I’m grateful for a rainy Sunday when a short Saturday walk looks like this. It’s early June, but looks like September after a months-long drought. I hate droughts and didn’t expect this one. Spring should be vibrant green.
Both my parents were born during the 19-teens and weren’t what you’d call “hippies.” We had something associated with hippies, though — incense. RANI incense cones, to be precise, usually pine. Gift? Sale? I don’t know, but my mother liked them even if we used them sparingly. I’ve continued the tradition, buying incense (if not RANI) sporadically over the years.
Something made me think of RANI, so I looked up images of the box and found RANI, marketed as “house deodorant,” came from Chicago 60616. According to the trademark database the Hindu Incense Manufacturing Co. , Inc., was located at 2620 South Dearborn St. Office? Factory? I may never know. Sadly, today it’s a vacant lot. You can sometimes find the remaining boxes for sale on sites like eBay and Etsy.
More about the RANI mark:
Word Mark RANI Goods and Services (EXPIRED) IC 003. US 006. G & S: INCENSE. FIRST USE: 19270415. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19270810 Mark Drawing Code (5) WORDS, LETTERS, AND/OR NUMBERS IN STYLIZED FORM Serial Number 71527404 Filing Date July 5, 1947 Current Basis 1A Original Filing Basis 1A Registration Number 0500209 Registration Date May 11, 1948 Owner (REGISTRANT) HINDU INCENSE MANUFACTURING CO. CORPORATION ILLINOIS 2620 SOUTH DEARBORN ST. CHICAGO ILLINOIS (LAST LISTED OWNER) GENIECO, INC. CORPORATION BY CHANGE OF NAME FROM ILLINOIS 200 NORTH LAFLIN ST. CHICAGO ILLINOIS 60607
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED Type of Mark TRADEMARK Register PRINCIPAL Affidavit Text SECT 15. Renewal 2ND RENEWAL 19880511 Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Genieco lead me to the current Gonesh brand website, from which I learned:
In 1923, a Lithuanian immigrant named Radzukinas acquired a small company, The Hindu Incense Company. For business purposes, he changed his name to Radkins and changed the fortune of his small company by dedicating himself to the manufacture of quality charcoal incense cones and incense burners. Laurent Radkins operated the Hindu Incense Company successfully from the 1920s to the 1960s.
In the mid-sixties, the second generation of the Radkins family entered the business and Genieco, Inc. was born. Soon, the product offering was expanded to include incense sticks. The new brand name was GONESH®, named after the Hindu Elephant Boy, the God of Luck. The name Gonesh was trademarked in 1965.
The Chicago-based Hindu Incense Manufacturing Co., Inc., owned and run by a Lithuanian immigrant, marketing made-in-U.S.A. “house deodorant” incense cones to Greatest Generation housewives — a very American American dream.
According to the Hyde Park Herald, Hyde Parkers who don’t have laundry facilities in their house or building now have to go outside the neighborhood for clean clothes.
Harper & 53rd Launder Koin, the last laundromat in Hyde Park, is closing for good on Tuesday.
The property, located at 5230 S. Harper Ave., is being purchased by the University of Chicago. According to co-owner Josh Hwang, Launder Koin’s last day in operation is technically Feb. 28, but “residents should try and get their laundry done before Feb. 26.”
The laundromat has been operating off 53rd Street since 2002, predating large nearby developments like Harper Court. Back then, Hwang was only 13 years old and working at the business for his parents.
Though demand for laundromats has dwindled nationwide in the last decade, Hwang said Launder Koin still services between 500 to 1,200 people a month.
I’ve wondered if I should do a “Relics” post on the institution of the laundromat, but it never seemed to be the right time. After seeing this article in the Hyde Park Herald, I figure the right time is now. The laundromat is on its way to becoming a relic, and may be for many years.
I grew up in a trailer — no dishwasher, no washer, no dryer. My understanding is in the trailer park’s early days the women did the laundry in the building “down front” (the entrance from Rte. 20). There may have been an informal “laundry day” (Tuesday? Wednesday?). The building was shut up by the time I was old enough to peer through its grimy windows and appeared to be junk storage.
