WBEZ | Curious City http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en How strictly do Chicago police enforce bike traffic laws? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-strictly-do-chicago-police-enforce-bike-traffic-laws-112992 <p><p>If you ride a bike, ask yourself: Do you stop at every stop sign? How about every red light? If the answer is no to either of those, well, technically you&rsquo;re breaking the law.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s the more egregious behavior from cyclists &mdash; weaving through cars, cutting people off, running red lights despite oncoming traffic &mdash; which our questioner,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-strictly-do-chicago-police-enforce-bike-traffic-laws-112992#lowy"> Chicagoan Ron Lowy</a>, sees all too often.</p><p>Sometimes he&rsquo;s even looked on as cyclists bike the wrong direction down a bike lane, no hands on the handlebars, while text messaging. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not making this up,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Lowy is a cab driver, usually considered the sworn enemy of bicyclists. But here&rsquo;s the thing: Lowy is also a dedicated cyclist. He commutes by bike almost everyday and rides for pleasure and exercise. But what he sees around him, at times, looks incredibly dangerous, enough for him to ask Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How strictly do Chicago police enforce bike traffic laws?</em></p><p>Getting an answer to Lowy&rsquo;s question matters because, for one, Chicago streets are not as safe as they could be. <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-bike-deaths-illinois-met-20141027-story.html">A 2014 safety report found that Illinois</a> had the fifth-highest number of bicyclist fatalities in the nation, a total of 29 in 2012, a steady increase from previous two years. In Chicago, the number of deaths of bicyclists has<a href="http://www.redeyechicago.com/news/local/redeye-fatal-bike-crashes-chicago-20150111-story.html"> surged in the past two years</a>, from three in 2013 to eight in 2014. It&rsquo;s a troubling shift the city&rsquo;s transportation commissioner calls &ldquo;significant.&rdquo; If one aim of bike traffic law is to prevent dangerous behavior on the part of bicyclists, it&rsquo;s fair to ask how often police nab offenders.</p><p>But here&rsquo;s another reason to consider how strictly the city enforces its bike rules: The city&rsquo;s encouraging residents to ride bikes and even commute by bike. If those long-term plans pan out, Chicago could see more and more bicyclists on the road, competing with cars and pedestrians for space.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Measuring enforcement</span></p><p>First, some bad news. Ideally, it would be best to answer Lowy&rsquo;s question with precise figures about how many bicyclists are on Chicago streets, then follow with an apples-to-apples comparison of how often police ticket riders versus how often they ticket motorists. The data we have in hand can&rsquo;t tell that story, but &mdash; and here&rsquo;s the good news &mdash; we did obtain data on how often the city enforces bike traffic laws and what types of behavior attract tickets.</p><p>Responding to<a href="http://llnw.wbez.org//bike%20laws%20CPD%20FOIA%20response%201.pdf" target="_blank"> our Illinois Freedom Of Information request</a>, the Chicago Police Department reports issuing 13,150 traffic-related tickets to bicyclers between 2006 and August of this year. &nbsp;(<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-strictly-do-chicago-police-enforce-bike-traffic-laws-112992#trends">Here are the trends</a> and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-strictly-do-chicago-police-enforce-bike-traffic-laws-112992#type">breakdown by ticket type</a>)</p><p>What to make of this figure, though? Have the thousands of tickets issued by the CPD translated into an awareness of bike traffic enforcement?</p><p>To get a better sense of this, we head to <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ChicagoCriticalMass">Critical Mass</a>, a monthly mass ride through downtown Chicago that doubles as a rally for greener modes of transport. There, we ask folks their impressions of bike laws and how the city enforces them.</p><p>Among the crowd, we ask a cyclist named Lily whether she&rsquo;d ever gotten a ticket on her bike.</p><p>&ldquo;No, you can get a ticket? I didn&rsquo;t know you could get a ticket,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>When asked what she thinks might warrant a ticket for a traffic violation, she provides a short list: &ldquo;Improper crossing? Improper turning? Running stop signs. Running over people?&rdquo;</p><p>(Yup, yup, yup, and yup. These are all ticketable.) &nbsp;</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/TICKET%20DUO%20FOR%20WEB.png" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Michael Gilewicz got a $70 ticket at the intersection of Addison and Clark streets and carries it around with him. (WBEZ/John Fecile)" /></div><p>At the same Critical Mass event, we manage to find Michael Gilewicz, who got a $70 ticket at the intersection of Addison and Clark streets. The ticket is such a novelty to him that he carries it around, almost like a trophy. Whipping it out, he explains that he&rsquo;d gotten pulled over for speeding, biking against the flow of traffic and disobeying red lights. Michael says when the judge read off the list of infractions, he looked at her and laughed.</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah, I was,&rdquo; he laughs.