Letter slot

(CC0 Public Domain)

Readers sound off

This issue’s reader dispatches address public spaces College access, South Side music, “Ribs ’n’ Bibs, Ribs ’n’ Bibs,” football traditions, and more.

Words to read by

Great quote on the Spring/20 cover: “The question before us is how to become one in spirit, not necessarily in opinion.”

I looked for attribution but couldn’t find any. Could you advise of the appropriate citation? The quote should be used much more often.

Robert Nord, JD’72
Glencoe, Illinois

The cover quote is from the inaugural address of William Rainey Harper, first president of the University of Chicago. For information about each issue’s cover, see the left-hand page opposite the table of contents.—Ed.

Bridge ’n’ bibs

More than ever, I appreciate your good work in producing the Magazine and providing such well-written articles that inform and challenge readers. As we shelter in place and work from home here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Magazine is a special treat during our “lunch breaks” in our backyard.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that my husband, George Pilloton, MBA’76, and I met in business school and would “study” in Regenstein (I was in the Professional Options Program and concurrently enrolled in the College as an economics major and a first-year in the B School). I so fondly remember receiving the alumni magazine after our wedding in 1976 and marvel at how fast the years have passed as we moved from the end of the Alumni News section to where we find ourselves now, past the middle.

In my junior year, living in Woodward Court, a bunch of us would play “marathon bridge” until the wee hours, and we regularly splurged and ordered from Ribs ’n’ Bibs. Funny how our all-nighters weren’t for studying, but we surely had fun playing bridge and snacking on great BBQ!

We are still in touch with a few of our U of C friends and try to visit the campus whenever we are back in Chicago seeing friends and family. Hope all of you are doing well and staying healthy!

Anna Lam Pilloton, AB’75
Novato, California

Back to school

I really liked Sean Carr’s (AB’90) “Crash Course” in the Spring/20 Magazine. It provided everything you want from a class: an exciting reading list, a slice of discussion, thoughtful questions posed by the professor ... without the homework. Beautiful! I don’t know if this is a recurring series that I’ve missed in the past, but I hope it continues.

John M. Saxton, AB’07, MAT’08

The Course Work department has been going strong since 1989 and has little chance of going away—sitting in on classes is too much of a pleasure for readers, writers, and editors alike. Read more installments at mag.uchicago.edu/coursework.—Ed.

Public values

Your Spring/20 article about Luke Cianciotto’s (AM’18) research on the conflict over LOVE Park in Philadelphia buries the lede (UChicago Journal, “Skateboard Sociology”). Not until the second paragraph from the last does it raise Cianciotto’s key questions: “Who do we include and exclude from the category of ‘the public’? What makes one type of use more valid than another?”

LOVE Park sits immediately northwest of Philadelphia City Hall, across the street from Suburban Station, at the eastern edge of the Center City office district and at the foot of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. From the mixture of food trucks, cafés, and outdoor restaurants the city authorities are proposing, it is clear that the “public” they envisage is the middle-class, predominantly White office workers who emerge from Suburban Station and the underground parking garage. For such people, a public space must be one in which they not only are safe but feel safe, and that means excluding the people who make LOVE Park what Cianciotto called “a beacon of deviance.”

The communal may be tolerated in holes and corners, but it is compelled to give way to the public, which is defined by the dominant economic forces. The skateboarders may ultimately remain in a portion of LOVE Park as tolerated local color, but the homeless and the dealers will probably be displaced by the glacial pressure of money. The location is just too valuable.

James M. Hirschhorn, JD’74
Chatham, New Jersey

A toast to access

For the benefit of the entire University of Chicago community, I want to emphasize an important part of President Robert J. Zimmer’s “Investing in Inquiry and Impact” message (On the Agenda, Winter/20), which marks a great achievement.

As Zimmer states: “Because of this cascade of gifts [from the University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact], we are now able to meet domestic College students’ full financial need with no debt expectations for them or their families.” Everyone associated with UChicago should fully understand the extremely positive impact of this statement.

