Saturday 12th May 2007 - Day 18
Today, Morgan and Danielle took us for an outing to the Museum of Naval Aviation, just a little south west of Pensacola. It was, of course, very interesting to see all these aircraft and associated hardware - like a mock-up of the flight-deck on a carrier, etc. - going back to before WWII on display and I photographed a few of them just for the record although there were far too many to do it all. There was also one exhibit depicting a dummy of Bob Hope entertaining the troops, while an actual recorded show played in the background......
We had a pleasant lunch there and then returned home, rested, watched TV and checked things on the computer etc. until it was time to go to bed.......
Sunday 13th May 2007 - Day 19
Morgan and Danielle have invited a small group of close personal friends over for a luncheon party - almost adopted family. People whom Morgan, with his vast experience in public life and political insight, has helped form their careers. Most of the morning was taken up with Danielle keeping busy with the preparations and Elisabeth giving a hand where she could. They were a varied group mostly married to other nationals - South East Asians, the Philippines and an Icelandic lady with a most gorgeous little girl, and so on - but what a wonderful warm company they are! Each one brought some kind of dish or other - often of their own national culture - to add to the general menu. A warm friendly atmosphere was enjoyed by all. Later we spent time together in the pool.........
Around 17:30 or so people began to leave and we rested a little, watching some TV and later going to bed.
Monday 14th May 2007 - Day 20
This was a real lazy day for me personally: Sometime around mid-morning, Danielle announced she was taking Elisabeth off to a "girly thing" meeting and since Morgan had gone off for some medical checks, I was truly on my own. The "girly thing" was a chapter of the "Red Hats" where everyone is obliged to wear a red hat with clashing purple dress and accoutrements - or so I understand......
I was left alone for quite some time.
I debated with myself whether to forgo lunch in my continuing attempts to control my diet - or at least intake, but eventually gave way to a piece of defrosted chicken. Morgan came home but departed very shortly afterwards for a second appointment. Within minutes, Danielle and Elisabeth appeared and came bearing strange tidings: Kika, Elisabeth's aunt in West Palm Beach, whom we were supposed to visit on an "on-off" basis, had called with an entirely new scenario for our visit. It was so impracticable that we were left with no choice but to abandon any hope of getting to see her on this visit: she had suggested we drove down to Palm Beach, leave the Dodge and drive her up to Charlotte in N. Carolina, in her car, where she was now due to spend time with her son. What we were supposed to do with the Dodge about 7-800 miles away, I do not know! We could find no solution to this problem but the matter was taken out of our hands by the closure of the highways we would have needed to use because of forest fires engulfing parts of Georgia. What remained of the day was spent as usual resting, chatting and having a delicious calorie-free vegetable dinner!
Tuesday 15th May 2007 - Day 21
This morning we said our sad farewells to Danielle and Morgan - I was so pleased to have met them at last and had a most enjoyable visit getting to know them and benefitting from their warm hospitality. By the time we left, I felt really at home with Morgan and that I was getting to know him quite well; certainly we had some common points of interest - flying being just one of them although his, of course had been on a much higher and professional level than mine - we had the opportunity to scratch the surface of American politics, for one, and discuss one or two personalities in next year's Presidentials. Eventually everything was packed and stowed in the Dodge, we said our goodbyes, a few standard photographs "for the album"......
.......and a few of the houses on the estate.........
......and we were on our way, taking the State highway 87 about a mile west of Biscayne Blvd, as advised by Morgan, rather than running all the way back to Pensacola. We followed the 87 and other minor roads through Milton, on into Alabama again, for about 50 miles until we hit the I-65. Here we turned north east as far as Montgomery then the I-85 into Georgia......
......and on to Atlanta.......
I found all the addresses I had set my mind on revisiting, including the address to which we had delivered the car in 2004 - 1400 Briarcliff Road - mainly because it was quite close to Emory University and I was "preparing the ground" for the possibility of a meeting with Deborah Lipstadt, with whom I had been in casual contact. I also wanted to confirm the "Kosher" sign I had caught a quick glimpse of as we flashed past last time and sure enough it was there - a fair-sized delicatessen. I called Deborah at this point; she was most courteous and recalled my name with a very brief reminder. She agreed to receive us in the morning but asked me to call her back early as she had literally just landed from L-A and her day's programme for the morrow hadn't crystallized.
