June 1, 2012

A history of St. Gertrude: One hundred years in the life of a faith family

This abridged history of the St. Gertrude Roman Catholic parish in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago was read at Pentecost mass on May 27, 2012. The full history is to be published later this year. Eileen Quinlan and the other parishioners here and there in the pews of St. Gertrude church knew something was wrong. Nine a.m. had come and gone, and, though the minutes ticked away, Father Bill Kenneally hadn’t arrived at the altar to start mass. “Then he came out, and he was white,” Quinlan remembers. “He said he just watched the second plane hit the building. He was so shaken, he could hardly say mass.” The bright, sparkling, clear-skied Tuesday was September 11, 2001.
May 14, 2012

A remembrance: AUDREY REARDON, June 21, 1926 – December 5, 1995

A eulogy by Patrick T. Reardon St. Thomas More Church December 9, 1995 Audrey Joanne Thomas……Audrey Thomas Reardon……69……the mother of 14 children……died Tuesday in her Oak Lawn home. Mrs. Reardon, who was born and raised in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, graduated from Providence High School. During World War II, she was a singer in USO shows for American troops in the city, and later worked as an executive secretary at the Loop headquarters of the Quaker Oats Co. On October 16, 1948, she married David J. Reardon, a postal worker who later served more than three decades as a Chicago police officer. The couple, who moved to the Ashburn neighborhood on the city’s Southwest Side in 1969 and to Oak Lawn last August, raised fourteen children, all of whom still live in the Chicago area: Rita, Jeanne, Geralyn, Teri, Kathy, Marie, Laura, Rosemary, John, Tim, Eileen, Mary Beth, David and Patrick. She is also survived by 30 grandchildren. = I want to tell you about my mother……about our mother……about the wife of our father……about the woman who touched—directly or indirectly—the lives of everyone here today……and many, many more. Do you remember how bright and crisp and clear […]
October 5, 2011

“A full hour before the party reached the city…” — a presentation at the Chicago Historical Society, Saturday, February 18, 2006

Consider this scene: A full hour before the party reached the city they had begun to note the perplexing changes in the atmosphere. It grew darker all the time, and upon the earth the grass seemed to grow less green. Every minute, as the train sped on, the colors of things became dingier; the fields were grown parched and yellow, the landscape hideous and bare. And along with the thickening smoke they began to notice another circumstance, a strange, pungent odor. They were not sure that it was unpleasant, this odor; some might have called it sickening, but their taste in odors was not developed, and they were only sure that it was curious. Welcome to Chicago, 1900…And to Chicago, 1950…And, in a real way, to Chicago, 2006. Recently, a colleague of mine at the Chicago Tribune asked me to recommend a book or two for a new reporter who had never lived in Chicago before. Well, I said, there’s The Local Community Fact Book. Published every 10 years going back to 1930, it gives detailed data on population, race, housing and poverty by neighborhood, and it’s an unparalleled resource book. But it doesn’t say anything about the way things […]
August 31, 2011

The Demons in “The Devil in the White City”

An address at the Chicago History Museum, December 14, 2006 When Erik Larson introduces Sol Bloom in his best-selling book “The Devil in the White City,” Bloom is a young man on the make — a 21-year-old entrepreneur who, two years earlier, had bought the rights to an Algerian village he saw on display at the Paris Exposition of 1889. Bloom was, as Larson describes him, a go-getter who got stuff done and a born salesman. It appears that those were the qualities that led Mike De Young to hire him to oversee the concessions for the Midway Plaisance at the World’s Columbian Exposition, to open two years later in 1893 in Chicago. Recounting a story from Bloom’s autobiography, Larson writes that, when De Young offered Bloom the job, the young man really didn’t want it. So he demanded the extraordinary salary of $1,000 a week — the same pay as the President of the United States — only to be surprised when he got it. In Chicago, Bloom earned his pay, bringing great energy and order to his task and a kind of promotional genius. Larson writes that the Harvard professor who’d originally had the job saw the Midway […]
August 22, 2011

You can make history

Remarks at the January 21, 2010 meeting of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning If you look at a satellite view of this part of the globe, you can see the deep blue of Lake Michigan and the unbroken sweep of the landscape. It shows our region as a single fabric, closely woven, each thread linked to every other. It doesn’t show government boundaries. They are invisible because, in the natural world, they don’t exist. A black-crowned night heron flying above the Salt Creek rides the same breezes whether it’s over Addison, Palatine or Hillside. The current of the Des Plaines River is the same for a largemouth bass whether the water is flowing through Deerfield, Lyons or Lockport. Your experience is the same. You probably live in one neighborhood or town and work in another and shop at a mall in a third and visit friends in a fourth. You don’t pay a lot of attention to invisible governmental boundaries as you go about your life. For you, it’s all one landscape, all one region. At this beginning of the 21st century, we need to recognize this fact…. ….. We are the people of a region. We share this […]