Sunday, April 17, 2011

LEFT INSIDE: U of I Gym Locker Receipt

One of the bonuses of this ephemera collection of mine is learning about Chicago's past when I go to write about some of the more interesting things I find left inside my books. Today's item prompted me to find out more about a gym that apparently was located at the now refurbished tourist playground known as Navy Pier. These days it's the home of the giant Ferris Wheel, several shops and restaurants, and the amazing Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Back in the day Navy Pier had an entirely different purpose than entertaining the masses.

Here's what I found in one of my old mystery books. (click on the images for full size)

On the reverse: young, good man Brown scrawled a memo about two books of decidedly different content.

Note that while young Mr. Brown got the author for Forever Amber correct he messed up on Studs Lonigan's creator.  It's James Farrell, not James Jones who wrote From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line among other books dealing with World War 2 and its aftermath. It's this error of Brown's that can easily date this slip of paper at least to the early 1950s when Jones was a bestselling author and the famed movie version of From Here to Eternity was extremely popular.  It may be from the mid 1950s, but I doubt it's from the 1960s.

A diligent Google search (using the correct combination of search terms, of course) revealed to me that the University of Illinois did once have a branch of the school located at the old Navy Pier. It was open from 1946 to 1965. They shared the space with the Chicago Police Traffic Division, the North Pier Terminal Company, and a few military tenants.

Here's one of my favorite bits from the article I found at the UIC website devoted to their university's history:

On October 21, 1946, the new branch campus opened to about 4,000 students. Officially called the University of Illinois, Chicago Undergraduate Division (CUD), students described the campus as the “narrowest university in the world,” a “sideways skyscraper,” the “horizontal cathedral of learning,” and “Harvard on the Rocks.”

For more on the early history of the University of Illinois at Chicago go here.

Read about James Farrell and Studs Lonigan here.

To learn about Kathleen Winsor's "dirty book" Forever Amber go to your local library. Although it was at one time a book banned for it's daring sexual frankness, it's sure to be on the shelves there now. It's hardly pornographic. Daring for its time is even a stretch. As usual, the people who wanted to ban it were the ones with the problem with sex. It certainly wasn't the book. Wonder what young Mr. Brown thought of it...if he ever found and read it.


  1. These "left inside" items are fast becoming my favorite feature of your blog, and makes me want to kick myself for having thrown away the few things that fluttered between the pages of some of mine books. I remember some scraps of paper, with notes scribbled on them, an old postcard and a twenty-year-old train ticket.

  2. This was a fun one to do. Had a lot of research involved. Takes a while to find a piece that isn't too private (a photostat of a social security card, for example) or otherwise embarrassing (several less than flattering photos). I won't be posting any of those.

    I'll probably stick to those that are tied to Chicago's past or are bookplates with unusual artwork or famous owners as in the case of the Ned Guymon bookplate. I have several bookplates from well known crime fiction collectors, authors and other prominent people. Lots more to come throughout the year.

  3. Fascinating stuff! The only thing inside my books is a sort of stamp which shows that almost all of my collection came from the shelves of one Keith Nolan Melville... (Who he is or was, I have no idea.) Oh, and there's a full page and in-colour ad for cigarettes in my copy of "The Plague Court Murders", which I found unreasonably amusing.

    You really come across the most fascinating stuff!