Childhood road trips: Good Old Neon

As a Baby Boomer child  in the car traveling  with my parents, there were no cell phones to play or movies to watch on video players. You were lucky if your parents played games like 20 questions, Name that Tune or Alphabet  where you would look for every letter of the alphabet from the road signs you passed. It could be any sign but neon were easy to see with their beautiful varieties of color, sparkle and great logos.

Though for me, I didn’t really care about the games. Unfortunately, reading a book while traveling made me sick. I just loved to pass the majestic signs. Ultimately, it was the neon signs alone that offered a colorful road trip suggesting great places to visit such as Kiddieland , Margies Candies or the Seven Dwarfs Restaurant.  How my parents loved the Green Mill Lounge with its beautiful gold array of lights highlighting the green title,even back in the days of mafia connections.

I always wanted to stay at the Tangiers Motel…something I thought…  truly out of the country. Fortunately, I was spoiled. When I pointed and cheered with determination at the mesmerizing neons, we would actually stop at many taking advantage of the rides, sweets or a chocolate shake; maybe even an overnight stay.

Remember Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket neon sign in Willowbrook?  I am only a few miles from the Chicken Basket and the sign still guides me today…one of my favorite restaurants.

Nick Freeman felt the same way about neon growing up and Chicago’s rich neon heritage is published in his full-color collection of delightful signs. From the South Side of Chicago to Wisconsin, his book Good Old Neon  spotlights the familiar signs captured in over 130 photos; many fast-disappearing artifacts of a glorious era when brightly lit signs filled the landscape.

“Several dozen of the signs pictured in my book have disappeared since its publication, and once they’re gone, they’re not coming back,” Nick comments, ” Big reason for my passion for preserving them through photography.”

Nick talks about the cost of the neon which is expensive due to the hand-crafting that goes into each one, as well as the physical and technical requirements involved in their construction and placement, not to mention upkeep.  The fragility of glass tubing continuously exposed to harsh Chicago weather makes the survival of an old sign a kind of urban miracle, deserving, at the least, of photographic preservation. Even the many that have outlived their functional glory days have their own visual appeal. Animated neon signs, working or not, are a special treat.

Nick Freeman, a life-long resident of the Chicago area, has been involved with words and pictures throughout his professional career. Starting at Feldkamp-Malloy, one of the last of the old-time art studios in the city, he spent 30-plus years in advertising–god help him–serving as production director at Leo Burnett and other agencies.

He now devotes his time and attention to his first love, oil painting, and has exhibited his work in a number of local and regional shows. His art, both paintings and photography, can be seen at galleryfreeman.com.

After viewing his work on his website, I was amazed by his polished, realistic technique and use of color. Two of my favorites were Isla Jane and the Pumpkin Farm which were sold. But his wonderful collection offers a great painting of Dog N Suds called Root Beer, Flea Market II, the Blue Goose for sale and many others. He currently resides in St. Charles, Illinois.

Good Old Neon is available direct from Lake Claremont Press, Amazon or wherever fine gift books are sold. Founded by Sharon Woodhouse in 1994, Lake Claremont Press has been publishing amazing histories and guidebooks about Chicago by Chicago authors.

Unlike many publishers, their books truly capture the passions and knowledge of their authors. Many have been featured in national newspapers and numerous television shows such as the History Channel and The National Geographic Channel. Because of their credited field expertise, most authors are actively involved in non-for profits and several of the the greater Chicago land missions.

Please visit their site and you can sign up for the Lake Claremont Press newsletter to receive announcements about new book releases and special offers of distinguished Chicago authors.

What successful people do

They fail…..more than once.  Because the more they put their effort into a task or project, mistakes will always be made but successful people try to learn from their mistakes. They don’t cling to the error, remain in the past or spend a lot of time focusing on what does not work. They continue to try again with a new approach and positive attitude for moving on.

Successful people have a purpose, a vision and that vision regardless of its highs and lows will keep you productive and producing the effects you want to receive. Although there are no guaranteed route to financial success, many continue to pursue their purpose and find that reward is not the number of dollars you make but in the number of relationships you establish or how you have helped family, friends  and ones you have never expected.

Successful people keep pushing to the next level always challenging themselves to be better. Many set high, almost impossible standards, but tend to come in somewhere in the middle and we respect them for never giving up and moving beyond past achievements.

Successful people truly feel that living a righteous life is key because dishonesty, cruelty and immorality will follow you and far more difficult to erase than any mistake in your business. Never do anything in your life you would be ashamed of seeing in print. Build a legacy of trust, respect and a caring example to others.

