosquitoes are one of the main foods of many species of dragonflies. Even the young dragonflies that are still aquatic and living underwater eat mosquito larvae, and there were almost certainly lots and lots of them earlier this year. So, it provided a very good food base for the young dragonflies.</em></p><p><em>These feeding swarms that everybody has been seeing around the last week are often associated with migration. ... This is a little early for that, but I would anticipate that there would be a large migration this year.</em></p><p><strong>Why is the green darner species living around the city&rsquo;s lakefront?</strong></p><p><em>Green darners do well in this type of environment because they&#39;re not one of the species to get really, really fussy about water quality. ... The young are aquatic and for some species the young need really, really clean pristine water. Green darners can experience and cope with a degree of pollution, so they tend to be a species that has remained more common in the modern environment.</em></p><p><strong>Do these swarms do any good?</strong></p><p><em>The dragonfly are a species that&rsquo;s easy to love because they do something that we consider helpful and they do consume a lot of mosquitoes. When they migrate they are also a great seafood source for certain migrating birds, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/hawks-rise-109889" target="_blank">especially hawks</a>.</em></p><p><em>A dragonfly can consume thousands of mosquitoes over the course of its lifetime. ... They&rsquo;re mosquito vacuums. ... It&#39;s easy to love something that helps with mosquito control.</em></p><p><em>They&#39;re not going to strain or bite or anything like that, so it can be kind of alarming to see these very large insect zooming around you, but they&#39;re not going to hurt anybody.</em></p><p><strong>Will they stick around?</strong></p><p><em>I have seen large feeding swarms a number of times in the last decade or so. You see them a lot on the lakefront. Again this is because <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1686212/">they are associated with migration</a> and the lake comes to concentrate a lot of migrating organisms right along the shore.</em></p><p><em>Green darners migrate every year further south and no one knows exactly where they&#39;re going. But it&#39;s a very regular phenomenon.</em></p><p><em>They&#39;re extremely powerful flyers and in fact that&#39;s one of the things that&#39;s made it difficult to study their migration. Most people are aware of the monarch butterflies being the other insect that&#39;s well known to migrate and a lot of that migration has been tracked by putting little tags on their wings and then seeing where they get recovered. It&#39;s much harder to catch dragonflies, so it&#39;s much harder to apply the tags in the kinds of numbers that you need to use that as a tool to study migration.</em></p><p><em>We will at some point see them head on out and move south, and we won&#39;t see as many. Generally that happens about a month from now. But that&#39;s also generally when you start seeing the feeding swarm, so I&#39;m not really sure what&#39;s going to happen this year.</em></p><div><em>Sean Kennedy is a reporter in Chicago. Follow him&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/stkennedy" target="_blank">@stkennedy</a>.<a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank"> Logan Jaffe</a> is Curious City&#39;s multimedia producer.&nbsp;</em></div><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="560" id="iframe" scrolling="no" src="//flickrit.com/slideshowholder.php?height=550&amp;width=620&amp;size=medium&amp;speed=stop&amp;setId=72157654505655943&amp;caption=on&amp;credit=2&amp;trans=1&amp;theme=1&amp;thumbnails=0&amp;transition=0&amp;layoutType=fixed&amp;sort=0" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 05 Aug 2015 12:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/great-chicago-dragonfly-invasion-explained-112573 Black business' slow flight from Bronzeville http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/black-business-slow-flight-bronzeville-112524 <p><p>Bronzeville played a huge part in African-American history. When the Great Migration began a century ago, black Southerners flocked to the South Side neighborhood, which stretched between State Street and the lake, from 22nd Street to 63rd Street.</p><p>These migrants transformed the area into a black population center and a nexus of black culture. On the business side, a mass of black consumers supported black-owned restaurants, shops and other enterprises.</p><p>It&rsquo;s this commercial &nbsp;history that attracted the attention of Clare Butterfield, who lives on the north end of the neighborhood and sent along this question:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>I wondered where those shops went. &hellip; There&rsquo;s just not a lot of businesses there. And they&rsquo;re not black-owned for the most part. So that was question: Where did they go? What happened to them?</em></p><p>We found several reasons behind the dispersal of Bronzeville&rsquo;s black commercial might, from demographics to a changing business climate. But Clare herself touched on a possible explanation, too, one that&rsquo;s both common and controversial: Perhaps legalized segregation had an upside for black Chicagoans otherwise hurt by discrimination and, when that segregation ended, the business climate took a hit.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Business in the heart of Bronzeville</span></p><p>The neighborhood&rsquo;s status as a vibrant commercial center is undeniable, according to <a href="http://www.thehistorymakers.com/sites/production/files/styles/bio_photo/public/Reed_Christopher_wm.png" target="_blank">Christopher Robert Reed</a>, an emeritus professor of history at Roosevelt University and one of <em>the</em>&nbsp;go-to scholars on black Chicago. (He also grew up in Bronzeville, his father owning a three-chair barber shop in the neighborhood until a fire destroyed it in the 1970s).</p><p>&ldquo;The State Street corridor was a commercial center for black Chicago,&rdquo; Reed says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s been likened to a black Wall Street.&rdquo;</p><p>This activity happened in the context of persistent racial segregation in Chicago. The primary instruments that kept blacks in Bronzeville and the rest of Chicago&rsquo;s &ldquo;Black Belt&rdquo; were restrictive covenants, private legal agreements that barred whites from selling their homes to blacks. Until the covenants were ruled unconstitutional in 1948, discrimination crowded black families of all economic stripes into too few residential units. This created a critical density of black consumers and, the theory goes, one that kept black-owned businesses viable.