Every time I watch the opening credits of “Good Times,” I am reminded that the housing projects featured are no more. In 2011, the notorious Cabrini Green housing projects were demolished. Although the Evans family lived in one such building, it was not named. Chicagoans who grew up there knew where they were cocobay đà nẵng .
My family also lived in the projects when I was a small girl. Cabrini Green was located on the north side. Rockwell Gardens was our home. These buildings were demolished in the early part of this century. Although our apartment was very similar to that of the Evans family, it was smaller than theirs. It had two bedrooms, a small bathroom, and a small kitchen. There was also very little closet space. It was not enough space for a single mom, divorced, with three children. But we managed.
My family had left the projects before “Good Times,” which aired on CBS in 1974, was even made. We still have fond memories of our daily life in the projects. It was true that there were vandalized washers, dryers in the laundry area, broken elevators, and gang wars that forced people to hide in their apartments. Other things that occurred on the series were not always true.
One of the most interesting aspects of the show was the way that everyone, family members and next-door neighbors Wilona Woods could walk in to the Evans’ house without having to knock. This is a well-known television trope. This is because it’s boring and time-consuming to show characters opening doors for strangers, especially if they are familiar with the person. Most people who lived in these apartments would agree that the front doors were locked at all times. It would have been like hanging signs saying, “Please come in and get whatever you want.” It was just not possible.
Bookman was the annoying custodian who was introduced to the show in the second season. Bookman appeared to have a lot power, including the ability to expel families. Custodians have an obligation to report any unusual conditions to management. In my old building, I didn’t know that the custodian had any other authority than cleaning. Tenants would complain about cleaning problems and give the custodian difficult directions, which I recall.
I recently saw a replay of an episode in which Thelma won a scholarship to a predominately-white, all-girls’ high school in Michigan. One of the school’s sororities came to Thelma’s apartment to persuade her to join them. The Evans quickly realized that Thelma was only a token member of the sorority because she was African American. This scenario was not only racist, but there were many other problems. A sorority member was a blonde teenage girl who came from a wealthy or upper-middle class background. She would have not been found dead in the projects in those days. For that matter, not everyone who lived in these projects was a criminal or poor. However, I only saw social workers, police officers, and insurance agents as the only ones who were willing to venture into these projects. Everyone else was kept away by stories about dangerous and violent housing projects.
Thelma declined the invitation to join Therority. The sorority girl decided that she would leave her family with one final goodbye shot. They were told by her that it was a good thing that another sorority girl didn’t go to Thelma’s house because she hated African Americans. JJ closed the door behind the sorority girl. The truth is that the girl who expressed racial discrimination in an environment where she was the minority would have been thrown out of school or worse.