Happy Mother’s Day, Beautiful

That’s what I said to my Mom in a card when I was a child. Strangely enough, a kindergarten student calls me “Beautiful” everyday. I think she needs glasses. On the cover of the cards displayed, my own painted artwork with Mom and a basket of candy. It should have been for Easter. My talent in writing was more than I expected at that young age. Mother, Mother, I’ll help and stay until the day you pass away. I’ll make you happy all through the year with kisses hugs and wonderful cheers. I don’t know about the hugs and cheers but I did stay with her until she passed away in 2001. Though my card was printed in block print, I did know cursive and signed it Love, Karla. Mom told me that most of my cards were signed, Love, Karla Korff which she always loved. As far as gifts for Mom, she was not a breakfast in bed lover. She did like breakfast at Denny’s in Calumet City when we lived in Dolton. But dinner was her favorite, choosing red snapper at the Green Shingle in Harvey,Chuck Cavalinnis in Dolton or the Flame in Country Side.

Back in the late 1990’s I found another card in a treasured box that says For Mom with our love and appreciation on Mother’s Day. And I know why I kept it. It was signed by both children in their best cursive. Their Dad probably bought it and for them to do something together was quite unique. I did like the beautiful bow and especially the line that says how thankful they were for my faith to help get them through difficult times which I still try to do today by responding to their phone calls and text messages. Though I have learned that it is not just my faith in them but my steady faith in God. Some of my favorite gifts have been fresh flowers for the dining room table, and a candle from my daughter as well as Lindahl chocolate. My son is known for bottled water since he works for Hinckleys, teas and he knows I love my Starbucks. Jamesons for a filet mignon in Downers Grove is my favorite for dinner but there have been many years spent having breakfast and lunch at Stevens in Woodridge.

And as I write and read this again; it is not about vacations or the most expensive gift, it is truly the love and encouragement we give to each other every day until we are able to call heaven our new home.

Happy Mother’s Day to all that celebrate with kisses, hugs, and wonderful cheers.

What Easter means to me

It began with an Easter bonnet that never fit me right, but I had to wear it since hats were all the rage in 1960, when I was five. I remember loving my lace ankle socks, Mary Jane shoes and my white clutch purse, holding it delicately with white gloves. I remember many beautiful dresses….and it seemed like hours that my Mom took me shopping to find the best one on Easter Sunday. I remember a white linen dress with multiple colors of trim; that I still have in a box. I remember the dress in the above picture and having Easter, brunch or dinner; sometimes at a restaurant like the Green Shingle or at home with friends and family. I remember the excitement of my Dad’s good friend who had just gotten his first Polaroid camera and couldn’t wait to take a picture of Mom, Dad, and me.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, it was about Easter celebrations in Downers Grove with my own children now adults. As I do every few years approaching holidays and birthdays, I travel back in the storage boxes of their youth like traveling back in time in a Polaroid memory. In my son’s baby book, sure enough, there is his first Easter card. I remember one his first bunnies bought to celebrate….there it is. I remember Mom and a neighbor buying my daughters’ Easter dresses, one with colorful tulips and my young son had to wear a tie. Once again…found among the blankets, stuffed animals and other memorabilia. We would have an Easter egg hunt at our house for the kids and neighbors. My neighbor, who was the Mysterious Bunny, that no one knew, left baskets at my front door every Easter. Before John passed, he left new bikes for my children at the front door.

As a kindergarten assistant, our school celebrates Easter with talk of the Easter bunny. Students had to take home a plastic egg and fill it with something. When they bring, it back to school, the classmates have to try to guess what it is. Today, the best Easter gifts include Dylan’s Candy Bar, Harry and David gourmet food gifts for adults. However, Carters has the perfect outfit for your little one, and, of course, Crayola that include buy one get one get one free so that you can include coloring books and art supplies in the basket. Hanna Andersson offers jammies for the little ones.

After many decades, what does the holiday mean. First of all, it begins with Palm Sunday which is the precious start of Holy Week. The Sunday before Easter. The celebration of Jesus entering Jerusalem; sharing palm branches. Later, he is tried and crucified; the darkness of Good Friday but knowing in my heart that he has died for our sins. Finally, it is Easter and his resurrection; a yearly celebration realizing that there is something greater and more powerful than ourselves. Knowing that there is always hope. Hope in the God above. Hope that giving our lives to God will always bring miracles in many forms. And finally as we continue to believe and give, we learn that God’s timetable for our lives is perfect.

That is what Easter means to me.

