Sunday, August 15, 2010

Portland, Oregon

So, I've been a derelict blogger. The summer has been hot and humid, which drives me into my cave, punctuated by periods of travel. But finally it's a lovely summer evening in Hyde Park. The breeze is blowing my curtains in the soft air, and I feel like finally catching up.

In late June, I went for a week-long convention in Portland, Oregon, which interested me a lot because it has accomplished so much in its efforts to be a livable, green, and interesting city. It's the only downtown I've been to in a long time where I could hear the robins singing early in the morning.

In part, that's owed to the heavy promotion of bicycle traffic, including large, well-marked bike lanes throughout the downtown (and of course, the kind of weather conducive to biking). Here is the morning commute going past on the main drag.


In addition, it had an intuitive-to-use tram system that was free in the downtown and convention center district. In addition to appealing to convention attendees, it seemed well used by the locals. Here is the red line coming through the oldest part of town. It probably helps that there is relatively light traffic downtown. They obeyed the stoplights and still made excellent time. I gather that they had recently added two extra lines. connecting the convention center with downtown. It certainly made me eager to attend any future conferences there.



It showed how pleasant a city can be when there's a concerted effort to get away from cars. However, it may also have been the economic downturn cutting down on the traffic. In any case, it made staying downtown extremely pleasant.

In addition, I enjoyed being near the waterfront. It was clear that a lot of effort had gone into rethinking the city's relationship with the river, which now boasts a long parkway that was well used by recreational bikers, joggers, day care classes, tai chi groups, and unfortunately, the many homeless.


The convention center and sports arena are also right along the riverfront on the other side, pulling people into the old heart of the city. The twin spires to the right is the convention center.



Downtown Portland is on a human scale because so much of the 19th century architecture has been conserved and redesigned, not just the official historic district by the river. I took a lot of photos since so much of the architecture had interesting flourishes with only an occasional boring glass box. However, with the economic downturn, it looked as though Portland was suffering. There were too many of these signs (and many many homeless).


On some streets there was more of a sense that Portland had looked quite a bit different not so long ago and that it still had some catching up to do..


I stayed in a lovely hotel--the Hotel Monaco--with the friendliest staff. When I got off the elevator on my floor, there was a goldfish in a bowl with a sign that said, hello, my name is Leonard. The bellman told me that it was a grand old department store that had been rethought as a grand new hotel.


Portland seemed to specialize in quirky flourishes and really nice people in the service industries (who made a point of treating the customer as an individual). One thing that amused me was the civic art on a not very grand scale that had sprouted up downtown. Here's a great threesome--an odd little statue, a fire hydrant, and in the middle, these wonderful water fountains that are scattered around downtown. They are apparently known as Benson Bubblers--a donation in 1912 by a timber baron to the city--they bring water from the Cascade Mountains into the city.


And then there was the block where the otter, bear, deer, and ducks had made a home by some pools of water.



And I loved that they had managed to preserve an avenue of elms leading down toward Portland State University. I know Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt as Rough Rider behind him appreciate the lovely shade. I haven't seen so many elms since the Midway elms died off in the 1970s.They are uniquely graceful for a boulevard since they rise up in a vase shape with overarching branches.


No wonder the robins were singing in Portland.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

All Things Change

I arrived in Hyde Park twice. The first time was for graduate school, and my orbit was around the University and west Hyde Park. The second time was by choice, and I moved into East Hyde Park. I had been gone from Hyde Park for six years and mostly it felt as though I had changed more than it had, but sometimes, I discovered startling developments during my absence.

It was a sunny morning on a summer holiday weekend in 1995, lounging in my then apartment on Hyde Park Boulevard and trying to decide what to do with my rare day off when I heard a siren. An odd siren. It sounded. Then stopped. Then sounded again. And very slowly got closer. So, I decided to wander out and see what what was going on--and let whimsy be my guide.

Good thing I was ready for whimsy for coming up the boulevard was a parade--a homegrown, grassroots, Everybody Marches, Nobody Watches, Hyde Park kind of parade. Thanks to the Nichols Park Advisory Council (and especially Betsy Ross/Stephanie Franklin along with many others), a great new community tradition had grown while I was gone--4th on 53rd.

Hundreds of kids in decorated bikes and balloon-laden strollers, lawn bowlers in crisp white, equestrians, a van with a sign advocating the legalization of marijuana, Kiwanis, La Leche League, politicians in costumes.  Since then, it's grown into a "real" parade, though it still has that ramshackle disorderly happy walk through Hyde Park feel.