</p><p>But there&rsquo;s danger in presenting life or business in Bronzeville as a happy Jim Crow fest: Segregation did breed business ingenuity, but it also bred discriminatory practices. That led to some surprises in the neighborhood&rsquo;s composition. For one, Chicago&rsquo;s whites kept blacks out of white neighborhoods, but that didn&rsquo;t stop whites from operating their own businesses within Bronzeville. <a>In</a>&nbsp;the seminal book <em><a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/B/bo3638645.html" target="_blank">Black Metropolis: </a><a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/B/bo3638645.html">A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City</a></em>&nbsp;authors St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton found that, in 1938, Bronzeville blacks owned and operated 2,600 businesses while whites had 2,800.</p><p>And, there&rsquo;s more. The area&rsquo;s black businesses were smaller and older than their white counterparts, and they only received less than a tenth of all the money spent by black consumers within the area.</p><p>Business cycles, too, were unkind. Reed says from the 1920s on, blacks did own businesses on 35th Street, but these operations &ldquo;were hurt tremendously by the Great Depression that started in 1930.&rdquo;</p><p>Even after the worst of the Depression passed, segregation had put the black business community on unsure footing, as black owners couldn&rsquo;t compete with whites when it came to securing capital. Steven Rogers, who teaches black entrepreneurship at Harvard University, says there&rsquo;s always been a dearth of support by mainstream financial institutions.</p><p>&ldquo;In the 1940s when we saw blacks in the business world, the only support that black-owned businesses had was through guerrilla financing, that&rsquo;s self-financing, or family,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t see that institutional support that we saw with white-owned companies. And the reality is when that happens, when that&rsquo;s in existence, you won&rsquo;t see the prosperous businesses as we see in the white communities.&rdquo;</p><p>And that left black businesses of the past last century much more vulnerable.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Spread far and wide</span></p><p>There are no data that show clear pre- and post-1948 numbers of black-owned businesses, but it&rsquo;s clear that blacks began to disperse in the 1950s because of the lifting of covenants. At the same time &ldquo;urban renewal&rdquo; (often derided as &ldquo;Negro removal&rdquo;) was underway.</p><p>&ldquo;The expansion of Lake Meadows, Prairie Shores, Michael Reese Hospital, Mercy Hospital and the Illinois Institute of Technology led to the displacement of thousands of black families from State Street east over to the Lake from 26th Street south to about 35th,&rdquo; says Reed. &ldquo;This was a devastating blow to black demographic unity and it affected businesses operations adversely on 35th Street.&rdquo;</p><p>The bottom line, Reed says, is that &ldquo;the customers had moved away.&rdquo;</p><p>The erosion of a concentrated customer base plays into changes that took place in Scott&rsquo;s Blue <a>Book</a>, a black business directory that contained an array of listings &mdash; everything from sausage-makers to dentists. As desegregation continued, the tone of the books shifted from unabashedly pro-black to more race-neutral in the 1960s.<a name="presentation"></a></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://wbez.is/1LRR1t5" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Blue%20Book%20Comparison%20presentation%20THUMB.png" style="width: 100%;" title="" /></a></div><p>And there was another transformation, one that gets to Clare&rsquo;s observation about Bronzeville&rsquo;s present-day businesses not being black-owned.</p><p>&ldquo;What happened to the businesses happened to a lot of businesses in America, once the economy was transformed by the global economy&rsquo;s dominance,&rdquo; Reed says.</p><p>35th Street faced competitive trends similar to those faced by other commercial strips in Chicago, to the point where, today, 35th Street includes multinational companies: McDonald&rsquo;s, Chase Bank, Subway and Popeye&rsquo;s, to name a few. (<a href="http://popeyes.com/franchise/international/areas-available.php" target="_blank">Yes, Popeye&rsquo;s is international!</a>)</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Survivors of segregation and then integration, too</span></p><p>The Depression, a global economy and urban renewal played their roles in undercutting or dispersing Bronzeville&rsquo;s black-owned businesses. As we&rsquo;re answering Clare&rsquo;s question about what happened to them, it&rsquo;s fair to point a brighter side: Some of these businesses stayed put.</p><p>Among the survivors are black-owned Seaway Bank and <a href="http://www.isfbank.com/">Illinois Service Federal</a>, a savings and loan that&rsquo;s been around since 1934. The latter issued home loans when commercial banks shunned black customers.</p><p>Illinois Service Federal chairman Norman Williams also happens to be president of <a href="http://www.unityfuneralparlors.com/" target="_blank">Unity Funeral Parlors</a>, a black-owned South Side business that started in 1937.</p><p>&ldquo;My father came to Chicago as an insurance executive,&rdquo; Williams says. &ldquo;This was an entrepreneurial idea that came to him that he hoped his family would be able to continue.&rdquo;</p><p>Williams&rsquo; father turned out to be right. For decades, few white funeral homes served blacks, and many of the funeral homes survived a more integrated era.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Continuing legacy</span></p><p>Black businesses are no longer clustered in an area like the Black Belt, but that doesn&rsquo;t mean they don&rsquo;t exist. The basic pattern was that black businesses moved into the neighborhoods that black people moved into.</p><p>&ldquo;Black Chicago has always been recognized as the crown jewel of black-owned businesses throughout the country,&rdquo; says Harvard&rsquo;s Steven Rogers. &ldquo;The black business community in Chicago is responsible for some historic events in our country.&rdquo;</p><p>Historic events like &hellip; helping finance the elections of the city&rsquo;s first black mayor and the country&rsquo;s first black president.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">More about our questioner</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/preferredheadshot3.png" style="float: right; height: 322px; width: 290px; margin: 5px;" title="(Photo courtesy of Clare Butterfield)" />Clare Butterfield grew up in Central Illinois but has been in Chicago for 30 years, having lived on the North, West and South sides.