Tag Archives: Chicago

African- Americans, Mildred B. Haessler, Pearl Pachaco Williams and Ballet on Chicago’s Southside

1930, Chicago, IL. The Rosenwald Building opened; it was designed as affordable housing for middle class Black families it was THE place to stay. The official name for the building was Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments.
In 1937 Mrs. Pearl Pachaco Williams, Recreation Director for the building was designing a program for the residents of the building. Of the activities she had planned one was ballet classes for the girls, Mrs. Mildred B. Haessler heard of these plans and offered to teach the classes.
Mrs. Haessler was a resident of Ravinia, Illinois who graduated from Vassar College and received an A.M. from the University of Illinois. She had begun her dance training at the age of 11 and loved it enough that she wanted to share that joy!
These ballet classes at the time were restricted to residents of the Rosenwald Building, there were two classes one for 7-10 year old girls and the other for those over 10. By 1957 there were eight classes with ages ranging from 5-22 and students were coming from all over Chicago and the near suburbs!
Mildred and Pearl went on to staging shows at the Eight Street Theatre, which was located behind the Stevens Hotel, now the Hilton on Wabash and 8th Street.
What I find fascinating is that in 1937 young Black girls and young Black women were eager to learn ballet! Not only did they learn but they performed The Toy Shop and Swan Lake at the Civic Opera House 16 June 1957! This was an Anniversary, a 20 year anniversary!
Some of you readers may be aware that I have been sharing pictures of African-American people that have been left, abandoned, in abandoned buildings throughout the Englewood community on Chicago’s Southside.
I share these pictures in the hopes that some family member might recognize them.
In my collection are four program books from The Mildred B. Haessler Ballet Group’s performances, for 1954, 1957, 1958 and 1959. These books contain beautiful black and white pictures of the African-American dancers who were the students and performers. How I wish these pictures were in color!
There were two articles in one of the programs; one dated 10 June 1957 from The Chicago American Newspaper and the other dated 13 June 1957 from the Chicago Daily Tribune. Older Chicagoans will recognize the name of the reporter for The Chicago American, Wesley South.
I was unable to unearth much information on the ballet group itself but I did locate an old EBay auction for a hardcover book, “Handwritten Chicago Ballet Journal Haessler School of Dance Taylor Stubbs 1947-1949”, the auction ended 16 June 2013 and it sold for $360.00! These programs may not be of any monetary value but the history in these pages is invaluable.
Below you will find copies of the newspaper articles as well as a select group of pictures form the 20th Anniversary program. In time I hope to scan and share each page of each book.

To view the pictures just click on them and they open, use your “back” button to return to see another picture.
I hope you enjoy this little bit of perhaps, unknown history!

20th AnniversaryPage 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 8Page 19Page 30The Chicago AmericanThe Chicago American 2Chicago Daily TribuneChicago Daily Tribune 2Chicago Daily Tribune date

Happy Father’s Day Daddy!

There are many men who are responsible for my being here today. I salute you, I thank you!

Happy Father’s Day!

William Alfred Shannon, called Billy by all who knew him. I just called him Daddy.

Daddy was born 9 September 1933 to Ralph Shannon and Louise Brown Shannon.


Birth Cert. William Alfred Shannon

William Alfred Shannon 1933


He grew up in Maywood, Illinois and served in the Air Force from 1952-1959.   His life is mostly a mystery to me, my parents divorced when I was young. Momma has shared a few stories with me that let me know he was a character in so many ways! Like the time she went into labor with me, he was in the Air Force and stationed at White Sands Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Well, she was screaming to beat the band and he was yelling and threatening the doctor, demanding that he do something for his wife! He got so out of hand that they had to lock him in the brig!

Momma said they met at a skating rink, he couldn’t pay for them both to go in, he must have charmed her because here I am! Momma, Daddy and me

There were some good times with my Daddy, he use to call me knucklehead, some not so good. He was an alcoholic. He was a very intelligent man and very charismatic, I don’t know what his demons were but I know they affected every area of his life.

