A special trip to Chicago’s Our Lady of the Angels

Of course, what comes to mind for many of you my age and older, is the tragic school fire on Dec 1. 1958 at Our Lady of Angels school in West Humboldt Park. I was only three when my mother began to cry when watching the news. But I will never forget. Being taught fire safety in elementary school, teachers always referred to the horrific event that killed 92 children, three nuns and hundreds who walked away with significant injuries. Consequently, the fire did lead to major fire reforms in schools throughout the country and over 60 years later, you rarely hear of a child being hurt in a school fire.

Over decades, I have visited the neighborhood, saying a prayer, feeling the unrest and watching the massive decline. If you or your family were not involved in the fire, you certainly knew someone on the street that you lived who may have lost a child. The pain was too great and many moved on to begin a new start. In the late 1960’s, blockbusting occurred in many parts of the city where real estate practices essentially forced whites from their homes to create high housing prices for blacks. Whites also took the jobs with them and blacks were unemployed. Our Lady of the Angels couldn’t survive and the parish closed in 1990.

The school closed as a Catholic school first but was a charter school until approximately 2017 when given back to the Franciscans at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels . Fr. Bob Lombardo came to Chicago in 2005, at the special request of Cardinal George, to set up a mission outreach to help the poverty- stricken neighborhood that struggle with gang infiltration and drug trafficking on Chicago’s west side; one of the most violent areas in the country.

Many may not realize that  Fr. Bob erected the first on-site outside memorial for the victims of the tragedy, which was blessed by Cardinal George in 2007. He is a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. In Chicago, Fr. Bob has functioned as the founder/ director of the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, founder/ superior of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, a newly established religious community of young men and women living and serving at the Mission of Our Lady of Angels.

Fourth of July weekend I visited their monthly food pantry with an added bonus in which they gave away 80 mattresses for those in the community. They provide fresh produce, non perishable food, clothing, and household goods to about 250 families each month at their Mobile Pantry. They have 75+ volunteers that help and you can sign up at any time. Families can take a cart filled with food and volunteers will help walk the family to their homes as long as it is within a block from the pantry. But the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels does so much more.

The Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago are an extremely educated and talented group who have been invited to take part in pilgrimages throughout the world. In the beginning, Fr Bob graduated from Notre Dame University in 1979 with an accounting degree and worked at Price Waterhouse. It was shortly after when he found his calling to become a Franciscian and a priest with over 30 years of religious experience.

Sister Kate, originally a nurse, talked about her humbling experience working in the community and their excitement in being able to renovate the school for more program space and retreats. The Church currently provides Eucharist adoration as well as neighborhood prayer services while the original Convent houses the female Franciscans and their offices. The rectory currently houses Fr. Bob and the male Franciscans. Kelly Hall hosts their monthly food program as well as senior programs. And they have received incredible donations that have allowed them to re-build and continue their unwavering commitment to help others. It not easy being who they are, but their graciousness towards others is genuine, constant and truly God’s gift to all of us.

Those who believe that all was ultimately lost in that community after the unforgettable fire…..maybe not. For the Franciscans do pray for those lost in 1958 and their survivors. But their current passion is not giving up on their mission to improve the lives of others they meet today; reminding us who is always in charge with them.

They improved my life in just a few hours and maybe the blessings of the community angels……. many so young…… are assisting the Franciscans to trust and always have faith in God’s timeless love.

 

World Book

As I sat at my card table in the den watching TV, or painting, the World Book Encyclopedia was sitting on a shelf right next to me within hands reach. My mother was so excited when we got them. Like the internet, no family could or should live without them in the 1960s. Now, whenever you had a question for a parent or grandparent, the famous line was let’s go look that up in the World book. I especially liked H.. the one for the human body.. where you opened the book and saw the delicate, plastic, shiny drawing pages.

The first edition of The World Book Encyclopedia was published (as simply The World Book) in 1917, by the Hanson-Roach-Fowler Company in Chicago. Unlike the way most other encyclopedias were printed, World Book has traditionally been published in variously sized volumes, depending on the letter of the alphabet. And it still exists today.

World Book Encyclopedia was also published in electronic form for Microsoft Windows and Apple’s Mac OS X.  Thousands of print sets are still ordered annually, mostly by schools who use them as teaching tools for library research skills; public libraries and homeschooling families are also frequent purchasers. Currently, the 2019 general A-Z look-up source in 22 hard-cover volumes is under 1,000 dollars. World Book also has a series of children’s learning books that deal with science, nature and technology.

