Tree top house

As a tribute to teachers, I could not take my eyes off of the best early pre-school television series on WGN where studio children acted as characters. The show began with Ms Mary Jane Clark presiding over a forest setting and the children would actually climb up to the tree top house at the end of show. Ms. Clark and her friend Mr. Widgin, a marionette, hosted the show from 1960-1962. This was live TV. Sometimes a stage was set with props including fake trees, and houses but no costumes and children moved with little rehearsal from places in the story. They told stories, sang songs and did craft projects. And she really talked to the children. Children seemed a little nervous but the cameramen helped if there was a problem according to sources. There really wasn’t a tree top house, above, it was located on another set and on the ground which may have been confusing for kids. It became even more successful largely to the gifts and grace of another vivid young performer and teacher, Mrs. Anita Kleever at WGN-TV in 1963 who hosted the story of Hansel and Gretel and won the Peabody Award.

Mary Jane Clark was born in Chicago in 1932 and had lived in River Forest as well as Oakbrook. She studied at Northwestern majoring in journalism and worked at American Airlines as a stewardess. She became Mary Jane Clark Dloughy in 1955. She recorded many commercials for WGN especially the Breck Girl and in the late 1960’s, she started her own employment business for women. She retired from her management company in 1980 and passed away in 2007.

Treetop House also holds the distinction of being the first Chicago children’s show to have a African-American host- Tasha Johnson. In 1970, Tasha Johnson hosted Tree Top House and in color. One copy of the Chicago Daily TV week with a beautiful picture of Tree Top House is available for purchase. I am not seller of the paper but I like to give credit to any picture online.

Celebrating National Library Week; libraries an integral part of my life

Growing up in Chicago in the early 1960’s, we did have a library at school. The Chicago Public Library came to visit me and my classmates at Kate Sturgis Buckingham School and Joseph Warren School. I loved books but had a difficult time with comprehension until 5th grade. I remember book carts being displayed in a row in the gym for us to select a book to take home. Extra books were available on shelves in a tall closet where we could look at the books. Brenda Brave Helps Grandmother, a picture book by Astrid Lindgren, was a favorite. Some liked the Hardy Boys Series when they got older, but for me, it was the Trixie Beldon Series or Little House on the Prairie. The South Chicago Library Branch is still located at 91st and Houston and was built in 1941. That was my mom’s place since she was an avid reader; always a book in the evenings. The library was completely renovated with a new addition in 1994. There is also the Avalon Branch at 81st and Stony Island that opened in 2006.

Moving to Dolton in 1970-1978, much of my library experience took place at Thornridge Highschool, where I was a library assistant for my sophomore year, South Suburban College, and Lewis University, though the Dolton Library, 14037 Lincoln Avenue, still available, was popular during the summer as well as the South Holland Library. Originally, the South Holland Library was opened in 1962 after a 500,000 dollar referendum was passed. A new library was built in 1972 at its present location, 16250 Wausau Avenue. Most of my reading was textbook literature for high school and college papers, I still had to read for fun and relaxation. After Trixie Beldon, I had moved on to Nancy Drew and finished the series, but my favorite author in the late 1970’s was John Saul. His first, a horror best seller, was Suffer the Children in 1977, Punish the Sinners,1978, and Cry for the Strangers in 1979. I have read all 37 of his thrillers.

Teaching at the old Warren Township High School in Gurnee on O’Plaine Rd during the 1980’s, I remember the library at school. Because of the school library, I did not go to the Warren-Newport Library frequently, which opened in 1973 and is one of the busiest libraries in Lake County or the Waukegan Library. Waukegan’s current library building is located at County and Clayton Streets and is part of a governmental complex including both municipal and county buildings. It was designed by William Ganster of the Waukegan architecture firm of Ganster and Henninghausen. The library opened for service on December 27, 1965 and was dedicated on April 19, 1966. The library went through a complete renovation in 2015. The library honors Ray Bradbury, the science fiction author, since he was born in Waukegan in 1922. I was never much of a science fiction fan, but it was at this time that I fell in love with Anne Perry, a historical detective writer and Jeffrey Archer.