Just close by in the parade of shops was a big Judaica store that we had NOT noticed last time because it had been behind my line of sight as we drove past...........
One of the locations we could not find was the synagogue used for the location in "Driving Miss Daisy" I'll do more research on that one, but we found this one, instead.......
.....and we found a cemetery that I had thought was indeed the entrance to the grounds of a synagogue as we flashed past in 2004 that might have been the right one ..........
........but it was the entrance to the cemetery, "Sha'arei Ha-Shamayim."
We had a little navigational trouble finding "our" Best Western near the airport - we had been driven there last time and I had not particularly concentrated on the route taken by the driver from Briarcliff Road because he engaged us in conversation and distracted me from watching the road.
Eventually, after being misdirected and redirected a couple of times we got quite close to it and I recognized the configuration of the roads and drove there immediately without further hesitation. It had changed from a Best Western to a "Holiday Inn Express". The entire establishment was exactly the same as it had been three years ago; the same facilities and acceptable motel quality and services - the same shuttle service to the airport (which we didn't need on this occasion) and the Ruby Tuesday; the same free "Business corner" with the computer, nothing - but nothing - seemed to have changed or been upgraded. The price was more than doubled! We were quite upset about it especially as all the similar motels we had stopped at along the way (and as it happens for the rest of our journey!), were still operating at the "old" price. Eventually I wrote to the national management about it and although the reply did not appear to be a routine stereotyped one it was, nevertheless, not all that satisfactory.
We took advantage of the shuttle service to the Ruby Tuesday and this time I took careful note of the route and discovered it was literally round the corner at the end of the road and a couple of hundred yards along on the left..................
We enjoyed our meal and waited for the shuttle to get back from the airport with a load of youngsters back from holiday somewhere, and went to bed.............
Wednesday 16th May 2007 - Day 22
We had a good breakfast in the morning and got on our way. I had a vague impression while eating breakfast that the TV news was reporting some kind of accident in the local area but I didn't take too much notice.
Since it was now only about 9 o'clock, I felt a little reticent about calling Deborah; not everyone is as early a starter as I am! I tried at last and after the telephone had rung for some time with no answer, I felt uncomfortable at the thought that I might truly be disturbing her - and for such a casual, non-urgent reason, especially as she had mentioned to me that she had only just returned from Los Angeles, so reluctantly I rang off and let it go. As we drove north out of Atlanta on the I-75 towards Chattanooga we ran into very heavy traffic that was barely crawling along. After a while I suddenly realised that there was no movement on the southbound highway and it was then that I made the connection with the news report: somewhere up ahead must be an accident site causing all this hold-up. Eventually we got there and what a horrific sight it was: one of the monstrous trans-continental trucks had somehow managed to climb up, "doggy-style", on the back of a smaller vehicle - there was not enough left of it to tell whether it had been a sedan or pick-up - and totally crushed it. About a hundred and fifty yards further north was a crushed and mangled lump of whatever - whether the remains of the crushed vehicle that had been ripped away and left behind, or another vehicle that had been involved, I do not know. For sure tragedy had struck at least one family that morning and I suppose the truck driver (whose cabin seemed to be totally unscathed) will be traumatized for the rest of his life, irrespective of who was actually to blame. Just out of curiosity, I clocked the length of the backed up vehicles stretching north from the site - 7 miles!!
The rest of our day - in contrast - was one of unmitigated pleasure, marred only - perhaps - by dull heavy clouds and intermittent drizzle. The effect, as usual, was to cloud the middle- and far-distance in a grey overcast which washed out nearly all the colour from the otherwise gorgeous scenery. This was most unfortunate because it was clear we were approaching the extreme south-west extent of the Appalachian system which was becoming more and more prominent. However, as the morning wore on the weather cleared considerably and we could appreciate the full magnificence of it all. Make no mistake about it - we could have filmed and photographed every inch of that day's journey (and the days that followed it too - and that is no exaggeration!), so full was it of scenic beauty! Just before Chattanooga we crossed the State line into Tennessee
........and had a brief pause at the state welcome centre......
