Leaning Tower Bells in Niles

 

 

The Leaning Tower of Pisa SB.jpeg    Leaning Tower of Pisa  Wikipedia

 

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Leaning Tower bells in Niles, Illinois are survivors.  Some might be among oldest in U.S.
Construction of the Leaning Tower of Niles, Illinois,  a half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. was begun in 1932. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune ) This bell, one of five located inside the Leaning Tower of Niles, is believed to date to 18th-century Italy. (Chicago Bell Advocates photo)
By Jennifer Johnson Pioneer Press, Chicago Tribune, `10.11.17

Image result for leaning tower of lincolnwood photo  Leaning Tower of Niles
High inside the iconic Leaning Tower of Niles are remnants of another time and place.
Five bronze bells, three bearing religious motifs and Latin inscriptions, wait to ring again. The writing on the Latin-inscribed bells suggests their ages.
One dates back nearly 400 years.
If their ages can indeed be proved, they could very well be among the oldest church bells hanging in the United States — and the rarest, according to Kim Schafer, founder of Chicago Bell Advocates, an organization dedicated to helping owners of tower bells restore and maintain them.
“If you go to Mexico, which was a colony of Spain dating back much longer and had a strong Catholic tradition, you will find bells as old or even older. But in the United States, it’s much rarer,” Schafer said.
But where did they come from? And how did they get to Niles?
Schafer and her organization are helping to unravel the origins of the bells as the village of Niles continues its renovation of the Leaning Tower, a half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which has stood along Touhy Avenue since the 1930s.
Niles Mayor Andrew Przybylo said restoring the bells so they can ring once again is a goal.
“Maybe by adding one or two more we could create enough tones, enough notes to chime out some music,” he said. “If we do a celebration at the base for some holiday, maybe there’s a way to chime out some music.”
According to the book “The History of Niles, Illinois,” written by Dorothy C. Tyse and published in 1974 to mark the village’s 75th anniversary, construction of the 94-foot-tall Leaning Tower of Niles began in 1932 and was undertaken by businessman Robert Ilg as a way to conceal a water tank that supplied spring water for two outdoor pools on the site.
When the tower was completed two years later, Ilg “dedicated it to the memory of Galileo,” who demonstrated that objects of different weights fall at the same speed when he dropped various items from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Tyse’s book said.
At the time, the property on which the tower stood was a park for employees of Ilg’s electric ventilating company. Later, Ilg would leave the tower — and the land surrounding it — to the YMCA, with the stipulation that it remain standing until 2059 and an average of $500 be spent on maintenance annually, the Chicago Tribune reported.
This summer, the village of Niles took over ownership of the tower after years of leasing it from the Leaning Tower YMCA and paying to maintain it, said Przybylo. The cost of the purchase was $10.
Following previous studies that determined extensive repairs to the tower were required, the village began rehabilitation work. So far, approximately $750,000 worth of repair and restoration of the tower’s exterior has been completed, said Mary Anderson, director of public works for the village of Niles. This work does not include restoration of the bells or replacing existing railings around the tower’s exterior, she said.
It was the potential historic nature of the bells that came to light during the tower renovations, said Bernie DiMeo, spokesman for the Leaning Tower rehabilitation project.
Przybylo said little had been said about the bells during his political career with the village, which dates back nearly 30 years.
“I don’t remember anybody highlighting the bells,” he said. “They were a treasure we didn’t know we had.”
A report from Chicago Bell Advocates, completed at the request of the village of Niles, found that three bells, dated 1623, 1735 and 1747, were each cast in Italy, and that at least one of them likely hung in a church in Cavezzo, a town about 150 miles northeast from Pisa.
“Chicago Bell Advocates has no reason to doubt at this time that the three Italian bells are authentic and date from the 17th and 18th centuries,” the report reads.
Each bell features Catholic imagery: A crucifix. Madonna and child. Faces of cherubs. A grape vine. The oldest bell is inscribed, in Latin, with a line from a Catholic prayer in devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus: “Ave, Maria, full of grace, the Lord be with you.”
A fourth bell, according to the report, is dated 1912, and appears to have been created at a foundry in San Francisco. It bears a leaf pattern and an inscription in Italian that includes the word “Vespruccio,” which, according to the research report, is the name of one of the bells in the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Robert Ilg lived in San Francisco as a young man, according to “The History of Niles, Illinois.”
The fifth bell in the tower is undated and cracked, though it can be repaired to ring again, the report says.
Since the report was compiled, Chicago Bell Advocates spoke with a researcher in Cavezzo, Italy, who found that church bells in Cavezzo were sold to a foundry in Milan in the 1930s in order to be recast for new bells, Schafer said. That was right around the time the Leaning Tower’s bells arrived in Niles, so Schafer believes it is entirely possible that instead of recasting, the bells were sold — and are as old as their dates say.
“I think they just sold them to Ilg or some middle man who then sold them to Ilg,” Schafer said.
But details of the acquisition to confirm Schafer’s theory have not yet been found.
“We have been trying to uncover that story, and it’s unclear how the connection was made between Robert Ilg and this foundry,” Schafer said. “That’s a mystery we will hopefully one day be able to uncover.”
Chicago Bell Advocates also recovered written correspondence between a Cavezzo church and the foundry, but they require translation, Schafer said.
While a process called a metallurgical analysis can help “narrow down the ages of the bells,” the method is not foolproof, Schafer said. The Chicago Bell Advocates report indicates that there are several opportunities for additional research, including searching records of the United States Customs Service, which can found in the National Archives, and conducting research within the community of Cavezzo.
Chicago Bell Advocates has not been contracted for additional studies at this time, and the organization is currently advising the village on how to remount the bells and get them ringing again, as they are not currently operational, Schafer said.
It is unclear when the bells last sounded, but newspaper reports from the last several decades seem to indicate that hearing the bells was not a common event.
In October 1958, the Chicago Tribune reported that the bells rang for the first time in 15 years to celebrate $54,000 raised by YMCA workers for renovation work inside the tower and construction of an athletic field, ice skating rink and camping area on the grounds, which was the headquarters of the Skokie Valley YMCA.
In November 1963, special note was made of the ringing of the bells when ground was broken for new YMCA facilities, including the construction of residential accommodations, which still exist, the Tribune reported.
Anderson, the village’s public works director, said she has heard the sounds of the functioning bells, describing them as having a “decent tone.”
“We were really excited when Chicago Bell Advocates started working on this for us,” she said. “It’s a very cool piece of history in Niles.”
Once the current tower renovation is complete, it will be available for visitors to explore, Przybylo indicated.
“The plan is to clean it up, turn (the first floor)] into a visiting center where people can be told the story of the tower and bells before they proceed up the stairs,” Przybylo said.
He added that the hope is to allow groups to climb the tower by next spring or summer, with a goal of the tower securing a place on the National Registry of Historic Places.
“It’s part of our brand,” Przybylo said of the Leaning Tower. “Our brand and our village logo is the Leaning Tower. A lot of people know about it.”
jjohnson@pioneerlocal.com
Twitter @Jen_Tribune

