An update to growing up in Chicago.

Last summer I posted a couple of columns on growing up in Chicago in the 1940s.

My family history is a story of Chicago as my mother was born there and her parents met in Aurora, a suburb where my grandfather’s sister ran a boarding house. My grandmother lived there while working as a supervisor in a corset factory after she had moved to Chicago from Canada. My grandfather, Joseph Mileham, was a railroad engineer, the equivalent at the time of an airline pilot. My father’s family were farmers and lived 60 miles from Chicago. He and my mother met in Chicago when they were both working at a music company. They had a typical long Depression courtship which included a trip to California by my mother after she lost her mother and brother the same year, 1926.

My growing up was an almost idyllic childhood, although of course it had its moments.

The house I grew up in is shown here.


That photo was taken a few years ago. I took a more recent one a few years ago and the owner of the house, a black guy about 35, came out to see who I was. He insisted on taking me on a tour. He was quite proud of it. He asked if I could send him photos of the house when we lived there. Here are a few more of them.

Now, that neighborhood was the subject of a feature story in the Chicago Tribune today.

In my mind’s eye, the South Shore of my youth was pristine.

With its big old homes and apartments, four grocery stores and doctors’ offices, South Shore had all kinds of residents — laborers, city workers, artists, businessmen and executives — raising their families side by side. A black child in the ’80s could feel insulated from the trappings of urban life. It’s where first lady Michelle Obama called home.

Auburn-Gresham, the Southwest Side neighborhood where I would later attend and graduate from grade school, was no different. My block on South Aberdeen Street felt downright suburban, with boys my age more concerned with riding bikes, watching cable TV and playing video games than engaging in gang conflict.

The blacks are now leaving as it has become a hellhole.

Now a multitude of black residents have called it quits with their hometown, searching for safety and prosperity beyond the city limits — my own friends and family among them.

It’s been a humbling experience watching as those worlds, those communities filled with stable families and businesses, crumble into the dust.

Outsiders and former residents read headlines describing violence on the South Side and wonder what has gone wrong in the largely black neighborhoods. But few discuss the toll that black flight is having on Chicago, long a beacon for progress and employment for African-Americans stretching back to the days of slaughterhouses, steel mills and Pullman porters.

Chicago, the city that had once been home to the most prominent African-Americans, from Joe Louis and Mahalia Jackson to Michael Jordan and Oprah, lost 181,000 black residents just between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Who did this to that neighborhood ? This writer even seems to be figuring out how ridiculous “Black Lives Matter” is.

Anyone paying attention to local crime for the past few years knows that Chicago police, for all their structural defects and insularity, aren’t responsible for the vast majority of the bloodshed that has torn apart families, robbing parents of their children or children of their parents.

But it was a recent shooting of a Dunbar Vocational Career Academy student and the virtual silence about the school’s slain students that made me appreciate just how inconsequential a young black life in Chicago can seem.

No kidding. In the meantime, the BLM thugs are planning riots this summer if Trump is nominated. Good thinking.

8 thoughts on “An update to growing up in Chicago.”

  1. The old rule is that you should “judge the tree by the fruit it produces”.

    Ideas have consequences. At some point, one would hope that point came soon, the people living in these various disintegrating communities will start to understand that intentions, no matter how noble they sound, mean nothing if the actual consequences of their implementation is a disaster, and that disaster is repeated whenever the noble ideas are put into practice by political policies.

    I just read a comment at another venue in which an adage was quoted to the effect that the best way to understand how an organization operates is to assume it has been captured by a cabal of it’s worst enemies.

    I have said many times that the fate of the black population in this country could not have been any worse if the big federal programs designed to help them had, in fact, been designed by the KKK.

    Welfare has destroyed their family structure, the worthless war on drugs has created a Prohibition-like illegal market that is insanely lucrative, but also insanely violent, resulting in untold numbers of young black men either in prison or the cemetery, and the utterly value-free, education-free school system has left millions of all races functionally illiterate, but has decimated the only true route out of poverty for black people, which is a good education that qualifies one for a good job.

    For over a century, the west, and much of the rest of the world, in imitation, have experimented with a bewildering variety of statist, collectivist “visions” for society. One after the other, the dreams have become nightmares of poverty, violence, and desperation.

    As it has been across the globe, so it is in any smaller venue. A thriving midwestern city becomes a violent, collapsing ulcer, from which any ordinary family raising person tries to flee at the first opportunity. Detroit redux.

    I read stories like this, over and over again, about a city, or state, or territory, (read Puerto Rico), or country, as in the current collapsing “socialist paradise” in Venezuela, and all I can do is shake my head, and maybe write another entry at some friendly blog.

    I cling to the hope, for the sake of my own family, as I watch my grandchildren grow, that somehow, someday, this lunacy will be seen for the corrupt charade is actually is, and people in this country, and the world, will rediscover the only true revolution—that of the rights of humans to live their lives free of political repression, according to their own beliefs and talents.

    Ideas do have consequences—and they can take you from horseback to riding a ship to the moon, or they can reduce a prosperous, free people from the most powerful economic entity in history to a bankrupt basket case.

    The choice is ours, and ours alone.

  2. I felt so sorry for the guy who showed me the house. He is obviously trying to live a middle class life and his house is right in the middle of the violent underclass that is destroying it.

    That area was a perfect neighborhood for a middle class situation. There were commuter trains running downtown. It was NOT dependent on the steel mills. The areas that steel workers occupied were further south. When we still lived there, black teens would walk down the alleys behind the houses and vandalize cherry trees in the back yard. My father was attacked on the front porch and they attackers were driven off by the dog when my father got the front door open.