The University has always offered the best undergraduate education in the country, but for many years was only able to offer financial support that was below the level of the education. With this signal achievement from the campaign, undergraduate financial aid at the University of Chicago is now the best in the country.

Several decades ago, Princeton University led American colleges in providing fully funded aid with no loans for its undergrads, regardless of ability to pay. UChicago has now attained the same high standard, and done so at the same time that it has significantly expanded the size of the College, and at a fully comprehensive university—no mean feat.

The amount of shoe leather and elbow grease expended by the University’s fundraising staff in achieving this vast success can only be imagined. But most of all, everyone in the UChicago community must thank the fabulous donors to the campaign—not least the hypergenerous but anonymous founder of the Odyssey Scholarships—who have made full funding for domestic College students a reality.

Generations of ambitious future College students with need will have their lives changed for the better, will achieve the very highest level of professional success, and will have the greatest positive impact upon society, because of this.

Henceforth, no student will ever again be turned away from the University because of need.

A toast to everyone who made this possible!

Chuck Schilke, AB’81 (Class of 1979)
Washington, DC

Schilke is former vice president of the University’s Alumni Board.—Ed.

Preserve music history

The Winter/20 issue of the Magazine serendipitously juxtaposed three articles: President Zimmer’s recounting of how the latest fundraising campaign brought in almost a billion dollars more than expected; an analysis of the local origins of the 1959 short film The Cry of Jazz (“Jazz as Cri de Coeur”); and, last but not least, a brief recollection of how the Staple Singers “completely destroy[ed] the audience” at the 1962 U of C Folk Festival (UChicago Journal, “Folk History”). To overschematize: money, music, and media on the South Side.

The pieces in combination raise questions about whether a few bucks might be thrown at salvaging and disseminating unique and priceless local music history. How much reel-to-reel tape of these old Folk Festivals is there, and has it been properly preserved? Is there any movie footage? As the Staples reference hints, these concerts were an unusual combination of national legends and those from the South and West Sides (well before the University’s recent efforts at reparative outreach to its surrounding community). Digitizing and putting at least some of this material online would be of value to students in Hyde Park as well as music lovers worldwide, and perhaps would turn a profit once public relations is factored in. (I caught the charming little exhibit of Folk Fest memorabilia in Regenstein before it shut down, but the archives beg for a more deluxe treatment.)

For that matter, maybe a bit of largesse could be diverted to another South Side musical treasure trove, the many episodes of Jubilee Showcase, the marvelous live African American gospel music program produced by Hyde Parker Sid Ordower and broadcast for years on Channel 7. The Chicago Public Library converted these programs to VHS years ago, and a tiny fraction were later put on a single DVD, but again the University might be able to scale up the project since the city is broke. These precious old resources are in their way as interesting as Hittite tablets, and a good deal closer.

Andrew S. Mine, AB’81

The University’s Special Collections Research Center and the Chicago Public Library hold recordings of the Folk Festival from 1961 to 1995.—Ed.

A word for accomplished alumni

The Spring/20 issue was disappointing as it failed to speak of the triumphs of recent college members, successful students from the postgraduate schools, or their teachers. It should be a magazine that would basically attract people to the University of Chicago. For future students it would paint a picture of a liberal arts education that did not go to waste in one’s professional life, whatever the field.

In the past few months, I was impressed with the very useful lives of three alumni from my era. The first was a half-page obituary in the New York Times for Joel Kupperman, AB’54, SB’55, AM’56, known for being a Quiz Kid in the 1940s. [See Deaths.—Ed.] The paper did not mention that he graduated Phi Beta Kappa at UChicago and served as a sophomore and a senior, with me, on the College Quiz Bowl. He spent his life in a philosophy department studying the best in man, according to the Times. It was apparently a successful life academically and with his family. He was in my mind a mensch.

Philip Glass, AB’56, was noted, also in the New York Times, to be premiering a work, Music in Eight Parts, that had been lost for 50 years. [See Releases.—Ed.] His lifelong career in music was apparently formed through his general college education and experiences at UChicago. His repertoire has made him a leader in opera and other forms of musical expression in America throughout his life.

