State Street Bridge turns 73 years old

Memorial Day Weekend brings the parade back to Chicago this year to honor those who have served in the military. But an important bridge celebrates its birthday. Through the decades, how I remember watching the State Street Bridge rise and fall for boats and yachts to travel past. When I was young in the 1960’s, I remember holding my mother’s hand tightly as we walked across the bridge, even though it was enclosed in railings. It was back in the early 1980’s that the bridge began to open, and one girl was caught on the bridge near the center. She could not maintain her grip and started to slip. Her fall was saved by police, who got her before she fell into the water. According to sources, she did break her leg. In the early 1990’s, my children were terrified to walk across. The State Street bridge was officially christened the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge when it opened in 1949, dedicated as a memorial to World War II veterans who fought in the Philippines.

Actually, the bridge has been reconstructed five times. The first one was built in 1864 but was destroyed by the Chicago fire. The crossing is actually one of the longest and handles six lanes of traffic. The American Institute of Steel Construction or AISC is a non-profit trade association founded in 1921. Its purpose is to promote the use of fabricated structural steel. AISC recognized the bridge as a steel bridge that exhibits innovation, aesthetics, and cost effectiveness in it’s engineering and design. Limestone-clad bridge tender houses are on the SE and NW corners of the bridge though they are not open to the public. The bridge was the last to be built in Chicago.

It has been 73 years that we celebrate the beauty of the bridge; a constant reminder of our wonderful military veterans. Happy Memorial Day.

The last week

After many years in a variety of educational positions, for the last five years, my retirement job has been in an elementary school as an instructional assistant in a pre-k through second grade school in Downers Grove. For them, this is their last week before summer break, so they are excited and the week has been filled with extra activities to celebrate moving on to the next grade. As I lovingly watch them learn and grow, I can’t help but think about the week in Uvalde, Texas which we will never forget. The horrific mass shooting occurred when an 18-year old with an assault weapon murdered 19 children and two teachers in their elementary school classroom while injuring more than a dozen others. It fills me with an overwhelming sadness, grief for those lost in Texas, and fear.

What???? Another school shooting??? Not again, and it can happen anywhere, including the suburb of Downers Grove though administration throughout the suburbs are taking the right action. A school resource office should be in every school building. All outside doors are locked and some schools require scanners as people walk through the doors. All visitors must present a government issued photo ID. Safety drills are conducted at each of our schools throughout the year, and staff receive training on how to respond in crisis situations. Whatever it takes to keep children safe.

There is one argument after another about gun laws. My concern is have the recourses to handle mental health issues and drug addiction. According to Impact Dupage, behavioral health continues to be a chief concern in DuPage County. Addressing behavioral health requires attention to substance use disorders as well as mental health. According to sources, the opioid epidemic in Illinois continues to manifest in multiple ways that include historically high rates of overdoses and overdose-related fatalities. Children and families need more resources for counseling they can afford and even more social workers at schools that can get a handle on the issues going on with a child.

There is always something positive that develops from tragedy. Maybe one mother will become sober for life and maybe one father will suggest counseling for his family. Maybe one grandmother will spend more time with their grandchildren, maybe one couple will recognize the love of their life. Maybe one teacher will give their children more hugs, maybe one parent will hug their child a little tighter. Maybe one person will finally honor another without complaint, maybe one company will offer a product at no cost for those that struggle. Maybe we will demonstrate more respect for our teachers, administration and staff at school. Maybe one more person will believe in God because there are truly more angels in heaven than ever before.

As we pray for the grief of the families and friends related to the following:

  • Eva Mireles, 44
  • Irma Garcia, 48
  • Xavier Lopez, 10
  • Uziyah Garcia, 9
  • Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, 10
  • Jose Flores, 10
  • Tess Mata, 10
  • Amerie Jo Garza, 10
  • Jayce Luevanos, 10
  • Jailah Nicole Silguero, 10
  • Miranda Mathis, 11
  • Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10
  • Jackie Cazares, 10
  • Ellie Garcia, 10
  • Alithia Ramirez, 10
  • Rojelio Torres, 10 
  • Makenna Lee Elrod, 10
  • Nevaeh Bravo, 10
  • Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, 10
  • Eliahana ‘Elijah’ Cruz Torres, 10
  • Layla Salazar, 10

God bless you all!