    The lethal situation was the mixture of apartments and single family homes as the apartments began to decline and were occupied by less desirable tenants. My grandparents lived for many years in a large first floor apartment. After the neighborhood began to decline, I assume that apartment was cut up into smaller units.

    I knew a doctor friend who bought and rehabbed some apartment buildings in the anticipation that the area would gentrify but I fear he is losing his investment. The city government is a big part of the problem. The city is bankrupt and the trend will mimic Detroit’s.

  3. If you’re looking for those people, they’re all down here. Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, NYC, L.A. etc. The 75-85 pipeline runs constantly, budget airlines the new Greyhound. Most of the larger properties in the area have had Realtor’s signs on them for years, those that have sold are developed into row house style communities. Almost all empty-nester’s and retiree’s left here. Anyone with school age children and the ability to move, has. Houses here are only twenty years old.

  4. Steve Sailer has roots in Chicago and he often writes about the different outcomes which befell Austin and Oak Park. How did Oak Park manage to keep their informal “black a block” program functioning and free from legal challenge?

  5. Well – aside from the major point of a society that was once built on trust and for many reasons no longer is, once was pleasant and no longer is – I envy that owner the red school house bricks. Our house looked like that when it was built 1941-2, but between rationing and the clay soil here, we seemed to be living in the house of Usher, with large fissures down the front and everywhere else. So, finally, we had to bite the bullet and rebrick it (as most on our street had already done). At least out here in flyover country it is still more a trust society than not (which is good because our front doors aren’t easy to shut let alone lock because of that clay).

  6. “the different outcomes which befell Austin and Oak Park”

    As Veryretired said, the devastating effects of federal housing programs had a lot to do with it.

    One example – after the race riots Congress passed a law to provide federal reinsurance for state insurers to ostensibly cover black home owners. The insurance markets, rightly so, were closing off to inner city real estate.

    This distorted the insurance markets and provided artificially high coverage for run down buildings. Slum lords quickly realized it was more profitable to just torch their buildings and collect insurance. Kickbacks to police and alderman allowed them to keep doing this over and over for years until the neighborhood resembled a war zone.

  7. Another PC trigger warning

    the fate of the black population in this country could not have been any worse if the big federal programs designed to help them had, in fact, been designed by the KKK.

    Well, they were. The party of Wilson, who introduced segregation to the federal government, adopted and expanded the programs which have devastated the black community. This should come as no surprise as the Democrats sought to expand slavery and after losing the Civil War resisted the efforts of Reconstruction to find a way to integrate the newly freed blacks into free society. Jim Crow was not a Republican

    By the 1930’s the blacks abandoned the Republicans who had done little for them since 1866 for the Democrats who promised them free stuff now. Sort of. In small things. The FHA was created in 1935 to subsidize mortgages. It’s mortgage underwriting standards led to redlining. And public housing. Aid to Dependent Children was another Depression era program that led to the destruction of the still vibrant black family. When it came time to end Jim Crow, it was not the Democrats who pushed it through, but the Northern Democrats and Republicans. Former Klan member of the southern delegations were finally overwhelmed.

    The Coleman Report in 1966 foretold the future well but no one had an incentive to pay attention. The blacks were automatic Democrat votes by then. Food Stamps followed. More free stuff. Teachers were given the right to unionize, obliging urban districts to put the union’s interests above the students’. Belief in the American Dream started to erode and the idea of personal responsibility, self-improvement and self-sacrifice were repudiated by the rising new left having successfully eroded the power of the mainline churches, black and white, now in control of the education establishment preaching the new secular religion. The urban machines were thoroughly Democrat and used Community Development Block Grants to keep themselves in business with the help of a Nixon administration that favored benign neglect. The final blow was the eugenic decision in Roe v. Wade which liberated black single mothers from the burden of rearing their illegitimate offspring. State takeover of the numbers games left drugs as the main source of illicit income for young black males. This led to the War on Young Black Males Drugs.

    Republicans, increasingly becoming the party of the south, were loath to follow Kemp to attract black votes. The blacks, their leadership comfortably bought by the Democrats, were loath to threaten the hand that fed them. And they were not able to wait for the second marshmallow, let alone understand why they should. So they fell further and further out of the mainstream.

    The big federal programs were not designed to help blacks in particular. They were designed to help the country as a whole. And to a certain extent they did. But in their actual administration by a Democrat dominated bureaucracy they did not help those who were not part of the mainstream. And blacks were increasingly pushed out of the mainstream in the name of multi-multiculturalism and Black Power. We have come full circle to the point where blacks must be treated as a separate tribe to be housed in their own dorms so they can be protected from the threatening mainstream.

    It reminds me all too much of the pictures of the graduating class of Cairo University in 1960 and 2010. Progress is not assured for anyone.

  8. The fatal decision for cities, especially, was the public employee union. Teachers’ unions wrecked the schools while the municipal unions wrecked the cities.

    Black politics wrecked Detroit in the hands of Coleman Young and Chicago will be next. Los Angeles will be wrecked by the Latino machine.

    I have watched what happened to Chicago, then Los Angeles.

    I drove into the city last night for a surgical society annual dinner I hadn’t attended in a few years. We left Orange County at 4 PM to make a 6:30 cocktail reception and 7 PM dinner. We got there at 7:10. Three hours to go 50 miles on a Friday afternoon.

    There is a reason why intelligent people prefer rural or less dense areas.

    First, they find that people who live in more densely populated areas tend to report less satisfaction with their life overall. “The higher the population density of the immediate environment, the less happy” the survey respondents said they were. Second, they find that the more social interactions with close friends a person has, the greater their self-reported happiness.

    [Yes, money really can buy happiness]

    But there was one big exception. For more intelligent people, these correlations were diminished or even reversed.


Comments are closed.