It was here, while studying some of the mountain of tourist information being presented that we learned about Ruby Falls. Since only the name was readily available, I assumed that somewhere close by along the Tennessee River, as indicated on the city tourist map, the river went over some falls worth visiting. So we followed all the directions across the river and up the mountain - the drive was exquisitely scenic - parked the car and then discovered that it was a privately operated tourist site with the deepest underground waterfalls in the world, deep underground in the heart of the mountain. Unfortunately, the cost of entry to view this spectacle - as spectacle it must surely have been - was somewhat beyond our modest budget. We contented ourselves with one or two photos..............
.......a walk round their gift shop and made our way onwards.
......that same courthouse of Rhea County still functions and the basement floor has been turned into a museum with exhibits recalling all the events, build-up and aftermath of the "Trial of the Century". Outside is a statue of William Jennings Bryan and alongside the courthouse is the same dais or platform that was built so long ago to where the trial moved from inside to escape the suffocating heat of the day..........
(By coincidence, shortly after returning to Israel there was a programme - the latest of several that I have seen in the last few years - covering the trial and the major participants and, unknown to Elisabeth and myself at the time, we just missed an annual re-enactment of the trial which takes place outside on the dais...........).
Our next stop was Dayton Tennessee only about 26 miles up the road and one of the places I had been planning to visit on our first trip in 2004 - the site of the famous Scopes (monkey) trial in the 1920's. No disappointment here! The courthouse still stands, there is a large notice on the sidewalk briefly recalling the events.......
Parts of the main street and centre of town still retain their historic appearance, preserving the buildings from those same years. We finished off our visit with some shots and a brief clip of the exterior together with the statue of William Jennings Bryan........
.......and then we were on our way again......The scenery continued to impress us with its beauty, the "personality" of the Appalachians pervading all - very much as I anticipated from studying the topographical maps of our planned route of 2004.
So it was that after about an hour, we reached Crossville and turned north on State highway 127 for Pall Mall where another - long anticipated - encounter with history took place: the birth-place and life-long home of Sergeant Alvin C. York, First World War hero. His home still stands, is a museum full of memories and memorabilia from the man and his life. His family still operate the museum and we chatted for a while with his daughter-in-law, but failed to identify his son - possibly - who came in and spoke to her for a while - shame! Photographs and video clips were very much the "order of the day" and after we had visited all the available rooms of the house, we continued on to visit the family graves in the near-by cemetery. Here, too, we took a number of photos and a video clip.................
We had hoped to get as far as Hodgenville before calling it a day but we were now using real, local by-roads - still the state 127 and the 55 which were delightful and something I had always wanted to travel on in the States, but they were really rural and slowing us up considerably and about an hour or less after crossing the State line into Kentucky......
.... we had only reached the small town of Columbia and it was approaching evening. We saw a Long John Silver restaurant and thought fish might make a nice change so we decided to look for a motel. We had seen a large hoarding just as we came into town advertising the Dreamland so we went looking for it, booked a room, settled in, showered and dressed and went back to the restaurant. The pretty young girl behind the counter took our order cheerfully, asking us: "Y'all jess drahvin thru nowuh on vacation, jess fer the heck of it?" - how delightful! However, I had a shock when I ordered a beer and was told that it was a "dry" town! I was more than amazed - I was stunned! After all, Kentucky was the "Moonshine State" - the greatest producer of illegal "likker" during prohibition and in any case - didn't they ".....know that prohibition had been repealed nearly eighty years ago?" I asked her half jokingly. Anyway it was all in good fun. We had our meal and left, drove back to the motel and settled in for the night. Although we followed the instructions on the room's telephone, we were unable to connect and make an outside call and the "lady of the house" was unable to help (our cell-phones were again "on strike"). Bed!