Singing “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Some notes:

The music is difficult.  In most elementary schools, the 5th grade classes and older sing it every morning, but in my fourth grade class we sang “My Country Tis of Thee” instead.

Even professional singers get the last line wrong, adding a note, maybe on purpose:             ba-an-ner yet wave.  Then they end on  a (more dramatic?) high note, rather than the middle note as written.

The country singers make the formal music into a broken-heart piece!

I was moved when Aretha Franklin gave the anthem a thrilling Black sound at the Democratic National Convention of 1968. You can see and hear Franklin doing the song on Youtube.com

Recently the cantor of my synagogue, a White Sox fan,  sang the anthem beautifully, in his powerful baritone voice before a Sox game, the second time he’d been invited to do this.  We went to the park for his first performance.  A cantor, or hazzan, is a trained singer and expert on Jewish ritual music.  Before the recent performance, I told him it was nice to expect a straight rendition of the song.

A few days ago, a girl, maybe 16 years old, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a ballgame I was waiting to watch.  She got the words tangled up but finished as well as she could.  Surely she felt bad about this failure, and  I wish I could have told her that even professionals had had the same problem, that she should be proud she had not broken up and run off the field.  She finished the job.

The words were written in 1814 just after a failed attack on Baltimore by the British in the War of 1812.  They were applied to the melody of a well-known drinking song.

While the song was widely approved and performed, it did not become the official “national anthem” until adopted in Congress in 1931, just before I was born.

