Random items that may be helpful to some people searching for their roots

May 2024
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Bill & Ruth Clement
Filed under: 1950s, Chicago
Posted by: Mike @ 9:02 am

This is Bill (William) & Ruth Clement in Des Plaines, Illinois with their daughter Barbara. I didn’t realize at first but later determined that Ruth is pregnant with her son Rich here.

My dad used to work with Bill at American Standard in Chicago around 1955. This was taken in 1959. My parents had moved back to Detroit but they were back in town visiting. Fortunately my mother remembered the couple’s names otherwise I would have had to post this as an “unknown.”

I was able to track down Rich Clement and share this and other pictures of his family with him. He in turned shared them with his dad and sister.  (His mom passed away in 2011). Rich’s dad, Bill, remembered my parents well he said and “raved” about my mom’s dumplings. Very cool that something like that would still resonate 50+ years later. But I gotta admit, I like my mom’s dumplings too.

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Wabash & Congress
Filed under: 1950s, Chicago
Posted by: Mike @ 9:28 pm

This is a Chicago street scene that my father took in 1955 (or 1956). He didn’t take a lot of street shots like this but probably the track work on the elevated train tracks caught his attention. Notice the guy climbing a ladder and men above him on the track. I thought it would be very difficult to find the location but when I zoomed in on the far side of the ladder, I could make out a shop called Seymour’s Record Mart next to Heartbeat Music Publishers. Turns out this shop which was located at 439 S. Wabash and its owner Seymour Schwartz were at the root of some significant history in the Chicago jazz scene. I’m not sure what the skyscraper is in the distance.

Here’s a modern view from a similar vantage point using Google streetview. As you can see, the (Roosevelt University Auditorium) building has been rebuilt but the architect kept the double arches on the far side to maintain some of the history.

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5014 W Pensacola Ave
Filed under: 1950s, Chicago
Posted by: Mike @ 11:04 am

Here is a picture of the brownstone rental that my parents lived in for a couple of years in 1953-54. It was located at 5014 W. Pensacola Ave in Chicago, Illinois. Out front is “Luanne” the 1953 Plymouth Deluxe that my parents purchased new after marrying in 1952. They paid $46 extra for the red roof which, my mother tells me, was great for finding the car in parking lots.

Here’s a shot of that same house in modern times (found at According to Trulia this multi-family home was built in 1913, has two bathrooms and is 2478 square feet. I sure hope they upgraded a few things since my parents lived there! This is probably a two-family home today but back in the 1950s, it contained 5 rentals — can you believe it?!

During their time in Chicago my dad worked at American Standard (plumbing & heating company) and Polk Brothers (selling appliances at night). My mother worked at General Finance Company at first and then quit and found a better job at Victor Adding Machine.  Here are some remembrances from her:
The brownstone house we were renting on Pensacola Street had been converted into five apartments…one in the basement and two on the first and second floors.  We had the front on
the second floor.  The owner was a young bachelor, driving a new
Cadillac, and owning five buildings. Nevertheless, he kept a 7 watt bulb on the stairwell; it was hard to see so I replaced it with a 25 watt
and it wasn’t long before he put back the 7 watt. 

General Finance was all the way downtown so I had taken the el, however, Irving Park Blvd was closer to where we lived.  I was really happy for that job [at Victor Adding Machine Co.].  A huge room with many persons, each department was a row of desks.  I was lucky to be the secretary to the all male department.  When they were out of town I would help the typing pool with their work.  One of my jobs was delivering the pay checks to everyone in the building (including where the machines were being made).  I remember  Mr. Pomiaks department was really noisy.  It was pleasant because everyone was so happy to  see the paychecks arriving.  One thing they did, that I am sure would not be allowed today, was to allow the wives of alcoholics pick up the checks from the Personnel Department.

There was a two story Sears and Roebuck off of our main drag and Irving Park Blvd; the groceries being on the lower level so I was able to walk to the store with one of those little two-wheeled shopping carts.  We were also near Montrose harbor which had a long dock leading toward the water which might have been off of Lake Michigan.  Oddly, enough we happened to go there within a few days of a serious situation.  The tides had risen to over eight feet, swept the fishermen off the dock, who drowned. 