Thursday 17th May 2007 - Day 23
This was probably our last day on the road before reaching Muncie. Breakfast was not supplied at this establishment but the manageress recommended a popular breakfast café on the way north out of town called "Betty's". We found it easily from her description and parking the car walked in. It was very pleasant, quite clearly full of regular locals and we were served by a lovely cheerful woman who took our simple order of scrambled eggs on toast and as much coffee as we could drink......After a while, another lady came in and sat at the other end of our table where a few other people were already sitting - she was clearly one of the local personalities, knew everybody and didn't hesitate to engage Elisabeth - a great conversationalist herself - in a friendly chat. Her name is Diane Hanks, her husband a local minister and a descendant on his mother's side of Abraham Lincoln. His forebears had also been ministers of the church and had been there for generations but there was nothing "backwoods" about her; she was very lively, outgoing and friendly. So, too were her friends (one of whom was a lovely bubbly up-beat young lady by the name of Glenda), who were all sitting at the table and joined in the conversation. It was a very pleasant 45 minute start to the day and it was with genuine reluctance that we knew we had to move on. The atmosphere was so friendly and although the other patrons dotted around the room took no active part in our conversation it was clear from the chorus of friendly greetings that came from all sides when we left, that they all felt part of the "event". I left her my card if she wanted to keep in touch. On the way out I took a photo of our new friends gathered round the table.....
We left and continued on our way north to Hodgenville and found Abraham Lincoln's birthplace, now - quite rightly and appropriately - a National Park and Heritage site.
We stayed about an hour and a half or perhaps more, wandering around absorbing the history of the place, visiting the original karst spring from which he was undoubtedly given all his water intake during his first few months of life - and so we were reliably informed.......
There were also the remains of the trees marking the boundaries of the original land purchase and a replica of the log-cabin in which he was born. It was housed on the spot of the original, on top of a small rise of land in a beautiful colonnaded building with 16 rosettes worked into the ceiling, one for each of the presidents who preceded him.........
We visited the gift shops and bought one or two "essential" small items - the Gettysburg Address........
.........and a 20-minute video presentation that is used by the welcome center themselves as an introductory film for visitors, a small desk-top bust of Lincoln and so on. Of course this is an important centre for the education of young children as well and while we were there, a class of eight- or nine-year olds was enjoying a demonstration and description by an official guide in a mock-up of a log cabin with all the furnishings and utensils of the early- to mid-nineteenth century.
Eventually it was time to move on towards Louisville on the border of Indiana, where we did make a brief drive around just to get the feel of it and then onwards to Indianapolis and the I-65 to Muncie, where we arrived at about 17:00. It was wonderful to be in South Bittersweet again with the lovely green surroundings and lawns.......
Almost immediately it was time to go with Dede, Randy and Jillianne to her school where she was taking part in a concert involving the first four grades of music students learning the string instruments; Jillianne playing a cello. In her age group she was the only one playing the cello and understandably she felt very lonely and exposed but she did very well indeed given her age.
Afterwards, Randy took us to the Olive Garden restaurant for an excellent meal in exquisite surroundings and then home to bed - with as little delay as possible!
Friday 18th May 2007 - Day 24
Randy and Dede were off to work in the morning, of course, and after we made ourselves a breakfast and tidied everything up, we drove the short distance to West Jackson and Tillotson to have a look round but mainly to call in at Old National and try to clear up the business of the Best Western at Fort Stockton. Elisabeth's contact in the bank received us very graciously and Elisabeth and she discussed the situation. Relying on her advice Elisabeth decided to wait another week or two to see if there were any further developments. In any case the extra unjustified debit of U$25 had been definitely stopped and we felt secure that the bank was in control of the situation.
After another short drive round town, including another abortive visit to the synagogue - still no one there - we had lunch on the remains of last night's restaurant meal. Later on, when Dede and Randy came home we went with them while they made a few shopping stops - including a 12ft diameter trampoline for Jillianne, and a much needed extra roller-case for Elisabeth. We went home with the idea that later on we would pick up Jillianne from Dede's sister and then go to the synagogue for Friday evening prayers but it was again closed. This prompted Elisabeth to phone one or two contacts whom she recalled from the her synagogue- and community-days in Muncie and it was then that we learned that the synagogue was indeed closed "for the season". We will, however, try to visit during the week just to have a look round.
Everyone had an ice-cream except me and we returned home to watch "The Queen" on TV until quite late. It gave some interesting insights into the events surrounding the tragedy of Diane's death as seen from the Court's and Tony Blair's point of view and relationship between him and the Queen.
