Memories of Marion

Vol. XX No. 2 - SUMMER 2009

Marion Lettner, a life long resident of Edgewater, joined the Edgewater Historical Society when it was founded in 1988. Recently, at age 95, Marion passed away. She was a great fan of history and, because she had a great memory, told us a lot about the community. When Marion spoke, we all listened. She walked from her home on Magnolia to our meetings in the Edgewater Library and enjoyed finding like minded people who shared an interest in community history.

We learned that Marion had a very active life in the community and was often called upon by one of her Senior Clubs to give presentations. Sometimes she did this with props like things from her kitchen or souvenirs and postcards. She would often point out the irony of how things get modernized.

When we finally got around to interviewing Marion, we learned that she had come from Iowa in 1921 and had attended Trumbull school until her family moved near Magnolia and Ridge. Then she attended Swift School and later Senn. She met Jim Lettner and they were married on June 10, 1939. The reception was held at the Berwyn Room of the Edgewater Beach Hotel. The Lettners had three children, James, George and Jane, who had married and moved while Marion and Jim stayed on Magnolia. Jim took ill and Marion cared for him, even as she kept up with her various activities. They celebrated their 50th anniversary just before Jim died.

In the years that followed, Marion continued to be an active member of the Edgewater Historical Society. She was always available for a reference for a newsletter article. Marion had a great memory and could tell you what businesses were on which corners in which years. She also kept track of her classmates from Senn High School. When she recognized a name in the obits, she would cut out the write up. We are sure she left us some extensive clipping files.

Because Marion had such a good memory, we could get a different kind of picture about the neighborhood. One story she told was of being a teenager during the Depression, traveling with some of her girl friends on the “L” all the way to Jackson Park and then coming back again. There was only one fare to be paid and there was lots to see looking out the windows. On the way back, the girls got off at Berwyn and walked over to the Edgewater Beach Hotel on Sheridan. They walked in and went to the fireplace room and just sat and relaxed there. Apparently no one shoed them away. Sometimes on Sundays famous orchestras played for the public.

Another great story from Marion was really just woven into the uses of the building at Ridge, Broadway and Bryn Mawr. It had been many things including a real estate office and a Heinemann’s Bakery. But perhaps the most memorable was the $1.88 hat shop. Every hat was just $1.88 and in those days every lady wore a hat to work. This was the shop for the budget minded. Now the site is a Walgreen’s.

We have many happy memories of Marion. She showed all of us how growing old can be fun.