I was driving down Lincoln Highway (Route 30), the other day and saw the demolition of Lincoln Mall and I had to drive over and take pictures and pay my respects.
No worries, I didn’t tresspass, every picture was taken legally from behind the construction fence.
I worked at Montgomery Ward in Lincoln Mall from August of 1995 to August of 1997 but a lot happened in those two years.
I started right at the beginning of my sophomore year at DePaul University, yeah I commuted between my parents south side of Chicago West Pullman home, DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus during the day and working at Lincoln Mall at night.
You learn some time management with that schedule.
I got the job from a long time friend, he worked in TV’s (Electric Avenue), and I worked in jewerlry (Gold N Gems), however in October of 1996 due to his actions he no longer worked there.
Since he recruited me and left under not the best circumstances I had to prove myself despite my good tenure, it was one of the most challening work situations I ever dealt with then or since.
Also during my time there I lost my maternal grandfather (Charles Jones), in July of 1996 though he had been ill for more than a year prior and sometimes I went to St James in Chicago Heights to check on him after my evening shift.
Also during my time at Wards I lost my paternal grandmother (Nannie Scott), in February of 1997, I even worked the day she passed.
Not to mention I had the academic rigors & challenges of an undergraduate education at DePaul University and did plenty of homework on my evening and weekend shifts.
I also must admit I had my first real love affair there with a DePaul classmate and she worked across the street at the long gone movie theatre. So even though it started prior to my Lincoln Mall time I had some of the emotions of what happened during my time there.
I started there when I was 19 years old and thought I knew everything and during my time there I found out how much I DIDN’T KNOW and had my 21st birthday during my time there.
I was off that day (I actually went to a job/internship fair at DePaul and then had Chinese food for dinner with my now late dad that day, I know exciting, didn’t have a drip of alcohol), but my co-workers were so cool and gave me a few gifts.
I still have the smiling paperweight that was a gift, its on my desk to this day.
The people who worked in the mall were extraordinary, just really good people, we were all there to do a job but took great pride in it.
A group of us from “Wards” used to have dinner at the old Denny’s on Thursday nights (we got paid every week on Thursday nights back in the days of paper paychecks), and also would occasionally meet for drinks at Bocce’s (which is still there), of course that’s when I become of legal drinking age.
It was also during my time at Wards I really started to have a guniune friendship with my dad and now that he’s been gone three years I’m so grateful.
But not once did he come to my job at Wards, said he respected my work and didn’t want to interrupt me, I learned to be a man from him and that job.
It wasn’t my first job (that was at my alma mater Brother Rice being a janitor, thanks Frank), but it was Wards that took me to the next level.
I eventually did scheduling for my department (during one of the times we had no department manager), and at one point I was offered a “one key” the overide that was reserved for managers.
But honestly I didn’t feel like I earned it and turned it down, I felt like my performance didn’t warrant it and it was simply due to my length of service and I wanted to earn it.
For those of you who may not know, I’m very hard on myself and want to be the best and do things for the right reasons, not that I’m full of myself but I want to do things the right way.
It was during my time at Wards I was no longer ashamed of that, to be the man my father wanted me to be, to live up to my Eagle Scout recognition and treat everyone fairly.
And that was a challenge at times, people tested me, a few times other employees but mostly customers but man I had some awesome co-workers who stood with me every time, it always took me by suprise.
All these years later I think about that place, those lessons and they are not forgotten, so where some people see a pile of rubble in these pictures, this was my school of hard knocks.
I’m forever grateful for the people, times and everything that happened in those walls, good bad and ugly because it helped make me the man I am today. Thanks.
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Filed under: Chicago