Honoring black history

By Caryl Clem:

Chicago has been the front stage for introducing life changing famous black trail blazers. The first street in a major city to be named after a black women civil rights activist and journalist, Ida B. Wells was dedicated on February 11, 2019.  The last street change was done in 1968 to honor Martin Luther King.  In the magazine, “ Make It Better” February 2019 edition, on the list of what to do in Chicago is the new exhibit at the Museum entitled, “Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade 1808-1865 featuring free Saturdays February 9.16, and 23.  Celebrating Black History Month includes recognizing the dynamic black women leaders who make a difference in Chicago. Last year, this magazine did a feature article describing 42 influential black women in Chicago in all career fields.

Since artistic expression is a major tourist attraction for Chicago, several noteworthy black women are leading the way.  Currently, the Deputy Director of Development at Chicago’s Contemporary Art Museum is Gwendolyn Perry Davis. Last year, she promoted an exhibit of Howardena  Pindell, a black women pioneer in abstract art. Ms. Pindell is famous for her techniques working with circles. The interview begins with this quote, “All the pieces … are an attempt to unite my mind again, to mend the rupture.”—Howardena Pindell.  She was troubled as a child to notice the  red circles drawn beneath the dishes her family ate on when dining out on vacation trips. During this interview, titled Controlled Chaos by Jessica Lanay, Ms. Pindell explains why she wanted to change how circles influenced her life.

Perri L. Irmer is the President  & CEO of DuSable Museum of African-American History, a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate. Ms.Irmer stated in the magazine article, “The DuSable Museum is elevating the often hidden histories of Chicagoans such as Jean Baptiste Point DuSable — the Haitian immigrant who founded our city — military leaders, educators, and other black Chicagoan’s whose contributions are illustrative of black accomplishment throughout society.”

The political landscape of Chicago has been shaped by twenty famous black women and men. A comprehensive description covering their various contributions from Jesse White, Chief Jude Timothy Evana, Barrack Obama and Emil Jones, Jr. a Kimberly Foxx, Toni Preckwinkle to name a few examples in Chicago Defender’s Top 20 Most Influential Political Figures by Mary L. Datcher, Managing Editor for Chicago Defender.

If you want to explore a well-known black neighborhood gathering place, take a trip to a non-profit café with a welcoming atmosphere that encourages conversation and friendship, Kusanya Café 825 W. 69th Street  Chicago  773-675-4758.  In Englewood, a rustic chic coffee shop nestled inside a 100 year old building, surrounded by the art work of local artists, it is a haven offering a safe place to meet and enjoy life.

As described in an article describing the café,” Kusanya is home to a variety of free, community-driven arts, culture, and educational events, including Saturday morning yoga, a farmers market on the first and third Wednesdays of each month from 4-6 p.m., and an open mic on second Saturdays featuring storytellers from around the neighborhood and across the city.”

The tapestry of Chicago life has been made richer in texture by its black men and women. Chicago offers many opportunities to celebrate Black History in Chicago.

My Valentine

By Caryl Clem: (Wedding photo 70 years ago)

Sharing life with you carries no expiration date

To the contrary, time spent deepens how we relate

Your smile, your laugh, company and loving embrace

Bring me into a new realm, boundary free space

 

Life is a daily adventure to explore

With you, feeling stronger, secure

Ready to discover a rewarding future.

Beside you, positive feelings magnify

Enjoying life with you regains intensity

Rewarding moments too many to measure.

 

You listen when I need your silence

When I can’t speak, you’re my voice

In any weather, you’re my constant choice

To uncover with my lover, reasons to rejoice.

 

You’re a mix of mystery and stability

Companion, partner, we share cajolery

As we hold hands and shoot for the stars

Renewing zest for life by creating loving memoirs.

Food for thought

For Baby Boomers and their parents, the kitchen was the most visited room in the house. At the kitchen table, everyone gathered most evenings from 5-7 to have dinner together and it wasn’t a holiday either.