Saturday 19th May 2007 - Day 25
The morning was fairly easy and restful. I managed to satisfy myself that all my Canon digitals were safely downloaded either to a disc or safely stored in my mail system. After a snack lunch of chicken sandwiches we went on an excursion to Conner Prairie - just north of Indianapolis. A very interesting theme park, or "living museum", dealing with the development of Indiana as a pioneer area in general and with William Conner's pioneering exploits, contribution and farming enterprises in particular. Included in the large park were many original buildings and items of equipment, a fairly extensive museum, his original house and much memorabilia. Everyone involved with the running of the site was dressed in period clothes, spoke in the vernacular of the day, referring only to life as they knew it without any modern references at all. One woman was giving a discourse on society's mores regarding widowhood and the do's and don't's; how long she must mourn; what dress was permitted her during different periods of the mourning year and after, and so on. Of unexpected interest was my discovery that Eli Lilly, the founder of the great pharmaceutical industry had been closely involved in the 19th Century development of Indiana - I had been deeply involved in pharmacy for many years as a young man and knew his name - and his descendants' medicines - very well indeed. Also in evidence was a battle-field demonstrating the clashes between the north and the south during the civil war and afterwards it was possible to visit the two encampments, chat with the participants and inspect from close range the weapons - like a Gatling gun which one of the soldiers demonstrated.......
A very interesting time......
We returned to Muncie and had a meal at the Mexican restaurant that we had enjoyed so much last time but on this occasion we made a few errors in trying to understand the menu and ended up not really eating the spicy food we had anticipated. We closed the day by watching a Dean Martin show - and then to bed!
Sunday 20th May 2007 - Day 26
This morning, Randy was busy in the back yard starting to erect the trampoline he and Dede had bought for Jillianne. After a while of being immersed in computer work, it occurred to me that maybe he would like some company and a bit of help so I went out and joined him and we worked together for a while. Then it was time to go to Shamrock Lakes again to see Dede's folks - Sandy and John and whoever else happened to be around.....It was so nice to see them again and bask in the warmth of their hospitality.........
We spent a couple of hours in their wonderful company, enjoying the surroundings and a bit of fishing, although eventually my afternoon tiredness caught up with me and I had to snooze for a while......
Again John surprised me with a wonderful gift - similar to his last one but a different edition: this time a golden Indian-head dollar piece and this time one for Elisabeth as well. Eventually it was time to go but we will be seeing each other again next week, together with Dede's sister Christine, at Hunter's birthday party - and then again on at Shamrock Lakes, not only for Memorial Day but also to watch the Indy 500!
When we got home Randy and I got straight back to work on the trampoline and virtually got it finished, apart from some cords tying the safety netting in place. Later, after trying to watch a movie on TV, I gave up and went to download the rest of my photos and that achieved I went to bed.
Monday 21st May 2007 - Day 27
This morning, I followed Randy in the Dodge when he dropped off their van at the service station - the brakes had suddenly started screeching on the way back from Conner Prairie and he needed to have them fixed - and took him on to work and made my way back home. I spent most of the rest of the day beginning to plan our route for our day-trip to Chicago, using the excellent street map that Joyce had sent me months ago as well as Google Earth. I also called Joyce and confirmed our visit with them in West Lafayette and our overnight stay on the way back.
Later that day, Jillianne gave an exhibition of her skills on the trampoline.........
.......and I set about downloading the video clip I made of her onto Randy's hard disc. For some reason, this was unsuccessful and it took both Randy and myself quite a lot of experimenting, lasting until the following day, to get it done. In the evening we watched an Indiana Jones video until quite late.
Tuesday 22nd May 2007 - Day 28
Another very easy and restful day for us, at home most of the day. When Dede came home from work, she and Elisabeth went out to do some shopping, Randy and I persevered with the video until we finally managed to download the video clip of Jillianne from my camera. Randy also made me a CD of the battle scenes at Conner Prairie because I discovered to my horror that I had messed up mine completely. The day turned into evening and we had a tasty lasagne for dinner.
Wednesday 23rd May 2007 - Day 29
Mainly another restful day for us, although at one point we did go out for a stroll all round the neighbourhood and then came back to watch some TV. I carried on researching my routes in and around Chicago trying to visualize what I needed to do without running foul of unexpected one-ways etc.
