Wednesday, May 13, 2020

52 Ancestors - TRAVEL: Fred's Chicago Adventure

Years ago when my sister and I cleaned out our parents’ home, I was surprised to find our father’s diploma from the Coyne Electrical School:
Diploma from Coyne Electrical School
Daddy's diploma from Coyne Electrical School
Fred Slade, Jr. was the least mechanical person I have ever met. He was a reader - a thinker - NOT a doer. If anything needed fixing at our house, our mother did it or she called in a professional.

Stuff from Davis attic 2020
One box of stuff from my grandparents' attic
Hidden since 1950
I was surprised all over again when I started going through the boxes of STUFF found in my grandparents’ attic when the most recent owner was installing new insulation. Several bits of ephemera gave me new insight into Daddy’s life at the Coyne Electrical School.

I mistakenly assumed that Daddy studied radio and electrical work by correspondence while still in high school, but a conversation with my aunt confirmed that he actually lived in Chicago following graduation from high school. She knew nothing much other than he was there. She did not know WHY he traveled to Chicago to study radio and electricity. Her guess was that he did not know what he wanted in life, that he was in search of SOMETHING.

ad from Wikipedia 

This early ad for the Coyne Electrical School offered free transportation by rail to anyone interested in enrolling, but it predated my dad’s time, so it is more likely that he paid to get to Chicago. Train travel then was abundant. He even managed to save several time tables from the Chesapeake and Ohio Lines and the Norfolk and Western. The N&W offered the most direct route between Chicago and Norfolk although either would have gotten him from here to there.
Two time tables that Daddy saved

Daddy also saved a booklet published by the Chicago Recreation Commission. It looks like the typical comprehensive guide a Visitors Center or tourism board would give out. It devoted pages to those topics visitors want to know: the famous landmarks, locations of parks and theaters, where to watch or play sports, locations of churches and servicemen’s centers, types of entertainment available and how to get around. There is even a suggested itinerary for tourists. Knowing Daddy, he used this little booklet quite a lot in his free time.

He probably even traveled to The Big Apple on the weekend. This New York Central System Time Tables advertised nightly runs between New York and Chicago.

Intended use was for ID and
membership at Coyne

A little leather wallet with its embossed seal of the Coyne Electrical School contains a few interesting papers. The punch card COULD be a meal ticket. It allows 3 punches per day 5 days a week for 4 weeks. If I am correct that it is a meal ticket, Daddy was good about getting breakfast, THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY, right?
Fred Slade's punch card for January 1946

Daddy also had 2 “excuse” slips: one for being sick and one for attending to business. I wonder what that was about.
Fred Slade's excuse slip

Fred Slade's excuse slip

I am surprised and somewhat confused that he was listed as being in the “Refrig” department. His diploma indicates Radio-Electronics.

If that were not enough of a surprise, there is this big envelope

Mail in Chicago 1515 W Monroe St
containing about 8 booklets and pamphlets about Great Britain sent from the British Information Services in New York. They were not the kind potential tourists would have been interested in – no descriptions of famous landmarks and places to watch a Cricket match or grab a pint. No, these were about British bomber planes and aircraft, farming, health services, and physical rehabilitation.
British brochures
Some of the brochures 
What did Daddy want with these booklets? The radio and electronics program was just weeks-long. I doubt he was writing a research paper.

British health and aircraft aside, I like this envelope for the address label. Daddy lived at 1515 W. Monroe Street, Chicago.
from Google Maps
1515 W Monroe Street, Chicago, Illinois
Google maps shows a dilapidated old building. Further research shows that the building had belonged to the Salvation Army before being abandoned. It is now being transformed into a multi-family complex with 260 flats and retail on the ground floor. A closeup of the decorative concrete piece above the entry indicates that long before the Salvation Army owned the building, it was the YMCA. 
Closeup of cement decoration above the entry
YM on the left - CA on the right
It was most likely the YMCA when Daddy inhabited room 545.

I hope he had a street view.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. I'm so glad that building is being transformed - I'm sure it will be beautiful, especially room 545.

  2. Great sleuthing through the ephemera to get some logical conclusions about that time in his life. Just think, if we'd known to ask the right questions earlier. Sigh. Probably, it was long enough ago, that he didn't even think about it or think to mention it to family.

  3. Wow so interesting but then so many unanswered questions!