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Phoenix Fun Facts

Phoenix once had its own post office, it was operated out of a house on 3rd Avenue

Phoenix was once known as a Phonix Park.

In 1892, a hotel was built in unincorporated Phoenix, it was only a block away from the Grand Trunk and Western Railroad. It was hoped that those who came to the 1893 World Fair would stay and make a home in this area. Three weeks before the fair opened the hotel caught fire and was never rebuilt. It is said that the flames from the fire were so hot that many of the railroad cars actually melted.

In 1962, a part of Phoenix deannexed to become a part of Harvey. This is the only documented case in the history of the State of Illinois where a section of a community deannexed into a neighboring community.

The cities first sewer and streets were built in 1925.

A Phoenix mayor placed himself in jail because he refused a judge’s order to raise the cities taxes to pay for the increased price of streets and sewers. He claimed that he made a promise to the citizens that he would not raise taxes happened in 1927.  It was Mayor Smudzinski.

The first families to live in Phoenix were of Dutch, Irish, Polish, and German ancestry.

In the 1950s Phoenix had a policeman who could not read or write, if he stopped you for a traffic violation he would make you write out your own ticket.

The first black fireman in Phoenix was Eugene Willis who lived on Frances Street.

Johnnie Lane has served longer as a village official than any other person in the history of the Village of Phoenix. Mrs. Lane has been elected Village Clerk for eight consecutive terms.

Jessica Buckner was the first African American Principal of Coolidge Elementary School, she later was elected as the first Black Superintendent of School District 151.

John Henry Styles was the first black police officer in Phoenix.

In 1999, J.  Kamala Buckner was appointed School Superintendent of School District 205.  One of the largest high school districts in the State of Illinois.

Phoenix once had a semi-pro baseball team. The team was called the Tigers and they played on the field that was on the West side of Halsted and 153rd Street.

Oliver Carter was the first black coach at Thornridge High School. Carter was a graduate of Thornton High School. He played baseball and basketball at Thornton Junior College and attended Black Hills State College in North Dakota.

In 1900, Oscra “Battling” Nelson, who later became the lightweight champion of the world fought his first four bouts in McLatchy’s Bar at 155th and Halsted in Phoenix. Nelson held the championship from 1904-1907. He eventually was defeated by the first Black champion of the world, Joe Gains (1907).

The 1972 state basketball team from Thornridge High School is regarded as the greatest team in Illinois history. The team usually relied on six players.  Five of them being from Phoenix.

In 1972, no team came within 14 points of Thornridge. The team that came the closest was the team from Thornton, which had as its star players two residents from Phoenix.

The USA Today rated the 1972 Thornridge team as the number five (5) on its list of greatest high school teams of all time. The Falcons are rated ahead of teams led by Wilt Chamberlin and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

In the Championship game against Quincy, Thornridge won by a score of 104-69. It is the only time in state history that a team has scored more than 100 points in a championship game.

In that game Boyd Batts of Phoenix scored 25 points in the first half. In fact Batts had 25 points and Quincy only had 26.

Kevin Duckworth played 12 years in the NBA which included two all star games selections and playing in the NBA finals with Portland against the Chicago Bulls. He was a graduate of Thornridge High School.

Quinn Buckner played for 12 years in the NBA. He won a title with the Boston Celtics in 1984, and later coached the Dallas Mavericks. He also played with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Sam Mack played for the Golden State Warriors. Mack spent several years with the Houston Rockets where he was always one of the league leaders in three point shooting. He was a graduate of Thornridge High School and attended the University of Houston.

Rocky Hill currently serves as the basketball coach at Crete Monee High School.  He was previosly at Thornton Township High School. In 1996 and 1997 Coach Hill led Thornton to a second place finish and a third place finish in the state high school tournament. The 1997 team was rated as the number two team in the nation.  Unfortunately they lost to the number one team Peoria Manual. Coach Hill has a career record of 152-28 at Thornton, his teams have won 3 conference titles, 5 Christmas tournaments, and 6 straight regional championships in only 7 years of coaching. Hill is a graduate of Thornridge High School.

In 1981, as a junior at Thornton Township High School, Curt Parham was rated the number one high school baseball player in the nation. He later attended the University of Oklahoma on a baseball scholarship.

Phoenix is the only town to have three high school players named as the Sun Times High School player of the year. Lloyd Batts was honored in 1970 while playing for Thornton. In 1972 Quinn Buckner won the award as he led Thornridge High School to a state championship. Kim McQuarter won the honor in 1984 as she led Marshall High School to a state championship.

Coolidge Junior High won the boys state championship in basketball in 1983 and 1984.

The Coolidge girls won the state title in basketball in 1991 and 1992.

Frank Rago of Coolidge is the only coach in history of the state of Illinois to win state titles coaching both girls and boys teams.

James Lawrence was the first three-sport athlete at Thornton. Mr. Lawrence played baseball, track, and football in 1929. He lived on Eighth Avenue.

Louis Neal was the first black graduate of Coolidge School; he graduated in 1926. Mr. Neal went on to join James Lawrence as one of the first black athletes at Thornton Township High School. In 1929, Orvin Hood became the first salutatorian at Thornton, his twin brother Alvin was also a member of that graduating class.

Sherman Cantrell was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 1950s.

The Coolidge Library had been renamed, The Jessica M. Buckner Library, in honor of the former teacher and administrator.

There was once a park in Phoenix known as the Louis Jordan Park, named after the famous jazz musician.  The park was located at 153rd and 7th Avenue.

Muhammad Ali made several visits to Phoenix during the 1960s to visit his relatives, Robert Anderson and family.

Phoenix was one of the first towns to have its own web site.

Ray Charles and James Brown were both heavily influenced by the music of Louis Jordan. Several of Louis Jordan’s hits were featured in the Malcolm X movie.

Rev. Miller of Daniels’ Chapel was a skilled tailor who made his daughter’s wedding dress.

Elmer Turngren, who later became the Mayor of Harvey, grew up in the Village of Phoenix.

You are a true old timer if you can remember the following:

The Shabby Bus, The Custard Stand, Hughes Tavern, Talk of The Town, Joe Tarala’s Store, Mr. Curley’s Barber Shop, Mr. Sawyer’s Store, The Pool Hall, Herman’s Barber Shop, Mr. Johnson’s Store, Sanita’s, Mr. Ward’s Store, Pete and Mary’s, 640, and Mrs. William’s Freezer Cups

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