</p><p>She&rsquo;s called Bronzeville home for the past 10 years, and, following our reporting, appreciates a reminder that urban renewal programs deeply affected her neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;I&#39;ve seen the memorial marker on State Street north of 35th that mentions that IIT displaced a row of black businesses there,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Some of the businesses got swept out along with the housing, and that should have been more obvious to me.&rdquo;</p><p>Clare is just one of many questioners who&rsquo;ve asked about some of the least comfortable parts of Chicago history.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s hard for white people to ask these questions,&rdquo; she says, &ldquo;partly because we don&#39;t want to be interpreted as critical, when we mean to be sympathetic (however imperfectly), and partly because we&#39;re probably not going to like what we learn: more examples of injustice and the use of power by people like us, first to force people into a neighborhood and then to force them out of it.&rdquo;</p><p>The only way out, she says, is affirm that these things happened and, when we can, show, too, how &ldquo;some entrepreneurs persisted and thrived in spite of everything they had to navigate.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>.&nbsp;Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 15:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/black-business-slow-flight-bronzeville-112524 Star light? Too Bright! http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/star-light-too-bright-112452 <p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s celestial landscape is bright and beautiful, but it&rsquo;s virtually invisible because it&rsquo;s obscured behind the orange glow that emerges from the city&rsquo;s streetlights and buildings each night. This obscured sky has hundreds of thousands of stars, dotted with bright travelling planets, crisscrossed by satellites and burning meteors. To see that sky, you need a dark sky, and in Chicago &mdash; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/art-and-science-behind-glow-chicagos-skyline-111928" target="_blank">a city of stage-lit skyscrapers, sprawl and sodium streetlights</a> &mdash; it just doesn&rsquo;t get dark enough to see more than a handful of the brightest stars and planets.</p><p>According to Larry Ciupik, an astronomer at <a href="http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/" target="_blank">Adler Planetarium</a>, Chicago is one of the most light-polluted cities in the world. One of the many potential consequences of that is clear, he says:</p><p>As the night sky fills up with more artificial light from increasing development and glare from unshielded streetlights, more people are forgetting what darkness even looks like. Or, worse, they never experience it at all.</p><p>&ldquo;I think we gradually become used to not seeing the sky,&rdquo; Ciupik says. &ldquo;But it&rsquo;s a whole kind of primal feeling when you see a very dark sky. A black sky with thousands of stars &hellip; you can&rsquo;t duplicate [that] even inside of a planetarium. Artificial doesn&rsquo;t compare to reality.&rdquo;</p><p>That reality hit our questioner, Paula de los Angeles, between the eyes when she moved to Chicago a few years ago. Having grown up in a small town in Connecticut, she missed seeing the stars when she looked up at Chicago&rsquo;s night sky. And she asked for help finding them:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What are the best spots in Chicago or the suburbs to stargaze?</em></p><p>To Paula, moving to Chicago not only meant she had to give up seeing stars, but also the feeling that goes along with it: She misses the part of herself that had been filled with wonder just by looking up at night.</p><p>&ldquo;You kind of have to pick when you&rsquo;re in Chicago what kind of experience you want,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s too bad we can&rsquo;t see the night sky and also be around technology and a lot of lights, too.&rdquo;</p><p>We asked astronomers and stargazers to tell us where Chicago&rsquo;s good stargazing spots are. They all told us the same thing: nowhere. Not in the city or in Chicago&rsquo;s near suburbs. But, some spots are better than others, and you&rsquo;re better off getting as far from the city as possible. Adler astronomers and members of the <a href="http://www.gadboisproductions.com/cas/" target="_blank">Chicago Astronomical Society</a> promised visiting a few of their favorites is worth your time. (Assuming there are no clouds, of course!) We&rsquo;ve listed their suggestions below, from least-worst to OK. Consider the list your invitation to catch a bustling display of stars, constellations, meteors, and galaxies you&rsquo;re denied each evening!</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://blue-marble.de/nightlights/2012" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chicagoglow1_0.png" style="height: 336px; width: 620px;" title="Night-lights imagery by NASA's Earth Observatory shows Chicago's light pollution at night. Click to explore the map." /></a></div><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Before you leave</span></p><p>Bad timing can break a stargazing trip, so plan for both cloudless, moonless nights. Consult <a href="http://cleardarksky.com/c/Chicagokey.html" target="_blank">this handy clear skies chart</a> for 3-day forecasts. Bring plenty of warm layers, a seat cushion or foam mat, water and snacks. Also, consider loading your phone with a neat stargazing app. (Options: Google Play store: <a href="http://wbez.is/1LrJcvo" target="_blank">http://wbez.is/1LrJcvo</a>)</p><p>*Note: Our recommended stargazing spots fall on the <a href="https://grok.lsu.edu/Article.aspx?articleId=12612" target="_blank">Bortle Scale, which measures a sky&rsquo;s darkness and light pollution</a>. In this scale, a 1 is the darkest theoretical sky, and a 10 would render stars invisible.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">In the city</span></p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Northerly Island</p><p><strong>Why:</strong> It&rsquo;s slightly east of the Loop, and that slightly cuts down the light pollution.</p><p><strong>How:</strong> Point your eyes or telescope east over Lake Michigan. The sky will be a tad darker than it would if you were facing the glow of downtown.</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale:</strong> 8-9</p><p>Other suggestions: Adler Planetarium staff and other volunteers organize stargazing meetups through their &nbsp;<a href="http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/scopes-in-the-city" target="_blank">&lsquo;Scopes in the City program</a>, where you can gaze at Chicago&rsquo;s night sky through telescopes in various places around the city. For indoor stargazing, <a href="http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/news/527t2u2qou5sp2br97mksvkjoddr1y" target="_blank">Adler&rsquo;s Doane observatory</a> has the largest telescope in Chicago. (It&rsquo;s becoming more accessible to the public<a href="http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/news/527t2u2qou5sp2br97mksvkjoddr1y" target="_blank"> as renovations are completed</a>.) The University of Chicago&rsquo;s<a href="http://astro.uchicago.edu/RAS/" target="_blank"> Ryerson Observatory</a> is another option, but call in advance.