…And That’s My Opinion©

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon


This column was originally published in the Chicago Journal’s News Star


The Magic Card


The mail brought a great gift this week.  The long awaited senior-ride-free card for the CTA (bus & elevated) and the Metra train system.  My wife Carol began humming “She’s Got a Ticket to Ride, and I smiled. I looked at the picture of this senior citizen (me, a soon to be 76 year old person) and I had a memory flashback.


I remembered riding the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad back to school when I was a student at Lake Forest College.  My buddies and I would catch the last train, the Red Eye, at Howard Street.  It made every stop on its journey north.  The line operated from 1891 to 1963 under various owners. We shared the cars with the soldiers and sailors from Fort Sheridan and Great Lakes Naval Base who came weekly to the bars, nightclubs and girls of Howard Street.  Come to think of it, that’s also why we were there.


On the ride back north, we played “can you top this” with the servicemen, over whose exploits were more adventurous.  Most of the stories were laced with various brands of vodka and gin or whatever else our meager monies could buy or we were willing to share with each other.  Although the conversations were often ribald and racy, they were for the most part friendly and good spirited even if not always very truthful.


I seem to recall that beyond the city the train remained elevated for some distance, until it reached Central in Evanston and then slowly went to ground level as it passed the Isabella Street stop which only disembarked passengers going southbound.  Next, still at ground level came the Linden stop and the Wilmette station; Forest Avenue; Elm Street in Winnetka; then Tower Road; Hubbard Woods; Park Avenue station the Green bay station in Glencoe.  Next came Ravinia Park.  There was a stop at Highwood just before Fort Sheridan where all the soldiers left.   Then still at ground level came Deerpath Road in Lake Forest, where we got off.  I assumed that all the sailors got off or were pushed off at the main gate at the Naval Station.  It went further on at ground level to North Chicago and Waukegan, but nobody cared.  In fact given our “elevated” status we didn’t know whether we were on ground level or above and nobody cared about that either.


According to railroad historians the company introduced a modern Electro-Liner in 1941.  It was a streamlined bullet-like beauty with plush seats, complete with a dining car and bar, it was primarily for upscale folks—suits and high heels.  Running from the Chicago Loop to Milwaukee, the Electro-Liner had limited stops and scheduled run, and cost a bit more.  The train was eventually sold, to the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Co.  then known as the Red Arrow Line and renamed Liberty Lines.


Because of its limited departure schedule, we never rode the Electro-Liner, preferring the regular, rowdy, rickety Red Eye from Howard Street and the companionship of other late-night revelers.  Is it any wonder?


I think I’m going to like this card—I wonder what other memories it will conjure up?

...And that's my opinion.

And I'm Sandy Goldman

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