Chicago Park District Change in Programs and Services Over the Years
Chicago Park District Change in Programs and Services Over the Years
Posted by: Kchi (
Date: March 24, 2013 04:39PM

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.

Re: Chicago Park District Change in Programs and Services Over the Years
Posted by: Mary Rosz (
Date: April 06, 2013 04:21PM

I grew up playing in the park buildings as my dad was a park supervisor.
They had all kinds of classes going on constantly and it did not cost anything except for team sports. Wood crafts you had to bring your own wood but they provided sandpaper, glue, nails or what ever. Years later there was a nightly fee and one had to bring ALL your own supplies, but they still had the equipment for you to use. Went back recently and everything was locked up so I thought it was some kind of holiday. They sold the baseball fields and there are now condos there ( always thought they could not sell district property just like the forest preserves but then Daly could close down an airport-so there)

Re: Chicago Park District Change in Programs and Services Over the Years
Posted by: b.a.hoarder (
Date: April 07, 2013 12:31AM

Well I guess I have a different take on things having grown up in the 23rd Ward. We had Normandy Park which was about 2/3rds of a city block with a couple outside basketball hoops and being a tight lot there were only two backstops, cross-corner from each other. The field house was single story, small and had a minimum of equipment, at least back in the late '50's early '60's. It might be better now. Normandy was the closest to my house with Wentworth Park being next. Wentworth was bigger by a long shot, but on the other hand it did not have a field house, only a very small brick, garage type structure housing trash receptacles, shovels and the like and there was no park supervisor. Landscaping, trees for example, was practically non existent just like at Normandy. To this day it has no field house and even BITD as a youth I compared our lack of facilities to some of the palatial field houses in other areas of the city. The homeowners in the 23rd could be relied on by Daley to keep their mouths shut and pay their RE taxes and that pretty much reflects the benefits they received. We lived on 54th & Rutherford and actually I remember much more in the way of summer programs at Byrne School on 53rd. Mr. Pilch was the gym teacher and each summer local teens were hired to act as playground supervisors all courtesy of the Chicago Public Schools. If it wasn't for that we wouldn't have had much of anything.

Re: Chicago Park District Change in Programs and Services Over the Years
Posted by: celticjunker1 (
Date: April 13, 2013 08:25PM

Everything in life I needed to know, I learned at a Chgo Park Dist. Fieldhouse. I and my six siblings spent part of most everyday there. Between tap, ballet, sewing, wood shop and gymnastics, there was barely enough time to hang out in the game/locker room where board games, chess and checkers were available by asking Miss Fritz, the park supv., at the counter, for the game of your choice. Summer was daily, all-day day camp where besides learning tennis, knot tying and the usual camp fare we went to a neighboring park for indoor swimming. The field trips to Enchanted Forest and Deer Forest were the highlight of my summer. Winter was ice-skating every day after school and all weekend long. A huge part of the park was frozen over by maintaince men (I have no idea how they made it so smooth) and kept up daily. That's when the "little fieldhouse" opened up for warming up frozen feet and fingers. In all those years I don't recall anything bad happening to myself or anyone. I still remember most of the names of my instructors.

Re: Chicago Park District Change in Programs and Services Over the Years
Posted by: Mornac (
Date: April 14, 2013 12:35AM

Boy, the Park District was a real winner in my neighborhood. They operated out of Senn High School and they had myriad after school programs. Me and my brother did arts and crafts for couple of years until we started delivering newspapers after school. My sister and her friends did tumbling. They had an expansive gym and there was plenty of basketball, volleyball, karate, etc. At Halloween there was a big party in the gym with games, prizes, and goodies. One year I won first prize for a papier mache mask that I made in arts and crafts (It was a box of pastel oil crayons). The pool was scheduled for the Park District in the evenings and throughout the summer. Most of my friends and I learned how to swim there on Wednesday evenings during the winter (boy’s night). In the summer there was also Day Camp with games, crafts, baseball, and field trips. All that stuff was well worth the property tax that people paid. It doesn’t compare at all with the weak Park District programs of today where you get charged an arm and a leg just for the privilege of being there.

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