Chicago Magazine: Yes, Chicago Really Has an East Side

“I’m going to settle an old Chicago debate, one that usually begins when someone quotes the first line of the song ‘The Night Chicago Died,’ by Paper Lace: ‘My daddy was a cop on the east side of Chicago.’

“It came up again on Reddit, a year ago, when a Redditor wrote, “TIL the song ‘The Night Chicago Died’ by Paper Lace references an east side of Chicago, which does not exist. There are North, South, and West Downtown Chicago, but the east is occupied by Lake Michigan. Songwriters Peter Callander and Mitch Murray had never been to Chicago.”

“Callander and Murray, who hail from Nottingham, England, may have known as much about Chicago’s geography as Steve Perry did about Detroit’s, but they weren’t wrong. Chicago does, in fact, have an East Side. It’s one of our 77 community areas. Located in the far southeastern corner of the city, the East Side is bounded by the Calumet River on the north and west, Lake Michigan on the east and Egger’s Grove on the south. That Redditor may not have heard of the East Side because it’s one of Chicago’s most remote neighborhoods: the ‘L’ doesn’t go to the East Side, the Skyway carries cars hundreds of feet overhead, and driving there requires crossing a lift bridge. (When the Bluesmobile jumped the 95th Street Bridge, it took off from South Chicago and landed on the East Side.)

“East Side native Robert Stanley, a former Wisconsin Steel worker, began his self-published memoir Once Upon a Time in South Chicago with a photo of a half-raised bridge and the legend, ‘Oh shit! The bridge is up. (Quote from) anyone that ever went to the (East Side).’

“Here’s what Stanley had to say about his neighborhood:

“When ever people asked me where I was from I’d proudly say “The East Side.” They’d say where’s that? I’d say you know, down where all the steel mills are, the area where the big cloud of smoke is, look down off the Skyway Toll Road, that’s us underneath.

G”rowing up on the East Side you always felt isolated from the rest of the city, not just by the bridges over the Calumet River or Lake Michigan to the east but because nobody from the north side of down town wanted anything to do with coming down to the end of the south side, the Dan Ryan expressway, the Robert Taylor Homes projects, the steel mills and oil refineries that made the air have a red tint that smelled.

“The one thing that we had on the East Side was Cal[umet] Park, two miles of lake front, a beach and the ‘rocks,’ a place where it was a no swimming area so everybody swam there. That was the place in the summer where everybody that was anybody was there, checking out the chicks, drinking quarts of beer in paper bags so the police didn’t see it and diving off top rock to impress the girls.” (McClelland, Chicago Magazine, 11/23/21)

Read the full story at Chicago Magazine

Yes, Chicago Really Has an East Side; The neighborhood is bounded by the Calumet River on the north and west, Lake Michigan on the east and Egger’s Grove on the south, Edward McClelland, Chicago Magazine, 11/23/21


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