Legos: May the 4th be with you

We still play with Legos at a break in elementary school but they truly began for me with babysitting boys who could not get enough in the late 1960’s and Lego’s were difficult to use. You really needed an imagination and I was fascinated by the young boys who worked with just using colorful interlocking bricks; creating their own designs. Some sets had wheels to make trains, cars, and ladders for fire trucks. In the late 1970’s, there were tiny Lego men. In the 1980’s, there was a King’s castle. In the early 1990s, my son loved Legos and there was a variety of themes which included pirates and building pirate ships. Late 1990′,s found the first Stars Wars Set while the company launched its first website and its first computer game.

In the 2000s, it was all about Harry Potter whose series and movies were introduced. The first sets were introduced in 2001 to coincide with the film. Sets were released with the other films. More sets were released in 2018 and today you can get sets like Diagon Alley and Hogwarts Castle.

According to sources, The Lego Group began manufacturing the interlocking toy bricks in 1949. Movies, games, competitions and eight Lego Land amusement parks have been developed under the brand. As of July 2015, 600 billion Lego parts had been produced. Currently, you can actually purchase kits by age with suggested ideas as early two years old up to 18 and above.

Today, May 4th Be With you is offering a new Star Wars design. You can add the Imperial Probe Droid™ to your LEGO® Star Wars™ collection. The droid has posable legs and comes with a transparent, brick-built pole to ‘suspend’ it above a buildable snowy scene. Explore a new galaxy of Star Wars Sets.

Ebay Lego sets are very reasonable and many come with instruction manuals. The most expensive Lego, a 4 karat gold brick, sold in an auction for 19,793. Lego gave 2×4 gold bricks to select business partners between 1979 and 1981. Fewer than ten bricks are believed to exist today. Millenium Falcon, Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal have been popular in the market selling for thousands.

Spirited love of pretzels

By Caryl Clem:

Pretzels have propelled through history by prayers and beer. Pretzels were created by a monk shaping scraps of bread dough into a shape paying homage to the trinity with arms crossed over in prayer. Spelled petiole in Latin, the newly shaped baked bread was a treat for children who learned their prayers. In old German brezitella means an arm which adds credibility to the monk theory.  Germans became famous serving hard and soft Bavarian style pretzels with mustard or tankards of beer.  By the 12th century, the bakers guild symbol was the pretzel. 

Illinois has its own Pretzel City 100 miles from Chicago.  Germans dominated the culture in Stephenson County and the town of Freeport.  According to records from the Historical Society; 5 brewing companies were producing large quantities of beer followed by the increased production of pretzels by Billerbeck Bakery, beer’s favorite taste bud companion.  In 1895, The Daily Democrat declared Freeport to be “Pretzel City.” Even the Freeport High School adopted the pretzel as its mascot. Proudly upholding the pretzels with beer traditions are Generation Brewing Company on Adams St., or travel about 12 miles to visit either Lena Brewing Company or Wishful Acres Farm and Brewery.

Chicago offers authentic family recipe Bavarian soft pretzels made by Reinhard Richter at DANK Haus German Cultural Center classes. Yelp advertises the top ten places located in Chicago to find German pretzels and beer.  Foursquare adds more pretzel places that showcase new pretzel creations to add to your favorite choices.  The fastest way to satisfy the pretzel urge is a trip to the grocery store. I love Snyder‘s of Hanover Honey Mustard and Onion Pretzel Pieces or pretzel sticks ready to get stuck in a dip.    

April 26 is National Pretzel day so celebrate devouring them in twisted or straight form.  For the diet conscious, pretzels are low carb and a great substitute for potato chips or French fries alongside your sandwich.  Worldwide consumption of pretzels is growing, no sugar for diabetics, low or no salt for heart friendly dinning: best reasons of all, TASTE, enjoy some soon.

Kindergarten: How about you?