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The suburbs</span></p><p><strong>Where:</strong> <a href="http://www.openlands.org/openlands-lakeshore-preserve" target="_blank">Openlands Lakeshore Preserve</a>, Highland Park</p><p><strong>Why:</strong> It has few lights! This 77-acre nature preserve lies along the Lake Michigan shoreline, 25 miles north of Chicago. It officially closes at sunset, but the Chicago Astronomical Society sometimes gains permission to host stargazing meetups there.</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale:</strong> 6-7</p><p><strong>Where</strong>: The <a href="http://fpdcc.com/nature-centers/little-red-schoolhouse-nature-center/" target="_blank">Little Red School House</a>, Willow Springs</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale: </strong>6-7</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> <a href="http://www.cantigny.org/" target="_blank">Cantigny Park</a>, Wheaton</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale:</strong> 7</p><p>Other options: For indoor stargazing, Northwestern University&rsquo;s<a href="http://ciera.northwestern.edu/observatory.php" target="_blank"> Dearborn Observatory</a> is open to the public on Fridays.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://djlorenz.github.io/astronomy/lp2006/overlay/dark.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lightpollutionmap_0.PNG" style="height: 359px; width: 620px;" title="Light pollution in the Great Lakes region. Note Chicago's whitewash of light for about 50 miles. Click the map to explore in detail. (Source: P. Cinzano, F. Falchi, University of Padova. C. D. Elvidge, NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, Boulder. Copyright Royal Astronomical Society. Reproduced from the Monthly Notices of the RAS by permission of Blackwell Science.)" /></a></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Beyond the suburbs</span></p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Indiana Dunes State Park</p><p><strong>Why:</strong> This park promises some of the metro region&rsquo;s darkest skies; its 21,000 &nbsp;acres of wetlands and dunes are mostly unlit, and the darkness of Lake Michigan lies just north. It&rsquo;s within an hour&rsquo;s drive of Chicago and is accessible by <a href="http://www.nictd.com/" target="_blank">public transportation</a>, too, though a commuter train trip can take twice as long as a car ride. Under the right conditions, many stars are visible and you can clearly see the hazy patch of the Milky Way above the horizon.</p><p><strong>How:</strong> The park is open until 11 p.m. To stay later, consider camping, which is possible year round. The park holds <a href="http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/files/sp-Dunes_SpecialEvents.pdf" target="_blank">special stargazing events</a>, some of which involve sleep-overs on the beach.</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale: </strong>4-5</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> <a href="http://www.dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/r2/silversp.htm" target="_blank">Silver Springs State Park</a>, Yorkville (about 90 minutes southwest of Chicago)</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale:</strong> 5</p><p><strong>Where: </strong><a href="http://www.mccdistrict.org/rccms/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Coral-Woods-Site-Map-2014.pdf" target="_blank">Coral Woods Conservation Area</a>, Marengo (about 90 minutes northwest of Chicago),</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale:</strong> 4.5-5</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Lake Michigan!</span></p><p><strong>Where: </strong>Ferries start from Milwaukee or Manitowoc, Wisconsin. From Milwaukee, catch a night ride with the <a href="http://www.lake-express.com/" target="_blank">Lake Express</a> that cuts right across Lake Michigan to Muskegon. <a href="http://www.ssbadger.com/" target="_blank">The S.S. Badger</a> departs from Manitowoc.</p><p><strong>Why: </strong>The trips can take approximately 3 &frac12; hours. About halfway through, you&rsquo;ll see the best stargazing in the area! The Milky Way is bright enough to cast shadows onto lighter objects. Some stars appear red or yellow, others blue, while others are white.</p><p><strong>How:</strong> Head to the top deck about 90 minutes into the voyage. The ferries move quickly, so be warned that the pinnacle of darkness doesn&rsquo;t last long. Bring layers because it gets windy!</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale: </strong>2-3.</p><p><em><strong>Can we suggest a sailboat?</strong></em></p><p><em>If you have a boat (or have a friend with one), you&rsquo;ll be surprised to find how many stars you can see even just 10 miles due east of the city and northern suburbs. While looking back at the view of Chicago&rsquo;s skyline could be tempting, give yourself about 15-20 minutes to gaze out into the darkness to adjust your eyes, too. Here&rsquo;s a look at our own trip, and be sure to listen to our audio story which takes place on board!</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="560" id="iframe" scrolling="no" src="//flickrit.com/slideshowholder.php?height=550&amp;width=620&amp;size=medium&amp;speed=stop&amp;setId=72157656147604916&amp;caption=on&amp;credit=2&amp;theme=1&amp;thumbnails=0&amp;transition=0&amp;layoutType=fixed&amp;sort=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em><a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">Logan Jaffe</a> is Curious City&#39;s multimedia producer and Jesse Dukes is Curious City&#39;s audio producer.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 16:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/star-light-too-bright-112452 Here's Harold! (the robot edition) http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/heres-harold-robot-edition-112398 <p><p>A lot of folks who submit questions to Curious City take the call quite literally: What do you want to know about Chicago, the region or the people who live there? Questioner Jon Quinn put his own twist by submitting our first (and only) question about a <em>robot </em>&mdash; not just any robot, but the talking, animatronic likeness of former mayor Harold Washington that sits in a corner of the <a href="http://www.dusablemuseum.org/exhibits/details/a-slow-walk-to-greatness-the-harold-washington-story/" target="_blank">DuSable Museum of African American History</a>.