Growing up in South Shore.

I grew up in a section of Chicago called “South Shore.” It was a beautiful part of the city now ravaged by crime and economic collapse. I have previously posted an article on my childhood. Here is more.

I was born in 1938 when my parents lived in this building at 77th and Marquette Avenue, near mother’s sister Marguerite and her husband Art.

Apartment 77th and Marqurette

That street was a quiet street and my aunt and uncle had lived there for many years. I think it was the only house they ever owned. Sadly, it is gone having been torn down after being damaged by vandals after they left. My mother had lived with them since she was a girl and her mother had lived there until she died in 1926. By the time I was three and my sister was born, we had moved to a rented house on Clyde Avenue.

Peg and Art and me

Here they are holding me in their yard on Marquette. My uncle Art’s parents had lived right behind them on the next street.

St Brides

That is St Brides, the church in which I was Christened in 1938. Many years later (1967), my daughter Kate was Christened in that same church. In the days when I lived in Chicago, that church was so busy that it held two simultaneous masses on Sunday every hour. One was in the main church and the other in a smaller chapel in the basement. That door to the chapel is seen to the left of the steps.


Here is that house on Clyde Avenue where we lived from the time I was three until I was six in 1944.

Mike and Dickie

That is me playing, I think, at the Clyde Avenue house with my friend Dickie Soper. This may have been before Patty was born from the looks of us. This was the back yard of that house. I can remember playing with an Erector Set in the living room and I could not have been older than six.

Dad and me at Clyde

Here is a photo of me and my father on the front steps of the Clyde Avenue house.

My sister was born in 1941 when I was three. When Patty came home from the hospital we got a new nursemaid, Louise, who stayed with us in one way or another until she died at 95, about 55 years later. After my parents sold the Paxton house, Louise lived in her own apartment in Hyde Park near the U of C and we saw to it that she had plenty of food and other necessities. A very nice young supermarket manager befriended her and saw to her needs when we were not nearby. She was a wonderful woman who had raised both of us. My mother went to work when I was in 8th grade and, even when she was still at home, Louise was the one who prepared our meals and cared for us.

Louise 1965

That is Louise many years later holding my son, Mike Jr. The scan of the photo was done by a technophobe who did not know how to operate the scanner. I’ll have to borrow the old photo and rescan it.

We lived at Clyde Avenue until I began kindergarten in 1944. It was not a good experience.


The map of South Shore shows that I had quite a walk to school including crossing a busy street, 76th street. The school was in back of Our Lady of Peace church, which is shown here from its front on 79th Street at Jeffrey Blvd.


My mother had a little boy across the street walk with me the first day of school so I did not get lost. In those days, we had nothing like the “helicopter parents” of today. Even my younger son hovers a bit over his children and would be horrified, no doubt, at my mother’s insouciance at sending me off to school. Little did she know !

Behind Our Lady of Peace school and church was a family owned flower shop and nursery. Here is a photo of that family establishment when it was still a farm in 1895.

Krause farm 1895

This old photo shows the farm long before the church and school were built and even before Jeffrey Blvd was paved. The church was built in 1935 and was only 9 years old when I attended.

Krause 1960

Here is that family business as it appeared years later when it had been sold and renamed. Behind the greenhouses was a nursery which was worked on in good weather by the uncle of the owner’s wife, the Krause daughter, who married a man named Bob Blaine. The shop was still called “Krause Florists.” The school was just to the right of the greenhouses. The family also had a farm near the Indiana border with Illinois. The uncle, who was named “Hug,” was a friendly old guy and he knew me from my many visits with my father. We would buy mushrooms, for example, which they grew in a cellar of the florist shop.

My first days at school did not go well and I finally did something about that around the third or fourth day. I had been punished by the nun for some infraction I can no longer remember. I was walking to school the fourth morning when I heard the bell ring and realized I would be late. What to do ? I simply turned at 78th street before I reached the school and walked into Krause’s. I walked up to Hug who was working in the nursery and asked if I could help him. He said, “OK” and I stayed until I heard the bell ring at noon, then walked home. The school was next door to the nursery and Hug never asked me about why I was there. My mother was none the wiser as the nuns had not missed me and may have thought I decided to just drop out. Anyway, I never went back to kindergarten. I just went to Krause’s every day and worked with Hug in the nursery until the noon school bell rang. Then I would walk home. For some reason my mother and I never got into conversation about what happened at school and she never realized I had stopped going. She sent me out the door every morning and I came back every day at noon.

I would have been in deep trouble eventually (Winter was coming and the nursery would close) but we moved to a new house in November 1944 and my parents never learned I had played hookey until I told my mother about it 40 years later.


This was the new house on Paxton Avenue about a half mile away. Subsequent owners have made some changes, including enclosing the front porch, which was screened when we owned it. It has now been bricked in. I have posted photos of the interior previously in the other post.

