Posts Tagged ‘elevated trains’

IMG_5832. . . on yet another bookish adventure in my inter-library loan system, this time at the Indian Prairie Library,  I noticed this poster as I started to walk out. I decided right then and there to sign up for the lecture, which was to begin in about thirty minutes. Sometimes spontaneity becomes an illustrative page in time.

The meeting room was close to being a full house as interested library patrons and others gathered for the lecture. I was actually surprised at the 1 pm turnout. It looked to be at least 60 people – a good number on snowy weekday afternoon.

Isn’t it amazing what public libraries provide?  From the Lannon stone structure in Western Springs that recently gave me solace, to the day I was “mullioned” –  and lived to tell the tale – libraries have also been havens for me. They not only house books; they instill knowledge and awareness through lectures and provide places to meet, to learn, to expand our knowledge. Public libraries are such treasures, but, you already know that.

The Chicago ‘L’ is an integral part of the City and suburban transport system. It grew out of the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire with its early transports taking patrons to the Columbian Exposition. The Windy City and the ‘L” grew in tandem, raising the City of Big Shoulders up from the ashes and expanding it outward to the north, the south, and the west, part and parcel to eventual urban and IMG_6010 suburban sprawl.

I found Greg Borzo to be an interesting, entertaining and engaging speaker.  A noteworthy historian with a passion for the City of Chicago, I know I would enjoy having him for a docent on a Chicago tour. He proceeded to bring the steel and beams of Chicago’s elevated trains to life as he mapped the history of early means of transportation in the late 1800’s with many vintage photos, some of which I am showing here and credit to Greg Borzo’s book, “The Chicago “L” ” .

I am most familiar with the Lake Street “L” and can vividly remember my first time on it, catching the “L” in Oak Park with my mother, heading downtown to the dentist, whose office was in the Field Annex  of Marshall Fields.  So clear is my memory of all the stops along the way and all the stations, up in the air, where people got off and people got on. I remember Ma saying,  “Penny, we are now in the Loop” as the train circled round, making a loop, squeaking as it turned, the upper floor windows of businesses so close I could see in them. I hoped it wouldn’t fall down while in awe, catching the sun as it would  play hide and seek sun, peaking around the skyscrapers.

Greg Borzo spoke of the many train lines that are all a part of the “L” system and how the subway eventually came into being, an underground system of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). He showed photos of workers digging out the mud, underground, to form the tunnels that would accommodate the underground trains.

I was particularly interested in the funeral train cars, recalling childhood stories of how my paternal grandfather’s coffin, family and mourners were taken from the City to Elmwood Cemetery in the suburbs. The train my Papou’s coffin was transported in would not have been on the “L”, but, the funeral car would have looked similar to the one I show here from the book.  I can only imagine the long ordeal of sadness and grief, riding the rail out of the city to suburban areas during the Great Depression.

On a lighter note, we were also reminded of the many movies with scenes filmed on the Chicago “L”.  Can you name any?

Do you have an elevated transport system where you live?  Have you ever ridden on an elevated train?


I can’t wait to see what my next library visit brings.

Photos are from The Chicago “L”  by Greg Borzo



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I was eating a Hershey’s chocolate kiss at a baby shower and felt it in my mouth, swirling around in the chocolate. Part of a molar. My friend Sharon came through with a tissue in which to contain the tooth. I then finished the chocolate, of course. After all, it was just one kiss. I was half a molar short of a full overbite and  knew some dental work was in order.

Doc prodded and poked, numbed my mouth and drilled as we talked of my coronation. It seems I would need a crown soon and he sent me on my way, with orders to contact him asap if I had any pain. Off I went, a few stops on my way home and then to our book discussion that night, where we had a lively discussion on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. As the night wore on and the Novocaine wore off, I started feeling some discomfort which even a slice Donna’s cranberry cobbler didn’t ease. I proceeded to have a sleepless and painful night.

I’ve been on antibiotics and a nice little pain pill ever since, which has rendered me rather loopy and drowsy. To be honest, I’m mostly sleeping in front of the television and have yet to see the end of any movie that has been on as I wrap myself up in a blanketed ball and act goofy. This writing has taken quite a few attempts to complete, but, complete it I will.

I mentioned to my dear friend Janet that I had a toothache and she remembered her Dad taking her for milkshakes after dentist visits when she was a child . That brought about memories of my own.

Our dentist was in Chicago, downtown, in the Loop. The Loop is the center of business and shopping and is where the elevated train wends around, in a loop, high on its trestles. What fun it was as a child to come in from the suburbs, riding the “el”.  I can remember those first times around as the train leaned a bit into the curve and the wheels screeched as the windows of  buildings flew by. Sometimes secretaries and businessmen could be seen working inside a skyscraper and it was one big adventure for little Penny.

Sometimes, we would take the subway, which was just as much fun, for we would be underground part of the way, the best part being while we were in the Loop. We would climb up the stairs and then into the Field Annex, where all sorts of shops were. The Field Annex was part of the legendary Marshall Field’s and Company and holds many a story for many a day.

Up the elevator we would go, back in the days when they were “driven” by an elevator operator. “Step all the in way, miss”, he would say, and then close the gates and the door as folks said the floor number they needed. “Twelve”. “Fourteen”. Never a thirteenth floor. The gate would open, then the door and out would pile each group of riders.

After the dentist cleaned our teeth, filled a cavity if needed, and handed out a toy from a box he kept in his desk, my mom would take us to the Woolworth’s on State Street. Inside was the best luncheon counter a child could imagine. It seemed to snake around forever and ever with stools that swirled and people sat eating their hotdogs and fries. Dottie and I would always have the same thing. The only thing I ever remember having at the counter.

A chocolate milk shake! A big, delicious, cold, creamy, smooth chocolate milkshake with a big straw to sip with, a long, handled spoon, and a metal container at the side which held the rest of the shake. It felt so good and it tasted so chocolatey and rich, though Ma would have to occasionally wipe our chins as we tried to drink with our mouths half numb.


Well, dear reader, the pain pill is starting to kick in and my eyes are drooping, so I best end this chapter of chocolate milkshakes and riding the “el”, but, not before telling you what my Antler Man did after he made me some soup on Friday night. Yes, indeed, he went out and returned with a big chocolate shake and I smiled and sipped it all up!

Thanks, Tom, for the shake and Janet for setting the memories in motion.

Do you have any childhood memories of going to the dentist that are fun?

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