Dinner time could be the only time of day the entire family could discuss daily events and it was not just an extra-curricular activity, it was a required family moment. This was a sacred time and missing it was not an option. My dinner time was always 6pm; not a minute before or after. If I was blocks away from my home, a cell phone alarm was not available to remind me when to return for dinner.  On a warm summers evening or cold day in winter, my mother’s outdoor voice could be heard for blocks announcing that the dinner hour was approaching. A few children would hear the distant sounds of a dinner bell and you had better run in its direction.

Some were not reminded by their Mom or Dad screaming from the household porch or clanging the bell but were to show up at exactly the designated hour because that hour never changed regardless of illness or circumstances beyond control. There were serious consequences if arriving late or not at all.

Since most Moms were home, dinner time was their shining moment; one of Mom’s many talents along with organizing their children’s day and housekeeping. This was where they excelled at preparing mouthwatering recipes. Many meals followed a weekly plan that included special dinners on specific nights like Spagetti Tuesday and Meatloaf Thursday.

Meals were not popped in the microwave with help from Stouffers family size box. Jack’s Frozen Pizza and Swansons TV  Dinners was an exception only if Mom was bedridden. Then the crock pot started to make its appearance.

Making homemade dinners in the 1980’s/ 1990’s, for a short time I was home making an historic meat loaf, pork chops with mushroom and cheddar cheese sauce and all day long spaghetti sauce but then I turned to the crockpot. Crockpot dinners included a variety of stews along with a few Hamburger helper meals thrown in.

Today it is the Instant Pot. My 31 year old son bought me one last year for Mothers Day making all day stews and even desserts in less than an hour. I must say it is the best

But why not relive family mealtime memories together by pulling out the oil-stained metal recipe box and leaf through the crinkled notecards along with yellowed newspaper articles of recipes long ago.

You may even find the recipe you were so proud when you asked Mom to contribute her best creation to be published in the PTA recipe book along with your friends. That contribution had made you a star and if she had won any ribbons, it would be a wonderful story to share with each other as you prepare. If you look closely behind the recipe box on the shelf, the book will be there, I guarantee it.

Chicago Treasure

A new hardcover book of photography, illustrations, poetry, and prose that celebrates inclusion and the boundless creativity of children.

Picture a place where any kid can dive into a storybook and become the main character, step into a painting at a museum for a closer look, or ride a bear to Soldier Field. By digitally imposing photographs of diverse Chicago children into fairy tale illustrations, classic works of art, and urban photography, Chicago Treasure creates a whimsical world as rich as a child’s imagination.

In the first section, Just Imagine, starry-eyed youngsters become the heroes of their favorite fairy tales, folk tales, and nursery rhymes brought to life through Rich Green’s lush illustrations. Clever original poems and playful newspaper articles from the Chicago Pretender tell fresh, condensed versions of classic stories, often through a contemporary, Chicago-centric lens. Beloved gems like Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Three Little Pigs, and Peter Pan are interspersed with lesser known tales like Tommy Tucker, Pear Blossom and the Dragon, and Polly Put the Kettle On.

In the second section, Now Showing, photographs of contemporary kids are digitally placed in paintings by Norman Rockwell, Edward Hopper, Grant Wood, Paul Gustave Fischer, Jean Beraud, Gustave Caillebotte, and others. Some of the expressive children examine their odd new locales with inquisitive delight. Others seem right at home in their old-fashioned, brush-stroked surroundings.

In the final section, Sightings, Chicago youth, often accompanied by exotic animal sidekicks, explore their city’s cultural landmarks in bold ways that may not be possible in the boring confines of reality. A tiny tot triumphantly rounds third base at Wrigley Field. A group of daring children jump the rising State Street Bridge while riding on the backs of African impalas. Two young ladies stroll through Chinatown with their pet tiger on a leash. Brief text accompanying each amusing image provides readers with key information about the history of Chicago’s most visited places.

The children photographed for Chicago Treasure are as diverse as Chicago itself, with the theme of inclusion prevalent throughout. Every child, regardless of ability, ethnicity, gender, or age is free to see themselves take on great roles in literature and art or let their imagination run wild by exploring iconic Chicago scenes. While youth from all walks of life, ranging in age from babies to teenagers, populate Chicago Treasure, many are students at the Judy and Ray McCaskey Preschool at the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Disabled. In the introduction and afterthoughts, photographer and author Larry Broutman shares some of his most transformative moments with these incredible kids, along with behind-the-scenes photographs and poetry inspired by these touching interactions.