My children were 1990’s kids though the computer age was just beginning but for me, we still used the available encyclopedia or dictionary. The computer took forever to connect in their early years but throughout high school and college it was amazing what we could find together. Though Grandma would still refer to …where is that world book? 

Today some students in the elementary classroom will run to their IPad to look something up on the Internet but there are many that will remember that hardcover book. They run to that learning book on the shelf with the colorful photos of the Under the Sea Fish and animals; looking to learn the non-fiction facts about what an octopus really is. Learning to read, at his or her level successfully, as they turn the pages. I can’t wait to sit with them sharing their success with a beloved hard-cover.

 

Could the answer to affordable living lie with Airbnb?

JUNE 2019, UK: A recent study by leading travel comparison site dealchecker, analysed the cost of living across the USA. The study compared the average cost of renting an apartment vs Airbnb which uncovered that in Joliet, IL, AirBnB is an eye-watering 4% cheaper than renting.

Findings revealed that the estimated daily rental price is $39.83 vs Airbnb at $38.15 per night. The high rental charges for residents reflect the changes seen in the national average market, with increased rental rises across the entire country. According to Yardi Matrix apartment rent reached an all-time high of $1,405 in June 2018, an increase by 2.9 percent year over year, and by 0.9 percent ($12) month over month.

So savings are to be had in Joliet, but what if is not quite the place for you? The study shows that on average it is cheaper to live in an Airbnb versus traditional renting in 18 of the 21 cities analysed across Illinois state. In Chicago, IL one of the largest cities in the US, Airbnb is $38 cheaper than renting, a substantial 48% saving for the 2.7 million strong population.

In Aurora, the estimated rental price per night is $54.25 taking into account bills and living costs attached to traditional renting, whilst choosing to Airbnb hop could offer a 29% saving, costing on average $38.42 per night, a price difference of $15.

City/Arbnb Rental Price/ Price Percentage Difference/ Savings per night

Joliet: $38.15, $39.83, 48%, $1.68

Naperville: $46.00, $59.88, 23%, $13.88

Aurora: $38.42, $54.25, 29%, $15.83

Peoria: $33.86, $58.17, 42%, $24.31

Springfield: $32.39, $58.17, 44%, $25.88

Chicago: $41.30, $78.88, 48%, $37.58 (largest savings)

Further findings revealed that in fact, it is cheaper in a staggering 74% of the 1,127 cities analysed across the USA with five Illinois cities sitting in the top 100. Renters could be saving in Glenview, Carbondale, Urbana and Campaign.

Airbnb has been flying the flag for flexible apartment stay for over a decade and since it’s conception 2008 has taken the world by storm. In 2017, alone, a colossal $93 million dollars in net income was generated by the company. The concept was born out of not being able to afford apartment rental prices and embraces a nomadic lifestyle for those who enjoy the flexibility of short-term stays providing the opportunity to explore different areas within a state, city or country.

For a generation of digital nomads where the appeal lies with fluidity in both work and living, it offers a sense of freedom and empowerment and the rise in choosing this way of life has coincided with the rapid global rise of remote work which is fast becoming a viable way to work, especially across global tech companies. This study has shown that Airbnb could become a viable living option in a climate of increased rental prices across the USA offering both affordability and flexibility to future generations.

Introduction to the Good Old Days: The Fourth of July

I found them in a Victorian box the cover decorated with miniature roses of days long ago.  I remember the day which was cold, wet and a time where I had nothing constructive to do.  Being an only child, there were days like this so I decided to play in our basement and look through old packing boxes of memorabilia.

It was my grandmother’s box and it looked like it had contained real flowers at once time.  The box was like the cover of a book and had a gold binding.  Scripted writing said “roses for you” and I wondered if my grandfather had given real roses from this box on a special occasion. But it wasn’t dark and disintegrating flowers that I found beneath the cover, but piles and piles of 5 by 7 sheets of yellowed newspaper clippings.  There had to be over a hundred comics and in each corner the label read “The Good Old Days by Erwin L. Hess.

These had been printed in the 1950’s but their black and white pictures depicted the world much younger, in fact, beginning at the turn of the century. The detail of each comic frame reminded me of scenes from perfect doll house rooms.  You could look at one drawing several times and still not see everything.  This shows a celebration of the Fourth of July in 1954 but it talks about remembering 1919; over a hundred years ago. That is why I have taken out the box many times through the years.

Today, begins the journey of the good old days series and I will post a story and comic to match a topic throughout the year. Of course, I will also being doing other writings about everything and anything. However, you will always know by the yellowed comic chosen with label and title, The Good Old Days.