Successful people cannot succeed by themselves.  They need to network and open doors for mentors to help them progress if it is nothing more than words of encouragement. Sometimes we surround ourselves with others that are not devoted to our growth and successful people really watch for those who can tear them down. They don’t play games but choose and highlight those that are trustworthy.

Successful people always know how to redefine if necessary since they can’t control everything.  Sometimes they may  have to eliminate distractions but they continue to run their race not comparing themselves to others either. Life happens, but they stay the course and never give up.

Successful people practice a strong consistent routine even concerning their personal activities that include eating, exercise and relaxation. Because they work by the minute, not hour.

Successful people have a unique perception and awareness to help others be successful and find the answers to problems not easily understood. When solving issues or building toward a solution, they focus on the small steps they eventually climb to reach their goals

Successful people take time for mediation , prayer and gratitude.

And most of all, they know how to love.

Remembering the mass murder 51 years ago in this house

 

Though I was only 11 in the summer of 1966, it was the first time on the south side of Chicago, we had a evening curfew. Because the killer had not been caught. The night of July 14th was a cloudy, humid day, similar to the weather before a storm; silent, beckoning.

And we all went into our homes before the curfew began even the troublesome boys listened to their city’s request.  The neighborhood streets were vacant which was completely out of nature for a warm summer night. We couldn’t play with our phones, all we could do is watch TV, the unfolding drama. Porches were empty. Even those were not safe.

Chicago was ready and waiting to catch Richard Speck, who had stabbed, strangled and raped eight student nurses that worked at South Chicago Hospital; one nurse had survived and who escaped by hiding under a bed.  I had been hospitalized at South Chicago Community Hospital only a few years before with a broken arm. That was my neighborhood trauma zone and the two story townhouse had only been a mile from the safety of my block.

On July 15th, me, my girlfriend and her Mom was doing errands. Errands that took us by the town home where the second flood murders had occurred. Lines of cars crawled past what was usually a busy, no nonsense street.  The picture window was black, the glass had been removed…a light bulb hung from the dark living room with yellow tape across the window, house. Policemen were everywhere on the grass, in and out and directing traffic. I will never forgot the bleak glassless window. A single bulb telling us to stay away.

Speck was found in Chicago at Cook County Hospital where a doctor recognized him and called the police on July 16th. Richard Speck had over 30 arrest records and was sentenced to the death penalty initially but the Supreme Court invalidated that law. He ended up with 400 years in prison and died of a heart attack on December 5, 1991.

Though not much of a newspaper reader at the time, it was always during traumatic events that you remember the historic headlines, the pictures of tragedy when you see them again years later.

I still remember the eight nurses; attractive, healthy, accomplished and in a child’s mind at the time, wondered if the same thing could happen to me. How could that happen to such beauty? Could I be gunned down by Richard Speck or someone like him? Do I want to grow up? That’s what we thought back then. Not the beauty of young adulthood waiting for me. Another lesson in fear.

Corazon Amurao, who survived the ordeal, was not deterred from her goal and went on to become a critical care nurse in Washington, D.C and has a daughter who is also a nurse.

And I still remember the light bulb.

 

Photo courtesy of Chicago Crimes Scenes

Native Community Disaster Preparedness Leaps Forward with Publication of New Resilience Handbook

By Vincent B Davis, CEM

As in any community, a solid network of partnerships is needed to address the specific needs of its community members. Native American and Alaska Native populations span the nation, but face similar preparedness challenges. To address resilience gaps, a public-private sector collaborative approach was used to create a tool as a foundational document for community outreach by tribal stakeholders, as well as tribal emergency managers and others to train new staff.

There are 567 federally recognized tribes, living on more than 300 reservations, representing 22% of the 6.6 million Native American and Alaska Native population. Many tribal families live in remote rural communities, where 68% of homes on tribal lands still lack access to broadband internet service, as of January 2016. This rate is lower than that of some developing countries. In contrast, more than half of African-Americans and Hispanics and about three-fourths of Caucasians have high-speed access at home in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. A 2012 report from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Office of Native Affairs and Policy noted, “Reservations of many Tribal Nations are located in rural areas with challenging terrain.” The FCC cited the badlands of the northern plains states and the mountainous forests of the Pacific Northwest as particularly challenging situations.

