Few friends are like my buddy, Jim. A seventy-year old gay man and lifetime Chicagoan, he is the one person I know- besides Rosebud restaurant co-creator and recent retiree Danny Miller, anyway-  who can speak of coming of age while living among Italians in one of the city’s first Italian neighborhoods along Grand and Halsted. Just to speak of the aroma of “gravy” [marinara sauce] that pervaded the avenues each Monday- incidentally, the day when all mothers simmered it in their kitchens- inspires a sense of nostalgia in him that readily supplies stories of the protective ties that saved him from dangerous 1960s Cargangs of greasers, the uniquely Italian desserts that he sampled when his family moved to a newer neighborhood on Taylor Street, and how loud his car radio’s volume was whenever he drove down the strip, Frankie Valley’s falsetto ringing so shrilly from the speakers that he dared the Four Seasons to compete. In many ways, I live to hear these detailed yarns time and time again, because they provide a perspective on city history that I will never, ever experience. Best, their admission price is the equivalent of a cup of coffee or a southerly walk along Broadway.

There are enormous lessons to learn while listening to the stories of the elderly. They are passports to lost worlds, and actual broadcasts featuring the names of past performers and significant former politicians in real time. And today, there is another to share, again excerpted from the interview of a week ago, when my new friend spoke of the Hawaiian man who recently became his husband after 64 years together.


“[Doug’s] half Hawaiian, 3/8 Chinese, and one of his grandmothers was Amelia Higgins. She was half Hawaiian. But all of his grandparents were at least half Hawaiian, so that worked out just fine. But then Hawaiians have big families. His father was Hawaiione of thirteen and his mother was one of ten. They have all of these cousins. Do you know Duke Kahanamoku, the famous surfer? Doug’s cousin is married to Duke’s brother, Sergeant. Doug’s father was a Hawaiian senator previous to statehood. He was one of the biggest lawyers in town and was the first federal judge appointed down there. I think that Woodrow Wilson did that. And then he ran for office and kept getting re-elected. Then, when Eisenhower was elected, Hawaii had always been Republican because of all of the companies there. When Eisenhower was elected, Hawaii went democratic, giving {Doug’s] father a choice of offices. So he became the president of the Hawaiian senate right before statehood. When it became a state, they always called it the 49th state.. So in 1959, I think they became the forty-ninth state. But that was when they went Democratic, and Alaska was Republican. So Eisenhower named Alaska the 49th state, which was his fault. It made Hawaii the 50th state.  That was interesting.”

Photo Credits:

The How Stuff Works Editors, “1960-1961 AMC Rambler Ambassador,” The How Stuff Works.com Website. View Date 3/17/2015 Link: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/maps/north-america/usa/hawaii/

The Lonely Planet Editors, “Map of Hawaii,” The Lonely Planet.com Website. View Date 3/17/2015 Link: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/maps/north-america/usa/hawaii/


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