But in his mind's eye, Hencinski can conjure up an image of the location 45 years ago, when the same land in Chicago's North Center neighborhood was occupied by the legendary Riverview Amusement Park.
Thinking back, Hencinski is amazed that an amusement park could have occupied 74 acres of city land, right next to Lane Tech. "It was in the heart of a neighborhood," he said. "That's incomprehensible to me now, and fascinating to our students."
"It just seems like a cool thing," said Jelaila Gonzalez, a senior at Lane Tech. "I can't imagine going to school next to an amusement park. No one would be in class — everyone would be at the park."
This fascination isn't limited to Lane Tech students and teachers.
Even though Riverview closed its doors to the public for good back in September 1967, the place once heralded in ads as the "World's Largest Amusement Park" is still a hot topic to many Chicagoans, even those under 50 who never had a chance to visit Riverview. It was bordered by Belmont Avenue on the south, Lane Tech to the north, Western Avenue on the east and the North Branch of the Chicago River to the west.
Ralph Lopez, who worked at Riverview from 1957 until its closing and is a caretaker for its history, gets questions from people who were too young to have experienced Riverview.
They'll ask him about the Bobs, the fear-inducing wooden roller coaster that was almost 90 feet high and reached speeds of 50 miles an hour. They'll ask him about the Pair-O-Chutes, a free-fall parachute ride, where participants were dropped more than 100 feet from an imposing observation tower. And they'll ask about the dozens of other rides and attractions like Aladdin's Castle (the mammoth fun house that patrons encountered when they entered the park), the Tunnel of Love, the Wild Mouse (another roller coaster) and the ride Lopez worked on — the Shoot the Chutes, where boats were dropped 65 feet into a large splash pond.
"There's nothing like it today," said Lopez, 70, who lives only a few blocks from where the park used to be. "People who weren't there really missed something."
Lopez stores memorabilia in his home — old tickets to rides, posters and billboards promoting the park, and rare pictures of Riverview's grounds. He also operates a website about the park (riverviewparkchicago.com), where he sells a DVD about Riverview's history.
Lopez said Riverview was the best working experience he ever had.
"I was clearing over $300 a week working there, with overtime and everything," Lopez said. "Everyone who worked there loved the rides and working in an amusement park. We were closed on Mondays, and on our days off, we would go to other amusement parks, just because we loved the amusement park experience."
Lopez conducts tours of the site. In addition to the Riverview Plaza strip mall, the old Riverview location includes the Chicago Police Belmont Area station, DeVry University and Richard Clark Park.
In the south end of Clark Park, there is a wooded area near the river where Lopez shows off some of the few remnants left of old Riverview, such as a huge concrete foundation that was once part of the tower where the Shoot the Chutes boats were dropped.
"It's like walking through the ruins of something great," said playwright Aaron Carter, who recently took a tour of the site with Lopez.
Carter, born in Ohio and a recent Chicago transplant, was so infatuated with stories about the park that he wrote a short play about the location called "Belmont & Western: Riverview Amusement Park."
That production is part of the Chicago Landmark Project, a series of short plays about well-known intersections in the city that is running at the Greenhouse Theater Center (the former Victory Gardens Theater space) in Lincoln Park through July 10.
Carter said he was intrigued by both the park's history, and the fact that the location adopted an entirely different look and character after the park was demolished. "It's a place where historical things happened," Carter said. "But even though Riverview isn't around now, the location still has connections to the amusement park."