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://llnw.wbez.org//bike laws indesign.pdf" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rulestobikeby.png" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Continue to see our own version of Chicago's bike rules" /></a></div><p>The apparently low level of awareness of tickets or ticketing comes as no surprise to Ron Burke, the executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, a local organization advocating for better biking, walking and transit.</p><p>&ldquo;There is too little enforcement of traffic policies across the board in Chicago and even in the suburbs,&rdquo; Burke says. &ldquo;Whether that&rsquo;s the case for people driving, walking and even riding a bike.&rdquo;</p><p>Burke says that while well over 90 percent of traffic injuries and fatalities are caused by motorists, bike behavior factors in, too. It&rsquo;s important, he says, that we encourage good behavior across the board. And that, he adds, is done by enforcing the road rules and issuing hefty fines for those who don&rsquo;t follow them.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;"><a name="type"></a>When city police enforce bike laws, what are they targeting?</span></p><p>In Illinois, traffic laws apply to cyclists, so when CPD targets cyclists, it&#39;s for those state statutes as well as city ordinances that apply to bikes.</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/Number_of_reported_bicycle_violations_by_type%2C_2006-2015-__chartbuilder.png" style="height: 299px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Within the 9 years of CPD data available to us, &nbsp;the most frequent violation is <a href="http://www.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/Illinois/chicago_il/title9vehiclestrafficandrailtransportati/chapter9-52bicycles-operation?f=templates$fn=altmain-nf.htm$q=[field%20folio-destination-name:%279-52-010%27]$x=Advanced#JD_9-52-010">9-52-020, &ldquo;Riding bicycles on sidewalks and certain roadways.&rdquo;</a> (The ordinance covers riding on certain non-bikeable roads like Lake Shore Drive, but the vast majority of infractions involve sidewalks). Similar data obtained from Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings show that over the past year, tickets for riding on the sidewalk are way up. In fact, between 2013 and 2014 sidewalk-riding violations more than doubled, to 4,467 from 2,082.</p><p>Burke says that while enforcement is lacking everywhere, when cyclists do get ticketed it&rsquo;s usually the riders who are doing the most dangerous types of riding.</p><p>&ldquo;Riding fast on a sidewalk in a crowded pedestrian environment,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Blasting through an intersection and potentially hitting a pedestrian.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;"><a name="trend"></a>A trend in Chicago&rsquo;s bike enforcement</span></p><p>In recent years, as the number for cyclists rise, Chicago and other cities around the country have started to ticket more frequently.</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/Number_of_reported_bicycle_violations_by_year%2C_2006-2015-_Amount_chartbuilder.png" style="height: 349px; width: 620px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid;" title="" /></div><p>The Chicago Department of Transportation and city police have been conducting stakeouts around the city, targeting intersections with high crash rates. There, they crack down on risky behavior of bicyclists and motorists.</p><p>CDOT and the police are conducting more and more of these safety stakeouts. According to CDOT data, they&rsquo;ve already hit a record so far this year: 126 stakeouts, with more than 2,000 warnings given to cyclists. The first year the city began recording the events, in 2011, they conducted just 62 such stakeouts. &nbsp;</p><p>Incidentally, some Chicago-area suburbs are seeing the same trend in enforcement. Several North Shore communities have also started cracking down on group cycling. This summer, from late July and into August, the <a href="http://www.cityhpil.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=429">Highland Park Police Department joined forces with four other city police departments</a> to conduct enforcement and education stops for cyclists and motorists. The action came after the departments received numerous citizen complaints about cyclists&rsquo; behavior along several well-traveled North Shore paths.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Fostering a cycling culture</span></p><p>As Chicago ramps up its bike enforcement, it&rsquo;s also encouraging more residents to bike. It&rsquo;s busy building a better cycling infrastructure with two-way bike lanes with their own traffic lights. It also launched <a href="https://www.divvybikes.com/about">the bike sharing program, Divvy</a>, and placed bike borrowing stations across the city.</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/flickr-chicago%20bicycle%20program%20infrastructure%20making%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago bicycling infrastructure is improving, but cyclists are often confused about bike laws. (Flickr/Chicago Bicycle Program)" /></div><p>Still, all this momentum raises the question: If the city is investing so much in a better biking culture, shouldn&rsquo;t it be even more explicit and consistent about what type of behavior it expects from cyclists?</p><p>Burke says it should and he credits the city for conducting the high-profile stakeouts. He says he&rsquo;s impressed with how much the city has increased them while at the same time including the ATA and their <a href="http://chicagocompletestreets.org/your-safety/education-encouragement/ambassadors/">Bike Ambassador program</a> in the stakeouts. This approach, he says, makes these enforcement actions educational as well.</p><p>But Burke also predicts that over time, more and more cyclists will follow the rules of the road. He chalks it up to &ldquo;pack mentality.