</p><p>Jon had caught the robot&rsquo;s act and &mdash; like thousands of patrons before him &mdash; had learned that Harold Washington was a big deal: He&rsquo;d been a state representative and senator in Illinois, then a U.S. congressman, and Chicago&rsquo;s first black mayor. First elected as mayor in 1983, Washington won a second term with the help of multi-racial political coalitions that survived well beyond his death in 1987.</p><p>Jon was intrigued by the man, but his mind was fixed on the animatronic likeness:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What&#39;s that robot&#39;s story?</em></p><p>His question&rsquo;s informed by his observation that the robot is &ldquo;creepy,&rdquo; and it reminds him of an animatronic likenesses you can find at Chuck E. Cheese pizza restaurants or trips to Disney World&rsquo;s <a href="https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4130/5022492880_06ed142a4f_z.jpg" target="_blank">Hall of Presidents</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;I loved the Hall of Presidents but, um, it was terrifying,&rdquo; Jon says. (He knows a thing or two about Disney World, having grown up in Central Florida.)</p><p>To answer Jon&rsquo;s question, we put together the robot&rsquo;s origin story. Along the way, though, we couldn&rsquo;t help but ask: Is this a good way to portray the former mayor?</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Born from the mind of an ideas man</span></p><p>When Charles Bethea was appointed curator of the DuSable in 2002, the museum was looking to create a permanent exhibit about Harold Washington within a wing that had been dedicated to him back in 1993. Bethea was charged with bringing more oomph to the museum and keeping school-aged visitors interested. Any depiction of Washington himself would have to be new and life-like. Also, it should keep up with new technology.</p><p>&ldquo;With Harold Washington being this over-the-top, larger-than-life figure, we wanted to honor him in a specific way,&rdquo; says Bethea, adding that a museum should be considered a non-traditional classroom. &ldquo;You have to strike a balance between education and entertainment, especially with history museums.&rdquo;</p><p>Bethea and his team spent four years cycling through options, dispensing with staid life-sized statues made of bronze or others covered in resin. Eventually, someone mentioned that animatronic technology was dropping in price, with costs ranging between $10,000 and $30,000, depending on how large a figure&rsquo;s range of movement needs to be.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;It was like, we could literally put him at his desk, we could literally bring video and audio into the presentation to make it that much more interactive,&rdquo; Bethea says. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s where the excitement came because it was like, &lsquo;What? We can actually get this!&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Translating Harold the man into Harold the robot</span></p><p>The DuSable team hired <a href="http://www.lifeformations.com/" target="_blank">Life Formations</a>, an Ohio-based factory of the life-like that&rsquo;s created everything from Abe Lincoln to a drum-playing gorilla. Bethea says the most expensive (and difficult) part of the partnership was the &ldquo;human sculpting,&rdquo; or coming up with a just-right Harold. Bethea gathered photos, interviews, and even an iconic <em>Playboy</em> magazine profile article to help Life Formations recreate Washington&rsquo;s likeness.</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/harold%20washington%20playboy.jpg" style="height: 320px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="Harold Washington posing in Playboy Magazine, which is one image Life Formations used to replicate the former mayor. " /></div><p>Translating that material fell to a team that included designer and project manager Travis Gillum.</p><p>&ldquo;They gave us quite a bit of video footage that we tried to work from,&rdquo; Gillum says, adding that Washington smiled quite a bit. &ldquo;If [an animatronic has] to speak sternly as part of their character in final form, that becomes a little bit weird if they have a smile on their face.&rdquo; Gillum says historic figures such as Washington and Abraham Lincoln typically require special care.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a tough line to walk, especially with the humans,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Obviously if you&rsquo;re not very realistic with the human, it can be somewhat disappointing and sometimes creepy. But at the same token, if it&rsquo;s ultra-realistic, that can be really creepy to people.&rdquo;</p><p>Gillum&rsquo;s nodding to the concept of the uncanny valley, coined in the 1970s by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masahiro_Mori">robotics professor Masahiro Mori</a>. Even with that idea firmly in mind, Life Formations aimed to make Washington look realistic.</p><p>Bethea invited Washington&rsquo;s family to review the robot&rsquo;s development. Bethea says there was some back-and-forth, mostly around big-ticket items. For instance, some family members felt the early bust of Harold&rsquo;s head (still pigmentless and hairless at that point) actually looked like &ldquo;their Harold,&rdquo; but the museum gave the robot several hairdos because the curl pattern wasn&rsquo;t quite right and the grays weren&rsquo;t scattered accurately.</p><p>Another consideration: Washington died at age 65, but which time in Harold&rsquo;s life should the robot depict? Washington&rsquo;s hair greyed as he served as mayor, but he had also gained dozens of pounds during his terms. The family felt that the final body of the &lsquo;bot was too slim. Washington had weighed 284 lbs at his death, but Bethea says he took &ldquo;artistic license&rdquo; by representing a healthier Washington that looked closer to age 58.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="true" scrolling="no" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/14he2NjpKaf192vxiGf6zrIQXrRCuAizRRGk9ybEcLwU/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>At the touch of a button, the Harold Washington robot gives three presentations, one each about Washington&rsquo;s mayoral campaign, his struggle to push a legislative agenda during <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/342.html" target="_blank">Chicago&rsquo;s Council Wars</a>, and his funeral and legacy. (A kicker: He invites patrons to check out <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-home-fit-wild-parrots-108565" target="_blank">Chicago&rsquo;s population of green parrots</a> &mdash; a fixture of the South Side&rsquo;s Washington Park.)</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Did they get it right?</span></p><p>Bethea&rsquo;s a fan of the DuSable Museum&rsquo;s Harold Washington likeness (he calls it &ldquo;his baby&rdquo;), but not everyone is sold on how the robot turned out. Jacky Grimshaw, Vice President of Policy at the <a href="http://www.cnt.org/" target="_blank">Center for Neighborhood Technology</a>, and one of Washington&rsquo;s former advisors, says the Harold &lsquo;bot is okay for people who didn&rsquo;t know him, but it doesn&rsquo;t dig below the surface.