Cities: Studs Terkel’s Chicago

CBC documentary about Studs Terkel.

00:00Copy video clip URL Bars and tone.

00:40Copy video clip URL Studs Terkel relates an anecdote about meeting a woman in Italy and telling her he’s from Chicago. She replies, “Oh, I know Chicago – Bang, bang, bang!” (Referring to Chicago’s history of gangsters.) Terkel tells us that Chicago is so much more than that. He is going to show us his Chicago, the Chicago he loves.

01:09Copy video clip URL “The ethnic parade is as natural to Chicago as the river that flows through it. On any given Saturday you’ll find a Polish parade, a Puerto Rican parade…” But the biggest of them all is the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Terkel relates the history of the Irish in Chicago while walking in the parade. “Chicago politics for the past century has been Irish… Now, there are new people… but the quest continues.”

03:07Copy video clip URL Terkel visits Mike Royko at the Chicago Tribune. Royko names some of the city mottoes – “City in a garden,” etc. He claims a more appropriate motto is “Where’s mine?”

04:08Copy video clip URL Terkel visits the Chicago Water Tower, one of the few survivors of the great Chicago fire. Although it’s one of the most well-known landmarks of the city, it is somewhat maligned. When Oscar Wilde visited Chicago in the 1870s, he called the Water Tower “a castellated monstrosity.” Rudyard Kipling visited the city and remarked, “Now that I’ve visited, I don’t want to see it again.” Terkel talks about the “quest for beauty” in the city and how it has produced public artwork. We visit the Picasso statue in Daley Plaza and see children playing all over it. Terkel gives some information on the history of the building of the statue. He muses whether the statue should be more appropriately referred to as “Picasso’s Chicago, or Chicago’s Picasso.”

06:30Copy video clip URL Terkel introduces the subject of Louis Sullivan, the architect who gave Chicago’s downtown the flavor it has today. Terkel, while looking out on the city from on top of the Auditorium Theatre building, muses about what Sullivan was trying to create when he designed all those buildings: “a patch of beauty for the great men and women who built this city… What was in his mind as he conceived the idea of the skyscraper?” It was possibly part of a desire for “reaching towards the heavens… [Sullivan saw Chicago as] more than a city of things, he saw it as a city of men.” Terkel visits the Carson Pirie Scott department store and talks about the lofty ideals surrounding Sullivan’s design: “This department store is more than vulgar commerce… when a woman shops, she’s surrounded by grace and beauty.”

08:23Copy video clip URL Chicago’s El. Terkel speaks about the El while riding around the “Loop.” He says that despite all the annoyance some people feel because of the loud screeching of the El, it causes a certain sense of excitement for him: “You know you’re somewhere when you hear that sound.”

09:49Copy video clip URL Terkel takes a walking tour through the Loop. He describes the area as festive and exciting because of the all the movie theaters. Terkel recalls the excitement of waiting in line to see films when he was young: Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments,” etc.

11:13Copy video clip URL The Chicago River. “It is the only body of water in the world that flows backwards.” Terkel explains the history behind the reversal of the river flow, then goes on to describe the role of bridges in Chicago: “Bridges are our blessing and our curse.” He describes how wonderful it is when the paper boats go through to bring paper to the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, or boats carrying supplies for industry. However, he expresses the ultimate disdain for rich pleasure-seekers who hold up thousands of people and stop the city from working so they can ride their boats around the river.

13:07Copy video clip URL Lake Shore Drive. Terkel talks about the status that comes from living in the high rises on Lake Shore Drive. “Where does all this dough come from?”

14:08Copy video clip URL Images of Chicago’s industrial areas. Terkel talks with Ed Sadlowski, head of the steelworkers union. Sadlowski claims that technology is speeding things up, but nothing is changing much. “It’s a job that’s very depressing. You’re surrounded by massive machines, fire, noise, dirt… You’d think you’d stepped into the bowels of Hell.”

