Monday, March 21, 2011

Lost & Found

From Quearborn & Perversion
Lost & Found

Location: 3058 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Founded: 1965

Closed: Early 2008

Until its closing, Lost & Found was considered Chicago's oldest lesbian bar. (Though this wasn't actually true. Go to the Chicago tab below, and you'll find several lesbian bars that were around before 1965, including two in the 1930s.) The original owners were Shirley Christensen and Ava Allen.

Kathy Berquist recorded the following bit of herstory on Lost and Found in 2007:

It wasn’t long after Shirley Christensen opened Lost & Found on a desolate strip of Irving Park Road in Albany Park that the vice squad began turning up. Cross-dressing was illegal in pre-Stonewall 1965, and the bar, which catered to women who liked women, was required by law to check that the pants of female patrons zippered in the back rather than in the front, the way men’s pants did. Ava Allen, who partnered with Christensen in 1973 and operates the bar today, says butch gals would have to go into the alley to turn their pants around and wear them backward all night in order to comply.

A Field Guide to Gay and Lesbian Chicago (2008) later described the atmosphere at the Lost & Found in this way:

You have to knock on the door to be buzzed in. Once you're inside, there isn't much that distinguishes Lost & Found from any other blue-collar neighborhood watering hole. The clockface featuring a sexy lady in a wet swim shit would be just as at home at Joe's corner tavern as at a lesbian bar. There is a pretty bar, with what looks like original lead-glass details, a pool table, a few dartboards, a jukebox with all the usual suspects, a lot of smoke, and a lot of paneling.

The Field Guide also characterized the crowd as mostly "older" women (35-plus), a "few younger gals hanging out, playing pool or what have you," and "a smattering of gay male friends."

In 2000, Kathy Edens shared with the Windy City Times her memories of the first gay bar she ever went to:

"It was Lost and Found. I was working at a hospital and I was 23 then. I had no clue, I was totally naive back then. The girls that I worked with said, 'We want to take you out to different kinds of places.' They didn't say it was a gay bar, they didn't say anything. So they brought me into the Lost and Found when it was located on the corner of Irving Park and Sacramento. So we were in there about 5:30 and there were about five of us, drinking Black Russians. Then one person comes in and another person comes in, and I'm looking around and thinking, 'Man, is that a guy or a girl?' I was just very, very latent. So they said, 'It's a woman.' So I said, 'Oh, with her cigarettes wrapped up in the sleeve of her T-shirt like that?' They said, 'Yes.' Still, nothing registered. These other women I was with were all lesbians and I didn't have a clue."

The Lizard's Liquid Lounge is now operating at the same location, and it is said that many of the old Lost & Found regulars "still hang out to talk about days gone by."

Photo: from Quearborn & Perversion, a documentary about Chicago's LGBT community, 1934-1974

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