I don’t how other Baby Boomers began their education but this book, Work That is Play, I completed in kindergarten and work WAS NOT play for me in any form. I began my days at Thomas Hoyne Elementary at 8905 South Crandon in 1961. My special number was 23. I did like to color but I cried alot. Actually, the only time I didn’t cry was when Mrs. Obrien, my teacher, said that I that I had real talent. When I sat with my friend Wendy on the carpet singing songs and Mrs Obrien played the old upright piano, I could tolerate the experience. I became a high school teacher first in my 20’s followed by a lifetime in many educational roles. Currently, approaching retirement, I assist in the younger grades. Consequently, knowing exactly what it takes to be able to help them smile once again and accept their own challenges.

Written from the cover of the book in 1958, Work that is Play was a reading readiness book that would give the child activities that would offer them concrete experiences in building a foundation to insure success in acquiring the tool-subjects of First and Second Grade. It was a book that was in loose leaf form so the teacher could use the sheets as she wanted. Work That is Play eliminated paste since all the materials to be pasted were printed on gummed paper. Little certificates were given as award to the child for the completion and the book comes with special fasteners for binding the book together. The book was published at J.M Kehoe Publishing Company which was located on 2429 Clybourn Avenue in Chicago.

Today, Hoyne Elementary is a Fine and Performing Arts Magnet Cluster School; K-8. Hoyne offers students a rigorous academic curriculum and provides numerous reading programs based on grade and skill level. During the early 1960’s, there was over crowding of the area and another school was built to accommodate. I went to Kate Sturgis Buckingham School at 9207 Phillips for first through fifth grade but they were closed in 2013. Actually, they became a school for just special education students. Warren, also a magnet school, at 9239 South Jeffrey is where I completed my junior high education.

Many my age do not remember those early years but it is the teacher that makes the difference regardless of how young. It is the teacher that touches a life forever.

Yabba Dabba Doo

My favorite memories include the theme song which continues to play in my mind as well as the last segment of the show’s introduction where Fred begins knocking on the door yelling Wilma at the end. An animated sitcom produced by Hanna Barbera, I also liked checking out the different animal appliances and tools. they used in the 1960’s Stone age setting for the Flinstones. Favorites included the mastodon vacuum cleaner and the bird record player where the tip of the birds beak is grooving out songs on the record while a turtle under the record rotates it. Wilma and Fred were the first animated couple to sleep in the same bed on television in the 1960’s. Their daughter Pebbles was always my favorite.

Winston Cigarettes actually sponsored the show and one popular commercial was Fred and Barney taking a break with a cigarettes. Their wives didn’t smoke and yelled at them but it was in the 1970’s when that began to change banning cigarette ads on TV and radio. Then it became about vitamins and breakfast food; my kids wanted Flinstone vitamins and Fruity Pebbles cereal.

The series follows the activities of the family, the Flintstones, and their next-door neighbors, the Rubbles, their best friends. It was originally broadcast on ABC from September 30, 1960 to April 1, 1966, and was the first animated series to hold a prime time slot on television. The Flintstones was the most financially successful and longest-running network animated television series for three decades, until The Simpsons, which debuted in late 1989, outlasted it. In 2013, TV Guide ranked The Flintstones the second-greatest TV cartoon of all time (after The Simpsons)

According to sources, The Flinstones movie was theatrically released on May 27, 1994, and earned almost $342 million worldwide against a $46 million budget, making it a huge box office success, despite earning negative reviews from critics. The film stars John Goodman as Fred FlintstoneRick Moranis as Barney RubbleElizabeth Perkins as Wilma Flintstone and Rosie O’Donnell as Betty Rubble, along with Kyle MacLachlan as a villainous executive-vice president of Fred’s company, Halle Berry as his seductive secretary, and Elizabeth Taylor (in her final theatrical film appearance), as Pearl Slaghoople, Wilma’s mother.

Student talent search

By Caryl Clem:

Classrooms, living organs delivering nutrients

To free the mind, inspire students’ soul

Instilling searching, discovery an act of excitement

Figuring out the pieces that create a whole.

Paraprofessionals provide daily experience and wisdom

Blending  educational  levels  into a life sustaining system.

Smiling. promoting  student confidence to try again

Beside every student, ready to defend, amend

Shaping classrooms into a safety zone

Dream, the future is your friend

Building blocks inside every lesson

Step by step, to  brighter tomorrows.

Paraprofessionals, classroom heroes

Combining compassion and education

Conductng  year long talent searches

Encouraging student strengths emergence.

