Tag Archives: Studs Terkel

Studs’ Place

This blog, as explained in our About, takes its name from Studs Terkel’s Division Street: America.

“Division Street is both an homage to the Studs Terkel book about the divisions in American politics as well as a metaphoric nod to the real street in Chicago that stretches from the infamous Rush Street entertainment district through the gentrifying arts district of Wicker Park and largely Hispanic and African American neighborhoods on the West Side to the suburbs. In this way, Division Street encapsulates the dynamism and divisions of the city, and we hope this blog does that too.”

I have occasionally posted “Division Dispatches” here that illustrate the divisions and dynamisms of the real Division Street as a way to hopefully illuminate the nation’s Division Street, as envisioned by Studs.

And it is to Division Street: America that I turn first in a brief round-up of Studs encomiums from the weekend.

*

“On undertaking this assignment, I immediately called Dr. Philip Hauser, former chairman of the University of Chicago’s Sociology Department, one of the country’s best informed demographers,” Studs wrote – in 1967 – in the book’s Prefatory Notes. “Is there a street in Chicago today where all manner of ethnic, racial, and income groups live? His reply – though a blow – was not unexpected. There is none. As late as twenty-five years ago, Halsted Street may have encompassed all these peoples. There is a quarter-mile radius on the Near North Side of the city that might fit these specifications; upper-middle-income high-rise complexes have sprung up with startling suddenness in the rooming-house heartland. They are adjacent to one another, at this moment. Still the area I was seeking was a matter of conjecture, even here. The nomadic, transient nature of contemporary life has made diffusion the order – or disorder – of the city. The bulldozer and the wrecking ball have played their roles.”

*

“Although detractors derided him as a sentimentalist populist whose views were simplistic and occasionally maudlin, Mr. Terkel was widely credited with transforming oral history into a popular literary form,” the New York Times wrote in its obituary. “Division Street consisted of transcripts of 70 conversations Mr. Terkel had with people of every sort in and around Chicago. Peter Lyon, reviewing it in The New York Times Book Review, said it was ‘a modern morality play, a drama with as many conflicts as life itself’.”

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Division Dispatch #4

In Studs Terkel’s Division Street: America, Division Street is a metaphor. But here in Chicago, Division Street is a living, breathing metaphor, and from time to time on this blog, I like to check in with it to see what it says about our city, our lives, our nation. Consider:

* “Division Street: Two Americas.” Straining to be rich and hip.

* “Do Division Street Fest & Sidewalk Sale 2008.” Pabst Blue Ribbon will be served based on its popularity in the ‘hood.

* “This life-work began with the best-seller Division Street: America, in which he talked to politicians and protestors, firemen and cops, actors and salesmen, saints and thieves.” From “Roger Ebert’s Journal: How Studs Helps Me Lead My Life.”

Previously:
* Division Dispatch #1: “You don’t have to worry about getting mugged on Division near Damen at 10 on Friday night like you did 10 years ago. And as folks who live there will tell you, the main drag isn’t a hooker depot anymore.”

* Division Dispatch #2: “A three-block section of [Chicago neighborhood] Wicker Park that once accommodated eight families, two vintage clothing stores, a French cleaners, and a gourmet bakery has been completely razed to make way for a private livery stable and carriage house.”

* Division Dispatch #3: “Division Street separates Wicker Park from East Village (east of Damen) and Ukrainian Village (west of Damen). In last week’s Reader, Ben Joravsky described how ‘Dan Rostenkowski kept the villages under his thumb even after he’d gone off to Congress – and jail.'”

Division Dispatch #3

In Studs Terkel’s Division Street: America, Division Street is a metaphor. But here in Chicago, Division Street is a living, breathing metaphor, and from time to time on this blog, I like to check in with it to see what it says about our city, our lives, our nation.

For example, Division Street separates Wicker Park from East Village (east of Damen) and Ukrainian Village (west of Damen). In last week’s Reader, Ben Joravsky described how “Dan Rostenkowski kept the villages under his thumb even after he’d gone off to Congress – and jail.”

What could be more Chicago than that?

Joravsky wonders, though, if the Rostenkowski era has finally come to an end with the arrival of Alds. Manny Flores in the 1st Ward and Scott Waguespack in the 32nd. In both wards, it ought to be noted, Machine incumbents were ousted in large measure for “haywire development” in their wards – development done at the behest of Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Somehow, though, Daley found himself on the other side of the street when voter ferment threw the bums out.

Previously:
* Division Dispatch #1: “You don’t have to worry about getting mugged on Division near Damen at 10 on Friday night like you did 10 years ago. And as folks who live there will tell you, the main drag isn’t a hooker depot anymore.”

* Division Dispatch #2: “A three-block section of [Chicago neighborhood] Wicker Park that once accommodated eight families, two vintage clothing stores, a French cleaners, and a gourmet bakery has been completely razed to make way for a private livery stable and carriage house.”