&rdquo;<a href="http://www.ucdenver.edu/about/newsroom/newsreleases/Pages/More-cyclists-on-road-can-mean-less-collisions.aspx"> As more people bike, they are more likely to comply</a> with common sense safety and less likely to be influenced by the few rogue cyclists who choose to ignore the law.</p><p>&ldquo;You get more people on bikes. You actually start to get better behavior on average of cyclists,&rdquo; Burke says.</p><p>What&rsquo;s more, data suggest that<a href="http://www.cpr.org/news/story/some-cyclists-obey-laws-some-dont-cu-denver-researcher-wants-know-why?utm_source=Facebook&amp;utm_medium=Social&amp;utm_campaign=FBCPR5434"> better biking infrastructure also builds more complaint riders</a>. Just six months after the city built the two-way protected bike lanes on Dearborn Street, complete with their own traffic signals, compliance with red light traffic laws<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-10/classified/ct-met-getting-around-0610-20130610_1_cyclists-signals-bike-traffic"> was up 161 percent</a>, according to the city.</p><p><a name="lowy"></a>Our questioner, Ron Lowy, says he thinks despite the shiny new bike lanes, some folks will always choose to break the law. That is, until Chicago takes a stand.</p><p>&ldquo;They ride carelessly because they know they&#39;re not going to get fined for it,&rdquo; Lowy says of reckless cyclists. &ldquo;But the bottom line is you can&#39;t blame anybody but the city of Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker%20FOR%20WEB_0.jpg" style="height: 394px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Questioner Ron Lowy at WBEZ. " /><span style="font-size:24px;">About our questioner</span></p><p>A self-described &ldquo;man about town dude&rdquo;, Ron Lowy is a musician, cab driver and bicycle advocate.</p><p>Lowy lives in Uptown, but drives his cab all around the city. And over the years, he&rsquo;s seen quite a few accidents of bicyclists hitting cars, cars hitting cyclists, cyclists hitting pedestrians. &ldquo;A majority of them,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;was not the car&#39;s&rsquo; fault.&rdquo;</p><p>Lowy agrees with the ATA&rsquo;s Ron Burke; more enforcement would make cyclists, pedestrians and motorists safer. But he is also more nuanced about whether bikes and cars should be treated as equals&mdash;subject to all of the same rules of the road.</p><p>&ldquo;Depending on the situation, bikes are a different story than cars,&rdquo; Lowy says. He believes crowded and highly trafficked thoroughfares should be tightly enforced. But side streets, during off peak hours when there is little traffic, not so much. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I&#39;d be lying if I said I never disobeyed the law,&rdquo; Lowy says. &ldquo;[But] I don&#39;t run red lights. I&#39;ll run neighborhood stop signs, but I slow down dramatically and look&hellip;common sense is a big part of this.&rdquo;</p><p><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"> meribahknight.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="https://www.twitter.com/meribah">@meribah</a>.</em></p><p><em>Curious City intern John Fecile provided research and reporting for this story.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div><p>&nbsp;</p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 18 Sep 2015 16:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-strictly-do-chicago-police-enforce-bike-traffic-laws-112992 Updates, what we're up to, and how you can help http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/updates-what-were-and-how-you-can-help-112945 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Facebook_logo_overlay.png" alt="" /><p></p> Wed, 16 Sep 2015 12:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/updates-what-were-and-how-you-can-help-112945 The design of the Wrigley Scoreboard: Revolutionary, retro or both? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/design-wrigley-scoreboard-revolutionary-retro-or-both-112916 <p><p>Wrigley Field got a lot of press last spring when it debuted the much-anticipated (or much-dreaded) mammoth-sized video board. On opening day, Cubs fans &mdash; some grinning, some grunting &mdash; feasted their eyes on 39,000 square-feet of instant replays, player stats, and pitch speeds. In other words, the works.</p><p>But if you do the math, this Jumbotron and its right-field counterpart (a smaller screen that lists each team&#39;s batting lineup) didn&rsquo;t add up to two ways to track games at Wrigley Field. It made three.</p><p>Because, tucked in the back of the center field bleachers, sits the same, rinkydink hand-operated scoreboard that&rsquo;s sat there for 78 years. And, amid Wrigley&rsquo;s newfound displays of digital data, that old, middle board still makes an impression.</p><p>&ldquo;I was more struck by the scoreboard than the action on the field, to be honest with you,&rdquo; says Tom Foust, whose Curious City question was inspired by his first and only Chicago Cubs game last season.</p><p>Tom says he found himself lost in a daygame daydream, imagining what impressions that board must have left on Cubs fans in 1937, the year it debuted. And he asked us this:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Was the Wrigley Field scoreboard a revolution in information design for 193</em>7?</p><p>Assessing whether a new technology amounts to a revolution is tricky. The cotton gin revolutionized agriculture, and television forever changed the way we consume entertainment.</p><p>But what&rsquo;s a <em>scoreboard</em> ever done? Or, as Tom wants to know, should <em>this </em>scoreboard join the ranks of the pie chart and the emoticon as a revolutionary piece of visual communication.