Lilacia Park

I have to smell the lilacs in May. It reminds me of Mom and Dad. After living in Downers Grove for over 30 years, I had no idea that I could smell the flowers at a historical park in Lombard, a neighboring suburb, only 15 minutes away. A friend had posted about her field trip to Lilacia Park on Facebook so I took a morning trip there last Sunday. It was the perfect day for the weather and photographs. A beautiful walk! Lilacia Park, an 8.5-acre garden, is located at 150 South Park Avenue, Lombard, Illinois. Yes, I could smell the lilacs but I didn’t think about the past, but the elegance of the moment.

Lilacia Park is aworld-renown horticultural showcase that features over 700 lilacs and 35,000 tulips annually. In 2019, the park was named to the National Register of Historic Places for its significant contribution to horticultural history in the United States. Lilacia Park is most recognized for being home to Lombard Lilac Time, a blooming festival happening during the first two weeks of May. Col. William Plum and his wife Helen Maria Williams Plum traveled to Chicago in 1869, where he wanted to practice, but also investigated areas outside of the city. One was the new village of Lombard which had been known as Babcock Grove.

He purchased land on the corner of Park and Maple. The estate would eventually be known as Lilacia, the Latin term for lilac. The couple had taken a tour to France and visited the famous gardens of Victor Lemoine where they fell in love with the lilacs. They bought the first two after touring the Arboretum. Helen passed away in 1924 and the Colonel lost interest in the estate. He tried to sell it to Joy Morton. It was Morton that told the Colonel that the collection had become so much a part of Lombard that they should remain there, and not at Thornhill Farm, now known as the Morton Arboretum. The Colonel passed away in 1927 and in his will, he dedicates the gardens to Lombard requesting it to become a public park. The home was used as a small library but was demolished when a new library opened in 1963, still dedicated to Helen Plum.

The park is open all year. Lilacia Park hosts many special events each year, including the Mutt Strut Annual 5K & 1-Mile, Movies & Concerts in the Park, Jingle Bell Jubilee, Holiday Lights, and more. Host your wedding at Lilacia Park!

Chicagoland’s Sam Goody and Camelot music.

After moving to Waukegan in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, I remember it was about playing Billy Joel, The Stranger album over and over again. It was also about Faces, released in 1980, the tenth studio album for Earth, Wind and Fire. It was about Thriller, the album, by Michael Jackson in 1982 and Thriller, the song played in every local disco at the time. Most of the disco floors were blocks of color. There was one at Greenleaf and Washington in Gurnee and another in a plaza on Washington where I remember the colored floors. Then, there was Mirage by Fleetwood Mac, released in 1982. But I still played my 60’s and 70’s classics which included Band on the Run by Paul McCarthty and All things Must Pass by George Harrison. I shopped at Lakehurst Mall which included a Sam Goody shop as well as a Camelot music. I played piano and found that Camelot was a good place for sheet music.

Sam Goody was a music and entertainment retailer in the United States and United Kingdom, operated by The Musicland Group inc. Sam “Goody” Gutowitz opened a small record shop in New York. Though he had sales at his store, he truly was known for mail order of discount records and at the time in the 1950’s college students loved him. In 1978, the company was acquired by the American Can Company (later renamed Primerica), the owners of Minneapolis-based Musicland,[ Goody’s rival] Sam Goody continued to grow through both acquisitions and organic growth, including the launch of its website. It was purchased by Best Buy in 2000, sold to Sun Capital in 2003, and filed for bankruptcy in 2006 closing most of its stores.

Camelot was one of the largest retailers in the United States. It was founded in 1956 by two brothers, Paul and Robert David in Ohio and they had two shops which included Camelot music and the wall. The Wall was best known for its trademark “Lifetime Music Guarantee”, which offered free replacements for cassettes and CDs that had been damaged in any way. In some Camelot stores, you could step on a numbered floor circle triggering an audio mechanism. You could here a list of 20 hit tunes. At 70 years of age, David sold the company in 1993 to Investcorp. In 1998, the company owned 455 stores in 37 states. That same year, Camelot was bought by Trans World Entertainment including the Wall locations as well.

