Wearing tie dye

It was Woodstock in 1969 when I saw them first. It was Woodstock that revolutionized this form of self-expression. Though they had been around a long time, it was a company called RIT Dyes that made several hundred shirts and people bought them at the festival. And it was my sophomore year in 1971 that I made my own, beginning with a white shirt T shirt tightening rubber bands several times, scattered about and placing a pot of food coloring on the stove. I was not very artistic or patient. But it actually turned out nicely though the blue faded quickly. I was going to be a true hippie. In reality, I remained in between. Tie dye was just a fashion statement for many.

In the 1980’s, tie dye decor faded except for maybe the fans of the Grateful Deal. Though we did make tie dye shirts in the late 1990’s here at home for a school event for my childhood daughter…it may have been a return to the 1960’s or 70’s ….not many knew how to do it and again, I don’t remember the details. We did, however, use two colors. In the early 2000’s, tie dye again took a back seat to other types of design.

According to Heroine, the psychedelic print’s popularity came back last year at high fashion luxury runway shows beginning to show elevated forms of the psychedelic print in sophisticated silhouettes. And as a teacher assistant in an elementary school, I noticed a few wearing tie dye that included colorful bows and other accessories including a few shirts.

Out of boredom this summer during the pandemic my daughter bought a professional tie dye kit which includes several small rubber bands and die that comes in plastic bottles that you squirt on the shirts and wrap in foil for 24 hours then rinse in the shower until each item runs clear. Finally, wash in the washing machine and dry. The colors were beautiful making shirts for friends, children of friends, pillow cases and a shirt for me.

Many kits are available to actually host a Tie Dye party or sleep overs for children. The Tulip One Step Tie Dye kit at Michaels is one of the most popular with 12 bottles of dye to create up to 36 different tie dye projects! The Tie dye kit includes 12 colors, gloves, rubber bands, and different tie dye techniques. The dyes are permanent and color-fast, so they won’t fade in the wash, and since the dyes are mixable, you can create your own custom colors. Everything but the t-shirt is included. Mom and Dad have approved the kit for children to use.

I was so excited to wear my shirt to school today. I was expecting many to comment about my wild approach to dress but this year, but not so much though one did like the blue. In 2020, we are more conscious of the various masks we are wearing rather than clothes.

Memories of Maxwell Street: The Maxwell Street Foundation

In the 1930’s, my German father remembers buying dishes with his Mom on Maxwell Street Chicago as well as pots and pans; always finding something useful. It was Grandma’s time to socialize. German immigrants were some of the first to settle. My friend remembers arriving on Maxwell Street with his Polish grandfather in the 1960’s bargain hunting for tools, appliances and produce. And he remembers polish sausage,corned beef, used books, scissors, knives and looking at clothes. All sorts of products could be found at Maxwell street for the right price. Maxwell Street was the best flea market in the city.

According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago,  in the early 1900’s immigrants arrived from several continents and many countries shortly before the turn of the century. First to come were Germans, Irish, Poles, Bohemians, and, most prominently, Jews, especially those escaping czarist Russia, Poland, and Romania.

The same friend of mine was growing up as a young musician especially loving the blues. Maxwell Street, right after World War II, was known for street musicians primarily blues and gospel. Famous band leader Benny Goodman was born in Chicago in 1909 and spent most of his youth playing the clarinet on Maxwell Street. The Blues Brothers movie produced in 1980 features Maxwell street. It truly was the birthplace of the Chicago Blues. Maxwell Street was the first stopping place for thousands of African-Americans newly arrived from the Mississippi Delta. Many performed at Maxwell Street with their harmonicas and guitars as well as known gospel singers such as Carrie Robinson and Thomas Dorsey.

The Maxwell Street Foundation has been established that offers an excellent history. Beginning in 1993, one year before the historic Maxwell Street Market was moved from the location it had occupied since 1912, future Foundation members advocated alternatives to the removal of Maxwell Street residents, businesses and buildings as the University of Illinois at Chicago cleared the area for its south campus expansion. They worked to preserve the street and they were able to save several buildings.

The Maxwell Street Foundation offers walking tours of the Maxwell Street neighborhood by appointment, sharing insights into the architecture, history and cultures. The Maxwell Street Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and contributions are tax deductible.

In October 2008, Maxwell Street Market moved to the intersection of Roosevelt Rd. and S. Des Plaines Avenue. For over 100 years, The Maxwell Street Market is still a Chicago tradition with an eclectic mix of handmade crafts, resale housewares and clothing, live music, family fun and some of the best street food in Chicago.


More popular than ever: Summer swimming pools

In the 1960’s, I did not have a swimming pool but an old-fashioned sprinkler when I was a toddler. Later, my best friend had an above ground pool that was almost four feet and lasted a couple of years. But again, in the late 1960’s my friend was a member of  the Jewish Community Center located at the corner of 91st and Jeffrey in Chicago. Many went to swim at the Chicago park district pools but this was the best because it was brand new. We had moved to Dolton in the early 1970’s and it was the Dorchester Club that was all the rage for summer swimming.

Above ground pools were expensive during my childhood years, not that deep and difficult to set up. Vinyl linings always ripped and the sides unless steel were flimsy. You also needed a big hole. They were also difficult to store because many had to be taken down every year. Prices ran from 20 to 100 dollars. Montgomery Ward had a good selection. However, Doughboy was a popular manufacture and still exists today creating their first above pool in the 1950’s.

