Go With the Birds

By Caryl Clem

Birdhouses in yards are common throughout Illinois providing homes to the possible 400 species. This month in Chicago, WGNTV Published on April 12, 2022 by Mike Lowe and Kevin Doellman an inspiring story about how spare time during the pandemic for creating a project led to walkers changing course to view the hand painted display.  The article titled, Chicago neighborhood tree filled with colorful hand painted birdhouses is a gift to the street is proof of birdhouse popularity. Beyond the appeal is the need to provide shelter to 25 common birds in this region.

Trailside Museum of Natural History in Cook County sponsors a birdhouse building contest every year. Entries run from March 15 to May 15, 2022. The University of Chicago industrial design course includes a design studio for adobes to provide air circulation and feather comfort. The Southbank riverside park will feature birdhouses designed by University of Chicago students.  Chicago’s Botanic Garden created a bird apartment complex for Purple Martins that fly from South America every spring. A sign in Griggsville Illinois boasts Purple Martins have been credited for consuming 2,000 mosquitos a day. Named, The Purple Martin Capital of the Nation for 30 years from the 1960’s a Purple Martin housing industry flourished in this town run by J.L Wade. A 70 foot condo with 562 apartments dwarfs other pole structures on every street. Famous for their songs and areal flight maneuvers, Purple Martins are a favorite.

I have “regular” bird nest returners in my trees or outdoor light fixtures. I have a determined dove that rebuilds a nest every year over one of my garage beacons. The light pole in my front yard has had several different occupants that ignore the 45 year old maple towering overhead. Obviously, these are signs to provide better housing. Birds are my best friends as they consume annoying, biting insects. Simple birdhouse guidelines encourage birds. Earthy natural colors that blend into the environment are safe for nesting birds that do not want predator birds eating their young. Florescent, metallic, or iridescent paints contain chemicals that can harm birds. Brighter colors in a heavily blooming area attract robust fighter birds. Paint can make the wooden birdhouses more durable. Dark colors hold in the hot summer sun heat and can kill a bird inside. Swallows do not want a perch so an invader has a harder time to gain occupancy.

I believe to help nature maintain a healthy balance means “ Go With The Birds “ ,support them in your yard while enjoying a better solution to insect control than chemical sprays.

Chicago History Museum

The first time I visited the Chicago Historical Society, which is now the Chicago Museum, was the day after the death of John F. Kennedy. It was a field trip planned in advance with friends to celebrate my 9th birthday that my Mom did not want to cancel. After arriving, I remember seeing the bed that Abraham Lincoln died in and also seeing different guns representing the Union and Confederate Armies. It was a somber event, for many of us kept thinking about the irony of this trip after the recent assassination of our President John F. Kennedy who was also shot in the head in on Friday, November 22, 1963. My actual birthday was on the Thursday, the 21st, though we planned to celebrate on Saturday, November 23rd since we were off of school. Taking my own little ones, to the museum in the 1990’s, they, too, were fascinated with the gun collection, and Lincolns bed, but also loved the clothing that Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln wore on the evening of the assassination. We also enjoyed the beautiful historical paintings and dioramas throughout the building. Learning more about the true Chicago Fire was another interest that sparked our attention.

The museum has been located in Lincoln Park since the 1930s at 1601 North Clark Street at the intersection of North Avenue in the Old Town Triangle neighborhood. The CHS adopted the name, Chicago History Museum, in September 2006 for its public presence. Later that year, the museum celebrated a grand reopening, unveiling a dramatic new lobby and redesigned exhibition spaces. Signature exhibitions such as Chicago: Crossroads of America and Sensing Chicago debuted, while an old favorite, Imagining Chicago: The Dioramas, was restored and updated.

Today, the Chicago History Museum, Stephen Burrows, Scotty Piper, Patrick Kelly, Willi Smith, and Barbara Bates—five stories within the folds of fashion. The clothing we wear and the styles we embrace often reveal what we value and what we aspire to, ultimately helping us understand ourselves and the world in which we live. The clothing collection consists of more than 50,000 pieces, ten never-been-exhibited ensembles were selected to tell the remarkable stories of these five designers. Vivian Maier was an extraordinary photographer who took pictures of real life and many on the streets of Chicago. Maier died before her life’s work was shared with the world. She left behind hundreds of prints, 100,000 negatives, and about a thousand rolls of undeveloped film, which were discovered when a collector purchased the contents of her storage lockers.

Remembering Dr. King: 1929–1968 invites visitors to walk through a winding gallery that features over 25 photographs depicting key moments in Dr. King’s work and the Civil Rights movement. And there is much more to the museum, that includes a variety of programs, publications, temporary exhibits, and online resources such as virtual fieldtrips, on-site fieldtrips and you can host an event. The museum offers a great gift shop with wonderful historical and fictional books about the city. You can also purchase kids’ books that offer a solid look at American history. You can buy apparel as well home goods.