The last classmate was Joseph Epstein, AB’59, the leading essayist in America today. I picked up the Spring 2020 Academic Questions, the magazine of the National Association of Scholars, and recognized his name in the byline for an article, “Immaturity on Campus.” Epstein was the editor of the American Scholar for two decades and an essayist for the Wall Street Journal and the former Weekly Standard. Apparently he has not stopped writing humorously about the American experience.

The University’s courses in liberal arts no doubt contributed to these classmates’ later successes in their fields.

Leonard Friedman, AB’56
Middleton, Massachusetts

Where 53rd meets Memory Lane

I am responding to the photo on page 71 of the Spring/20 issue of the Magazine (Alumni News, “Where Are the Shops of Yesteryear?”). With regard to 53rd Street, there are five stores that I miss, and they predate 2000 by 40–50 years:

1. Mirabelle Ice Cream Parlor on the south side of the street between Blackstone and Dorchester. A delightful place with candy as well as ice cream. My parents would take me there for a treat.

2. Nachman’s Chocolates (they made them in the back of the store), also on the south side of the street, just east on Kimbark.

3. Jesselson’s Fish Market, on the north side of 53rd Street near Nachman’s (they still exist, but not in Hyde Park, which is a real loss for those of us who do not drive).

4. A bakery near or next to Jesselson’s, with fabulous sugar cookies and other delights.

5. O’Gara’s bookstore, which was also on the north side of 53rd Street, before he took over the space that was Woodworth’s Bookstore on 57th (the latter was where I spent my first allowance money; it even had a real post office in the back).

Later O’Gara’s moved to the old Christian Science reading room on the north side of 57th Street between Blackstone and Harper, which is now 57th Street Wines. The space east of there was the Little Village Nursery School when I attended it. It became the Green Door Bookstore until a coffee shop called Medici opened up in the back half and then took over the whole space. The Medici ended up moving west to the south side of 57th Street.

And there was Lou’s Delicatessen on the south side of 57th between Kimbark and Kenwood. His last name was Friedman, and we sometimes got his mail by mistake since we lived only half a block away.

I also remember Steinway’s Drugstore on the southwest corner of Kenwood and 57th. They had a fabulous selection of nickel candy bars and also the fancy ones that cost a dime.

And there was the Tropical Hut on the north side of 57th just east of Ray School. (Like the Red Door Bookstore next door, the Hut was torn down for the current park.) Their ribs were famous, but I loved their batter-fried shrimp. The Tropical Hut relocated to 92nd Street. The Red Door became Staver’s and moved to the space occupied by 57th Street Books.

Victor A. Friedman, LAB’66, AM’71, PhD’75, Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Humanities

I was at the Graduate School of Business (now Chicago Booth) from 1978 to 1980. I remember fondly the Eagle, a local bar/grill with a picture of FDR above the bar. I don’t remember the exact location, but it was a great place for a burger and beer.

Charles Douglas Rockwell, MBA’80
Front Royal, Virginia

The Eagle, located at 5311 South Blackstone Avenue, closed in September 1980. Giordano’s Pizza moved into the space a year later and remains open there today.—Ed.

Those of the 1960s will remember Jane Lee’s on 53rd Street, a few blocks from the photo in the Spring/20 issue; Saini 48 on the corner of 53rd and Harper (great rye bread); and Chances R in Harper Court—beer, burgers, and peanuts in the shell.

Russell R. Wheeler, AM’68, PhD’70
Silver Spring, Maryland

Just thinking of Ribs ’n’ Bibs makes my mouth water. A bucket of rib tips was a favorite way to finish a Friday evening, which typically began at the Law School’s Wine Mess, then ended with dinner provided by a fine Hyde Park establishment such as Harold’s, the Cove, the Medici, or the incomparable Ribs ’n’ Bibs.

My wife, Joan Fagan, JD’80, and I graduated from the Law School, worked briefly in New York City, then moved back to my home state of Wisconsin, where we have lived happily ever after. We visit Chicago regularly.

