...And That's My Opinion©

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon



“I was born on May 7th 1932.  For those mathematically challenged - that makes me 71 years old.  Except for two years in the Army, I have lived all those years on the north side of Chicago, less than 10 miles from where I grew up.  I have lived 45 of those years in Rogers Park. Am I in a rut - or what?”

I said that factiously to a group of “thirty-somethings,” on the closing day of the Pinewood Inn.

“Wow”, one of them said, “You must have seen a lot in Rogers Park.”

I had not expected that comment.  Pondering the delicious possibility to pontificate (who me?), I responded,  “Yes I suppose I have.  I have seen the ups and downs of the community.  I have seen property values fall and then rise like the phoenix and new six-figure condos built east of Sheridan Road.  There has been a new development at the cemetery turn near Evanston and also others scattered throughout Rogers Park.  I have seen two new Starbuck’s, a Leona’s and Gateway Bar and Grill when it was called My Place For.  I’ve watched the creation of the Gateway Shopping Centre which bears no resemblance to its original plans and still remains half leased.  It is better than what it replaced, however.

“When we first moved here, a survey in the Chicago Daily News (no longer published), indicated that Rogers Park was the second most desirable of the Chicago neighborhoods and had the second highest per capita income (Sauganash was first).  I’ve seen all that change.”

And I continued, “I’ve seen the deterioration of Morse Avenue and Howard Street (ed. note: see previous columns) and the rape of Sheridan Road, north of Touhy Ave., by nursing homes and institutions. And dozens of dozens of changes some good and some bad - but far too many to talk about now.

“But nothing grieves me as much as the closing of the Pinewood!!”

And then we all fell silent for a moment.

The Pinewood was “born” the year after I was.  The original intent was to replicate a Wisconsin north woods style supper club. Through out the years it maintained that atmosphere - serving ribs, steaks, chops and burgers along with beer and wine and mixed drinks (soft drinks for the kids).  It did so from a long elaborate wooden bar and several big booths, two under the front window and the rest along the wall. The food came from a tiny kitchen in the rear.

Through various owners it went through various stages and catered to various clientele.

In 1985 it became Jim Brockhagen’s Pinewood Inn.  New booths replaced the old ones along the walls. High standing cocktail tables where placed under the windows.  A beer garden was opened.  A dining room was added and the menu expanded.

Friends began to gather and it became like that bar on TV, now also closed.  O.K, so Jim was not exactly Ted Danson and Larry was neither Woody nor the Coach.  None of the waitress resembled Shelly Long or Kristie Alley although one of them did remind us of Carla Tortelli . We did have a few Norms and a bunch of Cliff Clavins.   Everybody thought that they were Dr. Frazier, the psychologist.  Like the TV show, it became a “place where everybody knew your name”.

Within its walls world problems were solved, neighborhood disputes were aired and political campaigns were hatched.  The sound of the popular Juke Box mixed with increasing decibels of friendly (or maybe not) debate created a cacophony only attainable at a neighborhood watering hole

At softball seasons the beer garden was loaded with ball players—both men and women. For obvious reasons, the women were more important; they drew the men.

There was Cub fans, Sox fans, Bulls fans, Blackhawk fans and Bear fans.  And even those who dared to be none of those, but were welcomed anyway.  Well, kind of!!!

You could leave your money on the bar and someone would watch it - not take it!

With each year we grew older and grayer while celebrating every New Years Eve at the Pinewood. Couples married, babies were born and close friends died.

The Pinewood became a home away from home.  The familiar refrain, “See you at the Pinewood”, ended many community meetings.  It was a place for a nightcap after diner out or a night at the theatre.

But as it often happens in the bar/restaurant business - things turned downhill. We will not dwell on that.  Carol and I have known Jim and Bev for more than 30 years.  We consider them the best of friends.

But more than that and most of all, I want to thank them for the Pinewood—a place where everyone knew my name.

It is more than a little sad to see the Pinewood Inn move into Rogers Park’s yesterdays.

I for one, and I’m sure that there are others, will miss it!

...And that's my opinion.

And I'm Sandy Goldman

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