Statistically Challenging Circumstances

Because the vast majority of disaster preparedness material resides on the internet, this information is nearly impossible to obtain for many Indian Country families. For those born on reservations, the economic outlook can be especially challenging because Native American households earn only a little more than half as much as the average American ($37,227 compared to $53,657 for the nation as a whole). Approximately 28.3% of Native American and Alaska Natives are living below poverty and, without basic preparedness plans, these families are even more vulnerable to injuries and fatalities in a disaster. With the growing number of floods, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural catastrophes, and the ever-present threats from man-made contamination of tribal lands, family preparedness has become an even greater challenge for survival in Native communities.

To further exacerbate the preparedness dilemma, most tribal nations are in remote, rural communities with few response resources readily available. This increases the chances for delayed response in a major event, leaving families to care for themselves for extended periods without assistance. As many Native communities struggle to maintain a meager existence, the resilience gap continues to widen.

Tribal Handbook – Closing the Resilience Gap

To address the Native resilience gap, Preparedness Matters, a disaster preparedness consulting group specializing in underserved community preparedness, collaborated with key stakeholders in the tribal emergency management community and Native communications experts to develop a strategy and discuss ways to reach tribal families who have limited electronic media access. The challenge was not just to develop a tool, but to make it comprehensive and accessible to a wide audience of stakeholders. Working with Native Public Media, the nonprofit organization that coordinates training and support for the 59 radio and TV stations broadcasting in Indian Country, and the National Tribal Emergency Management Council (NTEMC), which represents 277 tribal emergency management groups in the Pacific Northwest, Preparedness Matters launched a project to develop the “Native Family Disaster Preparedness Handbook.”

The publication was designed to consolidate the vast amount of preparedness information into a single resource guide that would be easy to digest, culturally relevant, and affordable for tribal residents. Additional collaborators with expertise in mitigation, disaster trauma, and tribal recovery were included to provide subject-matter expertise. The group set forth several goals for the design of the Handbook. The main objectives were to “demystify” the tribal disaster process by explaining the sometimes-complex procedures and nuances of tribal recovery, and to provide simple steps families could take to protect children, homes, livestock, and pets. The added challenge was how to get the Handbook to communities where daily survival is their main priority, and preparing for disasters poses a difficult task few are likely to undertake without help. To accomplish distribution of the handbook, the team developed an outreach strategy to reach key stakeholders in all sectors of the Native community, as well as non-Native partners and supporters.

Sorting through a massive amount of disaster preparedness data presented its own challenges for the handbook project team. Initially, a book outline was created to keep the team on track, with a course of action that adhered to “less is more” when developing the chapter information. Throughout the process the team had to stay focused on the main goal, which was to keep the information culturally relevant, while providing a flexible tool that could be updated and customized by the user. To accomplish this, the spiral bound booklet has a convenient rear pocket that can be used to add information, and a tear-out family plan template to make it easy to copy or secure personal family plan data.

Developing a Culture of Preparedness

Major concerns for Indian Country families in disaster include the reunification of families, and the safety of displaced children. The Tribal Handbook team identified 17 categories of functional needs in Indian Country, and ways tribal stakeholders can address them, including but not limited to:

  • No 911 services
  • Limited or no internet access
  • No street addresses
  • No paved roads
  • Limited or no telephone access or service

Because of these vulnerabilities, active participation in preparedness activities must become a way of life for Native communities, not an afterthought. This means creating a culture of empowerment and awareness, essential to bring about meaningful behavior and attitude changes, especially among those in greatest peril. Preparing to protect or minimize damage to vital agricultural resources is equally important to the economic recovery of post-disaster tribal communities. The loss of livelihood from damaged crops, wildlife, fishing, mineral mining, livestock, and other resources can have lasting effects on any community, especially one as dependent on these sources of income to support its people.

In addition, protection of a Tribe’s sacred sites cannot be ignored, but rather must be integrated into all phases of the emergency planning process. If a disaster destroys a sacred site such as a burial ground or historical site, the impact on the Tribe can be devastating physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Spiritual connection to the land is a hallowed tradition – where Native ancestors lived and are buried, where the future generations will grow and prosper in the rich heritage and history of Native culture.

A Note from the Author

To be clear, the Native Family Disaster Preparedness Handbook was created by and for Native people. My role as facilitator for the projects was motivated by my resolve to empower positive disaster outcomes for the underserved. As we concluded the publication, one of the Native contributors called me a hero. I humbly responded with a quote from the late tennis star Arthur Ashe who said: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass others at all cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

While many disaster preparedness needs and concerns still exist in Native and other underserved communities, I applaud the efforts of those and individuals and practitioners who work tirelessly every day to bring greater awareness and participation for citizen empowerment before disasters strike. People below poverty, elderly, children, disabled, and those without transportation, limited English speakers, and others most at-risk, need the knowledge and tools required to change outcomes in disasters.

