PORTAGE PARK – Anyone who’s driven through the Six Corners Shopping District intersection over the past 50 years has likely seen the vintage sign that says “Girls Work Near Home – Key Personnel.”
Which likely means if you’ve passed the building at 4800 W. Irving Park Rd. recently, you noticed its absence:
We’ve got some good news for those who are worried about the missing vintage sign: it’s in good hands and will (hopefully) be back.
Kelli Wefenstette, executive director at the Six Corners Association, said her group is currently safeguarding the sign after it was removed so the building’s masonry could undergo tuck-pointing. The association is also looking into how to get the sign back up in the Six Corners Shopping District over the next few months.
“A couple years ago, I personally asked the owner of the building if he would donate the sign to the Six Corners Association should it ever need to be removed,” Wefenstette said in an email. “So we coordinated the removal and storage of the sign. It is now in the possession and ownership of Six Corners Association.”
Dale Harris, a neighborhood historian familiar with the Six Corners area, said the Key Personnel sign, which promises “Free Office Jobs,” had been up since at least the late 1960s. He also said the phone number on the sign, SP7-0061 (777-0061), originally had a 312 area code—which was one of the original North American Numbering Plan codes created in 1947. All of Chicagoland would use the 312 area code until additional, more specific area codes started being rolled out to the metropolitan area in 1989.
It appears Key Personnel was a staffing agency for women looking for office work.
Jerry Tufano, 62, is the current owner of the building. He purchased the property at 4800 W. Irving Park Rd. in the early 2000s and said that’s when he first met the woman who was running Key Personnel.
“When I bought it the woman who was in there was the wife of the man who had started started the company,” Tufano said. “I wish I remembered her name and had taken pictures of what it looked like when you walked into the office. It was old rotary phones and things like that, it was an interesting looking place.”
He recalls the woman always had one of those rotary phones off the hook when he would come in to the business, so it seemed like Key Personnel was no longer in operation.
“I think she pretended, for a number of years, that she was still in business. But I think she was there because she didn’t have anywhere else to go,” he said. “She was a very nice lady. I don’t even think I gave her a lease. So when I inherited the building she just continued to pay me what little she paid for the space.”
Since taking over the property, Tufano said people in the neighborhood have been eager to share bits of history.
“I have people come up to me and say that they know what my building’s basement looks like. Because when they were a kid, their dad sold clothes in one of the stores in the building,” he said. “So of course, when your dad is at work the kids back then are going to play in the basement. There’s a lot of interesting stories to that Six Corners area.”