Sambos

We moved to Dolton in 1970, living at 152nd and Chicago Road. Mom and I began going to church at Faith United Methodist, which was located at 15015 Grant Street, only a few blocks away from our new apartment. For awhile, I was involved in the church, and I became a Sunday school teacher, but it was after church services that I enjoyed the most. We headed out to 633 E Sibley Boulevard for Sunday brunch at Sambos. Many breakfasts and lunches were spent at Sambos, many days of the week, probably until 1978. I remember having the best pancakes and how much Mom loved her coffee. At one time, it was only 10 cents. I shared experiences with many friends from Thornridge as well as Thornton Community College, now South Suburban College. After a few drinks for me in later years, at night, it was time for coffee and another sobriety breakfast. Though back then, friends would also hang out at the Denny’s in Calumet City for that reason. Illinois had more than 20 locations of Sambo restaurants, including many situated in Chicago’s south and north suburbs. Downers Grove, Countryside, Arlington Heights, Bridgeview, Glenview and Elk Grove Village to name just a few.

The first restaurant opened in 1957 in Santa Barbara, California. Though the name was taken from portions of the names of its founders, Sam Battistone Sr. and Newell Bohnett, the chain soon found itself associated with The Story of Little Black Sambo. Battistone and Bohnett capitalized on this connection by decorating the walls of the restaurants with scenes from the book, including a dark-skinned boy, tigers, and a pale, magical unicycle-riding man called “The Treefriend.”The restaurant was expanded to more locations. In late 1963, it had restaurants in 16 cities—in California, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona. By 1969, the company had grown to 98 locations. By the late 1970’s, there were 1,117 Sambo restaurants in 47 states. All have been closed for many years, though the original stayed open in 2020 but changed its name. It is owned by the grandson of Battistone and is called Chad’s now. 

The owners did not set out to create trouble, and they were successful, raking in over 380 million dollars a year when Jimmy Carter was President, but in many places, the murals on the wall did not sit well in communities that were fighting for civil rights, and the little black sambo had been considered racist even before the business opened, though they took pride in their murals. But as the late 1970’s progressed, more and more restaurants, especially in the East, were confronted with lawsuits against the name. The company renamed some locations, such as the Jolly Tiger, but it didn’t work. In March of 1981, they tried, “There is no place like Sams.” By November of 1981, they filed for Chapter 11 and continued to fail. By 1982, all but the original Sambos were sold. Several were sold to Bakers Square or Denny’s.

The Captains Table, Mathon’s and Valentine’s Day at The Hob Nob

I was having a drink at the bar when I met the owner’s son of the Captain Table on Belvidere Road in Waukegan. I was living in the area and teaching from 1978-1987. Edward Allegretti was the owner who was a huge restaurant connoisseur. His son was also named Edward and managed the restaurant; a friend of mine back in the day. The restaurant had an excellent selection of seafood and was popular if you wanted to eat before seeing a show at the downtown Genesee theater. The atmosphere was comfortable and well-established. He owned the restaurant from 1972 to 1985. The restaurant was closed and the father passed away in 1997. Though I had lost contact with his son, sources claim he moved to Naperville and passed away in 2015.

Mathons in Waukegan opened in 1939 as a fish market just a block from the Waukegan Harbor. Mathon Kyritsis, a Greek immigrant, finally created a restaurant taken over by the son, John. The walls were ribbed resembling a ship inside and the windows represented portholes. They had the best calamari of all time. A few times I did sail from the Waukegan harbor. The vintage menu above was created by artist Phil Austin in the 1960’s.

Still open today, The Hob Nob by far is another wonderful place on Lake Michigan in Racine Wisconsin just past Kenosha. Many special occasions were honored at this restaurant. Valentines Day was celebrated with Allegretti. Strange, how I remember that it was that holiday in the early 1980’s because I was so impressed with the restaurant; my first experience. The Hob Nob served the best food and offered spectacular views of Lake Michigan from the bar. I experienced my first brandy alexander there. My engagement to be married…Kevin Sullivan…..was cherished in 1985. One of the greatest supper clubs in Wisconsin, it is truly an experience to visit and what I remember was the most elegant cream- tufted circular booths and bar seats. Established in 1954, the Hob Nob offered red snapper which my Mother loved. Many of the construction, signs and decor are exactly the same today.

The Higgins family had a restaurant in downtown Racine in the 1930’s and built the new one. Michael Aletto purchased the restaurant in the 1990’s keeping most of the same recipes. Aletto and his wife now commutes from Florida once a month and every other week around holidays. They have a strong staff that keeps the restaurant operating smoothly.

