I would like to hear from people their memories of how the mission and use of the Chicago Park District has changed over the decades.
My memories in the 60s of my local park was they had many programs like gymnatisc and craft classes as well as team sports. The huge field house had a large auditorium with a stage and I remember going to shows at Halloween, Christmas, Easter etc.
When the 70s rolled around the neighborhood began to change and gangs became a issue. The park district and the police decided that to discourage gang activity around the park was to remove the basketball rims and lock the field house so that unless you belonged to a team the indoor part of the park was off limits to the neighborhood kids. Kind of ironic, sort of a Catch 22, because when the subject of gangs comes up, it is quite often mentioned that the reason people join gangs is because there are no afterschool programs or activities to keep the young people occupied.
My mother who grew up in the 30s and 40s remembered this same park as being more of a community center. Working men without showers at home would go there to use the shower facilities. Being the depression, many families could not afford toys and my mother said that in addition to ping pong and pool, the park had a game room with board games and a mock supermarket with fake groceries and shopping carts for the kids to play with. In addition I was told the park had a wood shop and train set. Unlike today, many neighborhoods had no library so the park also had a library. I don't know whether the library was run by the park district or whether the park just allowed the Chicago Public library to use the space.
Today I only use the park for swimming during the summer. The park I currently go to has weight equipment, but is only available if you pay a monthly or yearly fee. Other activities I see on the bulletin board also seem to all have fees attached. Don't know whether this is city wide or whether activities are free in poorer neighborhoods.
How did the Park District or city pay for the parks years ago? Where did the money come from, or maybe I should ask with all the fees, where is the money going today.