<a name="video"></a></p><p>&ldquo;For me, it doesn&rsquo;t really get at who Harold was,&rdquo; she says.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/eibf4JJN4fQ?rel=0&amp;showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>A young Grimshaw first knew Washington from Corpus Christi Church, where she saw the future mayor hobnob with Chicago aldermen and other politicians. While she was graduating college, Grimshaw&rsquo;s mother was involved in Washington&rsquo;s campaign for Illinois senator. It wasn&rsquo;t long before her mother set her up with a gig as a staffer. Later, she served in Washington&rsquo;s own mayoral administration, where she formed housing policy.</p><p>Grimshaw believes DuSable visitors don&rsquo;t sense Harold Washington as a person; it&rsquo;s not that a patron should know Washington preferred eggs or oatmeal for breakfast, but to understand him, she says, they need a heftier dose of his personality. He moved people, she says. Seeing him in action was like a 1983 edition of Obama&rsquo;s &ldquo;Yes We Can&rdquo; campaign.</p><p>&ldquo;He was such a magnetic person that you would know he was there,&rdquo; she says, adding that that was the case in small venues or in rooms of more than a hundred. &ldquo;That exhibit doesn&rsquo;t even begin to relay that kind of personality, that kind of magnetism, that interaction with people which I believe ... was nourishing to him.&rdquo;</p><p>For museum curator Bethea, the proof of the robot&rsquo;s effectiveness is its impact.</p><p>&ldquo;You gravitate towards it and it pulls you in, then you really start to think about that person&rsquo;s life; legacy and where they fit history and how hopefully you relate,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Interestingly, that&rsquo;s exactly what happened for Jon Quinn, our questioner. After his encounter with the robot, he spent two months diving deep into Harold, his history and his legacy: He sought out This American Life&rsquo;s two part special on Washington&rsquo;s legacy, read the biography Fire on the Prairie, and he closely watched Chuy Garcia&rsquo;s 2015 mayoral campaign. Garcia campaigned for Washington and considered him a mentor. Garcia lost the 2015 race for mayor to incumbent Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>Quinn even thinks it should be a requirement that Chicagoans venture to the DuSable Museum.</p><p>&ldquo;As strange and odd as that [animatronic] was, it was a really important afternoon for me in this weird way because it got me thinking a lot about this person and his legacy and what things from his mayoralty are still with us,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It went from this moment of eerie, uncanny valley creepiness to this fascinating exploration of the city&rsquo;s recent history and politics.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Q%20ASKER%20JON%20QUINN%20PHOTO%20TOO.jpg" style="float: left; height: 347px; width: 260px;" title="" /><span style="font-size:22px;">More about our questioner</span></p><p>Jon Quinn, a philanthropic advisor who lives in Chicago&rsquo;s Logan Square neighborhood, grew up in Central Florida and went to Disney World &mdash; a lot. He geeks out about presidential history and political firsts, so when his first stopover at the DuSable Museum of African American History was underscored with an air-compressed politician, he was creeped out.</p><p>&quot;But then the amazing thing was, I got over that, and was deeply engaged,&rdquo; he says. Quinn and his friends were also thrust into <a href="https://curiouscity.wbez.org/" target="_blank">let&rsquo;s-ask-Curious City-land </a>with a ton of questions in mind.</p><p>Among them: whether contemporary politicians could find some inspiration.</p><p>&ldquo;The Harold Washington exhibit was probably my favorite place in the museum, in part because we just finished an election where a lot of commentary talked about whether or not Garcia could recreate the Harold Washington coalition,&rdquo; says Jon.</p><p>Jon was also troubled that in all his nine (non-consecutive) years living in Chicago he had never been to the DuSable Museum.</p><p>&ldquo;I even went to college at the U of C, right around the corner,&rdquo; he says. Transformed by his afternoon there, he now believes it should be a requirement that all Chicagoans visit the DuSable and all of the other history institutions the city has to offer.</p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 17:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/heres-harold-robot-edition-112398 Just another bull shark story http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-another-bull-shark-story-112347 <p><p>It&rsquo;s the kind of &ldquo;fact&rdquo; that makes you blink and wonder if you read it correctly. The Global Shark Attack File, a listing of every documented shark attack in recent history, compiled by the non-profit Shark Research Institute, <a href="http://www.sharkattackdata.com/gsaf/attack/united_states_of_america/illinois/1955.00.00.c" target="_blank">lists a shark attack in Lake Michigan in 1955</a>. The details are thin. The name of the victim: George Lawson. The species: bull shark. Lawson was bitten on the right leg. The bite was unprovoked and non-fatal.</p><p>It sounds impossible, right? Sharks live in the oceans, and while you sometimes hear of them in brackish rivers, Lake Michigan is nearly 2,000 navigational miles from the nearest ocean. The story persists in various <a href="http://news.travel.aol.com/2010/09/22/chicago-mythbusters/" target="_blank">mythbusting columns</a>, and while most experts think the story is probably an urban legend, Chicagoans keep bringing it up. Curious City got two very similar questions, one from Adam Kovac of Chicago, and another from Hilary Winiarz of Hawthorn Woods. Winarz&rsquo;s wording summons the frustration of many Chicagoans about the ongoing lack of a satisfying answer.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>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>We&rsquo;d love to help Hillary, Adam, and the unsatisfied masses. The problem is, there&rsquo;s very little evidence either way. And it can be very difficult to prove that something did NOT happen. Nevertheless, we took a three-pronged approach to answering this question.</p><p>Approach 1: Find a witness or participant in the event itself.</p><p>Approach 2: Locate the original source of the story, and evaluate its reliability.</p><p>Approach 3: Examine the scientific plausibility of a mature bull shark entering Lake Michigan, surviving long enough to attack a person in 1955.</p><p>Following this trajectory, we found a few clues about the origins of the story, and learned that a shark in Lake Michigan may not be as implausible as you would think.