Kilbourne Park/Old Irving Park

After spending time with my daughter in Old Irving Park, Chicago, I decided to explore Kilbourne Park, where my better half, who has been in my life for a decade, grew up. It was a beautiful, cool day where I spent time in the park enjoying the walk, exercise that I needed and was greeted by many that were doing the same. At the corner of Kenneth and Roscoe, I continued to explore the neighborhood, specifically checking out the house at 3342 Kenneth. Someone was celebrating a party, as you can see in the photo. He had moved into the house in 1960 from the time he was 5-11 years old. His father worked for the Chicago Post Office. His mother worked at Slidematic, located at 4520 W Addison St, still in business today. A diverse, middle-class neighborhood with several houses and apartment buildings, celebrating the beauty of their homes with home-made gardens and flower baskets.

According to the Chicago Park District, Kilbourne Park was created by the Irving Park District, which was formed in 1910 and managed three parks in the area. Fifteen years later, the Chicago Park District acquired the site.  By the late 1920s, the park’s recreational features included athletic fields, a running track, horseshoe and tennis courts, an 18-hole putting green, two playgrounds, a children’s wading pool, a sand box, and penned-in rabbits. Kilbourn Park also had a fieldhouse, maintenance building, and greenhouse. In the 1990’s, the park went through major renovation. Today, the park offers some great summer activities for children and adults, including a children’s day camp. There is a basketball league for young teenagers, both male and female. Garden Buddies meet next week to attract toddlers to nature.

Getting back in my car, I continued enjoying the expansive architecture that has become a national landmark. The Whistle Stop Inn has held a variety of businesses but was established as a Chicago landmark in 1990. The ornate building was built in 1889 and is located at 4200 W. Irving Park Road. Another national treasure is the Ropp-Grabill House which became part of the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It was linked to the Underground Railroad because there were many tunnels under the house used to protect slaves, and it has been truly one of the most preserved. The home was tastefully restored by a single owner and last sold in 2019, located at 4132 North Keeler. The Digital Research Library offers a great historical account of how the suburb of Irving Park was annexed to Chicago.

Wilmington, IL

After moving to my home in Downers Grove in 1988, it was time to decorate, and I always loved antiques. One of my best friends from college did also, so we would plan trips to furnish my home, and the cabinet above was my first purchase from an antique shop on Water Street in Wilmington, IL. Over the years, it has been filled with more collectibles including gifts of LLadro and china. In the 1990’s, my children and my mom visited the famous Gemini Giant and had lunch at the Launching Pad. Mom shared her stories of traveling down Route 66. She lived in Kankakee for awhile. It has been over 10 years since I last visited Wilmington. A good friend I met at work a few years ago planned a wonderful shopping excursion through the historic town this week. Though we spent too much time talking…someone I can truly relate…I really enjoyed visiting the beautiful gift and antique shops. In my after-effects mind, I have already picked out charming candles and Christmas décor that I would like to purchase on a return trip.

Mimi’s Cafe was a great place to meet my friend (above) on Water Street offering an amazing variety of coffee lattes, macchiatos, breakfast, and delectable sandwiches. They have two locations in Wilmington and Bourbonnais, IL and then we headed next door to The Flower Loft. Not only do they offer an extensive collection of flower arrangements for all occasions, but they also have a variety of unique home decor gifts which include painted globes, exquisite lanterns, and interesting wall hangings. The shop has been family owned and operated for several years. Because it was Tuesday, some shops were closed, but we continued on to Milltown Market, which has several different areas and another floor. I always enjoyed a mall setting; many antiques are in sections. They have an area for antique children’s toys, a great kitchen area with Mason jars that my friend collects, rocking horses, clothes, but I especially loved the Christmas collections that included wonderful Santas and great dolls.

Finally, we ended our trip at the Gemini Giant, or better known as the Launching Pad restaurant, a museum on the infamous Route 66 which has become famous bringing out new visitors everyday. The restaurant opened in 1956 as a hot dog and ice cream shop called the Dari Delite. In 1960, it was bought by John and Bernice Korlic and named the Launching Pad drive in. Because of the space age, they bought a 28ft. spaceman made by International Fiberglass, California. A visitor named it the Gemini Giant. The Korlics and family owned the restaurant until 2007. The next owner closed it down; on sale for 5 years; deteriorating. Tully Garrett and Holly C. Barker bought it in 2017. They are a blended family; Tully’s two sons and Holly’s son; tragically losing both their spouses to cancer. They have a gift shop and min-museum. The hot dog and Dole Whip, a soft, fruity dessert, were out of this world; pardon the pun.

