Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Charles W. Cushman - Poseyville, IN
Taken from the Indiana University Archives website dedicated to Charles W. Cushman:
"Charles Weever Cushman, amateur photographer and Indiana University alumnus, bequeathed approximately 14,500 Kodachrome color slides to his alma mater. The photographs in this collection bridge a thirty-two year span from 1938 to 1969, during which time he extensively documented the United States as well as other countries."
I went to Maxwell Street once in my early teens - before it was shut down and "renovated", and long after its legendary heyday. I bought some crappy socks, but was looking for a cheap Starter jacket. Back in its prime (arguably before the '60s), it was a melting pot of people, filled with an array of goods and products. Musicians played on the streets, churches and their congregations preached the gospel from the sidewalks, and food vendors provided those who packed the street with iconic grub like the Maxwell Street Polish Sausage.
Maxwell Street is also highlighted in the film, "The Blues Brothers," when Jake and Elwood go into The Soul Food Cafe (and run into Aretha Franklin) after checking out John Lee Hooker playing "Boom Boom" on the sidewalk. In the DVD version, the scene is extended, and you get to see/hear the entire song - even the joking/arguing between the musicians afterward. Classic scene in a classic movie, and Maxwell Street remains a historical piece of Chicago to this day for anyone who was alive when it thrived, and anyone else who has heard the stories.
Cushman's photographs give us a glimpse of what it was like. I also included a few Library of Congress photos - a couple from the Tribune, and a couple by photographer, Russell Lee. There is also a documentary called "And This Is Free: Maxwell Street" that is worth watching (it's currently on Netflix's "watch instantly"). It's straight documentary/journalistic style, but it's extremely interesting to watch nonetheless. It was filmed in 1964, and even then, the purists in the film talk about how things have changed, and that the street has lost its luster.