When everyone was back home, we took Dede and Jillianne to a local gym hall where we would be joining them shortly to watch a gymnastic lesson in which Jillianne was taking part. As it was a little early, Randy and I went to a Radio-Shack close by where Randy needed to exchange or return some unsatisfactory conversion components for his cell-phone (the technology is beyond me!). We went back to join Dede and Jillianne and afterwards, Elisabeth and I took everyone to the Red Sun Chinese restaurant that we liked so much last time. It was just as enjoyable as I remembered but since I have put myself on a fairly strict regime, I was unable (or unwilling) to let myself go and kept my eating within reasonable bounds. My weight is definitely moving down the scale and I have lost something like 2 Kgs or more!! The end of another pleasant day!
Thursday 24th May 2007 - Day 30
This morning we set off for Chicago and we had quite a pleasant ride up until the southern approaches to the city. We had stopped at Merriville for a snack and filled up with petrol. Shortly after as we turned off the I-65 on to the I-80/I-94, we met extremely heavy traffic caused by extensive road improvements which - I later learned - have been going on for years and have still some way to go. Eventually I was able to pick up one of my turn-off possibilities and found myself remarkably close to where I needed to be - South Pairie and South Clyde - for my first stops, with South Wabash and other addresses coming later in the day. I had written down on my schedule South Clyde (the home of Johnny Torrio), first, so I continued along East 71st Street for quite a way until I reached South Clyde. That was when I began to find myself in a maze of one-way streets that were not marked on my map and I had to keep taking more and more blocks back up to the north in order to get to the 7011 block and even that wasn't as easy as it sounds because each block was a one-way in the opposite direction and as I proceeded I had to keep making yet another diversion to get round it. On the way, however, we did find this interesting building - an old synagogue, now converted into a church but with the old carved Hebrew/Judaic markings still on the façade........
In the end I gave up in despair for the time being, partly because I was on a one-way west and pointing in the direction of South Prairie and Al Capone's house at 7244; this I found with only the minor trouble of having to look carefully for the house number which was not "writ conspicuously large" in a clear hand so to speak
There was a woman talking on a cell-phone on the front first-floor balcony of Al Capone's old home at 7244 South Prairie, and I suspect she realised that I was a "souvenir photographer" because as I walked towards the house she turned round and walked back inside. As it happens, I was more than a little sympathetic of her feelings because there is certainly an element of "intrusion" in what I was doing and she must surely have been fed up with the number of "buffs" that come plaguing her privacy. This is no "lip-service" - I really do feel for her but isn't that the price to pay for living in a famous (or infamous) house? (Beverly Hills residents are well-known for being very strict about their privacy - and rightly so - and do not hesitate to take some form of action against "minor" intrusions of this sort and even stronger action against brazen, gratuitous intruders!).
At this point Elisabeth began to feel rather unwell and there was nothing for it but to cancel the rest of the day's programme and make our way south towards West Lafayette and Joyce and Les. In town, I found a florists where I could buy a potted plant for Joyce and the girl there helped me to locate Avondale on the map and it was dead easy from there on - in fact I began to recognize streets as we were approaching the area and in the event drove straight up to the door without hesitation.....I rang on the door-bell but there was no reply. It happens that we were both in dire need of rest rooms so I drove around the immediate area looking for a filling station but before I found one we came across a sports field close by and although the grounds themselves were not in use at that time, Lo! and behold the rest-rooms were nevertheless open and spotless. I called Joyce on the phone and when she answered told her we were just a few minutes away and would it be a convenient time to come. We returned to Avondale and tried the door again and this time Joyce and Les both came to greet us and make us welcome. They both look very well - especially Les who is feeling fine, thank God...........
We spent a very pleasant evening together chatting and later watching some opera videos of Pavarotti in Rigoletto - my favourite, as it happens, and a Placido concert in Berlin.
Friday 25th May 2007 - Day 31
I woke up far too early this morning and had to lie awake for ages before I felt I could get up and have a hot drink in the kitchen. I found Leo Rosten's "The Joys of Yiddish" on the shelf and began reading it (again - after about 20 years, or so), until Joyce came down and began to prepare breakfast. Soon, we were all together round the breakfast table enjoying a nice conversation. Joyce mobilized Elisabeth into offering help for Joyce's JewishGen activities with the history of Sephardic Jews and associated topics. Some little while after breakfast we began to take our leave thanking them both for their warm hospitality.
Shortly after returning home we went to visit Ilena and Rex and - like last time - had a most pleasant visit and felt very relaxed, among friends and at home in their hospitable company.........
