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May 10, 2021

Amazing Vintage Photos of the Marine Angel Going Through Drawbridges on the Chicago River in 1953

In 1953, the 600-foot-long, 70-foot-wide Marine Angel transited the Chicago River. The freighter had only seven inches of clearance on each side at Van Buren Street, and was the largest ship to ply the river.

Even now, one has to gasp and wonder how the hell that happened!






On the eve of World War II, the United States Maritime Commission was created to revitalize the United States Merchant Marine. During the War, the Commission oversaw the production of thousand of transport vessels including Liberty ships (2,710), Victory ships (534), and Type C4 transports (75). Many of these vessels became surplus when the war ended and were stored in the reserve fleet at James River, Virginia.

In 1950 the United States became involved in the Korean conflict and iron ore was once again in strong demand. Unfortunately, lake carriers lacked capacity and shipyards on the Lakes could not produce boats fast enough. In late 1950, Cleveland-Cliffs announced it would convert a surplus Victory ship to a Great Lakes bulk carrier. Many questioned the wisdom. It took Bethlehem Shipbuilding in Baltimore only 90 days to build new forward cabins, add 165 feet to the midsection, and reconfigure the deck so hatches were compatible with standard lake boats.

Renamed Cliffs Victory, she was now 620 feet long with a 62-foot beam. The next task – move her to the Lakes (there was no St. Lawrence Seaway yet). She would be towed down the Atlantic coast, across the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi River, through the Illinois Waterway, and into Lake Michigan. Her superstructure was removed and stowed in the cargo hold so she would clear low bridges, and pontoons were fitted so she could make it through shallow sections of the canal system. The 3,000-mile journey from Baltimore to Chicago took 37 days. Work was completed at American Shipbuilding in South Chicago and she entered service in June of 1951. Total time for conversion was less than 6 months, compared with more than 13 months required for a new vessel. Interestingly, it took only 42 days to build the original Victory ship.

Following this success, Great Lakes fleets acquired six surplus C4-class vessels for conversion. One of these was the Marine Angel, built in 1945 by the Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company (Chester, PA). She was acquired by Amersand Steamship Company in 1952 and converted to a Laker at the Maryland Drydock Company (Baltimore, MD). When she emerged from the yard, she was 634 feet long with a 72-foot beam, and sported a fuller “laker” bow.

Marine Angel’s long journey to the Lakes ended on March 5, 1953, when she was towed slowly down the Chicago River, through the heart of the city with its many bridges, and then into Lake Michigan. Officials of the towing company described the job as a “routine tow.” As she cleared the double-decked Lake Shore Drive Bridge, one last obstacle remained. The lock separating Lake Michigan and the Chicago River was only 600 feet long while the Marine Angel was 634 feet. Normal lock procedures would not work.

To “cleanse” the river and prevent contamination of drinking water, the Chicago River’s flow was reversed in 1900. The harbor lock is required to control the amount of water flowing from Lake Michigan into the river. Historically, the difference in water level between the lake and river is less than 2 feet.

As she approached, the lockmaster opened the riverside gate and the Marine Angel was eased in until her bow nearly touched the lakeside gate. Large hawsers were run from her winches to mooring posts. The lakeside gate was then opened. With both gates open, she winched forward against the onrushing water until the riverside gate could be closed. The Marine Angel was now on Lake Michigan.


After a short stop at American Shipbuilding in South Chicago, the Marine Angel proceeded to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where self-unloading equipment would be installed. She arrived at Manitowoc Shipbuilding on March 13, 1953. Work was completed and the boat, renamed McKee Sons, departed Manitowoc in October 1953.

The McKee Sons sailed as a steamer until 1979. For more than 10 years she lay idle. Then, in 1991, she was acquired by the Upper Lakes Towing Company and converted to a barge. In December of 2014, after more than 2 years of inactivity, she was moved to long-term storage at Muskegon where she sits today facing an uncertain future.




Pictures of Elton John With His Parents at Their Apartment in London, 1971

Sheila Farebrother gave birth to Reginald Kenneth Dwight, later known as Elton John, on March 25 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex. Shelia married Elton’s dad Stanley Dwight when Elton was six years old, but they divorced when her son was 14.
“I suppose my mum and dad must have been in love once, but there wasn’t much sign they ever had been by the time I came along. They gave every impression of hating each other. My dad was strict and remote and had a terrible temper; my mum was argumentative and prone to dark moods,” John wrote in a personal essay for The Guardian in May 2019. “When they were together, all I can remember are icy silences or screaming rows. The rows were usually about me, how I was being brought up.”
She later married a local painter, Fred Farebrother, who became a supportive step-dad to Elton. When he began to consider a career in music, Elton’s father, who was a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, tried to convince him toward a more conventional career, such as banking.