I moved to Downers Grove in 1988 though I frequent the north suburbs often. But I have not been back to the Hob Nob. Need to go back since I am less than an hour away and cherish the memories. No…….wrong. Let’s go back and create new memories with my new love…still relaxing with breath-taking views of the lake and my favorite steak.

Dining in Chicago’s north suburbs: The Country Squire Restaurant and The Rustic Manor

I was a teacher at Warren Township Highschool in Gurnee in the early 1980’s when I walked through the doors of this Grayslake mansion. I actually remember one visit where I wore one of my favorite lavender, white pin-striped dress with shoulder pads purchased at Chas A Stevens(no longer), sitting with a young friend and his Dad. I can see myself sitting at the clothed table overlooking the beautiful grounds. I remember taking my Mom, celebrating mother’s day for a special brunch and she commented about the magnificent clock in the lobby. I remember attending a special wedding of a friend in the banquet hall. Also meeting friends at the fireside reception or dark paneled bar was unique. Spending time on the beautiful property once owned by Wesley Sears, as a summer home, son of Richard Sears who owned Sears and Roebuck, was an amazing adventure; strolling through a courtyard that had thousands of tulips and daffodils. An iconic place that made Grayslake popular.

The house was built in 1938 with 17 rooms, eight bathrooms, and four fireplaces at the corner of Route 120 and 45. The Country Squire Restaurant was opened in 1954 by Martin and Edna Giesel and acquired by the Govas family in 1977. Patriarch William Govas died in 2008. The family continued the operation until 2012 when it was sold to Northwestern Medicine and completely raised to the ground. They closed without warning. Some claim to have venues booked there and had a rough time contacting anyone to resolve issues.

Again, another favorite of my Mom’s and many friends I worked with though different in decor was the Rustic Manor in Gurnee. One of my closest friends for 30 plus years, Caryl Clem, also a contributing writer, lived down the street; her family were Gurnee residents for many years. Caryl was a waitress at one time, wearing an Indian headband with a feather. Caryl talks about the red/white check tablecloths which was a trademark. There was a souvenir store inside the courtyard selling Indian artifacts and country decor. Gurnee was the Indian crossing point across the Des Plaines River so history was honored. I celebrated many family occasions at the restaurant. My Mom loved the Poor Man’s lobster. The restaurant was truly known for its western theme continuing inside and outside. It was also known for its taxidermy animal displays, as well as a waterfall that was there when you walked in the door. They were located on the northeast corner of Grand Avenue and Kilbourne, looking more like a house when they opened in 1947. According to what sources claim, the owners received their liquor license in 1945.

Victor and Marian Tryboms, along with their children Marjorie and Marvin, were farmers in Gurnee in the 1930’s and decided to give up farming to open the restaurant. The menu was based of Mrs. T’s family recipes. In 1986, the Desplaines River which was located behind the restaurant and Caryl’s home, also severely flooded. I remember helping her move out at the time. Even though the Rustic Manor tried to recover, a fire destroyed the restaurant soon after. The area was designated as a floodplain but just too costly to rebuild. The property was given to the Village of Gurnee and is now the Esper A. Petersen Park. Petersen was a businessman who helped donate the property.

Worthpoint offers a wonderful menu of the Rustic Manor and matchbooks on Ebay of Country Squire.

Chicago south suburbs: Chuck Cavallinis, The Cottage and The Tivoli restaurant

My mother and I moved from the south side of Chicago to Dolton, Illinois in 1970 living in an apartment at 15222 Chicago Road within walking distance of Cavallinis Restaurant at the intersection of Sibley and Chicago Road. I was a steak lover and it was here that she and I would have the occasional Sunday dinner. It was also here in 1976 that I had my first vodka gimlet; soon to be my drink of choice…then. Not anymore. It was also a favorite place of friends from Thornton Community College now South Suburban to hang out for lunch, dinner or to celebrate a special birthday. It was also place I visited in the early 1980’s to celebrate a special anniversary and almost fell asleep at the table; not knowing that I had mononucleosis at the time. Chuck Cavallini opened his first restaurant in Midlothian beginning as an ice cream shop in 1932 but then a family restaurant finally closing in 1989.

