In the 1980s, a tiny, one-man vending machine took the streets of Chicago and changed the way people viewed downtown.
It became the symbol of a new Chicago tradition: The Little Guy.
The vending machine was the creation of Mike Lattanzio, a 19-year-old Chicagoan.
He was fascinated by the concept of being able to turn a busy corner into a miniature museum and the concept behind it, he said.
“It’s the little guy that stands up and says, ‘I want to take a picture with this,’ and that’s the essence of it,” he said in an interview.
The Little Guy was born in 1983, when a group of young street kids in Chicago formed the Boys and Girls Club, which became known as the Little Guy Club.
The group’s motto was “If you don’t get your picture taken, we won’t take your picture.”
The Little Guys’ motto became something of a rallying cry for the street kids and a rallying call for a new, more modern concept for how to take pictures, said Mike Loparic, a member of the Boys & Girls Club.
“We felt it was a very important part of the culture and a very special place for people to go to,” he told CBC News.
“I don’t know how much of a part of that is nostalgia for that, but I do know that it was one of the most iconic things we did in Chicago.”
The club was a big hit with its members, who were known for their high energy and style, said Lopalic.
“There were so many people who came from other neighborhoods that we all lived around, and so many of us got together and said, ‘Let’s make a big group of us come and go to these other neighborhoods to take photos,'” he said, recalling the group’s first meeting in a bar in North Lawndale.
Loparico recalled the excitement that was created by the Little Guys.
“A lot of people were just kind of blown away by it,” Loplaric said.
“They were so happy to have a group that was such a great idea, so I can’t say that I’ve ever seen that excitement and that excitement again in the years that I have been part of it.”
Loplarico said he remembers meeting some of the members at the club’s annual meet and greet at the end of the year.
“They said, we’re all going to come up here, I’m going to take the photo and they’re going to say, ‘OK, what do you guys want to do?'”
The group took the first photo, of a young boy playing with a basketball, and they got lots of pictures.
“Some of them were like, ‘What do we do with this picture?’,” Lattzio said.
Lattzia said the Little guys also did something very unique in the early days.
“What they were doing was taking a photo of an adult sitting at a table, so the adult had to stand there,” he recalled.
“The adult then had to take that photo, and the kids were like we need to take this picture, and that was really the first time that we really really had to be in the same place.”
When the Little Boys moved into their own home, Lattzinos said, they used the photo for a small advertising campaign.
“So they put a sign up in the window that said ‘Here you go, the Little Men,’ and it’s now the little ladies that they put up on their front doors,” Lopparic said, referring to the Little Girls.
“People used to walk past us all the time and say, you have to get out of here,” Lofaro said.
They had a couple of kids who went to high school with them and they kept the Little girls on their side, Loplin said.
One kid even made a small statue of the Little Girl.
“One of the little boys that went to a dance class with them, the other kid had to get his picture taken and the other boy said, I don’t think I’m getting my picture taken.
I said, what’s going on, I think you got a big one over here, so they did,” Luttanzio said in the interview.
Luttanzia said he had a special feeling that night.
“You know, I was sitting at home, and I saw the Little Boy,” he laughed.
“And I said to myself, ‘That’s a great way to end the night.’
It was one that was just so meaningful to me, because it was an expression of a different way to take photographs, he explained.”
He was the one who made the sign up and said it’s the Little Man, and it just was that way from the get go