Growing Up in Edgewater

Vol. III No. 3 - SPRING 1991

By: David L. Schein

The author’s older sister, Betsy Goldman, had a short article in the Fall/Winter issue of the newsletter which inspired him to offer his own recollections of growing up in Edgewater.

I’m not sure whether my earliest recollections are true recollections or my remembering photographs of me in various places in the old neighborhood taken by my brother Egon.

Unlike my parents and siblings, including my “younger” sister Susan, who lived on Rosedale and Elmdale before I arrived in 1946, my first abode was 6256 N. Winthrop, a huge two-flat containing two 10-room apartments and a small apartment in the basement for the custodian. The “L” ran in the back next to the alley (unpaved until 1955) and boasted a two-car heated garage with service pits! The Leona Apartments stood next door to the south and the Coronado Apartment Hotel was across the street.

Youthful adventures were centered around going to the beach (in winter as well as summer) and playing in empty lots. My empty lot was three doors south on Winthrop. It was a wonderful jungle of small trees, large bushes, rocks, bricks and grass. The site was a miniature golf course before I was horn, and the broken “fairways” could still be discerned in the mid-1950s. It provided the majority of insects I collected with great joy, and also served as airport for wooden gliders and bicycle obstruction course. Two apartment buildings were built on this site about 1958.

Open space was at a premium and houses were few and far between. Our friends, the Sangermans and Hyman Rothschilds, had houses, but most of us lived in apartments. Baseball and football were played at Sacred Heart Convent/School’s tennis courts or on the lawn of one of the large seminaries on Sheridan Road. If you could round up enough kids for a real game, Loyola’s athletic field was only one block away.

Riding my bike on Granville, on Broadway or, if I got permission from my mother, even up to the Granada Theater, was my territorial limit until I was about eight or nine years old. I could ride with my sister Suzy to Swift School’s playground to play on summer nights, as there were always organized activities going on there. Swift always had a very special Halloween night party for us kids too.

My territorial limits expanded as I got older and I could ride west on Rosemont to Clark, faithfully stopping to visit at Engine Company 47 and Gary’s Bike Shop.

Winsberg’s Department Store was always fun and a ride through the “enemy” Hayt School’s playground was a necessity. And, by about this time, we all knew that Clayton Moore, TV’s Lone Ranger, had grown up around Wayne and Rosemont.

The beach was the focal point for me. As a child, Devon Beach was my beach. I remember Rosemont Beach, vaguely, but a seawall was erected about 1956 sealing off access to the water. However, the place was still a lot of fun - “rafting” on the water that seeped through the steel barrier, and sledding down the “dunes” in winter.

The 6301 Sheridan Building was built there about 1960. In 1957, we moved to a smaller apartment at 6315 North Kenmore. I was 11 years old and the one block move was traumatic for me. But I soon discovered a new empty lot in the middle of my new block and another across the street, so that was absolute heaven! And I was even closer to the beach.

The empty lot on the east side of the street became a parking lot for Loyola students a year later and the empty lot across the street became the site of one of the first “four-plus-one” apartment buildings built in the area in 1959. So I began to hang out at the Standard gas station at “the curve” across from Devon Beach. The Robinson brothers, from Kentucky, bought the station in 1961.

I was fascinated by the lake in winter. It would freeze solid for hundreds of yards from shore and my friends and I would walk out there and play, hide, throw ice at each other and generally risk our lives.

I don’t remember being forbidden from walking out on the ice, but I probably would have been if my parents had known about it! I certainly would prohibit my children from doing so. Once I fell through, at Devon Beach, with a parka on and carrying a camera. My best friend, Jack Solomon, was with me. I managed to get out of the water, which was over my head, and crawl back to more solid ice. That walk home was the coldest one-block walk I’ve ever taken.