Gino Vannelli

I Just Had to Stop when I learned that Gino Vannelli, who was my first heart throb, turned 70 last week. What????? Come on! If people remember his music, I Just Had to Stop was one of his classic songs released in 1978. It was also in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that one of my best friends from college loved him as much I did and we celebrated his music at a concert in Chicago in 1976 at the Auditorium theater. I still remember sitting fairly close to the stage; mesmerized by his talent. My friend Joyce, who passed away a few years ago, sat next to me and we could not stop smiling. We bought albums for each other during holidays and birthdays during those years. His best-known singles include “People Gotta Move” (1974), “I Just Wanna Stop” (1978), “Living Inside Myself” (1981) and “Wild Horses” (1987). His first album was released in 1973 called Crazy Life. He played at what was then Chicago Stadium to a much larger crowd in 1979.

The Auditorium Theater is an historic landmark. The famous architectural firm of Adler and Sullivan designed the theatre, which officially opened in 1889, using the most modern technology at the time, including electric lighting and air conditioning. Former presidents gave speeches as well major performers such Jimmy Hedrix and Aretha Franklin to name just a few.

Gino was born in Montreal and actually aspired to be a drumer like Buddy Rich.In 1969, at the age of seventeen, he signed a contract with RCA Records, using the name Vann Elli. But it didn’t amount to anything and he and his brother Joe moved to Los Angeles in 1972. They waited outside of A&M records which was co-owned by Herb Albert. They waited for hours and desperate according to sources, Herb Alpert finally came out and Gino ran after him with a demi tape for him to play. The security grabbed him but Alpert heard his tape and that was it releasing Crazy Life. Gino was invited to perform on Soul Train which was a first for Caucasians. From that point, he was asked to tour with Stevie Wonder. He received the Juno Awards for the most promising male vocalist of the year in 1975. In 1976, and again 1979, he received Juno Awards for the best male vocalist. He and his brother Joe, his musical partner during those years, shared the Juno for Best Production for Brother to Brother in 1979.

Gino met his wife Patricia (Trisha) in 1974 in Portland, Oregon. Touring was so tough for Gino, it made him depressed since he was considered the sexiest man of all time, and that was not what he wanted. In 1991, partly in response to advice from spiritual teachers and partly out of a desire to live more simply, Vannelli left Los Angeles, where he had lived for years, and moved with his wife Patricia and their son Anton to a modest home in Portland, Oregon. Yonder Tree was an album released in 1995 and his father died a few months prior to the release, so they dedicated the album to him. His mother lived to be 93 and died of Covid in a seniors home in Montreal in 2020.

Still living in Oregon, he continues to play and teach lessons. He continues to write music and perform. He is multi-instrumentalist and still an incredible song-writer and singer. When I first heard Evermore, which was released in 2021 as a dedication to his wife, it brought chills because is so exciting to see an amazing performer like Gino still sing and play the piano with such distinction.

Lewis University

After graduating with an Associates degree from Thornton Community College, which is now South Suburban College, I moved on for two years to finish my education in at Lewis University. Receiving a Bachelors in 1977 with an emphasis in education, speech and drama was one my proudest moments for myself and my Mom. My father had passed away years before, but was smiling on that day and from there I followed my heart in a lifetime of education. I have returned with my own adult children in the past, but wanted to take a recent walk through the campus before I can’t walk anymore. Lewis is celebrating their 90th anniversary this year. The day I chose was beautiful weather, first beginning my walk through the center of campus where the chapel is located. What came to mind was not friends, parties or classes, but the strange serenity I felt visiting the campus for first the few times before I applied. The picturesque campus that offered hope. Lewis has advanced since my day; their main campus in Romeoville, which includes 410-acre suburban setting, now houses 1,300 students in twelve residence halls, all within walking distance of well-equipped classrooms, the library, the Student Recreation and Fitness Center, the Student Union, and Sancta Alberta Chapel.

There is no way to describe the many changes that have occurred in the last 40 years. My biggest memories were the visitor gate and library which always greeted visitors as they drove in. Memories of classrooms, dining hall, the theatre, aviation and some of the dorms really takes place in the center of University Drive North and South. Teachers such as Brother Paul French, who was a teacher of mine, is memorialized with his name on FSC Learning Resource Center (LR), 39. The Phillip Lynch theatre was an air plane hanger that they were just finishing. Many close graduate friends, I still talk to, were helping create a magnificent theater. I acted in one of the first plays produced in the new space; One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Chet Kondratowicz was the theater director and teacher at the time. Keith White and I graduated from Lewis about the same time and he has served as a full-time faculty member at Lewis since 1994. Previously, he served as the department’s theater manager for eleven years. Mr. White has directed more than 30 productions at the Philip Lynch Theatre and recently retired. Actually, today the entire building is called the Oremus Fine Arts Center which include, Art and Design, Black Box Theatre, Brent and Jean Wadsworth Family Gallery, Caterpillar Gallery, Ives Recital Hall and the Philip Lynch Theatre.

