“lincoln park pirates” – steve goodman (1972)


Last week, the Illinois Commerce Commission voted to revoke the relocation towing license for Lincoln Towing Service.  To people outside of Chicago, that doesn’t sound like interesting news.  However, it really is.  Lincoln Towing, since its founding, has been a scourge on the city of Chicago for decades. Through questionable operational practices and even direct violence, the towing service has a nasty reputation.  Everyone has a story with Lincoln Towing.

Actions spearheaded by lawyers, alderman, and other city officials have been conducted to reign in the unruly towing service.  Chicago Daily News writer Mike Royko, since 1967, had written several articles about the founder of Lincoln Towing, Ross Cascio, claiming that “to intimidate those who objected, Cascio hung bats, blackjacks, chains and other pacifiers on his office wall. If a person tried to escape with his own car, Cascio’s men would dance on his chest.”

James Kargman, in his race for alderman in 1971, campaigned to “hit Cascio in the pocketbook—where it hurts.”  Kargman encouraged many businesses to cancel contracts with Lincoln Towing.  He inspired such ire against the towing service that after the campaign, 300 people attacked a Lincoln Towing employee who was removing a car from a lot.  That is how much they are hated.

As mentioned, everyone has a story about Lincoln Towing.  I even have one though I don’t own a car.  During the summer of 2015, I left my apartment to get some food.  At that time, I was living in Buena Park and I walked a half mile or so to Wrigleyville to get some pizza.  It was quiet because there weren’t any concerts or a Cubs game.  Either of which make the area hell.  So, I had planned to enjoy a quiet walk at night.

On my way back, I passed by an apartment building with a lot.  I saw that a tow truck had a car hitched to it.  And, sure enough, it was a Lincoln Towing truck. The driver was outside of his vehicle arguing with two women.  The driver’s partner was still inside the truck.

The tow driver was a big guy; tall and round.  He looked rather intimidating and someone who had a short fuse.  The car he was towing belonged to one of the women arguing with him.  Now, I’m sure that being a tow truck driver is not an easy profession and I’m sure drivers are met with lots of anger and aggression.  However, the women were considerably smaller than the driver and he threatened to beat the shit out the women (his words).

I was startled by that and knew that Lincoln Towing was a nasty business even though I didn’t have a car let alone a car towed by them.  I decided to take some video of the altercation because this was an example where an employee of Lincoln Towing was threatening physical violence against someone.  Granted, the woman was angry but she didn’t threaten the man.   I kept my distance at about 50 feet from the incident and just recorded without saying anything.

I recorded video for about thirty seconds before the driver’s partner in the truck noticed me and yelled for the driver.  The driver stopped arguing with the women and walked towards me.  As he walked towards me, he was yelling at me to mind my own fucking business.  I stopped the video and put my phone away.  After I did, he pushed me into the street.  There was a car heading my way and, fortunately, it swerved away from me just in time.

The driver got into his car as I was getting up and dialing the police.  HE blared his horn driving past me while I was on the phone.  I gave the police some details of the incident and was told someone would be by shortly.

After the call, I stayed with the women until the police came.  They were upset because they had some personal belongings in the back of the car that the driver refused to let them have.  They were sure that the items would be stolen or thrown away.

It took almost an hour for the police to come.  In the meantime, the guys from Lincoln Towing drove by us a few times and glaring.  They were trying to frighten us, but I was having none of that.  I started right back at them.

When the police came, they said there was nothing much they can do.  I did explain that I was pushed into the street and almost hit by a car.  However, they just shrugged it off since I had no injuries.

That’s my story with Lincoln Towing.  I know some people have had much worse experiences with them.  But, everyone has a story.

For his 1972 studio album Somebody Else’s Troubles, folk singer Steve Goodman wrote “Lincoln Park Pirates” lambasting Lincoln Towing.  Though the song was about a Chicago business, the themes were relevant elsewhere as well.  It is reported that that Chicago stations initially would not play the song for fear that Ross Cascio would sue them since Goodman named him in the song.

Good riddance to Lincoln Towing.  Though their license was revoked, a judge has recently said they can still operate pending further litigation.  Though, I hope this move from the ICC was the death knell for a shitty business.