According to the Spruce, when above-ground swimming pools became popular during the 1950s and 1960s, the most common shape available was the classic round. It remains popular today but has been updated with decking, fencing, stairs, and safety gates. Today, their is a mass selection of above ground pools that offer hard sided, metal frames and even a soft pool with little to no assembly. There are still inflatable pools as well. Pools can run between about 100 dollars for small, inflatable pools to over 2,000 that include filtration, liner, light, ladder and maintenance kit.

When my kids were growing up in the 1980’s, our town home complex in Downers Grove had in ground swimming pool. And it was not crowded. Still there today, I have been able to swim without much restriction this year despite the Covid virus though I do have to request permission and fill out survey.

You’ll spend anywhere from $20,000 to $65,000 or more to install a pool depending on the type of material you choose. In-ground models are available in three types: concrete, vinyl and fiberglass.

With summers like these that keep us home, summer family pools offer a new vacation opportunity.

Add Italian flare to your summer activities

By Caryl Clem:

Imagine any favorite fruit, strawberry, watermelon, mango, lemon surrounded by sweetened ice ready to burst into flavor inside your mouth on a hot summer day.   An Italian treat for centuries, Italian Ice can be located at over 30 locations in the Chicago area according to the updated August 2020 Yelp cite.  Foursquare  released in July their top choices for Italian Ice with critic reviews to inspire your next taste bud adventure.

The original Italian Ices’ basic ingredients are fruit, cane sugar and ice In Sicilian granita recipes. Traditional Italian Ice is healthier as a summertime dessert because it contains no dairy butterfat which intensifies the taste of fruit. The sugar ratio is low compared to other ingredients, a plus for anyone counting calories. Another advantage, tart fruit in Italian Ice will trigger salivation resulting in a thirst quenching feeling.  From the Food Network Kitchen, a simple recipe for Italian Ice contained 3 cups halved strawberries or pineapple, 2 Tablespoons sugar, 2 Tablespoons honey, 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice first blended with 2 cups ice, and then blended with 1 more cup ice.

From the mountains as historian food writer Jeffrey Steingarten has documented the snow from Mount Etna created the frozen stage for the birth of ice cream concoctions. By the 16th century, the influential families in Florence, Italy were delighted by the frozen sensation invented by Bernardo Buontalenti, a native of Florence. He had his own version of an iced dessert  His popular treat made it to Paris where it was called Sorbet, while in Italy it was named, Gelato. This version of Italian ice cream does contain egg yolks and milk.

Another Italian custom, vacation time is expected.  Ferragosto on August 15 is a national holiday celebrated by festivals. Originally a custom started by the Emperor Augustus, it signaled a “break” from hard labor in the fields before harvest time in late September.  The Catholic Church declared August 15 as a day to honor the Virgin Mary and her assumption into heaven. Before modern technology, relaxing the entire month of August was commonly practiced.

In Chicago, over 10 Italian churches stand, testaments to customs and traditions still practiced today. The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, built in 1910 on Lexington was threatened with closure in 1993, A committee was set up to save the church involving alderman, prominent businessmen and a hospital administrator raised funds to save the church that hosts Italian events throughout the year. This is still the oldest continuing Italian church. If you love Italian architecture, visit the churches and experience history.

Italians shaped many sections in Chicago we love today. Whether you travel down Harlem Avenue, go to Highwood, Blue Island, Chicago Heights, Melrose Park, Maxwell Street Market, or Taylor Street in Little Italy, ;  relish the experience of Italian traditions in summer.

Chicago’s Oak Street Beach

It was in the 1970’s during my high school and college years that I remember traveling with friends to Chicago’s Oak Street Beach for a summer field trip from the south suburbs of the city. We would also pick out high rise apartment buildings we wanted to live in after college. And I remember it crowded with beach chairs, towels, bicycles and of course, numerous bathers and acrobatics. I remember male friends wanting to be a life guard as a summer job there; where prestigious life began. Oak Street Beach is located at 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive at Oak Street and Lake Michigan near the Gold Coast/Streeterville neighborhoods.

According to the Chicago Park District, Lincoln Park and Lake Shore Drive suffered constant damage from storms and lake shore erosion. The city built a breakwater made of pilings, planks, and stone on the lake’s edge between Oak Street and North Avenue in the 1870’s. This device could not protect Lake Shore Drive, so in the late 1880s, the commissioners began working with the Army Corps of Engineers to design a seawall between Fullerton and North Avenues to provide better protection. Lake Shore Drive was also extended south from Oak Street to Ohio Street.

The park district claims property owners helped pay for the landfill extension, which included a breakwater to protect the lake shore and roadway from erosion. Constructed in the 1890s, the project included a 50-foot-wide roadway as well as an extensive granite-paved beach, stone sidewalks, bicycle path, bridle path, and luxury lawns with elegant trees.

The beach was extremely popular in the early 1900’s but rich, mansion property owners complained about how small it was so it was extended in 1923. My father remembers living in the city in those early years as a child attending the beach. According to sources, over 50,000 visitors were known to travel to the beach during that time. The Chicago Park District offers some wonderful history on all Chicago area parks and when they can be used.

Today, Oak Street has gone through many renovations and has a outdoor cafe though with Covid restrictions, not available at this time. Currently, the beach is closed but when opened, you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas and cabanas. Of course, public restrooms are available. Usually, various vendors carts are seen along the path. Besides swimming, many beach goers play volleyball or just sit, taking pictures of amazing sunrises and sunsets. Still, a beautiful place to visit.

Photo courtesy of Greg Wass