In a well-done episode of “On the Media I learned that the 3rd stanza of the song has been challenged as “racist”–take a look below.  The fact is that British ships were manned by mercenaries working for pay and slaves fighting for the reward of individual freedom if they survived. You can hear that show in the Chicago area on WBEZ 91.5 fml.  On the Media, too, was the observation that we have a history of using the flag in making legal demonstrations.

Federal law includes rules for handling the flag but provides no penalties for violation.

One rule is The flag should never be used as wearing apparel. Several years the Under Armour company arranged for the Northwestern U . football team to wear special uniforms incorporating the flag.  I sent a complaint to the Director of something or other at the University who was unimpressed.

RJN

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave![27]

Cover of sheet music for “The Star-Spangled Banner”, transcribed for piano by Ch. Voss, Philadelphia: G. Andre & Co., 1862

 

 

Inside German Bomber

 

An Inside Look at the Germans’ Deadly Bomber

Cutaway diagram shows a German Gotha bomber.CreditB. Corvinus/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Aug. 9, 1917

Awful though it was, some good came of a German air raid on London in July 1917. Twenty-two Gotha bombers had flown in for the attack, but only 19 returned, Prime Minister David Lloyd George told a secret session of the House of Commons a few days later. The incursion had not been made with impunity, he said.

“A stalwart American fighter now in active service at the American camp ‘somewhere in France.’” (Censors would permit no more specific identification.)CreditThe New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Aug. 9, 1917

The downing of the bombers allowed an artist working for The Times Mid-Week Pictorial to render the airplanes’ general structure and arrangements in a cutaway diagram, including the racks and chutes in which 14 60-pound bombs were carried over the target, and the bombardier’s sighting window on the underside of the fuselage. The diagram also showed the biplane’s 260-horsepower Mercedes engines, manufactured by Daimler Motors.

(This was the month in which King George V restyled the British royal family as the House of Windsor, and dropped the names Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, for fairly obvious reasons.)

More at Source

The 4th–Family Fun? in Skokie

My dad’s siblings who lived locally gathered at our house for holidays, along with my mother’s brother  and his wife.   My cousin Marjorie much later remembered these celebrations as command performances. Lots of work for my mother, though my aunts helped with the clean-up.

 

I think Tom and I enjoyed playing with Marjorie and her sister Libbie or just talking when we were older.

Sometimes there were family fire-works, like the quarrel Uncles Mike and George had over how much liquor should go into the punch they were concocting.

One year, there were actual fireworks when one uncle brought them to fire off in our yard which was large because it included three vacant lots that we mowed for a playground.

Dad was very anxious over safety. The rule against swimming in Lake Michigan was violated often when we children learned to drive.  There never was a BB gun in the house, though pocket knives were OK.

Fireworks in the yard was unthinkable!  And unnecessary because we could watch the public display in the nearby park from our front stoop.

Dad was angry when he saw that an uncle had brought fireworks and became furious when Uncle Mike (probably)  ignored Dad’s order to put them away. Now we’ve got Dad shouting, uncles laughing,  firecrackers popping, and rockets zipping here and there over the ground.  I don’t remember and can’t imagine how all this entertainment ended.

Surely, we were all back together again for Thanksgiving when the issue was dull knives and Dad showed his persistence with a questionablre idea, no uncles involved.

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Wilmette’s  fireworks show is held at the water-front park about 3/4 mile from our house; the rockets are fired from barges out on the lake.  Without the noble trees here, we’d be able to see them.

Yesterday, I heard a journalist say on the radio that she does not attend fireworks displays, said, “I’ve been in too many war zones.”

As the booming and swishing and cracking started this evening over families gathered to share the excitement of the show, I thought of her and the enormous number of people trying to live in war zones for whom these sounds are terrifying

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And then I remembered that during our Civil War civilians did  pack a lunch and go to a battlefield for entertainment.  Some packed a wagon with food to sell.  Pictures exist showing civilians on high ground observing the slaughter and even mixing with the troops down below.