For over 30 years, my library of choice has been the Downers Grove Library, 1050 Curtiss Street. Especially with technological services, I can search for a book online, reserve it, and when it is ready, they will send an email saying that it is available and for how many days on specific hold shelves. You can reserve books that have not been published yet, but will come out sometime that year. Following a successful referendum for a tax-supported library, a small-frame building on the southwest corner of Main and Curtiss became the library’s second home. Circulation in November of 1912 was 1,520. In 1996, residents approved an $8.2 million referendum to reconstruct and update the library by adding an addition. The new 67,738 square foot building opened in February of 1999.

Being over 65, I can’t wait to read; still. I am always looking for the best in historical fiction and I love authors such as Kate Morton, Sara Paretsky, Claire McIntosh, Kristin Hannah, James Patterson, and the list goes on, and on, and on. I even belong to a book club; the creator of the club has invited women all over the country that she knew. We once shared the library together as teachers at Warren Township. We truly need to focus on the reading skills of young children. I am certainly an integral example. I have lived a lifetime’s love of reading.

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.

Wishing you a Charlie Brown Christmas

By Caryl Clem

On the short list of my holiday movie favorites is Charlie Brown. The fact I have aged and he has not, I do not hold against him. I am an unswerving Charlie Brown Peanuts fan. Imagine my amazement when I discovered Charlie Brown at Christmas was almost canceled. The fact Charlie Brown has performed for over 50 years this time of year borders on a Christmas miracle.

Charlie Brown surfaced in the newspaper comics in October 1950. Charles Schultz his creator wove the trails of life seen by his young characters into Sunday morning remedy.  Ironically, Lucy’s advice for 5 cents echoed the new price increase for newspapers that year. Charlie faced wistful, nonreciprocal love: sports failures, academic challenges, and Lucy’s domineering force with gut wrenching persistence. He never gave up in spite of failure after failure. He sheltered Linus with his Security blanket understanding that feeling secure was a form of success.

In 1965, producer Lee Mendelson urged Schultz and Disney animator Melendez to consider expanding Charlie Brown’s audience to  a television 30 minute special sponsored by Coca Cola.  Mendelson confided CBS executives didn’t think it would work. Skeptics claimed it was slow moving, too religious, not lighthearted like the popular comic strip and diverted from what children expected to see. Determined to win approval, a week before the final deadline Mendelson submitted his final draft. In spite of the initial misgivings, CBS was aired the special on December 9, 1965.

The New York Times stated that 15 million watched the first A Charlie Brown animated cartoon.  As the story unfolded a young boy feeling frustrated by his inability to connect to the festive Christmas spirit; he discovered the magic of Christmas at the end. Every heart in the audience must have been touched by Charlie’s dilemma since an Emmy and the Peabody awards were given for outstanding children’s programming in 1966. A Charlie Brown Christmas is on PBS at 7:30 EST.

Charles Schultz used his genius to weave a story within the limits of reality. Charlie Brown animated cartoons were the first to children voices instead of adults.  Peter Robin’s was 8 ½ years old filling a tall order for a jubilant Christmas ready kid sounding depressed or weary when reading a Charlie Brown script. All the Peanut characters voices were done by kids, a crucial element that makes Charlie Brown so believable.

The holidays are a mix of stress and elation. Remember, Charlie Brown always bounced back, never gave up on hope in the future. I am Wishing Everyone A Charlie Brown Christmas.

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.

Songs still played in kindergarten

Working with students in kindergarten, it continues to amaze me how they are mesmerized listening to the same songs like I did in kindergarten over 60 years ago. And my own children reacted the same when they were little; 3+ decades earlier. One day I watched one little guy work on his ipad to the sounds of Go Tell It On The Mountain, Skip, Skip, Skip, To My Lou, Are You Sleeping, Brother John, also known as( Fre er Jac Que). I learned the French version of Brother John in third grade. Do You Know The Muffin Man, and B-i-n-go, B-i-n-go, B-i-n-g-o, and Bingo was his name…..O, more of the past. I thought that was it….done… until the teacher put on the video of the famous all-time children’s song Wheels On The Bus and he couldn’t stop singing….neither could I. The music we sang when learning the ABC’s is another melody where everything stops and they listen to the classic creative music. We play that every day just before we leave for home; a celebration song earned for a good day.