The Native Family Disaster Preparedness Handbook is a significant step in a much larger journey to achieve true whole community resilience. Despite the many obstacles and challenges, as emergency managers, we must all redouble our efforts to address apathy and indifference. Failure to act decisively and deliberately cannot simply be measured in financial losses, or damaged property. The true cost of unpreparedness must be framed in the context of lives saved, injuries prevented, and the survival and well-being of future generations. Only after we have done all we can to prepare ourselves, can we truly then leave the outcome to the Creator.

To learn more about the Handbook project visit our website at www.thenativefamilydisasterhandbook.com

Ingredients for love and family

 

I thought about her famous recipe.

And beginning in my pre-teen years, I wanted to be just like her. It seems like yesterday that I knocked on the door of her duplex that was located across the street from my family home; introducing myself and asking if she needed a babysitter.

Her voice was articulate but child like, her smile, dark eyes and thick, short haircut, fashionable for the late 1960’s added to her confidence more than most 22 year olds could conceive. There was a playful side on the surface, a sterling intelligence deep inside and a young mother to Marc who was only two years old.  I was only 11.

My first time babysitting was while Marc was asleep not suspecting that his Mom had left him with me. Of course, he woke and cried miserably until she walked in the door; only gone a short time which seemed like an eternity for me. I was sure my days as a babysitter had begun and stopped all in one day but I was wrong. Nothing was ever said about me being more upset than her baby and I learned that I truly had talent; my first job. Finally, I was promoted from an afternoon sitter to evenings and when her second baby came along, Michael, I become an expert in my field at 50 cents an hour.

She loved to read one I again remember clearly, James Michners The Source…a story of the history of the Jewish people, her nationality as well, that she could devour in a few hours. A novelist whose writing was based on extensive, detailed research. I could only handle Trixie Beldon and maybe Nancy Drew. I wasn’t sure that I could sit quietly during a read of such depth.

Judy could appear in her husband’s oversized button down shirt with jeans rolled to the knees but when she dressed to go out or entertain, her makeup was expertly designed to compliment her features as if she used none at all and her clothes did the same for her figure; the latest in conservative fashion. But it was her nails that always caught my eye, watching her white hands maneuver the steering wheel of her blue Bonneville 1965 Pontiac. Her nails were the perfect length as we headed to the new McDonalds or Rainbow beach.

Her interior style of decorating was creative, black and white stripes in their bathroom, deep blues with yellow and white accents in her living room and off white dining room with powdered blue French curtains. Her den was made from her own imagination with tall barrels and handmade tops as end tables. The boy’s room had red, blue, yellow and green stars made out of felt decorating the ceiling.

But her real talent was her cooking and, most of all, her pepper steak published in the Chicago Tribune. Her signature smile, turtleneck sweater replacing the usual button down, was photographed as she sat on a stool by her favorite kitchen counter while Julia Child endorsed her work. Throughout the city, she was known for her Pepper Steak where all mothers, including my own, attempted to create the same.

Where was that recipe that sat in Mothers yellow metal recipe box? Where was the box after mother died?

Remember when your dad died?

Yes, I was only 12 and during the ride with neighbors to my father’s wake, I had vomited on my good clothes, remembering a variety of women all shapes and sizes, ushering me into the washroom when we arrived to clean me up the best they could. After spending a few minutes in front of Dad’s casket with my trembling mother, somebody suggested the little family room behind.

My nylons were stained and another lady kindly rinsed them off to hang there. I sat and waited in the small room away from other’s drama…too much toxicity for my own soul. It was Judy and her husband who finally rescued me and suggested that the best place would be at home with them that evening. They had no idea what they had done for me in that small gesture.

In the 1970’s, we all relocated to the suburbs and somehow the years of college, becoming a teacher and then mother became the essence of life; the recipe removed for a different time.

During the late 1980’s, I had heard that Judy had gone back to school to become a lawyer and after locating her law office in a phonebook, I called and explained to the receptionist who I was. Shortly after, I received a call back in that familiar voice to come across and baby-sit with the boys…. for a brief moment nothing had changed. After we met at an old neighbors home for a reunion, this time was with Judy holding my two year old.  Her sons were almost as old as me.