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Approach 1: Can I get a witness?</span></p><p>The Shark Research Institute sent us the names of the two people involved in the Lake Michigan shark attack; the victim, a boy named George Lawson, and the rescuer, John Adler. We searched public records for those names (including spelling variations) in the Chicago area, and found two George Lawsons and two John Adlers who could have been the right age in 1955; the Lawsons would have been under 16 and the Adlers over 18. We called the listed phone numbers. One phone line was disconnected, and we left messages on the other three. We heard from one respondent that he was NOT the John Adler we were looking for. Nobody else returned our calls. It seems clear that if a remaining John Adler or George Lawson were involved in a shark attack, they were not interested in discussing it with Curious City. Nor does it appear that any George Lawson or John Adler has ever given an interview about the shark attack.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Approach 2: Where did this bull shark story come from anyway?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/man eating sharks book.jpg" style="float: right; height: 328px; width: 250px;" title="The book Man-Eating sharks, which we purchased for exactly 1 cent. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe) " />The Global Shark Attack database actually does list a source as &ldquo;F. Dennis P &nbsp;52&rdquo;. After a little sleuthing, we found a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Man-Eating-Sharks-Terrifying-Compilati/dp/0706405544/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1436195032&amp;sr=8-3&amp;keywords=man-eating+sharks" target="_blank">picture book</a> published in 1975 called Man-Eating Sharks: a Terrifying Compilation of Shark-Attacks, Shark-facts and Shark-Legend! &ldquo;F. Dennis&rdquo; refers to <a href="http://www.felixdennis.com/" target="_blank">Felix Dennis,</a> who, as it turns out, is a famous and eccentric book and magazine publisher in the UK. He is known for founding several successful magazines including Maxim, Blender, PC World, and several others.</p><p>Unfortunately, he died of cancer in 2014, but his estate kindly put Curious City in touch with one of the authors of Man-Eating Sharks, Christopher Rowley, now based in upstate New York. Rowley remembers the book quite clearly: &ldquo;Felix wanted to carve out a chunk of the enormous money flowing due to the Jaws phenomenon in 1975.&rdquo;, he says.</p><p>Of course, he means Steven Spielberg&rsquo;s mega-hit film, which sparked tremendous fascination and fear of sharks. In the midst of the Jaws craze, Dennis hired Rowley and two other writers to find out everything they could about sharks. &ldquo;When Felix wanted something like that, it was like crash diving,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Klaxons are roaring, go out and buy everything you can. It was all about being nimble and quick in those days.&rdquo;</p><p>Rowley spent five weeks at the library, reading about sharks, compiling information, and writing passages of the book. He doesn&rsquo;t remember where the story of the Lake Michigan shark attack comes from, but definitely recalls reading about bull sharks. He admits they may have made up some of the details &mdash; fast and loose fact-finding didn&rsquo;t begin with the internet age &mdash; but doesn&rsquo;t think they made up that particular story. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s too much little detail there,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;On the other hand, I can&rsquo;t remember how much invention went into it, and how much we found in the libraries.&rdquo;</p><p>So if you believe Rowley, it suggests there may be another mysterious source of the Lake Michigan shark attack, possibly in another newspaper or magazine somewhere. If so, nobody involved with Man-Eating Sharks remembers what it was. Or, it&rsquo;s possible Rowley or one of his collaborators just made up the story out of whole cloth, possibly after reading of the bull shark&rsquo;s notorious habit of swimming up freshwater rivers. Which brings us to our next approach ...</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Approach 3: So you&rsquo;re saying there&rsquo;s a chance?</span></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bullsharkillustration.png" style="height: 421px; width: 620px;" title="While most shark species can only survive in saltwater, bull sharks have the unusual ability to survive in freshwater, too. (Illustration from the book Man-Eating Sharks)" /></p><p>Scientists enjoy a good hypothetical situation, and several we spoke with indulged us by entertaining the possibility of a shark entering and surviving in Lake Michigan. Phil Willink, the Senior Research Scientist at the Shedd Aquarium, says the bull shark &mdash; the kind of shark named in the Global Shark Attack File &mdash; is notorious &nbsp;for entering freshwater: &ldquo;It is able to control the salt and other compounds in its blood, to maintain a balance with the water that&rsquo;s around it, and is able to move back and forth between freshwater and saltwater. So, yes, bull sharks can swim into freshwater and we think they can stay there for several years possibly.&rdquo;</p><p>Furthermore, Willink says bull sharks have been documented as far as 2,000 miles upstream in the Amazon River, a few hundred miles farther than the distance between Lake Michigan and the nearest saltwater. So it is theoretically possible for a bull shark to swim to Lake Michigan, if it could find a viable route.</p><p>One path a shark could take to Lake Michigan is the St. Lawrence seaway, entering the St. Lawrence River north of New Brunswick, Canada, and swimming through Lake Ontario, The Wellend Canal near Niagara Falls, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and finally into Lake Michigan. Scientists agree this is probably impossible because of the great distance, the navigational obstacles, and most importantly, because the water of the Gulf of St. Lawrence &nbsp;at the entrance to the Seaway is far too cold for bull sharks. Their <a href="http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/gallery/descript/bullshark/bullshark.htm" target="_blank">northernmost range is Massachussets</a>, seven hundred miles to the south.</p><p>The more likely route, according to scientists, would be via the Mississippi River and Illinois River and Canal System. There are few obstacles to prevent a bull shark from reaching the Illinois River, and in fact, bull sharks have been occasionally spotted near St. Louis. But if you&#39;re curious what all it would take for a shark to get from the Mississippi River Delta to Lake Michigan in the first place,<a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/5f15087581297692d20d2c039b06eb5d/the-more-likely-but-still-unlikely-journey-of-the-shark-that-might-have-attacked-george-lawson-in-lake-michigan-in-1955/index.html" target="_blank"> we&#39;ve put together the details:</a></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/5f15087581297692d20d2c039b06eb5d/the-more-likely-but-still-unlikely-journey-of-the-shark-that-might-have-attacked-george-lawson-in-lake-michigan-in-1955/index.