George Kalogeras (Transcript Only)


INTERVIEWER: Sandra A. Remis
INTERVIEWEE: George Kalogeras
DATE: March 6, 1986
FULLNAME: George Kalogeras
I grew up about a block east of Wrigley Field. I’m really a city boy.
I’m 35 and will be 36 tomorrow.
I go back along way with elevated tracks which figured big in my life. Although I grew up in Lakeview, Ibecame very familiar with Edgewater because we went to St. Andrew’s Church. I used to take the trainto Bryn Mawr, get off and walk down to the church for Sunday school. At this point, I’d like to turn to thestory of my restaurant. I remember every Sunday morning, we used to stop in to the restaurant, which isnow Chicken George’s, for breakfast. In those days it was known as the Bryn Mawr Restaurant, so I go
back a long way as far as this restaurant is concerned. In the 1950s and early 60s, this immediate areawas a very nice well-to-do neighborhood. That particular restaurant was a thriving business at the time. It was owned by Pannos, who has since moved to California and opened three MdDonald’s around theEdwards Air Force Base. Although the businesses on Bryn Mawr have changed, there was one famousguy who owned Hellas Gyros. He did well. And that gentleman’s name was Gus Carson, who now owns Carson’s Ribs. He started out on Bryn Mawr. ________________ Pharmacy was on the corner of Bryn
Mawr and Broadway, with a family business started by the grandfather, and the family business wassold four or five years ago.
My own experience in the neighborhood was not just going to Sunday School, but we used to go to a number of the dances at Senn High School. When I was in high school
1963-1967, it was in transition. The area had been heavily Jewish, but was starting to change whenvarious minorities started to come in. There began to be a cultural clash. We used to have some greatparties at Senn.
Yeah! However, some problems arose when we began to get an influx of Latinos and blacks in the area,who started to go to Senn. We had two predominant gangs in Edgewater, white groups–one was TJOs, headed by Gary ___________ who was just sentenced to thirty years in jail for a botched cocaine deal. He made the front page of the Sun Times the other day, and the other gang was known as the Turfers. Don’t bother asking me what TJO stands for. What happened between those two gangs was basicallythat the TJOs lived on Thorndale and the Turfers lived west of Broadway. They had some rather sizable
gang fights in and around the Armory. These are not the good things about the neighborhood, but I’m sure some people will remember them.Unfortunately, the TJOs turned out to be heavily involved in the drug traffic. Unfortunately, last year they had a violent confrontation with the government agency which deals with drug traffic around
Carson’s Restaurant, around Clark and Ridge, where Carson’s Restaurant is now. One guy pulled out asub-machine gun and started on the government officers. He was eventually sentenced.
Some of theEdgewater has been a rough area. There was a time when it was a lovely area. I went to the very lastparty that was held in the Marine Room of the Edgewater Beach Hotel. I think that was the fall of 1968. Ican even tell you some of the dance bands that were there: _______________ It was a big party. It must have had two or three thousand people. After that they tore the EdgewaterBeach Hotel down. That was really tragic.
Ardmore Beach, although small, is a lovely beach, but is much underutilized. That was also the scene of many conflicts in the 1960s. The Turfers eventually kind of faded into the dust and the TJOs took over. Eventually, the Latinos and the blacks had their own gangs and they used to beat up on each other on Ardmore Beach. We used to get all of the gossip of who got hurt and who ended up in the hospital.
We had some famous people living in the Edgewater area: George Halas lived in the Edgewater Beach Apartments. We didn’t have any subsidized housing or half-
way houses, It was just your middle class and upper middle class neighborhood. Besides Halas, Benjamin Willis, superintendent of schools, lived in the Edgewater Apartments. This had always been an area that attracted good people, which meant it wasn’t as densely populated as it is today. I remember all the mansions on Sheridan Road. One by one, they were torn down and replaced by high rises. I’m notknocking them, but they sure added to the population of the area. I remember when St. Andrew’s ground-breaking ceremonies took place on the corner of Hollywood and Sheridan. I remember the day
because it was a cold day in January. The old church was on the southwest corner of Winthrop and Hollywood, and we had a procession led by the high Archpriest and that was the groundbreaking for St. Andrew’s. The area on which St. Andrew’s is built is all land-filled. At the time Lake Shore Drive was new too, at least around that area. Unfortunately, we began to lose some of our quality people to the suburbs.
