OLLI members were on the run as they toured historic gangster sites in downtown Chicago during our most recent Learning Trip.
The charter bus was nearly full, and OLLI members were eager to hit the road even before the sun had risen. As the bus approached downtown Chicago, we noticed a male figure standing on the street wearing pin-striped pants with suspenders, a long black coat, and a black fedora appearing to be from the late 20’s era. Most drivers may have found find this image alarming at 10:00 a.m. in downtown Chicago, but for OLLI, this man was none other than “Johnny Three Knives,” our step-on-guide for the Gangster Tour.
“Johnny Three Knives” he had the gangster character and Chicago accent perfected. He directed our driver to a variety of gangster hot-spots of the 20’s and 30’s. OLLI members were able to learn how Al Capone illegally built his fortune and mapped out his success in Chicago. Many of the sites where Capone and other gangsters housed their speakeasies were still standing today, and “Johnny Three Knives” clearly pointed these out for our OLLI members to see.
The day concluded with a trip to Tommy Gun’s Garage for a gangster-inspired performance and dinner. The OLLI women were throwing boas around their necks, and the men were holding large tommy guns to pose for pictures in front of the stage. Many of our OLLI members even joined the cast as they were dragged onto the stage. The show also featured popular songs from gangster musicals such as “Chicago” and “Guys and Dolls", and the energy was non-stop. It was a joy to see our OLLI members were not only learning about the gangster era in Chicago, but having such a great time as well.