As we all know, Rahm Emanuel was born in Chicago, and lived here until he was 11, when his parents accumulated enough money to join in the white flight of the 1970s and move to Wilmette. In this week’s Time Out Chicago, Emanuel joins a number of other famous Chicagoans in reliving his memories of growing up here. The mayor-elect stuck to his years in Chicago, which was not only politically smart, but made for a better story. Most of the suburbanites interviewed for the issue -- author Dave Eggers, figure skater Evan Lysacek, restaurateurs R.J. and Jerrod Melman -- have really boring stories.
Here are Emanuel’s memories of Uptown:
On birthday treats
“On our birthdays when we were growing up, you got out of school and you went down to Marshall Field’s and you went to have lunch on the seventh floor, at the Walnut Room. Then you walked across the street to the Woolworth’s that was on State Street to visit [my great-aunt]. Now, we called her Aunt Gitti—her name was Gertrude—she was one of the original family members on my mother’s side of the family that came to America [from Ukraine].… [We’d] visit Aunt Gitti at the [soda] counter at Woolworth’s…where she worked for 15, 20 years.”
On his mother’s club
“[My mom owned a club] called the Daisy Patch [in Edgewater]. It was a club where aspiring bands would play. I used to go Friday nights with my mom. I used to get the blue drink, whatever the hell was in that blue drink—I think they just put sugar, water and some coloring. And I thought I was really cool. I’m talking about second grade, third grade. I’d be home by 9 o’clock. My mother would have my uncle take me home.”
The best interview in the issue is with R&B singer Mavis Staples, who grew up in Bronzeville’s “Dirty Thirties,” where she peeked through the door of Club Zanzibar to see Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, and heard the Dixie Hummingbirds in church.
“I consider Chicago the best music city in the world,” Staples declares.
It’s an interview Emanuel should read, especially because he recently declared that cultural institutions will not be in a “sacrifice-free” zone when it comes to paying water fees and the like.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!