16:55Copy video clip URL From the train yards, Terkel recounts his arrival in Chicago by train in 1921. Back then, Chicago was the railroad center of the world. One couldn’t take a train across the country without stopping in Chicago. Chicago was a “huge big rough town where so much was happening.” Terkel then moves on to discussing the streetcars and the old men’s hotels, which were not seedy places like today, they were places where carpenters and trade men lived. “Men debated [in these hotels]. There was all sorts of wild discussion, fueled by a drop of whiskey or two.”

19:26Copy video clip URL Terkel visits the South Side of Chicago to see the Bud Billiken parade, the largest African-American parade in America, which celebrates the start of a new school year. Terkel then recounts the history of the migration of Blacks from the South to Chicago. He visits the public housing projects, the Robert Taylor Homes. He speaks with Black police officer and activist Renault Robinson. Robertson talks about improving the projects and giving people in the projects a chance for a better life.

23:13Copy video clip URL Footage of a gospel choir in a Black church. Terkel narrates, “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound… too often for these people how bitter the sound.” Terkel describes the Black church as a place of solace and a place to seek the hard to find dream of a better life.

25:30Copy video clip URL Terkel speaks from the center of Black culture in the earlier part of the century, 47th Street and Martin Luther King Drive. He stands across the street from the Regal Theatre, where Count Basie, and Duke Ellington performed. He also remembers the historic boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. Footage of Blind John Davis playing blues piano. Terkel talks about the importance of blues music.

29:02Copy video clip URL Chicago at night. Terkel sits in an all-night grill, then visits the Edward Hopper painting “Nighthawks” at the Art Institute of Chicago. Terkel strolls the halls of the Art Institute, showing off the impressive collection of French Impressionist paintings, including George Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jette.”

31:45Copy video clip URL Buckingham fountain, old man playing chess on the lakefront. “Chicago’s place of solace.”

32:41Copy video clip URL Terkel visits the craziness and excitement of Maxwell Street where there’s blues and traditional American music, junk, and hawkers trying to sell “hot” watches. “The expressways have cut through the heart of it, yet there’s still life in these old blocks.” Terkel describes the sellers at this place as the “few remaining small entrepreneurs at work.”

34:58Copy video clip URL Uptown. Terkel and Peggy Terry discuss the condition of the Appalachian immigrants, some of the poorest people in the city. Terry talks about struggles of the poor in Uptown and how the city would try to deceive them out of amenities like parks by telling them the park money was going to Blacks in the South Side. A usually timid Appalachian woman responded with anger, “You’re trying to set the n—-s and the hillbillies against each other.” Terry describes the positive and negative uses of the word “hillbilly.”

37:37Copy video clip URL A band sings the lyrics, “Ashes of love/the place burned down.” Terkel draws an analogy to communities vanishing while some persist. He takes us to a residential street and proclaims, “Chicago is a city of bungalows. Here live the children and the grandchildren of the immigrants who came seeking a better life.” He describes the “Chicagoan’s dream” of one day owning a two flat and living on one floor and renting out the other. Also the “dream of some green… the desperate search for just a little piece of beauty in our daily lives.”

40:45Copy video clip URL The statue store at Ohio and Wells.

41:37Copy video clip URL Mexican parade. Footage of Chicago’s murals. Terkel claims that no mural in Chicago has ever been defaced because they are such a symbol of pride for the community.

43:11Copy video clip URL The White Sox vs. Oakland A’s in Sox Park. Terkel sits with Tom Weinberg while we absorb the sights and sounds of the ballpark–the crowd singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” the cheering, the fireworks, the vendors… Terkel talks about the days when he would go to the games and sit with the “bleacher bums.” He recounts stories of the colorful characters he used to know, such as a group of men who never looked up at the game because they were constantly placing bets: “I’m sure the same 50 bucks passed hands all season.”

46:16Copy video clip URL Downtown Chicago at a news stand. “Chicago was always a hot newspaper town.” Terkel stands in front of the Tribune Tower and talks about the history of their publishing empire.

47:40Copy video clip URL “Chicago’s Loop at the end of a long day’s work… Chicago is a city in motion, but more than that, a working city always.” “Chicago has room for both the hustler and the square.” Terkel comes back to his opening story with the Italian woman who envisioned a city of gangsters and concludes, “Chicago’s more than that, much more.”

50:00Copy video clip URL End credits.



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