Piano lessons

Many Baby Boomer children began with piano lessons building levels of musical accomplishment. Some stopped early on though I did continue through the years and taught individual lessons as an adult. My first teacher was Ms. Vera and it was all about the infamous John Thompson beginning with Teaching Little Fingers to Play. I didn’t like it much… all I remember was playing chords. My second teacher, since Vera retired, was Ms Frank, also known as Corinne Hepburn, when I was 13 and that is when I took off. I had tiny hands but she made everything possible and told me I had talent. She was fun and excellent pianist herself. Others may know her! She taught for 70 years, starting at her studio in Roseland, southeast Chicago neighborhood at the Calumet Conservatory of Music above the Roseland theatre, 40 years at Melody Mart in Homewood and finally in Mt Greenwood.

John Sylvanus Thompson was an American pianist, composer, and educator born in 1889 and lived until 1963. His piano methodsModern Course for the Piano, Teaching Little Fingers to Play (the first part of the Modern Course), Adult Piano Course and Easiest Piano Course are published by the Willis Music Company. According to many teachers, the legendary Modern Course series provides a clear and complete foundation in the study of the piano that enables the student to think and feel musically. It’s known as the method for quick, dedicated learners. The books are still for sale throughout the internet.

I have several John Thompson books from the 1960’s but currently Etsy has Teaching Little Fingers to Play (the picture above) published in the 1950’s for 72.00 dollars. I will keep mine in good condition and my mother’s books. John W. Schaum was another popular teacher and composer with a Bachelor of Music degree from Marquette University in 1931, a Bachelor of Music Education degree from University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and a Master of Music degree from Northwestern University in 1934 in Evanston, IL.

In Chicago, Forster Music Publisher, Inc. was a major American publisher of popular songs founded in 1916 by Fred John Adam Forster (1878–1956) and was located on Wabash Ave and according to sources, is still in business located at 5309 W Devon Ave # 1.

Calumet Conservatory of Music in Roseland is no longer there but Melody Mart was founded in 1956, and still serves the local community’s needs for music products, lessons, repairs and instrument rentals located on Dixie Highway.

Mysterious history of the Fortune Cookie

By Caryl Clem

The element of surprise and suspense in a dessert amplifies celebrating sharing food.  In Chinese and Japanese restaurants the end of a meal reveals clues to your immediate future.  A slip of paper hiding in the middle of a fortune cookie will offer lucky numbers, a wise saying or fateful prediction. Passing out the traditional free fortune cookie appears to be a time honored legend.  The first forerunner of messages printed on food was the NECCO Conversation Hearts in 1866.

Digging into these cookies past, I realized I knew nothing factual about this treat.  The biggest supplier of this product is a Chinese food company, Wonton Food based in New York, yet the origin of the cookie is Japanese. A Japanese confectionery store owner, Suyeichi Okamura, supplied a famous Japanese restaurant owner of the Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park with this Japanese regional favorite. Several hand skillet molds donated to the Smithsonian, were developed by Mokoto Hagiwara to shape this delicacy. In 1908, the larger than today’s version of a fortune cookie was making its first debut with a slip of paper lodged in a fold outside of the cookie. .

The Tea Garden was shut down when Japanese business owners were sent to internment camps in California during World War II. Chinese business owners took advantage of the opportunity to produce this dessert and devised a smaller cookie with the fortune hidden inside.   The cookie became associated with a new nationality, Chinese.  Ironically, in most Chinese restaurants the fortune cookie tradition is honored with the exception of China.  Romance seekers in the Chinese culture use the fortune cookie as a means to propose, especially on the most romantic holiday of the year the Double Seventh Festival, August 7th, 2021.

Ready to dive into food and your future, National Fortune Cookie Day is July 20, 2021.  If you are ready to cook then Amazon offers Fortune Cookie kits, or try EASY FORTUNE COOKIES

Ravinia Festival

Every type of music can be seen and heard representing the most celebrated, diverse music festival; the oldest in the United States opening in 1904. Ravinia, for me, brings memories of first seeing the Chicago Symphony orchestra; a mesmerizing experience for a young Baby boomer girl with her family. For my grandmother, it was known for the best opera in the 1920’s. For a dear friend, it was Earth, Wind and Fire. Born and raised in Chicago, my Aunt remembered the trains that would stop at the entrance. Trains still stop at Ravinia’s historic entrance today, serviced by the Metra Union Pacific North line, making it the only private train stop left in Illinois.

When it was originally built, besides including an amusement park, Ravinia offered a Casino, Grandstand, Music Pavilion, and a Theater which showed live performances as well as motion pictures. From 1919 through 1931, Ravinia was known as the “summer opera capital of the world and after the Great Depression, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra became a mainstay and still performs today. For five decades, Ravinia has made music more accessible through fine education programs now called Reach Teach Play® so attending student orchestra performances is not uncommon.