Go Tell It On the Mountain is a Christmas carol as its original lyrics celebrate the Nativity of Jesus: Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born. An alternate final line omits the reference to the birth of Christ, instead declaring that “Jesus Christ is Lord”. This is popular with Cedarmount kids who released a music series in the 1990’s. Skip to my Lou was a song produced in 1844 and was recorded by Judy Garland in the movie Meet Me in St Louis. BeeCeeDee is a popular You Tube channel for kids with entertaining vidoes of the old music and nursery rhymes with over 2 million followers. Are you sleeping…..is another video that you can’t stop listening to as well as watching.

Do you Know the Muffin Man was a traditional nursery rhyme for the Baby Boomer generation but back then it ended with the guy who lived on Drury Lane since the song originated in London. This was a street where fresh foods delivered, such as muffins, which were delivered door-to-door by a vendor known as a muffin man. The “muffin” in question was the bread item known as an English muffin, not the typically sweeter U.S. variety of muffin. Drury Lane is still a thoroughfare bordering Covent Garden in London. You Tube, once again, has transformed the song into a creative video with cartoon characters that also introduces the Ice Cream Man and the Fruit Stand Man!

Bingo was a folk song created as early as 1780 and has been transformed in a number of ways for children. Again, a Barney video created in 2004 with the Bingo song as well as number of videos that include the Muffin songs, the Countdown Kids, The Countdown Singers, the Little Series and Debbie Doo. “The Wheels on the Bus” is a traditional American folk song from the 1930’s written by Verna Hills in Boston, MA. The song is based on the traditional nursery rhyme “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush ” sharing the same tune. It was a popular for teachers to share in the 1950’s and has been translated into several languages. The YouTube video by Cocomelon is the one our school children delight over but YouTube provides many animated rhymes.

The ABC song is the same melody we learned as we watch the video by Cocomelon and as she writes the letters on a green chalk board just like ours and our children. The song was first copyrighted in 1835 by the Boston-based music publisher Charles Bradlee, and given the title “The A.B.C., a German air with variations for the flute with an easy accompaniment for the piano. Music done well never dies.

Playing jacks and cats cradle

When I was young, bored and had few to play with, jacks would keep me occupied. I vaguely remember getting a set in a cloth, draw-string bag. You can play alone or with friends. And metal jacks with a ball were much easier to pick up then plastic jacks. But it was a great stay at home game…especially now. It was also called Knucklebones, known as Tali, Fivestones, or Jacks, which is a game of ancient origin. First, you need a set a jacks and a ball. Begin by throwing the jacks on a smooth surface or on ground in front of you. The old way to play the game is throw the ball into the air … pick up one jack … then catch the ball after it bounces one time. Continue picking up the jacks one at a time. When you have collected all the jacks, throw them again and start picking the jacks up two at a time. When you get to three you have to pick up the three sets of three first, and so on. Continue until you are at ten. Amazon still sells the old-fashioned metal set and ball with the pouch which is great to keep all the jacks in one place.

Cats cradle is one of the oldest games of all time and has always used string and more than one player. You build a string configuration using two hands and your partner tries to take it off one hand onto his or her fingers Actually, you complete three shapes..passing back and forth. The idea is too see how far you can keep going. I had to watch the video since I forgot a few of the shapes in between. Mom’s Minivan provides a demonstration of how to play the game solo. There is a book that describes Cat Cradle and different string figures you can make such as the Eiffel Tower, Jacobs Ladder,Cup and Saucer, and the Witch’s Brew.