Both of his parents were musically talented, with his father having been a trumpet player with the Bob Millar Band. His parents were also keen record buyers, showing Elton the popular singers and musicians of the time, and he has spoken of being inspired by the rock and roll records his mother brought home.

Here are some photographs of Elton John with his mother Sheila and stepfather Fred Fairebrother at their apartment in London, 1971.









(Photos by John Olson)




The ’50s British Beach Life Through Fascinating Photos

The great British seaside holiday came into its heyday in the postwar years, the 1950s and 1960s. In this period, it was unusual for families to holiday abroad, most stayed in the UK. Those lucky enough to have relatives living by the coast might holiday with them, some would rent a flat or house, some would stay in a guest house or hotel.


On the beach, whatever the weather, you would find families sheltering behind windbreaks. Whilst the adults would relax in deckchairs, rented for the day or half day, the children would play ball, dig sandcastles, go rock pooling and paddle in the sea. Some families rented beach huts by the day or week; these were great places to shelter from the rain and for changing into and out of swimming costumes.

The bikini was invented in 1946 and by the 1950s was very popular with women. Men wore boxer-style swimming shorts, whilst children often wore hand-knitted swimming costumes and trunks.

These fascinating vintage photos were found by vintage ladies that show what the beach life of the U.K. looked like in the 1950s.










The Most Famous Costume in Movie History Was Probably the “Little Tramp” Outfit Worn by Charlie Chaplin

A derby hat, cane, tight coat, baggy trousers and ill-fitting shoes: the most recognizable silhouette in cinema and in the world. The brilliance of Charlie Chaplin and of his Tramp couldn’t have been better captured than in the words of the film-maker himself:
“My costume helps me to express my conception of the average man, of almost any man, of myself. The derby, too small, is a striving for dignity. The mustache is vanity. The tightly buttoned coat and the stick and his whole manner are a gesture toward gallantry and dash and ‘front’. He is chasing folly, and he knows it. He is trying to meet the world bravely, to put up a bluff, and he knows that, too. He knows it so well that he can laugh at himself and pity himself a little.”
The Tramp costume laid out across a chair, date and photographer unknown. (Credit: BFI National Archive)

This is the original tramp suit that Charlie Chaplin first wore in the part of The Little Tramp. It was lent to him by Billie Ritchie whilst they were performing in The Mumming Birds for the Alfred Karno Company. Chaplin was supposed to be playing the part of the gentleman cad and Ritchie the tramp, but due to this not working for Chaplin, Ritchie offered to exchange roles. The shoes were too large, so Chaplin put them on opposing feet and Charlie Chaplin’s iconic creation was born.

Chaplin returned the suit after the performances, but reprised the character on film in The Kid Auto Races, where his Tramp became famous. Ritchie, who had originated the “drunk” role was galled that the directors asked him to make his characters more Chaplin-esque, and whilst Chaplin was very determined to protect the copyright of his character, he would often get involved in litigation with other film companies, was always benign towards his erstwhile mentor.

Period illustrations show Ritchie wearing the suit or parts of it. Ritchie was to die in a filming accident involving an ostrich in 1921. Chaplin hired his widow, Winifred, to be in charge of and design his costumes (most famously, for the Great Dictator). When Winifred retired, she came back to Britain with the suit that was placed in the museum of Harry Brown, a stage doorman of many London Theaters between 1930-60.

The outfit and cane were believed to have been given to Harry Brown after Billie Ritchie’s family read an article pertaining to the collection of memorabilia owned by Harry Brown in their local paper. When Brown died the suit was exhibited at the Museum of Moving Images, London, Museum of Entertainment, Truro, Cornwall and at Exeter University, Devon.










May 9, 2021

35 Cool Photos Show the 1960s Women’s Hairstyles

The 1960s saw the onset of a counterculture revolution, with accepted social norms in every realm from music to film to fashion being challenged and re-written. And Hair in the 1960s saw a lot of diversity. Styles were influenced by the working classes, music, independent cinema, and social movements.


Without a hat to call attention to a woman’s head, 1960s hairstyles became a new focus for women in the Space Age. The bouffant look teased hair to new heights — literally. The flip, popular with teens, added the youthful girly look to the salon offerings. Short ’20s inspired bobs with guiche curls kissed her cheeks for another doll-like look.

Hair length rose from shoulder to chin to cropped above the ears as the decade progressed, only to come crashing down again in the ’70s. In all, 1960s hairstyles took a wild ride ending with the natural look to kick of the 1970s.

Here below is a set of cool vintage photos that shows what hairstyles of women looked like in the 1960s.












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