Alcohol played a large part in his death, I also suspect there was foul play involved. He “fell” out of a third floor window to his death. The police investigation stated that he was attempting to burglarize the apartment….from the outside. He was found shirtless and shoeless, his death was ruled an accident. He died 11 October 1973.

Death Cert. William Alfred Shannon

William Alfred Shannon Headstone



I will always regret not having the chance to know the man he was or could have been. I regret that he didn’t get to watch his daughters grow up or meet his grandchildren. I am grateful that he lived!

My Daddy
My Daddy

Cops For Cats

This is not about genealogy but about another passion of mine!

It’s very cold in Chicago and it’s going to get colder before it warms up. This is a plea to my Police friends, I’m not going to bore you with details of the number of cats that are out there homeless and unloved, just know that there are a bunch!

Over the summer I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful woman, Georgia. This woman devotes an enormous amount of her time, gas and money to help feral and stray cats and kittens all over the city! What she and I do is called TNR, that’s Trap, Neuter, and Release. Cats form colonies and if there is a “feeder” (one who feeds them) then George (she prefers that name) traps them, gets them “fixed” and returns them to their colony.

She has made it possible for a number of areas to be targeted for this service, Englewood is one, as well as Pilsen. This is all done for FREE! What doing this means is females can’t have anymore kittens and males don’t spray 🙂 So the population remains stable.

Here is just a little information about feral cats, http://www.neighborhoodcats.org/HOW_TO_WHAT_IS_FERAL_CAT

I’m reaching out because the Chicago Cops I know are some of the most compassionate people ever under all that blue! I’m asking for a couple of things…OK maybe more than a couple, but I promise it’s not much! LOL

1. Build or buy a Winter Cat Shelter, here are instructions for building one. http://www.neighborhoodcats.org/HOW_TO_FERAL_CAT_WINTER_SHELTER or you can buy a couple from http://www.pawschicago.org/ To save even more money what I’ve done is taken cardboard boxes, put Styrofoam insulation inside, lined the bottom with heat reflecting sheets that you can pick up in sporting goods stores, put in some batting I had laying around and then put in some straw. Then I put the whole thing in one of those heavy duty contractor bags and taped it up!IMG_3350 IMG_3351

Is it pretty? Nope, but it does the job!

2. Reach out to George on Facebook, she has a page called Chicago TNR Ask her what you can do to help or just hit me up!

See, I told you it wasn’t much! And please share this with any and everyone you know who might be willing to help. Don’t make me call a 10-1! LOL

Thanks guys!

Donna, Ms Beat 735

Grandma Eunice

Eunice Sarah Franklin born in Houston, Texas, 30 August 1913, Died 4 September 1998 in Chicago, Illinois.

I had the family over for dinner Christmas Eve, and I mentioned how when we were younger we would have Christmas brunch at grandma’s. She’d fix scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, grits, fried apples and biscuits. Didn’t matter if you didn’t like scrambled eggs, you ate what was put on your plate!
And all the food had to be eaten and the kitchen cleaned before anyone opened any gifts!
As my grandma got older the task of holiday gatherings fell to my mother, despite the fact that she was the middle daughter and now I am the matriarch of the family holiday dinners.

Grandma Eunice
A dress she designed and made.

Grandma Eunice was a very talented woman, she was a tailor and a furrier. That woman could, would and did take newspaper or brown butcher paper and create a pattern in the morning, sew up a dress for herself to wear to a formal event in the evening! She was just that good! You better believe she would not walk into an event and see her dress on someone else!

Xmas party
A dress I made.

She tried to teach all three of her daughters to sew but the only one who showed any skill or interest was my mother, who passed it on to me. Neither of my two sisters were interested.
Sometime between 1941 and 1942 Grandma Eunice moved from Galveston, Texas to Chicago. After a period of time she purchased a two flat on Chicago’s westside across the street from the Garfield Park Conservatory. She was a single parent providing a strong, secure home for her daughters and their families. 327 N Central Park 1 June 2013