As I continue my walk, Sheil hall brought back memories since one of my good friends stayed their and had a party or two though I lived in Dolton at the time and drove to school. I also liked spending time in the dining hall which has changed. And I will never forget the Lewis Airport and any focus on aviation….still passing a full-size airplane as I continue on.

Founded in 1932 , under the direction of the Chicago Archdiocese and Bishop Bernard J. Sheil, Lewis began as the Holy Name Technical School, a school for boys, which opened with 15 students. Aviation technology courses were the focus during the early days. The school of aeronautics in the 1940’s trained 100 of pilots to fly during World War II. By 1949, women were admitted as students, and high school classes were discontinued. More appropriately named, Lewis College of Science and Technology granted its first baccalaureate degrees in 1952. A new phase in the history of Lewis began in 1960 when the Brothers of the Christian Schools assumed direction of the institution. The De La Salle Christian Brothers brought new meaning and the institution became Lewis College in 1962 and achieved accreditation by the North Central Association in 1963. In the early 1970’s, the college of business, continuing education, college of arts and sciences and nursing became established. When the nursing program was beginning, a great friend’s Mom taught there. For that reason, among others, the decision was made in 1973 to become a university. The name was changed officially to Lewis University and in 1975 graduate programs were approved. In the 1980’s, Lewis expanded to off-campus sites. Today, they have a facility in New Mexico.

As I was leaving, I did not notice how truly beautiful the Lewis entrance is with it’s array of plants and flowers. Maybe that is the way it was in the past for me and many others in the 1970’s; racing out to go home for vacation, visit friends, or get together at a Romeoville or Lockport bar and restaurant. Not now! Now I take my time, cherishing every moment of the beauty. It is the amazing quality of a university that continues to fulfill the goals of so many students. Many people who I have met over the years approach me with excitement and say, “You graduated from Lewis……..me too!”

Lemont

Christmas Inn at 107 Stephen Street is where we would take the little ones in the 1990’s to see Santa. Moving to Downers Grove in the late 1980’s, Lemont was a new excursion and still close to home. At the restaurant, everywhere you look there were Christmas decorations-on the walls, on the doors, over the bar, but mostly hanging from the ceiling. There was an amazing toy train that traveled on a track above the bar. There were hundreds of ornament balls and teddy bears, trumpets, tin drums, ice skates, snowmen, gingerbread houses, girls on sleds, jack-in-the-boxes and Raggedy Ann dolls. And all of this, anytime of year… even during summer. This is what the owners wanted. Tom Sheu, who with his wife, Shirley bought it when it was a biker bar and wanted to transform it to attract children and their families. Between the two of them the couple had seven children and 14 grandchildren ranging in age from 1 to 11 years. However, the bar has closed and in its place is La Dolce Vita.

My first time at Nick’s Tavern was to meet a friend from out of town and as we were walking in, there were several women and men bikers pulling up in front of the tavern; stopping and talking outside since it was a beautiful night in 1992. For the first time, I wished I had a motorcycle and a group to hang out with. Nick’s Tavern is still a highlight in Lemont celebrating the Nickburger which I still think is one of the best. Nick’s Tavern first opened at the current location in 1945. Their well stocked bar and great bartenders will accommodate most drink requests. Nick’s Tavern is a great place to catch your favorite team on their HD flat screen. Another favorite restaurant for Mom and I back in the 1990’s was the Lemon Tree at 1035 State Street and is still a great choice for submarine sandwiches and breakfast. The Lemon Tree was established in 1981 and is still family owned. They also offer some of the best homemade butter garlic fries.

Today, downtown Lemont offers some great shops to explore including Three Stories Books and Mabels Market on Canal street as well as Hughie Mcclafferty’s, a cozy Irish bar. Also on Stephen Street is Corner Stone Tavern which used to be Stonebridge; another popular place and Smokey Row Antiques.

According to the Village of Lemont, Lemont’s first settlers arrived in 1833. The town, then called Athens, began its development along the site of the Illinois & Michigan Canal that flows through the town. You can explore the Heritage Quarries Recreation Area, a 100-acre nature park to hike, bike, picnic, bird watch, boat and fish, with a 6-mile crushed stone marked trail. Take a guided tour of the quarry area in the spring or fall with the Lemont Historical Society. Call 630-257-2972 for available dates and times.