At the end of one weekend stay many years ago, we had a lovely brunch at the Hyde Park home of a U of C faculty member just before heading back to Milwaukee. As we drove east down 53rd Street, we spotted RNB—or maybe smelled it first. I slammed on the brakes, parked the car, ran in, and came out with a bucket of rib tips.

Our initial thought had been to reheat the tips for dinner that evening. But by the time we reached Lake Shore Drive, the aroma had destroyed our will power. So we parked and finished nearly the entire bucket before restarting our trip home.

I don’t think I have ever eaten so much in such a short amount of time. But it was worth it.

David Cross, JD’80

Ahh, Ribs ’n’ Bibs.

When I was an officer of Doc Films we’d sometimes order Ribs ’n’ Bibs for the crew on busy showings Fridays and Saturdays. We tried to meet them outside, but occasionally we’d hear a stage whisper just loud enough for most of the audience to hear “Ribs ’n’ Bibs, Ribs ’n’ Bibs.”

Victor S. Sloan, AB’80
Flemington, New Jersey

A teacher to remember

I was sad to learn of Professor Raymond Fogelson’s passing in January (Deaths, Spring/20). In my time as an anthropology major in the College, 1968–72, I was well aware of the Department of Anthropology’s standing as preeminent in the discipline (graduates of the University of Michigan, Columbia University, and the University of California, Berkeley, would likely demur), its PhD graduates among the elite. But one of the great virtues of Chicago was the way senior scholars taught undergraduate classes, in my experience, with genuine enjoyment. Added to this was the ability of the more precocious undergraduates to enroll, with permission, in graduate classes.

Of the many remarkable professors I had—Victor Turner; Paul Friedrich; Barney Cohn; George Stocking Jr.; Robert McCormick Adams, PhB’47, AM’52, PhD’56; and Ralph Nicholas, AM’58, PhD’62, among them—Ray stood out for his commitment to his undergraduate students. While much is made of the anthropology PhDs, more can be said about the undergrad majors who went on to productive scholarly careers in anthropology, folklore, and linguistics. Few went on at Chicago, interestingly. That, in fact, was Ray’s advice to me.

I spent a year as his research assistant, having ginned up some work-study money and convinced the department chair I could best use it with Ray. Ray went along with the con. I learned so much writing a paper with him that stayed on my CV through my promotion to full professor—as “In Press,” for it never actually saw the light of day. In effect Ray used the writing, the research, and the modeling of colleagueship as a teaching “moment” that lasted a year. Shoot low, Ray, they’re riding Shetlands.

Kevin Avruch, AB’72
Fairfax, Virginia

Ray Fogelson changed my life. He asked me what I would do after finishing my AM. I said I’d ponder that question while riding a Chicago garbage truck. He arranged for me to attend the University of Texas the following week, and I started out for Austin in a $200 Opel. The highway rest stops filled with prostitutes after midnight, so I slept in graveyards all the way down. Once there, things didn’t work out as planned because UT’s regulations had changed. I ate canned beans in cheap motels while working a day-labor job. I dug an irrigation ditch in 100-degree heat on my first day—alongside some guy constantly repeating, “I feel like I’m going to kill somebody someday. I just have that feeling.” But Dr. Fogelson gave me the moral support I needed to endure distraction and finish my doctorate. It was a purely random act of disinterested kindness. His moral example influenced me far more than any credential possibly could. And that is what profoundly changed my life.

Theodore M. Brown, AM’78
Lake Forest Park, Washington

The drum beats on

Hugh Brodkey, AB’51, JD’54, speculates that he might have been the last person to play Big Bertha, the world’s largest drum, at the University of Chicago (Letters, Spring/20). Not so. In 1993 Big Bertha was borrowed back from its new home at the University of Texas (“Hook ’em Horns”) and set up on the main quadrangle. I served as president of the Alumni Board that year, and Mrs. Gray (University president Hanna Holborn Gray) and I took turns beating the drum, which had an incomparable bass tone, like summer thunder.

I was also honorary coach for the Maroons football team, and in the locker room at halftime Coach [Greg] Quick informed me that I was expected to give a pep talk. While I was desperately trying to channel Pat O’Brien in Knute Rockne, All American, my salvation entered in the person of Jay Berwanger, AB’36, first Heisman Trophy winner. I told the team that I was sure they would rather listen to Jay than to me and was off the hook.

