Are your children safe at school?

On Thursday in the my first grade classroom, we performed a lock down drill to e viewed by the police. Classroom doors must be locked, lights turned off and after practicing with the children before on the seriousness of this drill, I was surprised. When the announcement came to begin the drill, students turned off their voices and moved to the corner of the room designated, moving close to those they may not be quite as fond . They huddled together, boys with girls and they did not make a sound.  In the minutes that we sat, I thought of Vegas, I thought of Columbine, I thought about what if this was real. The look on their faces were fear, wide-eyed and one i held close.

There are almost 750,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. More than 200,000 children are the victims of family abductions each year.  Custody-motivated abductions have increased by more than five times between October 2010 and June 2013.  Eighty eight percent of public schools reported that they controlled access to school buildings by locking or monitoring doors during school hours, and 64% reported that they used security cameras to monitor the school.

Who is Raptor Technologies?

  • Raptor Technologies is the nation’s leading developer of integrated school safety technologies for K-12 schools across the United States.
  • Raptor® developed the first web-based visitor management system designed for schools and monitors visitors, contractors, and volunteers who enter a building.
  • The visitor management system provides instant screening of visitors, contractors and volunteers for sex offender status and custody orders.
  • The Raptor System also tracks students who arrive late or leave early and faculty who sign in and out of the building.
  • In addition, Raptor Technologies also provides a volunteer management system.

In 2017, over 19,000 schools use Raptor’s visitor management software that conducts an instant and automatic screening against an up-to-date national sex offender registry and checks for any court-ordered custody restrictions. Raptor currently flags over 30 registered sex offenders per day attempting to enter schools. This fall, they also unveiled an emergency management application that streamlines parent reunification.

In Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, Bellwood School District 88,  Aurora 129, Joliet 204,  Joliet Public Schools 86, Naperville Cusd 203 are just some of the school districts that implement this technology. After interviewing several parents of school-aged children, they continually wonder if their child’s school is doing everything it can to keep their students safe.  Do they have lockdown drills? Do they have an easy parent-student reunification system in place if students are evacuated? Are they doing everything they can to keep sex offenders out of schools?

Raptor also has many non-profit partners whose mission is to spread awareness on school safety like Safe and Sound, which was created by Sandy Hook parents and the “I Love You Guys” Foundation, created by the parents of a student who lost her life 11 years ago in a school shooting in Colorado. These foundations now go to schools nationwide teaching schools how to effectively deal with on campus emergencies- like lockdowns, active shooters, etc.

After we received the all clear sound, returned to our seats and was told that the police thought we did a great job, I silently thanked God that we were safe. I thanked God for Raptor Technologies. Contact them today!

Chicago’s Most Haunted: Eastland Disaster

This summer I took a trip to Michigan City, Indiana and spent a few minutes in Washington Park by the lake having no idea at the time that over 100 years ago the S.S. Eastland ship was suppose to arrive with Western Electric employees and their families to  celebrate a summer picnic.  It never happened.  After researching the Eastland Disaster, I returned to the park again imagining its beauty in 1915.

It.was an ideal location that offered various attractions according to the Eastland Disaster Historical Society including a roller coaster, electric merry-go-round, dancing pavilion, picnic grounds, baseball park, bathing beach with bath houses, band stand/gazebo, bowling alleys, amusement park, and photo studio. Though today, still beautiful, Washington Park has less attractions and activities including women dressed in hats, stockings, long dresses and the men dressed in suits and ties on the beach.

Western Electric picnics began in 1913 and really took off with over 6,000 attending where attendees boarded several ships in Chicago docked near the Clark Street Bridge for a leisurely trip to Michigan City across the lake for the picnic. On July 24th, 1915 the Eastland along with other ships began boarding at 6:30 am. Five thousand people had arrived for the excursion.

