Sunday, February 1, 2015

January Top Ten

Seahawks or Patriots? As we post this morning nobody knows the outcome. But early on Super Bowl Sunday we already know the outcome of our January top ten page views.

1. A mid-January post leaped to the head of the pack. We grew up in Morton Grove, Illinois, a Chicago Suburb, population of about 25,000 at the time. In Morton Grove Before the Baby Boom: Life and Times at the Lincoln Tavern, we recount an earlier time when it was not a sleepy suburb but a hotbed for dancing, drinking, gambling and mischievous mirth.

Lincoln Tavern Ad, The Sentinel, August 12, 1921
Location, location and location were behind it. The roadhouse district along Dempster Street in Morton Grove was near enough to the Chicago Loop and the ritzy residences on the Gold Coast and up to the north shore suburbs to be accessible, but sufficiently distant and isolated to have an air of mystery and country cachet. Tavern offerings were illicit. Local and county police were complicit.
We learned that Lincoln Tavern hosted Duke Ellington, the wine-bath girl, Morton Grove's florist magnate, August Poehlmann, and many, many more.

2. When I sit down to research and write a blog post, sometimes I uncover material that takes the post in a totally unexpected direction. So it was with On the Road to Bathgate Act 1: "Fargo" the Movie, the first post in our ever popular "On the Road to Bathgate" series. My immigrant grandfather and great grandfather were the Bathgate, North Dakota town founders. We started to write a post on them when we learned that Bathgate was known for something more renown than family connection. As Bathgate bar proprietor Reinhold Henschel said, "What the hell?"

Corner of Austin & Dempster in Morton Grove, circa 1960.
3. Our seminal Morton Grove post climbed to third place in the January top ten. In Growing Up in Morton Grove, we reminisced:
Half a block up [from our home] and across the street was a field on the edge of the Cook County Forest Preserve, which with its bridle paths, heavily wooded areas, and riparian landscape presented all manner of opportunity for adventure and mischief. We captured butterflies, grasshoppers and lightening bugs, hung out in a "cave" along the river, climbed trees and explored the dump once located within.
Thomas Wolfe famously said "You can't go home again," but you can't blame us for trying. 

4. Golfers' thoughts are already turning to the towering pines, emerald green fairways, blooming magnolias and flowering azaleas at August National golf course where the Masters is held each spring. Our special connection with the Masters is that in our youth we caddied for Jock Hutchison, (British) Open champion golfer of the year and winner of the PGA championship. Jock was an original honorary starter for the Masters, a role fulfilled by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player today. Read about it here in The Masters (Repost).

Morton Grove, aerial view, 1938.
5. Publication of our Lincoln Tavern post teased out an invitation to join the Morton Grove Historical Society Facebook group, where we found a 1938 aerial photograph of Morton Grove. In Addendum to the Lincoln Tavern Post, we pinpoint the tavern grounds from above and point out some other gets from that era. It is fascinating to see how things change and yet remain the same.

6.  My better half's guest post and all-time most popular on Along the Gradyent, continued its uninterrupted run of consecutive top tens. It's an advice and self help piece -- The Golf Channel: Spouse's Guide To Sanity -- packed with pop culture references, a sure way to goose up page views on any blog.

7. The Lincoln Tavern saga got readers checking out our story about the most notorious Morton Grove roadhouse of them all -- Morton Grove Before the Baby Boom: The Complete Story of The Dells. Food, dancing and entertainment were the advertised attractions but,
The Dells' prosperous run was concurrent, not the least bit coincidentally, with the Volstead Act and prohibition. Additional attractions included beer, liquor and gambling and gangland wars over the profits of the same. The Dells was said to be owned or controlled by Al Capone and his gang. It is commonly referred to as the most notorious of the Morton Grove roadhouses.
Everyone who was anyone showed up at The Dells.

8. Martin Luther King Jr. day each year brings the spotlight back to The Caddies Thank You Dr. King! When we went on strike we borrowed a page from the civil rights leader's protest book.
To make it clear we were united, we caddies massed and organized. We marched out to the center of the driving range. We sat down on the target practice greens, preventing golfers from using the range, at least not without risking serious injury to the young men sitting thereon. And being good 1960’s protestors, we chanted slogans and then sang at the top of our lungs “We Shall Overcome.” The refrains of the civil rights anthem echoed across the greens, over the sandtraps, and through the forests.
As I recollect, the three hour strike wrought a process that produced fifty percent raise. For old Glen View Club caddies following us, please be advised we have a post on John Swearingen coming up in February -- Bonnie too.

9. The odometer on our Jeep Liberty rolled over on January 9. For those of under 40, odometers once were actually series of rolling wheels, each with digits 0 through 9. When a vehicle reached 100,000 miles the odometer literally rolled over back to zero for there was no hundreds of thousands place. When we hit the 100K mark on Kagy Avenue, we pulled into the parking lot at the Museum of the Rockies to get a picture of A Number You Gotta Like

10. We are the sum total of our life experiences. One of mine was manufacturing culvert pipe. 
It was a pretty typical blue collar environment where most of the employees teased and hazed the college kid unmercifully in the beginning. In time, if you proved yourself, you became one of the guys; they trusted you to partner with them and assume increasing responsibility. In addition to being dirty and tiring, parts of the process were dangerous work, one of the dangers highlighted some years earlier when a trespassing adolescent boy was tragically crushed playing with a friend rolling completed six foot radius pipes.
Wisconsin Culvert Co. produced bomb shelters too.
Sooner or later most of my co-workers took me privately aside, and encouraged me to continue my education, lest I not end up just like them, in a dirty, dangerous, and tiring dead end job. A couple of them had dropped out of the university in favor of a regular pay check. I appreciated their advice and friendship and resolved to visit a time or two during the school year to let the guys know I was thinking of them. When I stuck my head in they'd chirp before I could say a word, saying uh oh, here he comes, dropped out, looking for mercy and begging for work. They got in enough digs that they were happy to see me even though my visit kind of reminded them they were stuck in a rut.
For us, Caring About Culverts began in Madison, Wisconsin in 1973.

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