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Chicago's Less Glitzy Side

Forget pleasant guides and well-known tourist attractions.

The Saturday Early Show's Cynthia Bowers took a tour of Chicago that's an exploration of the Windy City through the eyes of men and women who once called its streets and shelters home.

"This is not a Grey Line Tour, it's not a Blue Line Tour, it's not a Happy Face Tour, this is the 'Not Your Mama's Bus Tour,' but depending on who your mama is, it may be her kind of a ride," announces the guide for the trip.

The first stop is Grant Park. It is the place where actors, all formerly homeless, reminisce about the infamous riots of the 1960s.

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"I was here in the park; I was 13 years old," says Grant Park. "Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy had just been murdered."

The parks and streets here are full of seldom-told tales of an urban past, now given way to progress.

"In those days, I had a job right here on Maxwell and Holston," says Michael Ibrahem. "Like so many things passed over by the destructive hands of time, Maxwell Street is gone forever."

The "Not Your Mama's Bus Tour" began cruising Chicago's mean streets last year. It's sponsored by "StreetWise, " a non-profit organization that helps the homeless turn their lives around.

Along the way, passengers are serenaded with poetry, music and short stories written by former street people. The underlying message is that just because you're down, doesn't mean you're out.

Cheryl Murphy was pregnant 10 years ago with no place to call home. Today, she has an apartment and her own business. The tour gives her a chance to channel her dream and despair into an entertaining and enriching journey for others.

"I'd like to talk to you about a very special friend of mine, his name was Joseph Gould," says Mark D. Hayes, one of the tour's actors.

Hayes says Joseph Gould didn't have a home, but he had big dreams. Gould was killed on July 30, 1995, by an off-duty police officer, but charges were never filed.

"What would you do if this happened to someone you loved? Rest in peace, Joseph Gould," says Hayes.

Most cities in America have places like those explored on the "Not Your Mama's Bus Tour." They are places with people and a past in sight, but out of mind. However, the bus tour is on its way to changing that in Chicago.

"I thought it was really powerful; this was the real people of Chicago," says tourist Lynn Schram.

"We're from northern Minnesota and seeing this type of Chicago was real interesting to us. It's not something you're exposed to every day. It was really enlightening," says tourist Leann Grabow.

Greg Pritchett and the rest of the "Not Your Mama's Bus Tour" team hope the tour will resonate long after the ride ends.

"I like the feeling I get when I know they're getting it, when they're really getting it," says Pritchett. "The look on their faces, you can tell. That's an awesome experience, it's an awesome feeling."

The 90-minute tour runs every other Friday. It begins in front of the StreetWise office building at 1331 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago,Illinois. Ticket prices are:
Adults: $22.50
Seniors: $20
Children 12 and under: $15

Group tours are available on special days and times with advance notice. For more information, call (312) 554-0060

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