When I started at Senn High School in 1960, Ardmore/Hollywood Beach became our focus, at least in summer. My sister Suzy, who is six years older, and her friends went to “little Ardmore,” a few doors north of Hollywood Towers. In the mid-1960s, pilings were driven there for another tall building, but for some reason they never built more than the pilings, which stood there, sticking out of sand, for 20 years.

As an adolescent, my territory again expanded, and I would ride my hike up Sheridan Road to relatives in Evanston and even to the lighthouse there. Sometimes I would ride south on Broadway to Bryn Mawr. A White Castle at the triangle corner sold “sliders” at eight for a buck. We rode our bikes everywhere.

Although Wrigley Field was certainly within reach via bicycle, the “L” was 35¢, took us literally door-to-door and we were there in 15 minutes. Besides, machines on the “L” platform sold inch-square Hershey bars or Juicy Fruit gum for a penny. Such a deal.

In November, Loyola held Home-coming and the big event after the inevitable loss at football was a Push-Ball game between freshmen and sophomores. The losing team got tossed in the lake. I still have home movies of this event, as well as the arrival back on campus of the 1963 NCAA champion Ramblers… Jerry Harkness, Johnny Egan, Vic Rouse, Les Hunter and Ron Miller. What a team!

In my high school years, I worked at Mardel Drugs on Winthrop and Granville delivering prescriptions for the owners, Jack Margolis and Ben Mandel. (My father was a druggist also, owning a prescription store on Clark and Diversey.) I really got to know the neighborhood this way. There were many nursing homes in the area and I knew people in all of them.

I can still remember the long waits for the service elevator at 6101 North Sheridan (the old 6101, not the newer highrise), which had the slowest service elevator in the city. Some customers got the same prescription daily (hmmmm…) and a dime tip was not unusual. A quarter was better and 50¢ almost unheard of. After work, I’d often go a few doors west on Granville to the A&P and spend my pay on some interesting puzzle or scientific toy they always seemed to have there.

My mother and sister worked part-time at Ar-Lee’s dress shop under the “L”. On Fridays after school, I would go to Standee’s Snack Shop for an order of fries and a chocolate coke, the same cuisine I favor to this day. Wunsch’s Drug Store, on Granville and Broadway, also had a soda fountain, as did Mardel Drugs when Ben and Jack bought it about 1956. Mother also worked for Broadway Drapery next to the Devon Theater and I took dance lessons above the Devon.

An absolute “must” was a walk or bike ride to “Abe’s” deli across from Swift. It was started about 1953 by Abe Jacobovich and correctly called “Thorndale Delicatessen,” but known to all as simply “Abe’s.” Every Sunday morning, we would pilgrimage there to obtain the world’s best lox, which is still purveyed by the current owners, Don and Al.

In 1961, I joined the “Olympic Swim Club,” organized by a former Olympian swimmer at the Sovereign Hotel. The Sovereign was a real gem in those days and we would often walk through the lobby rather than walk outside and around the corner. The Sovereign’s pool was open to the public on weekends and $1.00 bought three hours of swimming.

In 1966, I worked at the National Tea Company store on Granville and stayed there, working part-time, until I was out of college three years later. I remember the store manager, Ed Ratz, was thrilled if we grossed $20,000 a week. Today, an average grocery chain store will gross $50,000 a day, and often more.

In 1970, there was a fire in our building that killed two people, Mr. and Mrs. McGreevy. I moved out (but only across the street to 6310 Kenmore) in 1971, and my parents moved a year later (but only across the street to 6241 Kenmore). I eventually left the neighborhood in 1973, moving to Jefferson Park, and my parents retired to Florida.

Once a year or so I make the trip to “Abe’s” for my lox and, once in a great while, I take the family on a tour of the old neighborhood, showing off the sights that were such an important part of my youth. We are suburbanites now and live in a wonderful area with great neighbors, a golf course one block away, a park one block away, schools within walking distance, etc. But I am still an apartment person at heart and miss the lake greatly. I hope my children will have the same nostalgic attachment to their neighborhood as I have to my Edgewater roots.