Elementary: Grades 3–4
Later that evening, after Uncle Jimmy brought them home to Bronzeville, Allan decided to make a list in his notebook about why hot dogs are important. "Number one," he wrote. "Jobs for people in Chicago, like Carlos's parents."
"What's that?" his Grandma asked. Allan told her what the list was for. "You should talk to your Great-uncle John," Grandma said. "He's been around a long time and he knows a lot about Chicago. I'll call him up.
"John, Allan's got some questions for you. Here he is," Grandma put Allan on the phone.
"Uncle John? It's Allan," he shouted into the phone. Uncle John was a bit hard of hearing from his years working on noisy trains. "Can I come tomorrow and ask you about hot dogs?"
"Dot bogs? I'm not sure what they are, but come on over and visit."
The next afternoon, Allan walked over to Great-uncle John's house. As usual, Ruth followed him. "What if he doesn't know anything, Allan?" she asked. Allan shrugged. For a free hot dog with ketchup, it was worth a try.
Allan liked visiting Uncle John. He had lots of stories about his years as a Pullman porter on the railroad, but that wasn't what Allan was looking for on this particular day. "Can you tell me why hot dogs are important in Chicago?" he asked.
Uncle John laughed loudly. "Hot dogs! I thought you said dot bogs, and I didn't know what on earth you wanted. Sure I can tell you. Hot dogs are important in Chicago because trains are important in Chicago," Uncle John said. Allan and Ruth looked at each other. Another train story from Uncle John wasn't exactly what they were looking for.
"Hot dogs are part of the meatpacking industry," he continued. "That's the factories that take animals and make them into meat for people to eat. Meatpacking has been important in Chicago for more than a hundred years. We were famous all over the country for meats, and the railroad made this possible. You've heard of the stockyards, right?"
Allan and Ruth nodded. "You've seen the gates of the Union Stock Yard. There's the head of a bull there. What was I saying? Oh yes, the railroad. Railroad lines stretching all over the country connected near the stockyards. The trains brought millions and millions and millions of animals to Chicago's stockyards, and the meatpacking plants around the stockyards turned the animals into meat. Trains delivered the meat all over the country. Hold on."