There is an expression that says “one picture is worth a thousand words”.  As you view the comics in later posts, not only do you learn about the past and its progression, but you will experience the artful moments of family, canvases of adventure, scenes of the seasons and just plain enjoyment. You will realize the milestones of invention, the joys of house and home, entertainment in different forms and that unconditional love for family or friends has never changed from past to present.

Erwin L. Hess was an artist for all types of comics and began “The Good Old Days” series  in 1947.  Believe it or not, the comics were still being published until 1981.

During the 1930’s and 1940’s, he did artwork for comics such as Roy Rogers.  He had also illustrated several children’s books.  He had become quite popular for his creation of Captain Midnight , another newspaper comic strip.

Wrigley chewing gum

Juicy fruit and bazooka,(bubble gum was bazooka penny candy with the comics inside wrapper) was the ones that fought for being number one in my life. I chose Bazooka more in the early years because if we had an allowance, we could buy penny candy and that was the selection in the bin at Cozy Corner on the south side of Chicago. Cozy Corner was a great little store and diner located next to South Chicago Hospital. Juicy Fruit came in a package and was more expensive. There was another store across the street that I remember buying magazines and my Archie comics. Another story coming soon on that trend.  But throughout my life, decades later, it was Juicy Fruit, a package of five, created by Wrigley here in Chicago.

In 1891, 29-year-old William Wrigley Jr. came to Chicago from Philadelphia with $32 and the idea to start a business selling Wrigley’s Scouring Soap. Wrigley offered premiums as an incentive to buy his soap, such as baking powder. Later in his career, he switched to the baking powder business, in which he began offering two packages of chewing gum for each purchase of a can of baking powder. Wrigley soon abandoned baking powder, entered the gum industry and in 1893, he offered two new gum brands; Juicy Fruit and Wrigley’s Spearmint.The popular premium, chewing gum, began to seem more promising. Wrigley also became the majority owner of the Chicago Cubs in 1921. William Wrigley Jr. died on January 26th, 1932, at the age of 70 and his son continued to run the company.

According to Wikipedia, In 2005, Wrigley purchased Life Savers and Altoids from Kraft Foods for US$1.5 billion.On January 23, 2007, Wrigley signed a purchase agreement to acquire an 80% initial interest in A. Korkunov for $300 million with the remaining 20% to be acquired over time. On April 28, 2008, Mars announced that it would acquire Wrigley for approximately $23 billion. Financing for the transaction was provided by Berkshire Hathaway, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan (Warren Buffet) Berkshire Hathaway held a minority equity investment in Wrigley until October 2016.

 

Free O’Douls at the Cubs vs Mets game: June 21st

Chicago fans can get their hands on limited edition cans of O’Doul’s, designed by local artist Brandon Breaux, on June 21st at the Cubs vs. Mets game at Wrigley Field. Visitors can visit Responsible Fan kiosks on concourse levels during the game. Fans at the game can look out for O’Doul’s signage on the big screen in the outfield to learn where else they can find the cans throughout the stadium. The cans will be given away at the game free of charge, no purchase necessary.

After the ODoul’s can refresh in November with NYC-based artist Mr. Kiji, they wanted to bring him back for a second launch and expand to two additional top markets in the U.S. The O’Doul’s team worked internally to identify three unique artists that produce art reflective of their cities’ one-of-a-kind aesthetics, and approached Brandon for this unique opportunity.

Brandon talks about his artwork for the brand, “The design utilizes color forms to communicate, which I feel speaks to the brand’s message and impact that message holds. The goal of the design is to make something that attracts people and gives off a good vibe in any environment.”

Brandon Breaux is a fine art/designer who was born in Chicago graduating with a Bachelors of Art and Design from DePaul University and is currently working out of the city. He is widely known as the artist behind all 3 of Chance the Rapper’s iconic album covers but continues to be involved with painting, sculpture, web, video and print projects. Brandon has his own shop online with a variety of art that you can purchase including a picture of Chicago’s great Harry Caray (still available) and Harold’s Chicken; another Chicago favorite. However, his overall goal is to inspire and educate by producing creative solutions. Once a child myself from the south side of Chicago, I appreciate Brandon’s collaboration with The Invisible Space at 85th and Cottage Grove offering yoga and meditation sessions helping to transform others into a more healthy life style; just like promoting a non-alcoholic environment.

