Monday, September 19, 2011


2124 North Clark Street today

Location: 2124 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Opened/Closed: 1950s/1960s

So far, I haven't found too many accounts describing Volli-Bal. This one is by an anonymous woman who first came out in the late 1950s, after a medical discharge from the Air Force. It was originally published in the Windy City Times in 1999.

"When I left I came home to Chicago and my mother found out I was lesbian, she was pulling out of the dresser drawer all my jeans. She blamed herself, of course, like all mothers do. But then my whole family came to understand it, or accept it, not understand it. That was around 1960.

"My mother introduced me to the first gay woman in this city that I ever met. My mother was a cook and a waitress and they used to work at Edward Don and one woman always reminded my mother of me. I was in the Air Force at the time and when I came home she was so proud to introduce me to these ladies, and that was my first circle of friends. They took me to bars. The first one was the Volli-Bal on Clark Street. 

"The first time was scary because I wasn´t used to the whole gay scene. I was so controlled; when you´re in service you´re very controlled. You´re told when to eat, when to dress, and how to dress. I was very scared because the women were very into playing parts at the time and there were a lot of women there that seemed to be big bold brassy butches, and their femmes were really femmes. You didn´t mess around with them, you didn´t even talk to them. The butches wore men´s clothing and the femmes wore women´s clothing, ultra ultra dressed. I remember going into a bar and we had to have three articles of women´s clothing. We couldn´t wear a fly front in our pants. 

"But some of the women used to wear men´s jockey shorts, or boxer shorts, T-shirts. They emulated the guys an awful lot. We had no rules, none to follow, so we emulated our brothers. That´s exactly what it amounts to. So what you look like now, we looked like and then some. And we were subjected to maybe the bar being raided. We couldn´t dance together. All the bars were then were gathering places."

Quearborn & Perversion is a great documentary about Chicago gay and lesbian history. Around the 2:18 mark, you can hear a woman describe a police raid at the Volli-Bal, and look at what appears to be a home movie of Volli-Bal's interior.

Photo: 2124 North Clark Street today

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