What character did I want to be……Honey West or Emma Peel?

We had one black and white television set up in our den while living in the southside of Chicago in the 1960’s. As a family, we watched the new show Honey West airing on ABC from September 17, 1965 to April 8, 1966. The series starred Anne Francis as a female private detective and John Ericson as her partner, Sam Bolt. It was an historic event because it was a the first TV series where the lead character was female, as well as a private detective. Once again at ten years of age at that time, she was another star that I wanted to be when I grew up. I used my Mom’s eye brow pencil to fake her birthmark when no one was looking. Anne Francis also appeared in a Burke’s Law episode, another series that starred Gene Barry. I was going to marry him. Another strong character role model, expert in spy adventures and martial arts, was Emma Peel. An icon in British culture, Emma Peel was played by Diana Rigg in The Avengers; a British espionage television series, created in 1961, that ran for 161 episodes until 1969 with Patrick Macnee. By 1969, the Avengers were shown in 90 countries. The New Avengers ran from 1976-1977, with Patrick Macnee returning as John Steed and two new female partners.

Anne Francis was also known for her role in the science fiction film Forbidden Planet in 1956 but she won an Emmy and Golden Globe award for her role for Honey West. Others liked her birthmark too and it was actually written into a script. In 2005, she was ranked 18 out of 50 sexy stars list on TV guide. She was born in New York in 1930 and was a child star. She played in numerous film and tv roles. Though she quit smoking in the 1980’s, she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005. She ended up passing away from complications from pancreatic cancer in 2011.

Diana Rigg just passed away last year in September of 2020. According to sources, she played Countess Teresa di Vicenzo, wife of James Bond, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969); Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones (2013–2017); and the title role in Medea in the West End in 1993 followed by Broadway a year later. Her career was complex, first working for the Royal Shakespeare company in 1959. October of 2015, marked 50 years of Emma Peel, the British Film Institute screened an episode of The Avengers; this was followed by an onstage interview with Rigg about her time in the television series. In 2018, she returned to Broadway to play the role of Mrs. Higgins in My Fair Lady. Diana had one daughter, and she was living at her daughter’s home in London after she had just been diagnosed with cancer.

“Winging It” during the Super Bowl

By Caryl Clem

February is a big month celebrating over 50 foods. Get your napkin supply ready. Anyone with a Sweet Tooth, nearly every day offers a treat and it is Chocolate Lovers Month. Watching your sugar intake, National Snack Month offers tasty dips, chips and savory meat snacks. According to sales over 1.4 billion this year, consumers preferred to “Wing It” during the game with chicken wings. The best wings drown in a can’t stop eating rich covering like Aria B Mumbo Sauce created in Chicago. Did I mention, keep those napkins close by!

February is African American Heritage month, Argia B. Collins, an African American who enriched Chicago’s culinary experience. A Navy man from Mississippi thought his entrepreneur dreams could come true in Chicago. He moved here to work for his oldest brother in the 1940’s. By 1950, he opened his first restaurant on the South Side in Bronzeville. The Collins’ brothers were opening successful restaurants in different neighborhoods serving ribs and southern favorites. Competing with his five brothers, Argia opened a test kitchen in his first place and expanded to build two more restaurants featuring his Mumbo sauce on wings and other meats. The customers loved his sauce and kept bringing their own containers to take home more sauce.

To meet customer demand, he opened a manufacturing plant on the Southside and kept advertising. After a feature advertisement in a 1970 Life magazine, the sauce became a national favorite. Barbeque culinary experts across the country raved over this Mumbo Sauces’ combination of flavors. There was an effort to discredit the Chicago claim to this recipe but a court case decided the recipe’s authenticity.  Chicago has the right to claim this brands’ birthplace.

If you love hearty, spicy wings try Aria B Mumbo Sauce. Now a legacy that started as mix of determination and motivation to create the Mumbo sauce he remembered from his childhood. The southern roots for these sauces have led to legends in other towns. In New York, John Young, an African American during about the same time developed a “mombo” sauce for “Buffalo Wings”.  In DC another pair of brothers developed a Mumbo sauce that is well known.  None of the competition has statewide distribution this company supports.

Petula Clark

I was only ten years old hearing the song coming from the huge radio that sat on top of the refrigerator while I ate breakfast, getting ready for school. My Mom liked Downtown too, even though she was more into the 1940’s Mitch Miller type of music. This was Petula Clark, who I wanted to become that day, with her first big British solo hit in the United States. Her follow-up song was my all time favorite. I Know a Place, where the lights are low, a swinging place with girls and boys…....….a song with music and lyrics by Tony Hatch. I liked that there were girls and boys like me…made me feel like an adult. It was recorded in 1965 by Petula Clark at the Pye Studios in Marble Arch in a session which featured drummer Bobby Graham and the Breakaways vocal group. I Know a Place became Clark’s second consecutive Top Ten hit in the United States, remaining on the charts for twelve weeks. A great, fun song sung by a classy singer. I loved Petula’s style, eye lashes and short hair. She was also tiny like me and my Mom. We watched her self-imposing performance on the Ed Sullivan show.