Oh boy, the Grinch

The week after Thanksgiving it began..a kindergarten boy wore a t shirt with a sketch of the Grinch on it; handmade by his Mom. I wanted it! But when I was his age I was afraid of the Grinch. I loved having Mom read the Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas and loved reading it to my own children. The first animated movie was telecast in the United States on CBS on December 18, 1966 and has been a holiday favorite ever since. The special also features the voice of Boris Karloff as the Grinch and the narrator; a 26 minute cartoon with Cindy Lou Who that everyone loves. My children were fascinated by the cartoon and one Christmas, my son got a talking Grinch doll. We still have the box. I am sure the doll is somewhere in our present garage mess.

According to Grinch Mania, the musical adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas started in Minneapolis in 1994, where it also showed in 1995 and 1998 to enthusiastic audiences. In 1998, the musical began playing in San Diego, where it has shown every year since then. The production hit the big time and Broadway in 2006 where it quickly became the hottest ticket on Broadway.

As my children got older in their junior high years, their true and everlasting love story with the Grinch came out in 2000How the Grinch Stole Christmas is an American Christmas fantasy comedy-drama film directed by Ron Howard and written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. Based on Dr. Seuss’s 1957 book of the same name, it was the first Dr. Seuss book to be adapted into a full-length feature film. The film is narrated by Anthony Hopkins and stars Jim Carrey in the title role, along with Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, and introducing Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who. And according to box office statistics, one of the most successful films.

In 2018, The Grinch was released and distributed by Universal Pictures in the United States on November 9, 2018, in RealD 3D, a computer-animated Christmas comedy-drama film and played at select IMAX theaters produced by Illumination. It grossed over $511 million worldwide, so far obtaining the highest-grossing holiday film of all-time.

In the kindergarten classroom last week, we watched both cartoon from 1966 and the 2018 movie since the movie starring Jim Carey is a little scary for 5 and 6 year olds..a little scary for me. Though I must say I was positively memorized by the 2018 film….. finding the Grinch more funny than frightening.

Ultimately, as a mature adult…sometimes mature…., I love the Grinch as a doll, a picture on a box, musical renditions performed on stage, cartoon form, or any movie. It was his heart growing three sizes that day for all generations to remember…. that maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas means just a little bit more.

 

Over the river and through the woods

For me as a child, it was a combination of singing the song in elementary school. It was a tune that could not be forgotten easily and once sung…the song would be constantly playing in your mind as a Thanksgiving celebration throughout the next holiday season. I also read the poem in a book partnered with an illustrated painting by Grandma Moses. At a young age, I was always fascinated by her story that she became famous artist as a senior citizen. Her primitive paintings were always something I thought I would copy….even today I try…since I loved her country scenes. When I was nine, I received my first book of her paintings.

The poem was originally published as “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day”  and written in 1844, Lydia Maria Child. And it was not about going to Grandmas house but Grandfathers.The poem was eventually set to a tune by an unknown composer.  Lydia was a well known author during the time leading up to the Civil War. She wrote a periodical for kids and popular books for housewives with tips to help manage their households. In 1835 she wrote The History of the Condition of Women in Various Ages and Nations that was later an inspiration to women suffragists.

In 1833 she published An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans, which called for the immediate emancipation of all slaves which did not make her popular.

According to Wikipedia, the original piece had twelve stanzas, though only four are typically included in the song. The verses in bold are the ones I and my family remember:

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood—
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
as over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood—
and straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
it is so hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood—
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for everyone.”
Over the river, and through the wood—
now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

The following verses appear in a “long version”:

Over the river, and through the wood,
with a clear blue winter sky,
The dogs do bark, and children hark,
as we go jingling by.
Over the river, and through the wood,
to have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding!”,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!
Over the river, and through the wood,
no matter for winds that blow;
Or if we get the sleigh upset
into a bank of snow
Over the river, and through the wood,
to see little John and Ann;
We will kiss them all, and play snow-ball
and stay as long as we can.
Over the river, and through the wood,
trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound!
For ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood,
Old Jowler hears our bells.
He shakes his pow, with a loud bow-wow,[1]
and thus the news he tells.

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.