Comments at the Commercial Club Dinner, April 28, 1906 (excerpts)



Mayor Dunne Tells Commercial Club Chicago's Generosity is Argument.


City Executive and Others Speak at Banquest at Auditorium Hotel.

Mayor Dunne referred last night to the huge sums of money that have been raised in Chicago for the benefit of San Francisco as an object lesson, in pointing out the ability of Chicagoans to provide more small parks and playgrounds for the unfortunate poor children of their own city. The reference was made during a speech at the dinner of the Commercial club in the Auditorium.

The mayor's plea for more small parks was backed up by Jane Addams of Hull House, Ald. Beilfuss, and Judge Julian W. Mack, all of whom had been invited to address the club on the subject of municipal breathing spaces.

The prevalence of the cocaine habit among the youths of the congested districts was discussed by Miss Addams, who gave examples of the effect of the drug on youths who had been under her observation. She advocated the healthful recreation offered by the small park as a substitute for the false solace offered by cocaine. Judge Mack made an appeal for the furnishing of slippers and gymnasium equipment for small parks.

Agreed on the Need of Parks.

"If we can't agree on the subject of municipal ownership of street cars, gas plants, etc., we can all agree on the public ownership of parks and play grounds," said the mayor. "It is by these breathing spaces that the health of the city is determined.

"The big parks are essential to the well being of the city, but they are of more use to the wealthy and the middle classes than to the extremely poor. In certain wards of our city there are people who cannot ride to the big parks in carriages or automobiles and who are unable to afford a nickel to pay car fare.

"I wish that the gentlemen about this table could have been with me on a visit to the congested districts. I believe that you would have thought that the amount alloted to small parks should be increased tenfold. We have about $22,000 a year for small parks. That is all that has been given by this city of wealth and opulence. When, for a sister city the citizens of Chicago have given so generously and so many times in excess of the amount, it seems to me there should be nothing in the way of substantial financial aid for the increase in the number of small parks.

"It is largely a labor of love, public spiritedness, and charity," said Ald. Beilfuss.

"The sum of about $20,000 is entirely inadequate. The number of small parks ought to be doubled in the next ten years."

Good Home Only Panacea.

"We do not urge the small park as a panacea," said Miss Addams. "A good home is about the only thing that can be guaranteed to save a boy. But we need places with apparatus heavy and resistant enough to give the boy a chance to 'do stunts.'

"To break up the gang organization of boys would be one of the most stupid things you could do. The 'gang' is usually officered by a bully. There is another boy who is supplementary to the chief. In Chicago he is caled the 'song and dance man,' and in Boston 'the counsellor.' Perhaps the difference in names may be due to environment. The gang hangs out at a 'corner,' as the place of rendesvous is called.

"In [1904],"continued Miss Addams, "we found a gang of boys who made their headquarters at Desplaines and Harrison streets. They slept in old boilers at night and some of the slept there in the daytime. A negro peddler of cocaine came to them and initiated them into the habit of using the drug. At the end of six months they were in a pitiable state. Nothing could be done with the boys as individuals, but collectively seven boys consented to go to the Presbyterian hospital, where they were taken in free. We were assured that three of the boys would have died in a short time if they had not been taken care of.

"The boys boasted that as high as $8 worth of cocaine had been consumed by eight boys in a single night. They had pawned their clothes, gone without shoes, and stolen from their parents in order to get the money to buy the stuff. After the boys left the hospital they were sent into the country. One of them is now getting $17 a week in a factory.

"The saving of the boys was due to the esprit de corps of the gang."

Ideals of the Street Boy.

Miss Addams explained the psychology of the street boy. She said that his hero is the man who is courageous enough to intimidate another man at the point of a gun. She made reference to such plays as "Why Girls Leave Home," "The Biddle Brothers," and "The King of the Opium Ring" in explaining the trend of the boys' minds. She told of recently discovering some large boys playing at "rebuilding San Francisco" in a vacant lot as evidence that healthier pastimes are adopted when the opportunity was afforded.

Judge Mack talked about the need for the enlargement and increase in the number of institutions which afford something more nearly approximating home life for boys. He gave a gentle hint to his auditors by saying:

"To some of you gentlemen it would be a mere bagatelle to furnish the necessary gymnastic slippers and apparatus that is needed for the boys."

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