I bought Chicken George’s in 1983. I never thought when I was a little boy going into that restaurant for Sunday breakfast that some day I would own it. I opened it with the idea of dealing in chicken and sea food. It seemed to be the right opportunity at the right time. When I bought the store, it was a disaster; it had not been in use for about a year and was really in bad shape. It took us about six months to rehab that store. The store was in such bad shape I could hardly get workmen who dealt in junk to handle it, but today I’d like to think it is an asset to the community. I would like to see it attract an even more up-
scale clientele. Most people don’t realize I have a very good sea food collection.
(The last great event that I’ve seen in this neighborhood is the funeral of George Halas. It was at St. Ita’s, and one of the most interesting things I ever went to in my life. I’ve never been to anything where I’ve seen so many celebrities. It was in October of 1983. I knew they were going to be holding the funeral at St. Ita’s, but it never occurred to me that they’d let us in. We walked over there. We were standing out in front dressed
in our jeans, boots, our grubbies. We were seeing people I couldn’t believe. I finally got up courage to ask one of the gentlemen if we could go in to watch the Mass. He said sure. So we were in the back and to give you an idea of some of the people we saw in there. There were, forget the politicians, okay? There were Tex Schroft of Dallas Cow Boys, the most interesting trio I saw in St. Ita’s was Jimmy the Greek and Hank Stramm and Al Davis of the L.A. Raiders. They sat right next to me. Al Davis was just immaculate; he was a maverick on the NFL. He was wearing this beautiful black leather jacket with a
silver tie, and he turned to me and said, Hi, kid, how’re doing? I almost died. I couldn’t figure out what these guys were doing in here, because at the time Al Davis had a big lawsuit, something like a hundred million dollar suit between him and the NFL pending because he was challenging the NFL’s right to refuse him to move from Oakland to Los Angeles. Gale Sayres, Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, former Bears were there. Charlie Bidwell of St. Louis Cardinals, Wellington Myra of the New York Giants. I saw Art Rooney of Pittsburgh Steelers. Oh, Howard Cozell and Frank Gifford, Pete Rozelle, NFL Commissioner.
The politicians were all there. It was a big event, perhaps the biggest St. Ita’s has ever seen. They came from all over the country. It was curious when Pete Rozelle got out of his limousine. I don’t know who this woman with him was, but she was a knock-out.
Probably all congregations have changed. St. Andrew’s always has been considered one of the wealthier parishes in Chicago, and I’m sure it still is. Many of the people who have been involved in the new St. Andrew’s have moved to the suburbs, but many stayed. One man over there donated a lot for the gymnasium, and he was one who built the school. S. J. Gregory, as I recall, was involved in theaters. He owned a lot of theaters in Chicago. Another one involved in the construction of the church was Pete __________ . These guys were very generous; my grandfather was very generous towards the church, too. My family have been members since the late twenties.
Oh, since about 1906, and my family was always involved with the church. My family was also involved in food service, except for my dad. He was an architect. Basically, Edgewater is a good area, but we need more parks. Unfortunately we are too densely populated around here. It’s been unfortunate that the Winthrop-Kenmore corridor was allowed to deteriorate so badly. A lot of people are afraid to go out of their homes at night and walk down the street–and I don’t blame them. In the 1970s, they allowed a lot of half-way houses to come into the area. We had transient hotels, which is okay, but they were allowed to be used for other things, as well. We had a problem of prostitution on Bryn Mawr for awhile, but it’s not so bad now. Basically, we’ve cleaned it up and got a lot of cooperation from the Chicago Police Department. Drug traffic in the neighborhood is still rampant, particularly on Kenmore and Winthrop. The Latin Kings and other gangs still vie for the drug traffic. There are a few tough bars in the neighborhood, too. I don’t think this area is going to have the kind of renaissance like they had around Halsted and Armitage. It’s just not going to happen, because there are too many high rises instead of two-flat or single homes. Unfortunately the investors are not local people, and sometimes we have a
rough time finding out who owns the property, and we have to institute title searches. In other words, it’s hard to locate the real landlord. Usually these people are the ones who are controlling properties that are undesirable.
