Chicago Sun-Times 12/12/2017,04:32
If you forgot, it’s OK, but Chicago Midway International Airport turned 90 on
Belated wishes can be directed skyward, where you have about a one in four chance the next plane
you see is coming from or going to the Southwest Side institution.
What’s a birthday for an airport look like? Free cupcakes, face painters, a man on stilts and
live band at the food court. Free lanyards and squishy airplane toys were also handed out.
But the real goods were to be got by chewing the fat with the guys hovering over the blue
binders full of old photos.
They are members of the Midway Historians, a mostly informal group of a few dozen guys who tend
the flame of a place most tend to see as a simple way station.
Marilyn Monroe arrives atMidwayAirportMarch
18, 1959. | Sun-Times library
Bob Russo and Pat Bukiri have a different view — they’re of a generation who grew up across the
street from Midway in the 50s when it was the busiest airport in the world and air travel held a charmed
place in the hearts of Americans.
Ceaseless shadows cast by descending airplanes fluttered across the roof of Bukiri’s childhood
home seconds before touchdown. His house shook. At night, aircraft nose lights illuminated nearly every room
while he watched, transfixed, from his bedroom window.
Besides, watching television stunk, he said. Hunks of flying steel screwed with television
reception in the house.
“I once asked my dad, ‘Were you drunk when you bought this house?’ ” recalled Bukiri, 64, with a
laugh. “But I loved it.”
Kids now are robbed of the experience of simply “hanging out” at the airport, Russo
“Imagine this: When I was 12 I rode my bike into a hangar here, parked it next to a DC-3 and
asked the mechanics working on the plane ‘Do you mind if I have a look inside?’ and he said ‘Just don’t touch
anything.’ — that’s how aviation was,” said Russo, 67, a retired pilot.
“And anyone who was anyone came through Midway: Presidents, Marilyn Monroe, Frank
That changed however in 1962, when airlines flocked to the newer, more modern, O’Hare Airport,
where larger runways
M. Nixon, The Nixons, their daughters, future son-in-law David Eisenhower and Sen. Edward Brooke at Midway
airport, before motorcade to and throughLoopin 1968. | Sun-Times library
could accommodate the advent of jet planes, Bukiri said.
"The lights were on, the doors were open, but Midway was a ghost town for while,” Bukiri
Mayor Washington and his fiancee, Mary Ella Smith,
greet Prince Charles at Midway airport in 1986. | Sun-Times library
RICHARD F. FENNESSY Westlake, Ohio
Mar 7, 1938 - Oct 8, 2017 - Age 79
It is with great sadness that we report the passing of one of our finest,
Rich Fennessy. Rich and Nora, his wife of 44 years, resided in the Cleveland, Ohio area.
Rich was a real historian: his loves were Great Lakes lighthouses and ore carriers. He amassed a large collection
of photographs of both, while visiting around the Great Lakes. He also loved steam engines and followed
Commercial air travel was another activity. Rich collected
timetables and menus from airliners, especially those of United Airlines. Originally from Chicago, Rich made annual pilgrimages with Nora back here, and they
were regulars at the Airline Collectibles Show in Elk Grove Village.
The Fennessys shared the unique distinction of having flown with
Bob Russo on the retiring flight of his captaincy as well as United's first 737 fleet. Having become fast
friends of Bob, Rich also came to know about and appreciate the Midway Historians. The story could have ended
there, but the Fennessys became active Midway Historians docents, making substantial financial contributions to our
We will miss you, Rich!
Visit the Midway Historians Facebook
Page! Next time you're on Facebook, log onto
theChicago Midway Airport
Historians page. Be sure to click
"To climb or descend through and around towers of fluffy
whiteness, sun shining through, over and around them. Talk about your silver linings! To
take off from Honolulu with a rainbow that follows you to Diamond Head, and hear, 'Aloha, come back soon.' To
fly off to Europe with darkness only on the right side of your airplane, or to come back with two sunrises in
one day: these are but a few of the fantastic experiences of the gift of flight. And you too, can have this
gift. Why don’t you join me?" -Flight Engineer Robert F. Zilinsky, American Airlines
Step back in time and experience
aviation, a magical place ...and an era when aviation was an exciting event,
not just a quicker way of getting from Point A to Point B. Air travel was a romantic, exciting thing and people got
dressed up to fly, or just to go to the airport to watch the show!
From the late-1920s to the early 1960s you were up close and personal with giant, gleaming airplanes ... beautiful
machines to behold. Chicago has always loved Midway Airport and today, it's known as the World's Busiest Square
Mile... but here, we take you back to the days when this incredible, teeming place was the World's
Many thanks to Midway Historian Boyd Kelly for this excellent video.
of the Midway Historians is to preserve and share the history of Chicago Aviation and in particular, its legacy
airport, Midway. The airport has birthed a multitude of stories, photos, sights and sounds.
We might take our mission seriously, but we have a lot of fun doing it and we hope this visit will stir
up excitement in you about our favorite airport. No other airport on earth has been packed with so
much intensity, bravado, adventure, allure, romance, sounds or celebrity than has this
square mile of real estate nine miles southwest of the Chicago Loop.
Write and tell us what you think of
your visit here, and what else you would like to see on the website. If you are an enthusiast of Midway
Airport, Midway Historians is your club! All youneed to become a Midway Historian is that
— and there's no cost to join.
Perhaps you have a thing or two
to share about your experiences with Midway. Or, you may have a friend or relative who had some regular
dealings with MDW, or know someone who's flown from MDW during those golden years of
aviation. Either way, give us a shout. We look forward to
hearing from you.