 A seamless support entity

Promoting our students utmost ability.

Thorndyke Hilton Chapel in Chicago

Miss Mavis Emerson, daughter of Lottie Emerson of Kempton, and John Korff were married at 1pm Saturday, August 5, 1949 in the Thorndike Hilton Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago with Reverend Robert E Tinker officiating. The bride wore a gown of white silk chiffon over white satin with a full skirt and front panel with imported lace.…….. And the article from the Pentagraph continues to describe the Maid of Honors dress, Arlene Gates from Kankakee, in explicit detail though I was fortunate to have pictures and a movie. My mother, Mavis Korff, was a secretary, my father owner of Glass Sales and Service at 6755 South Chicago Ave and began their marriage at 2148 East 81 Street. However, the story is about the quaint Thorndike Hilton Memorial Chapel where hundreds of Chicagoans were married. It was especially popular for weddings during and after World War 2. At the end of the article, couples are listed that you may know.

Thorndike Hilton Memorial Chapel was located at 5757 South University Avenue which was the former Chicago Theological Seminary building located at was adaptively reused to house instructional and research programs for the Department of Economics and the office, conference, and research facilities for the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics. The chapel was built 1926 and was donated by Mr. and Mrs Henry Hilton in memory of their son Thorndike who died at the age of 21.

Visitors to area could still take a break inside the chapel during the early 2000’s.
The seminary website said: “Our Thorndike Hilton Chapel is open twenty-four hours a day and available for students seeking a place to lead small gatherings or to spend time in individual prayer and meditation. The cloisters, a long corridor with one wall of glass doors that look out on the stone-terraced garth, is also a favorite place to reflect, especially during the afternoon hours when the hall is flooded with sunlight.” Dee Stribling talks about her visit to the chapel and though small, quite powerful. Its glory is in the stain glass windows that are exquisite.

Just to name a few that married at the chapel:

James Thomas Jones to Esther Mildred-1937, Shirley Stansbury married Robert Thomas – 1949, Dorothy (Dottie) Louise Watson married Howard Hilton-1948, Jean Hambly to Stuart Miller- 1946, Gwendolyn Lucille Cattorini to Walter J. Schroeder-1943,Gordon Lee Mennen to Teresa Harms, 1942, Ivan McDaniel to Lois Stansbury-1957, Kathyrn Marshall to Walter Taylor-1942, Elizabeth Law to Theodore Roberts-1953

EBay offers wonderful postcards of the chapel; some I own but there are some that are currently out of stock.

Legendary leader Schwinn Bicycles

By Caryl Clem:

The bicycle fever started in France and England before the United States.  The wealthy rode the Penny Farthing, a high wheeler with wooden wheels like a carriage. Bicycles had a nickname, “Boneshakers”.  “In the case of the former, the animal has to be broken before it can be ridden, while with the latter it is the rider who must undergo the breaking process.” quote from an 1869 Scientific American.

By the late 1860’s the Penny Farthing was favored by acrobats and clowns performing tricks at the circus.  Several Safety style bikes were designed with two wheels lower to the ground with pedals.  A French mechanic mass produced this popular style bicycle.  One of the Safety bike designs was sold in 1868 to an American.

Ignaz Schwinn was born in 1860 in Germany where he apprenticed in several bicycle shops. He had a dream to start his own bicycle company in America, land of industrial strength. He arrived in America in 1891 and was working in a bicycle place in Chicago by 1895. He met his financial backer Adolf Arnold whose partnership enabled opening “The World” Bicycle Company. Schwinn bicycles proudly boasted paramount performance and distinctive design. The professional Afro-American cyclist Major Thomas claims the world championship in 1896 pedaling a Schwinn to victory.  

In the early 1900’s, Schwinn bikes are included in the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog.  In 1914, Schwinn is reported to be the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world.  The Schwinn Quality seal is attached in 1930.  Senior Schwinn regularly visited his factories. Still standing today, former Schwinn factory located at 1856 N. Kostner. 