All author proceeds are donated to the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Disabled, and Access Living, Chicago-based nonprofit service agencies.

This innovative book truly puts young people at the center of the adventure.

Title: Chicago Treasure 
Authors: Larry Broutman, Rich Green, and John Rabias 
ISBN: 978-1-893121-79-9 
Imprint: Lake Claremont Press: A Chicago Joint, an imprint of Everything Goes Media, LLC (www.everythinggoesmedia.com) 
Categories: Children / Fairy-tales / Folk Tales / Photography / Illustrations / Poetry / Fine Art 
Price: $35 
Page Count: 168 pp. 
Pub Date: March 1, 2019 
Format: Hardcover, 9.25″ x 10.25″ 
Availability: Chicago Treasure is available online at Amazon.com, Bn.com, and http://www.everythinggoesmedia.com. It’s available 
wholesale from Ingram. Please request from your local bookstore, gift shop, or library

Everything Goes Media / Lake Claremont Press 
www.everythinggoesmedia.com 
With twenty-five years of experience and a love for books and small-scale enterprise, knowledgeable authors with passion projects, and connecting with readers, we are an independent book publisher forging our own path within the industry establishment. Our books have an initial print run of 2,000 to 10,000, and often reprint. We specialize in choosing nonfiction books for particular audiences, supporting authors’ goals, public outreach, and creative sales and marketing. Our imprints include Everything Goes Media (business, gift, hobby, and lifestyle books), Lake Claremont Press (Chicago and Chicago history titles), Lake Claremont Press: A Chicago Joint (distribution for nonfiction Chicago books), and S. Woodhouse Books (ideas, 
history, science, trends, and current events titles)

Larry Broutman 
Since the 1990s, Larry Broutman has traveled the world over to capture the perfect photograph and has found his hometown of Chicago to have a plethora of visual inspiration. Broutman has been interviewed by high-profile television programs, radio shows, newspapers, and art magazines to discuss his critically-acclaimed photography books Chicago Eternal, Chicago Monumental, and Chicago Unleashed. Chicago Monumental has won a Midwest Book Award for best interior design and an IPPY (Independent Publisher) Award in the Great Lakes Nonfiction category. His photography projects include work with Lincoln Park Zoo, Africa Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Children’s Memorial Hospital Clinic, and The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Broutman was a finalist in Africa Geographic magazine’s Photographer of the Year contest. Broutman attended MIT where he received his S.B., S.M., and doctorate degree in the field of Materials Engineering and Science in 1963. Specializing in Polymer Engineering and Science and Composite Materials, Broutman has vast experience writing college textbooks, reference books, and technical articles. In fact, he was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame.

Rich Green 
Illustrator Rich Green is a former Disney intern, a computer graphics professional, and the illustrator of several popular children’s books. Although he works mostly digitally, he also enjoys putting pencil to paper and brush to paint. His artworks can be found in regional galleries. Rich lives in Joliet, Illinois, with his faithful dog, Annie. 

John Rabias 

Teacher and magician John Rabias works in digital illustration and post-production imaging and has taught computer 
graphics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for over twenty years. When not working on screen, John paints in oil. He lives in Chicago with his Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster

It is a wonderful school

“My whole life has been in education,”  I said in conversation with the principal at Elizabeth Ide School a few days ago. And so I begin to reminisce.

This all began over 50 years ago for me; babysitting, reading books, and playing with the neighborhood toddlers at the age of 12. Over 40 years ago, I began teaching high school for ten years and then began teaching junior high at a special education alternative school. I would have stayed, but the money wasn’t the best for putting two children through college.

For 10,000 dollars more, I was offered an administrative position at a for-profit college which I took. My children could take advantage of tuition reimbursement. But that school had a massive, corporate lay off which I was included. Like a car salesman being picked up at another dealership, I was picked up by another school. Finally, the school or should I say company, closed for good. Eventually, it was agreed upon in my family that applying for a teacher assistant or becoming a substitute would be the best choice.Those positions are always in demand.

