The amazing life of Miss Frances

I don’t remember her since I was only about 3 or 4 but my Mother, who died the same year in 2001, did not like her because she always told the children on television to run and find their mother. And that is what I did, supposedly, every time I watched her. Miss Frances would then discuss with Moms what supplies were needed for projects. Miss Frances was the host of the children’s television program Ding Dong School, seen weekday mornings on the NBC network in the 1950s and nationally syndicated between 1959 and 1965. Each began with the ringing of a handbell. Miss Frances Horwith was extremely bright and grew up in Ohio skipping many grades because of her intelligence and love of academics.

She came to Chicago and earned her Bachelors degree from the University of Chicago in 1929. She taught first grade from 1929-1932 at a school in Evanston. According to sources, she then became the supervisor of the Works Progress Administration‘s nursery schools in Chicago until 1935. She earned a Masters at Columbia University, directed junior kindergartens and became Dean of education at Pestalozzi-Fröbel Haus Teachers College. Finally, she earned a doctorate at Northwestern and was in variety positions as a Chicago school counselor positions and taught at Roosevelt University.

Ding Dong School was a half hour children’s TV show which began in Chicago in 1952 and the first pre-school series before Romper Room by one year. Just after the show aired for the first time, the station received 150 phone calls praising the show. She was the only one on air admired by Fred Roger and activities could range from modeling clay to finger-painting. She had over a million viewers and won the Peabody Award but the show was cancelled because she refused to commercialize childrens education.

She was the author of over 25 children’s books and had moved to Arizona since her husband was having health issues in the 1970’s A month before her death, Horwich was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Chicago Chapter of the National Academy of the Television Arts and Sciences on June 2, 2001. She died of congestive heart failure at the age of 94.

Why Chicago businessmen sponsored Fort Sheridan

By Caryl Clem

Chicago was becoming an industrial giant; trend sitting businesses thrived beside brick and mortar institutions. The rich were moving to the northern suburbs building towns with paved streets, gas lights, electricity, sewage disposal, water lines, recreational parks and cultural attractions. In 1856 Lake Forest was founded with Glencoe, Highland Park, and Lake Bluff established by the end of the 1860’s.  

Chicago housing was dominated by the working class. Small houses with dirt floors were springing up by the factories.  Older neighborhoods were dominated by waves of immigrants looking for work.  In 1884 early labor unions started demanding an eight hour work day. By 1886, the infamous Haymarket Riot that started May 3 and ended on May 4 with a documented 80,000 workers marching down Michigan Avenue attacked by police. The labor issues were bigger than the police units could adequately address. Time to boost police with military support.

A track of 600 acres along Lake Michigan was owned by the Chicago Commercial Club in preparation for a defense location. Teaming with the federal government to protect Chicago, the land was given to build a military post arguing danger from Indian tribes along this Green Bay trail could threaten further expansion. On November 8, 1887 two Infantry units from Utah under the command of Major Williams John Lyster arrived on a train in Highwood to build a base.

Fort Sheridan was described in the New York Herald as “A Bit of Eden” a section of land edging over Lake Michigan with almost 80 feet high bluffs with six ravines located on this plateau graced by running mineral spring water. One side of the plateau provided space for practicing military maneuvers. Several groves of trees outlined where housing for the officers would be built. For these men from Utah, the sight had to be breath taking.

The base was designed to preserve the integrity of the natural habitat.  Designer Ossian Simonds planned to keep the trees and vegetation species, building the parade area between Hutchison and Bartlett ravines where heavy rains would not impede the functions of that particular location.  The cemetery, parade grounds and three Loops maintained natural beauty will provide room for military training. Simonds technique of blurring boundary lines with broadly curved pathways lined by random groups of trees and shrubs is evident.  Traveling down these paths offers an ever changing view. Simonds was the Superintendent at Graceland Cemetery carrying his design methods to Fort Sheridan’s Cemetery by the Jane Ravine.