Because the Eastland was late the prior year in arriving at Washington Park, the owners decided it would be the first to depart. They were quick to board the passengers at a rate of about 50 per minute. At approximately 7:10, the Eastland reached capacity of 2,500. The engines started about 5 minutes before with a light list to port.  Attempts were made to move passengers to starboard but they did not follow the directions.  The list becomes worst and valves are opened to fill the no. 2 and 3 starboard ballast tanks. Water eventually enters the Eastland through the port gangways and a warning signal is sounded.

The Eastland tries again moving away from the wharf. The angles of the list reaches 45 degrees and everything begins to slide with water pouring in through portholes on the main deck. Passengers are rushing to the staircases which becomes not an exit but a death trap. The list worsens. Passengers and crew members jump off from fear of being trapped. The Eastland finally rolls in the Chicago River and 844 people are killed.

Today, paranormal investigators have found activity between the Clark and LaSalle bridges and people have reported screams and orbs in photographs. But the Armory where bodies from the Eastland were taken to be transported to funeral homes and used for family identification which was Harpo Studios where Oprah Winfrey taped her show, was haunted for years.

Oprah and her staff continued to see shadows which some have called the Grey lady; they think the ghost was of a mother who has lost her child. However,demolition of the Harpo campus took place in 2016 which will make way for a new building that thousands of McDonald’s corporate employees will call home in 2018.

Is the site still haunted?

Chicago’s Most Haunted: The Iroquois Theatre/The Oriental

The most devastating theatre fire in history happened on December 30th 1903. Over 600 people died which were mostly woman and children during a matinee performance of Mr. Bluebird.  Many Chicagoan’s did not think a fire of such magnitude could ever happen again since many had lived through the Great Chicago fire. This building was built to be fireproof.

However, A Day in History comments  that at the same time the fire inspector and Chicago’s building commissioner claims that the Iroquois was fireproof, the editor of Fireproof magazine inspected the theater and wrote an article that there were major fire alarm issues including no alarm and sprinkler system.

The Iroquois opened just shortly before on November 23rd of that year and was located on West Randolph between State and Dearborn. The theatre had a capacity of approximately 1,600 seats with three audience levels that included a main floor with orchestra that offered about 700 seats. The second floor had about 400 seats and the gallery or balcony areas had about 500 seats. The backstage area was extensive with emergency doors that remained locked the day of the fire. The theatre had only one public exit.

The December 30th 1903 matinee performance drew a huge crowd since so many children were out of school celebrating the holidays. It was about 3:15. Strange, how that time was very close to the same time only 50 plus years later when the most historic school fire broke out at Chicago’s Our Lady of Angels School on the south side. A fire, I  was alive to see and never forget.

During the second act, sparks from an arc light ignited a curtain. Stagehands tried to put out the fire but it had spread mainly to the fly gallery high above the stage. The stage manager tried to lower a fire curtain on the stage to block the fire from the audience but what they thought a fireproof stage curtain snagged and was flammable. The stage doors had bascule locks which protected people from not entering from the outside but nobody knew how to open them. Many were killed by being trapped especially in the balconies.

There were no exit signs, no emergency lighting, no iron fire escape and locked exit routes that nervous ushers forgot to unlock. The burned out theatre  was completely demolished and in the 1920’s, the Ford, Oriental Theatre was built with beautiful art Deco decor design and great access to bathrooms/ emergency doors designed by the firm Rapp and Rapp. Exceptionally different from the interior before and still safely operating today.

However, as elegant as the Oriental is, many ghost experts say that there is a real presence there because it was a site of such tragedy and death including David Cowan author of To Sleep with the Angels and his wife, author and 30-year veteran and paranormal researcher Ursula Bielski who host Chicago haunting tours

Especially behind the theatre, many have called the alley… Death Alley, because it is there that the most haunting s have been sited including a child crying. Other ghost experts claim that there tour groups continually experience sounds and apparitions today. It was also here in the alley during the 1903 fire that the corpses of so many tragically burned victims were piled and arranged to be eventually removed.

Others have felt cold spots and have actually been touched by unseen hands!

