What started out as a blog solely about Wimpy restaurants morphed into a broader blog when I discovered the above photos. What a shame it would be to not write about the Shubert Theatre and other businesses captured in these great photos. Wimpy Restaurants Originally called Wimpy Grills, the Wimpy brand was incorporated on September 12, 1934 by Edward V. Gold, with its first location in Bloomington, Indiana. The name was inspired by the hamburger-loving character J. Wellington Wimpy from Popeye, created by E. C. Segar. Gold opened the first Chicago area restaurant in 1936, after opening grills in five other Midwestern cities. The restaurant on the Northeast corner of Randolph St. and Wabash Ave. was the 10th Wimpy Grill in Chicago and the 25th in the U.S. when it opened in 1940. I don’t know when the location opened on the northeast corner of Clark and Madison, but these photos date back to 1955 and 1958. I wonder how many people grabbed a bite at Wimpy or the Bamboo Inn before going to the renowned Blue Note Jazz Club next door! In the 1950s, Gold closed most of the U.S. locations and expanded his operation to Europe, working with J. Lyons & Co., a British catering company. In 1967, he sold the European operations to Lyons, which had more than 1,500 restaurants at that time, while retaining the U.S. restaurants. United Business acquired the UK restaurants in July 1977 and in February 2007, Famous Brands, owner of the Wimpy franchise in South Africa bought out Wimpy UK. As of 2011, Famous Brands operated 509 Wimpy restaurants in South Africa, making it the largest Wimpy franchise. When Gold died in October 1977 at the age of 70, nine Wimpy restaurants in the Chicago area were still in business, including…
The summer after 8th grade, I went downtown a few times a week to take classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Young Artist’s Studio program. The photo silk screening class was in the Pakula building at 218 S. Wabash. The painting class was in a studio on the campus building behind the Art Institute. On occasion, I would shop at the Woolworth’s on State Street and the Stop & Shop at 16 W. Washington. When I was about 18, I summoned the courage to walk into an X-rated book store located on Randolph near State, if memory serves me right. I hightailed it out of there when a freaky guy in a trench coat leered at me. Perhaps he would have flashed me, or my vivid imagination got the better of me. I was fascinated by Randolph Street, in particular the block between State and Dearborn. It had a similar kind of sleazy charm as Times Square in the 1970s, albeit on a tiny scale. The photographs featured in this blog provided inspiration for businesses to include and a search for materials such as matchbooks, postcards, and menus. This ephemera offers a glimpse at a street that was once vibrant and thriving with an incredibly cool and eclectic array of businesses. Sadly, by the time I ventured downtown, most of these businesses were long gone or had lost their luster. I primarily researched businesses between State and Randolph, west to LaSalle. Of course the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center’s north lobby is on Randolph at Michigan.
This article is dedicated to Linda W., a generous collector who donated her entire matchbook collection to me after reading my previous blog on this subject: Matchbooks Spark The Unearthing of Long Forgotten Histories. The matches in this blog were selected from her collection – some for their visual appeal and others for the sagas that accompany the now shuttered establishments. I had no idea that Carson Pirie Scott had restaurants at O’Hare Airport until I looked at this matchbook. In fact, Carson Pirie Scott operated two restaurants at O’Hare Airport. They were both located in a building that connected Terminals 2 and 3. The formal restaurant, Seven Continents, was located on the building’s upper level and the casual cafeteria called the Tartan Tray was on the main level.
Much has been written about the history of postcards and there are a plethora of websites, collector’s clubs, blogs, and books on the subject. The earliest known picture postcard dates back to 1840. It was a hand-painted design on a card, sent in London to the writer Theodore Hook with a penny black stamp. A rather eclectic postcard collection is among the many treasures I have accumulated over the years. Easy to store in one large shoe box, I take these out on occasion as inspiration for my collages. I have yet to sell any of this collection, but really have no attachment except for a few postcards that evoke long-lost personal memories. Some of these postcards date back to my youth – a few are vintage late 1890s-early 1900s. I have fond memories of riding my bike as a young teenager to Archie’s Coins in Edgebrook and buying a few really cool antique postcards for pennies. I also have an attachment to beautiful, early handcolored photographic postcards bought in 1979 at the Porte de Clignancourt in Paris – my first trip to Europe.
