Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sorry Beefalow

In the basement of the murder castle site, my audio recorder picked up a sound like that of a little girl singing. The voice is clearer and louder than my own, but what she's saying is a bit unclear. The nearest transcription I can make is "Sorry Beefalow," which I've been joking sounded like the worst Chef Boyardee product ever.

Just to show that I'm not taking myself TOO seriously with this, here's a recipe for Sorry Beefalow (so called because you have to say "sorry" to the people you're serving it to. It's an aspic dish.


1 (.25 ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup boiling water
2 cups vegetable juice (such as V-8®)
1 dash Worcestershire sauce, or to taste (optional)
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 pound ground beef
1 cup pasta (cooked)

Fully dissolve gelatin in boiling water in a mixing bowl.
Combine vegetable juice, worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, and cloves in a saucepan; bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf and cloves.
Stir onion and celery into vegetable juice.

Brown beef, cook pasta, and add each into vegetable juice. Stir.

Refrigerate until set completely, about 1 hour.

Try it out - and let us know how it goes! Send pictures!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jean LaLime at the Excalibur Club

Finally saw an episode of Ghost Adventures.  I had honestly never seen it before; I don't watch many of those programs. It'd be like a cop going home and watching cop shows.

I got a bit frustrated with it because the history they told was flat-out wrong in the beginning. The remains of Jean LaLime were not burned up in the great Chicago Fire. The bones though to be his were presented to the historical society as a gift (I'm sure they were just thrilled) when they were unearthed during construction, but not until the 1890s, some twenty years AFTER the fire.  The Historical Society still has them, as a matter of fact.  We covered this in a post nearly four years ago.  They aren't 100% sure that the bones are really LaLime's, though, and keep them in storage. Eventually they may decide that they should be re-buried under the Native American Grave Repatriation Act.

Kinzie was, in fact, acquitted of the murder of Jean LaLime on the grounds that it was self defense, but I've never really bought that. The story went that Kinzie stabbed LaLime only after LaLime shot him in the shoulder. Some believe this, some don't.

I'm not sure about the story about women seeking shelter in the building that stood on the spot during the fire - much is made in historical accounts of the society losing 60,000 books in the fire, but I can't find any contemporary references to women dying there. Running into it for shelter during a fire would have been an odd choice, it seems to me, but I'll withhold judgement until I've looked into it further.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Missing EASTLAND movie?

In 1915, when the Eastland capsized in the Chicago river, one enterprising camera man ran to a fire escape on the Reid Murdoch building, just across the river from the disaster, and began to film. Eventually he got footage not just of the boat on its side, with firemen racing across it, stretchers (with the bodies covered) being carried around, and divers plying their trade. There were also, according to contemporary accounts of the film, shots of workers rushing about in the Reid Murdoch itself (which became a hospital/morgue) and in the Second Regiment Armory. A few girls who survived voluntarily posed for the camera.

The film was about a thousand feet long, and was being exhibited around the country only days after the disaster. Around forty prints were known to exist at the time. The city censors (we had film censors then) refused to let it be shown in the city limits; a note about the rejection indicates that it was made (or distributed)
by the Selig Polyscope company; various papers credit the filming to the Chicago Tribune company of the Universal Current Events company. It could be that Selig simply made a hasty film of his own re-enacting things.   The ad at the right is from The Flint Daily Journal on July 31, a week after the disaster. What an odd double feature - The Clark Theatre couldn't have come up with a stranger pairing.

So far as I can tell, there are no surviving prints, and information about it is hard to come across. Does anyone know more about    this? Practically all films from that era are now lost.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Remarkable Cow of Kilgubbin

Back in the old days, the lower north side, around Orleans and Chicago Avenue and up to Division and the River, was an Irish enclave known as Kilgubbin. It was apparently after the name of the part of Ireland from which many of the early settlers hailed, though no one ever seemed to be able to find such a place on the maps (it was apparently somewhere in Cork). It retained this name, off and on, for some decades (much of it was absorbed into Little Hell eventually, then Goose Island and Cabrini Green), and papers occasionally told folky stories about it, not unlike Irish-tinged versions of, say, the Uncle Remus stories.

