Monday, January 27, 2014

Chicago's "Big Snow", January 1967

One of the most storied events in Chicagoland history took place 47 years ago this week. From early morning on January 26, 1967 through about 10am the following day, 23 inches of snow fell, and a city that had long prided itself on an ability to push through harsh winters was brought to a standstill. There have been other record-setting snowstorms in Chicago in the years since – in 1979, 2011, and whenever I’m trying to fly out of Midway Airport in January, but when one hears the phrase “Chicago’s Big Snow”, 1967 is what’s being referred to.

This amazing set of photos comes to us courtesy of Susanne Peters, and depicts scenes of various retail locations in the near-north suburb of Skokie, on a bright sunny day in the aftermath of the Big Snow.

First up is the Turnstyle-Jewel Family Center on Skokie Boulevard, where a dump truck is being loaded with snow. Opened in early 1963, this Turnstyle was the second location opened by Jewel Tea Company after completing its acquisition of Turnstyle (a Boston-based chain of discount stores) the previous year. Jewel had opened up a Racine, Wisconsin location in 1962, and another Turnstyle Family Center at the corner Harlem and Foster opened around the same time as the Skokie store. 

In my years of enthusiastic perusal of vintage supermarket photographs, I had yet to see one where the store’s facade was finished in bathroom tile. But here it is – The National Food Store at the corner of Niles Center Road and Skokie Boulevard. Originally opened as a Sure Save Food Mart, the store, along with 10 other units, came under National Tea Company ownership in 1961. It retained the Sure Save name for some years afterward, but by 1967 had been rebranded as a National.

This one would be of primary interest to those who grew up in the area, but it’s a nice shot. I sure would have hated to be the one to clean those store floors after all that snow and slush was tracked in!

Here’s a neat view of Dempster Street, showing among other things a combined Firestone Tire dealership/Mobil gas station. To this day, the “Complete Car Service” signage can be seen on some older Firestone stores. The Mobil portion sports their “transitional” signage – the 1966 logo (which caused quite a stir in design circles and is still used today) contained within 1950’s-style Mobil sign frames. In the distance is an Aunt Jemima’s Kitchen, one of a long-gone chain of family restaurants based on the pancake icon.  (I’ve been waiting my entire life to use the phrase “pancake icon”. A dream realized, this is.) There weren’t a lot of Aunt Jemima’s Kitchens, but they had a fairly widespread geographic distribution, as can be seen here.



Another shot of the Firestone dealer, with a “1967 License Plates Installed Free” sign in the window. Illinois issued new plates every year until 1979, the end of a tradition I’d enjoyed every year as a kid – the anticipatory “what color will the plates be this year?” game. Yes, friends, I lived an exciting life in those days. 















And what snow-trudging shopping trip would be complete without a trip to the Golden Arches? Unfazed by the snow, “Speedee”, McDonald’s early-years mascot, beckons all to partake of the chain’s legendary 15-cent hamburgers. (In your car, of course. Indoor seating was still a couple of years away.) 1967, in fact, was the last year of the 15 cent hamburger price, as after much gnashing of teeth, McDonald’s raised it to 18 cents apiece that year. Many of these signs were then modified to replace the “15c” panel with one saying “Coast to Coast”. By the early 70’s, most McDonald’s stores of this type were torn down and replaced altogether with indoor-seating restaurants and modern signs. 

A Wanzer’s truck sits in front of the McDonald’s. Wanzer (“Wanzer on milk is like sterling on silver”), a large Chicago-area dairy, was purchased two years later, in 1969, by The Southland Corporation, the Dallas-based parent of the 7-Eleven stores. Immediately it became the house milk brand for “The Sev” in the Chicago area, and my folks bought a good many gallons of milk there.

Well, once again I’d like to thank Susanne for letting me show you these great pictures. And wherever you live, I hope it’s “just a dusting” this week!   

13 comments:

  1. loved reading this. brought back great memories:)

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    1. Thanks so much, Darcy! I'm glad it did.

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  2. My wife is a native of Chicago. She was born in December of 1966. Her family lived in Rogers Park during the January snow; family legend tells that her father had to pull a sled to the nearest supermarket to purchase her formula.

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  3. Later in 1967, WCFL produced this long jingle, and of course everyone knew exactly what they meant by "the tie-up when that awful snowfall fell" being "as much a part of Chicago as WCFL," along with everything else mentioned in the jingle.

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  4. Greetings again, from the "Chicago of the North" (Winnipeg). Thanks, Dave, for those great snowstorm aftermath pictures. I've visited Chicago exactly once (two summers ago), but it was a great and memorable experience...partly because it was in July, not January. Thanks also to Jim for the WCFL jingle. Very cool.

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  5. The Sure Save with the bathroom tile was there fairly recently until being torn down for a very modern & handsome funeral home. The Firestone is still there.

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  6. I love how crisp and vivid these images are. Such a colorful retail landscape!

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  7. Growing up on Highcrest Drive in Wilmette, our family (and our neighbors) knew this area well. Very cool photos, and yes, what a storm. The Turnstyle, the Jewel, there was a bowling alley near there, and an Arby's, too! Thanks much to Susanne for the photos, brings back a LOT of great memories!

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  8. Love the Sinclair sign. I miss those 70's style Brontosauruses (Brontosauri?) with their beautifully curved backs and tails.

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  9. The Turn-Style facade seen in the first photo looks a lot like the 90's-era facade used by the Giant supermarkets in Pennsylvania (not to be confused with Pittsburgh chain Giant Eagle, or the Giant chain in the Baltimore/DC area which once had stores in Pennsylvania known as Super G). Here's a former Giant-owned Martin's store (now a Big Lots) in Maryland for comparison:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/62355920@N00/8284999527/

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  10. Heard you on WGN in Chicago today and really enjoyed the conversation. Look forward to following your blog and will definitely share with my friends.

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  11. Any word on a new post (maybe a Penney's post? Better late than never)

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    1. Working on two right now. One on Penneys, one on a regionally famous discount store.

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