Lilacia Park

I have to smell the lilacs in May. It reminds me of Mom and Dad. After living in Downers Grove for over 30 years, I had no idea that I could smell the flowers at a historical park in Lombard, a neighboring suburb, only 15 minutes away. A friend had posted about her field trip to Lilacia Park on Facebook so I took a morning trip there last Sunday. It was the perfect day for the weather and photographs. A beautiful walk! Lilacia Park, an 8.5-acre garden, is located at 150 South Park Avenue, Lombard, Illinois. Yes, I could smell the lilacs but I didn’t think about the past, but the elegance of the moment.

Lilacia Park is aworld-renown horticultural showcase that features over 700 lilacs and 35,000 tulips annually. In 2019, the park was named to the National Register of Historic Places for its significant contribution to horticultural history in the United States. Lilacia Park is most recognized for being home to Lombard Lilac Time, a blooming festival happening during the first two weeks of May. Col. William Plum and his wife Helen Maria Williams Plum traveled to Chicago in 1869, where he wanted to practice, but also investigated areas outside of the city. One was the new village of Lombard which had been known as Babcock Grove.

He purchased land on the corner of Park and Maple. The estate would eventually be known as Lilacia, the Latin term for lilac. The couple had taken a tour to France and visited the famous gardens of Victor Lemoine where they fell in love with the lilacs. They bought the first two after touring the Arboretum. Helen passed away in 1924 and the Colonel lost interest in the estate. He tried to sell it to Joy Morton. It was Morton that told the Colonel that the collection had become so much a part of Lombard that they should remain there, and not at Thornhill Farm, now known as the Morton Arboretum. The Colonel passed away in 1927 and in his will, he dedicates the gardens to Lombard requesting it to become a public park. The home was used as a small library but was demolished when a new library opened in 1963, still dedicated to Helen Plum.

The park is open all year. Lilacia Park hosts many special events each year, including the Mutt Strut Annual 5K & 1-Mile, Movies & Concerts in the Park, Jingle Bell Jubilee, Holiday Lights, and more. Host your wedding at Lilacia Park!

Chicagoland’s Sam Goody and Camelot music.

After moving to Waukegan in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, I remember it was about playing Billy Joel, The Stranger album over and over again. It was also about Faces, released in 1980, the tenth studio album for Earth, Wind and Fire. It was about Thriller, the album, by Michael Jackson in 1982 and Thriller, the song played in every local disco at the time. Most of the disco floors were blocks of color. There was one at Greenleaf and Washington in Gurnee and another in a plaza on Washington where I remember the colored floors. Then, there was Mirage by Fleetwood Mac, released in 1982. But I still played my 60’s and 70’s classics which included Band on the Run by Paul McCarthty and All things Must Pass by George Harrison. I shopped at Lakehurst Mall which included a Sam Goody shop as well as a Camelot music. I played piano and found that Camelot was a good place for sheet music.

Sam Goody was a music and entertainment retailer in the United States and United Kingdom, operated by The Musicland Group inc. Sam “Goody” Gutowitz opened a small record shop in New York. Though he had sales at his store, he truly was known for mail order of discount records and at the time in the 1950’s college students loved him. In 1978, the company was acquired by the American Can Company (later renamed Primerica), the owners of Minneapolis-based Musicland,[ Goody’s rival] Sam Goody continued to grow through both acquisitions and organic growth, including the launch of its website. It was purchased by Best Buy in 2000, sold to Sun Capital in 2003, and filed for bankruptcy in 2006 closing most of its stores.

Camelot was one of the largest retailers in the United States. It was founded in 1956 by two brothers, Paul and Robert David in Ohio and they had two shops which included Camelot music and the wall. The Wall was best known for its trademark “Lifetime Music Guarantee”, which offered free replacements for cassettes and CDs that had been damaged in any way. In some Camelot stores, you could step on a numbered floor circle triggering an audio mechanism. You could here a list of 20 hit tunes. At 70 years of age, David sold the company in 1993 to Investcorp. In 1998, the company owned 455 stores in 37 states. That same year, Camelot was bought by Trans World Entertainment including the Wall locations as well.

Nurses…. Our Heroes

By Caryl Clem

Nurses are anchors in the medical field, monitoring patient care alongside doctors working long demanding shifts.  I don’t know anyone whose life has not been saved or improved by adequate medical care. As essential as nurses are, it took Congress 21 years to award them the recognition they deserved after it was first proposed.