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One Fourth of July evening I had a window seat on a plane flying over the U.S. From?  To? I remember nothing about the trip except the fireworks.  It seemed that all the little towns below had fireworks shows.  Their colorful explosions looked to me like flowers that continually burst from the ground, grew, and faded,

RJN

 

 

 

 

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BLACK HOLE NEWS

More Gravitational Waves Detected

LISTEN:  source          Science in Action

 

The first detection of gravitational waves, announced February 2016, was a milestone in physics and astronomy, it was quickly followed by another find. Now teams working on the LIGO detector have just announcedtheir third new detection. Gravitational waves are ‘ripples’ in the fabric of space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the Universe. All three signals are thought to be caused by two black holes merging. This time the spin might give clues as to where the original stars formed.

Safer Gold Extraction
Many gold mines separate the precious metal dust from the rock using toxic substances like cyanide and mercury, but scientists at the University of Leicester have used rock samples from a gold mine in Scotland to prove they can do the job a different way, using a mixture of vitamin B4 and urea.

Genetics of Ancient Egyptian Mummies
Ancient Egyptian mummies give up their genetic secrets. Mitochondrial DNA from mummified remains show how much ancient Egyptians interbred with populations from Asia, Africa and Europe.

 

Sex and the Constitution

 

I heard the author of this book on the radio.  He said that at the time the Constitution was written most Americans were not religious, certainly not the writers.   RJN

 SEX AND THE CONSTITUTION by Geoffrey R. Stone

SEX AND THE CONSTITUTION

Sex, Religion, and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century

KIRKUS REVIEW                     

Sexual expression, obscenity, contraception, and abortion are the focus of this wide-ranging legal, political, and social history.

Stone (Law/Univ. of Chicago; Speaking Out!: Reflections on Law, Liberty and Justice, 2010, etc.), a constitutional scholar whose previous books include an award-winning history of free speech, offers a broad, fascinating overview of the nation’s shifting, often incendiary, attitudes toward sexuality and the impact of those attitudes on politics and law. Colonists “clearly and emphatically rejected” Puritans’ repressive views about sex, and the country’s founders, Stone asserts, had no interest in regulating sexuality nor in promoting Christianity. Most were “broad-minded skeptics who viewed religious passion as divisive and irrational, and who consistently challenged, both publicly and privately, traditional Christian dogma.” The claim that America is a “Christian nation” originated in the Second Great Awakening, which swept the country from the 1790s to the 1840s. At a time of unsettling social change, “charismatic preachers” excited religious passions that infused “politics, culture, education, relations between the sexes, attitudes about sex,” and, most significantly, views on the relationship between religion and government. Believing sex to be sinful, evangelicals mounted a campaign against masturbation and contraception; without fear of pregnancy, they claimed, women’s inherent lasciviousness would be uncontrollable. After the Civil War, those ideas were taken up by Anthony Comstock, who policed sexuality with unabated vigor, specifically the dissemination of obscene material through the postal service; obscenity laws persisted even after his death in 1915. In the 1970s, Protestant fundamentalists incited a third awakening, embraced by the Republican Party that coveted the voting power of the Moral Majority. Stone enlivens his narrative with deft portraits of the many judges involved in cases on obscenity, contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Some Supreme Court justices, appointed to uphold the views of the Christian right, disappointed their constituencies. The author applauds decisions that reflect the “protection of human dignity and equality” and believes, maybe too optimistically, that religious groups are now “on the defensive.”

A compelling history of a nation grappling with the moral and legal freedoms that the founders strived to ensure.

so

Biggest Dinosaur Footprints Found

March 27     source
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Where can you see dinosaur tracks in the U.S. ?
http://dinosaurstop.com/listings-by-state/
Search on DINOSAUR TRACKS yields information for various sites around the country.
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More than 100 million years ago, on a muddy stretch of land that is now Australia, nearly two-dozen species of dinosaur once roamed.

There were duck-billed ornithopods, which left long, three-toed tracks in their wake. Heavy armored dinosaurs pressed large, tulip-shaped prints into the soil. Predators scratched the ground with their talons. And the feet of gigantic, long-necked sauropods created bathtub-sized depressions in the dirt.

Asteroids struck, continents moved, sea levels rose and fell. What was once a damp, forested environment surrounded by shallow seas became the hot, rugged coastline of northwestern Australia.

But the dinosaurs’ tracks remained. The footprint assemblage, which contains evidence of 21 species, is the most diverse in the world, researchers reported Friday in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

One of those tracks is the largest dinosaur print ever recorded: a 5-foot-9-inch print from a sauropod, or long-necked dinosaur. The tracks also provide the first evidence that spiky tailed stegosaurs lived in the land down under.