Nurses…. Our Heroes

By Caryl Clem

Nurses are anchors in the medical field, monitoring patient care alongside doctors working long demanding shifts.  I don’t know anyone whose life has not been saved or improved by adequate medical care. As essential as nurses are, it took Congress 21 years to award them the recognition they deserved after it was first proposed.

Congress in 1953 was asked to consider a National Nurse Week during Eisenhower.  In 1974 a National Nurse Week was put on the calendar under Nixon to begin on May 6 and end on Florence Nightingales birthday, May 12. Florence left her home in Britain to attend the needs of soldiers during the Crimean War. Legendary stories about the “Lady with the Lamp” recall her career changing achievements in nursing education.  She recruited the first female nursing crew shipped to the hospital where the water was contaminated, patients lay in their own feces, and food was rationed. She enforced cleaning standards that cut the death rate by 66%.  Past history haunts us today as another part of that territory is under siege today with similar conditions.

Nurses perform with flawless skill and infinite passion holding a patients hand during their last minutes or handing a newborn to the waiting Mother.  Nurses are mental giants, focused with no breaks during long hours of surgery. Nurses help you mentally face the hardest decisions in life patiently answering questions and guiding you to find truthful real answers. There is no room for error on the job or a place to hide on a bad hair day. Nurses have formidable endurance. Nurses are miracles in human form. During the fatal passing of loved ones, nurses felt like angels guiding me through my grief.

Like medical field police as nurses guard and attend patients in every room and hallway  but their job has a higher risk for INJURY than law enforcement policeman in most states according to an article published on September 11, 2017 in the Washington Post. One example, a man in South Carolina attacked 14 nurses while undergoing treatment, and a Louisiana nurse died trying to pull an attacker off a fellow nurse.  The danger level has kept increasing and a sign is posted in a Chicago Hospital, Do Not Assault, We Are Here To Help published in USA Today, Jan 10, 2022. The American Nurses Association runs annual conferences to discuss how to address growing violence in their workplace. Webmd.com on March 18, 2021 On The Front Lines: Violence Against Nurses on the Rise covers the tragic scope of this issue.

The scope of the nursing field and expanded licensing options proves  nursing care is critical for healing. To keep nursing a desirable career, they need our support. Violence in their workplace is unacceptable.  THANK YOU to all of the nurses who are just a heartbeat away when we need them. THANK YOU for hanging in there when too many have forgotten the honor you deserve.  I hope the nurse uniform for the future isn’t a space suit with a helmet.

Reflections on Teacher Appreciation

By Caryl Clem

Last week, I passed the grade school with signs proclaiming. “Teacher Appreciation Week, We Love You” I instantly blessed the teachers in my life with a smile. Further down the street, passing the high school ignites a memory of students pushing through crowded hallways. My heart skipped a beat by memories of my shy teenage years guided by inspiring teachers. The middle school blocks from my house has a sign shouting out teacher appreciation on their front lawn. Minutes later, I pull into the medical center ready for my health checkup.

As I sat reviewing my life as my doctor updated my records, he surprisingly commented, “How were those years teaching, what did you take away?” I sensed his time was precious and my lifetime passion needed a condensed answer. I blurted out, “More rewarding than I thought possible. Every year deepened and renewed my desire to teach.  Now when I meet former students and hear their success stories,  it proves positive reinforcement works ” Then I said,” No matter who you are, you want to be feel confident with who you are and can be. Teachers find ways for students to make it and feel okay.”

