Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Other Side of Harlem

...Harlem Avenue, that is. The photo above, from a 1976 issue of CTA quarterly, shows a group of people about to catch a southbound West Towns bus as it stopped on Harlem Avenue, directly in front of the North Riverside E.J. Korvette store and across the street from Berwyn’s Cermak Plaza.

As mentioned in a series of Korvette posts on this site a while back, as a kid I found this circa-1965 store's charmingly out-of-date script signage mesmerizing. I was thrilled to locate this photo, showing the tower sign as it appeared at the near-exact time of said mesmerization.

In 1976, Korvettes (the "E.J." had long since been dropped and the plural form adopted) was a sad shadow of its former self, the glory days of the 1960's just a memory by that time. After the chain's closure in 1980, this particular store became a Kmart, and the 190,000 square foot store now houses Kohl's and Petco. Despite modifications to the building, there are large swaths of Korvette's trademark white porcelain-glazed brick visible, still gleaming after all these years.

The 70's plaids haven't aged as well, I'm afraid.


  1. Hey there, love this blog of yours. I, too, am fascinated by the "everyday" places of the past, especially supermarkets. Would LOVE to return to a supermarket from my '70s youth, just to see how it compares with today. I love today's supermarkets, but I'm absolutely intrigued and absorbed by their past. Keep the great photos and narratives coming!

  2. Cta Quarterly? LOL! The mere thought of that evokes laughter and strange puzzlement. Never knew they put out any sort of thing. The way the CTA is doing these days financially, I doubt they'd have the cash for good PR magazines.

    Though I adore the photo! I wonder if they still print the quarterly or when it ended if it did.

  3. Nice to see another photo featuring the long gone grande dame of discounters. Although they closed their last stores a few months before i was even born. I grew up in a house with many Korvette electronic products especially fans and calculators. I have been intrigued by Korvettes story ever since hearing stories of Korvettes from many people over the years including my late father.
    as for the said plaids, unlike many folks of my generation I will leave that for those who lived back then to discuss whether that was a smart or dumb fashion trend idea but IMO I'd keep them in undewear pajamas or in Scotland where they belong and out of the outside.

  4. Love the "fishbowl" bus--but Harlem Avenue and the plaid, UGH! =]

  5. I love to reminisce, therefore, I really enjoyed my visit to your blog!


  6. Nightdragon – I’d love it too! Thanks so much for the kind words, and I’ll do my best to keep them coming.

    Didi – Aw, how could you have missed it? It’s right there with People, Us Weekly and OK! at the checkout counters! Seriously, CTA Quarterly was an employee publication that was only around for a few years in the mid-70’s. It’s pretty interesting reading. I scanned this from a hard copy, but I later found out you can now download the entire run in one (huge) pdf, along with other great CTA historical documents, at Archive.org , an amazing resource:


    It’s a pretty simple photo. A bit more meaningful to me than other photos of this type simply because it shows part of my childhood.

    Roy – I’d love to have seen a Korvette store in its pre-1968 prime. As mentioned, the store had lost a lot of its luster by the mid-70’s but the building still looked oh so cool. Their electronics and in particular their record department were big drawing cards for Korvette in the day.

    And I’m definitely with you on the right place for plaid. Thanks for the comment!

    Kim – Those buses were cool. But somehow the plaid just seems to fit here, don’t you think? :)

    Mike – I agree - that whole area seemed stuck in a time warp even then! Change just a few details and it could easily pass for an early 60’s scene, or possibly even older.

    Wren – Thanks - looks like you have an interesting message board there!

  7. Thanks for the great vintage pic on Harlem Ave. We rode those buses everywhere in the Chicago area -- school, ballgames and the Loop.
    I can remember taking the bus out to Korvettes at Dempster and Waukegan Rd in Morton Gorve in '64-'65. At the time EJK may have been the largest discount operation within the north suburbs. Some of that space was later absorbed by Dominicks Foods.

  8. Anonymous - You're welcome, and thanks for commenting! The RTA buses definitely were a popular means of transportation in those days.

    And regarding the Morton Grove EJK - as of last year, at least, the building was still in good shape and very much recognizable as a Korvette.