“The tracks provide a snapshot, a census if you will, of an extremely diverse dinosaur fauna,” lead author Steve Salisbury, a paleontologist at the University of Queensland, told Gizmodo. “Twenty-one different types of dinosaurs all living together at the same time in the same area. We have never seen this level of diversity before, anywhere in the world. It’s the Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti. And it’s written in stone.”

There are thousands of marks along the 15-mile stretch of coastline, called Walmadany by the indigenous Goolarabooloo people and labeled James Price Point on most maps. Salisbury likened the region to “Australia’s own ‘Jurassic Park.’ ”

The Goolarabooloo have known about the fossil trackways for millennia. The massive markings, which are visible only at low tide, are featured in Goolarabooloo oral histories, or “song cycles,” Salisbury told the BBC.

“They relate to a creation mythology, and specifically the tracks show the journey of a creation being called Marala — the emu man. Wherever he went he left behind three-toed tracks that now we recognize as the tracks of meat-eating dinosaurs,” he said.

In 2008, Walmadany was selected as the preferred site for a natural gas plant. Worried that the sacred and scientifically significant site would be lost, the Goolarabooloo reached out to paleontologists and asked them to look into the tracks.

“We needed the world to see what was at stake,” Goolarabooloo leader Phillip Roe said in a statement.

The area was listed as a natural heritage site in 2011, and plans for the natural gas plant fell apart two years later.

Working alongside the Goolarabooloo, who are considered the region’s “traditional custodians,” Salisbury and his colleagues spent 400 hours investigating the markings. Each one was measured with three-dimensional photogrammetry, a technique used to build a 3-D reconstruction of an object by taking photographs from a variety of angles. For some tracks, the scientists also made casts out of flexible silicon, which can later be used to produce museum replicas of the prints.

According to Salisbury, most other Australian dinosaur fossils come from the continent’s eastern side and date back to the mid-Cretaceous, about 90 to 115 million years ago. These tracks, which are between 127 and 144 million years old, represent the only fossil evidence from the early Cretaceous and are some of the oldest dinosaur remains in Australia, he said.

 

Max Schmeling, Big Good Guy

 

Max-schmeling.jpg Image result for hitler photosImage result for joe louis photos

Hitler came to power in Germany and started rounding up gays, Roma (Gypsies), people of color,  handicapped people, and millions of Jews to be loaded into cattle cars and shipped to their deaths; all with the support of thousands of Germans who attended his rallies and cheered as he ranted, Deutschland uber alles, “ Germany first.

That’s about the time I was born in the 1930’s.  A time when prize-fighting was very popular in the U.S. and Europe and the Olympics were held in Berlin.

Hitler expected the black Americans to fail in the Games and the white Germans to prevail. Wrong!  And he expected the German champion heavyweight fighter, Max Schmeling, to beat the young black American.  Well, he was right the first time–Schmeling knocked out Joe Louis in the 12th round of their first fight.  Two years later, Louis hammered Schmeling  unconscious in the first 124 seconds of the fight.

Schmeling had been thought to be a stooge of Hitler.  In fact he didn’t like the Nazis, resisted their pressure to fire his Jewish manager, and he risked life hiding two Jewish boys on Kristalnacht.

(On Kristalnacht, Night of Broken Glass, Nazi thugs ravaged Jewish neighborhoods.  My Rabbi saw his father beaten in the street that night.)

Louis volunteered for the U.S. Army and Schmeling was drafted into the German forces.  Disabled by a  battle-wound, he visited American P.O.W. camps in Germany, boxed in exhibition bouts, and occasionally tried to help conditions for the prisoners.

What interests me here is that after the War, Max and Joe spoke often on the phone and became friends !  When Max visited Joe in Chicago in 1954, they shared regret that publicity over the years had made them appear to be bitter enemies.

Image result for schmeling and louis

 

Schmeling became rich in the Coca Cola business and with others helped to support Joe Louis who never saw most of the  $4.6 million he earned fighting. Louis worked for awhile as a greeter at  Caesar’s Palace, a Las Vegas casino, even tried pro wrestling to earn his living.

Max gave money to Joe’s widow when he died.