So I subbed and assisted in one of the more highly-acclaimed and well-paid districts in Naperville. I saw some excellent teaching. I saw some very poor instruction of teachers  lecturing to a classroom; constantly glancing at their cell phone. I heard a teacher call a student a jerk.

I had applied to a variety of schools at the time and I always loved the kindergarten as well as the early, primary grades. The day after I had been hired at Elizabeth Ide School, grades kindergarten through second in Darien, it was God’s gift that one who knew my employment struggle and was a personal job reference revealed that his children went to the school. I had no idea.

“It is a wonderful school,”  he said. I also found out that another friend was employed for over 30 years within the same district…..Center Cass School District 66, though she was at another school that had closed. “The culture is so competent and caring there,  she said. At the time, I did not realize her school was part of the same district.

After assisting almost two years at the school, it truly is a wonderful school! I don’t think I have ever seen a teacher who is not totally focused on expressing learning opportunities for their students. They are constantly on in a positive light. They are engaged in their children’s needs from the time they arrive in the morning until they leave at night. They are brilliant at executing ideas to help students grow. They know exactly how to help build amazing futures for them.

Throughout the entire district, the teachers love their job, but most of all, they love their students with a passion unequal to most school environments that I have observed.  Administration,assistants and support staff also intensely work, side by side, to demonstrate their love and pride for the students.

Currently, the district teachers are fighting for a fair contract. They have been without a contract since August 2018. According to CCEA Inspires, if the Board accepts the teachers proposal, no new taxes will affect the community as well as no program cuts.

Then why????

Why aren’t we assuring that the best educators remain in the district? In the process, if teachers and staff are able to thrive, we are also guaranteeing that the value of our home and village is recognized as one of the most promising as far as education excellence. Our own children will want to raise their families here.

Even if present home owners taxes were increased, the advantages far outweigh the immediate circumstances. As a homeowner of over 30 years in a neighboring Downers Grove school district, I have voted yes to numerous referendums and supported teacher strikes while watching my property value almost double.

Maybe the Board just doesn’t realize how valuable their teachers really are. Maybe all I can do is try to share my experience and help them re-examine the teachers proposals.

Ultimately, you can help too. If you are a member of the community or just interested in supporting the teachers at Center Cass School District 66, the Board of Education is providing an Informational Session next week for parents and friends to learn more.

Please check out the Center Cass website. The teachers need your attention and time is running out.

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We share our memories of the Chicago blizzard: January 26th 1967

The following describes my experiences along with friends, family and acquaintances caught in the blizzard in 1967. What about you?

My Mother was so grateful we had just has the furnace filled with oil prior to the blizzard since oil trucks could not get through!”

Many wore professional mountain snow shoes to get through the streets.

It took my father what was usually a 15 minute ride from work in his car, two and a half hours to get home because the cars were not moving at all.

We played tackle football games a lot and my Mom sent me to the A&P pulling a sled to pick up groceries. The store shelves were pretty empty and I kept tipping the sled on the way home”

My friends Dad was stuck at his office for 2 days.” All he wanted to do was take a bath when he got home and sleep.”

“My aunt grabbed a bus after getting off the Illinois Central railroad. It was a long wait for the bus and when she finally got on, the bus only made it 2 blocks but couldn’t get past the snow drifts. She had to walk the rest of the way home.”

“I laid down in the snow; made snow angels and felt like owned the world.”

“Made over $40 dollars shoveling.”

“My Dad got stuck downtown and ended up hitching a ride home from a Chicago Police Officer.”

I was a newlywed of just 1 month — we were happily snowed in!

I was a Jr. in High School. I drove that day because I was taking finals. It took me over 3 hours to get home. Normally less than 20 minutes. My dad was furious with me…like I knew this was going to happen. School was closed for a whole week.

My Mom was really tiny and she got planted in the snow.  It took several neighbors to get her out.