Schwinn sales and services are managed by dealerships in the late 1940’s such as Barnyards or Chicago Cycle Company.  Frank was just as innovative as his father developing 40 patents.  Schwinn was a frontrunner, continually introducing the latest fashionable bicycle. Ongoing research dedicated to improving bicycles function featured design innovations of mudguards, the cycle lock, the Fore-wheel brake, Cantilever Frame, and the “Spring Fork.”  All the popular models Schwinn Panther, Autocycle, Hollywood, and Starlet bicycles mirrored the latest automobile trends during the 1950’s with chrome fenders, whitewall tires, tail lights and horn.  Hollywood stars appear in the Schwinn 1955 catalog.  

In 1963 the Schwinn;’ famous Sting Ray with high rise handle bars , banana seat, stick shift  and the thin slick racing tires quickly dominate the market. Schwinn averages 1 million bicycles daily worldwide in the 1960’s. BMX is the next success story. Schwinn had expanded kids and adult bike use. After 40 patents, Schwinn’s son died when he was 48 in 1972. The next successor inspired a major labor strike that crippled the company in 1980.  Schwinn was sold in 1982.

Schwinn’s new owner started selling at chain stores in 2002.  Schwinn bikes are still evolving, the lightweight mountain bikes, the recycle materials bike Vestige and the electric bike in 2019.  Schwinn and Together We Rise support children in foster care. Vintage Schwinn bikes can be found at Barnards in Oak Park.

The New Colony Six

After receiving a video from my love a few months ago, the song and photos intrigued my writing interests. I Will Always Think About You. The video link is highlighted a few sentences below; real people in love during the 60’s and 70’s. Everyone looked familiar. I wore those shoes, used the same barrettes in the same place on my hair and used that same pay phone. I wore a dress just like that and the same make-up. He and I had the same car. He had a college jacket with the same letter L for Loyola? We all looked young and beautiful; in our own special, distinctive way many decades ago. And I cry when I watch and listen every time. I wonder how the lives in that video have transformed. Our they here today; healthy and in love? The song reached the Billboard’s top 40 on May 11,1968 presented by a young, Chicago band, The New Colony Six.

My significant other actually played with the band when then needed a substitute drummer since he played with many including the Association. Back in the day, he become young friends with Ronnie Rice (vocals, keyboards, guitar) who replaced Craig Hemp and this song becoming one of Rice’s hit singles. Formed in Chicago, the group had ten top singles that hit the charts between 1966 and 1971. That song actually hit the local airwaves in 1965 and was listed 14 times on the national charts. Things I’d Like to Say was another popular song released in 1968 on their album Revelations and as a single. Original members were Ray Graffia (vocals),Chick James (drums), Pat McBride (harmonica), Craig Kemp (organ), Wally Kemp (bass), and Gerry Van Kollenburg (guitar).

Ronnie Rice has played the guitar since he was 16 years old and he began his musical career as a solo performer in Evanston, Illinois. In the mid-seventies, he developed his own rock and roll classics still attending hundreds of concerts throughout the United States. Ronnie has played with other bands including The Buckinghams, The Ides of March, The Cryin’ Shames and The Shadows of Knight.

The New Colony Six performed at a 1987 Reunion show at Chicago’s Park West the “Colony” has been one of the nations favorite acts at a variety of events as well as those GREAT SUMMER FESTS ever since. Today, Ray Graffia stills play along with Bruce Mattey / Vocal & Guitar RickBarr Drums Gary Greenman / Keyboards Bill Szostek /Bass & Vocal Greg Favata / Guitar & Vocal.

My beginnings with Drury Lane in Evergreen Park

My first trip to see the play, A Christmas Carol, was in April… not the holidays.  It was hosted at Drury Lane Theater in Evergreen Park in 1965 and I sat through a 2 1/2 hour show with a broken arm. I tripped on a dimly lit step, heading to our seats during an afternoon matinee for my best friend’s birthday party.  Unfortunately, the details of the performance are vague since I was focused on not moving my arm to avoid massive pain. That night, I was hospitalized at South Chicago Hospital which was the way of doing things back then and the arm was operated on the next day. A settlement had followed…Drury Lane had paid for my recovery. My Mom was embarrassed receiving 1,500 dollars but from what she was told, DeSantis did not like anything happen to his customers especially children.