In 2005, I went down to the corner of 53rd and Hyde Park to capture the whole parade.


Of course, it still starts with the fire truck, just like a real parade.
There are other things that connect it to all the other parades in all the other American towns on the 4th

There are Kiwanis, and the Chamber of Commerce, and local businesses.
-- people with banners.

There are high school girls performing steps.


There are even occasionally floats-- Here's the Hyde Park Garden Fair.


And there are wonderful horses every year--my favorite!

And these days there are bands!


Bands in uniforms and and great coordinated chest thumping drums.
 
Dixieland bands to put pep in your step



Ad hoc bands (the first kind to show up in the parade)


And bagpipe bands


And it wouldn't be a Chicago parade without politicians


But most of all it's hundreds of children and parents (and pets) strolling along, intermingled with everyone else, having a great time, heading toward music and games at Nichols Park:



I read on May 26, 2010, in the Chicago Weekly, that Susan Campbell of the University of Chicago said that
Her office is partnering with the Southeast Chicago Commission and the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce to plan events like a July 4th neighborhood fair at Nichols Park, which is intended to “highlight businesses that have stayed in Hyde Park.”
Not sure what that means. I just hope it still has this:


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spring Beauty


In 1833, Charles Butler rode along the only road that once ran through Hyde Park--the road that ran from Detroit, around the bottom of the lake to Fort Dearborn at the river mouth. Somewhere around Hyde Park, he reacted: "On my left lay the prairie, bounded only by the distant horizon like a vast expanse of ocean; on my right, in the summer stillness, lay Lake Michigan. I had never seen anything more beautiful or captivating in nature. There was an entire absence of animal life, nothing visible in the way of human habitation." (As Others See Chicago, p. 41). A day or so before, he had crossed the Little Calumet River in Indiana, a land "low and marshy" with some  groves where the "naked" Pottawatomies were camped.

On April 10, I too walked through a grove along the Little Calumet,thanks to the National Park Service, which has conserved a two mile stretch. It's a patch among the fields called the Heron Rookery. When I first went there, it was indeed, full of herons, who fished the fast moving stream to feed their young. But as time has gone on, the herons have disappeared, but still every spring, the Heron Rookery bursts forth with spring wild flowers. It cycles through stages across the month of April--blood root, hepatica, rue anemone, trout lilies, Dutchman's breeches, four kinds of trillium, and wild geraniums. Every visit is different.


If you hit the cycles at just the right time, it seems to be a elven forest--spindly trees in a mist of green--the first possible showing of leaves. The path rolls across the sand shore--every year, following a different route because the swift flowing water gouges through the sand ridges with every flood. And on the ground, a carpet of white. This year on April 10, I hit the spring beauty, hepatica, rue anemone, trout lily, dutchman's breeches phase--with just a hint of mayapples. The carpet of white is more delicate for them. The trillium phase is bolder--Grandiflora, Nodding trillium with their large white faces and the narrow flames of Wake Robin and the unusual yellow trillium.

Still, I got to see hundreds of my favorites.

Dutchman's Breeches

 
Hepatica

Trout Lily (the unusual white and the more common yellow)

Once upon on a time, I could have seen them all in Hyde Park. It too was an area of sand ridges, marshy swales, and streams etching their meandering way through the sand to the lake. In 1868, Paul Cornell had set about creating his parks--Washington, Jackson, and the Midway Plaisance--and hired Frederick Law Olmsted to create a landscape that would please the Easterners flooding into the new city. Olmsted looked at the future Hyde Park and despaired. Chicago was "low, flat, miry, and forlorn, with a bleak surface, arid soil, and exposure to harsh and frigid gusts of wind." (Chicago Gardens: The Early History, p. 2)

The traditional plant life of the East had no luck here. Farmers tried and failed because the sandy soil of the ridges drained so fast, the demanding crops died for lack of moisture and lack of nutrients. Gardeners still despair when starting to grow a traditional garden in Hyde Park dirt. The layer of oak leaves in what groves there were left only a narrow band of topsoil that was acidic and the sandy silt holds neither water nor nutrients. Lots of topsoil and compost get poured into the dooryards to produce the tulips and daffodils that blaze forth now in April.

But as late as 1890, Spring Beauty itself still came to Hyde Park. The Midway Plaisance was still a marshy, sandy, place. In Sweet Clover: A Romance of the White City, Clover rides with her future beau in a carriage down the Plaisance: "Birds glided noiselessly among the trees that lined each side of the driveway. Grassy fields stretched away in level tranquil monotony in all directions." Clover in laments several times that her girlhood of picking wildflowers throughout Hyde Park is gone with the wildflowers, which have disappeared under buildings and pavement.