The Blizzard of 1967 trapped people in cars and public transportation was nonexistent. Many had abandoned vehicles and walked to gas stations, churches and schools to spend Thursday night, January 26th.  By Friday, the city was a standstill. The snow had stopped at 10am with a total of 23 inches, the greatest snowfall in Chicago’s history.

In the city of Chicago 20,000 cars and 1,100 CTA buses were stranded in the snow. People walked to stores to clear the shelves of bread and mild.  Helicopters were used to deliver medical supplies to hospitals and food and blankets to those stranded. Expectant mothers were taken to hospitals by sled, bulldozer and snow plows. Looting became a problem on the west and south sides of the city. All houses were heated by oil added to the furnaces. Oil trucks could not get access to buildings.

Because of high winds, drifting could be over 10 feet in places which included front doors and garages. Many had died from trying to shovel the snow. For the first few days, children were sent to stores for supplies with sleds and snow shoes to pick up food. Many of the stores shelves were empty.

By Saturday the 28th, Chicago was beginning to dig out. The city sent a workforce of 2,500 people with 500 pieces of equipment and other states also sent heavy equipment to help with the snow removal. Snow was hauled and dumped into the Chicago river. O’Hare finally opened around midnight on Monday. Schools did not re-open until Tuesday.

 

Barbie turns 60 in 2019?

Early one evening, I sat at the dinette table in the house I grew up.  I remember as if it were yesterday!  A south side of Chicago neighborhood during the month of late November in 1961 quietly going through the infamous Sears wish book. Every child, at that time, was probably doing exactly the same. It took hours but I wanted to be sure to pick out the gifts for Santa to deliver. I actually had to cut a picture of them out for my Mom. It was one magazine I never found boring. I finally found her with a black and white striped swimsuit and black hair…not the blonde. I was told to pick out a case too, of course, I chose a large black one so I could collect a lot of future clothes. And through the short years ahead, I did collect store bought dresses and shoes as well as Grandma made clothes for the Barbie family.

For future birthdays and holidays, I was also gifted with the Barbie corrugated cardboard dream house,(took hours for my father to put together) the hair salon (also of corrugated cardboard), a pink plastic convertible, Ken, his own case, heaven forbid, and Pepper, her own case who was Tammy’s little sister. I have no idea who Tammy was..not a Mattel family member… but made by Ideal. No, I did not have a Barbie camper…many have asked.

My girlfriend and I even created a wedding reception and banquet hall tables that we designed using shot glasses from my father’s bar and sent pictures to Mattel. We didn’t win any prizes or receive a response. But, today, I still have the case for Barbie, some ratty clothes, Ken who is sickly bald, still wearing one his original moth eaten collegiate sweaters. Strangely, Pepper looks pretty nice in her case and party dress.  But Barbie,my doll, my first, has been missing for years.

In the 1990’s, my daughter liked the cartoon character Barbies that included Anastasia Barbie being her favorite. She also loved Princess Jasmine and Pocahontas. The most important kid activity for her was buying and dressing up her dolls. Holiday Barbie dolls came out in 1988. Probably the first Holiday Barbie dolls  are valued as much as 750 dollars. still in the box. We actually have a Celebration Barbie for the year 2000 and a Victorian Christmas Barbie on skates.

Today, Barbie still has a pink convertible and dream house which has been remodeled (more than one story).  One of my kindergarten students was asking Santa for a Barbies careers doll as a baby doctor and a camper. You can also become a baby nurse and drive around in a Care Clinic van. Actually, it is good to establish the interests of little ones in future careers and vocations early on. You can choose to be a Barbie career chef, bookkeeper and there is actually a Barbie for president.

The Barbie doll was invented in March of 1959 by Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel, whose own daughter was named Barbara. For almost being sixty years old, she is definitely better looking than ever before.  Without the slanty eyes, she is completely diverse in color and size. She can be petite or tall if she chooses. She can even be granted magical powers by a fairy. There are even work out Barbies…made to move dolls. And Ken..two years younger than Barbie…. is quite the fashionista with a variety of clothing styles to match his varied sports interests. Maybe that is the key in turning 60 years of age; still vibrant, young, successful, popular and healthy all these years. Maybe we all should take a lesson from Barbie and her friends at Mattel.