Though Max had always asked him to avoid talking about the event, Henri Lewin, the president of the Sands Hotel, made this statement at a dinner in 1989:

“Beginning on Nov. 9, 1938, for four days, Max Schmeling hid my brother and me in his Berlin apartment. That was the night known now as ‘the Crystal Night,’   when the Gestapo began picking up all Jews off the streets”.

“Max Schmeling risked everything he had for us. If we had been found in his apartment, I would not be here this evening and neither would Max. And that, friends, is the kind of champion Max Schmeling is.”

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http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/es/prensa/2005-prensa/max-schmeling-joe-louis-s/    Detailed article followed Schmeling’s death in 2005 at age 99.  “Above all, Max Schmeling was much appreciated inside and outside Germany as a human being and private person.”

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Louis_vs._Max_Schmeling#Louis.E2.80.93Schmeling_paradox   The two fights with background information.

http://www.espn.com/boxing/story/_/id/9404398/more-just-fight                     It was … the fight’s cultural, racial and political ramifications that set it apart and led historian Bert Sugar to label it “The greatest sporting event of the 20th century.”

http://articles.latimes.com/1989-12-23/sports/sp-588_1_max-schmeling      “An old friend recalls how the former champion saved his life by outwitting the Gestapo”

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristallnacht  ” . . .  pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and German civilians.”

 

http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/7-historical-odd-couples  ” . . . they formed an enduring friendship that lasted the rest of their lives.”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LNzWHuygpw VIDEO First round knockout  VIDEO of 128-second 2nd fight.  Warning:  it’s brutal.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSaXM0vZrws   VIDEO  “Great Documentary about the lives and fights between Max Schmeling and Joe Louis!”

Max Schmeling, Max Schmeling an Autobiography. 1998, Bonus Books. German edition, 1977. Lots of photos.                                                                           Reviewer doubts distance between himself and Hitler and Nazis that  Schmeling claims,  http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-56625-108-2

 

 

 

 

RJN

 

 

City Stable Closing

Image result for horse carriage chicago photo
As Old Town stable faces demolition, carriage owners see tenuous future
Elyssa CherneyContact Reporter  Chicago Tribune  12.9.16

The sprawling, two-story stable that sits in the middle of a residential block in Old Town has overcome its share of hurdles.

Since debuting as a riding school in 1871, the red-brick building has survived multiple bankrupted owners, a business license debacle, a horse heist by a former employee and two fires — the most recent was ruled arson.

But the Noble Horse Theatre, regarded as Chicago’s last original stable, may finally meet its end when a developer seeks approval Thursday to erect a seven-story apartment building in its place.

The likely demolition of Noble Horse represents the latest blow to an already beleaguered industry, business owners said. In addition to rising property prices, the horse carriage companies grapple with a number of challenges in Chicago, they said, including restrictions on carriage stand locations and a rush-hour ban.

“It’s hard to see that the city, and society in general, no longer values the entertainment, the contribution and the amazingness of horses,” said Wendy Burtt, Antique Coach & Carriage, one of two companies that housed animals and equipment at Noble Horse until this past spring. “It’s the history of the building that’s so amazing.”

Across from the Brown Line “L” tracks, trash, leaves and stale horse pellets littered the stable grounds Thursday. A gap in the metal fence around the property allowed access to the multibuilding campus, where insulation hung from the ceilings and the walls peeled. Neon spray-painted graffiti was scribbled in a dark hallway that led to a riding arena.

LG Development Group is seeking a zoning change to construct a 252-unit complex at the intersections of North Orleans, West Schiller and North Sedgewick streets and is scheduled to appear before the Chicago Plan Commission next week. LG Development did not respond to a request for comment.

Now Antique Coach and the second business that used the space, Great Lakes Horse & Carriage, have been forced to find lodging elsewhere. Burtt relocated to a warehouse in Lincoln Park, converting it to a stable. Jim Rogers, owner of Great Lakes, said he trucks his horses in from northwest Indiana.

“We are victims of gentrification just like every other small business,” said Burtt, spokeswoman and driver for Antique Coach. “We’re a dying industry. At some point, real estate will be out of our financial reach.”

The 1-acre lot that Noble Horse occupies was worth $500,000 in 1991, according to the Cook County recorder of deeds. In April, when it was sold for development purposes, the land went for at least $7.8 million, records show.