Scandals in the neighborhood? Sure! We had a Marty (can’t recall his last name) who is serving time. Lou Ferino was also involved with this incident we had with crime in Edgewater. I know he was sentenced to serve a certain amount of time. We used to have a famous Speak-Easy called the Eleven-Eleven Club, which was right next to my store, which is now owned by Dr.__________________ a podiatrist and the Eleven-Eleven Club, in its day, was I hate to say a Speak Easy–what’s a better word for it? A Wild Joint! I don’t remember it, but I know a lot of people who do remember it–they’re older obviously.
I don’t think it’s been in existence for about thirty years. We’ve had some great stores on Bryn Mawr. One prominent place was the Steak House; those owners went out as the neighborhood changed.
You adjust. I think this gives you an idea of what kind of clientele is there. When I first went in there with
the type of menu I wanted, let’s face it–I couldn’t make a go of it. Kenmore/Winthrop, we were
appealing to Black people there, and you’re appealing to fast food. I preferred to change it to just strictly
fish, but it’s still a little too early to do it here because we have not attracted enough Yuppies in the
area. Hopefully we will.
Oh, yes, tragic that they closed.
That’s the corporate headquarters, but what I heard is that Gino’s is going to put in a Gino’s as a "Carry
Out". I don’t think a delivery, but a carry out in just a small section. Hopefully they’ll do it.
Kenmore/Winthrop–what can I say about it–we’re trying. A lot of money is going into
Kenmore/Winthrop. Some of these old buildings down there are gorgeous.
There’s one in particular–a landmark building on the corner of Kenmore and Bryn Mawr, the southeast
corner; it’s a condo. I’m sure you know which one I’m talking about.
Yes, it’s immaculate. Unfortunately the developer went broke and now there are law suits pending
between the tentative owners and the developer because the developer wants to bust the apartments
up more, make them smaller. The Association feels that it’s bad for the property, but the biggest
problem is that they have the Commodore, which is a half-way house right behind this place, so that’s
the type of problems we have in this area. We’re like kind of caught in a Catch 22. Financially we’ve got a
tremendous amount coming into this place to be used for rehabilitation.. There are projects going on all
the time.
That’s a lot of money they’re bringing into the area for rehabilitation. Unfortunately, what’s happened
is that the people that they relocated have already gone.
I’m furious with the Park District, because last summer they closed all of the washrooms, they turned off
all of the water founts between Howard and Montrose. There was a total of three water fountains
turned on last summer. I know that for a fact because every day I like to jog along the lakefront
particularly during the summer, and I count the number of the ones that are working. I know the one at
Bryn Mawr never worked last summer. I think that as a community we’ve been neglected by a lot of
different agencies in the city, including the Park District, which is an entity unto itself.
We’ve lost a lot of wealthy people who once lived in this area, who no longer live around here.
Perhaps, perhaps we’ve lost some of our clout. The only way to get our clout back is through heavy
voting registration. That’s really the only way to do it. No matter who you support, we’ve got to get a lot
of people out to vote; otherwise nobody’s going to pay any attention to us up here. A lot of money
people live in this area between Sheridan Road and my place. I’m sure North Shore Community Council
is concerned about it, maybe not as much as I am, but we’re trying to encourage consumer-type
businesses, good consumer-type, like we’d love to get a Stuart Brent Brooks on Bryn Mawr. I think it’d
make a lot of difference.
Not at all, but if you want to take the risk, be my guest. Wealthy people are here along Sheridan Road–I
see them. They walk past my store every day. You know, they don’t bother to look in. That doesn’t
bother me; my business is fine, but I’m constantly trying to figure out what appeals to these people. Do
they really have disposable income to spend on this street? Where do they do their shopping? What do
they want to buy? We’d love to appeal to the more up scale type person to come into the area.
Hopefully, a section of Bryn Mawr is going to be declared with a landmark status and this is going to be
coming up next week. We’re having a meeting with the city on it.