In the 1990’s and 2000s, we had are own intense lives to lead, Judy had become an appellate court judge losing contact with only words and articles in reference to her success on the Internet. The judge was creative, innovative, dynamic energetic, beautiful and charming.

Yes, that was her.

Since divorce, single motherhood, teaching, training and my roles in corporate management, I have bloomed as a writer published in a variety of newspapers, blogs and magazines. Ultimately, an avid reader of all literature. The Source was one of my favorites.

But the thought of Judy’s pepper steak has never been forgotten.

And, of course, one day my search began and, somehow the metal recipe box reared its décor behind an old collection of cook books.  Located in the front was Judy’s pepper steak, neatly written in my mothers handwriting on a significantly yellow card; the original newspaper article not among its files.

After a dinner of delectable flavor with my own family, I journeyed  back to my time of impressions. It does not take much for young children to form impressions. Children as young as 3 tend to judge an individual’s character just by looking at their face. Those young experiences tend to become our own fingerprint as we mature and, hopefully prosper.

As I publish this article today, I realize that it is Judy’s birthday…July 9th. Maybe she , too, approves of the days of old. The days when it was the warm and engaged family dinner that deterred us from the stress of our demons; giving us a more positive view of the future. Being able to enjoy what was important, those that sat at our table, bringing out the best in all of us.

Seek to be the very best

Which statue of Abraham Lincoln is considered to have the most accurate likeness of the president and why? What sets Victory Monument apart from other World War I memorials? Why is the Balbo Monument so controversial? Celebrated photographer, author, and art historian Larry Broutman is eager to share his vast knowledge of the fascinating history behind Chicago’s public art and iconic places. Broutman is the photographer and author of Chicago Monumental and Chicago Unleashed, the latter book; a collection of whimsical images.

Chicago Unleashed, Larry Broutman’s first book published by Lake Claremont Press in 2014, presents images that combine wildlife photographed by Broutman in the wildlands of the world and iconic Chicago urbanscapes he also photographed. The concept of these fanciful pieces was created for the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago during its design and construction.   His second book with Lake Claremont Press, Chicago Monumental is a gorgeous full-color photographic tribute to the City of Big Shoulders that showcases over 250 Chicago monuments, memorials, statues, and fountains. Many were created by acclaimed sculptors from the past two centuries. There’s even a 3D photography section with 3D glasses included in this wonderful coffee table book.

Lake Claremont Press celebrates the power and character of place for our particular corner of the globe, Chicago and greater Chicagoland. Their nonfiction histories and guidebooks foster and reveal Chicago’s special identity by exploring our city’s history, culture, geography, built environment, people, and lore. They publish authors with specific Chicago passions and knowledge and local organizations with Chicago-centric missions.

Founded by Sharon Woodhouse in 1994, Lake Claremont Press has published over 60 titles, including local bestseller Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City and several award winners. Other favorites over the years have included Hollywood on Lake Michigan: 100 Years of Chicago and the Movies, The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History, A Cook’s Guide to Chicago, The Streets and San Man’s Guide to Chicago Eats, The Golden Age of Chicago Children’s Television, Oldest ChicagoHistoric Bars of Chicago, and Rule 53: Capturing Hippies, Spies, Politicians, and Murderers in an American Courtroom.

Chicago Monumental has received two book awards in the last month: a Midwest Book Award for best interior design and an IPPY (Independent Publisher) Award in the Great Lakes Nonfiction category.

Since the 1990s, Larry Broutman has traveled the world over to capture the perfect photograph and has found Chicago to have a plethora of visual inspiration. His projects include work with Lincoln Park Zoo, Africa Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Children’s Memorial Hospital Clinic, and The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Broutman attended MIT where he received his S.B., S.M., and doctorate degree in the field of Materials Engineering and Science in 1963. Specializing in Polymer Engineering and Science and Composite Materials, Broutman has vast experience writing college textbooks, reference books, and technical articles. In fact, he was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame.

All author proceeds are donated to The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Disabled, and Access Living, Chicago-based nonprofit service agencies.

Larry Broutman’s impressive background and education is truly an inspiration to others and I asked him what kind of advice he would give to those young and old trying to pursue their own ambitions.“I have always followed the advice of my academic adviser at MIT where I received my B.S., M.S., and doctorate degrees. His sage words were to choose a career/profession which you love and once you choose it, seek to be the very best. So, in my case, I was guided by choosing career paths I could both enjoy and also strived to be the best. So, this thought not only helped me in my principal career in engineering, but in my second career as a photographer and author.”

