(As told by some of the people who were there!)
The following was written by one of the generous souls who worked tirelessly on the Brunch of Hope in 2009. Please send us your memories of growing up at St. Angela and we will share them with our extended family.
The “first” St. Angela opened in a small storefront on west Division Street in 1916. The “real” St. Angela, however, began in the hearts of the Catholic Community that had been growing here ever since Austin was annexed to Chicago in 1899. Over the years the congregation found new quarters in the church-school building on north Massasoit Avenue. Finally, after decades of special parish collections and building funds, St. Angels proudly opened its splendid neogothic church at the corner of Massasoit and Potomac in 1952.
Ok, that’s a brief history. But St. Angela is more heart than history!
Think back. By the 20s and 30s our parish had emerged into a quiet tree-lined bedroom community of stunning gabled Victorians…stout red brick bungalow…along with a mix of frame homes, two flats and occasional apartment buildings. The streets were a grid work with each fourth one set aside for commerce. For example Roosevelt Road, Harrison, Madison, Lake, Chicago, Division, and North Avenue while the blocks in between were for the residences.
Let your memory slip back to those years.
It won’t be hard to capture flashbulb images of such Austin highlights as: the Austin Town Hall at Central & Lake…the State Theatre at Mayfield & Madison…the Marboro at Crawford & Madison…the Rockne at Monitor & Division…the Manor at Central & North…LaFollete Park on Laramie…Madigans and Little Jack’s…the many cheery ice cream parlors and all those friendly ethnic food stores where the family who ran it knew you by name…plus all those delovely old red streetcars resplendent with the reversible yellow wicker seats, the Washington Boulevard buses and the Lake Street Elevated which would whisk you from here to wherever you wanted to be in the great city beyond those fragrant cathedrals of arching elms and maples that set off our Austin as a most special place indeed.
By the 40s we had struggled out of the Depression only to become ensnarled in the War. Just as families had lost their fortunes in the 30s, now they were losing their fathers and sons in the 40s. Somehow, though, our parish community clung to its God and moved bravely through these bloodied years. It continued sending its children to school…attending Sunday Masses…contributing to the many ladies’ sodalities and Holy Name Societies…plus participating in all those parish events from bingo and street carnivals to missions and novenas.
The point is this. We took our God and our Church and our Parish seriously.
By the 50s and 60s, Austin had become a mature neighborhood that remained largely Irish, Italian, German, Scandinavian, but with growing numbers of Asians, Slavs and African Americans. St. Angela rode the waves of change brought on by the Korean War in the 1950s. The parish struggled in the 1960s with the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy and the Vietnam War but remained an anchor for the children of 2nd and 3rd generation parishioners, as well as new members of this ever changing melting pot.
Through all of this turmoil the people of St. Angela persevered. As the 70s and 80s arrived, our streets had grown a little older, our trees a bit thinner, and our homes a tad grayer. The world was becoming a global community through the media and technological advances with less focus on the small intimate neighborhood of the past. Although many of the neighborhood mainstays were fading they were forever etched into our memory banks: St. Anne’s Hospital at Thomas & Lavergne…Betty’s Candy Store at Division & Massasoit…Tiny’s Foods at Division & Waller…Marty’s Lounge at Division & Latrobe…the Austin Bowl at Division & Central…the Mud Hole at Lake & Austin…Amundsen Park at Bloomingdale & Melvina.
But St. Angela itself – its church and its school – stood out like a stone beacon of pride and faith. It was a powerful emotional magnet drawing to it its residents’ best hopes and dreams. In this sense, St. Angela is ageless and those of us who return to celebrate it are in our way ageless too.
Regardless of our birthdates or our graduation dates, St. Angela’s date is like a bright flame lit in honor of all we share here in common. How lucky we are…