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.

Legacy of bookmarks

I was attending a meeting with other assistants and teachers in our southwest suburban school district that contains three schools. As soon as I walked in a mother who now works in the district flags me down with her son beside her who is now in fifth grade. It took me only a brief minute but she said,” Do you remember my son? “I remembered him in kindergarten; a delightful boy who was a joy to work with and now a fan of the Greenbay Packers, like me. “He still uses all the bookmarks you made for him and he nods with pride,” she said.

The bookmarks???? Five years ago, it began….before the pandemic. When I started making bookmarks to celebrate all holidays in our school building. The school hosts kindergarten-2nd grade while the two other schools supported 3rd-5th and 6th -8th.  First, I began making them for the classroom I was in which was usually kindergarten and would try to personalize each with their name. Then, I would create a bookmark of something they enjoyed such as a unicorn which I distinctly remembering how popular. It also depended on the time of year or holiday.

They were three-dimensional in some way whether it be fancy heart stickers for Valentine’s Day or the great snowman with delicate snowflakes for winter break. And everybody usually got their favorite colors if my memory served me well. Sometimes if I was really in the mood, bookmarks would have an original saying such as follow your heart for Valentines Day.

After my first attempts, I would have the occasional student from another class ask if I had a book mark and so it began. I started making more….just in case. And for many that would go on to the next grade, my bookmarks followed. They would see me in the hallway and ask if I was still making them for my current students. I always had extras… given with approval. They knew where to find me. Again, never missing a student who needed that bookmark for their favorite book.

Last year, I did create bookmarks at the end of the year for a first grade class. Each in a plastic bag with a glow worm necklace following pandemic rules. They weren’t impressed. I had lost my touch with few stickers and variety. No, there is a difference in maturity levels in first grade.

I am helping in the kindergarten and have not made one this year. Maybe after the beautiful message from the fifth grader, following my heart and God, my latest bookmark beginnings will celebrate the upcoming holidays with the best snowman art I can create. But again, that is not what they like. It is just creating something handmade which is special to them even if it lacks variety. This is their first year of school and generally they are just more accepting of mistakes; trying our best, forgetting all the rest. Forging ahead with patience and love this Thanksgiving break…….the bookmarks are almost done.

The magic of the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle

One kindergarten student went to the Museum of Science and Industry, loving the baby chicks as her favorite exhibit. I did too and so did my own children. But when I begin another trip in the room with the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle,I am constantly in awe. I am quiet and so overwhelmed by the intricate detail of the amazing workmanship, artistry and beauty every time I visit. Maybe I have missed something again. I always do. But one year, I finally bought a book before the Internet was a resource.

The creation is the ultimate dollhouse/castle donated by Colleen Moore to the museum in 1949. She was a  Hollywood icon and one of the highest paid actresses. She conceived and designed it with about one hundred Hollywood craftsman and designers between the years of 1928 to 1935. She spent about a half a million on the castle. It has toured the US raising over a half a million dollars to give to children’s charities. Currently, the castle has 11 rooms and wonderful stories to go with each room.

The following describes each room and the finishing touches that were fascinating to me and my children:

Kitchen: It was not just the Mother Goose fairy tale murals on the walls. The best thing I liked is the kitchen of the witch from Hansel and Gretel.

Dining Room: The tapestries on the walls are so intricate that you cannot see the stitches at and the silver ware and plates on King Arthurs table are made of gold. So many pieces are over 100 years old.

Cinderella’s Drawing Room: The floor is made from China combined with quartz and jade. There is a beautiful of mural of Cinderella. A grand piano with an illustration inside the top is an instrument I always wanted to play on. I took piano lessons for many years and taught lessons.

Great Hall: On walls, windows and the ceilings there are amazing drawings of several fairy tales. There is a rosewood table that has Cinderella’s slippers on it and the chairs of the Three Bears. Of course, the balusters throughout and the stairs are gold.

Chapel; On the prayer bench is a small bible. The smallest in the world and printed on real type. I always stared at the electric pipe organ with gold pipes and music pours from it. The stained glass windows are actually made with diamonds and emeralds taken from Moore’s brooch.

Library: Is a sea motif in beautiful blue shades. There are pictures describing the classic literature of Gullivers Travels and Robinsoo Caruso. There are over 100 real books in the library many of them handwritten by famous authors.

Princess Bathroom and Bedroom: The bath tub is silver and real water can flow from the dolphins mouths on both sides of the tub. The bed is the same that Sleeping Beauty, my favorite Disney character, slept in. There is also a golden harp instrument that I always wanted to play

Prince’s Bathroom and Bedroom: The bathroom is upstairs with a mirror filled jewels. The bedroom has a huge white bear rug with real mouse teeth that I was always a little afraid.

