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This week in history: Gay bar raided + Polar bears break out of Brookfield

Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition
Welcome to the “This week in history” newsletter! Every Saturday we take a break from recapping the day’s news to bring you a deep dive into Chicago’s rainbow-colored, democratic and, at one point, marshmallow-thieving history. For more historic photos, follow us at @CSTphotovault on Facebook and Instagram.
— Alison Martin (@miss_alison_m, follow for extra history plus rants and dogs throughout the week)

This week in history: A raid at a gay bar
This Chicago Daily News photograph shows the back of Louie’s Fun Lounge in Leyden Twp. where police conducted a raid on the gay bar on April 25, 1964.
This Chicago Daily News photograph shows the back of Louie’s Fun Lounge in Leyden Twp. where police conducted a raid on the gay bar on April 25, 1964.
On June 28, 1969, New York City police officers conducted a raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Activists — many of them people of color and some transgender — rioted against police harassment and brutality as well as mafia extortion that plagued the gay community where the law prevented them from even meeting in public. The riots and protests continued for six days.
Two years later, thousands of people returned on the anniversary of the riots and held the Christopher Street Liberation Day march, which later evolved into the pride parades we know today.
Before Stonewall (and for some time afterward), a police raid on a gay bar could be disastrous for those arrested. Not only would the raid likely make the papers the next day, as a raid at Louie’s Fun Lounge in Leyden Twp. did on April 25, 1964, but those arrested saw their names printed along with their addresses and occupations.
“Subsequently there were reports of job losses and a rumored suicide,” reporter Marie J. Kuda wrote of the incident for the Windy City Times in 2008.
Being an afternoon paper, the Chicago Daily News caught the story the day the raid happened and ran it on the front page with a big, two-tier headline reading, “8 teachers, suburb principal seized/109 arrested in vice den.” A photo of those arrested at the Criminal Court Building, many covering their faces with their hands or turning away completely, ran with the story.
Read more about the Fun Lounge raid here. The activists at Stonewall largely rioted against the New York police (watch a documentary on it from PBS here) — but the Mafia also had a hand in exploiting their community. Here’s how.
ALSO HAPPENED THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s monument unveiled at last.
Strange Chicago
If you’re ever exploring the Arctic, keep a good supply of marshmallows on hand. According to the polar bears at Brookfield Zoo, they’re a favorite treat.
The second zoo to open in Chicago, Brookfield Zoo opened to the public for the first time this week on July 1, 1934. Some of the first animals to make their homes there included polar bears, like this one, shot by a Chicago Daily News photographer in 1933.
A polar bear explores its new Brookfield Zoo enclosure in 1933. From the Sun-Times archive.
A polar bear explores its new Brookfield Zoo enclosure in 1933. From the Sun-Times archive.
But by 1969, the polar bears, now very much used to their home in captivity, decided to venture out for a little early-morning snack.
“Seven of the bear rumbled out of their caves about 6:30 a.m. after the heavy rains had flooded the moats that separate the bears’ stomping grounds from the public’s viewing area,” reporter James Tuohy wrote for the July 18, 1969 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times. “The big bears belly-flopped into the moat, swam across and made their way straight to the nearest concession stand.”
The prize? Marshmallows.
For years, visitors to the zoo would buy marshmallows at the concession stand and throw them over to the bears in their enclosure.
“Apparently,” Tuohy wrote, “the animals decided to eliminate the middle man.”
Once in, the bears ate boxes and boxes of marshmallows, sometimes even the box itself, a zoo official said. They topped off their meal with ice cream for dessert.
Eventually, several zoo guards “armed with tranquilizer rifles” corralled the polar bears back across the moat — but not before two polar bears decided to pay the grizzly bears next door a visit.
“The grizzlies, who have never been known for their social graces, chased them off,” Tuohy said.
Brookfield Zoo is open once more, but if you can’t make it there, check out the park’s adorable animals videos here.
Snapshot
Whatever you call it —Guaranteed Rate, U.S. Cellular, Comiskey — Sox Park represents the home of the Chicago White Sox. The original ballpark opened on July 1, 1910, and though it’s been demolished, the South Side team still entertains crowds with baseball, peanuts and crackerjack.
Here’s a look at what Comiskey Park looked like in its early days.
Play ball! Fans line up outside of Comiskey Park at 35th Street and Shields Avenue in 1912. From the Sun-Times archive.
Play ball! Fans line up outside of Comiskey Park at 35th Street and Shields Avenue in 1912. From the Sun-Times archive.
White Sox owner Charles A. Comiskey, Mrs. Louis Comiskey, and Mrs. Charles A. Comiskey sit in crowded namesake stadium at an event in 1911. From the Sun-Times archive.
White Sox owner Charles A. Comiskey, Mrs. Louis Comiskey, and Mrs. Charles A. Comiskey sit in crowded namesake stadium at an event in 1911. From the Sun-Times archive.
Comiskey Park may have been the home of the White Sox, but the venue hosted other events. Here, a crowd in the grandstands watches a 1911 wrestling bout between wrestlers Frank Gotch and George Hackenschmidt. From the Sun-Times archive.
Comiskey Park may have been the home of the White Sox, but the venue hosted other events. Here, a crowd in the grandstands watches a 1911 wrestling bout between wrestlers Frank Gotch and George Hackenschmidt. From the Sun-Times archive.
Boston Red Sox baseball player Babe Ruth follows through after swinging a baseball bat at Comiskey Park in 1918. From the Sun-Times archive.
Boston Red Sox baseball player Babe Ruth follows through after swinging a baseball bat at Comiskey Park in 1918. From the Sun-Times archive.
Talk of the town
Before July 1, 1971, no American younger than 21 could vote in a federal, state or local election no matter where he or she lived. But that all changed once Ohio became the 38th state to ratify the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — the fastest any amendment has ever been ratified. President Richard Nixon signed it into law on July 5.
In general, anyone 21 and older could vote in the U.S., though some states like Georgia lowered the voting age for state and local elections, but when World War II broke out, President Franklin D. Roosevelt lowered the draft age to 18. Now 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds could be drafted and trained to fight in wars, but they had no say in electing people deciding to send them off to Europe or the Pacific.
Calls to lower the voting age rose dramatically as the Vietnam War raged on, and both Congress and Nixon expressed support for lowering the voting age.
The editorial board at the Chicago Daily News had long supported the idea and celebrated ratification.
“Broadening the franchise to involve today’s young people — an increasing number of whom are deeply committed to ‘involvement’ — is a healthy development,” the paper said. “The opportunity is now at hand for the young voters to prove their commitment and responsibility by registering and taking an active part in the elections of 1972.”
According to the Census Bureau, the amendment enfranchised about 11 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 20. Another 14 million voters ages 21 through 25 had missed the 1968 election and would be eligible to vote now, the editorial board said. Capturing that youth vote would be either party’s game. A Gallup poll found that 42% of those 18- to 20-year-olds called themselves independents. Another 42% considered themselves Democrats and another 18% identified as Republicans.
But focusing on the youth vote wouldn’t decide the election, the editorial board surmised.
“Ironically, the voting power at the other end of the age spectrum is also increasing, with larger numbers of elderly persons organizing for causes tailed to their particular interest,” the board wrote. “The 1972 politician must be agile if he is to please both of these groups and still appeal to all those voters in the middle range. But the strategy, we suspect, will remain the same: Promises something for everybody.”
Young voters — especially those who were also activists — have played a role in deciding who sits in the White House. Here’s the longer story on how they got the right to vote at all.
Thanks for reading! Want to share your thoughts? Your favorite moment in Chicago history? Your complaints? Send them to amartin@suntimes.com.
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