Congress in 1953 was asked to consider a National Nurse Week during Eisenhower.  In 1974 a National Nurse Week was put on the calendar under Nixon to begin on May 6 and end on Florence Nightingales birthday, May 12. Florence left her home in Britain to attend the needs of soldiers during the Crimean War. Legendary stories about the “Lady with the Lamp” recall her career changing achievements in nursing education.  She recruited the first female nursing crew shipped to the hospital where the water was contaminated, patients lay in their own feces, and food was rationed. She enforced cleaning standards that cut the death rate by 66%.  Past history haunts us today as another part of that territory is under siege today with similar conditions.

Nurses perform with flawless skill and infinite passion holding a patients hand during their last minutes or handing a newborn to the waiting Mother.  Nurses are mental giants, focused with no breaks during long hours of surgery. Nurses help you mentally face the hardest decisions in life patiently answering questions and guiding you to find truthful real answers. There is no room for error on the job or a place to hide on a bad hair day. Nurses have formidable endurance. Nurses are miracles in human form. During the fatal passing of loved ones, nurses felt like angels guiding me through my grief.

Like medical field police as nurses guard and attend patients in every room and hallway  but their job has a higher risk for INJURY than law enforcement policeman in most states according to an article published on September 11, 2017 in the Washington Post. One example, a man in South Carolina attacked 14 nurses while undergoing treatment, and a Louisiana nurse died trying to pull an attacker off a fellow nurse.  The danger level has kept increasing and a sign is posted in a Chicago Hospital, Do Not Assault, We Are Here To Help published in USA Today, Jan 10, 2022. The American Nurses Association runs annual conferences to discuss how to address growing violence in their workplace. Webmd.com on March 18, 2021 On The Front Lines: Violence Against Nurses on the Rise covers the tragic scope of this issue.

The scope of the nursing field and expanded licensing options proves  nursing care is critical for healing. To keep nursing a desirable career, they need our support. Violence in their workplace is unacceptable.  THANK YOU to all of the nurses who are just a heartbeat away when we need them. THANK YOU for hanging in there when too many have forgotten the honor you deserve.  I hope the nurse uniform for the future isn’t a space suit with a helmet.

Reflections on Teacher Appreciation

By Caryl Clem

Last week, I passed the grade school with signs proclaiming. “Teacher Appreciation Week, We Love You” I instantly blessed the teachers in my life with a smile. Further down the street, passing the high school ignites a memory of students pushing through crowded hallways. My heart skipped a beat by memories of my shy teenage years guided by inspiring teachers. The middle school blocks from my house has a sign shouting out teacher appreciation on their front lawn. Minutes later, I pull into the medical center ready for my health checkup.

As I sat reviewing my life as my doctor updated my records, he surprisingly commented, “How were those years teaching, what did you take away?” I sensed his time was precious and my lifetime passion needed a condensed answer. I blurted out, “More rewarding than I thought possible. Every year deepened and renewed my desire to teach.  Now when I meet former students and hear their success stories,  it proves positive reinforcement works ” Then I said,” No matter who you are, you want to be feel confident with who you are and can be. Teachers find ways for students to make it and feel okay.”

A few minutes later after more notes I asked my doctor, “How are your kids doing?” He told me that his daughter as a freshman was considering education in the same field as my past. I reassured him, “The paper work can seem overwhelming but the spectrum of watching a student mature is worth every minute and hour.” He looked at me and said, “Paperwork, you have no idea how much paperwork is attached to my job, any job the government regulates. My daughter knows it will be a demanding job. I think a teacher in her past has inspired her. I feel this will be the right path for her. “

As I drove home I sent a blessing skyward that his daughter reaches her dreams. I privately thought: I was the product of a journey over a mountain range teachers. To all those who dream of being teachers, please continue the education cycle. The future is shaped by your efforts, talent and dedication. For all those who have kept the education system working, “Thank You” for continuing to prove no obstacle can stop a willing mind from learning. Teachers attach the promise of hope and faith that make any lesson meaning full for a lifetime.

Tree top house

As a tribute to teachers, I could not take my eyes off of the best early pre-school television series on WGN where studio children acted as characters. The show began with Ms Mary Jane Clark presiding over a forest setting and the children would actually climb up to the tree top house at the end of show. Ms. Clark and her friend Mr. Widgin, a marionette, hosted the show from 1960-1962. This was live TV. Sometimes a stage was set with props including fake trees, and houses but no costumes and children moved with little rehearsal from places in the story. They told stories, sang songs and did craft projects. And she really talked to the children. Children seemed a little nervous but the cameramen helped if there was a problem according to sources. There really wasn’t a tree top house, above, it was located on another set and on the ground which may have been confusing for kids. It became even more successful largely to the gifts and grace of another vivid young performer and teacher, Mrs. Anita Kleever at WGN-TV in 1963 who hosted the story of Hansel and Gretel and won the Peabody Award.