In one particular instance in 1859, it told the story of Mr. O'Brien's cow, who one day disappeared, taking its milk with it. This was quite a scandal, and the story "spread from shanty to shanty," as the Tribune put it. They noted that one could "cut off water from Kilgubbin if you will, banish rain fall and river-flow, but spare the milk, and its congener fluid, the etherial part of rye."

The cow stayed gone for months, then O'Brien announced that he had found the cow in the stable of his neighbor, Ferrick. Ferrick claimed taht the cow in the stable was his own, and that he'd raised it from "tender calfhood."

O'Brien went to court and had Ferrick brought in for "cow stealing," but was acquitted. Hence, in order to get satisfaction, he tried to sue Ferrick instead. The trial became quite a spectacle, on attended by "spectators well nigh to the depopulation of Kilgubbin," and eighteen witnesses testified. The cow itself was brought into court. Ferrick one the day, and O'Brien was ordered to pay over $100 in court costs (over a case regarding a $40 cow).  He immediately announced plans to repeal, and, after the story was published, wrote an angry letter to the Tribune stating that he did not live, and never had lived, in Kilgubbin.

How much of the story was true and how much was just a folksy yarn to break the boredom and chill of a January day at the Tribune office is anyone's guess. The Tribune wasn't nearly as bad with racism as some papers, and was known to stick up for the people of Kilgubbin when Wilbur F. Storey, the dyed-in-the-wool racist who ran the Chicago Times, was bad-mouthing them.

The Times account of Kilgubbin in 1866, though, gives one some idea of how the area got its current name of Goose Island: "Here and there were goose ponds laid out in the streets, with great care as to effect. They were directly where a traveller wanted to step, and it was a long and muddy distance around them. Large flocks of goslings inhabit these stagnant pools, to kill or stone one of them would be instant death to the intruder. The geese cackle and hiss as you pass, as if no one but a resident had any business there. They seem to far a land owner whenever a strange footstep is heard, an instinct early instilled into all the chattels of the squatter. They spread their wings and run off to the door of the nearest shanty."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Capone's Underpants

All over Chicago, people will point to fur dealers, suit shops, and any number of places, saying that Al Capone was once a regular customer. Sometimes it seems that there's hardly a third or fourth generation Chicagoan around who doesn't have a story about their grandfather selling Al Capone his suits.

At his October 1931 income tax trial, though, it became clear that Capone's shopping habits were much more mundane - most of his furnishings and clothing came from Marshall Field's.

E.M. Arl of the custom shirt department took the stand to say that Capone would purchase a dozen or so custom-made shirts at a time, priced at $18-30 each ( a hell of a lot for a shirt at the time; the jurors were noted to gasp when told the price). He was also shown to have bought 18 collars at two bucks each, 24 monograms for just under a buck, and more. Earl A. Corbin, from the custom tailor department, mentioned selling Capone 28 ties at five bucks each, as well as lots of neckwear and handkerchiefs. A man from the suit department showed that Capone often had fittings both in the store and in his suite at the Metropole hotel (where he lived before taking up his more-famous residence at the Lexington in 1928), and bought his suits with cash. Most cost $135 each and were bought in lots of half a dozen.

Mr. J. Oles, assistant buyer for the men's underwear department (yes, there was a guy whose job was to be asssistant buyer at the men's underwear department) testified that Capone had bought three "union suits" (a style of one-piece long underwear) in 1927 for $12 each, as well as nine undershirts and nine shorts for five dollars each - an underwear purchase totalling over $100 in 1927 money (about three grand today). Two more underwear salesmen came forth with similar stories, and Capone swas seen to grin sheepishly when J. Pankan, a salesman, testified that Capone had purchased four $12 suits of "hand glove silk" underwear in 1928.

"What is hand glove silk?" asked the attorney.

"The materials of which ladies gloves are made," said the salesman.

The Marshall Field is now a Macy's, but still bears the Marshall Field's plaque on the outside, and doesn't seem a whole lot different on the inside now to me than it ever was. Then again, I wouldn't really know, as I'm not the kind of guy who goes around spending that kind of scratch on underwear. Still, this particular revelation does make me want to head out there next time I need a new pair.


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