Today, Ravinia operates as a self-owned nonprofit—the Ravinia Festival Association—still overseen by a volunteer board of business and community leaders, but now managed by President & CEO Jeffrey P. Haydon. The park and Pavilion are available for limited seating this year. You can still bring your own food for picnics. A non-for-profit festival shop is open for gifts and souvenirs. Ravinia Market, located in one huge indoor/outdoor dining pavilion, features five mini restaurants serving burgers, paninis, tacos, pizza, and barbeque. Dining options are run by Levy Restaurants (Spiaggia, River Roast, Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap).

Ravinia is hiring for all positions this summer including front and back-of-house positions for food operations.

Poplar Creek/Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre

It was at Poplar Creek that I saw Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band on July 6th in 1991. Our seats were located in the covered pavilion and were comfortable; the band easy to see and hear. Actually, it was a great night and I am not the best at large, outdoor scenarios. The theatre opened in 1980 and closed in 1994. It consisted of a covered pavilion and grass seating area, and had a capacity of 25,202 people: 7,202 reserved seats and 18,000 lawn seats. John Denver was the first to perform along with great bands such as James Taylor, Chicago, and Jefferson Starship.

Poplar Creek began to face declining audiences even though it was suppose to be used for theatre productions, graduations and other shows. World Music Theatre was opened in 1990 in Tinley Park and shows declined even further at Poplar Creek. Sears acquired the property and now the Sears Centre opened right near the former Poplar Creek. At World Music Theatre, Cher was the first performer and I saw Garth Brooks on August 28th 1992. Friends were drunk during that concert and I did not enjoy like my experience at Poplar Creek.

Now called Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, it is one of the largest music venues in the Chicago area, with a capacity of up to 28,000 spectators: 11,000 reserved seats and 17,000 lawn seats. It is a venue pulling fans from the city of Chicago, as well as surrounding suburbs and neighboring states, and had over 1,500 concerts.

Believe it or not, many concert ticket stubs from Baby Boomer days are on sale at Ebay. For those into collectable items, ticket stubs are a valuable commodity. Ticket collecting for sports fans is an avid interest and tickets can sell for hundreds of dollars.

Watching the skies on July 4th

By Caryl Clem:

Night’s opaque curtains close

Across America, waiting, watching

For the breathless spark igniting

 July 4th’s freedom show.

Searing red, white, blue flashes

Breaking the darkness into pieces.

Shattering the cloud of Britain’s domination

Our Forefathers wisdom illuminated citizen voices

A government shaped by rebels

Breaking bonds with outdated norms.

A continual battle seeking balance

Citizens united and divided under one flag

Feeling inspired by the fireworks

Aspiration’s symbols showering bright energy

Washing away the fear of a dark night

Observers, our marbled veined granite foundation   

Sharing Hope to strengthen our country’s diversity.

The Fourth of July

Probably the best memories of the Fourth of July for Baby boomer children were anticipating fireworks and Dad lighting 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. Many traveled to Lake Shore Drive and Navy Pier. There were celebrations on boats overlooking the Chicago skyline. I got to spend one year on a boat from Belmont Harbor watching the fireworks in the pouring rain. One breathtaking show at the Waukegan Marina while being pregnant with my first son, who did not stop moving. There were impressive celebrations at Arlington racetrack that delivered piped in music. But some of the best were local small suburban displays gathered with neighbors on the closest porch or nearest park like the famous Dolton parade back in my day.

After living in Chicago for childhood years, my high school and college years were spent in Dolton and my greatest memories was the Dolton Parade and Carnival on the 4th. Everybody and their brother watched the parade or was part of it in downtown Dolton on Chicago Road. There were bands, dance schools, boys and girls scouts, and a man who played Abraham Lincoln every year. There were 30 plus fire trucks and police cars blowing their sirens. Back then, it was okay to toss candy to those children watching.

My children grew up in Downers Grove and went to the parade. They, too, remember picking up the candy off the street in downtown which they said was the best part. We did not live far from the fireworks display and when they were little, you could see them from our backyard deck sharing the excitement with neighborhood friends. Now, trees are too big and the best place to assemble is a small, mall parking lot close to the firework location by 75th and Main Street. The fireworks last for a half hour and are excellent in design.

This year, there will be no Fourth of July fireworks show at Navy Pier this year though some activities will be presented. Most of the Chicago suburbs will be hosting fireworks and you can check the list here. Some fire works will be taking place today, July 3rd. such as the one at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights.