Letter slot


Readers sound off

Your many memories of Jimmy’s, plus cycling, follies, and more.

Story taps memories

Thank you for “Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap: An Oral History” (Summer/23).

My history of Jimmy’s across a decade-plus as a student and Hyde Park resident includes many nights (and some afternoons), many pitchers, many salted fries, many conversations, and many friendships cemented.

While I might quibble with some of the observations and even the selection of observers (the Magazine may wish to seek out more voices for the bar’s 80th anniversary), the piece is great scaffolding that every Jimmy’s patron—and avowed nonpatrons like Hanna Gray—can add to from their own memories.

Catherine Skeen, AB’91, AM’02, PhD’03
Narberth, Pennsylvania

The article on Jimmy’s brought back many memories. A tradition in the Department of History in the 1960s and 1970s was after the oral defense of one’s dissertation to have your examiners take you to Jimmy’s for a cocktail, beer, or other libation. In my case, my escorts included Professors John Hope Franklin and Arthur Mann. Several days afterward, Professor Mann invited my wife and me to dine with him and his wife, Sylvia, at the Quadrangle Club. In my humble opinion, Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap was a much better experience and lunch.

Edward Mazur, PhD’74

Thank you for focusing on Jimmy’s with Ben Ryder Howe’s (AB’94) cleverly presented and entertaining oral history. When I wasn’t “nose to the grindstone,” studying in Regenstein, I would stop at Jimmy’s on the way home—it was helpful to have a beer or two to wind down. The place certainly has a fascinating history, complete with U of C celebrities, and it was good to read about Jimmy Wilson himself.

Michael Worley, AM’76, PhD’86
Lexington, Kentucky

Before joining the State Department, I spent the final years of my PhD program at the University behind the bar at Jimmy’s. The experience served as a boot camp introduction to the nuances of diplomacy, learning to work with a diverse clientele—to listen; question; persuade, if necessary; caution; and, in one instance, actually use force to end a dispute. All in a day’s diplomacy. The Woodlawn Tap: covert diplomatic training ground. Who knew? Thanks, Jimmy.

James Przystup, AM’68, PhD’75
Oakton, Virginia

U of C Magazine team, thank you! The memories of Professor Frank Kinahan alone are worth the piece. I drank with him at Jimmy’s, won the Little Red Schoolhouse teaching award named after him (my only grad school achievement), and attended his funeral. I celebrated friends’ birthdays at Jimmy’s, ate the bar’s food, also ate Harold’s in the back corner, and one night among the chessboards in the middle room played a game of Battleship against Mr. Anthony Miller, AM’93 (set purchased for this occasion specifically).

Jon Aronoff, AM’95
Bethesda, Maryland

When I joined the faculty in 2007, my son, who had written his undergraduate thesis on Saul Bellow, EX’39, told me I had to go to Jimmy’s. After I did, I told a colleague that it was a dump, and that for a place with such a rich history you would think they would fix it up a bit. His response: they did.

Karl Matlin, Professor Emeritus of Surgery and in the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science
Falmouth, Massachusetts

A fine atmospheric evocation of Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap—but with one error that I recognize. Jimmy’s had yet another owner, for a fairly short period in the 1960s. The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) made a feint toward buying up the whole block between Woodlawn and University, so as to distract attention from its real (and successful) effort to buy up the block between University and Greenwood. The aim was to avoid having to pay excessive prices for the apartment buildings it bought. How do I know this? My father was the founding president of LSTC at the time and occasionally shared such juicy tidbits.

Let’s be clear that this temporary ownership by LSTC presented no threat to the ambience of Jimmy’s. After all, Martin Luther saw beer as a fine lubricant for theological discussion and insight, as evidenced by the many LSTC students who were to be found in Jimmy’s.

Stewart Herman, LAB’66, PhD’88

The article in the Summer issue of the Magazine that struck me was about Jimmy’s, where I spent much time while in Hyde Park, 1965–80.

I wonder what happened to the cartoon that used to hang on the left side wall of the first room. I have a copy that I got from behind the bar in 1975, the weekend I got married. Among those featured in the cartoon was my husband, Marshall Kolin, AM’53, PhD’65, and his great friend, economics professor George Tolley, AM’50, PhD’55. I had it framed, and it still hangs in my house.

Any information about the fate of the original?

Dee Ann Holisky, AB’69, AM’74, PhD’80
Arlington, Virginia

The illustration still hangs in the bar, near the door to the east room, protected by plexiglass. See a detail of the illustration, which includes Kolin and Tolley, below.—Ed.

detail of the illustration of Jimmy's from the 1950s
(Photography by John Zich)

Comprehensively UChicago

In 1953, when I enrolled in the College, I had no real interest in studying—my interests lay elsewhere (“So You Think You Can Comp?” Summer/23). But I needed a degree, and at that time the College only required you to stay on campus for nine months and pass the required comps. I also learned that the comps could be taken elsewhere, as long as they were administered by a person or institution approved by the University.

I stayed on campus, as required, but rarely went to class. As soon as the nine months were over, I headed to Cuba to go skin diving. The University sent my comps to the University of Havana, where they were administered by a professor there on the same day everyone else took them in Chicago.

I took subsequent comps at the New York University testing center, the home of a professor in the South of France (where I had a delicious French luncheon in his garden), and finally at the Sorbonne in Paris.

After I got my degree from the College, I learned that as a woman in the 1950s, I needed to have “female skills” to get a decent job, so I learned typing and shorthand and then got a job as a secretary in Paris.

Later I got a master’s degree in planning and worked as a planner for 25 years. Before retiring from that career, I went to law school at night for four-plus years and then practiced law for 14 years, advocating for the causes I believe in. (This retirement career turned out to be the most satisfying.)

It was only in my inactive 80s that I began to appreciate the comprehensive education I got from the College, which enables me to see the connections between and among current ideas and events and those of the past.

Ann Tyler Fathy, AB’56
San Diego

Angie’s gist

Thanks for sharing the interview with Angie Torain (“Good Sport,” Summer/23). Her use of the words “writing, interpreting, and applying rules” to describe NCAA compliance was impressive. I know the NCAA has its problems, but that group aside, I’d never heard a more welcoming way of describing the aims of people charged with making sure we’re all doing the right thing.

I also appreciated hearing about her role as the Maroons athletics director. Whenever I do my lecture on how Americans find time to play (for undergraduates enrolled in my American Civilization Since 1865 class here at the University of Alabama), I look forward to sharing how the first Heisman winner was Jay Berwanger, AB’36, a University of Chicago student.

Finally, as an educator who also happens to be a woman and person of African descent, it was a pleasure seeing Torain’s many achievements. She gives me hope that good can happen in academe for us.

An aside: Loved the story on Jimmy’s too. During my waning days in Hyde Park, I recall being there a lot with a friend in the cohort behind me. Burgers, fries, and a good beer alongside a bit of conversation—but also pleasant silence—were great ways to slowly move on from Chicago.

Sharony Green, AM’08
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Math, poetry, and more

Your note (“A Poet Walks into a Bar,” Editor’s Notes, Summer/23) resonated with me and brought to mind the best of my days at the U of C in the late 1960s and early ’70s. No, not the sit-in. No, not the not-so-great dorms and ratty apartments. No, not the South Side of Chicago and Hyde Park, with all of their well-merited features.

The best was to study mathematics and to read and study poetry. I can recite your “Kubla Khan,” as well as a lot of Keats and W. H. Auden and many others.

Also, it helped to fall in love.

The great part of the College is to hold diverse ideas in your head—and to pursue these in a gratifying way through classes directed by great teachers. Yes, math and poetry and literature can coexist. Yes, you can have a really diverse intellectual life. I studied with David Bevington; Herman Sinaiko, AB’47, PhD’61; Irving Kaplansky; Israel Herstein; and others who were not only leaders in their fields but really good at sharing their knowledge.

Many years after, I found myself in international business in Moscow, São Paulo, Mumbai, Beijing, and many other places. Everywhere, after a bit of conversation, one question came up: “Where did you go to university?” I regard that question as an endorsement of the general education program.

Steven Hyde, AB’71, MBA’76
Maple City, Michigan

Too cool

Regarding “Monochromatic Blues” (Summer/23) by Carolyn Purnell, AM’07, PhD’13: Very perceptive psychological observations about the colors pervasive in present-day society. The only thing I think was overlooked is that the monochromatic tones are also “cold.” What with the wood floors and neutral colors in homes and apartments today, I feel children especially are missing out on a warmth that comes from sunny, cheerful colors and soft fabrics. Possibly these missing entities might also have a psychological effect.

Sonja Velins, MLA’97
Libertyville, Illinois

Speaking v. seeking

Yesterday I received my alumna copy of the Core, the College magazine, and I not only felt embarrassment that Bret Stephens, AB’95, was awarded the University of Chicago Alumni Professional Achievement Award in 2014 but also found it ironic that the Core posted a copy of his 2023 Class Day speech (“The Joy of Argument,” Summer/23) a few pages before a lengthy article wherein UChicago scholars contemplate the end of the world (“Are We Doomed?,” Summer/23). Stephens has spent decades denying human-caused global warming and only recently acknowledged that climate change is really happening, yet he blathered to UChicago’s students about “independent thinking.” Stephens epitomizes the fools he lambastes—those who see themselves as independent thinkers but are not. He is not a “truth-seeker” in any way.