Attic: This is just like most attics. Things that used to be in other parts of the castle are stored in the attic.

Magic Garden: Another favorite of mine. I loved the cradle that rocked the baby and you could actually see Santa Claus all year round.

Archie forever

Archie teenage comics were popular during my pre-teen years and Veronica Lodge instead of Betty Cooper was always my favorite. When I would grab one and read, they would make me day dream about what it would be like when I started high school in 1969. There was a store called Cozy Corner on the south side of Chicago by South Chicago Hospital where we bought penny candy but there was a store across the street who sold the best selection in magazines and comics. That is where my Archie Andrews and Jughead came from; only costing about 12 cents. Comics were not just titled Archie but Jughead was titled along with Betty and Veronica; having their own issues.Though the hospital is still there and has expanded, the stores are gone.

Riverdale is the fictional small town where the characters grew up and attended Riverdale High. I moved to Dolton in 1971 and Riverdale was a suburb next door…still reading Archie and Archies’s rival Reggie in my teenage years.

Though there was no kissing…it was pure fun and jokes.  Archie drove an old fashioned car convertible from the 1920’s and would occasionally make a call from a phone booth. They would do everything together; bowling, going to the beach, shopping for new clothes.They actually went to Als pizzeria and would get two pieces for the price of one. Archie was always in trouble with their old teacher, Ms, Grundy or the principal, Mr. Weatherbee. There were times they would dance, walk close, staring at each other with the printed red hearts floating about; sometimes Archie with Veronica…sometimes with Betty. The publishers would keep you guessing until issues # 600–602. The story features a futuristic look into the life of Archie in the years that follow his college graduation when Archie makes his ultimate decision to marry Veronica instead of Betty Cooper in 2009.

Archie proved to be popular enough to warrant his own self-titled ongoing comic book series which began publication in the winter of 1942 and ran until June 2015. A second series began publication in July 2015, featuring a reboot of the Archie universe with a new character design aesthetic and a more mature story format and scripting, aimed for older, contemporary teenage and young adult readers. The printed comic book format is different from the previous publications.

I miss the wholesome lives of the Riverdale comic characters and wish I had saved at least one copy for times like these.

The most valuable Archie comic book ever known to have been sold went for more than $140,000. Archie made his first appearance in a comic book in 1941, in the issue “Pep No. 2”; that’s the one which made the big money.

Amazon offers an amazing copy from 1966.There are several Ebay copies for purchase as well. Maybe just one….it is a Betty and Veronica from 1968…no longer 12 cents but under $15.00?

 

50th Woodstock Anniversary

I really wanted to go in 1969. I still want to go in 2019. Back then, I picked out the shirt I would wear for three days;  a peasant blouse with puffed sleeves that was an orange color with yellow flowers. But nobody asked me to go with them. I was too young to drive, just graduating from junior high. I knew one acquaintance that was going but he was much older who had been drafted to Vietnam. He didn’t want some kid in his car and my mother would not let me go anyway.

Many felt the same way as I did but no one ever expected the numbers that showed up and that Woodstock 1969  would be considered the greatest festival of all time.Only two people died at Woodstock 1969 though over 80 were arrested on drug charges and we did see the news reports on TV. Because of the torrential rains, many adults considered it a disaster and local businesses were threatening lawsuits, but the kids, as they were called, were happy. The bands were just beginning with the exception of Joplin and Hendrix. Carlos Santana was only about 13.  Now, the grounds are the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts; considered a National Historic site. No festival has been the same since. They have tried numerous Woodstock festivals through the decades and they just didn’t work.

Woodstock was a music festival held between August 15–18, 1969, which attracted an audience of more than 400,000. Billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music”, it was held at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm near White Lake in Bethel, New York, 43 miles southwest of Woodstock. The festival was headlined by legendary performances of Joe Cocker, Hot Tuna (Jefferson Airplane), Starship (Jefferson Airplane), Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald, Richie Havens, Melanie, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Levon Helm (The Band), Arlo Guthrie, John Sebastian, Leslie West Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, and Santana. Santana will be playing at the 50th in Bethel.

There are two festivals that are gaining popularity throughout the country to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Woodstock 50 is a planned American music festival, scheduled to be held on August 16–18, 2019, at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. Supposedly a free concert supported by Michael Lang, line up is not official and some have dropped out.

