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Confessions Of A Chicago Tour Guide Part 3: The Post Office's Gyro Copters, Marina City's Flying Cars & Navy Pier's Planes

"Satellite's gone/way up to Mars/Soon it'll be filled/with parkin' cars." - Lou Reed, "Satellite of Love"

After my first column in this occasional series, Busting The Myths Of Chicago Architecture, a Concerned Reader who is a crew member on a Chicago River tour boat e-mailed us that they had recently overheard a guide on yet another company's passing boat claim that the open-air parking garages at the base of Marina City were designed, among other things, to accommodate the flying cars of the future.

It sounds preposterous and I suspect it is. I hesitate to be definitive only because Confessions is privy to contemporary promotional materials for what became Old Main Post Office which included a landing pad on the roof for "the auto-gyros of the future."

So either the guide in question is purposely full of it, which I doubt, or more likely, he or she has learned a bad habit based on something that not only sounds cool - "sounds cool" is critical here; it's why crap sticks - but does in fact apply to another building. To wit, via Adam Selzer:

Auto Gyros at Old Main.PNG

And from deep in the bowels of Tribune archives:

* Mail Test Runs By Helicopters.

* Rain, Actress Christen New Mail 'Copter.

* Mail 'Copter Sets Down In Railroad Yard.

* Mail-Carrying Copter Landed Safely In Field.

We want, hell, we crave crap (particularly Pre-Digested Crap)! We want flying cars! We want to be Insiders! We want melodrama, romance and, yes, violence. Sometimes (often, anymore?) we want the bad guys to win. We make them stars. And it's no Giant Post-Modern Leap from there to see how we, furthermore, make them gods.

Dr. Binder brings it back to Greek myth: "The human mind sometimes has trouble handling 'we don't know.' And it turns to myth to fill that void: 'Hera and Zeus were fighting and Hera was in favor of this guy and then Zeus stepped back in.' It has to be deterministic." And he agrees that part the gratification of being a responsible but compelling guide is offering alternative, often more complex explanations regarding common misconceptions.

Our e-Tattler, who asked us not to use their real name, also reported hearing another guide, one who is certified by the Chicago Tour-Guide Professionals Association (CTPA: a sound organization which can't possibly monitor every word of every tour), claiming that during WW2 "planes landed on Navy Pier."

Not at the pier, mind you, which is true, but on the pier, which is not. You can, though, picture it, looking at the pier from a nearby boat.

Indeed, during WW2 Navy Pier was an active navy training base. Pilots were trained on "mock" aircraft carriers (e.g., converted old, unused steamers) docked at the pier in taking off from and landing back onto these ships. It was safer to do that here in the Great Lakes than along vulnerable coastal shores. That much is true. Trainees, like the first President Bush, landed on the carriers docked at the pier, not on the pier itself.

I was a young guide once myself, striving to appear knowledgeable, especially about surprising, alluring trivia. But I grew up in Naperville. My friends and I would come downtown to lark about in various disreputable fashions (e.g., shopping for records and clothes), go to concerts and see sports, but I didn't know factual Chicago Jack.

At my first summer on the open-air double-decker buses downtown, in 1986, my BOSS, the OWNER OF THE COMPANY, told me that the red steel of the CNA Center downtown was, in fact, a special kind of steel known as COR-TEN, or Corrosive-Tensile; steel designed so the surface would decay slightly to create a rust color without affecting stability.

That's a wild one, man. I was into it. And it was a total fucking crock resulting in epic fucking failure. First time I trotted that canard out, one gentleman gets - and I mean literally - apoplectic, rendered mute with agonizing, overwhelming outrage.

He was right.

That COR-TEN steel shit is real. I just had the wrong building. That would be the Daley Center, boss.

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Previously:
* Confessions Of A Tour Guide Part 1: Busting The Myths Of Chicago Architecture.

* Confessions Of A Chicago Tour Guide Part 2: Myths Of The Mob.

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See also:

* Kogan: Poet J.J. Tindall Finds Freedom In Guiding Boat Tours.

* J.J. Tindall's Chicagoetry.

* Tindall: Ballots From The Dead.

* Tindall Music.

* Tindall: Interpretive Jazz Dance 1: The Match Game Theme.

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Steven Dahlman:

I have no useful skills and my understanding of Chicago history in general is charmingly flimsy but I have studied and written about the history of Marina City (City Within A City: The Biography of Chicago's Marina City and marinacity.org) and I can assure you the parking ramps were not designed to one day accommodate flying cars. It was never mentioned in any news account or document or in any recollection of anyone with a connection to the design, planning, or construction of Marina City. My understanding of the people directly involved is that they were pragmatic and frugal and probably not drawn to any idea that could not immediately be useful.

Cool idea, though!



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Posted on September 23, 2020


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