Mary Jane Clark was born in Chicago in 1932 and had lived in River Forest as well as Oakbrook. She studied at Northwestern majoring in journalism and worked at American Airlines as a stewardess. She became Mary Jane Clark Dloughy in 1955. She recorded many commercials for WGN especially the Breck Girl and in the late 1960’s, she started her own employment business for women. She retired from her management company in 1980 and passed away in 2007.

Treetop House also holds the distinction of being the first Chicago children’s show to have a African-American host- Tasha Johnson. In 1970, Tasha Johnson hosted Tree Top House and in color. One copy of the Chicago Daily TV week with a beautiful picture of Tree Top House is available for purchase. I am not seller of the paper but I like to give credit to any picture online.

Happy Mother’s Day, Beautiful

That’s what I said to my Mom in a card when I was a child. Strangely enough, a kindergarten student calls me “Beautiful” everyday. I think she needs glasses. On the cover of the cards displayed, my own painted artwork with Mom and a basket of candy. It should have been for Easter. My talent in writing was more than I expected at that young age. Mother, Mother, I’ll help and stay until the day you pass away. I’ll make you happy all through the year with kisses hugs and wonderful cheers. I don’t know about the hugs and cheers but I did stay with her until she passed away in 2001. Though my card was printed in block print, I did know cursive and signed it Love, Karla. Mom told me that most of my cards were signed, Love, Karla Korff which she always loved. As far as gifts for Mom, she was not a breakfast in bed lover. She did like breakfast at Denny’s in Calumet City when we lived in Dolton. But dinner was her favorite, choosing red snapper at the Green Shingle in Harvey,Chuck Cavalinnis in Dolton or the Flame in Country Side.

Back in the late 1990’s I found another card in a treasured box that says For Mom with our love and appreciation on Mother’s Day. And I know why I kept it. It was signed by both children in their best cursive. Their Dad probably bought it and for them to do something together was quite unique. I did like the beautiful bow and especially the line that says how thankful they were for my faith to help get them through difficult times which I still try to do today by responding to their phone calls and text messages. Though I have learned that it is not just my faith in them but my steady faith in God. Some of my favorite gifts have been fresh flowers for the dining room table, and a candle from my daughter as well as Lindahl chocolate. My son is known for bottled water since he works for Hinckleys, teas and he knows I love my Starbucks. Jamesons for a filet mignon in Downers Grove is my favorite for dinner but there have been many years spent having breakfast and lunch at Stevens in Woodridge.

And as I write and read this again; it is not about vacations or the most expensive gift, it is truly the love and encouragement we give to each other every day until we are able to call heaven our new home.

Happy Mother’s Day to all that celebrate with kisses, hugs, and wonderful cheers.

Journey’s Mark on Rock

By Caryl Clem

Looking forward to concerts in Chicago includes iconic bands like Journey on May 2, 2022 at Allstate Arena. The radio station WLS celebrated their coming appearance with a “Journey” week featuring their lead songs. The magic when music dissolves time happens every time I listen to time buried favorites like “Don’t Stop Believing”, “Open Arms”, and “Lovin, Touchin, Squeezin to name of few of their hits. Decades later after their single hits consistently hit the Top Forty Charts during the 1980’s, generations still relish listening to Journey’s signature music.

In 1975, the first appearance under the band title” Golden Gate Rhythm Section” in San Francisco showcased a psychedelic, jazz, rock combo that featured two former members of Santana. Three releases later by 1977, the bands’ identity is still forming with marginal sales. A new name Journey is on the front cover of “Look Into The Future”, 1976. The “Infinity” album increases popularity with three hit song as Steve Perry’s voice stirs passions. Encouragement by a band members’ father to not give up leads to a hit single, “Don’t Stop Believing” in 1981 along with other popular singles. Within 6 years after a questionable start, Journey reaches record sales demand hitting 9 million in America. The band lost members seeking their own careers at the end of the 1980’s.

Band member changes lead to hiatus in 1987. The reorganization emerged in to the release “Trial by Fire “in 1996 that sold I million. The legacy of Journey was refueled by “Arrival” in 2001 and “Generation” in 2005.  Journey was back on the concert tour reconnecting with audiences from coast to coast. The newest vocalist found by searching YouTube is Amel Pineda since his debut in “Revelation” 2008, “Eclipse” 2011. Pat Monohan from the band Train inducted Journey into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.