Bryn Mawr, Broadway, Ridge Association. The alderman’s office is involved in it, as is the ECC. We’re
going to take it from there on that particular project. I don’t know how much it is going to help us, per
se. The property owners will get certain tax advantages. Bryn Mawr is in for major reconstruction this
summer. We’re going to re-do all of the sidewalks. Last year we repaired all the streets.
It will be a much nicer street to walk on and it will be much more brightly lit. The understructure of the
CTA is going to be redone. What we’re trying to do over there is to get the people that live west of
Broadway and along Sheridan Road to come out and to support projects, just to be a more integral part
of the community. I don’t know in your particular case, do you use the El? What do you use for
The Bryn Mawr El Station is the third most active residential station in the city of Chicago. About 50,000
people go through Bryn Mawr Station daily. A book store would be a great start. We’re having a hell of a
time to convince them to come in. I heard a horror story the other day that Walgreen’s is considering
pulling out. I hope not!
A good guy for you to talk to is Sheldon Ferster, Dr. Sheldon Ferster. His address is 1111 W. Bryn Mawr.
You tell him that George told you to get in contact with him. If you want to interview him, you can
interview him in Chicken George’s office. Sheldon goes back in this area many, many years. He can tell
you all kinds of kinky things. Whatever you want to know–good things, bad things, he’s a veritable
encyclopedia as far as this neighborhood goes.
Other things: I remember when they were tearing down buildings on Hollywood west of Broadway for
the Lake Shore Drive extension–that was a project! My experience is mostly in the 60s when I was in
high school and the early 70s. Then I went away to school. I was gone for four years, and when I came
back, I really didn’t have that much to do with this area. One of the big annual events in this area has
been St. Andrew’s picnic. That’s been going on for at least twenty-five years. It’s always been a big draw
in the neighborhood. Now it’s got to be the finest festival in the area. I don’t know anyone who holds
anything as big as they do. They draw from all over the community. It is a well-known and welcome
event of the community.
When I was young, this was a superb area, a very desirable community to live in. In fact, it might have
been even more desirable than Belmont and Sheridan. It was really nice up here. Edgewater Beach Hotel
was a famous place–celebrities stayed there. Its Marine Room was one of the places to go to. During my
grade school days, I played hockey at the Rainbow Arena. I fact, I think that was the only in-door rink in
Chicago at the time.
I went to some dances at Senn. I used to go there on Friday nights, especially for their homecoming
dances. I had a lot of friends who went to school at Senn. I don’t think they have that type of stuff at
Senn anymore. It was pretty nice. Senn is going to change now. It’s going to become Senn Metropolitan
Academy of Science. That’s just great because they’re going to be much more restrictive of whom they
allow in the school and it’s going to help control the gang problem there. Senn was a hell of a school—
you had some neat people who went there. Artie Johnson, the Lone Ranger, William DeVry. There was a
talented type of people who lived in the area and we’ve lost them. I’m not saying that this area can’t
produce talent but I think that this new commitment to the area can help us and I think nothing but
good is going to come of it.
Oh, sure! The beaches were always used, perhaps more so then than they are now. It’s astounding
what’s going on now at the beaches; I know the life guards like it not so crowded as it is, nice and quiet
for them. But the lakefront here is under-utilized. We could do a lot more things up here. I’d like to see
the Park District commit some money to this area. I remember they used to draw a lot of teenagers,
young people to the beaches. There were activities going on, not quite as extensive as at the tennis
courts and the diamonds, but it was, and still is, a nice convenient lakefront. I haven’t heard of any big
gang wars going on over there like there used to be. I hope we’re over the hump so far as that’s
concerned. I think I feel now, there was a lack of direction for a number of years in this area, and ended
up with–(there’s nothing wrong with this), but we didn’t gear ourselves towards a younger, more
upscale group of people. They were more concerned with putting in nursing homes, projects such as
that and half-way houses, low income housing–that sort of thing and it hurt Edgewater. We’re looking
to whether this community will rebound to what it once was–I don’t know–that’s only speculation. We
are trying, believe me. I’m trying to think of other things–history in the area. Scandalous history? We
were discussing the old Coconuts on Sheridan Road. The way it was set up was quite interesting,
including the big outdoor garden. I’m not saying I’m a bar person, but on occasion I went in there with
some friends. Friends of mine would say, Let’s go out to the Coconuts. Coconuts was quite a wild place.