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/the%20most%20unlikely%20png.PNG" style="height: 483px; width: 620px;" title="" /></a></div><p>If the shark did somehow manage to get through all eight locks and gates, it would face another immediate problem:The water is too cold. Bull sharks prefer water <a href="http://oceanofk.org/tag/Tagmigrate/ddisttemp.html" target="_blank">warmer than seventy degrees fahrenheit</a>, and Lake Michigan&rsquo;s water is <a href="http://coastwatch.glerl.noaa.gov/statistic/avg-sst.php?lk=m&amp;yr=0" target="_blank">only that warm during a few weeks each year</a>. That means the bull shark would have to accomplish all of this in a very short period of time, or, as Kevin Irons points out, find one of the places warm water is discharged into the lake by power plants. Neither Irons nor the Shedd Aquarium&#39;s <a href="http://www.sheddaquarium.org/Conservation--Research/Conservation-Research-Experts/Dr-Phillip-Willink/" target="_blank">Phillip Willink </a>will go so far to say a shark could never make it to Lake Michigan and survive long enough to attack a person, but both consider the odds to be outlandishly high. &nbsp;</p><p>Of course, the shark may have had help. A shark could certainly have been brought to Lake Michigan &nbsp;in a water tank on a truck, an airplane, or helicopter, perhaps in a<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dghbyBaQyI" target="_blank"> similar scenario</a> to the one faced by Batman in the 1966 film, Batman. We know this kind of thing happens, because at least two dead saltwater sharks have been found in Lake Michigan.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/milwaukee2.png" title="One of the two known hoaxes involving sharks in Lake Michigan. (Source: Chicago Tribune, 1969) " /></div></div><p>One was later revealed as a prank, and scientists think the <a href="http://www.neatorama.com/2008/08/30/shark-found-in-lake-michigan/" target="_blank">other</a> may have been a prank, or possibly a discarded pet. Phillip Willink admits the Shedd aquarium has several sharks swimming in tanks just a few feet from the waters of Lake Michigan, but promises &ldquo;We keep them in the building at all times.&rdquo; Kevin Irons allows a baby shark could arrive in a cargo ship&rsquo;s ballast water tank, but it would most likely die in the lake. It would need to survive several years, living through the frigid winters, avoiding predation, until it was large enough to attack a child. Again, all of this is exceedingly unlikely.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The um, shark&rsquo;s tooth in the coffin?</span></p><p>If you&rsquo;ve been anywhere near a television or national newspaper in the last few weeks, you have seen reports of shark attacks in the Carolinas. Shark attacks make the news. Editors and reporters know there&rsquo;s something fascinating and horrific about toothed death emerging from tranquil waters in a vacation spot to ruin somebody&rsquo;s week. If a shark did attack somebody in Chicago, you would expect to see it in the Chicago newspapers. You would expect anniversary stories, stories pegged to &ldquo;Shark Week&rdquo;, and &ldquo;where are they now?&rdquo; stories about Lawson and Adler. We have access to digital, searchable archives for both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Defender and neither paper carried a shark attack story. This, more than any other piece of evidence, really makes the case that the bull shark story is an urban legend</p><p>And one further point. Often, urban legends have their grounding in some true but prosaic story. Over time the details are exaggerated and enhanced into an enduring fiction. But there appears to be absolutely nothing CLOSE to the 1955 shark attack in any records. Until 1975. There are references to Lawson in the Tribune&rsquo;s &ldquo;Action Line&rdquo; column, and the earliest one: October 1975, and it references a magazine called <a href="http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/killer-sharks-jaws-death-vol-jaws-408438933" target="_blank">Killer Sharks: The Jaws of Death</a>, also published in 1975, the same year as Felix Dennis&rsquo; Man-Eating Sharks. All three verifiable references of George Lawson occur in 1975, the year of Jaws, and a year characterized by intense shark interest world wide. This cluster of references suggests a likely scenario: Somebody, possibly one of Felix Dennis&rsquo; authors, possibly the Jaws of Death publishers, possibly the publishers of another mysterious book or magazine designed to capitalize on the Jaws phenomenon; somebody just made the whole thing up to sell magazines and make a quick buck. If that fabricator would only come forward, it would save our questioners, and the city of Chicago, a great deal of frustration.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/jesse%20and%20question%20asker.jpg" style="float: left; height: 180px; width: 320px;" title="Producer Jesse Dukes, left, and questioner Hilary Winiarz. " /><span style="font-size:24px;">Our questioners</span></p><p>Adam Kovac asked his version of the question back in 2012, in the early days of the Curious City project. He was surprised and pleased when he heard we were finally tackling his question, three years (and several swimming seasons) later. We were unable to talk to him due to scheduling difficulties. Hilary Winiarz&#39;s day job is as a writer in corporate communication and a mother of a ten year old boy, Matty, who also likes sharks. In what spare time she can scrape up, she writes fiction. Perhaps, it&rsquo;s the romance novelist in her that makes her say she wants the shark story to be true: &ldquo;I would, actually. I mean he lived, so it&rsquo;s not terribly tragic.&rdquo; Still unsatisfied, she mentioned the possibility of going through hospital records to find a patient named George Lawson in 1955. &nbsp;When we suggested that may prove a wild goose chase, she wasn&rsquo;t sure: &ldquo;The jury is still out on the goose chasey-ness of this of this, but it&rsquo;s enough potential for a goose chase to say I might be spinning my wheels.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Jesse Dukes is Curious City&rsquo;s audio producer, and he knows a<a href="http://www.vqronline.org/essay/lions-deep" target="_blank"> thing</a> or two about sharks. Thanks to Emily Charnock for sharkival assistance.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 16:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-another-bull-shark-story-112347