I started first grade with no civilizing effect from kindergarten so I was a little wild animal who did not even know how to ask to go to the bathroom. That elementary school building and its playground is now gone and is replaced by a new supermarket.

The fourth grade through eighth grade were located in this building. Fortunately, the school is still open, unlike other Catholic schools in Chicago.


That building has been greatly expanded since my days. To the east there was a large paved yard which we used for sports and for a simple game that we all played before school every day. It was called “blackum-blackum” and was essentially a game of tag. We would run from one side of the yard to the other and anyone who had been tagged was now “out” and tried to tag the others. Finally, one person was left or the school bell rang.

The South Shore area was a wonderful place to grow up and it is a shame that other children do not have that opportunity.

Jeffrey theater

This is the old Jeffrey theater where I spent every Friday night at the movies. When I was old enough for rudimentary dating (8th grade), I was walking into that theater in winter with Judy Carey as my date when I slipped on the wet marble floor and broke my arm. I kept my cool and went on into the movie with her. When she asked why I didn’t put my arm around her, I told her it was broken. We switched seats and I carried on with aplomb. The next Monday at school, I think she was surprised to see me with a cast on it. I hadn’t been faking.

There was a bowling alley in the basement of the theater and several friends hung out there, one of whom worked setting pins. One night I saw a gun fall out of an older guy’s pocket. He was bit of a bully but the only person I think he ever shot was himself and years later. Across the street from the theater was a coffee shop hangout whose name I can’t remember. I was home from college my first summer and walked home from that coffee shop to find my parents’ house had been on fire. There were fire engines everywhere. Fortunately the damage was only smoke but my mother had failed asleep on the living room couch watching TV and smelled smoke or it might have been worse. It had been hit by lightning in a thunderstorm earlier in the day and the fire had smoldered in the walls for hours.

In later years, my father and I would sometimes go for lunch to a place called “The Kickapoo Restaurant,” which was owned by two brothers who never spoke to each other as they worked side by side. It had a very busy lunch time business and was located at a very busy corner of 79th Street and Stony Island Avenue.

79th and Stony

The Masonic temple next door to the restaurant can be seen here with the minaret that the temple erected. The picture was taken during construction of the Chicago Skyway which crossed the intersection. The restaurant was on the far side of the Masonic temple.

IC platform 76th Exchange

This platform for the Illinois Central trains, at 76th street, was a very familiar one. It was only a block from my aunt and uncle’s house and years later, it was near my mother’s apartment on South Shore Drive at 7447.

Jewel 75th

This market was on 75th Street and was later converted to a funeral home by a friend of my father’s named Ray something. I had known him for years when he worked in another funeral parlor where I delivered newspapers. Sometimes in winter, I would stop there and visit with the friendly guys to warm up and they would sometimes tease me by asking me to stay for dinner. They would say “We’re having liver.” They were great guys.


I spent a lot of time in this library which was at 73rd and Exchange about six blocks from my home. I remember getting into trouble one time when I asked to check out The Foxes of Harrow, which the librarian though was too mature for me. I’ve forgotten if I was allowed to read it. I wonder how many black kids have read it since it was written by a black author in 1946 and is color blind as a story.

72nd Crandon

This house was at 72nd street and Crandon, just a few blocks from St Philip’s school. I walked past it almost every day.

At 75th and Yates was an old clubhouse from a golf course that had been replaced by homes in the 1920s. Everything between this clubhouse and the lake had been either golf course or marshland until the 1920s. The house that my aunt and uncle owned on Marquette street was said to be the first house built in that area in the 1880s.

Caraval ClubCaravel Club

In 1944, my grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary at this club, which was rented to groups for occasions, with all of the ten children they had raised.


That is their photo of the event. I don’t remember it as I was six and may not have been there. My family history is a story of Chicago as my mother was born there and her parents met in Aurora, a suburb where my grandfather’s sister ran a boarding house. My grandmother lived there while working as a supervisor in a corset factory after she had moved to Chicago from Canada. My grandfather, Joseph Mileham, was a railroad engineer, the equivalent at the time of an airline pilot. My father’s family were farmers and lived 60 miles from Chicago. He and my mother met in Chicago when they were both working at a music company. They had a typical long Depression courtship which included a trip to California by my mother after she lost her mother and brother the same year, 1926. Her father had died of pneumonia when she was 18 months old, in 1899. Fortunately, they got back together in time to have me and my sister.

I should add that most of these photos are from a wonderful book about South Shore by Charles Celander at Arcadia Publishing.


One Response to “Growing up in South Shore.”

  1. […] have a new post on my own blog which I hesitate to inflict on everyone as there is much family history in addition to Chicago […]