First of all, it had a four o’clock license and it was–I can’t say it was a Gay bar, but it was heavily Gay.
Oh, sure, Coconuts was raunchy; you’d have females impersonated, dancers, and it was more or less
Anything Goes. I’m sure the local politicians had quite a bit of influence in getting that place closed.
It wasn’t open all that long–not more than a couple of years, but while it was there, it had a hell of a
reputation. They had prostitutes in there, they had drug deals going on in there. It was pretty raunchy.
They were finally closed down. Forced to close. Before Coconuts went in there, there was a restaurant
known as Frank and Marie’s. Frank and Marie’s was a white tablecloth restaurant. It was a flower-fancy,
expensive place. They dealt in basically quality meats, quality beef items, quality fish, but I think they
kind of priced themselves out of markets-it was a very expensive place to go into and in an area like this,
it didn’t go over. You know you need to draw from your local area. I think at the time that Frank and
Marie’s finally went out, the neighborhood had hit rock bottom.
When the Edgewater Beach Hotel went out, that’s when we really lost out. If the Edgewater Beach Hotel
was still there, we’d be in good shape. Unfortunately it’s not, and I don’t see any developers coming
along and building anything like it again. That’s unfortunate! That’s when the area began to skid–After
Frank and Marie’s left, someone decided on something raunchy. The Coconuts could put a big bar in
there. They stuck a dance hall in this place, too. Finally the neighborhood decided this place was too
scandalous for the area, the puritans began to work on closing it down. It was one of the more colorful
places in the city while it was open.
That’s owned by the same guys. They opened right over there next to Wendy’s. I’ve been in there once.
It’s a lot nicer than the old place. They’ve got a dress code and it’s much nicer. They also have a very
good dance floor, much better than the old place. The old place attracted some who just went in to see
what it was like, but after ten minutes you’d say, Okay, I’ve seen enough, I’m leaving now. That’s the
way it was! Perhaps we should talk someone in the neighborhood to put a colorful type of
entertainment concept into the area. We’ve attracted some of the big bars. I can say this because I know
a lot of people who are in the bar business. The F A K A, for instance, they also own places like
Shenanigans, Butch McGuire’s, but if they’re going to criss-cross operations, unfortunately they’re going
to get squeezed out one way or another. Now we have Coconuts; I know the guys who have this place. I
keep telling them they should put a bar in it. It’s an old CTA Barn, just south of Broadway Armory. It’s
fascinating to walk through. Actually, it’s two buildings in one. They have six foot walls on the outside of
the building. It’s built like a fort. Indestructible! You could open a theater in there, or you could open a
bar. There’s parking for seventy-five to one hundred cars. It’s just sitting up there vacant. We’ve got
some good places in the area, though. John Moody’s Pub has been there for a number of years. There
was a time when people thought Broadway, between Foster and Devon, would turn into a new
entertainment center for the north side, one comparable to New Town, and I’m glad it didn’t happen
because New Town is just a little seedy now, and I don’t think we need that type of thing here. Perhaps
we could get one or two nice entertainment places that would bring some nice people in.
There were no problems on the El when I was young. I went to North Park High School. Since then
they’ve closed the academy, but I used to ride on the El every day and I never had trouble–it was always
safe. Basically, it still is safe. There are, though, some problems. A short time ago one of the cook’s from
Hamilton’s Pizza was murdered on the Granville platform and we’ve had other situations like that
happen. There was a girl raped on Thorndale elevated platform two and a half years ago. You hear
incidents of purse snatchings; we had one on Bryn Mawr last summer. It happens. There’s that type of
people who also live in the area.