Seals and Crofts

Hearing on the radio that Jim Seals passed away just recently at 80 years old, brought back visuals of their first hit, Summer Breeze. For the most part, our generation knew exactly where they were when a song is brand new and sometimes heard for the first time. I can recognize song years better than any other memory. Summer Breeze was released in 1972 and I didn’t have to research the date. I remember sitting in my bedroom at the apartment on Chicago Road in Dolton. It was a very simple song, and my mother liked it too, because it represented home, family and security; coming home from work and sitting out on the porch. It was simple. “Summer Breeze”, reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as Diamond Girl which came out in 1973. Diamond Girl, you sure do shine. Not the most brilliant song, but something that has stuck with me for almost 50 years. My all-time favorite from 1973 was We May Never Pass This Way Again. Hummingbird was a beautiful melody that a friend of mine, who passed away many years ago, loved. When I hear the song today, I always think of him. Other songs were “I’ll Play for You” in ’75, “Goodbye Old Buddies” in ’77 and “You’re the Love” in ’78.

According to sources, Jim Seals and Dash Crofts were both born in Texas, Seals in Sidney and Crofts in Cisco. They first met when Crofts was a drummer for a local band. Later, Seals joined an outfit called Dean Beard and the Crew Cats, in which he played sax; later on, Crofts joined Seals in the band. With Beard, they moved to Los Angeles to join the Champs, but the two did so only after the group’s “Tequila” reached No. 1 in 1958. Seals also spent time during 1959 in the touring band of Eddie Cochran. The were then involved in a band with Glen Campbell and Jerry Cole but finally decided to play as a duo with Seals on guitar, saxophone ,and violin and Crofts on guitar and mandolin. They were extremely gifted to be able to write music as well as play. Both were married. Crofts was married to Billie Lee Day in 1969, and Seals married Ruby Jean Anderson in 1970. 

Though the duo disbanded in 1980, they reunited briefly in 1991–1992. Jim Seals’ Bahá’í faith reflected his work life. In later decades, Seals still toured occasionally, joining Crofts for a brief reunion in the early 1990s. They reunited for one final album, Traces, in 2004. Seals also performed on occasion with his brother Dan, who died in 2009. Crofts lived in Mexico, Australia, and then Nashville, Tennessee. He currently resides on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country. Seals moved to Costa Rica and had lived on a coffee farm off and on since 1980, as well as in Nashville and southern Florida.

Gone But Not Forgotten, Maxwell Street

By Caryl Clem

Chicago’s Maxwell Street culturally impacted city lifestyles since the late 19th century. A family affair started by Jewish residents to enjoy music, food and shop among local vendors. This area stretched from Roosevelt and 16th street to a central location at Maxwell and Halsted.  All the flavors and sounds left behind in Eastern Europe including Ukraine, would be reborn on Sundays. The City of Chicago recognized this popular spot in October 1912 by officially naming the location as The Maxwell Street Market; forerunner of the Sunday flea market tradition of hunting for treasures. 

After a World War and crop failures in Europe, Chicago throbbed with a variety of cultures as immigrants flooded into the factories and neighborhoods. Maxwell Street with hopeful business entrepreneurs earned the nickname, “Ellis Island of the Midwest. “Music artists gained recognition and fame playing during Maxwell Street Days. Communities changed as blacks migrated from the jobless Deep South to work in Chicago. Established Jewish merchants were eager to rent out spaces to the newcomers. Black musicians replaced the Jewish Klezmer style music with appearances including Louis Armstrong who produced records in Chicago starting in 1925. The competitive drive of emerging musicians evolved into using amplifiers and technology to blast loud music over the noisy crowd.  Maxwell Street became a stage for blues and jazz artists.                                                            

The  shoppers’ thirst to hear musical performances attracted Big Bill Broonzy singing solos and playing a  new type of jazz releasing over 250 songs from 1925-1950 that evolved into “Chicago Blues.”    Names that ring a bell in our memory today such as Muddy Waters, Bo Diddly, Howlin Wolf, Little Walter, Memphis Minnie and others under the mentoring of Broonzy ushered in a new era of rock and roll.  A famous Broonzy song, “Black, Brown and White” echoes issues still faced today. Throughout his career, Bill Broonzy kept in touch with his Maxwell Street roots including Papa Chris Jackson who linked him to Paramount Records.  Jimmy Davis was a Maxwell Street regular for over 40 years.

In 1994 the University of Illinois at Chicago required more land for their campus so Maxwell Street was relocated to Canal Street, then in 2008 to DesPlaines Street.  Still in an historical district less than two miles away from the Art Institute, the new environment is reported to be dominated by Mexican food and vendors. The flea market tradition with hundreds of vendors to tempt your wallet thrives in Chicago at Wolff’s Flea Market at Allstate Arena or for those willing to travel to Kane County Flea Market, Illinois or Elkhorn, Wisconsin or Wilmot Flea Market, Kenosha, Wisconsin.

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.

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.