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February-March 1957

Two weeks ago I started the narrative of this road trip with a look at Washington D.C.; but the nation’s capital was actually my parents’ last stop before turning west toward home in California. So this week I’d like to go back to the point where my mom and my sister arrived in Chicago on the train and met up with my dad. He had been in the Chicago area — namely, at Chanute Air Force Base — taking part in technical training as an aircraft mechanic.

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According to the website dodfire.com, “The primary mission of the AFB was to provide military and technical training for Air Force officers, airmen, and civilian employees, and for other Department of Defense agency personnel. Training activities focused on operation and maintenance of military aircraft and ground support equipment.”

Chanute’s fascinating history began in 1917, when it was rapidly constructed to train U.S. pilots for the war in Europe. By the time the war ended, Chanute Field had trained several thousand pilots; and through the following decades this facility continued as a training center until it was decommissioned in 1993. Chanute now resides on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Superfund sites due to contamination with asbestos, pesticides, dioxin, and a long list of other dangerous chemicals. You can get an idea of what this once-proud airbase looks like these days thanks to photographer Walter Arnold, who visited the site for his project The Art of Abandonment.

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Before leaving the Chicago area, my family paid a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry — which sounds exactly like the sort of place I could happily spend at least a week exploring.

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This dollhouse, belonging to silent film star Colleen Moore, was built in 1928 and has been on display at the museum since 1949. It’s viewed by more than a million people each year and is estimated to be worth $7 million.

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The museum also includes a “FarmTech” exhibit, which is most likely where you could find this very patient Holstein.

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Not a real cow!

One of the museum’s oldest exhibits is the re-created coal mine shaft, complete with equipment taken from a real mine in 1933. I’ll admit when I first looked at this image I was clueless, but now it makes a bit more sense!

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I wasn’t able to identify the next couple of images; my mom’s best guess is that they are “somewhere in Pennsylvania.”

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I’ll end this week’s post with a view of the Basilica of Christ the King in Hamilton, Ontario. This beautiful Gothic cathedral was built in 1933 and is the seat of the Bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton. The church’s cornerstone was excavated from the Roman catacombs. The tower contains 23 bells, with the largest weighing 4.5 tons.

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Next week (Christmas Day!) I’ll finish up this road trip with a few images from the journey home through the Midwest in the late winter of 1957.

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