Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Selling My Newspapers on October 29, 1972, after the Horrifying Chicago Illinois Central Train Crash

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bob at 12:36 pm on Friday, February 4, 2022

By Robert M. Katzman © February 4, 2022

Here is a real world ordinary man witness recollection of the horror of that accident where the smaller and thus lethal old train telescoped inside of the densely populated Illinois Central’s newer train. I had two newsstands then in Hyde Park, the larger one at 51st and Lake Park, the other a green aluminum newsstand (after a drunk torched it) at 53rd and Lake Park. 

As the smaller newspaper trucks screeched to a stop, then delivered edition after edition of the Tribune, Sun-Times, Chicago American (or Today, I forget) throwing the tightly bound by steel wire bundles of newspapers at us like bombs, and the Evening Daily News, each showing an ever increasing number of deaths on the front page. It was mesmerizingly. The Mother Ship giant company newspaper trucks gathered at a gritty empty lot on 47thStreet on the east side of the IC Viaduct. An army of company guys stationed there threw an endless stream of bundles, about 30 pounds each, from the big truck to the swarm of little trucks, the little trucks like speeding beehives of print.

People gathered at both of my stands as I zipped back and forth to insure there were enough newspapers at both locations to satisfy demand by my hitching a ride from a customer going south from 51st Street with a mixed stack of newspapers sitting on my lap to resupply 53rd street. Then I ran the two blocks back, because my personal “Hyde Park Newspaper-Express System” only went one-way.

It was so eerie because it was as if the newspapers were radios and only the palpable newspapers themselves made the unbelievable crash believable. Newspapers are nothing now, like newsstand are, distant memories of what they used to be in our society. Sometimes I used to think there ought to be a “Buffalo Bill-type” rodeo or something for the newsboys that used to be, the old angry swearing newspaper truck drivers and the thousands of photographers and writers who lost and never recovered their jobs, as newspapers disappeared. Maybe running around the ring shooting arrows at the soul-less corporations which shut them down. 

It can be very strange to have witnessed a certain sort of communal urban life, where people gathered to talk and wait for the trucks, gossiped about whatever, or waited for the Red Streak Final Markets Chicago Daily News, now erased from present day, as people in a silent solitary way stare at their phones or computer screens.

Where are the screeching trucks? 

Where is the community? 

Where is the guy bringing me hot chocolate on freezing days?

Gone.

My future 1978 wife, then Joyce E. Bishop, 22, was in the IC train behind the 2nd train which stopped before reaching her stop at Adams where she worked at Commonwealth Edison, and she and all the others had to walk over the tracks to get to where they were going. 

The University of Chicago Laboratory High School Librarian, Floyd Fryden, often ridiculed by a range of sarcastic students when I was there between 1964 to 1968 because of his unusual “less-than-super-hero” mannerisms, and I regret I haven’t the correct word to place there, because I really liked the very gentle guy. Also because someone found out that his mother made his lunch each day to take with him to work at the library. And also because he was so prickly when silencing loud students.  

He died on that train, and over the next years, people I knew from Lab School when I was there expressed grief that they had been cruel to him, said snide words to him in front of their friends. I can see him now, forever in his thirties, forever young, while his tormentors cannot erase how they treated him, when they remember this date, as they are in their seventies. A life sentence of regret coming too late.

Our son, David, was born, in December 1978, and our daughter Rachel born 20 months after that, both now parents, would not exist if Joy had been on the train front of her and killed. 

She often talked to me about that when remembering the train crash, and Fate.

Now gone herself five years this May, I too think about the capriciousness of Fate.

I frequently say to the fine woman I will marry this next May,

 “We should do as much as we can, as fast as we can.” 

Fate feels close.

1 Comment »

Comment by Stephen Veenker

February 4, 2022 @ 4:52 pm

Bob, I will never forget that day. The National Safety Council had just begun its annual convocation at McCormick Place, and this happened mere yards away. (Some thought we staged it for them.) First reporter on the scene was the Tribune’s Jeff Lyons, Herb’s son, who was onsight covering something unrelated. Bob Weidrich was on the West Side near Our Lady of Angels, when fire broke out, so Trib had good coverage. I arranged the Beck awards dinner for the Trib the night the United plane from DC crashed approaching Midway. And was listening to police scanner when Flight 191 went down on the way to the American Booksellers in Los Angeles. You are someone who would remember all those, with me. Many who covered them are long since deceased. Newspapers had great coverage. When NYSE closed there were 18 linotypes ready to set the closing markets, and 30 or 40 minutes later, Tribune trucks were on the street with the “Final Markets” street edition.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>