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Swimsuit fashion – the mankini!

Fred And Will Gartz in swimsuits, ~1928-30

With summer just off the ground, I thought it would be fun getting started with a blast from the very distant past – about 100 years ago. The mankini is the subject. “What’s that?” you ask. Chicago, and family history buffs (no pun intended)–and anyone who enjoys a good laugh, should get a kick out of today’s blog post.

Not Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue ready!

Not quite as racey as the models in the Sports Illustrated version, these two guys were far from posing “in the buff.”  Modesty was more in vogue. I’ve dubbed their suits the “mankini,” a male bikini, about 1928-1930.

My dad, Fred Gartz (dob 10/10/1914), left looks to be about fourteen-sixteen. His brother, Will, a year older.

Family weekends: “We all went together. . .”

My grandparents, Josef and Lisi, worked non-stop during the week and Saturdays in their jobs as janitors in Chicago’s West Side, but Sundays were set aside for family. My grandfather was quoted in an article that reported on his retirement from janitorial work in 1954. “Whenever we went out for a little entertainment, we all went together, the boys, my wife and me.”

Given the number of snapshots I have of the whole family at the beach, even when the boys were young men, their philosophy of family togetherness wasn’t just lip-service. It was documented in photographs.

This is probably North Avenue Beach in Chicago, about two miles north of downtown. It was one of their favorite destinations on a hot summer day.

Ripped knee ligaments never stopped Dad

Notice the bandage on my dad’s left knee. He had been sliding on the ice with a gaggle of boys when he was a young teen and fell at an awkward angle; ripped the ligaments in both knees and had to be in a cast for a year and a half (that sounds excessive, but he had to go to a special school for disabled kids.

Dad with his youthful friend, Kenny.

His knees hurt him for his entire life, but that almost never held him back from having fun. His diary entries from 1933 – 1935 are chock full of his active adventures: riding bikes and horses, fencing, swimming (of course), playing baseball, dancing (that’s how he and my mother met), and more.

That was in his off-hours, when he wasn’t helping his janitor parents: shoveling snow and coal through our bitter Chicago winters: the snow from the back and front of multi-flat apartment buildings and all the sidewalks; coal into voracious furnaces that had to be fed overnight too when the temperatures dropped into single digits.


Have a great summer!

But I digress! We’re at the beginning of summer, so let’s keep our eyes on those young men in their fashionable mankinis. With less to see, the lovely young ladies at the beach could let their imaginations run wild!

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