Take a tour of Chicago yes­ter­year through a long-lost Sun-Times photo col­lec­tion

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS -

The photo shows Mary Wal­lace be­hind the wheel of an old-style CTA bus, the one folks once called the “Green Limou­sine” be­cause of its color, with its soft seats and big fish­bowl front win­dow.

It’s June 1974 and Wal­lace is about to make his­tory as the first woman to drive a CTA bus.

Al­most 50 years later, Wal­lace is a part of Chicago his­tory again. This pho­to­graph, cap­tur­ing a small mile­stone in women’s rights, is among roughly 5 mil­lion his­toric Sun-Times images res­cued from nearob­liv­ion and now be­ing re­stored, dig­i­tized and placed on­line by the Chicago His­tory Mu­seum.

The images are the fo­cus of a new Chicago His­tory Mu­seum ex­hibit called “Mil­lions of Mo­ments: The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Col­lec­tion” that opened this month.

It’s a proud moment for us. Sun-Times pho­tos from the 1940s through the early 2000s — shot by some of the best news pho­tog­ra­phers in the busi­ness, in­clud­ing Pulitzer Prize win­ner John H. White and fu­ture cel­e­brated White House pho­tog­ra­pher Pete Souza — again will be seen again by the pub­lic.

“The images — whether from news, sports or en­ter­tain­ment sto­ries — show not only the growth of our city and re­gion but also the evo­lu­tion of news pho­tog­ra­phy and its con­tin­ued im­por­tance to news con­sumers,” Sun-Times Ex­ec­u­tive Ed­i­tor Chris Fusco said, de­scrib­ing how the long-lost photo neg­a­tives were dis­cov­ered in 2017 in a stor­age locker in down­state Dixon.

Imag­ine a mas­sive photo al­bum of the fam­ily Chicago, hauled out of ob­scu­rity and now opened. Pa­rades, protests, fires, vis­it­ing dig­ni­taries, crime scenes, po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tions, ball­games, mu­sic fes­ti­vals and images of ev­ery­day life in the city.

To visit even the small por­tion of the col­lec­tion that al­ready has been put up on­line by the mu­seum is to take a trip through Chicago’s yes­ter­year.

There’s a mem­ber of the Young Lords paint­ing an image of Che Gue­vara on the wall of a child care and com­mu­nity cen­ter at Hal­sted and Ar­mitage in 1969.

There’s Mayor Richard J. Da­ley cel­e­brat­ing the open­ing of a new bike lane at Clark and Wal­ton streets in 1974. “Him­self ” looks a lit­tle ner­vous rid­ing a tan­dem bike with Keith King­bay, ac­tiv­i­ties chair­man of the League of Amer­i­can Wheel­men.

There’s Carl Sand­burg gaz­ing out at the city that was at the heart of so much of his po­etry, as his tour boat cruises along the Chicago River Branch in 1957.

And we’ve all had days like the com­muter in the photo at right. The wind has flipped his um­brella inside out as he crosses the Madi­son Street bridge over the Chicago River in 1970.

M. Leon Lopez of the Sun-Times took — or, in the ar­got of pho­to­jour­nal­ists, “made” — the photo of Wal­lace, the pi­o­neer­ing CTA bus driver. She is smil­ing brighter than a set of high-beams, a mo­tor­man’s hat sit­ting at a per­fect tilt atop her Afro.

“It’s a re­minder of the good times — and the bad times, and the mon­ster times, you know,” Wal­lace, who re­tired from the CTA 13 years ago, told us when we showed her the photo last week. “I just feel good about what I was able to do for the women of Chicago.”

Wal­lace raises a good point. Many of the pho­tos in the Sun-Times doc­u­ment tough mo­ments and times in Chicago, in­evitably given the na­ture of news­pa­per work. And there’s a mes­sage in that for our city to­day as we stare down a pan­demic, eco­nomic hard times and civil un­rest.

We’ll sur­vive these mon­ster times as well. And make his­tory do­ing it.

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