One hundred years ago today, my father – Marvin Norden Nachman – was born in Chicago, probably at Passavant Hospital. I’ve written little about him before – his military career (http://brulelaker.blogspot.com/2011/01/my-fathers-army.html) and what turned out to be our last Sox game together (http://brulelaker.blogspot.com/2010/11/major-gives-us-day-to-remember.html) – but not much else in biographical form. So on the 100th anniversary of his birth, here’s my tribute to a wonderful man who left us way too soon.
Dad, age 3 months
My grandparents and uncle Adolph, c. 1916
Van Dorn Apartments and South Side Hebrew Congregation religious school
7430 S. Bennett Ave. and Hyde Park High School
As South Siders, Adolph and dad became White Sox fans, something all five children inherited. Adolph saw his first game in 1921 and my father shortly thereafter. They took the Wentworth Avenue streetcar to the ballpark. Adolph bought season tickets after returning home from World War II, and my father had tickets to all the night games – less than 20 – in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He and Adolph attended all three home games of the 1959 World Series (Frank and I saw Game 1). My first Sox game was in 1954 (or maybe 1953) and have seen at least one home game every season except 1970 since, although I saw a game in Boston during that terrible 106-loss season.
Ticket, 1959 World Series
My father pledged Phi Epsilon Pi fraternity as a freshman, majoring in accounting. He would make several lifelong friends there but, unlike many of them, did not marry one of the U of I sorority sisters. His first roommate was Norman Cohn, a senior, who would go on to head a construction company that built Old Orchard Shopping Center (he reminded us countless times “My college roommate built this place” while shopping there) and later became part of JMB Realty. My grandmother thought it was so wonderful that dad has such a nice Jewish roommate when visiting them that first year. She remarked how neat their room was, until she opened a closet door and piles of stuff cascaded out. Only one of his brothers is known to still be with us, Eddie Stein, who is going strong at age 100.
Phi Epsilon Pi, 1937-1938. Dad is 1st row at left;
Eddie Stein is last row in front of the door
Dad achieved several honors, both academically and in extracurricular activities. Despite being an accounting major, he was editor of the 1938 Illio, the university’s yearbook. His colleague at the Daily Illini was Jack Mabley, who had a long career as a Chicago newspaper columnist. He received the Sachem and Ma-Wan-Da awards as a junior and Beta Gamma Sigma, the national honor society for business students. The only other accounting major to achieve similar grades and honors was Thomas A. Murphy, chairman and chief executive officer of General Motors from 1974 to 1980.
The Daily Illini, 1938
Despite his academic honors, my father could not get a job with a Big 8 (now Big 4, all of whom are headquartered in Europe) accounting firm after graduating in 1938. Why? Simply because he was Jewish. I was told by a 1972 U of I accounting graduate with similar honors that certain firms even then were known to be less hospitable to Jewish applicants. Dad joined a Jewish firm (I don’t remember the name) and later became a partner at Katz, Wagner & Co., where his main concentration was auditing. His clients included Pick Hotels and Speedway Wrecking, which would later demolish the first Comiskey Park. He worked for the firm until 1963, minus the three years he was in the Army during World War II.
At work, unknown date
My grandparents lost the two-flat toward the end of the Depression and moved to a high-rise apartment building at 7300 S. South Shore Drive. Grandpa Jim died in 1942 at age 57 while the boys were in the Army, and they returned to a small apartment after the war ended three years later. I think the tight living quarters had something to do with my father marrying Harriet Bloomfield on September 3, 1946, after having gone on a first date back on March 22. Adolph would marry the following year. They had to pay somebody under the table to get an apartment at 7130 S. Cyril Court. Home would later be 6738 S. Merrill Avenue, which was destroyed by fire in 1982.
Just married, September 3, 1946
My father was pretty much out of sight from January 1 to April 15 every year. In fact, my brother and I were born on March 22 (very ironic) and, because my mother didn’t find out she was having twins until three weeks before we were born, Frank and I had to wait to get our own cribs until the tax season ended. Dad would wake us up in the morning just to remind us he was still around. During our first family trips east, we stayed at the Belmont Plaza (now the W New York) in New York City and The Lee House (now demolished) in Washington, D.C., both Pick hotels.
The twins, one week old, 1949
After April 15, dad travelled frequently to do audits at Pick hotels, one of which was the Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio. He told us that numerous Ohio State football players were on the hotel’s payroll, but the only time he ever saw them was when they came for free meals. This made the Illini graduate very unhappy when his school was placed on probation for minor offenses, particularly when one of the whistleblowers was a staff member who had been passed over for promotion.
One memorable anecdote relates to the Sahara Inn, a motel near O’Hare airport owned by mobster Manny Skar. The Sahara had declared bankruptcy shortly after its construction in 1962, and Pick Hotels was one of the creditors. A creditors’ meeting was held over a weekend at the Schiller Park establishment, requiring the attendees to stay two nights; however, Illinois Bell had yanked all of the phones in this pre-cell phone era. My father’s parting words to our mother were, “If I’m not back by Sunday, call the police.” Skar would be gunned down in a mob hit in 1965 as he exited the garage in his N. Lake Shore Drive building after dining with Mrs. Skar at a deli on Oak Street. Because take-home purchases were noted in the newspaper reports, our family joke was “Manny Skar died clutching his salami.”
Sahara Inn matchbook
3100 W. Grand Avenue
Ticket, 1966 World Series
4400 W. Ohio Street (the name is still above the door)
Confirmation Class 1932 ring
It took me a long time to come to terms with losing dad at age 55. Only a few years ago when I knew he probably would no longer be here did I find some sort of closure. Ironically, Adolph lived to be three months short of 102 and was sharp it until the end. I never begrudged him that because it was a great connection to family. Mom remarried the next year to Irving Nathan, a man very much unlike dad, which was a good thing. He was outgoing and gregarious and took the seven of us (Frank, Martha, Grant, Julia, Janet, Marisa and me) in as his own. They traveled the world, kept old friends and made new ones, and he left her secure to the end of her life at age 89 in 2013.
His last photo, with Reuben Shore, March 1973