From there we returned home and for the remaining couple of hours just relaxed before going to bed.
Saturday 26th May 2007 - Day 32
This morning Randy and Dede went out shopping for some items for Hunter's 11th birthday which is today, while we watched the two children for them. When they returned we went out on a few of our errands - me to fill up the Dodge and add some oil, Elisabeth to draw some cash for Hunter's birthday and pick up a few items at Marsh's.
Later we went to the graduation ceremony at Delta High for Dede's niece. It was the first time I had seen a real one because they don't occur in England although I had heard much about them and seen some in various movies. In fact its quite impressive and not a little moving since it impresses in a very dignified and real way the transition point in the life of the young student and I can imagine the effect it has on student and parent. Later most of us went to the Pizza King for a pizza supper and shortly after returning home, bed.
A little while later and unbeknown to me, I noticed that Randy, using an ordinary domestic suction pump, had managed to pull out a large area of the rear quarter panel of the Dodge that someone had pushed in at sometime or another without us having noticed it at the time. I had tested it with my hand when we discovered it and guessed that it was no big problem and suggested to Randy when we arrived that it could probably be fixed without any "professional" intervention and as it turned out I was right.....one could barely see any sign of the injury.
Around 14:00 or so members of Dede's family began arriving. I only knew one or two of them from our visit in 2004. New ones were a brother, Keith and his wife and their little daughter then there were the sisters - Karen and Christine, and of course Sandy and John. It was a pleasant, modest gathering and of course a satisfying event for young Hunter.......
Sunday 27th May 2007 - Day 33
We didn't do too much today - which is a pity because we all forgot (myself included) that I very much wanted to go to a Black Baptist church. I can't figure out why I forgot because it had been such a prominent part of my thoughts and planning for months - but there it is! Ah, well! Something to do next time......
This time we visited their magnificent garden out back which runs onto their neighbour's lot without demarcation. The neighbors have an extremely pretty and decorative ornamental pool, in the style (part rockery, etc.), that I particularly like and the combining of the two gardens makes a large area very restful to the eye.
At noon we all piled into the van and drove to the Buffalo's at Shamrock Lakes for Memorial Day and to watch the Indy 500. It got called off after 113 laps because of rain and the declared winner was the one in the lead at that time - according to the regulations. After we got home and rested a little, we drove the short distance to the Bales for our visit to Bill and Miriam where we enjoyed their warm hospitality for a couple of hours..........
Home and shortly to bed.
Monday 28th May 2007 - Day 34
Today I made my return solo trip to Chicago. I got off to an early start and by 06:30 was on the road. Having already "disposed" of Al Capone's house (above), I now turned my immediate attention to Johnny Torrio's. This time I "read" the streets and block numbers with greater ease based on my experience of last week and I found 7011 South Clyde Street, Johnnie Torrio's old apartment block, with no trouble at all.........
I also pinpointed to my satisfaction the street name where we had found the erstwhile synagogue - it was South Chappel Avenue (see picture above). I now turned my attention to South Wabash - and again found myself frustrated! It seemed to me that it came to an abrupt stop long before I reached the 20 and 22 block. It was only after I made a determined search on Joyce's excellent street map that I found its continuation significantly further north. At last I made the connection between the numbered cross streets and the "block numbers" running north and south and I was now able to drive confidently north on State Street until I reached East 20th Street and turned in to find myself precisely where I wanted to be....I parked the Dodge at the side of the road and filmed both 2222 South Wabash - the site of Al Capone's old Four Deuces and slightly further north the site of Colosimo's old restaurant - both of them now empty lots.
Turning back to State Street, I continued north and found myself in Downtown Chicago - what a stunning place! What striking buildings and atmosphere! No wonder so much has been written and sung about it! It really does impress. I crossed the bridge over the Chicago River and continued on - now - North State Street until I reached the corner of State and Superior and parked the car again (parking in Chicago in what one would normally consider to be "no-no" places seems to be perfectly acceptable - or was I just lucky?). There - on the east side of State Street was 743 - Holy Name Cathedral, the spot where Hymie Weiss was shot to death and where the bullet holes, that in earlier years scarred the lower right-hand corner of the wall, were covered up by skilfully redesigning the steps leading up to the entrance - or did I find one slightly higher up that they had left alone?.....
