"The Pied Piper of South Shore, Toys and Tragedy in Chicago"
By Caryn Lazar Amster
store owner Manny Lazar, known as the Pied Piper of South Shore,
was shot and killed in front of his wife, Belle, by a Chicago gang
member in 1970. He died in the place he loved best, the Wee Folks
Toy Store that he and his wife had run for twenty-five years in
the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago.
"The Pied Piper of South Shore, Toys and
Tragedy in Chicago" is the true story of the life and
death of this beloved retailer told in gritty detail by his eldest
daughter. But it's also the story of two children of immigrants,
their American dream, and their richly diverse neighborhood each
falling prey to the brutality of gangs.
Enhanced by her own recollections of working in her
parents' store and the fond reminiscences of hundreds of customers,
Caryn Amster's tale is a heady ride from persecution in Russia to
freedom in America, from Hula Hoops to hit men, from murder to trial.
It is the story of loss but also of survival, even forgiveness.
A foreword by Mandy Patinkin, a long time Wee Folks
customer, thanks Mr. and Mrs. Lazar for providing an oasis, a place
to dream and feel safe.
There are two appendices at the end of the book: One
recalls the stores of 79th Street, from Stony Island Avenue to Jeffrey
Avenue, and the other tells the stories about how some of the most
popular toys and games in the 1950s and 1960s got their start.
Mitch Markovitz created the amazing book cover you see on this
site. He has also created posters and limited edition fine art prints
of the cover for sale.
Mitch was born and raised in Chicago’s South Shore and fondly
remembers his years there. The poster represents the area as he
remembers it and will bring warm recollections from many former
Mitch was educated at the American Academy of Art, Chicago, and
the Chicago Academy of Fine Art. He is a professional commercial
illustrator, art director and fine artist based in Knox, Indiana
and known for his true to life poster campaigns.
Lazar Amster, a marketing specialist in Chicago, grew up working
side by side with her parents in Wee Folks, their South Shore toy
store. "The Pied Piper of South Shore, Toys and Tragedy
in Chicago" is her first book. A portion of the proceeds
from its sale will be donated to Women's American Ort in honor and
memory of her mother, Belle Lazar.
Women's American ORT is a national Jewish fund-raising organization that strengthens the worldwide Jewish community by empowering people to achieve economic self-sufficiency through technological and vocational education. This is accomplished by providing financial support and leadership within the global ORT network of schools and programs. In the United States, Women's American ORT ensures the continued growth of our post-secondary technical schools and develops technical resource centers for Jewish students, teachers and community groups nationwide.