Later, my dad, the only licensed driver, took the laundry to a laundromat on South Lake Park Avenue (6000? 6150?) in Hamburg on Saturdays, mostly by himself. I think it was on one occasion when I went with him that a woman asked him, with his shock of almost snow-white hair, about his cute granddaughter. “That’s my daughter,” he corrected her. I’m sure the women at the laundromat looked at him with newfound respect after that.
Winter trips took longer because he had to dry everything at the laundromat. I tried to dry jeans once or twice in winter air, but discovered they could break (tear) when frozen.
In finer weather, the wet clothes and sheets came home so we could hang them on the clotheslines. After a few hours in the breeze, they really did smell great. They also could pick up bird droppings, stains from falling wild cherries, or, worst of all, in late spring, tent caterpillars. Around May a plague of them would infest the cherry trees over the trailer and clotheslines. You hoped to pick them off so you wouldn’t find any, or parts of any, on your clothes or bedclothes later.
I imagine the laundromat could be a social place, with regulars on Saturday morning who exchanged greetings and maybe chat — with no phones or devices to distract them. Of course, you could always step out and go to a nearby store. It wasn’t likely at that time your clothes would go missing.
After I came to the university, I didn’t need to use a laundromat. The dormitory had washers and dryers, and my apartments since have had on-site laundry machines. The first was tough — I lived on the fourth floor, and the machines were on the first. There weren’t enough, so I could go down and up the stairs several times before one was free. It used a quaint honor system. You were supposed to plug the machine you used into an electrical outlet associated with your meter. It was fascinating to me to watch the meter move with the increased load. It wasn’t so fascinating when you found someone else’s laundry running up your meter.
At the next apartment, a studio, the small laundry room was slightly below ground level in the next building, and served at least a couple of buildings. In rain, snow, or cold, I’d have to dress for the weather, carry the laundry through the courtyard and a bit down the street, pass through a gate, go down steps mostly too dark to see in the alley, and hope for the best. Then repeat back and forth until all the laundry was washed and dried. I don’t miss that, especially when the weather was grim. It’s hard to get motivated to go out a half dozen or more times in wind, sleet, rain, snow, etc., especially on a day off. If I could drive and a laundromat had been an option, I’d have used it.
I’ve used laundromats twice in the last ten years that I can remember. The first was in Anna, Illinois, during a visit to Cache River and Shawnee National Forest. The other was in the college town of Geneseo, New York, while in the area to see Letchworth State Park.
The one in Anna was almost empty at maybe 8 p.m.; I recall the one in Geneseo was more crowded mid-day. Both seemed well kept, and the one in Anna gleamed with stainless steel machines.
Sadly, I have never been to the laundromat on 53rd — I’m not sure I knew it was still open. The next closest one is in Kenwood, prominently situated in a a plaza off the 47th Street exit of Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive. I haven’t been in there, either, although I would need to wash heavier items there. It gets mixed reviews.
In my dad’s day, the big deal would be to have enough change — lots of change. No credit or debit cards, no Apple Pay, not even paper bills. If the price went up a quarter, naturally my dad grumbled. Inflation! To him and some of his peers, it didn’t seem an insignificant amount of money. “It adds up,” he might say.
Laundromats may not entirely disappear, just get farther and farther apart — like Hyde Park residents having to go six blocks further north into Kenwood. Five hundred to twelve hundred people a month aren’t insignificant numbers for a neighborhood. Some laundromats, like the one in Hyde Park, are family businesses. How long will future generations want to carry on the laundromat business in a rapidly evolving society that values money and technology?
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Substitute “laundromats” and you’ll see what I mean.
I eagerly await the Star Trek “garment reprocessor”/”cleaning processor.”
Worf: Before being allowed to play, he was to put his soiled clothing in the garment reprocessor.
Keiko: One night goes by . . . two . . . a week . . . ten days . . . by now there’s a pile of socks half a meter high!
O’Brien: Come on . . . it wasn’t half a meter.
Keiko: After two weeks I couldn’t stand it any more. I bundled them up and put them in the cleaning processor. And I’m still doing it.
J had thought to go to Sagawau Canyon or Chicago Botanic Garden, but the roads were too red and the delays too great for my tolerance (33+ minutes!). He suggested the National Park Service property closest to me — Pullman National Monument, about 20 to 25 minutes away via Stony Island, potholes and all.