Opposite, where I parked the Dodge, is a parking lot - all that is left of the original site of Schofield's Flower shop where Dion O'Bannion was bumped off.....
I was there just as people were coming out from the cathedral after Mass and standing on the steps chatting with the priest and among themselves; it was a rather funny feeling looking at them and wondering whimsically what their thoughts would have been if they had dwelt a moment and recalled the history of that spot from 70 or 80 years ago.
Then I was off again, still further north on North Clark Street. But before I had gone very far I noticed a very definite change in the personality of North State Street: it had turned from a commercially or business orientated thoroughfare........
to a residential street lined with trees and some beautifully elegant apartment blocks (not glitzy) and lovely mansions - all of them from a bygone era but beautifully preserved and maintained.....
North Clark Street followed on, essentially, from North State Street with a slight "kink" to the left and then to the right again. I followed the street along until I arrived at what used to be 2122 North Clark Street - the old warehouse where the St Valentine's Day Massacre had been perpetrated. It is now a small, fenced off garden between an old people's home and another commercial building, with five trees planted in it................
The "gurus" say that the four "corner" trees mark the boundary of the warehouse, while the fifth (at the back of the left-hand picture in front of the second and third parked cars), marks the site along the back wall where the victims were actually stood against the wall and shot.
When I was still a couple of hundred yards south of 2122, I had noticed Lincoln Avenue running off from North Clark to the north-west. Since this was my next stop, when I had finished my visit at 2122, instead of driving all the way back south again, I used my old London taxi-driver "skills" and simply cut across one of the nearby streets until I hit Lincoln and followed it north-west until I came to the old Biograph cinema. This is the cinema out of which one evening long ago, one, John Dillinger, exited firstly the cinema arm-in-arm with the notorious "Lady in Red" - and a few moments later, in the side-alley, this hum-drum life! Parts of the façade are clearly new but other parts have been preserved.
I was just parking the Dodge and walking a few yards down the street to get a closer shot, when "The Untouchables" tour bus went past and stopped for a brief moment to give the passengers the story. Then I was off again north to Lawrence and east to the corner of Broadway. This was (is) the site of the old Green Mill - now very much changed in size and character from its heyday.
The Green Mill had been opened in the first decade of the 20th Century with great fanfare and publicity. In its heyday it had extended out the back to a large, sunken garden area for patrons, as you can see from this excellent print of the advertisment donated to me by my new friend, the Chicago crime-era specialist and historian, Mario Gomes to whom I extend my grateful thanks.
You can read about its history on its own website here!
At one time owned partially by Jack McGurn, sometime hit-man for Al. Many of the greats in the entertainment world had visited here during the 30's - (as they had Colossimo's as well) - Sophie Tucker, Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson and Al Jolson to name just a few. One of the best-known entertainers of the day, Joe E. Lewis was engaged here and when his contract expired he announced his intention of leaving for a better opportunity. McGurn would have none of this but Lewis was adamant, and left. As the days went by, Lewis assumed that McGurn had accepted the situation but late one night Lewis answered a knock on his door and sleepily opened it to find himself confronted by two or three thugs. They gave him a real beating and also slit his throat. He should have died there and then but somehow survived until a housemaid found him in the hallway and summoned help. After months and months of rehabilitation, he tried to revive his career but with very limited success and eventually died unhappily. Capone was outraged that McGurn (but who else!?) had done this to one of his favourite entertainers and paid thousands of dollars to assist Lewis with his medical expenses and rehabilitation.
My next stop - not too far away - was the corner of Michigan Avenue and Cermak Avenue (East 22nd Street). This was the site of Al Capone's old head-quarters - the Lexington Hotel - a truly magnificent building in its own right, and a real "monument" to Chicago's persona of the first half of the 20th century.
Still a vacant lot after the hotel was demolished in 1969, it is now in the first stages of being redeveloped.
My last scheduled stop for this day should have been the site of the old Hawthorne Inn on Cermak Avenue but it had been a long day, the 47 block was a long way west to Cicero and I would have had to come all the way back again - and with Chicago's traffic I wasn't too sure I wanted to undertake the trip so I called it a day and started on the way home. But on the way south along Lake Side Drive, I found this magnificent mansion which, unknown to me happened to be extremely historical and well documented, and you can read about it here