Chicago’s Most Haunted: The Congress Hotel / H.H. Holmes Murder Castle

What’s great about the Congress Hotel, one of the most haunted in Chicago, is you can go there, rent a room and stay the night.  Rates for rooms are not outrageous and you can spend as much time as you want to catch pictures of ghosts. They actually host a Haunted Halloween Ball at the Congress at 520 Michigan Avenue.

Originally constructed in 1893, the Congress Plaza Hotel featured cobbled streets, gaslights, and horse drawn carriages. The hotel was originally called the Auditorium Annex when it opened to house the throngs of visitors to the World’s Colombian Exposition.

Many famous people and presidents have stayed at the Congress which include Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt. And the most visible ghosts include Peg Leg Johnny who was murdered, a workman who was buried behind the walls in the balcony of the glorious Gold Room. The Gold Room and Florentine Room are still beautiful spots for special occasion parties and weddings.

The six floor has been known to have some strange experiences as well as the 12th floor where a mother and her children committed suicide throwing themselves out a window. Staff have claimed that one room is so dangerously haunted…they had to seal the room and no one will go near it.  Supposedly, one of the most haunted rooms of all is 441 and remember, it is not locked forever….you can stay there.

Another bizarre story at the Congress is that of the ghost, Dr. Henry H. Holmes who wanders the hallways looking for woman to to enrapture in his arms and murder at his Murder Castle. His real name was Herman Mudgett, Chicago’s first serial murderer, who went to work in a drugstore owned by Dr. E.S. Holton, in Englewood, a suburb of Chicago that is now part of the city.

And it was here Holmes would draw in young woman and visitors from the Fair. Missing woman were reported and some have said that Holmes had killed 27 women and other reports include even more even though there is no conclusive evidence of how many he killed. In July 1895, Chicago police and reporters began investigating Holmes’ building in Englewood, now locally referred to as “The Castle”. Though many sensational claims were made, no evidence was found which could have convicted Holmes in Chicago.

According to Exploring Illinois, Holmes, who graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School, had already racked up a fairly impressive resume of fraud, forgery and petty theft by this time, including, while still a med student, taking out insurance policies on cadavers he stole from the school. Holmes, though, was a hard worker at the drugstore and eventually bought it.

Holmes purchased an empty lot across from the drugstore, where construction began in 1887 for a two story mixed-use building, with apartments on the second floor and retail spaces, including a new drugstore,on the first. When Holmes declined to pay the architects or the steel company, Aetna Iron and Steel, they sued in 1888.[5]

In October 1895, Holmes was put on trial for the murder of Benjamin Pitezel, and was found guilty and sentenced to death. By then, it was evident that Holmes had also murdered the Pitezel children according to a Philadephia detective who found the children and had followed Holmes.

What was the murder castle like? According to Prairie Ghosts, the second floor however, proved to be a labyrinth of narrow, winding passages with doors that opened to brick walls, hidden stairways, concealed doors, blind hallways, secret panels, hidden passages and a clandestine vault that was only a big enough for a person to stand in. The room was alleged to be a homemade “gas chamber”, equipped with a chute that would carry a body directly into the basement. The basement was a chamber of death with devises and materials that indicated torture and murder.

The murder castle is no longer there and a post office remains in its original location but the story is well-documented in Erik Larsen’s, Devil in the White City and Leonardo Di Caprio plays Holmes in the movie. However, staff at the post office have seen strange sightings in the basement.

What was your best or worse Halloween costume?

For me, it began when my son was only two and hated being a clown. That’s because the face Mom had painted on his delicate skin was way too scary for Halloween. He scared himself when he looked in the mirror and trick or treating was just out of the question. Mom’s first costume attempt was not too good and thought he would forever be damaged by a poor holiday experience. But it did get better when the following year he liked being a beggar, carrying his stick of wrapped clothes in a scarf though when I think about it, maybe that wasn’t a good choice either.

