Saturday, October 31, 2009

An Uptown Childhood, circa 1910

This week's Reader has an article on Chicago-born 1940s-era actor Robert Ryan. It includes the full text of a lengthy letter he wrote to his children about his childhood in Uptown and Edgewater in the early part of the 1900s. Fascinating stuff to those of us who love knowing about the history of our neighborhood.

He lived at 4822 North Kenmore (since demolished) and 1408 West Winona before his family moved to Edgewater. His letter reminisces about seeing Essenay Studios movies being shot on Uptown streets, how the alley behind Kenmore was the center of neighborhood activities, and visiting the local fire department, where the fire engines were pulled by white horses.

The article is here, and the full text of the letter is here. (The photo of young Robert in front of 4822 Kenmore is from the Reader and was provided courtesy of the late actor's family.)


  1. I posted this in another spot, but since Ryan is one of my favorite actors I shall repost it here.

    Interesting story. Political intrigue, alcoholism, family dysfunction, and an underground construction disaster that claimed a dozen lives.

    I know, I know. It sounds like Thanksgiving at the pirate family hacienda.

    The man was in some great movies. Just some of the titles remind one of Uptown.

    Woman on the Beach (1947)
    Crossfire (1947)
    Act of Violence (1948)
    Caught (1949)
    I Married a Communist (1949)
    The Set-Up (1949)
    The Secret Fury (1950)
    The Racket (1951)
    On Dangerous Ground (1951)
    Clash by Night (1952)
    Beware, My Lovely (1952)
    Day of the Outlaw (1959)
    Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)

    Battle of the Bulge (1965)(this one is NOT a hooker reference)

    The Dirty Dozen (1967)
    Hour of the Gun (1967)


    I forgot he was also in "The Longest Day". Which has an Uptown connection because in 1994 the landings at Normandy were recreated in a slightly smaller fashion at Montrose Beach in honor of the 50th anniversary of the invasion.

    Our beloved Alderman Shiller opposed the recreation. It happened anyway. I can understand the "give peace a chance" philosophy. I can't understand demonizing June 6, 1944.

    Even that old dead lefty Studs Terkel called World War Two "the Good War". That was arguably the third best day of that war. The best days being when the Germans and Japanese surrendered and the "good war" became a bad memory.

    Speaking of bad memories I am picturing myself in the year 2011. Shiller will be out of office and for one brief moment all will seem well in Uptown.

  2. I only became aware of Robert Ryan 6 months ago when the owner of So.Fla.Rehearsal Studio,Richard mentioned he'd walked by him in Manhattan.I saved this article for him to see and thank you for the info. IP.My father told me after the fall of Berlin a wheelbarrel full of German currency would get you a loaf of bread.