I'm glad that the National Park Service has preserved a sliver of this out in Indiana.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Wallach Fountain at the Point


One of my favorite sights in Hyde Park is walking out from the tunnel under Lake Shore Drive and seeing the sleeping fawn on her pedestal--Hyde Park's anima locus. She was always destined to sit here, even before the Point itself. The Point was created in the late 1920s when the lakefront was expanded. The photo at this link shows the landfill beginning:

http://encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/10584.html

Apparently the Point didn't look at all the way it does now before 1936, when the WPA stepped in, creating the tunnel under what was then called Leif Erickson Drive and putting in the electrical, water, and sewer systems. Alfred Caldwell designed a landscape of limestone revetments meeting the waters of the lake, an open meadow, native plants, stone council circles, and a stone fieldhouse.

As the Point took shape according to Caldwell's vision, the grandchildren of David Wallach recalled that their grandfather, who had died in 1894, had left  $5000 (a fortune) to the city for a fountain at the intersection of 55th Street and the Outer Drive that would serve both "man and beast." In 1937, they sued the city for an accounting. The famously corrupt Park District grudgingly agreed to a fountain, and so the Wallach fountain was finally commissioned. Since horses were not allowed on the far side of Leif Erickson Drive, the "beasts" the bequest served became the myriad dogs who flock to the Point. A committee of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion tried to get the location changed to 47th and the Drive, but luckily Wallach's will was specific that it be at 55th and the Drive.

The commission for the fountain went to Mr. and Mrs. Hibbard of 1201 East 60th Street--Frederick Hibbard and Elizabeth Haseltine. Frederick took on the design of the base and Elizabeth, an assistant to Lorado Taft and an instructor at the University of Chicago, took on the design of the statue for the top. She studied animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo, looking for the right animal to suit Caldwell's vision, finally settling on the sleeping fawn. Her clay model was cast in bronze at the famous Gorham Company, Providence, Rhode Island.

Frederick created the base  "along modernistic lines" using Dakota Mahogany granite mined near St. Cloud, Minnesota. There are three fountains for humans on each side and the back, and one fountain for "beasts" at the front. There are abstract floral motifs in the polished granite. The polish enables the stone to withstand the weather. It was dedicated in December 1939, and there she slept through the USO picnics at the Point during the war, the huge crowds of sunbathers during the 1950s, and the Nike missile installation of the 1960s. There she slept until 1981, when one day she disappeared.

A dog walker came out from under the tunnel on October 21 and realized there was no fawn. The dog walker immediately contacted the alderman and the police. The Hyde Park Herald printed her picture and an anonymous donor offered $200 for her recovery, no questions asked, but to no avail.

Fawns sleep all tucked up under brush, even with predators stalking about. They won't move until their mothers return. Haseltine's fawn also waited. A Hyde Parker, poking around a salvage warehouse, suddenly spotted her tucked up and hiding among the architectural detritus. He called the alderman and the Area One crimes unit and the fawn was safe again.

When it became known that she had been fenced to the salvage warehouse on October 8 and the full-time Park District supervisor whose office was in the Point fieldhouse hadn't noticed her missing for two whole weeks and hadn't bothered to report the park benches that had been chopped up and vandalized at the same time, the citizens of Hyde Park were incensed. As the Herald said, the patronage-ridden bureaucracy of the Parks could care less about a "small charming beloved landmark in a small charming beloved South Side park" and so the citizens organized the Friends of the Point--and the Park District has had the citizens of Hyde Park to deal with ever since--the fawn's revenge.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Line Storm at the Point

I like to mark the great cycles of the Earth by going out to where land and rock meet sky and the inland sea. The space is engineered, but the horizon is real. It is the subtle tilt of the axis and the slight wobble in the rotation of the Earth that creates the narrow window that allows life to be, so I like to celebrate this miracle. This year I went out on the vernal equinox to welcome back the sun.


My mother used to say that every fall and spring you could count on a line storm--a particularly strong blow either on the equinox or just after as the sun crosses the line of the Equator. This year the line storm came on the day itself and hung around much of the week. The wind was whipping sleet horizontally, coating the trunks of trees and my camera lens. The city sounds, even the constant muted background roar that passes as silence in the city, were drowned out in the wind and the crash of the waves. It's exhilarating to be out there when the weather is rough--though a friend told me that the exhilaration is just the result of negative ions created when water molecules are smashed on rocks. Whatever.