Currently the Freedom tour is a testimony to Journeys’ timeless appeal. The rollicking keyboards, the clever interplay of harmony styles, the ballad lyrics echoing love’s resilience or the pain of loss captures hearts of all ages. Journey music strikes a familiar chord for many. https://mentalitch.com/classic-rock-profiles-history-of-journey/

Go With the Birds

By Caryl Clem

Birdhouses in yards are common throughout Illinois providing homes to the possible 400 species. This month in Chicago, WGNTV Published on April 12, 2022 by Mike Lowe and Kevin Doellman an inspiring story about how spare time during the pandemic for creating a project led to walkers changing course to view the hand painted display.  The article titled, Chicago neighborhood tree filled with colorful hand painted birdhouses is a gift to the street is proof of birdhouse popularity. Beyond the appeal is the need to provide shelter to 25 common birds in this region.

Trailside Museum of Natural History in Cook County sponsors a birdhouse building contest every year. Entries run from March 15 to May 15, 2022. The University of Chicago industrial design course includes a design studio for adobes to provide air circulation and feather comfort. The Southbank riverside park will feature birdhouses designed by University of Chicago students.  Chicago’s Botanic Garden created a bird apartment complex for Purple Martins that fly from South America every spring. A sign in Griggsville Illinois boasts Purple Martins have been credited for consuming 2,000 mosquitos a day. Named, The Purple Martin Capital of the Nation for 30 years from the 1960’s a Purple Martin housing industry flourished in this town run by J.L Wade. A 70 foot condo with 562 apartments dwarfs other pole structures on every street. Famous for their songs and areal flight maneuvers, Purple Martins are a favorite.

I have “regular” bird nest returners in my trees or outdoor light fixtures. I have a determined dove that rebuilds a nest every year over one of my garage beacons. The light pole in my front yard has had several different occupants that ignore the 45 year old maple towering overhead. Obviously, these are signs to provide better housing. Birds are my best friends as they consume annoying, biting insects. Simple birdhouse guidelines encourage birds. Earthy natural colors that blend into the environment are safe for nesting birds that do not want predator birds eating their young. Florescent, metallic, or iridescent paints contain chemicals that can harm birds. Brighter colors in a heavily blooming area attract robust fighter birds. Paint can make the wooden birdhouses more durable. Dark colors hold in the hot summer sun heat and can kill a bird inside. Swallows do not want a perch so an invader has a harder time to gain occupancy.

I believe to help nature maintain a healthy balance means “ Go With The Birds “ ,support them in your yard while enjoying a better solution to insect control than chemical sprays.

Fifty five years ago: The Chicagoland tornadoes of 1967

For me, it was in the late afternoon after school and I was playing outside at a friends. We were planning our weekend and the weather had been beautiful for April with high temperatures in the 70’s. It was a time of no cell phones or computers on April 21st, 1967. But Father called from the front porch after getting home for work early, that I needed to get home. Strange, it was not dinner time when the usual call from Mom went out. My own home was about a half a block west from where I had been playing and I was shocked as I glanced at the western sky. I suddenly noticed that the trees, the birds were quiet for April and the sky was a heavy gray, tinged with a smudge of green. Like the massive snowstorm months before, Chicago’s weather was about to change.  Something in my heart told me that the call to home was not a good one and I raced to the front porch, my Dad sat in his chair. He loved storms and that was his spot regardless of the severity but this time he told me and Mother, who was standing inside the front door, that we needed to be in the basement immediately. At no other time in my short life, do I remember that command. Mom and I headed for the basement, me first but Mom kept trying to get him to come in as she stood on the basement stairs, scared.

The first tornado, better known as the Belvidere tornado, struck approximately at a little before 4 pm where the Chrysler plant near 1-90 witnessed the destruction of over 400 cars. Then, the destruction continued to the town of Belvidere where hundreds of homes were damaged but it was just at the time that school was getting out and buses were being loaded at the high school. Elementary students were already on the buses but over 1,200 high students were dismissed and tried to get back into the building. According to sources, twelve buses were rolled over and students were flung like leaves into the field. Thirteen of the 24 fatalities and 300 of the 500 injuries in this tornado occurred at the high school. At 5:03, Lake Zurich and surrounding suburbs felt the effects of their own tornado where over 75 homes were completely destroyed. Moving rapidly with no warning as had been described by many residents that there was no noticeable roar until upon them. It ripped through Seth Paine Elementary School, tearing down thick brick walls but leaving clocks showing 5:05 pm.  Many people were caught in their autos as they were returning home from work. Mike Doyle has written an interesting book about the Belvidere Tornado.

