Victor Storino, who goes by “Vic,” was born in Calabria, the toe of Italy. Following his father and sister, he and his brother came to the United States in 1958 to find work on Chicago’s East Side. He moved in with his father, he says, and if he hadn’t, he “would have been deadbeat,” unable to make enough to support himself on the minimum wage. After a short stint at Wisconsin Steel, Vic joined Republic Steel in 1961, where he would work until the plant shut down in 2002. . In that time, he served three terms as president of Local 1033, a chapter of United Steelworkers of America, and learned English in night classes. Since then he’s been heavily involved with the South Chicago chapter of SOAR, the retirees’ branch of United Steelworkers. We speak after the chapter’s monthly meeting, in a back room at Memorial Hall, 117th Street and Avenue O. The hall, once the permanent home of Local 1033, is now a United Methodist Church; the lot across the street, once home to Republic Steel, is now an empty field. Continue reading
The strip of land that tapers to a point at 93rd Street, bounded by the slow-moving Calumet River to the west and north, and by the Indiana border to the east, is known as the East Side, though it was once called The Island. It is the East Side because it is on the east bank of the Calumet. Regionally, with the neighborhood of Hegewisch two miles farther south, it is also the East Side inasmuch as it is not quite part of the South Side: the only train stop east of the river, the Hegewisch South Shore station, is operated not by Metra or the CTA but by northern Indiana’s commuter rail agency, the NICTD. The wetlands and connected waterways that made the area The Island have largely receded or been destroyed, and they would have vanished entirely had Mayor Daley’s proposal to build an airport in Hegewisch gone through in the nineties. But Hegewisch and the East Side—as well as South Deering, Altgeld Gardens, and Pullman, on the opposite side of the river—are (with few exceptions) as isolated as that name, The Island, suggests. Continue reading
In the next month—maybe a few weeks more, maybe a few less—Currency Exchange Cafe will open in Washington Park at the site of its namesake, the long-closed Write-on Currency Exchange. Continue reading
About halfway through Finding Vivian Maier, a new documentary by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, we meet Bindy Bitterman, an elderly woman who runs an Evanston store named Eureka! Antiques. Bitterman remembers a woman who used to come in regularly and ask to place certain items—knickknacks and tchotchkes, assorted mementos—on hold. Continue reading
Chris Devins wants to make Bronzeville a museum without walls. Mostly, he is interested in its gift shop. Continue reading
This paper is for the South Sider.