Does anyone remember raking and burning leaves in Chicago neighborhoods before the practice was banned for environmental reasons?
I remember using open wire baskets which held the leaves while they burned. Everyone on on the block had one.
The smoke filled the air and sometimes only the street lights were visible. But the smell was wonderful-it was Fall. We shoveled the ash into the flower beds.
Speaking of burning stuff, incinerators were common fixtures behind many buildings including the public school across the street. These were 3 sided concrete enclosures about 6 feet high. The school janitors dumped anything and everything into them. Most stuff was probably unfit to burn--especially plastics.
But kids would prowl around there after school poking some still smouldering pile with sticks, sometimes re-igniting a fire. What environmentally incorrect fun!
The burning of leaves along the curb was commonplace in Rogers Pk during the 50s. The aroma was everywhere. In terms of garbage incineration, I believe we had a small concrete unit behind our bungalow along the alley. It was never used and was demolished in the 60s.
The school janitors probably burned plastic and whatever refuse was at hand. The entire population was blissfully ignorant of the dangers of environmental toxins. Many would argue that to be a part of 1950s charm.
my grandfather still did it during the late 60's in the yard. i enjoyed it also! i also remember the CTA wooden salt boxes on the corners they filled with rock salt during late semptember. some people on the block used to use it on the side walks in front of their houses. but i think it was ment to be used to un freeze the rail switches on the green hornet street cars that ran on the main streets and the trolly bus stops. i was raised in a italan hood on the west side. (chicago and rockwell) the smell of pasta sauce was not uncommon year round! but in late september the aroma of fermenting grapes coming from the basements of some houses ment home made wine was being prepared for the holiday seasons.
This is such a wonderful site.... Every post I read is bringing back memories! Yes, my father and I would rake leaves and put them into a sort of metal trash can with holes in it and burn the dried and fallen leaves. (I still have this "holey can" in my basement!) I also remember the cement trash bins facing the alley that almost every yard had in my neighborhood (NW side). There is still one remaining on my block that I took a photo of not too long ago. And on another note... The grammar school I attended (Locke) used to have coal delivered for heating. There were always a few stray hunks of it left after the coal truck had come and delivered and us kids would mark up the sidewalks with it!
1) we burned leaves on our front curb in Chicago during the '60s. Some people would have park district trash cans with the mesh sides for burning their leaves. 2) Peterson School had coal delivered, and, umm, we figured how to get into the coal chute after hours. Came out covered in coal dust.
fleurblue, I have one of those leaf burning baskets in my garage that I got out of a time capsule one-owner 1920 Bungalow in Portage Park a few years ago! I will have to take a picture of it and post it here!
Although not used in years, my parish this past Fall dismantled the incinerator, althought they left the at least 100 ft smokestack. As schoolchildren and scouts, we used to dump the trash in the incinerator and the caretaker would usually burn the weeks trash on Friday nights.
In its place are a combination of carts and the big private dumpsters.
Does anybody know whether these incinerators were outlawed. If so, were the reasons safety, insurance or enviromental concerns?
I think the main reason was environmental. If my memory serves me correctly, I think the schools gradually switched over their various systems in order to burn cleaner - think of the days of the coal burning furnaces! My dad was a fireman/engineer in the Chicago Public Schools and he used to burn tons of trash in the incinerators. He found many interesting items in there, such as books that were perfectly good and one time, a doll that he brought home to me. When I would go to work with him on Saturdays, he would show me around the boiler room and I saw the incinerator lots of times - it always had loads of 'stuff' ready to be burned (especially at the end of the school year).
I also remember burning the leaves, in the Ravenswood manor area. My dad always told me to be careful and not get it to close to the cars- or they would catch on fire and explode.??? I remember the fires always would be too close to the parked cars.
But the smell when everyone on the block was burning them was a great memory
Growing up, I was the oldest of four girls and we would all compete for my father's attention by trying to do outdoor chores. When I was about 12, my parents asked me to rake some leaves in the back yard (we had a few weeping willows, so there were plenty). After raking them, I thought I'd "help" my father by burning them too. I made a huge pile (about 4 feet at least) and lit the match and POOF! It lit so fast, I had to run backwards toward the house and all I could do was watch the damage. My parents of course ran outside and my father started yelling and grabbed the hose. Unfortunately, I had failed to take note of my parent's Chrysler, which was pulled in the back drive, right next to the big pile-o-leaves. The paint literally melted off one side of the car! My father raked from that point on!
Kgamb, that is truly one heck of a burning leaves story. Things could have really gotten out of control with the fire spreading further. I guess the ban on burning leaves was a good idea!
We had a kid in the neighborhood who showed an unusual interest in the burning leaf baskets. He would sort of jump around and shout while he watched. Years later, he was suspected and then caught setting garage fires.
fleurblue, ha ha. Yes, luckily my father was able to extinguish it before it destroyed anything else. Unlike the neighborhood kid you mention, I've thankfully moved beyond my leaf-burning fiasco to more exciting fires (namely, the "poots" which frequently escape my toddler's bum). Unfortunately, the new fires don't quite have the same fall scent.
These are some great anecdotes; thank you all for these wonderful memories! Fall in the neighborhood was magic! This whole forum is a great meeting place for such exercises in nostalgia. Chicago really was a marvelous city to grow up in. Of course, it has had and still does have its ugly side, as do all major cities, but Once a Chicagoan, always a Chicagoan!