A bus carrying activists, history aficionados and visitors from other cities weaved across Chicago’s South Side Sunday. Marking five years since President Barack Obama‘s election, the one-time tour stopped at places that influenced the Commander-in-Chief’s life.
Organized by Forgotten Chicago, a group that documents Chicago’s lesser-known infrastructure, the tour first stopped at Chase Tower, where Obama first met Michelle Robinson in 1989. It then headed to Altgeld Gardens, a housing project where a young Obama volunteered his time.
However, he was not accepted at first, according to Cheryl Johnson (pictured center), whose mother worked with him on infrastructure issues at the houses, the Chicago Tribunereports.
“Altgeld didn’t really accept outsiders, and he was considered an outsider,” Johnson told the riders.
“He used to come to our house, he used to sit at our kitchen table,” she added. “He had such charisma with the community and he always was a laid-back person.”
The bus also drove around the Pullman Historic District and Roseland areas, where Obama also organized. It then stopped at Reformation Evangelical Lutheran Church on South Forest Avenue. The tour entered the church while Rev. Joel Washington and Ada Scott were working on an oral history project.
Scott shared with the group how she first met Obama at 113th Street and South Forest in the 80s and brought him to the church. She called him a “a very well-mannered, conscientious person.”
“He had a lot of compassion,” she recalled.
After the riders got back on the bus, it traveled to industrial areas where Obama helped unemployed people find jobs. There was also a visit to the South Shore neighborhood–Michelle’s place of birth. The bus even managed to pass by the red brick house on Euclid Avenue where the First Lady grew up.
Heading to Hyde Park, the contingency ate at Valois Cafeteria, an Obama favorite. They then continued on foot along East 53rd Street, stopping by the barbershop Obama frequently visited (and where he now has his own special chair), and the plaque marking where Barack and Michelle had their first kiss.
U.S. history teacher Cindy Vogt decided to skip a Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field for the tour, knowing the South Side played a crucial role in Obama’s life.
“That’s a part of the city that I’d like to learn more about,” she said.
California native Eve Moore flew in after hearing about the tour from a friend. “I said, that sounds fascinating,” Moore said.
According to Forgotten Chicago co-founder Jacob Kaplan, the organization wanted to mark Obama’s election and meet people who knew him “while we still have a lot of the people alive with us today.”
“People are going to look back 100 years and say what an incredible story it was, and of course it all started here in Chicago,” he added.