The Cottage in Calumet City was a wonderful French restaurant that was truly an exclusive dining experience. A friend mine took me to the new restaurant in 1976 for my 21st birthday and the food was so good that it became a major Chicago destination. The restaurant opened in 1974. It was owned by Carolyn Bust Welbon and her husband for about 20 years located on Torrence Avenue. It was a risk but the atmosphere was really special….just like a cottage….with the most tasty soups and swordfish that was out of this world. According to sources, the couple divorced in 1993, the husband brought in another chef but closed the restaurant in 1996. Carolyn passed away in 2017.

The Tivoli in Chicago Heights was opened in 1947 and grew from 50 to over 300 seats. It was an excellent restaurant located at 19800 Glenwood Rd but also offered banquet rooms for birthdays, funerals and weddings. My girlfriend’s daughter celebrated her wedding at the Tivoli. They offer great steaks but was known for its Italian cuisine. John Giobbi was founder and opened another restaurant called the Tivoli II in Country Club Hills. He was known for greeting many patrons by name. He passed away in 1990 and his wife, Dolores in 2007.

Worthpoint offers a wonderful menu that I remember, preciously holding in my hands. It is in beautiful condition with gold engraving. Inside it says may it always be bluebirds in your trees. Strange, how that memory stays with me decades later. Worthpoint also offers a vintage ash tray of Chuck Cavallinis restaurant in Midlothian in great condition; packed away for many years. I had just started smoking back in the days when smoking was allowed inside and I am sure I had shared an ashtray with several. Matchbook covers were available to represent The Cottage but no longer for sale. Wonderful restaurants enjoying friends and family are missed but not smoking.

Pumpkin pies’ political past

By Caryl Clem

Before English colonists traveled the high seas to land on American shores, pumpkins were used as a vegetable.  In a Native American cookbook, Spirit of the Harvest by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs a recipe features baking a variety of savory seasonings with meat and rice inside the pumpkin.  As early as 1651 a French chef published a recipe for Tourte of Pumpkin in his cookbook that was republished in England in 1653. Wealthy landowner’s wives baked pumpkin treats. Farm wives stewed sliced pumpkins and apples together with molasses. The first Dutch lawyer who owned land in New England documented his opinion that the North American pumpkin was sweeter and more delicious. The Native Americans believed sharing meals together was a sign of peace and community, sharing the pumpkins with colonists was a sign of goodwill.

An orphan colonial woman was able to publish the first American woman authored cookbook.  The recipes were written in a different format than the English version and included a new vocabulary for cooking terms. American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, in 1796 showed she was a genius combining specific step by step instructions, patriotic terms for dishes like Election Cake and meals for larger budgets and servings. She blended the emerging American culture into her recipes: created the first leavening agents that lead to baking powders, used the staple of corn meal to replace the English pasties dough, and introduced the terms shortening, cookie, and slapjacks. Her cookbook provided an American culinary identity and a way to spread patriotic pride in the new countr

In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale, an abolitionist campaigned to make Thanksgiving a National Holiday. In her novel, Northwood the pumpkin pie portrayed as a most distinguished dish to serve at this meal.  Another abolitionist wrote the poem about the traditional journey to Grandmother’s house at Thanksgiving.  Released in 1842 by Lydia Maria Child, “Over the River and through the wood ended with a shout, hurra for the pumpkin pie. “ Instant recognition and fame spread as it appeared in children’s stories and articles in agricultural journals advising the benefits of eating pumpkins.  In 1828 a cookbook was published by popular Eliza Leslie that featured the pumpkin pie custard we eat today. The pumpkin was cooked; strained then eggs, butter, sugar and spices were added. This mixture was poured on top of a pastry shell with strips of pastry laid across the top. When Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a National Holiday in 1863, the members of the Confederacy in Virginia proclaimed it was a Yankee move to impose Yankee customs in the South. Taste buds finally won the political war as the love of pumpkin pie spread across the country.  In 1929, Libby first released canned pumpkin filling that became the answer to easy pumpkin pie baking.

After checking the top pie sales across the nation, Pumpkin ranked first, followed by Apple in a heated second.  National Pumpkin Pie Day is Christmas Day, Dec 25:  I am not waiting that long to celebrate this wonderful taste of fall.

The Prudential Building: Tallest in Chicago?

Who remembers when the Prudential Building was the tallest building in Chicago? I went with my family, parking in the new underground parking lot and was terrified the windows would cave in. I remember my Mom putting money in a telescope dispenser where we could view the skyline and other buildings, much, much, closer. The Prudential was actually the same age as me and I was only five when I saw it for the first time….both of us born in 1955; a 41-story structure which was the headquarters for Prudential’s Mid-America company. Some visited the new Stouffers restaurant in the building after viewing Chicago’s skyline. I remember going on another trip with my girl scout troop and eating at Wimpy’s Grill on Clark Street, another Chicago beginning opening in 1934 with the best burgers. The spire on top represented WGN.