Chicago Monumental may be enjoyed as a visual history, as social documentary, as a guidebook to both familiar and little-known works, as a portable art gallery or as itself a piece of public sculpture. And if like me you are always looking for the perfect gift to give to a client, an aspiring artist, photographer or those who just love our city, Chicago Monumental is a beautiful choice.

 

The best of Chicago land’s homemade candy

For me, my weakness has been a toss up between ice cream and homemade candy. My vintage trips to Marshall Fields always called for a box of Frango mints and some of Chicago lands favorite home made candy shops offer those delectable mints today.

As a last minute stocking stuffer, my daughter runs to the grocery store to add a couple of bags of Lindt’s Lindor truffles which has been around since 1845.  I can eat one bag in a few minutes. For many, the following shops have been favorites for decades, a pride of the best Chicago businesses and some also offer home-made ice cream.

Margie’s Candies story begins in 1921 when  George Poulos opened an ice cream parlor on the North Side. The shop became known as Margie’s Candies in 1933, when Poulos’ son George Peter Poulos married Margie Michaels. Still family owned, Margie’s is known for their delicious fudge, Kosher dark chocolate wrapped in handmade boxes. Many ice cream connoisseurs love the varieties of homemade ice cream flavors as well. Margie’s original location is still open at Western Avenue. The only good complaint I have heard about Margie’s is that their lines can be long at times and they do have a second location on Montrose Avenue.

Amy’s Candy Bar located in Lincoln Square was opened in 2011 originally inspired by Amy’s grandmother, Geraldine. As a child, Amy spent hours watching and helping her grandmother bake but decided to forge a career with a degree in psychology and marketing. She worked in corporate America in later years.  But her initial passion for candy told her to follow her heart. In 2006, she decided to leave her present position and enroll in the French Pastry School in Chicago. Amy’s shop offers some of the best, award winning, hand-crafted confections that include her signature sea salt caramel. You can also order your favorites online.

Katherine Anne Confections began her candy adventure at the age of 10, when Katherine would use cream from her family’s Jersey cows to create soft, old-fashioned caramels on their farm in Wisconsin. “Katherine’s Karamels” were sold at her Dad’s office and quickly became a local favorite. The amazing confections were launched in 2006; everyone ordering her famous chocolate for the holidays. Finally, in 2012, Katherine opened her cafe in the Logan Square neighborhood on Armitage and she also offers excellent coffee drinks to compliment her sweets. They have a great online store and host corporate events.

Galena’s Kandy Kitchen was established in 1974 when George Paxton left Chicago and the overwhelming business of computers that he worked to come to Galena, Illinois, and open his confectionery. His father William (Bill) Paxton helped to create Chuckles candy in the 1930’s and continued on inspiring his son until he retired from the candy business at the age of 98. They are known locally for their “Pecan Georgies” named after George. George passed away from cancer in 2011.  Galena’s Kandy Kitchen is known for its awesome hand-molded chocolate bars with potato chips as well as excellent jelly beans that can be purchased online.

Andersons Candy Shop in Richmond IL offers an interesting history with Arthur Anderson beginning a candy shop in 1919 in Chicago and then moved his family to Richmond in 1926, purchasing a home there. He ran his business out of his front porch and living room selling candy during months that were not hot and ice cream in the summer. In 1933, his business took on new meaning after Grandpa and his family visited the Chicago World’s Fair. He came home with the first air conditioner in McHenry County, of course, this ingenious purchase allowed him to sell  chocolates year round. Some of their bestsellers are the delectable buttercream, handmade caramel and something new, smore’s bars!

Old Fashioned Candies began its journey in Chicago in 1969 and moved to Berwyn in 1971. Owned by George and Theresa Brunslik, a fire almost wiped them out but the family business is still going strong with a second store in Indian head Park. Both stores offer some great ideas for celebrating events with hand made chocolate party trays as well as Cubs and Socks Suckers. But Old Fashioned Candies truly specializes in great party favors for a new baby, graduation or wedding. Customers rave about the best chocolate covered strawberries that are available daily. Another favorite are frozen chocolate covered bananas and they ship throughout the US.

Cunis Candies originally opened its doors in 1933 on 79th street by George Askounis. The store was between the streets of Kingston and Colfax; a neighborhood I grew up and my family visited their shop many times. Now, Kathy Biesiada owns the store in South Holland which has been a south suburban favorite since 1971 and still family owned. Again, a shop that followed me or I followed them when I went to high school at Thornridge in Dolton. Cunis is also known for their amazing ice cream. Some delights include the Turtle Sundae and Peach Ice Cream topped with fresh peaches, the latter available in the summer months. They take pride in their homemade chocolates that include freshly dipped turtles,  chocolate covered orange peels and in the fall, the best caramel apples.

