Back in 1981, before the last mile of Route 66 was on its way to be decommissioned, I remember this album cover and remembering how sad I felt as I watched history disappear.
Growing up on the north side of Chicago and being a ‘city boy’, I always had a thing for history, architecture, and Chicago history and Chicago architecture.
Like a lot of folks, one seems to start having a connection with bands from your home town. We had the Buckinghams, Styx, Chicago, REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Cheap Trick, the Ides of March and many other Chicago area bands. I loved Styx and I loved Chicago and would listen to EVERYTHING they made, even albums out before I was born (OK, there was only one but who is counting…)
I remember the Paradise Theater album in the collection my father had, and I remember just staring at the details in the artwork. I then remember listening to the album as it was about the rise and fall of the Paradise Theater which did actually exist in the city of Chicago, so it was a literal musical biography of this once grand venue.
“The Paradise Theatre was a Balaban and Katz movie palace located in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood. Its address was 231 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago, Illinois 60624. Located near the intersection of West Madison Street and Crawford Avenue (now Pulaski Road) on Chicago’s West Side, it opened on September 14, 1928, and was billed as the world’s most beautiful theater for its stunning interior and exterior beauty. It is regarded as one of the finest designs by architect John Eberson, as the sheer opulence and intricate craftsmanship that went into the theater made it a showpiece in and of itself. Unfortunately, flaws in the design (blamed on the vast domed ceiling in the over 3,600-seat auditorium) were exposed with the advent of talking pictures. Poor acoustics eventually cost the theater its attendance as neighborhood movie-goers would eventually turn to the nearby Marks Brothers showplace, the Marbro Theater. As a result, business at the Paradise never recovered.
The Paradise Theatre’s demise came in 1956, when Balaban and Katz decided to demolish the building and sell the land to a supermarket chain. The theater that was “built to stand forever” almost lived up to that claim: what was estimated to have been a six-month demolition job ended up taking two years.”
I remember looking at the album over and over and just wondering what it was like to see this place all lit up and packed to the rafters with well dressed folks on a “night on the town” at such a majestic place. I then remember flipping the album cover over and seeing the artists rendition of a broken down, ruined, old looking, empty building with ‘Temporarily Closed’ on the marquee. I was 12, and I knew this place would never open again (remember, I was 12 and this place was closed when my parents were children, but it felt more alive to me at that time.)
I was saddened by the fact places like these seem to go away, and not only some folks do not seem to care – they do not know places like this even existed. With my sights on getting through high school and wanting to get a degree in Architecture, I always felt I could do something about not letting this happen again.
Fast forward to 2009, almost 30 years later, this plan has come into reality. When I started Route 66 World – I had no idea preservation would be my passion on Route 66. I was planning on just enjoying it and being one of the many ‘roadies’ who just want to get on the open road and enjoy everything it has to offer.
I always say this and I will continue to say this: Route 66 has enough to do and see for everyone to have there own little slice of what they would like to contribute to the route. I tell everyone I try to do a lot of this with my own time and money and I mean that – I love the route and I wish I could just pack up the SUV and drive it everyday with paint brush and hammer in hand, stopping at places where they could use a hand and some guidance.
Thinking back, I realize you never know what any given impression could have on a child. The trip they didn’t want to take on the route, or to grandma’s or to anywhere they dread going to. One little thing could set their lives on a different path than they ever could have imagined.
For me it was an album cover………