My Love was her second number one hit in the US and made Number 1 on the top billboard on February 5th, 1966. Besides February being an award winning month, she gave a legendary performance on Valentines Day in 1974 at Royal Albert Hall. Some of her top hits were A Sign of the Times, Colour My World, Don’t Sleep in the Subway, and still recording through the 1980’s with Sailor and the Song of my Life. Clark begin her career during World War II and in the United States sometimes considered the first lady of the British invasion. She has also enjoyed success in many stage musicals making her first film experience in 1980, NeverNever Land. She is also an extremely accomplished composer and lyricist.

From 2000 to the present, she performed a self-written one woman show highlighting her life and career throughout the UK. Throughout the early 2000’s she traveled extensively throughout the world. In 2011, at the age of 78, Clark performed at the Casino de Paris. Clark entertained for more than 90 minutes, introducing five new songs. A French album of new material was to be released in Feb. of 2012 on the Sony label. In 2017, an English language album was released Living For Today. She attended a US tour in 2017 which would become her first in 5 decades. She was the first British female to sell a million copies and the first female Brit to win two Grammys with Downtown and I Know a Place. Her performance on Valentines Day in 1974 at Royal Albert Hall had finally been completely recorded and was released by the United Music Foundation in March of 2020.

In August 2021, she was performing in the starring role of the Bird Woman in Mary Poppins in London. At 89 years old, she is still beautiful and her achievements are too many to write about. Now, at my tender old age of 66, I listen to Downtown and I Know a Place; still inspired by her music just like being ten years old again. She has been performing though there are no concert dates set for 2022. When she is not working, she spends time with her boyfriend that she fell in love with when she was 83 years. Claude Wolff, of 55 years, are still married but do not live together. They were blessed with three children.

Happy Valentine’s Day

After sitting down with a young Downers Grove student, she reminded me of Valentine’s Day.  She shared a story about her grandmother who lost her Dad when she was a teenager, then her husband just recently….Grandpa…..It was a cedar box that her Grandmother opened when she was sad and inside were a special collection of Valentine’s Day cards. Beautifully wrapped in tissue, she would open each one and smile. Sometimes, tears of love would tag along. The cards were elaborate with elegant designs in red, white and pink while others were framed in lace or velvet. To my love, my darling, my precious; written in neat handwriting to introduce the verse inside which was usually an encouraging message. After listening, I realized that many of us have probably done the same with our own inspired Valentines either preciously saved in a box or scrapbook.

My mother had a box just like this student’s grandmother. My Mother and Dad had passed away several years ago but I knew where the box was stored and couldn’t remember when was the last time I looked inside. So after returning home, I found her box. I found my Mother and Dad. A glossy silver card with a vase filled with flowers complimented the cover made in the 1960’s. In small writing, it said I love you in a white heart…he had signed his name though difficult to read…placed among the assorted floral collection designed on the card. To my darling wife stood proudly inside.

Now, I was excited…..this really was the true meaning of Valentines Day for me. I was thinking about Valentines that were given to me by my own children, now aged 30+ and I had several scrapbooks but I wasn’t sure which one. But, I, continued on checking out my Mother’s cedar box; I had forgotten what was in it. As I leafed through the photos, documents, I found two cards for Valentines Day. One was from my mother that said You’re A Wonderful Daughter. I was an only child. And the next one was from my daughter, Your Love Means So Much. At that moment, I cried at the irony. Maybe I pulled my daughter’s years ago to save in the special box so that I would never lose or misplace it in a scrapbook. Maybe, she put it there, knowing, too, the special family memories were always intact in that box. Maybe, it showed up just because it needed too.

And the next day, I shared my collection with the student. She decided to make her Grandmother a special card to add to her box of treasures this year.  Nothing says I love you like the hand-crafted cards trimmed in elaborate lace and personalized just for you.

The Captains Table, Mathon’s and Valentine’s Day at The Hob Nob

I was having a drink at the bar when I met the owner’s son of the Captain Table on Belvidere Road in Waukegan. I was living in the area and teaching from 1978-1987. Edward Allegretti was the owner who was a huge restaurant connoisseur. His son was also named Edward and managed the restaurant; a friend of mine back in the day. The restaurant had an excellent selection of seafood and was popular if you wanted to eat before seeing a show at the downtown Genesee theater. The atmosphere was comfortable and well-established. He owned the restaurant from 1972 to 1985. The restaurant was closed and the father passed away in 1997. Though I had lost contact with his son, sources claim he moved to Naperville and passed away in 2015.

Mathons in Waukegan opened in 1939 as a fish market just a block from the Waukegan Harbor. Mathon Kyritsis, a Greek immigrant, finally created a restaurant taken over by the son, John. The walls were ribbed resembling a ship inside and the windows represented portholes. They had the best calamari of all time. A few times I did sail from the Waukegan harbor. The vintage menu above was created by artist Phil Austin in the 1960’s.