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Ernie Dietrich’s Visit
Filed under: Michigan, Detroit, 1950s
Posted by: Mike @ 12:27 am

This is Ernie Dietrich of Maple Plain, MN in town visiting with my dad and mom. He was a contact through my dad’s work at American Standard, a plumbing and heating company. On the left is my mother’s sister Barbara Chuncich. (Who knows maybe there was some hope of them making a love connection. My aunt looks like she’s dressed to impress.)

I think this photo was taken in 1953 because they are sitting on the stoop of 19357 Carman St in Detroit (Highland Park) which is the house my parents bought before my dad got transferred to Chicago in 1954. My grandfather took it over and it became a rental house.

Ernie died two years ago today. This strapping young man turned into a strapping old man. Here’s a copy of his obituary.

Here’s text from the obituary to help his descendants find this photo some day.
Ernest R. “Ernie” Dietrich, 86, of Cedar Grove…Ernest is survived by his wife of 56 years, Delores; two daughters,
Catherine (David) Hartwig, and Becky (Brian) Sueppel, both of Grafton;
four grandchildren, Maddie (Riley) Falk, Karen Sueppel and Rachel and
Ryan Hartwig; his brother, Kermit Dietrich of Waconia, MN

Unbelievably my mother and they kept in touch via Christmas cards all these years even though they haven’t met in 50+ years. (Actually my mom’s not even sure if she ever met Delores in person at all.)

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Harold Armstrong of American Standard
Filed under: Michigan, Detroit, 1950s
Posted by: Mike @ 7:48 am

Here’s a shot from the 1950s my father took at an American Standard company event. American Standard was a plumbing and heating company and the brand still exists today although owned by some other corporation I’m sure. Note the Harold M. Armstrong: This is Your Life banner. Is it a Comedy Central roast?  No… It appears to be a retirement party for Mr. Armstrong. I don’t know what Station AR55 means. Perhaps the office code for the Detroit office. No idea of the names of the other guys standing around. Coworkers of my dad. Mr. Armstrong was the branch manager who hired my dad in 1952 so this guy had a direct effect on the trajectory of my Dad’s (and thus my) life. It certainly ensured that most of the scrap paper we used in our house when I was a kid were engineering drawings for sinks, toilets and the like.

Most likely this is the Harold Armstrong with SSN 374-05-0466 who was born September 6, 1893 and died June 29, 1976 in Broward County Florida at the age of 82. So that means he had a long and (probably) happy retirement. Good for him.

According to the 1954 city directory for Birmingham (MI), Harold was indeed the branch manager for American Standard and lived at 6105 Gilbert Lake Rd in Bloomfield Township with his wife Josephine Armstrong. According to Zillow, that house was built in 1952 and has 2046 sq. ft. and has 4 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms.
Josephine may be his second wife. There is a 1940 Birmingham city directory entry for Harold M & Mildred Armstrong at 579 Puritan Ave and he is Branch Manager for American Radiator Company. In 1940 census, he had a son Richard who would have been born about 1937.

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Catholic Irish Hills
Filed under: Michigan, Unidentified, 1950s
Posted by: Mike @ 7:49 am

According to my mother, these 1957 shots were taken at a Catholic place in the Irish Hills area of Michigan which is west of Detroit. So far I haven’t been able to pinpoint the spot. It could be St. Joseph’s shrine in Brooklyn, MI but I haven’t found any matching photos of these locations.

Statue of St. Joseph (?) with a wishing well in front. That’s my mother pregnant with my brother.

Another statue with flower beds in the shape of a cross.

This is also from 1957. I found a modern photo from St. Joseph’s shrine with a similar sculpture to this one but it’s definitely not the same. Of course they may have replaced it since concrete sculptures are certain to degrade over time. Based on that site, this may have been one of the sculptures created by Dionicio Rodriguez.

If you have any more clues for me, please leave a comment.

Clifton Inn Hotel Niagara Falls
Filed under: 1950s
Posted by: Mike @ 8:59 pm

Here is a shot taken by my father in 1954 on Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.
My parents would have been young newlyweds at that time. They probably did not stay at this hotel but it’s possible. The Old Dutch Mill Shop was selling souvenirs of Fine Bone China, Gifts, Jewelry, Novelties and, of course, Woollen Sweaters.

It’s a far cry from the Clifton Hill of today which is filled with kitsch.

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