Gayety offers beautifully boxed assortments of homemade chocolates that include Muddles Pecan Caramels, Chocolate Almond Clusters and Butter Toffee. Gayety also serves ice cream and has shops in Lansing IL and Schereville, Indiana. James Papageorge came to America and purchased his ice cream shop Gayety’s,  located on Commercial Avenue next to The Gayety Movie Theater in South Chicago in 1936. He worked seven days a week;  never giving up the passion that meant so much to him. Lee started his career at the Gayety as a responsible and an active 12 year old eager to follow in his uncle’s footstep, then his son Jim became in charge in 2003 and the shop is still family owned.

Cupid Candies is another family owned business, founded by Paul Stefanos in 1936 and has been producing quality chocolates; serving Chicago land residents in their own retail stores for the past 68 years. The first store was at 79th and Ashland, where only fudge, toffee, and popcorn were sold. By 1940 Paul Stefanos, and his wife Pauline, opened another store at 3207 W. 63 rd Street, along with a small manufacturing facility, where the chocolate line really advanced. They continue to manufacture chocolate for some of the finest candy shops in Chicago offering a wonderful melt-away mint. Currently, three locations are available in Chicago, Oaklawn and Orland Park that offer a soda fountain service.

What Baby Boomers didn’t know

Those over 60 were taught that we would retire with a substantial savings from a company we had worked for all of our adult lives.

Unfortunately, our parents lied to us.

They did not teach us how to jump from one job to the next and still be able to hobble to the workplace at the tender age of 72.

They didn’t teach us about the healthcare market; astronomical costs to maintain our health. They went from insurance on the job that the company paid for, after decades of working for the same company and retired directly into Medicare.

They did not teach us that we would be competing with youth of all ages and that are experience and wisdom didn’t mean quite the same as it did for them in the workplace

They also did not tell us that people would be promoted whether they were qualified or not.

They taught us about establishing college funds for our own children but forgot to tell us how much we needed to send our kids to school.

They did not tell us that our tri-level home or two-story condo would cause havoc on the kneecaps and that a steady banister on stairs would actually be useful.

They did not teach us to celebrate our golden anniversaries and birthdays with a designated driver. In fact, they left out the part that one alcoholic beverage would knock us out and caffeine would keep us up all night.

They did not teach us organization tips like putting our keys in the same spot every day so we didn’t have to rely on failing memory to find them.

They did not show us the proper way to go down a playground slide with our grandkids.

Unfortunately, in their timeline, there was no way to teach us about internet violence, terrorism,  social media political back-stabbing, online buying subject to constant security checks and threats.

We were taught to never speak in public about politics or religion.

We were taught decorum and respect.

We were taught to trust.

They didn’t tell us that we would hate crowds, loud music, traffic jams and driving in bad weather. They didn’t let us know that we would be fearful driving in blizzards and that is why their older counterparts moved to warmer climates. Now we know!

They didn’t tell us that we would be screaming out 1973 after a song recorded 40 years ago had been played. Nor did they admit that 40 years ago would seem like yesterday.

They didn’t tell us about constant maintenance and more maintenance of the mind, body and spirit. And they didn’t tell us about the exhaustion that came with all that constant maintenance as well as a waistline that would continue to bloom regardless of what we did to decrease it.

Finally, they did not teach us how we should take care of them. They never wanted to go there and neither did we.

What We Do Have

When I take the time to look back and remember, my aunt used to always tell me that it was hell to get old. I was just too ignorant to listen. Why should we, old age was incomprehensible and would never happen to us. Surprise!

They didn’t say surprise when we started to falter or that, ultimately, old age would sneak up on us and be filled with all sorts of surprises.

It all depended on how you looked at it.

For me, however, they did give me one quality of life that is timeless and I intend to keep regardless of the aging factor and that is a sense of humor!

Hopefully, the rest of you can laugh at yourselves as the gifts of aging, keep on giving. 

And the love we shared in our youth for many is stronger in memory than ever before.

Actually, those are the healthiest resources we have!

Celebrating your independence

Looking back on my Fourth of July’s, the holiday was always consumed with fireworks of some kind and not the emotional ones either.

Fireworks that snapped, crackled, and popped from all locations, just like the famous cereal, and decorated the sky while everyone awed over the commotion each year.

