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Collections Cameo, May 2014

The Highball, newsletter of the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad, May-June 1926

The Highball was a monthly newsletter published by and for employees of the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad Company. The Historical Society has 29 issues in our archives, donated in 2004 by Ruth Nitsche, ranging between 1926 and 1932. The first volume of the newsletter was published in 1923. It could run to as many as 32 pages in length but was typically about 20.

The newsletter included updates about changes in North Shore Line train service, such as the opening of new stations, innovations in safety guidelines, construction on the tracks or the addition of more technologically advanced train cars. Largely, though, it was dominated by employee news: sales competitions like the “Better Business” campaign to drum up new customers; Red Cross training and other available classes; personal bulletins about personnel, like marriages or babies or vacations; events like dinners or golf outings; the travails of the employee bowling league, etc., etc.

This featured issue, Vol. 4, Nos. 5-6, was published in May 1926. Historical Society staff used it as a primary source when we were conducting research for the 1926 volume of our annual mock newspaper, The Gem.

Significantly for residents of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, June 5, 1926 witnessed the grand opening of the Skokie Valley Route of the North Shore Line. The Skokie Valley Route ran alongside present-day Rte. 41/Skokie Highway. Stops in our community were Lake Bluff, Deerpath, and Sheridan Elms (crossing with Old Elm Road - pictured, lower right). It was designed as a high-speed bypass parallel to the Shore Line Route, which went through the downtowns of all the North Shore communities and thus ran much slower.

According to a front-page article in The Highball, the Skokie Valley Route was a $10 million development project involving nine new passenger stations and 46 miles of track and trolley wire. The article commends “the men engaged in its construction” for their “speed and efficiency,” which was especially important given that the new line would shortly be required for a major event.

From June 20th to 25th, 1926, Chicago hosted the International Eucharistic Congress, a seminal event for Roman Catholics and their clergy from around the world. Attendance at a Mass at Soldier Field was estimated at 400,000 on June 22. Two days later, over half a million took a Eucharistic Procession up to St. Mary of the Lake seminary in Mundelein – 250,000 people made their pilgrimage that day by train on the new Skokie Valley Route.

This issue of The Highball is much concerned with how the North Shore Line would acquit itself at the Congress, upcoming later that month. “The great trek to Mundelein is the goal upon which the entire organization has had its eyes fastened from start to completion of the great project [the Skokie Valley Route]. … This will be the day when the North Shore Line will prove its right to world recognition as the ‘Road of Service.’”

To browse issues of The Highball, visit the Historical Society research archives, located on the second floor of our museum.