</p><p>For an answer, we delve into how the board was shaped, and we evaluate whether the design holds up today. And we get some extra-inning goodness: Regardless of its innovations (or lack thereof), the board tests the idea that everything old can indeed become new again.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The crafting and cobbling together of &lsquo;beautiful&rsquo; Wrigley Field</span></p><p>The story of the Wrigley Field scoreboard starts with a vision for the entire stadium.</p><p>Philip Knight Wrigley inherited the Cubs from his father, the chewing gum magnate who ran the team as a hobby. PK Wrigley promised to keep the Cubs in the family business, though, and was intrigued with the idea of filling seats more than actually running the team.</p><p>In fact, PK Wrigley didn&rsquo;t even like baseball.</p><p>&ldquo;He loved art. He loved flowers,&rdquo; says Stuart Shea, who wrote a book about Wrigley Field&rsquo;s history. &ldquo;He was a tinkerer, an idea guy. Not a great people person. A strange bird.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_770412037.jpg" style="height: 241px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="Philip K. Wrigley, left, poses with Charles Grimm at the Chicago Cubs training camp on Catalina Island, California in 1934. (AP Photo)" /></div><p>But being a man of marketing and aesthetics, Wrigley set out to expand Wrigley Field&rsquo;s audience. In a redesign he first considered for the 1937 season, he wanted to attract new fans: women, children, and men more like himself. And the way to do it, he thought, was to make the place irresistible.</p><p>&ldquo;One of PK Wrigley&rsquo;s most brilliant thoughts was this idea of you can&rsquo;t guarantee whether a team will win or lose, but you can guarantee whether the park is going to be clean, and the food is going to be good and the facilities are going to be adequate,&rdquo; Shea says. &ldquo;He said, &lsquo;I&rsquo;m going to pour my money into making this a place where people want to spend the day.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Wrigley branded the place &lsquo;Beautiful Wrigley Field.&rsquo; He advertised it all over radio stations and newspapers well before anyone ever set foot in the place before the 1937 opening day.</p><p>He hired Otis Shepard, the famous corporate artist behind the success of Wrigley Gum, to reimagine the place with a soft, Art Deco flair. Together, they established the forest green and off-white color palette you see today, which was inspired by Wrigley Gum products and the baseball diamond itself.</p><p>The outside marquee, the ticket booths, the concession stands were designed with noticeable intention. The scoreboard was to be the crown jewel that tied it all together.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="300" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1937/09/12/page/39/article/new-wrigley-field-blooms-in-scenic-beauty-and-scoffers-rush-to-apologize" width="620"></iframe></p><p>(Interestingly, the board was one of the last things to come together, and it barely met the opening day deadline. For details see <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZQRb1eh9lE&amp;feature=youtu.be">here&rsquo;s Bill Veeck&rsquo;s account</a>. <em>Know though, that this man was known to exaggerate!</em>) &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Putting the scoreboard to the 1937 (beta) test</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/today.jpg" style="height: 433px; width: 620px;" title="(Flickr/Antonio Delgado)" /></p><p>Remember that Tom Foust wants to know whether the board was revolutionary, not majestic. With the backstory in hand, here&rsquo;s the board, followed by an inventory of the information fans were confronted with on opening day:</p><ul><li><strong>The left and right sides:</strong> The board displays scores from concurrent games running across the National and American leagues. While today it&rsquo;s expected to be able to access the scores of games across the country (there are even dozens of baseball apps to choose from), Tom wondered if having all of that information accessible and displayed in 1937 was particularly revolutionary. Shea says &hellip; nope. Most big-league baseball scoreboards did have that information. Why? Baseball fans or not, people liked to gamble, and scoreboards that showed simultaneous games not only offered more options for where to place your bets, but also drew more people into ballparks.&nbsp;<em>Verdict: This content was expected. Not revolutionary.</em></li></ul><ul dir="ltr"><li><em>​</em><strong>The middle:</strong> The number of balls, scores, and outs (as well as other other doodads like the uniform number of the batters and umpires) are all displayed in the middle of the scoreboard. It&rsquo;s run on a system of electromagnetic relays that control grids of small, painted eyelets (think of them as physical, manual pixels), that flip to form the numbers you see on the board. Relay technology was nothing new in 1937, but it hadn&rsquo;t been applied to scoreboards before. As a result, though, the middle numbers are actually bigger than the manually-operated numbers displayed on the left or right, because the simpler technology worked with the push of a lever &mdash; not the work of, say, three men updating scores by hand. The larger numbers made the game easier to follow for new baseball fans. <em>Verdict: The mechanisms are neat, but were actually common. Larger numbers are an improvement in user-experience, but not enough to make it revolutionary.</em></li></ul><ul dir="ltr"><li><strong>Overall layout:</strong> Wrigley and Veeck were on to something when they decided to rethink the board&#39;s layout for the 1937 season. Most scoreboards at the time were either narrow and vertical, or narrow and horizontal. Veeck&rsquo;s design arranged all of the scores in a large, rectangular shape and placed it above eye-level in the centerfield bleachers. Most other scoreboards were located at ground level near the infield, where not everyone could see it. <em>Verdict: The new format was an improvement in designing a point of entry. At least it was at eye level and graspable at a quick glance.