I love being alone with the wind and water, even in the heart of the city, though the gulls did keep me company. At the entrance, a family got out of a minivan from Minnesota to take their pictures with the Museum of Science and Industry in the background before running back under the tunnel and out of the wind. Two blocks away, on 57th Street Beach, there was a person huddled on the concrete, watching their crazy friend trying to surf on the big waves--but the lake water was too treacherous and unpredictable for him to ride the board.


On the north side of the Point, the full force of the wind and waves racing down from the U.P. collided with the rock wall of the Point, sending spray up 15 feet above the surface of the water. The shadows of the Powhatan Building and Regents Park were barely discernible. 


On a nice day, the Loop floats on the water--like a Hiroshige print (though I know that the Floating World refers to evanescent beauty of the world of kabuki and courtesans, I still think of blue water). Here it is on a sunny day with a big wind in 1987--my most Ukiyo-e photo. 




I went out to the Point again yesterday during Earth Hour to commune with the estimated billion people on the Earth who turned off their lights for an hour. It's just a reminder that our cocoon of technology does not make us immune from nature, it merely muffles our senses. From the Point during Earth Hour the bright towers of the Loop become dark ghosts above the streetlights, with only the red beacon lights on top to indicate where the skyline should be.


This year when I went out to the Point, however, I wasn't alone. Nine police cars, a fire truck, an ambulance and a blaze of search lights were aimed down on the tangle of half submerged rocks on the north shore. The big winds of the line storm had washed a badly decomposed body onto the rocks. 


Updated: Since there was no video, it doesn't exist? It seems to have disappeared from the news altogether. I thought I'd write more when I knew what drama of life and death had occurred there, but now I suspect I'll never know. There was apparently one person with a camera or it wouldn't be news at all: http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2010/03/body-pulled-from-lakefront-on-south-side.html

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Legacies Part II

From Nora Erickson's house (see Legacies Part I) , I hurried to get over to the Hyde Park Historical Society lecture and tour about Irving Pond,  architect. David Swan, the architect, had discovered Irving Pond's handwritten autobiography in an archive and realized that here was a legacy that needed to be preserved. The Ponds didn't fit into neat categories, so their work had been ignored.  I was particularly interested in their design for the Studebaker Building--which became the Fine Arts Building downtown, one of my favorites. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine_Arts_Building_(Chicago)

 The autobiography is available at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore and you can read about the book here http://hyoogenpress.com/irving-k-pond-book.htm 


Irving Pond was also civic minded--he too thought a lot about community centers and civic spaces 50 years before the Ericksons. His great good friend was Jane Addams and many of his clients came about through connections at Hull House. One of these connections commissioned this house at 5747 S. Blackstone in 1899. James Westfall Thompson, 1869-1941, a professor of History at the U of C and his wife lived there until his wife divorced him and married Harold Ickes (according to the tour). This image is from the Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library, Archival Photographic Files, [apf2-03920]. It shows the entrance tucked away on the side, which I didn't capture in my photos, but it doesn't give the sense of how ornamental the masonry is--playing with textures of brick and limestone and shadows and tiers.
The interior had wonderful details and welcoming spaces. It felt eclectic and comfortable and beautifully restored and loved. 

The next Pond & Pond house, Lillie House at 5801 S. Kenwood, though a National Landmark, has not  been loved. It's been shamefully neglected. The window sills have long ago lost their paint and rotted. The downspout is missing pieces, hinting at water damage. Not even basic maintenance has been done for it.

It's a National Landmark because of Frank Rattray Lillie (1870 – 1947), another connection for Pond through Hull House and the embryologist of his day and founder of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. The original nomination  as a landmark is  available online http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Text/76000696.pdf  It was also for awhile where the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists had their offices and published their Doomsday Clock. 

But aside from its historic associations, its radical design, which shines through the neglect, is astounding for 1902. I can see why a cutting edge scientist wanted the simplicity of what Pond called "builded beauty"--a building that forthrightly expressed its construction. From the other angle it's got gables. From this angle, it's down to the bare bones of  streamlined simplicity and the play of brick across the surface. I hope it can find its defender. I shudder to think what's become of the interior after decades of high school students.

The last building I saw on the tour was the American School of Correspondence at 850 East 58th Street. The HPHS just gave the University an award for its restoration and it does look beautiful from the outside. It's a Chicago Landmark. The entry  interior has the original lovely wood and the ironwork in the doors, but a long low hallway leads off where I remembered a staircase. 

