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.
Besides chapters of the book serialized monthly, this site includes three more sections for a multi-faceted way to experience Steve’s 1972 world, if you’re up for it. Read on for details.
Who am I? Call me TBD.
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. Three famous native Roselanders are Elliot Ness, Dick Butkus, and Robert Zemeckis. (Hint: The Untouchables, the Bears, Back to the Future.)
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. The Vietnam War turned 25, more than old enough drink, vote, marry and have children—which thousands of people never had a chance to do because of the Vietnam War. 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. That statement should be enough, but for non-baseball fans, we’ll add that many people feel Dick Allen saved the Sox for Chicago, and more specifically, for the South Side.
Giant corporation Miller Brewing bought beloved local beer Meister Brau, then closed local operations and left 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, the chapters to come, or any other feature on this site. 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. We’ll address that further in Chapter Three.
Subscribers receive new chapters emailed to their inboxes monthly, and two other features weekly (see below). 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 are signified with a small rose, like this one:
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. Chapter Two begins Steve’s story.
Look at the top of the Home Page, here, for the contents page of each section. The most recent chapters/posts are at the top of each contents page. To read Steve’s story, click on “The Book.”
Now, what about those other sections
As we mentioned at the top, if you’re up for it, “Roseland, Chicago: 1972” is constructed to be a multifaceted experience that lets you immerse yourself in Steve’s 1972 world. To that end, Steve’s story is augmented by three sections: THIS CRAZY DAY IN 1972, Mike Royko 50 Years Ago Today, and Chapter NOTES. Access any section at the top of the Home page, here. Of course, you can always read any of these sections and ignore Steve’s story entirely—that’s up to you!
Here’s a recap of each.
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. We clip and present stories from the Chicago Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Today, and the Chicago Daily Defender. These are the news stories—the reality—that Steve and everyone he knew were steeped in. Dip in to immerse yourself in 1972…but remember, at your own risk! A weekly compilation posts to the site and emails to subscribers, on weekends—usually Saturday morning.
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. That doesn’t mean Mike Royko was/is the only Chicago. There were/are too many ethnic and racial communities in Chicago to be entirely represented by a single person, like any major metropolitan area.
Most obviously, the Chicago newspapers of 1972 were just beginning to cover and include Chicago’s Black community. Mike’s two most prominent Black counterparts wrote weekly columns in the op-ed section—Lu Palmer in the Daily News, and Vernon Jarrett in the Tribune. We’ll include Palmer and Jarrett as often as possible in THIS CRAZY DAY IN 1972.
But Mike Royko dominated the Chicago newspaper landscape in a way that can’t be overstated, and uniquely in the city’s history. His daily column in the Daily News meant vast numbers of Chicagoans of every background checked their reality with Mike five days a week. Wade into Mike in this item. We’ll provide a short synopsis, great quotes, and political/historical context on every column, 50 years ago today. Weekly compilations are posted on weekends and emailed to subscribers—usually Sunday morning.
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 through the year, 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.
Hey, don’t forget to check out the READER CONTESTS section to see if there’s a contest going on when you read this. Prizes will always be cool 1972 swag.
Enjoy your time in 1972. It’s easier to appreciate when you can get out any time you want to.
If you’re not immediately repelled, why not subscribe? It’s free, after all. You’ll receive a new chapter monthly via email, and find out why I am spending so much time on the story of this one guy.
And why not SHARE?
Maybe you know someone else who would enjoy reading about a ten-year-old Italian-American kid on the South Side of Chicago in 1972. Didn’t your parents teach you to share?