Chicago’s Near Northside, August 1938

Handwritten notes of a University of Chicago investigator recounting a summer evening stroll through the Near Northside.  Lightly edited for clarity.  –TH.

Near North Side Bug Parks, etc.

Large numbers of Filipinos were on the east side of the street, on Clark at Erie, Superior and Huron. Approx 100 of them last nite, stalling about. Many of them eat in the St. Regis lunch, a Jap luncheon at Grand and Clark, where there are 5 hill-billy waitresses. Only recently have Filipinos lived below Chicago Ave in such large numbers. At Division there is the usual number hanging around, but they seem of a better economic status.

The swill-houses, (beer joints) aren’t doing as well as a year ago. Each one has its quota of hostesses, squatting on stools at the bar, waiting for live guys.

At present a liquor store at Erie, has a large play, no bartender or hostesses.

John Lochman [Loghman], last night at 10 PM was soap-boxing. He was raving about negro’s rights. “Under this goddamn system no son-of-a-bitch, black or white has a chance, and any goddamn working stiff making 10 bucks a day don’t give a goddamn til he gets hungry etc.”–The interesting aspect of these soap-box gatherings is the specimens that listen.

The wild-eyed, fanatical, drooling at the mouth nuts, are always near the speaker, interrupting him with questions, as “how about starvation wages” etc.

Lochman holds a city job now, and every afternoon plays horses at Ash’s 606 West Madison. He has fallen out with Reichman [Reitman], calls him a Tory.

Another group, was holding forth, a college student, or recent student, was screaming something unintelligible about taxes. “You goddamn fuckin’ right we pay taxes to these sons of bitches.”–He got a good hand for his profanity. He stumbled off the box, hoarse, and all in.

Ordinary bums and stiffs make up most of the crowd, gives them something to listen to. On the grass, many were flopping, overcome either from booze, heat, or soap-boxing.

Fruits hang about the rail in the center of the park, like flies about a garbage can.

One nut was strolling about the park with a cane, red necktie no shirt, and a small sweater, he also was queer.

On the benches, were many of the gone to seed genteel type, with the usual quota of drunks mixed among them. Rural punks, were among the number, gaping open mouthed at everyone and everything.

In trying to classify the whole occupants of bug-house square, would first notice this difference, between them and the Madison streeters. They are not anywhere as near horse-nuts, as the Madison-streeters. That’s why soap-boxing don’t go on Madison St., not interested in anything but horse. This can be seen, in the greater number of joints on Madison St., all 25 cents but two.

Roughly, restaurant and hotel workers, regular and irregular predominate in bug-house square. Next are reliefsters and WPA workers. Then this class of genteel ex white collar workers– ex carnival and circus stiffs, and past time bookkeepers, addressers, clerks, etc.–All this group tends to be molded into a one big class, park battle bums.

If one has a problem no matter how vexing or epochal, see one of these park-stiffs, and it will be instantly answered, gratis.

The hustlers are absent on LaSalle St., from Chicago to North, that is street-hustlers, but many are in evidence coming and going out of the many rooming houses and hotels. From Division to North on LaSalle, East side of street, many Filipinos live. The white women they have, seem to be shared, as saw a car stop, 4 Filipino’s and one woman got out. On the street usually see 2 Filipinos with one woman.

On Menonimee and Wisconsin, where last winter there were numbers of street hustlers, not one was in evidence last night. Only one I saw in this district was one at LaSalle and North and she was stewed.

Researcher’s notes, Series VII, Box 214, Folder 9, Addendum, Ernest Burgess Papers, University of Chicago Library, Special Collections.

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