Today Fort Sheridan is part of the Forest Preserve while remaining structures are under separate supervision. Whenever federal surplus property is available, the 1988 Stewart McKinney Homeless Assistance Act mandates that homeless agencies are given priority. The Chicago Vietnam Veterans and Family Assistance Program were given the VIP Hotel, Building 32 and The Catholic Charities of Chicago Archdiocese were awarded twenty structures.

Fort Sheridan land was donated to protect Chicago’s residents.  This dream has kept intact the legacy of the prairie grassland habitant and provides support for those in need.

Chicago’s Stony Island Park and CVS

Everyone refers to Stony Island Park as a neighborhood today but for me it was a park in the 1960’s now referred to as Jesse Owens, must larger today than I remember located at…My memories include being a cheerleader for Warren Junior High football team, making our own green sweatshirts with Warren amateurishly spelled across the top, that took place at Stoney Island Park coached by my famous gym teacher, Chuck Ulrich. According to Wikipedia, he was a professional American football defensive tackle in the National Football League. He played five seasons for the Chicago Cardinals (1954–1958). Ulrich was a member of the Illinois football team that defeated Stanford 40-7 in the 1952 Rose Bowl to stake a claim for the national championship. He was a member of Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.

When at the Park whether it be involved in a game or just to play, I always wondered about who went to Chicago Vocational School that was located on 87th Street and still open today commonly known as CVS, It was a vocational school then and now. Opened in 1941, it was an all male school of about 800 and it was not a diploma granting school. The school was known as the best trade school and turned over to the Navy during World War 11. In 1946, the school returned to normal with allowing women to enroll. Classes were offered all day long and the evening to accommodate new war veterans. It has been through many changes but currently a career academy run by Chicago Public Schools. Notable alumni was Dick Butkus and Chris Zorich, linebackers for the Bears as well as Dean Richards, film critic for WGN-TV.

Stoney Island Park was renamed in the 1980’s for Jesse Owens, all American athlete who won several gold medals at the Olympics in 1935 for running and jumping. The Associated Press acclaimed him the “Athlete of the Half Century” in 1950, and President Ford awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976. He also briefly served as a director for the Chicago Boys Club.

WLS

It was in May of 1960 that WLS went full-time rock and roll listeners though the station had its first air date in 1924 known as the World’s Largest Store. I vaguely remember going down to see the radio studio in a glass box for a very short time in the late 1960’s but many broadcasters closed the air station curtains so that visitors could not disturb them at specific times during the day. Larry Lujack was one of them. But I do remember them all that included the famous Clark Weber, Dick Biondi, John Records Landecker and Bob Sirott. Clark Weber joined the station in 1960-1969 and died of cancer recently at the age of 89. Dick Biondi celebrated his 50th anniversary with WLS in 2010 and is 88 years old. John Landecker retired in 2015 but his back as a weekends host at WGN radio. Bob Sirott was a top disc jockey at WLS from 1973 until December 1979. He currently works for WGN radio also has a morning host.

According to sources, in the 1960s, WLS was a major force in introducing new music and recording artists. The first US airplay of a record by The Beatles (“Please Please Me“) was on Dick Biondi’s show on February 8, 1963. WLS was voted station of the year in 1967, 1968 and 1969 and it was estimated that over 4 million listened to the station weekly. It was also known for its Silver Dollar Survey which I remember showing the top 30 or 40 hits. The survey changed its name many times (89 WLS Hit Parade, 89 WLS Chicagoland Hit Parade, WLS Musicradio 89. Many songs in the 1960’s and 1970’s were edited by several AM stations and WLS was one of them.

 Steve Dahl and Garry Meier‘s program was moved to WLS from WLS-FM, over the objections of the duo but Nevertheless, Dahl and Meier drew higher ratings on WLS than they had on WLS-FM in the 1980’s.

Currently, WLS AM is a talk radio channel that used to feature Chuck Limbaugh who passed away in 2021 but now shows include Bruce St. James, Chris Plante, Ben Shapiro, John Howell and Mark Levin. The channel also has a complete news team with traffic and weather located at the NBC Tower on Columbus Drive in Streeterville. Its broadcast tower is located in Tinley Park.

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.