O’Doul’s has been a leader in premium non-alcohol beers for nearly 30 years. Wanting to socialize responsibly, Anheuser-Busch- ODouls bottled beer was always my choice at a restaurant or bar for it’s full body taste. Perfect for attracting people who want to enjoy the fine beer flavor but take pleasure in a sober/ positive event. O’Douls and O’Douls Amber contain only the finest of natural ingredients-including barley malt, domestic and imported whole cone hops, brewer’s yeast, select grains and water.

In a time when more brands are entering the non-alcohol beverage category, O’Doul’s wanted to shake up its look for long standing brand fans, while enticing new consumers to drink responsibly and in moderation this summer.

My Dad, Happy Fathers Day

When I looked up the definition of father, I was amazed at how many categorized fathers we have today. From the weekend/holiday fathersurprised father, stepfathersecond father to just mothers partner or husband; all of which define “the Dad”.  And, believe it or not, there is the DI Dad who is the social/legal father of children produced via donor insemination.

Father is also considered a founder of a body of knowledge or institution like George Washington; the Father of Our Country. And now I can understand why fathers are seen as authority figures and are suppose to possess experience and knowledge in life to pass onto others. That is what being a father is about; the active father who speaks of wisdom and guidance.

My father passed away when I was twelve and Fathers Day was not a Hallmark occasion that was at the top of my list. He was several years older than my Mom and always wanted a little girl. My mother never re-married and someone said that a father is a girl’s first love. Only he could push me on my new swing set at our home in Chicago.

With time, I realized my father, John, was gone and could not be replaced though I would always be grateful for the strong memories of his love for me. Some didn’t have any example in their lives. And as the years passed, I figured out that I could have as many fathers as I wanted; a trusted male friend who nurtures and helps you live a more fulfilling life.

They can be a neighbor that offers support when you struggle, comfort when you are down and their snow blower when there is a foot of snow in your driveway. They can be a manager who reminds you that you are truly worth it regardless of your awkward stumbles at work. They can be a co-worker that offers you a smile, something to laugh at, thumbs up and a cup of coffee when you are having a bad day.

They can be a brother who offers unconditional love and commitment regardless of how you frustrate him. They can be any relative who is protective, concerned and sees your success rather than incompetence. They can be your best friend’s father who spent hours tutoring you in math and building your self-esteem in a subject you never thought possible.

They can be the salesman or contractor that is really looking out for your safety and best interests. They can be your postman who always makes sure your mail is delivered on time and doesn’t rush off without saying hello. They can be teachers and role models to all children of any age and family.

Most of all, they can be the one above…you may not be able to see, but truly loves you.

(Re-posted-originally published June 17, 2018)

Chicago Public Library, libraries and book mobiles

I have a distant memory of a bookmobile standing outside our school once though I do not remember selecting any books. However, in elementary school at Buckingham we did not have a library and the Chicago Public library came to visit us. We met in the gym and specific grade level books were placed in carts and disposable chairs were seated in front of the carts. When called, we could select books. I am not sure how many minutes or days we attended. We also had a storeroom that was situated in the gym and books were shelved from floor to ceiling. These were not our books but were leased from the Chicago Public Library and librarians would travel from school to school at that time.  In third grade, I remember getting ready to select books to take home and a lady from our main office was crying over the loud speaker announcing that our president, John F Kennedy had died. I remember looking at the clock that was located by the speaker; it was about 1:15. We did not pick out books that day because we were instructed to go home.

The Chicago Public Library (CPL) is the public library system that serves the City of Chicago in the U.S. state of Illinois. It consists of 80 locations, including a central library, two regional libraries, and branches distributed throughout the city’s 77 Community Areas.The American Library Association reports that the library holds 5,721,334 volumes, making it the 9th largest public library in the United States by volumes held, and the 30th largest academic or public library in the United States by volumes held. The Chicago Public Library is the second largest library system in Chicago by volumes held (the largest is the University of Chicago Library). The library is the second largest public library system in the Midwest, after the Detroit Public Library.

According to American Libraries, bookmobiles have a proud history of service dating back to the late 1850s, when a horse-drawn collection of books began making the rounds in Cumbria, England. Here in the United States, the first bookmobile is widely attributed to Mary Lemist Titcomb, a librarian in Washington County, Maryland, who in 1905 posited “Would not a Library Wagon, the outward and visible signs of the service for which the Library stood, do much more in cementing friendship?”

Today, bookmobiles still exist especially in rural areas where Internet access is not the best. Though the number has dropped, Aurora Public Library in the western suburbs loves their Bookmobile that visits schools on a three-week rotation throughout the school year. The Bookmobile also delivers materials requested from the collections at the Santori Library, Eola Road Branch, or West Branch.   In addition, the Bookmobile has community stops conveniently located throughout the city to serve customers of all age and is available for special events.