There were celebrations on boats overlooking the Chicago skyline, there were celebrations at the racetrack that delivered piped in music, and there were local small town displays gathered with neighbors on the closest porch or nearest park.

But, wherever the fireworks were presented, it was the ultimate salute to our country’s accomplishment for becoming independent many years ago.

Probably the best memories of the Fourth of July were as children when we couldn’t wait to have Dad light those sparklers that we would carefully parade around the backyard with our family and friends. Dad’s eyes were as bright as the sparklers and we never tired of lighting one after another. We were young and the meaning of the 4th of July was not really about the country, but about us.

Somehow, we were celebrating our own independence, our own accomplishments for that day, month or year. Maybe we had received high marks at the end of the school year or maybe we spent a vacation with our family, not causing an argument with our siblings. Maybe the lilacs we had brought to our teacher in spring lasted longer than a day. Maybe we were just excited that our firefly collection was better than ever before.

Though I would skip the sparklers since they can cause pain and suffering if not properly handled, don’t skip this day to recognize yourself, the measures you have taken to shine, the skyrocketing moments in your life when because of your independent nature, you made a difference.

Maybe you took the first step to resolving a conflict with a co-worker and you developed a new level of respect from others as a result. Maybe you received 100% on your paper in class while working full-time, being a single parent and saying no when you would rather be going to lunch with your friends. Maybe you are still unemployed but sent out 100 resumes last week, courageously called one company after another while avoiding the temptation of the sofa.

The Fourth of July does not have to be just for the patriotic but a day to celebrate your own liberty; moving forward with pride and dignity in who you have become.

The Kitty Book

I found it and my heart skipped a beat….the cover was torn but thank God it had not been discarded after 50 years of ownership. Because there was very little I knew about her and my introduction was acknowledged by the book. As I gently leafed through the yellowed pages, the book brought back the same smiles and favorites pictures; the same colors that moved me to a different level.  Contained in a brown leather cover with gold letters, it was something I always asked for after arriving at my Aunts for Sunday dinner.

I felt closer to her as a child. She had passed away when I was a baby. The pages of her book lined with similar composition paper that I used to create my own school assignments of passion. Just like Grandma.  The Kitty Book, Grandmas scrapbook, was designed for me before she passed away and her favorite pet graced the pages; cats of all dimension and domestication. Cats climbing out of boxes from old newspapers, cut out cats small and large gracing a scattered page, cats in color from birthday, Valentine’s Day and postcards, and cats playing with mice. We had Tiger Tex and Wildcat Whitney ready for a fight and the lonely bulldog with the majestic Persian.

Everything you ever wanted to learn about cats is in the Kitty Book. And just about everything you wanted to learn about Grandma. She was deliberate, creative and could neatly package a book of love and affection.  She loved cats and in later years, unbeknownst to her inspiration, I owned two cats of my own.  That was just the start of her memories which continued on in later years, finding her scrapbook from her own childhood in the early 1900’s filled with calling cards of friends and beautifully embossed  cards presented to Lottie Emerson; her rewards of merit.

My grandmother was an accomplished pianist and played the organ/piano at church in a small town in Central Illinoia.  I, too, studied piano and won awards for my talent.  The next step of my discovery was found in a ledger with one article after another from a local newspaper outside of Kankakee. Voice of the People was written by my Grandma so much like my own column where we both talk about our yesterdays marked by our today’s or influences exerted in the wrong direction.

While I have published non-fiction essays on inspiration and nostalgia, she and I talk together of the value of a smile, snap judgments, the art of thinking and what constitutes greatness.  Though we are really not carbon copies, I do think talent may just be in the genes.  And I become more amazed at the bond as I study her accomplishments further.

Finally, I learn through a newspaper article that one of her stories had been published in the Yearbook of Public Opinion entitled, Gable, Whiskers and Milksops. The volume consisted of quotations from letters written by the readers of newspapers and magazines in the United States, published somewhere between 1937 and 1938.  So I searched and searched again.  No luck.  But as the Internet and its sources became more advanced,We, The People, The Year book of Public Opinion was found and only one copy of its kind.

Strangely enough, I could afford the purchase.

Lottie M Emerson’s review of Clark Gable’s portrayal of Charles Parnell, the famous Irish politician in the 1937 biographical film graced the pages. Many thought it was Gables worst performance. Grandma thought it was the best she had ever seen in all her career.  Ultimately, Grandma was not afraid of expressing her honesty in the public eye.

Neither was I.