A few minutes later after more notes I asked my doctor, “How are your kids doing?” He told me that his daughter as a freshman was considering education in the same field as my past. I reassured him, “The paper work can seem overwhelming but the spectrum of watching a student mature is worth every minute and hour.” He looked at me and said, “Paperwork, you have no idea how much paperwork is attached to my job, any job the government regulates. My daughter knows it will be a demanding job. I think a teacher in her past has inspired her. I feel this will be the right path for her. “

As I drove home I sent a blessing skyward that his daughter reaches her dreams. I privately thought: I was the product of a journey over a mountain range teachers. To all those who dream of being teachers, please continue the education cycle. The future is shaped by your efforts, talent and dedication. For all those who have kept the education system working, “Thank You” for continuing to prove no obstacle can stop a willing mind from learning. Teachers attach the promise of hope and faith that make any lesson meaning full for a lifetime.

Tree top house

As a tribute to teachers, I could not take my eyes off of the best early pre-school television series on WGN where studio children acted as characters. The show began with Ms Mary Jane Clark presiding over a forest setting and the children would actually climb up to the tree top house at the end of show. Ms. Clark and her friend Mr. Widgin, a marionette, hosted the show from 1960-1962. This was live TV. Sometimes a stage was set with props including fake trees, and houses but no costumes and children moved with little rehearsal from places in the story. They told stories, sang songs and did craft projects. And she really talked to the children. Children seemed a little nervous but the cameramen helped if there was a problem according to sources. There really wasn’t a tree top house, above, it was located on another set and on the ground which may have been confusing for kids. It became even more successful largely to the gifts and grace of another vivid young performer and teacher, Mrs. Anita Kleever at WGN-TV in 1963 who hosted the story of Hansel and Gretel and won the Peabody Award.

Mary Jane Clark was born in Chicago in 1932 and had lived in River Forest as well as Oakbrook. She studied at Northwestern majoring in journalism and worked at American Airlines as a stewardess. She became Mary Jane Clark Dloughy in 1955. She recorded many commercials for WGN especially the Breck Girl and in the late 1960’s, she started her own employment business for women. She retired from her management company in 1980 and passed away in 2007.

Treetop House also holds the distinction of being the first Chicago children’s show to have a African-American host- Tasha Johnson. In 1970, Tasha Johnson hosted Tree Top House and in color. One copy of the Chicago Daily TV week with a beautiful picture of Tree Top House is available for purchase. I am not seller of the paper but I like to give credit to any picture online.

Happy Mother’s Day, Beautiful

That’s what I said to my Mom in a card when I was a child. Strangely enough, a kindergarten student calls me “Beautiful” everyday. I think she needs glasses. On the cover of the cards displayed, my own painted artwork with Mom and a basket of candy. It should have been for Easter. My talent in writing was more than I expected at that young age. Mother, Mother, I’ll help and stay until the day you pass away. I’ll make you happy all through the year with kisses hugs and wonderful cheers. I don’t know about the hugs and cheers but I did stay with her until she passed away in 2001. Though my card was printed in block print, I did know cursive and signed it Love, Karla. Mom told me that most of my cards were signed, Love, Karla Korff which she always loved. As far as gifts for Mom, she was not a breakfast in bed lover. She did like breakfast at Denny’s in Calumet City when we lived in Dolton. But dinner was her favorite, choosing red snapper at the Green Shingle in Harvey,Chuck Cavalinnis in Dolton or the Flame in Country Side.

Back in the late 1990’s I found another card in a treasured box that says For Mom with our love and appreciation on Mother’s Day. And I know why I kept it. It was signed by both children in their best cursive. Their Dad probably bought it and for them to do something together was quite unique. I did like the beautiful bow and especially the line that says how thankful they were for my faith to help get them through difficult times which I still try to do today by responding to their phone calls and text messages. Though I have learned that it is not just my faith in them but my steady faith in God. Some of my favorite gifts have been fresh flowers for the dining room table, and a candle from my daughter as well as Lindahl chocolate. My son is known for bottled water since he works for Hinckleys, teas and he knows I love my Starbucks. Jamesons for a filet mignon in Downers Grove is my favorite for dinner but there have been many years spent having breakfast and lunch at Stevens in Woodridge.

And as I write and read this again; it is not about vacations or the most expensive gift, it is truly the love and encouragement we give to each other every day until we are able to call heaven our new home.

Happy Mother’s Day to all that celebrate with kisses, hugs, and wonderful cheers.