Jun 18, 2012

We've moved

We've moved! Dot's Diary now has a Facebook page here:


I hope you'll join us there. There will be updates, news, and links to each day's diary entry, and you are welcome to comment and contribute.

If you happen to not be a Facebook person, you can still post your comments here, or send email to dchicago@yahoo.com.

Thank you!

-Dave (Dot's son)

Jun 27, 2011

L.A. Night

An evening in Los Angeles, about 1949:

Jun 23, 2011

Bob Karpus

Dot and Bob in 1945

Bob Karpus, husband for many years to my mother's best friend Sunny, died this week, in St. Petersburg, Florida. He's survived by his two daughters and grandkids. Sunny and Bob met in Chicago in the mid-1940s. Both were very happy, upbeat people throughout their lives. As a side effect of having published Dot's Diary, I was lucky to reconnect with the two of them after many years of being out of touch. They were just as wonderful, hadn't changed at all, and I feel very fortunate to have had them back into my life. I miss them both very much.

Apr 21, 2011

A New Vintage

Just a few blocks west of where Dot lived in the 1940s, Bill Lavicka hopes to transform this property and its sturdy, old mansion into a winery. It will be amazing if he can do it, and I wish him the best of success. Lavicka obviously cares very deeply about preservation, and about respecting age -- of buildings and of people.

He wants to plant about 5,000 vines in the yard — what's now three or so bombed-out-looking blocks along the Dan Ryan Expressway just south of Garfield Boulevard.

Complicating matters, the vacant land and long-neglected mansion are owned by the city of Chicago. For nearly two years, Lavicka, 66, has been trying to persuade the city to sell 40 to 50 lots that were once part of the John Raber estate to him for $1 each, plus commit to streetscape and road improvements, and subsidize part of the renovation in some way.

Ald. Willie Cochran said Wednesday that he is "confident this deal will get closed," saying the winery would be approved along with an adjacent urban farm and new park with a baseball field. But details remain to be ironed out, and those will have to wait for the new mayor's input, he said.

The project, Lavicka said, has taken longer to plan than it would take to remodel.

The Chicago Tribune has more here.

Apr 16, 2011

1946: Opening Day--and a New Beginning

Dot's Diary, Tuesday, April 16, 1946:

Today's news: LEFTY TRUMAN TO TOSS 1st BALL - Then Senators, Red Sox Play Before 30,000:
Opening Day, 1946: Before it could heal the nation, baseball at the close of World War II had some healing of its own to do.

By John Rosengren

On Tuesday, April 16, 1946, the president of the United States lunched with several U.S. senators at the Capital, paused to shake hands with wounded war veterans, then headed to the ballpark. A 65-piece U.S. Army band boomed “Hail to the Chief” when Harry S. Truman entered Griffith Stadium. The ball players–13 of them returning vets–stood at attention in their baggy flannels while the Stars and Stripes rose up the center-field pole and the band played the national anthem.

The photographers trained their bulky cameras on the presidential box, where the commander in chief would honor the game’s great southpaws with his opening toss. Truman caused a moment of consternation by gripping the ball in his right hand. The New York Herald Tribune reported: “He switched the ball to the publicized duke, limbered it up with two short waves of the soupbone, drew it back behind his ear, and fired an overhand delivery about 50 feet into the cluster of players of both sides deploying for the throw.”

Truman’s pitch was the first season-opening delivery by the commander in chief since Franklin Delanor Roosevelt’s in April 1941, but opening day was more than a photo op for Truman. When the war ended, the president turned to the national pastime for healing. The Missouri southpaw understood the nation’s faith in the game’s restorative powers.

Back at the ballpark

Washington’s Griffith Stadium had been sold out weeks in advance, and eager fans quickly snatched up the 4,000 bleacher seats and 3,000 standing-room-only passes that went on sale that morning. Some 32,300 men, women, and children filled the seats and spilled into the aisles to watch that afternoon’s game between the hometown Senators and the Boston Red Sox. Across the country, 236,730 fans passed through the turnstiles at eight American and National League parks, the highest inaugural-day attendance in 15 years.
There's more here...

Apr 2, 2011

Aftershocks Continue

Dot's Diary, Tuesday, April 2, 1946:

Estimate 300 Perish in Hawaiian Town; California Hit - HILO WRECKED; RESCUE SQUADS DIG FOR VICTIMS: This tragic city was a horrible shambles today as rescue squads dug bodies of 37 victims of today's smashing tidal wave from the slimy wreckage and rubble.

PACIFIC TIDAL WAVE; 70 DIE - 5,000 HOMELESS; LOSS RUNS INTO THE MILLIONS: The latest total of dead in the wake of the tidal wave in the Hawaiian islands is 70. Forty-eight bodies have been recovered on the island of Hawaii and hundreds are reported missing there.

Mar 28, 2011

Mildred Pierce

Dot's Diary, Thursday, Mar. 28, 1946:

“Today was another very warm day (69). Met Sunny and fooled around the house for awhile and then went to Parnell for a Coke. Then to the Stratford and saw Mildred Pierce and it was really worth the Academy Award.”

Coincidentally, just yesterday (Sunday, March 27th) HBO premiered their new mini-series, Mildred Pierce, adapted from the movie Dot saw today at the Stratford theater.

Reviews and more information about HBO's show here, here, here and here.

Mar 27, 2011

March: the lion- and the lamb-like

Dot's Diary, Tuesday, Mar. 27, 1945:

“After school, Sonny and I went by Ginny's house and then we went to White Castle's and Parnell's. Saw Jim but he didn't see me.

