TNT Bar, Chicago 1974


This slide show is comprised of photographs taken winter 1974. They are here to memorialize my father who as owner of the TNT bar and restaurant for 35 years provided a refuge to a group of people who worked in the meat packing industry in the heart of Chicago, Illinois. They were my father's extended family.

In 1940, my father was an intelligent teenage boy who had dreams of being a doctor and was called to duty during World War II to serve in the United States Army. He became a medic, serving in both Europe and the Pacific, for the duration of the War.

He taught me the value of inclusiveness, where all people, no matter their origin, are to be treated as equals. He was a true philosopher.

The dreams of this young man were shattered during those War years, and in 1946 he and a friend opened the TNT bar. For 35 years until his retirement in 1981, he worked from 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. serving his clientele who worked during those same hours in the freezers of the local meat packing companies. The first shift would come into the bar at 4:00 a.m. to purchase a pint of whiskey to take into the freezers to help them keep the sub-zero temperatures from taking their toll. They would come back for lunch and then return to the freezers to complete their day's work. Another shift would work until about 5:00 p.m. and then come into the bar and socialize until 7:00 p.m., at which time the bar would close and everyone went home.

In 1974, my father required surgery on his eyes and I was called to assist him during that period. I flew to Chicago from San Francisco and tended the bar for about 10 weeks while my father convalesced. It was an experience I will never forget. I had no idea what my father's day-to-day life consisted of until that time. Many people I met had known him for more than 25 years and truly loved him and considered him a part of their extended family - and so I was also treated as part of that family. The bar was more than just a bar, it was a meeting place where people felt safe coming in from a harsh, and at times violent, environment.

On my last night at the bar before returning to California, I was treated to a going-away party and I took these photographs at that time. You need to imagine the "Bump" being played loudly on the juke box and a couple of dozen conversations going on at once. Smoke filled and alcohol scented the bar, and the party was alive and going strong.

It's only in retrospect that I see these photos depicting an historical slice of time and showing a culture surviving under harsh conditions, working hard to support themselves and their families in the continuing saga of America.

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