But it was the Oak Lawn tornado that was on its way to my neighborhood in Calumet Park and according to meteorologists, the worst storm of the day. According to sources, at 5:15 pm. an off duty Weather Bureau employee saw a rotating cloud mass over his house in Romeoville. Windows were blow out at a restaurant at at McCarthy Road and 127th and an observer at the Little Red School House at 99th and Willow Springs Road saw a funnel.

The tornado touched down just east of 88th Avenue between 105th and 106th Streets at 5:24 p.m., 24 minutes after the tornado warning was issued for Cook County.  But it continued hitting homes and crossed the Tri-State Tollway, hitting a drive-in movie near Chicago Ridge finally moving to the heart of Oak Lawn. It was here that many homes were leveled. It was here that one of my parents best friends was hurt As we later learned, he was sitting in traffic at the intersection of 95th Street and Southwest Highway where a light pole smashed into the top of his car crushing him as he was heading to pick up his daughter at the Oaklawn Roller Rink. He did survive. The greatest total of life took place there. Between 25 and 40 automobiles, halted at this intersection for a traffic light, were thrown in all directions, some carried northeast at least a block and set down on the Oak Lawn athletic field.

The Oak Lawn Roller Rink was completely destroyed but his daughter had left early and was safe from the destruction. Four were killed at the rink.  Fortunately, as the tornado passed over the Dan Ryan Expressway and headed our way, it began to dissipate causing lighter damage to vegetation, roofs and garages. According to sources, it finally moved offshore as a waterspout at Rainbow Beach, where we swam as kids. My father summoned us out of the basement as he had watched the storm pass over from the front porch. Though the clouds were high then, he knew the damage west had been serious. At least 10 tornadoes raked northeast Illinois, three of which were violent, F4 tornadoes. In the wake of the twisters, 58 were dead, more than 1000 were injured, and there was nearly half a billion in damage costs. Kevin Korst is the Local History Manager for the Oak Lawn Public Library and the author of “Images of America: Oak Lawn” and “Images of America: Oak Lawn Tornado of 1967”.

(Original article revised and written in 2018)

In your Easter bonnet

The Easter parade was always planned, following the religious service on Easter Sunday. Never another day which was truly a way to celebrate Jesus. Easter parades involved women who were finely dressed in new clothes and hats. Having new clothes and expensive attire actually began in Europe in the early 4th century as a celebration to the resurrection. It symbolized re-birth, renewal and hope. In 1933, American songwriter Irving Berlin wrote the music for a revue on Broadway called As Thousands Cheer. It included his song “Easter Parade”, which he had been working on for fifteen years, and in which he had finally captured the essence of the parade. Both the song and the revue were tremendously popular. The song became a standard, and fifteen years later was the basis for the film Easter Parade. My family members remember the Chicago parade in 1939 taking place in front of the Drake hotel after services. Women of wealthy families would attend service and then head for a luxurious lunch. Another Chicago parade took place in on Michigan Ave in around the Fourth Presbyterian Church in 1927. Many dressed in fine clothes and bonnets. They were usually wealthy congregants and influential pastors.

The Easter parade is most closely associated with Fifth Avenue in New York City, but Easter parades are held in many other cities. Starting as a spontaneous event in the 1870s, the New York parade became increasingly popular into the mid-20th century—in 1947, it was estimated to draw over a million people. Its popularity has declined significantly, drawing only 30,000 people in 2008. It was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid but now the Easter parade and bonnet festival still exists. The Easter Parade & Easter Bonnet Festival is a spontaneous event that takes place every year in New York City. On Easter Sunday, Fifth Avenue (from 49th St to 57th St) is closed for traffic. The fun begins at about 10 am. The promenade of hundreds of people wearing weird, funny, and inventive costumes usually attracts crowds of spectators.

Other wonderful Easter celebrations planned on Easter Sunday throughout the country:

New Orleans Like so many occasions in New Orleans, Easter Sunday is celebrated with a parade…actually three. The oldest Easter parade in the city is the one founded by Germaine Wells in 1956. Most are Christian so as many have said, it a spritual time in the city. Therefore, Easter gets its fair number of parades dedicated to different issues and topics, such as The Historic French Quarter Easter Parade, Chris Owens French Quarter Parade, and the Gay Easter Parade. The Historic French Quarter parade starts at Antoines restaurant at 9:45 and arrives at the St. Louis Cathedral for mass at 11:00. There are also Easter Bonnet awards.

The Easter Parade on Union Street in San Francisco is another popular event on Easter Sunday. The parade begins at 2pm but there is also Easter bonnet contest as well. Other parades and contests are available to see at Golden Gate Park.