As a child, I loved autumn with the breathtaking color of the season, pressing leaves in scrapbooks, spending hours selecting a costume and, of course, carving a pumpkin with, for me, Dad. It was his job to cut but I scrapped away the innards. The only time I liked kitchen duty. And I remember being a gypsy, Little Bo Peep with a crooked staff that eventually gave way to the wind on Halloween, and a date girl wearing a beautiful wide skirt with mini calendars attached. Among the many dressed as Super Man, witches, Bat girl, Sleeping Beauty and Minnie Mouse, cowboys and Indians, and of course, Casper, with silly masks to match our attire back in the 1960s. Dressed in a white sheet or a Frankenstein mask was about the extent of what was scary. Maybe a devil took you by surprise as well.

And the neighborhood was packed with children trick or treating; knowing the adults that answered their doors. If we didn’t have an appropriate trick or treat bag, a pillow case would do and besides the candy bars, suckers and bazooka gum with comics, we would get even more like a popcorn ball. Sometimes we would worry about the occasional razor blade showing up in our candy but candy being spiked with chemicals was rare.

In the nineties, as my son and daughter celebrated the season each year, costume decisions improved after the first fiasco to include Robin Hood and a court jester, a baby. a Power Ranger instead of Super Man and a nerd with a huge dictionary….not a computer… Though there was one Halloween, that costumes were trash bags since the rain was incessant for trick or treating. That didn’t stop us. We also decided that a carved pumpkin was not enough so the house was dressed with lovely rust and yellow floral arrangements and a yard filled with ghosts, signs, funny gravestones, and spider webs throughout.

Now, though there are no grandchildren, nothing has changed with the exception of less children knocking on the door on October 31st. Though the signs have become faded and the gravestones totter, new additions such as a family of scarecrows have been added, floral arrangements refurbished and my 20 plus daughter coming to spend a pre-Halloween weekend, carving the best pumpkin ever, while munching on roasted pumpkin seeds and home-made pumpkin bread.

Once a child, forever a child and another year of adding more pictures to that scrapbook or should I say, Facebook page instead.

Chicago’s Most Haunted: Bachelors Grove

Another trip many ghost hunters of Chicago made back in the day and still do, was to Midlothian, Il on the edge of Rubio Woods forest preserve, the infamous Bachelors Grove Cemetery. The cemetery sign is long gone and the small burial ground is surrounded by a high link fence. Many throughout the US believe this is the most haunted cemetery in the country. And the road outside of the cemetery has also seen its share of ghosts.

Over the years, after trips, once again, to catch a ghost I think the area is a great place for vandals more than ghosts though ghost experts claim that vandalism is the reason for so many hauntings. I have taken pictures and found nothing unusual after developing my different types of film,video but those that have visited Bachelors Grove feel that using an infrared camera is the best way to see apparitions.The latest haunting took place in 2016.

The Midlothian Turnpike, the road outside of the cemetary, folks claim to have seen ghostly cars causing accidents. The pond, located outside of the cemetary in late 1970’s, was reported by the Cook County Forest Preserve officers to have had apparitions of a horse emerging from the waters. The animal appeared to be steering a plow driven by an old man and the rangers did not know that this was actually a legend connected to the pond according to Living History of Illinois

You tube offers many videos providing images of shadows, possible ghostly figures and white streams of light after taking pictures. You can judge for yourself if these have been photo shopped or the real thing.

According to Prairie Ghosts.com, the vandals first discovered Bachelor’s Grove in the 1960s and, probably because of its secluded location, began to wreak havoc on the place. Gravestones were knocked over and destroyed, sprayed with paint, broken apart and even stolen. Graves were opened and caskets removed. Bones were sometimes found to be strewn about the cemetery. Maybe ghosts rose to fight destruction.

The site saw its first official burials around 1840 and contains 82 plots, many of which were never sold or used. The site is often reported to have been a dumping ground for victims of Chicago’s organized crime families of the 1920s and 1930s, but no evidence of this has been proven.

Hauntings escalated in the 1970’s and 1980’s including a woman sitting on a graveyard that I remember which ran in the Sun-times taken by Jude Felz, which has been the most famous,a phantom farmhouse, the black dog, and the lady who carries an infant during the full moon.

