Here’s your new Puzzler for July!

The phrase, “Smoke-Filled Room” is nothing new. In fact, it seems to have been in the vernacular forever. But where did it come from? When did it first appear? And how did it get into common use?

Well, as you may have suspected by now, the Smoke-Filled Room made its first recognized appearance right here in Chicago! How appropriate. And it was introduced as a result of a political convention.

Therein lies the basis of this month’s Puzzler. Your challenge is to answer these questions:

1. In what year was the term, Smoke-Filled Room introduced?

2. Specifically, where in the Windy City did the Smoke-Filled Room come into use? And what was the result?

3. And, in which party’s convention was it first popularized?

Send me your answers as a “comment” and I’ll publish the correct answer in a couple of weeks.

Good Luck1


Chicago Writers & Poets: A Poem by Mary Gray Kaye




Here’s another installment of Chicago Stories’ feature, Chicago Writers & Poets.

   Our writer this month is Mary Gray Kaye. Mary writes as a member of the Neighborhood Writing Alliance.



Little mindsets
In our country
Little mindsets
          filled with tickytack
Little mindsets
Fill the sidewalks
Static mindsets
          all the same

There’s a red one
And a blue one
And a  right one
          and a  leftish one
And they’re all made
Out of tickytack
And they all smell
          just the same

And the people
With their mindsets
Always plugged in-
          to Giant teletubes
So they stare at
Glowing boxes
Where what comes out
          is the same

There are poor folks
And some rich dudes
And some  multi-
          figure millionaires
But they’re all bound
Up with tickytack
And they all sound
          just the same

And they all will
Carry  banners
As they holler at 
          their antagonists
And they”ll bring
Little babies
Who will learn from
          moms and dads

Learn to holler
Clever slogns
They’ll believe in
          ’til the day they die
While they’ll stand on
Little boxes
But they’ll still sound
          just the same

Soon the small boys
Become big boys
And the  small girls
          try to grow up too
While the big shots
On the top tier
Fill their heads with
          sticky glue

So they settle 
Into blue states
Or they fall in-
          to the redder states
And they stick with
Gooey tickytack
And it all just
          stays the same

copyright mary gray kaye
Inspired by Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds


The Solution to the June Puzzler is here!

OK – I admit that this one was a bit obscure.  .  . 

But don’t we love a challenge? So here is the solution

The puzzler question was – Who is remembered as Seaweed Charlie?

And the solution is:

During World War II the Lakefront was the site of war planes criss-crossing the skies. Fighter pilots were receiving their training in aircraft carrier take-offs and landings off Navy Pier. There were many crashes during those exercises. It is said that one pilot, drowned in a crash,  occasionally crawls in full aviator’s uniform, dripping wet and covered with seaweed across Lake Shore Drive toward Evanston’s Calvary Cemetery. 

If you’re driving past Calvary Cemetery some night and see him, be sure to send Chicago Stories an alert of your good fortune!

See you all next month.


The New June 2013 Puzzler is here!


It’s time again for that monthly head scratcher, the June Puzzler.

This month’s Puzzler is just one simple question:

Who is known as . . . .  Seaweed Charlie?

Send your solution as a “comment” and I’ll publish the answer in a couple of weeks.

Good Luck!        


Solution for the May 2013 Puzzler!

CaponeWell, no one knew the answer to the Puzzler this time, although some made gallant efforts, while others had no idea what the answer is, but really want to know.

The Puzzler was: What was  the gaff involving the City of Chicago flag in the movie The Untouchables?

So here goes: If you saw The Untouchables, you may remember the shot of South LaSalle Street and  the financial district with many city flags flying from the buildings. You also may have noted that all of the flags had four red stars. In addition, you probably know that the events in the movie took place in the late 1920’s.  

Each star represents a significant place or event in Chicago history. The design for the City of Chicago flag was first approved in 1917 with the first two stars honoring the Great Chicago  Fire of 1871 and the Columbian Exposition World’s Fair of 1893. The third star was added in 1933 for the Century of Progress World’s Fair of the same year. The fourth and last star was added in 1939 to commorate Fort Dearborn. The Fort actually predated by many years all those having already received stars.

Thus, there were only two stars on the flag in the late 1920’s!

Chicago Writers and Poets – A poem by Ilze Vitands

         IMG Randolph 2 

 Chicago Stories is introducing a new feature: Chicago Writers & Poets with new works by Chicagoans who bring their personal perspectives to the Chicago experience. I’ve been involved in writing groups and classes for a number of years and continue to meet and read the work of those who are capturing in words their unique take on Chicago life. I’ve been having so much fun I just want to share some of that with all of you. And I’ll be sneaking in some of my stuff, too.

A poem by Ilze Vitands.


 By Ilze Vitands                                      

                   Once inside a kitchen cluttered,

                        at the counter there I uttered

                        over many a sauce and condiment bottle

                        and knives with vinyl grips.

                        Here I paused in reverence, asking,

                        my body’s wisdom thus unmasking, 

                        after so much multi-tasking,

                        What refreshment here equips?

                        Of the best and healthy choices?

                        What food here shall pass my lips?”

                     Quoth my body, “Eat some chips.”


                 Ah, distinctly I remember

                        my reaction, this dissembler!

                        How my wise and knowing body could retort and be so flip?

                        So I spake, “I am mishearing.

                        Surely you would not be steering

                        me to such unworthy leering

                        at that yellow plastic clip

                        holding closed this bag of Ruffles?

                        “Truly, this food I should skip!”

                     Quoth my body, “Onion dip.”


              Presently, with virtue stronger,

                        hesitating then no longer,

                        “Sir,” said I, “No, wait..Madam, you must see

                        this weakness has to stop.

                        Do you not have resolution?

                        Stand against your own pollution!

                        Respect the eons of evolution

                        that will crumble from this slop!

                        Imbibe some purest mineral water!

                        Eat the green and leafy crop!”

                   Quoth my body, “Drink some pop.”


            “Be that then our words of parting!

                        Exercise I will be starting.

                        Hoist me hence from my apartment! 

                       To the vast Lake Michigan Sea!

                        There I’ll run along the paving,

                        End this self-destructive craving!

                        My own soul I will be saving!

                        Breathe the air so deep and free!

                        I’ll  run until my sweat

                        doth fill my eyes so I can’t see!

                   Quoth my body, “Watch TV.”


            So my body, glad in quitting,

                        still is sitting, still is sitting.

                        Watching reruns of Green Acres,

                        sharing pork rinds with the cat.

                        But in the dark before each dawning,

                        I plot afresh against each scorning

                        Repeating every doctor’s warning,

                        Every warning falling flat.

                        “Won’t you heed my wisdom, body?

                        Make some effort? Lose some fat?”

                   Quoth my body, “Screw all that.”

Inspired by The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Quoth My Body was pulished previously in the Journal of Ordinary Thought. Ms Vitands writes as a member of the Neighborhood Writing Alliance.

The May 2013 Puzzler


Did you miss the Puzzler

last month?


Sorry. Sometimes the ole Puzzler

gets tired.

So here’s a new one: 

What was the gaff involving the Chicago City Flag in the movie, The Untouchables?

We Chicgoans  love it when we can find something wrong with Hollywood’s attempts to make movies about our city.

Good Luck Everyone!

The answer in a couple of weeks.