The University of Chicago should be profiling and offering speaking opportunities to those who actually seek truth and follow facts and understand scientific principles, not those who deny reality, sow discord, and promote false beliefs that contribute to the ruination of our planet and society. I am proud that some students walked out of Stephens’s speech, as they should have.

Our planet faces challenges that may destroy us all, and the University of Chicago should be working to solve those problems, not hosting those who contribute to them. I feel ashamed of my alma mater today.

Elizabeth “Betsy” O’Halloran, AB’91
Spokane, Washington

Silence is golden

The quietest thing I did on campus was study at Crerar Library (“Show; Don’t Tell,” Alumni News Snapshots, Summer/23). Seriously, it was way quieter than the Reg (especially the basement). Crerar required a new level of quiet—from taking books out of your bag to flipping pages to study and not disturb anyone (and get a glare). Good times!

Kandice Cole, AB’06, MAT’07
Richmond, Texas

The cycling life

I was delighted to see the photo of the Monsters of the Midway Criterium in the Summer/23 issue (“Making the Rounds,” Alumni News Snapshots). I was the race’s 1993 organizer and commissioned a Monsters of the Midway logo for the race, which was then added to the team jersey.

Leah Kabira, AB’92

I grew up in Hyde Park, and while I didn’t go to UChicago for college, I did ride with the team during the summers of 1981 and ’82.

Mark Dragovan, AB’80, PhD’86, was a physics grad student who was the main organizer for us. He had a VW bug that we could use to get to races. Often four of us would pack in the car with four bikes on the roof.

I remember one overnight trip out to the Quad Cities. The budget hotel charged by the person and not the room, so one rider hid in the back well of the VW. The hotel manager asked why we were paying for three people when we had four bikes on the roof. We thought we were being clever by saying, “One bike is extra in case someone has a mechanical problem.” He let it slide, but I doubt he believed us.

We often trained by heading west on 55th Street/Garfield Boulevard. We could get out to some quieter roads near Palos Park. Sadly, back then there were terrible racist stickers on lampposts as soon as we crossed Cicero. I recall skulls and crossbones and swastikas warning people of color to beware (the language was cruder).

I wish I had photos of the group, but I only have memories.

Andrew Dordal, MBA’92 
Emmaus, Pennsylvania

I usually don’t have the time to flip through the alumni magazine cover to cover, but I just got the Summer/23 issue and saw the U of C Vélo Club photo from 1991. Since you asked for cycling memories ...

Tony Lang, AB’89; Tom Luster, MBA’90; and I were the cofounders of the club in the fall of 1988. I designed the original logo that winter with MacDraw in an on-campus computer lab (probably the B-school computer room, on one of the upper floors of Stuart Hall), and we got jerseys made so that U of C folks could join the Midwest collegiate racing scene in the spring of 1989. While Greg LeMond had already won the Road Race World Championship and Tour de France once, cycling was still a bit of a fringe sport in the United States, and if I remember correctly, there were only about 15 of us in the club (with a core group of five to seven). We’d do regular group rides, mostly leaving from Promontory Point to go up the Lake Shore Drive paths beyond the Loop and Lincoln Park toward Evanston, somewhat taking our lives into our hands as none of the sprucing up of the waterfront parks on the South Side had happened at that point. We almost preferred riding in the winter as the colder temperatures typically meant we had the paths to ourselves.

We continued into the 1989–90 academic year, and I’ve been super excited to see on Facebook that it looks like the club has been in continuous existence since then, and it seems our original sponsor, Turin Bicycle, has somehow managed to stay alive in some form today.

Bill Tsang, MBA’90
Redmond, Washington

Follies fondness

Thanks for the rehearsal photo from Life in the Faust Lane (“A Deal with the Devil,” Alumni News Snapshots, Summer/23). Memory serves a little feebly, but I can offer the following: A bunch of us cast members played multiple roles in the production. Rehearsals were diligent, but the result was many forgotten lines and lousy ad-libbing during the two performances (much to director Steve Cobb’s [MBA’82] dismay). We must have been too fixated on landing the “perfect” job around that time of the semester … sans the influence of Faust.

One of my contributions was the role of an appropriately California-caricatured interviewer for Hewlett-Packard (“Hewy-Pewy”) complete with neon-ish leisure suit, flip-flops (far from a standard fashion item in that era), and a faux bronze complexion. I recall interviewing Shipley Munson, MBA’82, while positioned partly upside down in a Zen-like lotus position on a leather lounge chair. Fortunately, I’d had some prior acting experience. It must have been a hoot because at the cast party, one Nils Ahbel, MBA’92, offered up an appropriate “thank-you” gift for those performances: suntan lotion.