</em></li></ul><p>​What to make of it all? Here&rsquo;s where we come down on it: In 1937, the Wrigley Field scoreboard was a hands-down improvement of the user experience, but, even with all of its improvements considered together, the board fell short of being revolutionary.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">But if it&rsquo;s not revolutionary, what is it?</span></p><p>The board&rsquo;s survived several rounds of technological progress, including the streamlining of all-electric scoreboards during the 1950s. For that, it deserves some applause. But how does it hold up by today&rsquo;s standards of technological interfaces?</p><p>Marie Hicks, who teaches the history of technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, is willingto provide her first impression: the classic Wrigley Field scoreboard is a mess.</p><p>There&rsquo;s just too much information, she says. It&rsquo;s not user-friendly. There&rsquo;s not a single point of entry.</p><p>She&rsquo;s confident that board wasn&rsquo;t revolutionary, but not for the reasons you might think.</p><p>Hicks says that for something to be revolutionary, it&rsquo;s got to make a fundamental change in the way people do things from that point on. If it were revolutionary, the Wrigley scoreboard would have inspired copycats across the country. And in a broad movement towards mainstream replication, Hicks says, the original (the one at Wrigley) would lose value. It just wouldn&rsquo;t be that special anymore.</p><p>&ldquo;If it were revolutionary then everything after it would have been just like it and there would have been less of a reason to keep it around,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>That&rsquo;s not the case with Wrigley Field&rsquo;s old scoreboard. In fact, the thing was special enough to receive landmark status from the City of Chicago in 2014. Which means, not only was the scoreboard decidedly worth historic preservation, it was also worth keeping up and running. Why? People love it.</p><p>&ldquo;In a strange way the love that a lot of people have for the scoreboard is another hint that it wasn&rsquo;t really revolutionary,&rdquo; Hicks says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s both foreign and completely familiar. It&rsquo;s representing all the stuff you expect to see in a modern scoreboard but in a sort of janky, simpler way that makes us nostalgic.&rdquo;</p><p>Even though the scoreboard was built in an era very different from our own, it&rsquo;s still relatable. And Hicks says that relatability is key to understanding why the board was not so much revolutionary as it was a harbinger of an increasingly data-driven and information-rich society. One in which numbers pervade daily life and even entertainment.</p><p>&ldquo;The technology that for a while was developed for business or defense are now seeping into our lives in all sorts of ways,&rdquo; Hicks says, citing the popularity of fitbits and algorithm-driven entertainment like Netflix or Spotify. &ldquo;The way that technology has changed our view of how to entertain ourselves and be in the world in off hours has so much more to do with quantification.&rdquo;</p><p>The Wrigley Field scoreboard, Hicks says, is one beautiful example of an early shift towards an world more like our own. That part where we see ourselves in the past ... That&rsquo;s what nostalgia&rsquo;s made of.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">In with the new, but make it look old</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Wrigley_Field_Panorama.png" style="height: 351px; width: 620px;" title="A panorama of Wrigley Field taken August 8, 2015, shows the three boards Cubs fan can use to follow the game. (Photo By TaylorSteiner (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons) " /></p><p>Nostalgia, it turns out, can be quite the utility. Today, as Wrigley Field&rsquo;s newly-installed Jumbotron hovers over left field, it could be flashing animated letters that tell you when to cheer, when to do the wave or when to kiss the stranger next to you.</p><p>Instead, between the instant replays and inning wrap-ups, you see digitized films of Harry Caray at Wrigley Field singing &ldquo;Take me out to the ball game,&rdquo; or bits of Cubs history trivia &mdash; all digitally designed with the same, deep-forest green and off-white art deco details Cubs fans have enjoyed for decades. It&rsquo;s as if the new video boards had the same art director as the old scoreboard.</p><p>Although that old scoreboard ages by the day, it stays trapped in a twisted time warp, somewhere between old and new. A radical, retroactive anti-revolution.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">About our questioner</span></p><p>Tom Foust says when he sat in the Wrigley Field bleachers for the first time, his level of nerd-dom became utterly clear to him.</p><p>&ldquo;I am decidedly not a baseball guy, but I am a bit of an information nerd,&rdquo; he says, adding that the Cubs game itself became kind of secondary.</p><p>He says he had even ventured an answer to his own question about the board&rsquo;s status as revolutionary: &ldquo;I would probably guess, Yes, this was something that was really unique and encouraged the growth of even more.&rdquo;</p><p>Tom has been spot-on when it comes to one observation: Yes, the Wrigley Field scoreboard is unique. But he was spot-wrong in the part about the Wrigley scoreboard encouraging the growth of more like it. In fact, learned that the Wrigley scoreboard is one of a kind, and that&rsquo;s exactly what makes it decidedly non-revolutionary. &nbsp;</p><p>But as a middle school music and technology teacher, he&rsquo;s come up a follow-up question: How would a modern professional of information design create the same scoreboard using the technology of 1930?