We’ve got a lot of–well you’d have to get out and walk around the streets to see for yourself what I
mean. I’d be happy to walk with you, and you’d be real safe with me. No one would mess around with
you at all. Then you’d see for yourself the different kinds of people and understand their lifestyle that
we are referring to. It’s not even a subculture. It’s an underculture that these people survive in. Most of
them are on welfare and in order for them to survive, they get into drugs. If you really want to get a
picture of what Edgewater is like today, walk over to Lakewood/Belmar. It’s nice to live here on Sheridan
Road, walk downstairs and take a bus downtown, it’s that simple. But you’re not really getting a true
perspective of what’s going on in Edgewater. We do have our problems here, too. We really do.
Sure, Winthrop and Kenmore at one time were two nice streets to rent appartments. Perhaps at one
time the overwhelming majority of those buildings were owned or occupied. They no longer are. There
are problems on those streets. A friend of mine now owns the Thorndale delicatessen at Winthrop and
Thorndale where he grew up, but it’s not the same as then. I remember when they built Malibu East and
the other building right behind there. They thought this area up here was going to be the next near
North side. They were very optimistic about it. Unfortunately they did not count on Kenmore and
Winthrop deteriorating the way it did. That hurt us tremendously. As I’ve said, we had a lot of gang
incidents between the TJOs and the Turfers. I think the TJOs are now out since Gary Callas got busted.
He was a very famous gang name in the area and I know that all the police in the 20th district are very
glad that he’s been put away.
Edgewater reaches from the lake to Ravenswood and from Foster to Devon. It’s just Kenmore and
Winthrop. Everything else is quite nice. You go west of Broadway–they are all homes, single-unit, two
flat, some three-flat, a few multi-unit apartments but that’s really about it. Even the area around Senn
is nice. Have you ever gone back over there? You’d have to go there. There are some lovely homes right
in the vicinity of Senn. My store is a shot in the arm for that neighborhood. Broadway–think about
Broadway for a second because there’s always been things happening on Broadway.
The original Town and Country Restaurant, I don’t know if you are familiar with the Town and Country
Restaurant chain? It was started by a guy by the name of ____________Smith. He opened Town and
Country chain, which is now Carson’s Ribs, on Ridge and Clark. It became a very successful operation up
I don’t think they have one downtown; maybe. They have one on North Avenue and Kennedy. The one
on Clark and Ridge was the original one and he was the first guy in Chicago who came up with the idea
of having a bakery and restaurant. For years they made a fortune up there and he sold out. Someone
took over, and just through poor management or whatever it went under. On Clark and Devon, there
was a branch of Hell’s Angels. You know we’ve got that kind of element up here, but that element is all
over the city. Edgewater, though, is a nice place to live and we just have to keep advertising it as such.
I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a house in Edgewater.
Right! I like the area. I used to live on Sheridan Road over here, 6171 North Sheridan, but I’m more
interested now in buying a house. I don’t know why, because who’s going to be there to maintain it?
Who’s going to be there to live in it? I’m never at home as it is.
Oh, yes, my mom and dad. All of my family is here in Chicago. I’m divorced, so I’ve got cats. They can
take care of it; they can keep the mice out–good rodent controller. Where would I live up here? I think
west of Broadway. I’d like to buy a house near here; it would be very convenient for work. I could walk
over there any time I want. Chicken George is a funny place. We get a wide mixture of
people. Chicken George’s attracts the bums off the street and there are prostitutes in there some
times. I have to throw them out. Some times a guy is trying to make drug deals in the store–we have to
throw him out. We keep it pretty clean. You know, you’re looking at me and thinking What kind of guy is
this? What’s he running over there? But it happens in business. You’ve got to run a clean operation. I’ve
always got the police coming in and out. They’ve been very cooperative with me. We staked out a guy in
there one day. There was a robbery at Dominick’s on Foster and Sheridan. The robbers abandoned a car
right behind my store. They had taken a lot of food stamps and they were turning in food stamps. So the
FBI came. I couldn’t believe these guys because, first they called me and asked if they could use my store
as a stake-out. They said they’d come in and introduce themselves to me, but outside of that we don’t
want you talking to us. So they came in–a white guy and a black guy. I would have thought these guys
were derelicts. They said, George Kalogeras? and I said, Yeah, and they said, We’re from the FBI!