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323 West Illinois Street - Chicago IL 60654

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Fr. Joseph Chamblain, O.S.M. Pastor

 

7/14/2024 Fr. Joseph Chamblain, OSM
A CENTURY AGO IN RIVER NORTH

Over the past three weeks, this column has focused on some heavy topics: youth violence, civility in political discourse, and aging. Now we need a break. It is the middle of summer, after all! This week I am including a portion of an article entitled “Memories of Assumption Church and its Parishioners from the Turn of the Century through 1933.” It was written by Sister Eleanor Garibaldi, M.S.C., a graduate of Assumption School on Erie Street, which closed in 1945. It offers a colorful glimpse of River North when it was still a close-knit Italian community.

“The schools were two: Assumption (Catholic) and Kinzie (Public). The Undertakers were two: Sbarbaro, and Rocca & Hayes. The movie houses were four: The Lil Erie, the Big Erie, the Newberry, and the Windsor. The children went on Saturday and Sunday afternoon and saw every move twice (How else could they get their money’s worth?). Mrs. Edith Rockefeller McCormick was a movie buff. She used to go to the Windsor. Her chauffeur and footman in plum-colored livery used to wait in the limousine for her.

“Do you remember the buildings? The Cuneo Building on the corner of Illinois and Franklin, extending south all the way to the alley? The Garibaldi Building next to it and extending all the way to the Rectory of the Assumption Church? The cluster of buildings across the street from Assumption Church? They are all gone now except for the one on Illinois and Franklin that houses Gene and Gorgetti’s. There was Billy Bertini’s gourmet grocery store specializing in imported food items. Later on it became a fine restaurant, The House of Bertini. Pete Nanni’s Ice Cream Parlor? When we were little we used to order ice cream sodas because they were bigger. Across the street there was Victoria Restaurant, open all night and lighted up like a Christmas tree. It was the scene of the murder of Arthur Firelli, who happened to be dining there during a hold-up and made the mistake of running into the kitchen where he was killed by a pistol wielding chef. A little further up was the Cavalier Athletic Club which boasted of a baseball team. Once, an umpire rendered an unfair decision. Instead of just protesting, the Cavalier player slugged the umpire.

“The church was the heart of the neighborhood. The church bells chimed the Angelus at 6:00am, at noon, and at 6:00pm. People who wanted to sleep late used to call them ‘those d____ cow bells’ Do you remember the priests who staffed the parish church during those years? Fr. Tom Moreschini, ‘the god of the Irish,’ Fr. Angelucci, Fr. Carlo, Fr. Mondini, Fr. McElligott, the son of a fire chief who was killed in a fire. Jennie Borella could not pronounce Fr. Angelucci’s name correctly. She used to call him ‘Father Babbalucci.’ Sesto Belluomini used to love making her repeat it.

“Do you remember the big outdoor event of the year when the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows was carried in procession on Illinois Street between Franklin and Orleans by the men of the Holy Name Society? The ladies of the Santa Maria Society followed, and all the other sodalities tagged along behind them. On one occasion, when I was standing on the church steps, Edward Brizzolara blurted out: ‘Here comes the Young Ladies Sodality in wheel chairs.’ Do you remember the big indoor event of the year, the Columbian Banquet? Even the politician came. The chief items on the menu were ravioli and roast chicken. Once a man walked into the kitchen with a serving dish full of ‘the part that went over the fence last.’ Then there were the church services. My mother made us attend the Sunday afternoon services whether we wanted to or not. Likewise, the evening church services, and the interminable Holy Week Services. Once we ran home on Holy Saturday morning before the services were over. My mother chased us right back! Then there were the baptisms. One Sunday afternoon a baptismal party wanted to name the baby ‘Garibaldi.’ Fr. Angelucci told them to go find another church.”

Two footnotes to this story: Sbarbaro Funeral Home at 708 N Wells was the site of the 1924 funeral of Dion O’Banion, a member of the gangland royalty and Capone’s chief rival. O’Banion’s murder started a gang war with 600 casualties. His casket supposedly cost $10,000 (in 1924!) and over 10,000 well-wishers came. Leaving the funeral home, the procession was a mile long and included three bands. Mr. Sbarbaro, was also an Assistant District Attorney in Chicago and later a judge. His family has continued to support Assumption. The House of Bertini at 535 N Wells lasted under various names as an Italian steakhouse until 1987. The façade of the building has been compared to an Italian opera set, because Mr. Bertini was a great opera fan. In the 1950’s when north Wells had become very shabby, a Tribune reviewer wrote, “The dumpishness of the neighborhood invariably raises eyebrows. The succulence of the steaks cements friendships.”

                                                                                               Fr. Joe

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This list includes the last thirteen months of messages.
Click on a date to see the message.

   
7/14/2024   A CENTURY AGO IN RIVER NORTH
7/7/2024   GETTING REAL ABOUT OLD AGE
6/30/2024   DID JESUS HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR?
6/23/2024   ACTING CIVILIZED
6/16/2024   THE JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME
6/9/2024   GOINGS ON AROUND TOWN
6/2/2024   LOST IN WONDER
5/26/2024   SOME STUFF YOU PROBABLY DID NOT KNOW
5/12/2024   LIVING THE PASCHAL MYSTERY
5/19/2024   THE PENTECOST EXPERIENCE
5/5/2024   CELEBRATING MARY'S MONTH
4/28/2024   OUR COMMON VOCATION
4/21/2024   LIFE THROUGH DARKENED GLASSES
3/31/2024   HOW TO AVOID CELEBRATING EASTER
4/7/2024   A SEASON OF CELEBRATION
4/14/2024   A WORLD OF PLASTIC
3/17/2024   APPROACHING THE CITY OF DESTINY
3/24/2024   A WEEK OF PROCESSIONS
3/3/2024   YES THERE IS GOOD NEWS
3/10/2024   MAKING THE HEADLINES
2/4/2024   WHY YOUR SUPPORT MATTERS
2/18/2024   NOT JUST THE SAME OLD STUFF
2/25/2024   WHAT WE NEED RIGHT NOW
2/11/2024   THE ORIGINAL SOFT ENTRY POINT
12/31/2023   WELCOMING, ACCOMPANYING, SENDING
1/7/2024   DOING A LITTLE DIGGING
1/14/2024   THAT ALL MAY BE ONE
1/21/2024   CATCHING UP ON THIS AND THAT
1/28/2024   WHAT'S REALLY BEHIND DRY JANUARY
12/24/2023   IT HAPPENED THAT WAY FOR A REASON
12/17/2023   HUMAN LIFE IS AT STAKE
12/10/2023   ARE WE ASKING TOO MUCH OF OURSELVES?
12/3/2023   WHY DO WE WAIT?
11/19/2023   IS IT REALLY THANKSGIVING?
11/26/2023   THAT MEETING IN ROME
11/5/2023   PRAYING FOR THE DEAD
11/12/2023   DIGGING INTO THE LEFTOVERS
10/22/2023   SERVING THE GODS OF LOVE
10/29/2023   TURN LOOSE THE SPOOKS
10/15/2023   THE JOURNEY BEFORE US
10/8/2023   WHAT RUNNERS TEACH THE REST OF US
9/24/2023   LEARN A LESSON FROM THE SAINTS
10/1/2023   WHAT NEXT, MOTHER EARTH?
9/10/2023   SCARS FROM THE PANDEMIC
9/17/2023   THE FAITH FORMATION OF CHILDREN
8/20/2023   HOW DO WE NEED TO CHANGE?
8/27/2023   CARE FOR CREATION
9/3/2023   HOPE FILLED SIGNS IN CHANGING TIMES
8/13/2023   OUR IMMIGRANT PAST AND OUR PARISH FEAST DAY
8/6/2023   DOES MY PRESENCE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
7/30/2023   TEACH US HOW TO PRAY
7/16/2023   GRADING ON THE CURVE
7/23/2023   A MEASURE OF SUCCESS
7/2/2023   THE SYNOD ON SYNODALITY
7/9/2023   A CHURCH BURNS IN ST. LOUIS
6/25/2023   MOVING ACROSS THE RIVER
6/18/2023   IS LIFE EVER ORDINARY?