</p><p>Well, Tom, we&rsquo;ll leave that to your students to take up!</p><p><em>Logan Jaffe is Curious City&#39;s web producer. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe">@loganjaffe</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 11 Sep 2015 17:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/design-wrigley-scoreboard-revolutionary-retro-or-both-112916 Nice pipes: The inner workings of Buckingham Fountain http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/nice-pipes-inner-workings-buckingham-fountain-112844 <p><p>San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. For New York City, it&rsquo;s the Statue of Liberty. Chicago? It&rsquo;s got Buckingham Fountain, an icon that mingles water, multi-colored lights, and granite, as well as bronze and pink georgia marble. Not to mention a jet that sprays water to seemingly impossible heights.</p><p>The fountain&rsquo;s wow factor has entranced questioner Alan Ireland, an HVAC contractor and a self-described &ldquo;pump guy.&rdquo; While growing up in Chicago, he wondered how the fountain works and heard lore of a hidden engineer who kept the displays going. Combined, those led him to ask Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>I hear that Buckingham Fountain is run off of one individual pump and that there is one employee whose responsibility it is to keep the fountain running. Is that true?</em></p><p>Well, we got enough special access to answer Alan&rsquo;s question about the fountain&rsquo;s inner-workings, but as we learned more about the history, we also encountered a fascinating backstory about how Chicago came to have this grand landmark in the first place. Here&rsquo;s a hint: The fountain was a compromise &mdash; a way to establish a public lakefront without creating too much clutter.</p><p>But first ...</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">What does it take to make Buckingham Fountain tick?</span></p><p>When I ask Alan to describe the childhood legends he&rsquo;d heard, he says, &ldquo;This might come out really wrong, but like the troll under the bridge that keeps the bridge going or whatever. That sounds terrible. ... Let&rsquo;s call it the lighthouse keeper!&rdquo;</p><p>Instead of the proverbial troll under the bridge, we find tall, blue-eyed Eric Kelmar, an assistant chief engineer for the <a href="http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks/clarence-f-buckingham-memorial-fountain/">Chicago Park District</a>. He manages the team of about five engineers who tend to Buckingham Fountain. Kelmar explains that due to the high priority of site, &ldquo;We try to keep it to a small family of people who operate it daily.&rdquo;</p><p>Every morning, from April 1 through mid-October, one of Kelmar&rsquo;s team throws on a pair of waders and pulls out any debris that birds may have lodged in the fountain&rsquo;s screens and baskets overnight.</p><p>Then, at 8:00 a.m., the engineer manually starts up the fountain. An hour later, the first water-show begins. Kelmar says the fountain&rsquo;s center jet can shoot water as high as 150 feet in the air, depending on wind conditions. That&rsquo;s 15 stories.</p><p>How many pumps does it take to pull that off?</p><p>Kelmar takes me down into Buckingham Fountain&rsquo;s underground pump room, which has three big pumps, each one being <em>original</em> 1927 DeLaval hardware. Their combined power totals 575 horsepower. (For context, a car in 1927 ran on 25 horsepower. Today, the average Toyota Corolla has approximately 140 horsepower.)</p><p>Kelmar says these old pumps require TLC, but they are built to last. &ldquo;Five years ago, we had them completely pulled out of the pump house and rewound, and they said there&#39;s no reason to replace [them],&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;They were well-built and, with the new upgrades, they could last another 100 years.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="424" id="iframe" scrolling="no" src="//flickrit.com/slideshowholder.php?height=414&amp;width=620&amp;size=medium&amp;speed=stop&amp;count=8&amp;setId=72157657768098549&amp;caption=on&amp;counter=true&amp;credit=1&amp;theme=1&amp;thumbnails=0&amp;transition=0&amp;layoutType=fixed&amp;sort=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>No planned obsolescence here. In fact, Kelmar says that if they were to replace the original pumps, they would need about 24 modern pumps to do the same job.</p><p>In the past, the fountain&rsquo;s pumps were operated manually. Two engineers would alternate 12 hour shifts: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. You can still see the original bronze levers they used to control those pumps upstairs in the fountain&rsquo;s control room.</p><p>The fountain&rsquo;s light-show was also analog. The engineer would improvise each show on a complicated light board, littered with dozens of dimmers and switches. Chicago Park District historian Julia Bachrach explains that the engineer&rsquo;s creative decisions were not well-received.</p><p>&ldquo;In 1932, there were complaints that the engineer had garish taste and that he didn&#39;t know how to mix the colors properly to make a beautiful light show,&rdquo; Bachrach says. &ldquo;So they brought in a theatrical lighting designer to help kind of create a program.