How the Aldi closing in Auburn Gresham highlights the disaster that is Chicago thru the eyes of someone who grew up there over 50 years ago
When I read this article and heard 16th Ward alderman Stephanie Coleman lament the abrupt and sudden closing and blame discrimination as root cause my feeling of nostalgia for the memories of my childhood at 7628 S Paulina, a scant 3 short blocks from the closed store’s location at 76th Ashland surged into my consciousness. Those memories soon turned to anger as I realized NOTHING HAS CHANGED in that neighborhood in my entire existence on this planet.
I was a teenager when my family thankfully got us out of there in 1971 in a move to suburban Glen Ellyn Illinois and I am now a juvenile senior citizen. Some of the greatest memories of my life were shared at that location. I was an ALL STAR baseball player whose teams were based at Dawes Park 83rd Damen. I attended Clara Barton school at 76th Honore (I freaked when Dick Wolf actually included Clara Barton in episode of Chicago PD as a drug territory) until the bused in students and violence that came with them forced my parents to move me into a private school, Timothy Lutheran at 83rd and Paulina where I graduated from as class president in 1969.
My memories at 7628 are categorized in 2 distinct segments. The first is pre April 4th 1968 and after. I remember the big snow of late January 1967 and the complete shutdown of everything. Later that Spring there were some of the most VIOLENT storms I remember in my life which we found out later were F4 tornadoes that destroyed many parts of Oak Lawn, a community to the southwest of us. to this day some of worst storms ever to hit our state.
All thru this time we were always warned NOT to cross Ashland ave 3 blocks to the east as it was an all black neighborhood and you put your life at risk if you did. At times, roving gangs of blacks on their stingray bikes with the extended banana seats would cruise the neighborhood crossing over from Ashland Ave but I would always avoid confrontation if I could. Sadly, they were successful in beating up some of my buddies not so lucky (it was always 4 to 1 or 5 to 1 odds) to get out of their way but for the most part they were a non starter in the area and their impact muted.
That all changed after Martin Luther King was shot on April 4th 1968. We had a curfew for the 1st time in my life, every car coming down the street it seemed was a police car and for weeks the flaming embers from the burning buildings permeated the air and my eyes watered from the smoke lingering in the air. My baseball season was cancelled due to safety concerns and life changed FOREVER for me at that moment. And it became a war zone on the streets that summer (remember Democratic Convention in August) and we lived in a bunker mentality for the rest of my tenure in that house till we moved in 1971.
So we fast forward to 2022. Auburn Gresham and neighboring community West Engelwood are consistently in top police district stats for shootings. When my father was still alive before the state executed him at Quincy Veterans Home in 2017 , I would email him copy pastes of the tweets from the local scanners we follow on @metropulseusa on Twitter showing the crime happening around the old house and there was a never ending parade of shootings and robberies and carjackings, all within mere blocks of 7628 ALL THE TIME
So when I read about the alderman blaming DISCRIMINATION for the Aldi closing I SAY BS lady. Look in your own house. In my lifetime of sixty plus years NOTHING HAS CHANGED in that neighborhood. It has only gotten worse and is a case study of why long term Chicago in some areas is DOOMED. May this be a wake up call because the good citizens living there deserve better from their city but for 60 plus years there has been little progress if any in quality of life there. For the record, I would be afraid to revisit the area and have not been ANYWHERE in the city for over 6 years and plan to keep it that way. AND I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE. Thank you for your time.