Happy Times and The Real World Inside The Housing Projects

Anytime I start to see the opening credits of the classic TV sitcom, «Good Times», I’m always reminded which the housing projects shown are no more there. The notorious Cabrini Green projects were torn down this year. The Evans family lived in one of those buildings nevertheless the housing project they lived in has never been called by name. But those of us who grew up in Chicago knew just where these folks were.

When I was obviously a young girl, my loved ones lived inside the projects, too. Cabrini Green was in the near north side. We lived about the west side in Rockwell Gardens. Those buildings were demolished earlier this century. Our apartment was similar to the one the Evans family lived in, although our front room had not been as spacious as theirs was. There have been two bedrooms, a little kitchen, a very small bathroom, plus a great lack of closet space. Not quite enough room to get a single, divorced mom with three children, but we made it work.

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Our kids had moved right out of the projects before «Happy Times» premiered on CBS in 1974. But we still had memories of daily life there. The issues about vandalized washers and dryers inside the laundry room, broken elevators, gang wars that caused customers to hide into their apartments, etc., were true. But other things that happened on that series failed to always reflect reality.

One of many curious aspects of the show was how everyone, from close relatives, to next-door neighbor Wilona Woods, could just go to the Evans’ household without knocking. I am aware that’s one common television trope. It’s done because it’s usually too time-consuming and boring to exhibit characters opening doors for visitors, especially should it be an individual whom they are fully aware well. But the majority everyone having lived from the projects would are in agreement with me that front doors in those apartments were usually locked always. Just leaving the threshold open at all times might have been like hanging signs in spite of this, «Please can be found in and take anything you want.» It just wasn’t done.

Bookman was the obnoxious custodian whose character was added onto the show in the second season. Bookman seemed to enjoy a great deal of power, including having the capacity to evict families. Naturally, custodians are obligated to report unusual conditions they find to management. But I never knew the custodian in your old building having authority besides to completely clean. Actually, I remember tenants always giving the custodian a hard best option and complaining about cleaning issues.

Recently, I saw a rerun of your episode where Thelma had won a scholarship to some prestigious, predominately white, all girls’ high school based in Michigan. Part of on the list of school’s sororities showed up with the apartment to convince Thelma to pledge with them. The Evans quickly determined which the sorority only wanted Thelma as a token member because she was African-American. There are numerous things wrong using that scenario outside of the racism. The sorority member, a blond teenage girl, who has been obviously from an upper middle class or wealthy background, would not have been caught dead inside the projects back into the day. Not everyone who lived from the projects were criminals or dirt poor, in fact. Although the only white people I saw who dared venture to the projects were social workers, insurance agents, along with the cops. Stories in regards to the housing projects being dangerous, violent places kept all others away.


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