Bethel Wood Center for the Performing Arts on the original 1969 Woodstock site is  constantly holding concerts, festivals; a year round center for events, programs inspiring others in the arts as they are a (501) (3) (C) Arlo Guthrie will perform on the festival field, 50 years to the day that he played Woodstock. Guthrie’s performance will be followed by a screening on the field of the Woodstock documentary. Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band will perform on Aug 16th at the Bethel Woods pavilion. Woodstock veterans Edgar Winter and Blood, Sweat and Tears are also performing that night. On Aug. 17, Carlos Santana will return to Bethel for a show that will feature the Doobie Brothers as the opening act.

The still married, husband and wife pictured on the iconic album cover wrapped in a blanket will also be attending the 50th Bethel Woods festival.

My daughter walked the grounds of Bethel Woods on a trip to visit family a few years ago; a man who worked there attended  the original Woodstock and showed her where Jimmy Hendrix played. “An old man,” she said. Ah, Yes…that is what we have become. At that time, the grounds were quiet but she was impressed since she has been a follower of rock and roll beginnings.

Though, I have not gone yet, that’s what I want to do….soon. Not necessarily to listen to music, but to spend that quiet moment just to see, to relive the news reports, to imagine, the peace, the love and a vision of my young self in the pretty peasant shirt I had picked out sitting and experiencing such a treasured moment in time……..50 years ago.

 

 

 

Loving dioramas

Last week, the second graders carried them carefully from the bus or car, through the main door, to their classes, so proud of their accomplishments. I watched in the main hallway with anticipation and truly as much excitement as their enthusiasm. I remember I was about their age when I built my first diorama.

During the early 1960’s, I was sitting quietly at the dinette table rolling tiny papers and painting them brown. It was a log cabin in a shoe box and the tiny rolls were logs for the fireplace. It took a long time, with little interruption to roll the logs and paint. In fact, the entire room was an effort because I was not good at art. No one in my family was good at art. But I loved making this log cabin. Maybe, because it was so much like setting up a doll house.

In the early 1990’s, I remember helping my own children; one was about actually building a tepee for an Indian habitat.  This was also during the days when the Pocahontas movie made it big in 1995. Actually, we had a Pocahontas birthday party for my daughter where they made their own cardboard paper dolls with markers, felt, glitter, beads, feathers; almost as big as each guest that came. But now, I am truly reminiscing off track.

Dioramas for school projects allow a great deal of creativity, inspiration and the materials available today are overwhelming. You can actually look at YouTube videos on how to make one out of a shoe box or display box. You can use needle nose pliers, any type of glue or masking tape though one student told me her family showed her how to use a hot glue gun, just for her diorama. She was scared but she did it without injury.

Most students used markers, crayons and some used paint to create their backdrop. Some cut up photographs or printed out photos online to add to their design. Some actually purchased craft trees of all types and one used blue marbles to show a water stream. Many used miniature animals and birds to highlight their scene. The birds actually flew, attached with string from the top of the inside of the box, not falling while the students walked down the hallways.

After seeing the children and dioramas arrive at school, I couldn’t wait to take pictures of some of them. I just had to see them again and again. I had to have something to remember. And I had to share with you!

I really do love dioramas. Maybe someone, someday, next year in school perhaps, will ask if I could help them build…..

 

Chicago’s Art Institute

For me as a child in the 1960’s, it was the Thorne rooms first that truly excited me to see what was inside of the building with the huge lions. I loved dollhouses and anything miniature to collect and play.  And I also liked to visit them again during the Christmas holidays catching glimpses of holiday decorations in the rooms.

My children loved the Thorne rooms too in the 1990’s and to this day, somehow we head to them first. The rooms were elaborate and different from our own homes; a wonderful learning experience of the past where we could view a Pennsylvania kitchen in 1752 or an English cottage during the Queen Ann period.

The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications. Her work shows the upper class homes in England and Frances as well. Hours can be spent visiting the Thorne room exhibit and examining the precise details behind the glass in cased rooms.

From here, it was important to see the Georges Seurat painting  A Sunday on La Grande Jatte and we were interested in counting the dots. The Art Institute has one such sketch and two drawings. We also had to see the most popular American Gothic by Grant Wood. This familiar image was exhibited publicly for the first time at the Art Institute, winning a three-hundred-dollar prize and instant fame for Grant Wood. The image contained the farmer with his pitch fork and daughter in front of their house.

And then it was on to the gift shop and being a true lover of all books, this was one of my favorite shops. Though not a good painter or sculpture by any means, the shop had wonderful art books, postcards, colored pencils, special paper, and reproductions such as Monet’s Water Lilies. And today, they offer fashion items and jewelry. You can created an account and order online.

Today, there are a variety of dining options at the Art Institute that includes a fine dining restaurant called Terzo Piano. There is the Museum Cafe that provides great choices for kids and the Balcony Cafe that provides a snacks and desserts.

 

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.