My student did get the Barbie camper….the life size one you drive yourself. Wow..just what I always wanted.

 

 

Canfield soda along with potato chips: Jays, of course

I googled his shop, my fathers, Glass Sales and Service shop, at 6755 South Chicago Avenue. It looked like it had been torn down. But across the street the decrepit remains of Canfield Soda still stood; a company that also progressed along with my Dad. Though I am not sure the details, my Dad did business with AJ canfield back in day always bringing home free cans of 50/50/ a mixture of grape and lime.

Many were introduced to soda by drinking ginger ale, inspired from Canada, and 50/50. The older Canfield was a railroad worker, prior to beginning the company in 1927, with his son who was known as AJ. AJ was 25 years old when he took over the company and they expanded to another facility at 89th street in Chicago. Canfield’s Chocolate Diet Fudge soda was created in 1972 and sold over 200 million cans. In 1995, the A.J. Canfield Company was sold though you can still purchase both sodas at Marianos. AJ passed away at the age of 84 in 2000.

Jays Foods was also founded in 1927 with the beginnings of Leonard Japp Sr selling pretzels from his truck. Eugenia, Mrs Japp, had a potato chip recipe and Leonard along with a partner began selling Mrs. Japps Potato Chips. However, after World War II, that was changed since the name Jap created a negative connotation. The chips were changed to Jays Potato Chips while the company became Jays Foods. Jays was sold to Borden but acquired back to the Japp family in 1994 and sold again to a Chicago equity firm and another snack company. Finally, the company filed bankruptcy in 2007 and the Chicago plant was closed but Snyder’s-Lance continues to manufacture and distribute the product.

Japp died in 2000 at ninety-six and according to South Side Weekly, Al Capone encouraged Japp to open factories and mass produce his snacks. My father commented that the mob, during the 1930’s, truly stepped in to help small, creative business starting out in Chicago after the depression. I think he did some work for them though he would never share.

The chips were produced by state of the art machines at the plant on 99th Street and Cottage Grove, opened in the mid 1950s. According to Made in Chicago Museum, Japp offered profit sharing to employees, daily lunches and even served lunches to neighborhood kids.

Most grocery stores still stock Jays and Canfields, but are they the same? Canfield bottles compared to cans? Jays was actually sold in large tins in the fifties and today you can buy vintage potato chip tins of all types on Ebay….including Jays. Or trade yours in for a price.

I was never a consistent lover of soda or potato chips over the years but if it was a home grown Chicago business, you had to buy and love them.

 

 

 

Family time enriched by card and board games

By Caryl Clem:

High spirits evident by laughter and smiles occur the moment you know you have won a game!  Lady Luck was an honored guest by my side anytime I challenged any family member to Gin Rummy, Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess, or Cribbage.  The thrill of risks combined with skill made long winter days fly by as we played taking chances, placing bets, enthusiastically shouting out our feelings. Family gatherings today have many choices blending old game allure with new approaches and situations.

Fascination with trains is evident by train themed exposition shows during the winter. Honoring this American preference is the Days of Wonder brand, Ticket to Ride.  Planning and building a railroad across America from the first showing in 2004, its’ popularity has remained constant. Expanding on the original version, A Ticket to Ride, Europe covers major cities in Europe.  In 2018, A Ticket to Ride, New York City premiered. The rules fold out like a travel brochure, and taxis replace trains as transportation.

For fans of mystery and suspense, Castle Panic challenges the players to defeat the monsters surrounding the castle.  For former lovers of Clue, an updated  card game has come out Codenames (2015) publisher Vlaada Chvatil involving secret agents. Deciphering clues is based on word association experience, young teens on up will enjoy this game.