I am blessed that the Downers Grove Library is close to home and thankful for the Internet that I may reserve books. You can reserve books that have not been published yet and coming out sometime that year. I make sure I order a combination of old historical fiction and the latest bestsellers. That is one thing I cannot do…… finish one book without another waiting by my side.

You are never bored if you love to read.

Last days of recess

I take a break on the wooden bench, reflecting during outdoor kindergarten recess, the last week of school. My…… how they have grown physically. The difference from the start of the year is uncanny. They have learned how to use their words and handle issues between them….less tears. Though sometimes the girls emotions are triggered out of nowhere, at a Grandma or Grandpa passing away over a year ago or losing their favorite pet. Some days are still just too long for those in kindergarten. However, they have learned about hands to self and not walking up the slide. Sometimes they fall with minor injury and dirty clothes, but they get back up, brush the dirt off and move on. Overall, they have come a long way.

One spring day at the school playground for me in the early sixties during second grade was not fun. A bully from our school was trapping some of the girls, including me, on a school step in front of our door outside that lead to the playground. I took a run for it and he began pulling on my skirt to stop me and it fell to my knees. A teacher at Buckingham school did see the event and he was taken to the Principal. His parents were called and I didn’t go to school for several days out of embarrassment. Finally, someone convinced me that the girls on the step wanted to be my best friend forever. I saved them, thus, becoming popular overnight.

My opinion of boys did improve for me on the sixth grade playground at Warren Junior High School when I was asked to go steady and wear his gold id bracelet. The bracelet was beautiful with his name elegantly engraved. This was a first and I was more interested in wearing the bracelet than the boy himself. I was popular, once again, among the girls and the boyfriend lasted two weeks.

For my children growing up in the 1990s, I don’t recall any significant events happening to them on the playground. Then again who knows? What I still don’t know may not hurt me or them. Maybe, I will ask them when I am in a silly mood.

I watch the girls on the swings now…five or six in a row…some trying to pump as high as the one next to them, surpassing others. Then I see her. I have written about the little one before. She was very tiny and younger than most with less experience in kindergarten when she began the school year. I pushed her most days on the swing or a friend in class helped. We tried to teach to her to push,many, many times, but no luck for months.

I looked at her face and I caught glimpses of what she would look like when she grew up…confident and breathtaking. This young woman smiled at me and her legs were pumping on the swing. Slowly, at first and then she began to swing. A look of surprise completed her features as she swung higher and higher; knowing her best was yet to come.

And so it ends…….. a wonderful year for me. Consequently, trusting in the true magic beginnings of growth, possibility and fulfillment for all of them. Will they remember? Probably not, but I will, right here in the written word especially if age-related problems take over. That is all that matters!

 

 

Chicago Cookies

Every time I think of the butter cookie in the blue box, I hear the Salerno Butter Cookie song in my head constantly. It was famous in the 1960’s and continued on through the years though butter cookies were not my favorite. Though I did like putting them on my fingers like a ring.I have always been a chocolate fan especially a rich, chocolate chip cookie. But Salerno has been a favorite since 1933. The original factory was located at 4500 West Division in Chicago and Alyce Salerno was the last of the original Salerno cookie owner who died in 1985. Her father originally began the company. Since, the company and recipe has been repeatedly  sold  you can still get the cookies online and in many grocery stores.

Maurice Lenell: My Mom always served the pinwheel swirl cookie and jelly star cookies with coffee and for guests. Not sure why they were the rage since, again, it was always a chocolate chip cookie…even today. Maurice Lenell grew up working at a small Swedish bakery on the northwest side of Chicago. In 1937, when he struck out on his own, Maurice used his hands-on baking knowledge and many of the family recipes to produce his own cookie jar favorites. Maurice Lenell signature cookies soon became a Chicago institution.  In 2008. Maurice Lenell cookies finally closed its doors. The Cookie Store and ore opened in 2010 to serve as the unofficial outlet for the brand but it has been closed since 2015.

Lorna Doone is a golden, square-shaped shortbread cookie produced by Nabisco. It was possibly named after the main character in R. D. Blackmore’s 1869 novel, Lorna Doone. The original cookie recipe came from the Malloys. The couple came from County Cork, Ireland. Emily and John Malloy ran a bakery in Chicago. The couple came from County Cork, Ireland. Emily had created the recipe, but when they closed down the bakery, John sold the recipe to Nabisco.