According to Connecting the Windy City, the first tenant to move into the building, the western advertising offices of Readers’ Digest magazine, settled into its space in September of 1955, taking up temporary space on the third floor before moving up to the nineteenth floor in the spring of 1956.

The structure was the first new downtown skyscraper constructed in Chicago since the Field Building, 21 years earlier and was built on air rights over the Illinois Central Railroad. It was the last building ever connected to the Chicago Tunnel Company’s tunnel network. It became One Prudential Plaza when a second building was built in 1990. Completed in 1972, the simple, rectangular-shaped, tubular steel-framed structure was originally called the Standard Oil Building and now Aon which is much taller than the Prudential. Actually, the Board of Trade building built in 1930 was taller and had an observation deck but as Baby Boomer children most of us were told that the Prudential was the tallest, maybe because it was new and located by the lake with the best views. It was the tallest skyscraper built in the 1950’s.

Then it became Two Prudential Plaza which was 64 floors. In 2006, Bentley Forbes purchased One Prudential and the property next door but went into default due to the recession. In 2015, New York companies bought in though Bentley Forbes still has interest in ownership.

Gayety’s Ice Cream is open

Gayety’s Candy was located on the South side of Chicago at 9207 Commercial Ave. established in 1920, over 100 years ago, right next to the Gayety Theatre. Founder James Papageorge was an immigrant stowed away on a steemer from Greece at the age of  nine. He learned everything about candy and ice cream while opening a shop next to the Gayety Theatre with the same name. It wasn’t uncommon to share the names of other businesses.I remember Mom I visiting to buy their homemade candies when I was little but they had best ice cream sundaes and banana splits with fruit cocktail. Moved to Lansing, IL and Shereville, Indiana, was closed, but has re-opened in Lansing.

Located at 3306 Ridge Rd,  Laurene Lemanski bought Gayety’s through her new company, For the Love of Chocolates and Ice Cream. Her parents grew up on the South side and went to the shop there. She actually worked at the Torrence Avenue store in Lansing in the 1980’s while attending high school.

The fruit topped banana and vanilla ice cream sundae is buried under a liberal dollop of real whipped cream and crushed nuts. They also offer seasonal flavors of ice cream depending on the time of year. Their shakes are massive, and they serve you what’s left in the tumbler too. They have ice cream chairs that are also fun to sit in enjoying the atmosphere of a real ice cream parlot.

Image courtesy of A.C.C

Rainbow Ice Cream and Rileys Trick Shop

Living on the south side in the 1960’s, we would make a trip to Rainbow Ice Cream  at 92nd and Western eating the same five-flavored ice cream cone as today; chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (New York vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio, and orange sherbet. Grandpa Joe Sapp established Rainbow in 1926. His first rainbow cones were sold out of a small ice cream shack on 92nd street across the street from the building that was built four years later and still exists today. Then we visited Riley’s Trick shop that was located at 9033 Western Ave, opened in 1965. I remember getting trick cards and funny eye glasses.

Riley’s opened in 1937 at 79th and Rhodes which mainly sold greeting cards and paper goods. Jim Riley and Eleanor married three weeks after opening their shop. They had a popcorn wagon that was hurting popcorn sales at the nearby Rhodes Theatre so the manager offered them $75 for it. They invested that $75 into a line of tricks, jokes and magic, and Riley’s Trick Shop was born. In 1945, Jim Riley co-founded Magic Masters of Chicago which is still thriving today. They moved into another rented storefront at 1057 W. 79th St. in 1956. In 1965, Jim and Eleanor Riley built their own building with living quarters above at 9033 Western Ave.

In 8 years, the business outgrew two building additions and moved to its current 5,000 square-foot location at 6442 W. 111th in Worth, Illinois. Jim and Eleanor lived above the business they loved until they passed away 27 days apart in 2002. Jim’s son moved the Worth to Palos but had to close in 2014.

Rainbow Round Cake consists of all five ice cream flavors of the Rainbow Cone on top of a cake layer. Rainbow Cake Rolls are offered in 6″ and 12″ rolls. They currently offer chocolate cake rolled with five flavors of the Rainbow Cone. Over 96 years, the Sapp family is still serving the same ice cream Joseph developed back in 1926.