Shipley got the job offer, but as luck would have it, he moved on to a much better career option.

Perry Ninger, MBA’82
Steamboat Springs, Colorado

I was a cast member in the very first GSB Follies in May 1975. There were about 12 of us. The chief instigator was Marcia Edison, AB’71, MBA’76. She gets the credit for creating, writing, and directing the whole thing—and doing it all very well.

You’ll find this first Follies written up in the old GSB magazine Issues & Ideas in the Autumn 1975 issue. I played dean of students Jeff Metcalf, AM’53.

We did a reunion production 10 years later, with Marcia again as the key person behind the production. University trustee and Council on Chicago Booth member Mary Lou Gorno, MBA’76, was the producer. I played Jeff Metcalf again—the same plaid pants I wore 10 years before, characteristic of what Jeff wore, fit a bit tighter.

Ken Gilbert, MBA’75

Behind the music

Kudos to Hannah Edgar, AB’18, for “Sounds Reborn” (Spring/23), about the University of Chicago Folk Festival. I was happily reminded of when I was a student in the College in the late 1960s and heard fellow students Paul Asbell, EX’70, (guitar) and Jeff Carp, AB’72, (harmonica) play the blues. Both of them played in blues clubs, and both can be heard on the great album Fathers and Sons, featuring Muddy Waters; Otis Spann; Michael Bloomfield; Paul Butterfield, LAB’60; Donald “Duck” Dunn; Sam Lay; and Buddy Miles.

I took some guitar lessons with Paul at the Fret Shop in 1970. He was a genial and patient teacher. As is the case with many music students of limited-to-no talent, the lessons made me a more appreciative listener. Paul Asbell is a musician and teacher in Vermont. Jeff Carp died in a boating accident in 1973.

On a different note, Chandler Calderon’s piece on Big Bertha (“Some Drum,” Spring/23) astonished me by disclosing the story of the huge drum’s nonappearance at Carnegie Hall. It is stupefying that nobody, either at the University or at the legendary concert hall, thought to measure the stage doorway before the drum was shipped to New York City for the Toscanini concert. I’ll bet Big Bertha’s successor Big Ed, the World’s Largest Kazoo, would have fit through that door!

Dan Campion, AB’70
Iowa City, Iowa

My memories of what we called folk music on campus go back to the 1951–52 school year. My first year I learned “The Banks Are Made of Marble” and “This Land Is Your Land” and labor songs (that tickle the edge of my memory as I write—ah, “Slaves of Wall Street, here we sit”). I also learned to dance the hora. The Weavers became big sometime in the early ’50s and gave a concert at the Civic Opera House (before the band ran afoul of Joseph McCarthy). I was in the SRP [Student Representative Party] when we sponsored Paul Robeson in Mandel Hall sometime in 1953–55. I remember singing “We Shall Overcome” in the Phi Gam house in 1955–56 and after.

James “Jim” Vice, EX’52, AM’54
Wabash, Indiana

Following suit

Paul Horvitz’s (AB’54) Spring/23 letter on “Called to the Game” (Winter/23) reminded me of when I began to play more serious bridge at U of C in my fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. My first exposure, though, was at home when my parents hosted friends to play social “rubber bridge” with me kibbitzing. Dad [Warren Sexton, EX’23] played at his fraternity, Sigma Chi, where they used an early Goren system.

When I got to the U of C in the 1950s, we played in the Burton Judson dorm and thence on to the Beta house, where a bridge table was permanently set up in the living room with brothers and friends coming and going from a “perpetual game.” Several other houses went further and established invitationals with tournaments—these included Alpha Delt, Delta Upsilon, Phi Gam, and Zeta Beta Tau.

A couple of our Beta alums were faculty members who played lunchtime bridge at the Quad Club, where I sat in once or twice.

Graduating into the Army, I was introduced to competitive duplicate bridge, playing often with some quite good partners, and where I picked up several master points. But my following business career involved travel and family and no time for club bridge. Now, here in our semiretirement community condo, we have a bridge club that plays weekly at a “dime game,” which is both stimulating and enjoyable.

Chuck Sexton, AB’56, MBA’57
Richmond, Virginia

The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters about its contents or about the life of the University. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for space, clarity, civility, and style. To provide a range of views and voices, we ask letter writers to limit themselves to 300 words or fewer. Write: Editor, The University of Chicago Magazine, 5235 South Harper Court, Chicago, IL 60615. Or email: uchicago-magazine@uchicago.edu.