Saturday, April 20, 2024

Flashback 1991: Summer's last spring


   Richard Roeper's review of "We Grown Now" mentioned kids dragging a mattress out of Cabrini Green to use it to cushion their acrobatics. Sparking a memory. Bob Davis and I used to drive around the city, creating photo essays on whatever we could find. We noticed these boys, and got busy. The newspaper gave it a full page. Those were good days.

     Late afternoon on a golden summer day. A vacant lot at Elizabeth and 63rd Street, kitty-corner from a boarded-up skating rink.
     One rusted box spring. Two old mattresses. Seven young boys. "We're best friends," says Brandon Kinsey. The boys line up, racing full speed toward the mattresses. They spring into the air. Flipping, flying, turning somersaults.
     They call themselves the "Junior Jesse White Tumblers" after the famous group that performs everywhere in the city and beyond.
     The L rumbles by.
     Brandon sits at the edge of a mattress, his arms spread straight out. He faces the others, casting a long shadow. One by one they leap over him, landing, returning for yet another go.
     Suddenly the kids scatter. "We gotta go home now," shouts Brandon as they head down the alley, west toward the setting sun.
        —Originally published in the Sun-Times, August 30, 1991 


  1. Wouldn't it be marvelous if one or more of those boys (now men) were to see the blog and update us on how the Junior Jesse White Tumblers turned out.


    1. As someone who likes to give wonder a helping hand, I looked around Twitter and send it to a Brandon Kinsey in Baltimore who is from Chicago and would have been 9 when this story ran. I'll let you know.

  2. Suddenly the kids scatter. "We gotta go home now," shouts Brandon as they head down the alley, west toward the setting sun.

    And before the gunfire begins, on the mean streets of Englewood. I believe that 1991 saw an all-time record for homicides in Chicago...nearly a thousand of them. These kids were street-smart. They had to be.

  3. oooh! would love to hear an update on this nice story. Fingers crossed that you hear from Brandon in Baltimore.

  4. This calls to mind a story about "Sesame Street" from a few years back. The show's opening theme during the 1970s showed children bouncing on box springs in a gritty urban lot. This was eventually cut due to concerns that the show was encouraging dangerous activity and could be liable if someone gets hurt trying it. We're all the poorer for these sorts of decisions, just as we are with the demise of photo essays in newspapers.


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