, 10 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
Back in the late 1950's or early 60's my father, Jim Kokonas, owned and operated a diner not far from where Next / Aviary / Roister / Tock are now - 853 W. Madison St. Back then, though, it was Skid Row not the West Loop. It was all he could afford to open. [thread w/ pics]
...this was from before I was born, I never saw the place. But I heard the stories.
One of the customers not only had a drinking problem, like many did, but was an accomplished cartoonist. I know him only as Paulson.
My dad loved Paulson, and I think it was likely mutual. When Paulson couldn't afford to pay for lunch, he would happily draw up a cartoon... Around Madison Street. Long after James' Lunch was shut, my dad saved all of these drawing, many on the back of cigarette cartons...
...and passed them along to me. Many were inappropriate, but told the struggle of the neighborhood, the addicts and down-on-their-luck types, and of the friendship and humanity there too...
I remember as a kid going to that neighborhood at 5AM with my dad and being both astonished and a bit terrified. (by then he ran a temporary labor office supplying unskilled manual labor to area factories).
and he knew *everyone*... the drunks, the street walkers (called that back then), the police, the bus drivers. "If you treat everyone fairly you have nothing to worry about..." and it seemed to be the case. "Jimmy's kid!" they would call out. I was still scared.
These drawings by Paulson were passed down to me and I kept them through several moves for the last 20 years. I never knew why, but I couldn't throw them out. They're masterful in a way.
And now, I'm taking several to get framed. @Gachatz and our Alinea Group team are working on a new small project... and these will be perfect for it. [I really like this one about tipping]
So I dug them up tonight and they are as special as I remember. And a good reminder of my dad, his partner George, and what that part of Chicago used to be. And how the restaurant biz is mostly the same, high end or James Lunch.

Happy birthday great city.
If anyone knows who Paulson might be (may have worked at the Trib or Sun Times as I recall) I would love to know more information. Thanks.
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