Several popular strategy games are available for young adults. Highly recommended with millions sold is The Settlers of Catan Mayfair Games (1996) designed by a German Klaus Teuber where players compete to form a successful colony.  A Worldwide Tournament is held every two years for serious game players.  Pandemic (2008) by Matt Leacock involves a theme of survival as players strive to keep cities safe from spreading diseases and epidemics.  A tabletop gaming series about survival by the same creator includes Forbidden Island (2010) Forbidden Desert (2013) Forbidden Sky (2018). Lovers of Star Trek can enjoy the recent release of New Frontiers by Rio Grande Games engaging players building their own space empire. Scythe (2016) entertains the question, How to conquer Europe without warfare?

As the game horizon has expanded, a new dimension has emerged, teamwork.  Terraforming  Mars (2016) by Jacob Fryxelius  presents the dilemma of trying to survive on the red planet that cannot support life. Players on Mars must change it into a green planet. Strategy requires working together to find a solution, collaboration.  Check newer versions of games for collaboration.

No matter what the weather, playing games will add rays of sunshine from smiles shared while relishing the festivity.  A painless way to build learning skills and practice social interaction, bring on the game afternoon or night!

Rush Street Chicago: Yesterday and today

My aunt always told me that my grandmother Amelia owned part of Rush Street in the early 1900’s. She said it was located near the Rush street bridge. Though I had heard this story as a child, wasn’t sure what to ask and my Aunt died in the late 1990’s. Other family members have never confirmed the reality. That was the first time I heard about Rush Street.

It wasn’t until the 70’s and early 1980’s that I heard about Rush with an invitation to go party and drink. This was the Las Vegas of Chicago even more popular in the early years before I was able to drink.  The most popular places I visited was Faces but I probably spent more time on Division Street at the Original Mothers and Butch McGuires, the latter that opened in 1961.

The following describes some of the popular places on Rush; yesterday and today:

Whiskey Go Go is still a nightclub in California and has opened the doors for many including the Doors, Van Halen and Steppenwolf. The first opened in 1958 at the corner of Rush and Chestnut in Chicago.

The Backroom a great jazz and blues venue and probably one of the oldest jazz club that began in the 1960’s. It continued on into the 70’s and 1980’s. Musicians specializing mostly in jazz but also touching on soul, funk, R&B and blues, play on an elevated stage on the east side of the room and under a most impressive sculpture created from brass horns, to match the column-like structure that looks like a coatrack made of horns near the southeast corner of the room.

The Happy Medium  was built in 1960, located at Rush and Delaware, which was a combination theater and disco. Helen Reddy actually stared at the club. The owners, George and Oscar Marienthal, also owned Mister Kellys, also on Rush and the London House. The London house opened downtown Chicago in 1946 and created the popularity of jazz musicians including Ramsey Lewis.

Punchinellos was a theatre bar and again celebrities such as Barry Manilow and Della Reese would frequent the bar.

Mister Kellys was launched in 1956 and was truly the leading example of night club celebrity elegance, combining music with comedy, which included the beginnings of Bill Cosby, Bette Midler, Woody Allen and Barbra Steisand. Mr. Kellys was restaurant that also featured the best steak and their famous green goddess salad.

Rush up another bar where many talk of meeting Todd Rundgren and Frank Zappa.

Faces opened in the early 1970’s and you could become a member of the club for 50 dollars. I went to Faces a couple of times in the lates 70’s and not sure how I got in, but it was loud though fun for dancing compared to many clubs in Chicago. This was supposedly the best place to meet and greet.

Today,  some of the best bars and restaurants include the following:

Pippins: A great Irish pub with an excellent hotdog, serving from the Downtown Dogs next door, and an extensive beer selection. Pippins has been a part of the Rush Street scene for over 45 years and offers a very authentic Irish experience.

Hugos Frog Bar: Also located in Naperville, Hugos offers excellent mussels and oysters on the half shell including an expansive wine list sharing with the iconic Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse. Gibsons is the first restaurant group to be awarded its own USDA Prime Certification

Tavern on Rush: A great bar and restaurant with a DJ located in the heart of Rush street. They are known for the best calamari and excellent horseshoe bar along with split level seating.

Jellyfish:  Located on the second floor across the street from Hugos and Gibsons, this is a great place for enjoying the cuisines of several countries that include Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. From 3-6pm, you can experience signature cocktails during happy hours.