Though in the early 1980s the building sighed with the neglect of the decades, and motes of dust from the eons hovered in the air like an office out of Dickens or Bartleby the Scrivener, it was all intact. The offices were light and airy and open and light came even into the interior through the glass office walls. I suspect, given the narrow hall with the modern drop ceiling I could see, that may not be the case anymore. Pond had brought in all the light he could for the people peering over the exams they were grading--bringing professional training or just a high school degree to those without access to an education. It was another example of Pond's high mindedness. 

He hollowed out the masonry walls as much as he dared and bolstered the rest with masonry piers in patterned tiers of brick. It reminded me of the Elizabethan shock over "Hardwick Hall--more glass than wall" with the same problem to solve. http://egov.cityofchicago.org/Landmarks/A/AmerSchool.html

Pond sounded like quite a character. He was a founder of  nearly every club or civic organization in the city in the early 20th century. My favorite photos were of him doing circus tricks!!, and I can't wait to read his autobiography. Thank you, David Swan, for bringing it to light!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Legacies Part I


Last Sunday, I got hit with enough material for at least six blogs. 

I got a call from a friend of mine to go to Norah Erickson's house to see if there were things that should be saved for the various Hyde Park archives in the Regenstein. I was looking particularly for the Garden Fair items, since that's how I knew her. The others were looking for items for the Hyde Park Historical Society archives. In her honor as one of the founders, here's the Garden Fair from 30 years ago (when it and the Hyde Park Shopping Center looked quite different). I like to think of this as her legacy instead of what we found.


The house was in chaos after a series of public estate sales. The public had been through like a tornado of locusts. Old photos, thousands of slides, books, Life magazines, in stacks--the geological strata of a lifetime of saving too many things in too little space, all overturned and strewn about.

She'd used a walker for years. I was suspicious that it had been at least that long since she'd been up or down her stairs. Among the debris I found posters from the early campaigns of Leon Despres, an ad for the public bonds that financed Harper Court where she and her husband had a store, Art Directions, for 20 years, and hand printed posters from their campaign to save the trees of Burnham Park from the chainsaws, during which famously Bill Erickson was arrested for civil disobedience. Yes, people even chained themselves to the trees. It's hard to imagine that in Hyde Park now.

There's a plan for developing Spruce Park that Bill had sketched out as they fought to create green space in the city during urban renewal. I found posters for the Garden Walks that she had organized as a founding member of the Garden Fair. The Garden Fair itself was an effort to bring beauty to the urban landscape by getting everyone to plant their patch of ground. It's a legacy that should not be lost. But the smell of decaying paper and damp basement left us sneezing. All of us in the house had the same reaction. We were all going to go home and throw something out, anything, to stave off  the chaos.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Conserving old things (really old things)

I am at heart a conservative--I want to conserve the past that has survived into the present and allow it to survive into the future. I believe in roots and feeling grounded in the world as a recipe for sanity and I believe in understanding how we got to where we are as a way to understand where we are going. Change fascinates me--to imagine how wildly different the landscape around me has been and will be and how different the fabric of life has been over time. It's a drama of loss and gain. Around here, in Chicago, the recorded past is shallow, the change dramatic. There's a lot to exercise my imagination on.

But last week, I entered an entirely different timescale. Last week, I was among the redwoods in Big Basin State Park near San Jose. The individuals there have stood, drinking in their Pacific mists, for over two thousand years--outliving thousands of generations of squirrels, outliving fires, and outliving whole epochs of human history.

They barely outlived human greed--and the aching desire Americans seem to have to cut all things down to size. A plaque along the trail hinted at the drama played out a hundred years ago.



According to Leonard McKay on www.sanjoseinside.com, Andrew P. Hill came to California in 1867 at the age of 14 with his uncle, his father having died on the overland trail. He became an unsuccessful painter (apparently specializing to some extent in portraits of chickens) who moved into photography. When he photographed a forest fire in 1899, the dramatic picture got picked up by a London newspaper, which then commissioned photos of the astoundingly large trees seen in the fire. In the process of searching for old growth groves to photograph, he realized that they would all be gone in a couple of years, and he launched a campaign to save the trees here in Big Basin--some of the oldest and tallest. The legislature was reluctant to spend the money and offend the lumber interests, but he found donors to guarantee additional funds and powerful supporters to drive the political will. It took everything he had, but in 1902, it became the first state park in California--just in time. Rebuilding San Francisco after the earthquake of 1906 clear cut enormous stands of timber in the West, but these trees in Big Basin remained. The earthquake ruined Hill, who lost his studio, his equipment, and all his art. He died in 1922, without money but with an amazing legacy.