The Drury Lane Theatres were a group of theatres in the Chicago area founded by Tony DeSantis. The playhouses were named after the historic Theatre Royal Drury Lane, built in London in the 17th century.

DeSantis opened the Martinique Restaurant in Evergreen Park which was highly acclaimed restaurant and began producing plays in 1949 in a tent adjacent to the restaurant to attract customers. The enterprise was successful, prompting him to build his first theatre. He opened the theatre in 1958. And it was in the 1970’s that Drury Lane really took off.

The next Drury Lane theatre in the round that I attended was a play at McCormick place in the 1970’s and only stayed open a year. The next Drury Lane was at Water Tower Place that opened in 1976 but closed in 1984, however, re-opened more beautiful than before in 2004. Finally, Broadway Playhouse bought theatre in 2010 and still remains today.

My next Drury Lane trip took place in the late 1970’s at Drury Lane North but it quickly became the Marriott in Lincolnshire which I enjoyed over the years while living in Gurnee. Since 1975, the Marriott has presented more than 135 productions to an estimated 7 million people, and have received a record 370 Joseph Jefferson Award.

Finally, moving to Downers Grove in 1988s, I finally became introduced to the Drury Lane in Oakbrook that opened in 1984 and continue to provide world-class theatre productions. It was here that I did not trip but saw a friend who played Harold Hill in the infamous Music Man but Sunday Brunch was a favorite and has been in existence for over 30 years. I also went to college with the Managing Director for three years.

Two Chicago commuters create Tinkertoys

By Caryl Clem:

Conversations about the lack of job satisfaction formed an unlikely friendship between a tombstone engraver and a young grain stock broker Chicago commuters on their ride home to Evanston.  Charles Pajeau had graduated from Chicago’s Harvard Boys School taking engineering classes. He dreamed of entering the toy market. 

Charles Pajeau observed children playing daily with wooden spools that had holes placing various size sticks  and pencils to create objects while Robert Pettit had noticed wealthy children  quickly becoming bored with toys.  Pajeau invented rounded wooden circles with 45 degree angle holes on the sides and one on top. This design allowed endless possibilities to place sticks to create right triangles as a base for construction. In 1914 the two men blended their resources to open Toy Tinkers Inc.  located in Pajeaus basement at 325 Greenwood Avenue Evanston.

The toy was packaged in a tin can sitting on shelves at cigar stores and newsstands that first Christmas in 1914.  The sales the first Christmas were less than promising. Chicago area retail stores thought the tin can packaging was not worthy of elaborate window displays Pajeau tried to start. Eager to expand his market, Pajeau traveled to New York to advertise in a window display.  Key traffic areas in New York on 34th and Broadway, Grand Central Station and Macy have promoted this educational toy to inspire future builders of America. A showroom featured Tinkertoys at 200 Fifth Avenue. The production by 1915 was 900,000 sets.

Advertising exposure with product expansion, adding an electric motor, rustic Lincoln Log sets appeared Erector sets increase building designs meant total sales soared to over 6 million during the 1919 Christmas season.  By 1947, Tinker toys made Illinois the third biggest state in toy manufacturing. Pajeau served his employees coffee, lunch, and built exercise facilities. In 1964 the Charles H. and Grace F.  Pajeau Children’s Foundation was begun to raise money for underprivileged and needy children. 

The pure joy to see a creation you built is ageless.  I had a Lincoln Log set I inherited from my older brother. On days I needed to feel like I could conquer the world, I would empty the can on the floor. Time passed while I imagined building the first homestead with a relative.  Proof of a successful venture took shape in my hands. By dinnertime, I went downstairs with more confidence to face the world.  Research has shown that Tinker toys play a critical role for the brain to form spatial relationships and has been used in studies to build team management skills

Sales remain strong in company that has changed ownership 6 times; the current owner is Hasbro Corp. of Central Falls, R.I.   The 100 plus year company has an exhibit, the “Toys of Yesteryear” at the Lakeside Historical Society.    Information about what the “tinker men” created in Evanston can be found at Evanston Historical Society.  The Chicago Museum collection includes Tinker toys. Tinker toy is a member of the National Toy Hall of Fame.  A toy encouraging creative building will never be obsolete.