I photographed this man with two hats several times. On this occasion, it was Christmas Eve in 1974. He told me that he was an unemployed musician from Ireland. Previously, he also told me that he was living on the streets. But on this occasion, I noticed that he was carrying a pair of ice skates in his hands. Perhaps he finally found a job and a home. He seemed much happier – a fitting sentiment with the new year approaching. 1975, despite the recession, was a happy year for many; it was the year America finally extricated itself from the long, costly and brutal civil war in Vietnam.
I asked readers if they knew where someone might ice skate in Uptown. One wrote in to say that The Rainbo at 4812-36 north Clark Street was the most likely place. The Chicago Blackhawks used to practice on this rink in the off season. The Rainbo had many fans as you can tell from a series of posts from Rainbo “rink rats” at The Forgotten Chicago Forum. Wikipedia’s Chicago Uptown entry contains a rather lengthy discussion about the colorful history of this property.
The Rainbo started life as a popular outdoor music venue called the Moulin Rouge Gardens. In 1921, it was redeveloped into Mann’s Million Dollar Rainbo Room. The Rainbo Room had seating for 2000, a revolving stage for continuous entertainment, and space for an additional 1500 people on the dance floor. In the 1930s, it became the French Cafe, and in 1939 it became Mike Todd’s Theater Cafe. In 1957, The Theater Cafe was converted into The Rainbo Arena, an ice skating rink. Several Olympic figure skaters practiced there in addition to the Blackhawks when the Hawks won the NHL Championship in 1961. In 1979, several years after I took this shot, the Rainbo was turned into a roller rink. United “Skates” of America (USA Inc.) bought it in 1979, according to the reader (who used to work there) and it became a roller rink/concert venue until it was demolished in 2003 to make room for condo complex. Readers tell me that, sadly, some of the condos remain unsold more than ten years later.