But conservation is never a fight that's over. Change is relentless. The redwoods are still in danger--though the danger is slower than a lumberjack's saw and more subtle than a cry of "timber." 

A study just came out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that there is far less fog since Hill won his fight. According to the study, coastal fog from the cold ocean water has declined by one-third since 1901 because the cold ocean water is warming. The redwoods need the fog to survive the dry California summers.

There was fog on the hill between San Jose and the park last week as we drove over, but it was ominously sunny in the park itself when we were there.

It might not hurt the giants, but they are fairly sure it will hurt the young trees, which wait as tiny sprouts at the foot of a mother tree. When the mother falls, they shoot up as a circle of siblings. 




It's these future generations that are at risk--both theirs and ours. As I learned from Thoreau, every choice we make has meaning in the world. Every time I take a carbon footstep, I'll think of Big Basin. We can't control climate cycles, but we can control ourselves. For more on the study, http://magblog.audubon.org/fog-along-redwood-coast-disappearing


Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Mystery of Arthur W. Klein



On the corner of 55th Street and South Shore Drive, in front of the 5490 building, there's an aging concrete pillar, taller than a person, with a plaque attached to the top. I walked past the pillar for 25 years or more on my way to the Point before I really noticed it. There is lots of random clutter on our street corners. I finally paused one day to read it."Arthur W. Klein, Lt. USN, 1905-1944" With a Gold Star above his name.

It's a memorial to a man killed in action. In the war, a family could put a gold star in their window if their father, husband, son had been killed in action. For the Klein's, a paper gold star in the window was obviously not enough to mark their loss. According to Stephen Treffman (War Bonds), there were several of these concrete posts once scattered throughout Hyde Park, erected after the war.  All the others have rotted away and been torn down. Only Arthur's remains.


Google has been no help at all. Whoever memorialized Arthur didn't list him in the WWII Monument Registry. His service record doesn't pull up in the online services. He's not the Arthur Klein who died in the Army in 1944 and earned the Distinguished Service Cross. I assume he's not the Arthur W. Klein who enlisted from the Bronx--and seems to have survived the war, dying in 2003 in Crystal River, Florida, not far from the National Cemetery in Bushnell.

So, there's only the information on the plaque. He died in the Navy in 1944--so he might have been anywhere in the world. German U-boats were still active in the Atlantic, hunting the convoys of troop ships and materiel, but the big action was in the Pacific. Maybe he was there. He was born in 1905--old for World War II--and in the Navy. That almost certainly meant he'd volunteered since that's how you got into the Navy. Most of the draftees were fodder for the infantry. And as an officer, he'd entered the service with an education. 

Some day, I hope to stumble on more information, but in the meantime, when I walk by, I give Arthur a nod--and thank him.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Missing Miss I Will

If you can't find it on Google it ceases to exist.

There was a Ray Bradbury story I read years ago about how all the literary characters in novels end up living on Mars, but when the book they were in ceases to be read, the characters fade from view leaving a hole in the community. I've just discovered such a hole--Miss I Will has disappeared.

I learned about Miss I Will in the Eagle, the most wonderful bar in the world, which once operated where Giordano's now is in Hyde Park. In the middle room, there were two large murals from the 1930s, facing each other across the room. On the south wall, was the 1930's skyline of New York, with Miss Liberty prominently in the middle. On the north wall, was the skyline of Chicago around the time of the Century of Progress, with Miss I Will in the middle, looking rather like a starlet or a chorus girl from the Gold diggers of 1933--hair all bottle blonde and marceled. She was smiling, close up, from somewhere out in the lake in front of the skyline of Chicago. I always liked the face-off between the ladies. I hope that wonderful pair of murals found a good home.

I've been looking for her, wondering if I'd hallucinated her, when I finally stumbled across her on a poster for the Century of Progress. I admit I preferred the Eagle version. This one is scowling out at us, clearly not very happy about the state of things, and the welcome is reduced to a crook of the finger. Maybe it's the NRA eagle that's landed on her head that bothers her or the dispossessed Pottawatomie (wearing a Plains Indian headdress) behind her.






I always liked the idea that Chicago was represented by Miss I Will--so much persistence, so much determination. I think we need her back in town.