Later in the evening, Sis, Ginny and I went up to 55th & Halsted to wait for Helen and—god, was there a powerful wind blowing. She came around 25 to 9, and she went into Skateland to see if Saby* was in there. He wasn't. Gosh, I felt sorry for her and I don't think he's even worth writing about.”

I awoke on this sunny March 27th morning in 2011 to a very un-March-like 30 degrees. Nowhere near the record low of minus-one degree (1965). But not quite the balmy, all-time record-setting 82 Chicago was experiencing on this day in 1945. It must have given my mom an extra bounce or two in her step (even more so if that powerful wind was at her back!), as she really covered a lot of ground today.

Mar 26, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

I don't know if my mother saw Lassie Come Home at a theater in 1943 or '44. But I suspect that, as a 15- or 16-year-old, she probably did.

For my part, I don't think I've ever seen the film. I do, however, remember the first time I was aware of Elizabeth Taylor. I was about 11, watching the Oscars on the blonde wood cabinet TV in the living room. Butterfield 8 was the movie, and Liz was its star. My parents went to quite a few movies, and they sometimes took me with--if it was suitable for kids. Well Butterfield 8--the story of a call girl--wasn't. But something about how people were talking about it made me aware that it was risque, and adult. And intriguing.

But 50 years later, I haven't seen that one either. I need to schedule a Lassie Come Home/Butterfield 8 double feature.

(p.s. I'm glad to be back after a self-imposed break. All work and no play (and not enough movies) makes for a dull blog.)

Feb 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

(p.s.: Happy 39th Birthday to Jack Benny!)

Feb 5, 2011

Snowbound in February

Chicago's O'Hare Airport this week, when thousands of flights
were cancelled during the Blizzard of 2011

Dot's Diary, Monday, Feb. 5, 1945:

TIME magazine (Feb. 5, 1945 issue):

“The manpower and equipment shortage caught up with the Eastern railroads last week.

Since mid-December, when the first of a series of blizzards and icy gales lashed at their overloaded lines, the [rail]roads had done more than their usual best to clear the tracks. But main-line trains slowed to a crawl: the crack Twentieth Century Limited was ten and a half hours late on one scheduled run of 17 hours from Chicago to New York City.

Finally in many a busy freight yard traffic came to a stop while trainmen groped for switches beneath snowdrifts. Then the nation was in serious trouble. Two hundred thousand freight cars were tied up in the East by one of the worst transportation crises on record.

When last week's cold wave sent temperatures to 18° below zero at Portland, Me., to 16° below at Binghamton, N.Y., the Association of American Railroads decided it was time for drastic action. With the approval of the Office of Defense Transportation, A.A.R. clamped a tight three-day embargo on all non-Government freight moving east of Lake Michigan and north of the Chesapeake and Ohio lines in Virginia.

More Snow & Ice?

Whether the 72-hour embargo had given the railroads time enough to dig themselves out of their trouble was still a question this week. Long trains of empties were snaking across the bleak landscape, headed away from the congested terminals. Dozens of passenger trains were canceled, and their high-wheeled engines ignobly coupled to strings of empty boxcars. By week's end the roads hoped to have caught up again, unless. . . .

Along the busy railroad lines in the Northeast, engine smoke hung low and heavy over the rails. Railroad men gloomily marked it down as a sure sign that more snow was on the way.”

Jan 14, 2011

Mexican Cookbook

Dot's Diary, Jan. 14, 1946:

New Edition of Cookbook Is Available: Mexican Cookbook,” by Erna Fergusson, published by the University of New Mexico Press, is a new edition of a book which was out of print and came back by special demand. Many lovers of Mexican food want to know how to prepare it authentically in their own kitchens. ---Chicago Tribune

Author Erna Fergusson, by virtue of her popular cookbook, helped to make enchiladas, tacos and tortillas less exotic and much more common on Americans' dinner tables. Fergusson--who grew up in New Mexico--was more than a book author though:

Throughout her years Erna had various other occupations. During World War II she took a job with the Red Cross as the home service secretary and State Supervisor for New Mexico. After the war she became a reporter for the Albuquerque Herald, writing various articles regarding her hometown. She was commissioned in 1926 by Century Magazine to write “Redskins to Railroads” and “From Rodeo to Rotary” two of her pieces, which many years later along with other short works became published.

While at the Herald, Erna also began a touring company alongside friend Ethel Hickey. The touring company, Koshare Tours, provided guests with tours of the southwest, introducing them to native cultures. Koshare Tours were so successful that Fred Harvey, a famous and well to do western hotel and restaurateur, bought the touring company and hired Erna Fergusson to direct the new endeavor—Indian Detour Service.

In her 1934 book, "Mexican Cookbook", Fergusson was perhaps the first to correct the English-speakers notion that "frijoles refritos" meant "refried beans", but the correction never reached the popular consciousness.

Erna Fergusson can be best depicted as a New Mexico writer of the 1930s, honing the two techniques of oral interview and conversational prose style; she was a part of the Southwestern Renaissance, and greatly contributed to the history of New Mexico.

Amazon carries Fergusson's book, in used form. Although I'm no chef, I'm thinking of ordering it. I'll let you know the outcome, if I do. From their review:

This popular cookbook has sold more copies than any other native cookbook ever printed in the Southwest. First published in 1934, it contains recipes for the foods that are now served in trendy restaurants nationwide, enchiladas, chile rellenos, and carne adovada. But the heart of this cookbook consists of simple, rustic food served in New Mexican homes, green chile sandwiches, a lamb-based cold soup, and sweet rice. Techniques for preparing freshly grown food, while unnecessary thanks to modern supermarkets, bring back the ambience and spirit of territorial New Mexico.