Scoping the ‘hood

Regina Robinson spends “one fine day” in the neighborhood of my boyhood, Austin & Madison, which is not far from where I’m still living. She finds a nail shop, an eatery (on Chicago Ave.), and Laurys Bakery, the last of which was Schallenmuller’s in the ‘40s. At Laurys — why isn’t it Laury’s? — she finds

sweet potato squares, cake by the slice, fruit-filled pastries, muffins and whole cakes . . . special-occasion cakes [and] sugar cookies

like her mother used to make. At Schallenmuller’s — it’s on Madison just east of Austin, north side of street, a block from St. Catherine’s — it was coffee cakes that this guy remembers, thin ones with gooey melted sugar and pecans, the cakes themselves almost brittle. Bismarcks too, with jelly inside.

Robinson has gone down Austin for 20–plus years, she says. Assuming she’s black, that’s easy to believe. Racial change was near-ancient history by then. We (white) moved a few blocks north and one block west of Austin & Madison in 1971, when it was in full swing.

Hugh, my student at Ignatius in the mid-60s, told me his father and uncles, all Pullman car porters with a taste for Danish, drove many blocks west of their South Side neighborhood to find a bakery that suited them. Hugh watched me like a hawk, he told me, as I discussed race relations in class, and later caught bricks thrown in Martin Luther King’s direction on a march in Marquette Park — thrown maybe by white students of mine also from Ignatius, who were part of the taunting crowd and gave me a wave as I walked by.

That’s a little bit of Chicago history for you, ripped partly from the pages of Saturday Tempo Metromix Planner’s Weekend, Chicagoland’s Best Guide to Leisure and Entertainment.

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