My grandfather was a witness to the disaster. His association with that day is explained below. The Chicago Tribune sent out a call for memories of the disaster by survivors and witnesses or their families and descendants a few weeks ago. My father sent in a response, sharing his own father's memories. The Tribune did not include my dad's response, for space reasons supposedly. So I thought I'd share what my dad wrote here. Here is my dad's/grandfather's story.
|The Chicago River from Clark St. bridge, looking at Lasalle St. bridge|
|Plaque on Lasalle St. bridge memorializing Eastland Disaster, at site where it occurred|
|Chicago water taxi cruising over disaster site on the river|
My name is John Ostberg. I was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived there until 1978. In 1978 I moved with my wife and six children out to Mt. Prospect, where my wife and I still reside. Over 70 years ago, my father Trygve Ostberg told me about a tragedy that happened on the Chicago River near Michigan Blvd. My father was 17 years old at the time of the tragedy. He was a strong swimmer* and had been working as a lifeguard at Clarendon Beach (now filled in and called Clarendon Park). On the day of the Eastland tragedy, some of the lifeguards, including my father, had just reported to work and were immediately rushed to the disaster scene to assist in the recovery of bodies. There were so many bodies, the professional divers who were called in could not keep up their efforts. So the city called in lifeguards to help out the divers.
|My grandfather, Trygve Ostberg, in 1915|
|Trygve ten years later, 1925|
|My grandfather with my dad and my aunt June, early 1930s|
|My father in the 1950s, taking after his own father|
Ironically I went on to work for Western Electric (for their subsidiary Teletype) from 1953 to 1999. They were always very cautious about planning family events for their employees, owing to the Eastland disaster. I don't recall any boat or bus outings planned for any family day gatherings. Also coincidentally, our youngest daughter René [Blog owner's note: yeah, that's me] worked at the Reid Murdoch Building on the river at Lasalle and Clark as an employee of Encyclopedia Britannica for several years. This has been recorded as one of the buildings used to assemble bodies after the Eastland tragedy. She said when her company moved their offices into the Reid Murdoch, there were rumors of the building being haunted, but she recalls nothing suspicious while working there.**
|The Reid Murdoch building, formerly a warehouse, then the city's traffic courts, now the HQ for |
|The Reid Murdoch building (in middle, with clock tower) among Chicago's skyscrapers|
* My grandfather was such a strong swimmer, in fact, he belonged to a swimming club where he competed with the teenage Johnny Weissmuller, future Olympic swimming champion and Tarzan of the silver screen. Here's a clip of my granddaddy's old swimming teammate.
** No signs of haunting other than the odd toilet flushing in the bathrooms when no one was in the stalls. Not a very dignified poltergeist...