&rdquo;</p><p>The light system went automatic in 1968 and, according to Bachrach, the fountain was computerized in 1980. The fountain&rsquo;s first computer was a Honeywell system which, from 1983 to 1994, was run out of a Honeywell office in Atlanta, Georgia. Later, the computer was moved to the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, before operations came full circle to the fountain&rsquo;s own control room. Today the fountain runs on an Allen-Bradley Programmable Logic Controller.</p><p>But, you can still override the system with the flip of a switch. Kelmar shows me the control panel, which sports an array of labeled switches: &ldquo;SEA HORSES,&rdquo; &ldquo;MUSHROOMS,&rdquo; &ldquo;ISOLATED JETS,&rdquo; and &ldquo;INNER TOP BOWL.&quot;</p><p>Opting for the seahorses, of course, I throw the switch from &ldquo;auto&rdquo; to &ldquo;off&rdquo; and, after a 13-second delay, the valves in the fountain&rsquo;s seahorses close. A loud sound emanates from the pump room below our feet and (voila!) the seahorses stop spitting. After a moment, the computer catches up, and the seahorses on the system&rsquo;s display change from green to red.</p><p>I quickly flip the switch back before any tourists get agitated. I wouldn&rsquo;t want to ruin any selfies.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The backstory on why the fountain&rsquo;s so grand</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/grant%20park%201906.jpg" style="height: 286px; width: 620px;" title="Grant Park pictured in 1906, before the area was beautified. (Library of Congress)" /></p><p>The fountain&rsquo;s pumps were built to last, but they were also built to impress. But ... impress whom? And why? Bachrach says it&rsquo;s important to understand what was in Grant Park before 1927, when Buckingham Fountain was completed. To set the scene, she explains that the area was mostly ash, trash and debris. &ldquo;For years and years, there was this raw, kind of landfill, just flat dirt terrain,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>The public debated what to do with this eyesore. Some people wanted to erect a massive building that celebrated everything splendid and grand. Inspired by the extravagant French <a href="http://en.chateauversailles.fr/homepage">Palace of Versailles</a>, this faction craved a building that would truly establish Grant Park as the seat of architectural excellence.</p><p>Mail-order magnate Montgomery Ward opposed such a building. Ward was a major entrepreneur and, like Chicago&rsquo;s founding fathers, he felt the city&rsquo;s lakefront should remain <a href="https://chipublib.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1050707081">&ldquo;Forever Open, Clear, &amp; Free.&rdquo;</a> Plus, his office had a great view of the lake.</p><p>In 1909 Ward got his way, and architect Edward Bennett began building a compromise. Bachrach says Bennett must have asked himself, &ldquo;If you couldn&#39;t have the palace of Versailles as the visual focal point for the park, what would you do?&rdquo; According to Bachrach, Bennett &ldquo;created what was then believed to be the world&#39;s largest fountain ... inspired by a beautiful fountain at Versailles.&rdquo; (That fountain is <a href="http://latone.chateauversailles.fr/en/page/the-latona-fountain/history-of-the-latona-fountain">the Latona Basin</a>, to be precise. And Buckingham Fountain is about twice its size.)</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/BuckinghamArchival%28JB%29%281%29%20%281%29.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Buckingham Fountain in construction before its opening in 1927. (Photo courtesy Chicago Park District)" /></div><p>Bennett had found the perfect balance; his fountain would celebrate the architectural grandeur that was in vogue at the time, without obstructing the view of the lakefront. But he had a problem: Taxpayers would not fund such an opulent project, no matter how unobtrusive its design. So Bennett approached philanthropist Kate Buckingham, whom Bachrach describes as a real character.</p><p>&ldquo;She was known for being very sort of cavalier,&rdquo; Bachrach says. &ldquo;She was a woman who would speak her mind. I&#39;ve heard she didn&#39;t mind using bad language occasionally.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/kate buckingham.jpg" style="height: 376px; width: 250px; float: right;" title="Kate Buckingham, 1930. (The Art Institute of Chicago)" /></div><p>Buckingham&rsquo;s family had made a fortune in grain elevators and she was the last remaining heir. Bachrach says that Buckingham asked Bennett and his team how much the fountain would cost. According to Bachrach, Bennett gave an estimate of about $300,000.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Ever the generous woman, Buckingham decided to fund the fountain and to name it in memory of her late brother, Clarence. She liked the idea of building a beautiful, democratic space where everyone from secretaries to executives could come eat their lunches, chitchat and enjoy the lake.</div><p>Bennett&rsquo;s final design was meant to celebrate Lake Michigan, with one bronze seahorse for each of the four states bordering the lake. All of the bronze work was done by an up-and-coming French sculptor named Marcel Loyau, who was later awarded the <em>Prix National</em>, a prestigious French art award, for designing the fountain&rsquo;s sculptural elements.</p><p>Clearly, construction wasn&rsquo;t cheap. &ldquo;By the time all was said and done, she donated slightly over a million dollars,&rdquo; Bachrach says. &ldquo;Which included $750,000 to build the fountain and a $300,000 endowment.&rdquo; (All told, this adds up to more than <a href="http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm">$13 million in today&rsquo;s figures</a>.)</p><p>Finally, on August 26, 1927, The Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain was ready for the public.