The Ghost Research Society has conducted many investigations and does claim activity. The greatest number of claims include orbs of light. Bachelors Grove has been featured in a program called Ghost Adventures.

If you are planning a trip to Bachelors Grove, make sure you follow the Forest Preserve hours which are generally from sun up to sundown.  It is best to park at Rubio’s Woods, and on foot, cross 143rd Street South towards the power substation, head east a few feet to the closed sign, go around that and follow the path back a couple blocks.

Take a lot of pictures…..many continue to find a weird haze or fog after they have captured shots of the cemetery, pond and road.

Hope’s Front Door: Financial Literacy program changes lives

By Janell Robinson:

Kim was pregnant, unemployed and homeless. She came into Hope’s Front Door because she needed help obtaining medication and transportation vouchers for a job search, but found a resource that would not only change her life, but that of her unborn child, Noah, as well.

“I have never been a saver. I was like, I need some help here. I thought to myself, I am here anyway, maybe I should meet with bank counselors. During my sessions with the bank counselors, the bankers helped me create a plan to pay off my debt. I just started paying the smaller ones first and then putting the larger ones on a payment plan as they suggested. My credit score is now at 735. I also started a savings account at that time with the help of the program. I wanted a rainy day fund.”

“Noah knows I was homeless before he was born. So, it was important to show him that we were saving money. Each time I would get a receipt from the bank after making a deposit I would show Noah and tell him, ‘Look! That is what we have now in the bank.’ When he saw the amount growing, Noah decided he wanted learn how to save too. So, we went to the bank and they gave him his own little piggy banks, which he filled for his college fund.”

“Noah has been saving since he was five years old; he just turned 10 years old last month. He likes going to the bank. He likes to collect change from everyone’s pockets. The bank tellers’ print out the receipts with how much has been put in the account and how much money we have. He likes to tease me saying, ‘I have more money than you, Mom!’”

“I have taught him about saving and budgeting his money using Legos which are his favorite toy. I ask him, does he want to save his money to buy the big Legos that he really wants or spend right now for the smaller ones. He is very disciplined with his money. I hope that he realizes the more you save, the more you can get, and the more self-sufficient you can become. At his age, I would have just spent all of the money I could have saved!”

“Basically, by going through the financial literacy program, I wanted to share with him some of the things I learned. I wanted to show him that if you spend everything you won’t have anything, you will have to be dependent on others and no one wants to live like that.”

Kim and Noah’s journey from being homeless to becoming financially secure started with help from the community.

HOPE’S FRONT DOOR (HFD) often acts as a “first responder” to neighbors who are facing financial and/or medical crises. They serve the homeless, as well as those seeking assistance in the communities of:

  • Darien
  • Downers Grove
  • Lisle
  • Westmont
  • Willowbrook
  • Woodridge

Hope’s Front Door will be hosting The Traveling Feast fundraiser on October 5, 2017. Guests will be tasting delectable food offerings from five downtown Westmont restaurants before traveling down the road to their next culinary destination. We’re looking to raise to raise $20,000 that will be used in support of our Financial Literacy Program – helping area residents, like Kim and Noah, gain financial self-sufficiency through baseline financial literacy including budgeting, savings and credit repair.

For more information about the event or to purchase tickets, please visit www.hopesfrontdoor.org or call 630-322-9804.

Chicago’s Most Popular Ghost: Resurrection Mary

As a lifer in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, I have taken many trips along the roads, Resurrection Cemetery and the Willowbrook ballroom to find Mary…no luck so far but continue to do so when I hear there may be new sightings.

Who is Resurrection Mary? Just outside Resurrection Cemetary in Justice, Illinois a few miles southwest of Chicago, Mary, a young ghostly hitchiker has been seen along Archer Avenue between the old Willowbrook Ballroom and the cemetery since the 1930s. Mary has been picked up by drivers and then suddenly disappears by the cemetery as the driver passes by. Sightings have described her as having blonde hair, blue eyes and wearing a white party dress. The first sighting of Mary was actually from Jerry Palaus asking Mary to dance and when they touched, she was so cold.

