As a child, the only way my mom and I could go to Chicago was by taking the South Shore Railroad. She wouldn't drive there and besides, there was something very romantic about actually getting on a train to go anyplace when you're a kid.
For me the South Shore meant The Art Institute, Marshall Field's toy department at Christmas and some of the first professional musicals I saw at the grand Shubert Theater. Even today, when I hear the words "Randolph Street," the first thing that comes to mind is the South Shore.
The other part of this romantic adventure would be going into the underground station to board the train for home. There would be all these adults buzzing around and the voice of God over the sound system calling your train time to head back to Indiana, which seemed a million light years away from the big city.
Neighborhoods have changed, but when I took the South Shore while working downtown during college summer vacations, I remember going through the south side of Chicago, seeing the back of the ancient apartments there. As we clicked along the tracks, there would be laundry hung out on old rickety wooden porches and the scenery was one of blight.
The lyrics of a Spanky and Our Gang song "Give a Damn," about racial equality, urban decay, rats and social injustice, would always come to mind. This was the late 1960's and their protest song was one of my favorites.
In 2004, a beautiful coffee table book, "Moonlight in Duneland," was published with many of the South Shore posters used by the railroad in the 1920's.
In 1994, there began a series of "just around the corner" South Shore line posters promoting Indiana. Whiting's spotlight was on the library, painted by illustrator and artist Mitch Markovitz.
Mitch has a particular love for the South Shore Railroad, having once been a train engineer and having actually met his wife on the train. He also served as the advertising director and chief illustrator for the South Shore Railroad from 1984 until 2001. He has created such wonderful "portraits" of northwest Indiana, from Standard Oil to Whiting's Pierogi Fest.
Now, the history of the South Shore has been captured in a book written by historian Cynthia Ogorek entitled "Along the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Rail Line," which has won awards from the Illinois State Historical Society and the Illinois Women’s Press Association.
Cynthia will be our guest speaker at the Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Society meeting at noon Sept. 26 at the Whiting Public Library, 1735 Oliver St. She'll share with us the history of the South Shore, which started out in 1901 as just a three-mile-long trolley line running from East Chicago to Indiana Harbor.
Cynthia says the “secret” subtitle for her book is “The non-rail fan's guide to the South Shore—a history of the railroad for ‘the rest of us.' " Come and enjoy this special presentation, where I know all will definitely not be "abored."