[When writing these blog postings I have a strict rule that they should all focus on the history of Schaumburg Township. This week I’m making an exception because this neat story fell in my lap after a program at our library. Because I am in charge of the Illinois Collection, I put together a year-long series of programs called “Chicagoland: Read All About It.” Christopher Lynch, one of the authors, shared this story with me and I couldn’t resist telling you.]
In 2002 Christopher Lynch wrote a book called Chicago’s Midway Airport: The First Seventy-Five Years. Ten years later he published another book called When Hollywood Landed at Chicago’s Midway Airport. The second book is largely the story of Mike Rotunno who was the Midway Airport photographer during the 1920s through the 1960s. Because Midway was THE airport of the Chicago area during this time, it was the scene of arrivals and departures of many celebrities from the world of Hollywood.
When Mr. Rotunno was called on assignment to take photographs, he often brought his daughters, Mimi and Judy with him. Not only did he take photos of the stars, but he also introduced them to his daughters. As a result, the girls grew up thinking that Hollywood movie stars such as Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were their playmates.
Eventually, after a long tenure at Midway Airport, Mr. Rotunno moved on to a similar assignment at O’Hare in the early 1960s. Somewhere, though, in the course of his career, part of his collection of negatives was lost. The family did not know if they were misplaced, left behind or discarded.
One day, out of the blue, Mr. Lynch received a phone call from a family who lived in the home in Berwyn where the Rotunnos had resided years ago. It seems that a box of negatives from the years 1933 to 1938 had been discovered, tucked away in the rafters of the garage. Mr. Lynch contacted the sisters who were delighted to hear of the find. Mimi traveled to the Chicago area and met with the family who graciously turned over the negatives. They were still intact, able to be developed–and hadn’t been seen in over 80 years.
As a result, through the generosity of the Rotunno Family Collection, we are able to bring you a few of the photos. They are but 3 of 1200 negatives that were found in the box. And what interesting finds they are!
I am grateful to Christopher Lynch and the Rotunno girls for their willingness to share the story. Mike Rotunno was well aware of the fame of his photographic subjects and gave his daughters the marvelous opportunity to meet so many famous people. And, because of their cooperation with Christopher Lynch, a family was able to track them down to return a box full of wonderful photos and memories.
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library