Where and when has Mary been seen? Over the years, Mary has been seen a number of times. She showed up in 1973 at the Harlows nightclub on Cicero Avenue and since recorded sightings include one in 1976, 1978, 1980, and the last being in 1989. Janet Kalal and a friend were out in October of 89 and they were out for a drive ending up at Resurrection Cemetery and claim that Mary stepped right in front of their car. They were moving and felt no bump , seeing a stream of white.  Just this year, a movie was made about Resurrection Mary.

What and who do I believe?

Ursula Bielski, a Chicago historian and lover of ghosts, met her on a bar stool at the tender age of vie, drinking a Shirly Temple at Chet’s Melody Lounge on a Wednesday morning. According to Ursula the research that connects Mary to a real person that is the most solid is that Mary is Anna Norkus who was born in Cicero in 1914.  As a young girl, Anna used her middle name Mary, because of her devotion to Blessed Mary. Anna  loved to dance and her father took her to the famous OHenry Ballroom (Willowbrook) and  on the drive home they were passing Resurrection cemetary and was in a car accident. Anna was killed.

Ursula talks more about her research of Mary She is the author of: Chicago HauntsMore Chicago HauntsGraveyards of ChicagoCreepy Chicago, and the forthcoming book, Beloved: The Lives and Afterlives of Resurrection Mary. With her husband, David Cowan, author of To Sleep with the Angels (on the tragic Our Lady of Angels school fire) and Great Chicago Fires she owns and operates Chicago Haunting’s Ghost Tours. She has been awarded as one of the top ghost tours in America and provides different tours that you may enjoy such as Gothic Chicago Tours, The Devil and the White City, and the Classic Chicago Ghost Tour that includes the site where the Eastland disaster occurred. You can visit her Web site at: www.chicagohauntings.com.

As a Downers Grove resident today, I still wander over to Justice and Willow Springs. Just last year, the Willowbrook Ball Room was destroyed by fire. However, a nonprofit foundation plans to re-build with therapeutic dance programs for seniors and the disabled including a ballroom.

I wonder if there are more ghosts than ever walking along Archer Avenue. It is a beautiful day today….I might just take another cruise.

The light on Quiet Harbor

In the early 1990’s, it began at the Clipper Ship Gallery in LaGrange, home to Charles Vickery, a local artist who showcased his work with paintings of the sea. His eyes lit up as we walked through the store admiring the beautiful work of clipper ships and Charles Vickery’s ability to make water come to life. I knew then what Kevin Sullivan’s next birthday gift would be. So my Mom, young Kris and Kaleigh returned to choose a Quiet Harbor, a limited edition print, framed with a light to highlight the respected artist.

As the print became a new highlight in our home, with a picture taken of Kevin and his children sitting on the couch in front of the new painting, Charles Vickery inspired others and through the years, has become a renowned artist for tall ship collectors. He passed away in September of 1998.

Until death do us part, Quiet Harbor remained in Kevin Sullivan’s life until he passed away almost a month ago. Kristopher, his 30 year old son, displays the Vickery today on his own wall and shares an email sent to the Charles Vickery Clipper Ship Gallery.

I remember my Mom buying Quiet Harbor for my Dad and admiring the models the Clipper Ship Gallery offered. I was just a kid then and we were in your shop alot back in the early 1990s 

Charles Vickery has touched me as well  considering he, myself and my Dad shared a similar passion for the sea and sails. Since my Dad and Mom divorced, the Charles Vickery print has always been on my father’s wall; Quiet Harbor print number 321/950 for over 20 plus years. When they were married, it had a light on it and he even asked me if I remembered the light not long before his own death just a few weeks ago.

It has been through many homes and yet pristine, he cared about it as he cared about his own children. My father had a passion for the sea and the tall ship. He was an avid sailor, I, his son, was his first mate. Toward the end of his life after being diagnosed with stage four cancer, he didn’t have much time but he did have time for the Vickery which still hung by his bed when he passed away on August 17th.  He was only 58 years old.