For some Old Town residents, Noble Horse Theatre is a relic of how the neighborhood was in the 1990s before — as one woman walking her dog put it — “it was all fancy with condos.”

Maurice Simpson, 53, who has lived nearby since the 1960s, said he never went inside the stable but is sad to see it go. One of his friends rented a carriage for his wedding eight years ago, Simpson said.

“I’m against any sort of demolition in the old neighborhood,” he said. “But we are undergoing massive changes. Some people don’t see the [stable] as necessary.”

Some younger residents who were newer to the area weren’t familiar with the property and wondered about its purpose. After learning about Noble Horse from a Chicago Tribune reporter, Allison Hammer, a 31-year-old nurse, said she would have been curious to know more.

“Historical landmarks are an important part of preserving the city,” said Hammer, who’s lived in Old Town for three years.

The carriage operators have mixed reactions about the fate of Noble Horse. Burtt will mourn the loss of a city gem. Rogers, however, is more concerned with practicalities.

Rogers said he got six months’ notice to vacate but has struggled finding another affordable space to rent where landlords don’t mind livestock. In his 20 years of running the company, Rogers said, he’s relocated at least eight times. He operates three horse-drawn carriages in the city.

“It was extremely inconvenient, but it’s just like another change of address,” he said. “It’s a great place, and it’s too bad.”

Burtt and Ortega, who run 10 carriages each, said their operations are too large to transport by truck. They need to house the horses close to downtown so the animals can walk to Michigan Avenue, where throngs of eager tourists make up the heart of their profits.

Ortega, whose stable is in an industrial area at North Kingsbury and West Willow streets, was among the first to rent stable space at Noble Horse in 1981. That was when the property straddled the troubled Cabrini-Green housing project and gunshots frequently rang out, recalled Ortega.

“When I started there, it was dirt poor,” he said. “There were shootings there in the middle of the street, and the neighbors were happy we moved onto the street because we brought some civility and they felt they could come out at night.”

Dan Sampson, who used to run the city’s largest carriage company, operated the Noble Horse then. He took it over in 1984 and revived the stable over 25 years, offering riding lessons, the carriage service and eventually a dinner-show production. He also pushed a $2.5 million renovation, adding 300 seats to the arena in 2003.

But Sampson also faced adversity. The stable was nearly bankrupt in 1991, a real estate company threatened to bulldoze it in 1997 and a fire ravaged the interior in the same year.

As Sampson built the business, the neighborhood changed. Cabrini Green shuttered for good in 2011. Gentrification continued as swanky restaurants popped up, and The Second City comedy club attracted an artsy crowd to settle nearby, though the 2008 economic crisis stalled some of the development.

At its height in the ’80s and ’90s, there were 60 horse-drawn carriages clopping the streets of downtown — compared with the 23 in use now. Though the current companies have converted some spaces to serve as stables, they say the Noble Horse building is the last standing stable originally built for that purpose.

By 2009, Sampson could not sustain his carriage and dinner-show business, blaming the city’s regulations for a hand in its demise. Afterward, Burtt and Rogers rented space from the property owner, real-estate developer Sheldon Baskin.

The most recent blaze in February, which damaged 13 horse-drawn carriages, appears to have been set by animal rights extremists, according to the FBI. Graffiti typically associated with that movement — spray-painted messages of “Save the horses” and “freedom” — was discovered in the barn, said the FBI, which is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Burtt said the industry can’t afford to fight the Noble Horse closure and said she had to emotionally detach from the property. She filmed as the last horse rode out of the barn for the final time April 1, chronicling what she calls the end of an era.

“There are kids in the city who will never have contact with horses like ours if we’re gone,” Burtt said. “Tourism in Chicago is a No. 1 industry, and we bring a very important aspect to the tourism industry, but they are forgetting about us … We’re not big business companies, we’re not corporate finance. We’re just small people trying to do our thing.”

Those Big Boxes

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The Shipping Container    LISTEN at source  (9 minutes)

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Shipping goods around the world was – for many centuries – expensive, risky and time-consuming. But 60 years ago the trucking entrepreneur Malcolm McLean changed all that by selling the idea of container shipping to the US military. Against huge odds he managed to turn “containerisation” from a seemingly impractical idea into a massive industry – one that slashed the cost of transporting goods internationally and provoked a boom in global trade.

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