Repost: Cold enough outside in Chicago to do this one again!
I live in a suburb of Chicago, but anyone born, raised, and educated in the city, proper, is going to tell you that he/she lives in Chicago. A lot of soft people leave Chicago, aka Chi-town, for warmer climates and as I get older, I’ve begun to gaze longingly at Florida, Nevada, and California.
Last night, in particular, I found it hard to remain asleep for more than an hour at a time. The wind howled like something alive, and the doors rattled throughout the house as though someone were trying to get in. Finally, I got up to ask Google and Wikipedia why Chicago is referred to as the “Windy City”.
We Chicagoans have a few fond nicknames for our town. We like to call her Chi-town (that’s an article for another day), the “Windy City”, today’s subject, and her winter winds, we fondly refer to as “The Hawk”.
It’s commonly held that Chicago is the Windy City because of its close proximity to Lake Michigan. Despite Chicago’s location on the shores of Lake Michigan, the city is not significantly windier than any other U.S. city. For example, the average annual wind speed of Chicago is: 10.3 mph (16.6 km/h); Boston: 12.4 mph (20.0 km/h); New York City, Central Park: 9.3 mph (15.0 km/h); and Los Angeles: 7.5 mph (12.1 km/h).
The second reason we’re referred to as the Windy City has to do with Chicago’s competition against New York for the World’s Fair. NY newspaper articles dubbed us the Windy City due to bragging (wind bags – bag of wind). In the articles, they call us a frontier town and ask why we would ever think Chicago could compete with New York for the honor of such a world’s fair. But guess what? We won!
The third reference to us being the Windy City is Chicago’s rivalry with Cincinnati. In fact, the first known repeated effort to label Chicago came from that rivalry as both cities competed for the meat packing capital title and for baseball bragging rights. Cincinnati dubbed us the Windy City because they said Chicagoans liked to boast and brag.
November 20, 1892, the Freeborn County Standard Newspaper of Minnesota wrote:
“But in another sense Chicago is actually earning the title of the “windy” city. It is one of the effects of the tall buildings which engineers and architects apparently did not foresee that the wind is sucked down into the streets. Walk past the Masonic Temple or the Auditorium any day even though it may be perfectly calm elsewhere, and you will meet with a lively breeze at the base of the building that will compel you to put your hand to your hat.”
Finally, Chicago’s winter wind is often called “The Hawk”, a term long popular in the African American community. The first recorded citation of Chicago being dubbed “The Hawk” is from the Chicago Defender, October 20, 1936: “And these cold mornings are on us—in other words ‘Hawkins’ has got us.”
Lou Rawls’ recording of “Dead End Street” explains “The Hawk” pretty well. I love the line when Lou says, “I had to get fully dressed before I could go to bed.” By the way, Lou Rawls is an alum of my alma mater, Dunbar Vocational High School.
As you enjoy Lou Rawls recording of Dead End Street, answer this question. What was your famous Windy City or Hawk experience? I hope you’ll let me know.