 Its one of the few things he had left and something I can appreciate and remember him by. Recently I bought a plate to commemorate the picture ….the same print which seemed to be difficult to find.

What am I trying to say?

I hung that picture the day after he passed away in my own home. I cried as my lighting lit it up for the first time in over 20 years.  Charles Vickery art touches more people in ways you can never imagine. For me, its sailing, its my Dad. I just wanted you to know.  Thanks, Kristopher Sullivan

And you know my personal feelings about the light for those readers that truly know me……a beautiful world beyond this earth without pain, suffering. A quiet harbor with peace and tranquility, a place to go home to the light.

Early beginnings in Chicago land movie theaters

It was the Chicago theater where I went to see my first movie. Though only three, I remember sitting on the right side of theater only a few rows from the front; fascinated by the colors, magic and amazing action presented in Sleeping Beauty. It was also at the Chicago Theater that I remember seeing Mary Poppins in 1964 and Sound of Music shortly after.

Chicago was known for having majestic theaters that included the Avalon. For me, on the South side with over 2,000 seats and I remember seeing IT’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Avalon was located on 79th street and I always felt like I was going on an exotic vacation designed in Middle Eastern style. Additionally, there were five huge murals in the lobby, which were made of tiny inlaid mosaic tiles, and a giant stage, which was guarded by four menacing gargoyles. The theater also once contained a 3/15 Wurlitzer theater organ. It is set to re-open next month as the Avalon Regal Theatre. 

Another favorite for southsiders was the Jeffrey theater on 71st in South Shore with a vertical marquee that could be seen up and down the street. In addition, The Hamilton Theater was opened in 1916, for the Cooney Brothers circuit, in the heart of the South Shore neighborhood’s 71st Street retail district.

Evergreen Plaza in Evergreen Park was a place we could hang out with our friends and Evergreen Theater was added in a separate building located on the malls south side in 1964. I remember seeing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Originally Evergreen Plaza, the shopping center opened in 1952 as an open-air mall, with Jewel, Lerners, Kresges,Carsons, Chas. A Stevens, Lyttons, and Walgreens being early anchors. The mall was enclosed in the early 1960s, becoming the nation’s first suburban indoor mall.

Now called Westfield Old Orchard, it was here we would travel to enjoy the open air mall that offered some of the first luxury stores in Skokie that were located downtown Chicago such as Marshall Fields and Lord& Taylor; the latter the oldest luxury department store in the United States. Old Orchard hosted a movie theater which is now called the Regal Gardens where I saw the 1967 movie, Thoroughly Modern Millie.

It was at the Ford City Mall Theater that I saw the Exorcist becoming one of the highest grossing films and the best in horror along with Jaws a few years later, of course, being released in the summer. Actually according to statistics, Jaws was the highest grossing film of all time until Star Wars was released in 1977.

After living in the south suburbs, the original one screen River Oaks Dimension 150 Theater was opened May 30, 1969 by ABC Great States Theaters. It had 1,600 rocking chair seats, a large curved screen, auditorium lights on the sides of theater that were dimly lit during intermission, and a giant curtain that opened from both sides at the middle. It was here that I saw the GodFather somehow remembering the horse head the most.

Opening at the Biograph,was the Rocky Horror Picture in 1975 which probably gets more attention now than ever before, always accompanied by a live cast.

Throughout the early 1980’s, there were many others that included the 400 on Sheridan Road in Rogers Park and the Genesee theater in Waukegan which opened into a huge lobby with a large chandelier. The stage was created for live theater and movies. In 1982, the Theater stopped showing movies due to economic decline and the rise of major movie cineplexes. And in 1989, it officially closed and went up for sale.

The City of Waukegan purchased the building in 1999 and began renovations at a cost of almost $23 million with the help of over 120 volunteers. The Genesee Theatre reopened on December 3, 2004 and still a host to many old time favorites that include Huey Lewis, Gordon Lightfoot and REO Speed Wagon.