</p><p>&ldquo;At the time that it was dedicated, they had a lot of hoopla, they knew this was a big deal,&rdquo; Bachrach says. &ldquo;John Philip Sousa&#39;s orchestra played <em>Pomp and Circumstance</em>. ... Tens of thousands of Chicagoans gathered, they say 50,000. ... And, of course, Kate Buckingham was in attendance.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Does the fountain still captivate?</span></p><p>Buckingham Fountain made quite the impression on the citizens of Chicago. A week after the dedication, a <em><a href="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1927/09/04/page/1/article/fountain-adds-new-beauty-to-chicagos-life/index.html">Chicago Tribune</a></em> columnist waxed poetic:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;In a week the Buckingham fountain has captured the imagination of the town, enlarged its aesthetic sense, and done it spiritual good. &nbsp;&hellip; It is the lyric of the lake. It will never grow old or commonplace.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>But, almost 100 years later, does Buckingham Fountain still capture the city&rsquo;s imagination?</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/FlP2aTqkJas?rel=0&amp;showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>It&rsquo;s certainly Chicago&rsquo;s calling card. If there&rsquo;s an establishing shot of the Windy City in a film or <a href="https://youtu.be/FlP2aTqkJas?t=4m32s">a television series</a>, chances are it depicts Buckingham Fountain in the foreground, juxtaposed with Chicago&rsquo;s modern skyline just behind. Pick up <a href="https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/4b/c5/74/4bc57416918be23dd90b96a8a5271a41.jpg">a tourist brochure of Chicago</a>, and it&rsquo;s likely that Buckingham Fountain is one of the first images you&rsquo;ll see inside. In 2008, President-elect Barack Obama gave his victory speech in Grant Park as throngs of people encircled the fountain to listen to him speak. And, there are more than a few videos floating around the Internet of different flash mobs dancing in front of the fountain before someone inevitably gets down on one knee and pops the question. (<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_l7Gf6mEOY">She says yes</a>).</p><p>For an informal survey, I talk to tourists zipping around on segways, a model posing for the camera in a long, white dress, and people cooling off in the fountain&rsquo;s spray. Everyone I talk to is impressed with this place, including Kevin Doerksen, a native Chicagoan who runs a professional tour company. He says that when people visit the city, Buckingham Fountain is on the top of his itinerary, but not necessarily for the site&rsquo;s historical merits. With a shrug, he explains that people want to see the fountain from the opening credits of the nineties sitcom, &lsquo;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8t5cOjlEPU">Married With Children</a>.&rsquo; Inevitably, he says, &ldquo;We always want to come down and see the Al Bundy Memorial Fountain.&rdquo;</p><p>Barabas Shane from Atlanta, Georgia, beams as he snaps a picture of the fountain. &ldquo;We love &lsquo;Married With Children,&rsquo;&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I finally got to see it and it&#39;s real,&rdquo; he gushes. &ldquo;I was like, this couldn&#39;t be real. But this is beautiful.&rdquo;</p><p>As the <em>Tribune</em> writer predicted, it seems Buckingham Fountain has grown neither old nor commonplace, after all.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AlanIreland9-1%28AI%29%281%29.png" style="height: 384px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Curious Citizen Alan Ireland inspired our investigation into fountain and its history. (Courtesy of Alan Ireland)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Alan Ireland, Curious Citizen</span></p><p>Alan Ireland, 35, grew up in north suburban Libertyville. When Ireland was a kid, his family would frequently take trips into the city. &ldquo;We always made it a point to walk down towards Buckingham Fountain, just to watch all the pumps go,&rdquo; Ireland explains. &ldquo;So it was always just kind of a really cool, neat fountain, cause you don&#39;t see a lot of those in America and the magnitude of it is pretty awesome.&rdquo;</p><p>Ireland&rsquo;s interest in pumps runs in the family. In fact, he oversees operations and sales for the family business, Ireland Heating and Air Conditioning. Ireland explains that his work entails everything from &ldquo;forced air and hot water pumps, water pumps, and things of that nature for both residential and commercial facilities in the northern suburbs.&rdquo;</p><p>But Ireland&rsquo;s curiosity about Buckingham Fountain isn&rsquo;t purely technical. &ldquo;I think the inner workings of the city of Chicago and the backbone and the tunnel systems and everything else that keeps the city running ... &nbsp;It&#39;s just really curious to see the marvels that nobody really looks at or even thinks about on a daily basis.&rdquo;</p><p>Ireland now lives in Chicago&rsquo;s Andersonville neighborhood. In his spare time, he is a member of the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association.</p><p><em>Chloe Prasinos is an independent reporter and producer based in Chicago. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/chloeprasinos" target="_blank">@chloeprasinos</a>. </em></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Buckingham8-18(AT)(1).jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Alison Troldahl, left, and daughter, Milayna Boswell, right, break from their segway tour to talk with producer Chloe Prasinos, center, about the fountain. They only asked for a selfie in return. (Courtesy of Alison Troldahl)" /></div></p> Fri, 04 Sep 2015 14:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/nice-pipes-inner-workings-buckingham-fountain-112844 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