Thanks for the memories . . .

By Carol Veome

Despite a bitterly cold and icy evening, about thirty-five people attended the Living History program, Growing up in Rogers Park and West Ridge, on February 5, 2019. Kay McSpadden, Events Chair, opened the session with a hearty thank you to the 16th Church of Christ, Scientist staff for providing us with a comfortable and warm place for the event.

President Ken Walchek, panel moderator, introduced five panel participants:

  • Peggy Cusick grew up in Rogers Park, attended and worked at Loyola University, then remained while married and rearing her family.
  • James Cusick,  one of Peggy’s five children, loved growing up on Newgard Avenue. He and his wife bought the house next door to his mom and that is where they raised their family. Jim also serves on the RPWRHS Board of Directors.
  • Marilou Kessler grew up at Greenleaf and Sheridan and has lived and worked in the neighborhood for most of her life. She was a teacher in the public schools and worked for the Jewish Vocational services.
  • John Fitzgerald boasts of being the 6th generation of his family to live in Rogers Park and served as head of the Howard Area Community Center for many years.
  • Linda Bressler grew up on Hoyne Avenue, north of Devon in West Ridge. She is a professional pharmacist and has remained in the neighborhood throughout her life.

Despite different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and childhood years that span several decades, the multi-generational panel shared surprisingly similar memories of their growing-up years. They all loved summers at the lakefront beaches, went to movies at the several theaters that dotted the area, and all remember playing in the streets and alleys, as there were far fewer automobiles than there are now.

The group agreed that as children, they felt safe and secure in the neighborhood and had fond memories of going to Kiddy Land for amusement at Lincoln and McCormick, now the site of Lincoln Village shopping center. As kids they all seemed to know most of the neighbors, attended local public and private schools and attended religious services locally. Public transportation in the city gave residents access to all parts of the city and was also safe, convenient to use, and reasonably priced. Each remembered their favorite local restaurants, all of which are now gone. Shopping on Devon Avenue provided Crawford’s Department Store, upscale clothing stores, shoe stores and places where kids could “hang out” with friends.

Audience comments and questions at the end reflected that many in the audience shared similar memories. The 1940s up to the 1960s are remembered as a peaceful time in this part of the city and residents loved having a great place in which they grew up and raised a family. There was laughter and joy and lots of smiles as we headed out into the cold that night. It seemed that we were all made happy by recalling happy times from the past.

For additional information, see the Block Club Chicago article on this event at