What’s it all about? 

Roseland, Chicago: 1972 is the story of Steve Bertolucci, a 10-year-old Roselander in 1972, and what becomes of him. If you’d like to dive right in, click here.

Roseland is a storied neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Roselanders have always come from modest means, the kind of people who know both work and family are usually hard. Two famous native Roselanders are Elliot Ness and Dick Butkus. (Hint: The Untouchables, the Bears.)

Chicago is the third largest city in the United States, having lost second place to Los Angeles in 1984. Chicago doesn’t really believe that. Here, Sears Tower is still the tallest building in the world. What’s that? Willis Tower? Never heard of it.

1972 was a strange, bitter, wonderful year—for Steve, and probably anyone alive at the time. President Richard Nixon was strange enough to start with, and then he also went to China. Worldwide, 58 planes got hijacked, 28 from U.S. airlines, and 14 people got killed in the process. Congress sent the Equal Rights Amendment out to the states so people could debate whether women should be full legal human beings, and some women were among the loudest voices yelling “No.”

Kwai Chang Caine strode wisely through the TV west on Kung Fu. Ms. Magazine hit the newsstands. The Godfather exploded through local theaters, and the December cover of Mad Magazine featured a Corleone family wedding picture with Alfred E. Neuman as the ring bearer, holding a big black gun on a white satin pillow. Peter Buxtun, a 27-year-old U.S. Public Health Service worker, blew the whistle on the infamous Tuskegee Experiment by leaking the story to the Associated Press. Legendary halfback Gale Sayers retired from the Chicago Bears and football, after a disastrous comeback performance in a preseason game. A fan wrote to the Bears asking for a team photo and got back an 8 x 10 glossy of Dick Butkus, which may or may not have been a deliberate commentary on the state of the club.

The White Sox signed Dick Allen.

Giant corporation Miller Brewing bought beloved local beer Meister Brau, leaving Chicago without a single brewery. On May 6, a Dolly Madison delivery truck swerved out of its lane on the Dan Ryan Expressway and crashed against a guard rail because the driver was trying to read the electronic message below the 80-foot wide red neon Magikist Lips sign at 85th Street.

A 9-year-old girl was hit by napalm and tore off her burning clothes as she ran screaming down a road from her South Vietnamese village, after it was bombed by South Vietnamese planes trying to drive out occupying North Vietnamese forces. American combat troops left Vietnam by the end of November, though the heaviest U.S bombing campaign of the entire war began in late December and drew condemnations from world leaders, including the Pope. It was called the “Christmas bombing.”

Please note that no sensitivity reader has pored over this “About” section, or the chapters to come. Enter at your own risk. If you believe no one should ever read about words, ideas or events that are ugly and disturbing, then 1972 is no place for you. Neither is any other year with which I am familiar.

I will be your guide through Steve’s story. Call me TBD, for now. We’ll address that further in Chapter Three.

Subscribers will receive new chapters emailed to their inboxes monthly. Due to email constraints, most chapters will be split into several posts, which means several emails. I’ll space them out so you’re not inundated. Chapter endings will be signified with a small rose, like the one below this paragraph. Previous chapters will be available in this substack’s archives.

For now, Steve's story is free. Take a peek at Chapter One: A Good Life Ruined and Chapter Two: The Conference Room Windows, to see more of what you’d be getting into. Chapter One is a brief overview with some housekeeping details, and Chapter Two begins Steve’s story.

Steve’s story is augmented by three sections: THIS CRAZY DAY IN 1972, Mike Royko 50 Years Ago Today, and Chapter NOTES. Access any at the top of the home page, here.

THIS CRAZY DAY IN 1972: A peek inside Chicago newspapers 50 years ago today. Why? Because 1972 is still part of the ancient times when everybody read a newspaper, even kids. Ten-year-old Steve paged through the newspaper just to have something to do. Dip in to immerse yourself in 1972…but remember, at your own risk! Read it on Twitter in real time so to speak at @RoselandChi1972. Weekly compilations post on weekends.

Mike Royko 50 Years Ago Today: Steve’s family subscribed to the Chicago Daily News. And if you read the Daily News, you read Mike Royko. Mike Royko was…is…Chicago. Wade into Mike here with a short synopsis plus context on every column, 50 years ago today. Weekly compilations post on weekends.

Chapter NOTES: Oh, there is so much lost to time already from 1972 and before. If you were born even after 1980, you could use an additional guide, like Virgil escorting Dante through hell. Notes are not numbered in the chapters, but items of interest appear in Notes in the same order as in the chapters. Some larger topics will get their own Optional History Chapter, such as The Wrigley Building.

I do hope you will enjoy your time in 1972.


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