"STREET VENDERS OUT OF BUSINESS - Notice Given By Police - GREEKS IN MOST INSTANCES" article - Chicago Daily Tribune, February 19, 1902

Published in Chicago Daily Tribune, February 19, 1902

Mayor Orders the Removal of Stands,
to Take Effect Today.
Many Invalids and Aged Persons
Deprived of Only Means
of Support.

Chicago will wake up this morning and find several hundred new candidates for "jobs."  Yesterday there were fruit stands, flower booths, and tables of venders on the streets.  Last night, however, the "merchants" turned out their gaslights and quit.  Today the thoroughfares of Chicago will be cleared of every suggestion of street ?????ing.  Mayor Harrison's order of eviction, based upon the action of the City Council and enforcing the ordinance sounding the death knell of the street stand, fairly whirled from one end of the city to the other.

Policemen acting under instructions from Chief of Police O'Neill put in most of the day notifying street venders maintaining stands that their finish had arrived.  They were routed out of secluded corners under the elevated structure on the Union Loop; prodded from remunerative stations along the curbs of down-town streets; sought after in the openings of alleys, and pursued up the slippery approaches to bridges.  To all of them the same command was given:  "This is your last day of grace.  You must be out of here by tomorrow morning."

Quick Action a Surprise.

The peremptory order, although expected, came as a stunning surprise to those interested.  They did not look for it so soon, and while none was willing to quit, they saw no way of evading the ordinance and, without exception, accepted the notice with sad smiles and shrugs of the shoulders expressive of their unwillingness.  They agreed to quit because they were compelled to.

Not a street vendor who maintained any sort of a table on the sidewalk escaped the policemen detailed to circulate the order.  The edict swept along Fifth avenue, where dozens of these dealers have profited for years from the patronage of suburban passengers using the Northwestern Depot; up and down State street, over Clark, and through Wabash avenue and Van Buren street.  In these thoroughfares most of the street venders in the down-town district were found.  In the outlying districts similar conditions prevailed, but the venders there were hit less hard because their patronage was not so great.

Bargain Sales Follow Order.

When the order to quit business received general circulation the venders, mot os them Greeks, started out to make the most of their "last day on earth."  They immediately loaded down their stands with all the fruit in their possession and stuck up "bargain day" signs and cards announcing they were selling out "at cost."  Everywhere in the down-town district streets took on a county fair aspect, and the air was torn with the shouts of hawkers who wanted to get rid of everything in sight.  They worked hard and late last night, looked disconsolately at the remnants of their stocks, put out their lights, bundled up what was left, and went home.  Today most of the stands will be removed from the sidewalks.

Left Without an Occupation.

The Greeks were in an unhappy frame of mind when Mayor Harison's order reached them.  Many complained they were being persecuted.  When asked what they expected to do, those who could understand English shrugged their shoulders and said they didn't know.

"It's bad vusiness," said Nick Vousnakes, who for years has operated a fruit stand at the south approach to the Wells street bridge.  "I make $700 a year here, and I can't make that much anywhere else.  Do?  What can I do?  They take my business away from me."

Invalid Loses His Stand.

Adjoining the site occupied by Vousnakes was a small table three feet square loaded down with shoe strings and trinkets.  This for years has been the business place of Kobo Toppes.  He is 56 years sold and an invalid supporting an invalid wife on the profits of his small trade.

"I make from 50 cents to a dollar a day," he said yesterday, with tears in his eyes.  "I am too old to do anything else, and I have to buy medicine for my wife.  The only thing I can do is to beg or peddle on the streets."

Will Return to Greece.

Similar tales were told by others affected by the enforcement of the ordinance abolishing street stands.  Peter Prendehael has operated a fruit stand at the corner of Wabash avenue and Congress street for ten years.

"Nothing more here for me," he said last night, "and I'm going back home.  Going back to Greece, and a lot more of them will go back with me."

In the first alley west of the Union League clubhouse, in Jackson boulevard, an old man who can neither speak nor understand English, has been picking up a few pennies every day from a small table on which there were half a dozen apples and a few bananas yesterday.  He didn't know what the policeman was talking about when notice was served on him to quit, but when the order was interpreted he looked at his small stock and shook his head sorrowfully.

Most of the Greeks who were put out of business by the enforcement of the ordinance are unable to speak English, and their countrymen declared yesterday that they were unfitted for any work except common labor.

Plan a Retaliatory Warfare.

Although the Greek venders were submissive yesterday, they are preparing to fight along retaliatory lines.  Nick Volacos, a prominent worker among the Greek residents of the city, announced last night that legal counsel would be secured and a fight made by the fruit stand men to secure such a strict construction of the ordinance that if would become obnoxious.  The Greeks expect to wage warfare against he merchants of South Water street, who occupy the sidewalk, electric signs, the West Randolph street market, and every conceivable thing that can be considered a street obstruction.