A ranger who seemed happy to see visitors greeted us and gave us brochures and a neighborhood map. When I saw Cottage Grove and a Metra stop on the map, I realized I pass within a few blocks of the visitor center when I take Metra to Homewood or University Park. The Kensington station is at 115th Street and Cottage Grove. Pullman is near Lake Calumet, Big Marsh Park, Indian Ridge, and Dead Stick Pond, and not far from Hegewisch Marsh and Beaubien Woods. It’s a strange area, abandoned in part by industry, bisected by I-94 and its ceaseless noise, and only partially reclaimed by wetlands.
The visitor center is well laid out. Our ranger friend told us the second and third floors are being developed, and the building across the way, roofed with plastic sheeting, is being restored by the state of Illinois.
As someone who’s not from Chicago and who’s never fully embraced living here, I didn’t know much about Pullman or the economic and labor situation. From the 1890s, I know more about serial killer H. H. Holmes than anything else. Now I know a bit more.
A timeline on the wall shows the history of Pullman, from its association with luxury and its conversion to wartime production (twice) to its final delivery in 1981 to Amtrak. Mixed in are episodes of economic, social, and labor unrest, with federal troops called in, firing on and killing striking laborers.
Other exhibits include a gander at what a Pullman car looked like on the inside, with reproduced seats and ceiling. A video shows a porter at work putting up a bed and a couple commenting on the car’s luxury. Displays cover the Pullman neighborhood and the restricted life lower-level employees led — what would it be like to sleep, eat, and be entertained within steps of work, with little means to go anywhere else day to day?
Race is part of the rail labor story. While many Pullman porters (most? all?), like one of Michelle Obama’s ancestors, were African American, they were not allowed to join the new rail labor unions. In their conflicts with the upper business classes, the unions turned down help from people with whom they had common cause, apparently without seeing the irony. To be fair, it’s noted that labor leader Eugene Debs did not agree with this choice to exclude African Americans.
One great thing about the visitor center exhibits: They’re tactile and include Braille. Instead of, say, a flat drawing of a Pullman car, the graphic is grooved or carved so you can feel the shape and details. Sometimes Iv’e wondered if Braille is an endangered language but it seems not.
There’s also a spot where people, mostly children, can write their reactions. I wish I’d taken photos. One wrote that while capitalism has some benefits, it also creates problems, which are listed. That kid is smarter than the average bear, as we used to say.
The exhibits draw such observations out by asking questions about life for laborers, many immigrants, in the shadow of privileged and wealthy owners and leaders, and about the violence of the government response when rail service linking Midwest and West was severed. I’d like to think it wouldn’t happen again, but these are “interesting times,” with income disparity and other inequities driving unrest, overt and covert. While Pullman may seem to be in the distant past, the issues resonate today.
There is, of course, a very good gift shop, where we learned the author of one of the books for sale (which I was buying) was speaking nearby. His talk would have been half over by then, so I passed.
Afterward we drove around a bit to see some of the neighborhood’s highlights and housing. I especially liked the livery stable.
Next to the Lake Hotel, we found Gateway Garden. We’d seen a sign on a house about local honey; J discovered the property contained many, many beehives. They must have more than Gateway Garden to meet their needs. Unlike J, I didn’t see the apiary or meet the owners, but I wonder if they get complaints. I hope not.
Or another June afternoon/evening in Chicago, when this is prime time for storms. I like a good storm, but midwestern storms are too intense for me. From my window, fast forwarded to 13:30, when it was getting worse, just before the hail.
Normally I’d have taken a couple of Amtrak trains to Pennsylvania for Christmas, but 2020 isn’t normal so here I am in Chicago. Normally if I were in Chicago I’d attend Lessons and Carols for Christmas Eve at Rockefeller Chapel on the University of Chicago campus. But it’s 2020, so here we are. I lit my own candle.
“Iconic” is overused nowadays, but Chicago’s water tanks likely are just that. Often precarious, sometimes dangerous and even deadly, they appear on the rooftops of several of the city’s older buildings. I think this is the only photo I’ve taken of one (from a car) — a Chicago water tank featuring the Chicago city flag design. Iconic.