John D. Lyon, AB’55
Los Angeles

Kazoo you

Being a U of C grad, I cannot let any minor misstatement of fact go uncorrected. In Letters, Paul Birnberg, AB’72, wrote that the giant kazoo was wooden. It was aluminum. If it had been wooden, there is no way that it could have been carried to the football field; it would have been much too heavy.

I know this because I was Don Bingle’s (AB’76, JD’79) successor as the “leader” of the kazoo marching band. During the 1976 and 1977 football seasons, it was my job to move the kazoo from the field house to the football field. By then it was on wheels, so it was a one-person job. I handed out kazoos to anyone who wanted to join the band, helped lead cheers, and “organized” the halftime show. Some of the cheerleader uniforms mentioned by Barbara Yerges Wilson, AB’63, survived into the mid-1970s and were worn to some of the games. By then we had two halftime formations. After several songs accompanied by Brownian motion, we ended by lining everyone up into a giant UC and playing the alma mater.

Upon graduation I passed the duties on to yet another Thompson House resident. At some point in the early- to mid-’80s, the athletics department decided that the giant kazoo was not dignified enough for the rising football powerhouse. I do not know the ultimate fate of that mighty kazoo but fear it went ignobly to some scrap heap.

Sam Scheiner, AB’78, SM’80, PhD’83
Arlington, Virginia

Thanks to the coronavirus stay-at-home effort, I have had the time to pay more than usual attention to the Core. There was an article on the UChicago cheer beginning, “Themistocles, Thucydides, the Peloponnesian War” (“Tales of Good Cheer,” Winter/20).

There was nothing “alleged” about the cheer; it was used at various football games and was popular among many students, including those who probably never had much other interest in sporting events. The use of this cheer and the initiation of the kazoo marching band ties in to other events in the 1968–70 period.

I also remember that the kazoo marching band was initiated during 1969–70, largely as a spoof of the more elaborate marching bands of the Big 10 and other universities. Chicago’s football club played on a field, not in a stadium. We might have had a few bleachers, but we had no real viewing facilities. The playing field was bare bones, as was the kazoo marching band.

In addition, the years 1968–70 were a tumultuous period for the country and for UChicago, with Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder and subsequent riots, a mass meeting of South Side gangs on the Midway, the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots, and a University sit-in. The cheer and the kazoo marching band offered some humorous relief from the tensions that complicated life then. I was pleased to read that these traditions were sustained for a long time at UChicago. By the way, the Lascivious Costume Ball, begun in these times, and a probably short-lived Committee for Creative Non-Violence, were other efforts to have some fun and spoof “the establishment.” Have these become traditions as well?

Edward H. Comer, AB’71
Washington, DC

We find no record of a Committee for Creative Non-Violence. The Lascivious Costume Ball was banned in 1984 but returned to campus in 2008 and has been held intermittently since then.—Ed.

Articles in the last issues of the Magazine and the Core about Maroons football had a shocking omission. Both failed to mention the epic account of the birth, death, and resurrection of UChicago football in Monsters of the Midway 1969: Sex, Drugs, Rock ’n’ Roll, Viet Nam, Civil Rights, and Football (Jeff Rasley, independently published, 2017). Quirky facts about the Maroons are revealed: e.g., how Jay Berwanger, AB’36, left his mark on the cheek of future president Gerald Ford; Muhammad Ali’s connection with two Maroons; why Mitt Romney is a Maroons fan; and the offer of People magazine to fly the 1974 team to LA to play Caltech in what would be called the Toilet Bowl or Brain Bowl (TBD).

The book even has a romantic subplot based on the courtship of a feminist by a jock (which has lasted 46 years—the marriage, not the courtship).

Although historically accurate in many respects, the tale is presented as historical fiction to protect the innocent, as well as the guilty, now-aged alumni from the Walter Hass era, when football arose from the Hutchins ashes like a Phoenix.

Jeff Rasley, AB’75

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