Still open today, The Hob Nob by far is another wonderful place on Lake Michigan in Racine Wisconsin just past Kenosha. Many special occasions were honored at this restaurant. Valentines Day was celebrated with Allegretti. Strange, how I remember that it was that holiday in the early 1980’s because I was so impressed with the restaurant; my first experience. The Hob Nob served the best food and offered spectacular views of Lake Michigan from the bar. I experienced my first brandy alexander there. My engagement to be married…Kevin Sullivan…..was cherished in 1985. One of the greatest supper clubs in Wisconsin, it is truly an experience to visit and what I remember was the most elegant cream- tufted circular booths and bar seats. Established in 1954, the Hob Nob offered red snapper which my Mother loved. Many of the construction, signs and decor are exactly the same today.

The Higgins family had a restaurant in downtown Racine in the 1930’s and built the new one. Michael Aletto purchased the restaurant in the 1990’s keeping most of the same recipes. Aletto and his wife now commutes from Florida once a month and every other week around holidays. They have a strong staff that keeps the restaurant operating smoothly.

I moved to Downers Grove in 1988 though I frequent the north suburbs often. But I have not been back to the Hob Nob. Need to go back since I am less than an hour away and cherish the memories. No…….wrong. Let’s go back and create new memories with my new love…still relaxing with breath-taking views of the lake and my favorite steak.

Aprons

I remember my Mom during a 1960’s holiday cooking in the kitchen with her apron. One of my earliest memories is her laughing with my aunt wiping her hands on the half-waist apron. I also remember her wearing a dress for most holidays. One was a beige short sleeve knit with horizontal pinstripes. I also remember a black skirt with a white button-down blouse; her blue apron with flowers on the pocket covering that. She could dust quickly with an apron on. I also remember my aunts ruffled apron that I would cry into…for what reason….I do not remember. Another neighbor had a sheer white embroidered apron with pink flowers that she wore at birthday celebrations. How can I forget another relative who lived in a farm town and used the gathering apron. As she got older, it was easier for her to gather fruit and vegetables from her small garden; beets and tomatoes were my favorites.

Sometimes when we would visit when I was little, I remember she would share wildflowers in her apron for me to hold. I still have memories of neighbors that had half-waist aprons with pockets to hold their cigarettes and matches, though I don’t remember the smell being any different than an apron that smelled like vegetables and spice. I was so excited to get a hand-maid apron from my aunt with the pockets filled with crayons. I found one that was layers of lace made in the 1930’s in a family hope chest. In the 1970’s, I remember aprons that were floral but like an artist smock with front pockets and snaps. The picture represents one for sale on Etsy.

Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Len’s Auntie Sue would make aprons since she worked for Form Fit, headquartered in Chicago, for many of the family members and that would be their Christmas presents every year. Each was gracefully created to match holiday colors or celebrate the season with flowers, butterflies and birds. Homemakers woke every morning to get their coffee, and put on their favorite apron while they made breakfast; a variety was necessary to make their day. It was a lot easier to wash aprons than dresses which could be dry cleaned and that was expensive.

Etsy offers a wonderful collection of vintage aprons that provide pictures of styles that immediately take you back to those precious memories back in the day. So much detail went into the various designs; such cute reversible aprons with scalloped hems. Some are patchwork patterns that truly resemble the 1950’s or the apron pinafore with blue tulips that I know I have seen before.

Chez Paree

The Chez Paree was a Chicago nightclub known for its dance numbers and top entertainers. It was open from 1932 until 1960 in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago at 610 N. Fairbanks Court. The club was a thriving example of golden age entertainment, and it hosted singers to comedians to vaudeville acts. Family talked about how my father would introduce them to the city by taking them to this glamorous nightclub. This is where you took businessman, politicians and even the mob to impress when showing off the city. Some people said my Dad had mob ties back in the day…good ties in helping businesses grow. He passed away when I was young. Family did talk about the Adorable Dancers which always surrounded the stars of the show. The floor was crowded with tables. My cousins talk of marbleized walls and gleaming chinaware. The cocktail lounge and saffier bar was glamourous and circular.

The list goes on of famous performers including Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ethel Merman, Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante, Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis performing his gun show and more. This was the place to see stars located on the third floor. A collage of performers graced the walls. During the radio years, these shows were often broadcast around the nation. The cocktail lounge and saffier bar many talked that was circular. Gambling was conducted in the back room called the Key Club.

Jay J.G. Schatz, 78, the former nightclub owner known as the “Mayor of Streeterville,” died in 1996. The Chez Paree was originally owned by Mike Fritzel and Joe Jacobson. After reported financial problems operating the club, it was sold to a group of partners in 1949; Jack Schatz, Don Jo Medlevine, Al Kaiser (not the MLB player), and Dave Halper. The Chez Paree is now The Schatz Companies include Domu.com, an online apartment listing company that has transformed the leasing and apartment search processes for Chicago landlords and tenants. They also own and manage the Schatz Building, an iconic mixed-use loft building in Streeterville designed by renowned Chicago architect Benjamin Marshall. The building is home to tenants in various creative industries and restaurants.