Windy City Memories of the Way We Were A few weeks ago I picked up a really cool matchbook from a long closed girlie show/burlesque club in Chicago. The club was located on West Madison in a stretch until recently known as skid row and now gentrified and pricey. This sparked an idea about researching the history of a few select defunct places based on my personal matchbook collection. I have an unusual clear glass lamp that is filled with matchbooks, as well as a few other jars stuffed to the brim. Perusing this collection resurrected memories of places I had visited with my ex-husband, as well as unearthing matches for places I had never frequented but collected because they were visually intriguing. Think about it – with smoking banned in most public places, promotional matchbooks have really become a thing of the past and have a decidedly nostalgic vibe. Club So-Ho at 1124 W. Madison gave out some of the coolest matchbooks I have ever seen. According to this blog, this girlie show was housed in a 220-seat theater and sparked the attention of the Chicago Tribune in 1948 as quite risqué. What exists at this location today – apparently nothing at this precise address, but The CrossRoads Bar & Grill is doing business at 1120 W. Madison.
I think I was Italian in a previous life – what else would explain my love of Italian grocery stores and cuisine, Italian art, Italian designers, and the country itself. I traveled to Italy twice in the early 1980s and fell in love with Venice and Florence. But alas, time passed and obligations piled up over the years and I have not been back to glorious Italia. For now I have to satiate my quest for unusual Italian food products by frequenting the best damn Italian deli this side of the Atlantic Ocean! And listening to Louis Prima when the mood strikes. So twice a year we drive to Kenosha and thoroughly enjoy shopping at Tenuta’s Deli, a Kenosha tradition since 1950.
I am a sucker for a good deal – I use the word sucker because time and time again I think I am scoring a bargain when in reality I’m buying stuff I don’t need. I am a member of Groupon, Restaurant.com, DoubleTake Deals, Saveology, LivingSocial … and up until a few days ago – KGB Deals. I have dabbled on member-only shopping sites such as Beyond the Rack, Open Sky, NoMoreRack, and HauteLook to name a few, but dropped this habit when I lost my full-time job last June. In addition, these sites are frustrating because they tend to sell out in the first 45 seconds of the sale and rarely have my size. If you take a peek in my wallet you will find preferred cards from stores like Jewel-Osco, CVS Pharmacy, Dominick’s, etc. And I am a proud longstanding member of MyPoints, which is one of the best programs on the Internet. Internet Deal Sites Let’s start with my recent experience with KGB Deals. I bought a KGB Deals voucher for $10.50 for a $35.00 no-chip manicure at Salon 62. I started calling the salon in April to make an appointment since my voucher was going to expire on May 12. No answer during business hours for weeks on end, which I found odd. I left a message on their answering machine and nobody called me back. I decided to drive over there one day, again during business hours, only to find it dark with undelivered mail slips on the door. So I reported this to KGB Deals and they waited until May 11 to get back to me. Apparently there was some family emergency that shut down the business. When I called, Anna was rather snarky and wouldn’t bend on extending the life of the voucher. I was left with no choice but to change…
I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener that is what I’d really like to be ’cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener everyone would be in love with me Oh, I’m glad I’m not an Oscar Mayer wiener that is what I’d never want to be ’cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener everyone would take a bite of me Truthfully, I never wanted to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener – I am a Vienna Beef kind of gal, through and through, followed by Hebrew National. When I was a teenager, my dad and I decided that we would become hot dog connoisseurs and pursue the perfect dog. Growing up in Chicago – the hot dog capital of America, this seemed like a logical and glorious quest. Zagat and the Internet did not yet exist for suggestions, but hot dog dives were abundant and we stumbled upon several prime examples within just 2 miles of our house. And on occasion there was a review in the Chicago Tribune or Chicago Reader and we tried those establishments. Quite a few of these “Ma and Pa” places still exist, but many are long defunct.