Man rescued from fiery trap

Last week’s challenge from 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks was “fire”.  I am a little late in posting this time.  Today’s post is about my husband’s aunt, uncles, and cousin and the house originally owned by  his grandfather.

Early on Monday March 9, 1959 a fire started in the first-floor living room of 4916 W. 32nd Place, Cicero, Cook, Illinois and quickly spread to the rest of the house.  By the time the fireman arrived the fire was already eating away at the attic walls.  Fire equipment was called to the scene from Morton Park, Warren Park, Clyde and Hawthorne fire stations.   Bystanders alerted the firemen that a man was still in the building.  They rushed in and found Eugene Jelen, a tenant, unconscious on the second floor between the kitchen and a hallway door.  The Firemen carried him down a stairway to safety.  Eugene suffered from smoke inhalation and second and third degree burns on the left side of his body.  If the fireman had arrived a few seconds later Eugene would have died.  Leo Gorski, owner of the building, was also hurt with first and second degree burns on his hand.  It is not known if the others who lived there were home at time.  The firemen deduced that the fire started in the first floor living room by a cigarette. The damage to the 70 year old building was $8,000 and $4,000 for the contents.[1]  Leo had no insurance on the house so they were unable to rebuild.  What was left of the house was sold, torn down, and a new house built by new owners.  Leo and his brother Stanley rented an apartment across the alley.  Constance, John, and Eugene Jelen moved to another apartment in Cicero.[2]

My husband’s grandfather, Stanley Gorski, bought the house sometime during the 1920’s.[3]  Stanley emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1891 and settled in Cicero, Cook, Illinois where he and his wife Mary raised seven children.[4]  Stanley worked in a stone quarry and for a railroad during his life and somehow managed to save enough money to buy a house at 4916 W. 32nd Place in Cicero.[5] 

The building was a two flat with a ground floor basement.  In 1930 Stanley and his wife are living in one unit with four of their sons, Stanley Jr., Leo, Chester, and Felix.  Their daughter, Constance, is living in the other unit with her husband, John Jelen, and two children, Eugene and Geraldine.  Also living in the house is his married son, John, with his wife, Frances and their son, John Jr.[6]  My husband said that there were rooms in the basement so perhaps that is where John, Francis, and their son lived.  By 1951 the only ones left living in the house were Stanley Jr. and Leo living on the first floor, and Constance and her family living on the second floor.[7] 

In Cicero the houses are close together with a gangway between them, but on one side of this house is an empty space, room enough for another house.  But in 1930 – 1960 this space remained empty and was part of the property at 4916 W. 32nd Place.  The entire yard was fenced in and there was a garage in back.[8]   Mary passed away in 1933[9] and Stanley passed away in 1951[10] leaving the house to his son Leo.[11]  Too bad there was such a tragic end to this house that Stanley worked so hard to purchase back in the 1920’s.

Here is the original newspaper article:

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Copyright © 2020 Gail Grunst


[1] Berwyn Life , (Berwyn Illinois), 11 March 1959, Page 5.

[2] Person knowledge from their nephew, Bruce Grunst.

[3] Year: 1930; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Page: 32A; Enumeration District: 2099; FHL microfilm: 2340233.  Source Information: Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Year: 1900; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Page: 22; Enumeration District: 1150; FHL microfilm: 1240292  Source Information:  Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls.

[6] Year: 1930; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Page: 32A; Enumeration District: 2099; FHL microfilm: 2340233  Source Information:Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.

[7] Personal knowledge from their nephew, Bruce  Grunst

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ancestry.com. Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: “Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916–1947.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original records.

[10] Chicago Tribune, (Chicago, Illinois), 18 December 1951, Page 45.

[11] Berwyn Life , (Berwyn Illinois), 11 March 1959, Page 5.

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