Gone but not forgotten Chicago stores for clothes/school supplies

August brings out the best memories of shopping for school clothes and supplies. I could dress up because in the days of old timers we had to wear cute little dresses to elementary school….if you were a girl. Though I am sure many of you were not excited about that cute little uniform you had to wear while attending private school.  Relaxed dress codes did not happen until I graduated high school though we were upgraded to wearing dress pants to school with occasional jean days.

My trips began at a gone but not forgotten childrens store called Bramsons in South Shore on 71st  and possibly Marshall Fields downtown with a trip to the Walnut Room if at Christmas but I liked a restaurant on the seventh floor surrounding us with beautiful light blue walls. For the life of me, cannot remember its name.

The following our places we shopped together for great school supplies, coats, and of course Florsheim/Buster Brown shoes.

Grants , a United States chain of low priced mass merchandise which briefly gives me the chills as I recount my missing child experience when I was only four or five. Within the store on the south side of Chicago, I slowly turned and Mom wasn’t there. I just walked down the same aisle and I would be sure to see her still….no Mom. So I turned down the next aisle, a little bit more quickly, a little more panicked…no Mom. The next aisle looked exactly the same as the last, cloth, linen that appeared colorless through my unmanageable tears.. Finally, someone grabbed my hand…we will find her. I was only sobbing a little by this point and the kind lady walked me to the service deck. I had to crane my neck to face the women behind it who asked me my name. I admitted no shame and spoke it clearly. It was strange to hear my name announced on the loud speaker. It was strange to hear my last name pronounced correctly. But she found me…did not leave me stranded.

Robert Hall on the South Side of Chicago was great for ski jackets. I could never find a coat that fit my small frame a but Robert Hall always had what I needed in winter clothes and it lasted forever.

Gatelys People Store was located in Roseland and I took piano lessons just a few blocks away so that is why Mom and I would spend sometime in Gatelys. The store thrived until the late 1960’s and moved to a smaller location in Tinley Park. I remember a pair of beautiful white gloves with a pearl enclosure that my Mom bought for me to celebrate Easter. Yes, we old timers always wore white gloves to for celebrations and holidays.

GoldBlatts/Wiebolts/:  Though I did not spend a great deal of time shopping in these stores, I remember my first experience with Goldblatts where I sold girl scout cookies outside of its doors on 91st and Commercial.

Lyttons/Chas Stevens : Mother loved Lyttons and always found that new dress that she dreamed about at the store in Evergreen Plaza. My first shopping field trips alone with my best friend took place in Evergreen Plaza where we would take the 95th street bus from the south side and spend our allowance money. In later years, I actually worked a summer job at Chase A Stevens in Waukegan modeling perfume and receiving a new dress free.

Florsheim/Buster Brown/Thom McKan:  As a child shoe shopping, was almost as important as a doctor visit. Since most parents took their children to the same store, sat patiently in their chairs, had the right socks or hose on with clean feat and waited for the foot to be measured carefully. It was the salesman that diagnosed the best style for your feet.  I always seemed to be fitted in saddle shoes and hated them. My mother would  never veer away from these stores though I loved Chandlers Shoes in later years.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES AND ACCESSORIES

Woolworth’s/Ben Franklin/Zayres:  Today it is an all in one adventure at Target or Walmart where clothes, school supplies and accessories are purchased, even food and snacks for your lunches. But for some reason, I remember Ben Franklin for my favorite candy and Woolworth’s for childhood accessories or crafts.  It was at Woolworth’s where I could buy art supplies to make my own Christmas ornaments, buy a necklace buried in a bin or favorite kid nail polish and perfume. Oil cloths to cover my many desks at school through the years had to be just the right pattern and for some reason, loved a certain smell that they would emit.

Kresge’s was a place of employment during the summer months one year while going to college. Kresges, the store located in River Oaks Malls in Calumet City and its infinite lunch counter is where I learned that waitressing was not for me. My uniform completely covered with food by the end of the day but the manager kept trying to help. I finally slipped on a wet floor and was out for three days with back pain….my mistake …not there’s… and that was the end of my summer adventure at Kresge’s.

Photo courtesy of Digital Collections 

Hate, hate and more hate

A child asked me why there was so much hate in America…..a child!!!!

So I looked up hate in America on the Internet where a child could easily access the information.  After the Charlottesville incident, the latest news articles listed what states had the most hate groups and the type of prejudice that they evoked. In fact, Florida was exemplified as one of the worst states for Americans….Americans.. I will state again…not to get along.

You have got to be kidding me!

I went to school in the 1960’s and grew up in a Jewish neighborhood with some of my best friends being Jewish and Black. And thank God in heaven the access to the virtual Internet, social networks and the media that is completely out of control didn’t exist for people to spew their dangerous name calling and insanity. These are virtual friends, for the most part, we may be talking to though I have known real intimate relationships deteriorate because of what that child called….what is it again???….hate. That is what it has become.

Back in the old days…better not say…automatically more grounds for discrimination and maybe hatred, we did not have to constantly verify what was fake news and the truth. And if we did not like someone…or hate someone which will always exist, we didn’t have social networks running with the highly exaggerated opinion or article so that writers could get a viral count in views for their work. Because that is what they want in the long run…they love to see us jump on ourselves, maim and murder others. They are right there to assist in anything that we need.

Hate articles bring in money. Because we read, we think, we have a bad day, think back to someone who we did not get along with in the past, watch more violent videos, suddenly, we too, are on our personal road to destruction. And you know what….hate, emotional pain, depression, animosity brings on the same in our own lives.

We begin to see our jobs suffer, our relationships weaken, our children struggle and illness take on new meaning;  becoming a part of our community, family and friends. All we have to do is read and think anti semetism, white supremacy, racism, KKK and we are creating lives for ourselves that will lack opportunity, happiness and ultimate peace. Wayne Dwyer constantly said what you think about, you create!

We are not Jewish Americans, Black Americans, Mexican Americans, Irish Americans or German Americans, the latter many will call me. I don’t want to be known as a German American. I want to be known as an American that supports her fellow countryman…..that’s a line I haven’t heard in awhile. I want to be someone I can help to improve the lives of others. I want others to feel safe in my community and be understood for there differences. I want to be able to focus on the positive….because guess what, greater gifts are given to me when I can bring a smile to someone that may be living a life much worse than my own.

And I never want to be asked by children why there is so much hate in America. Because I can’t answer that question…nor do I  ever want to!

What professional care giving taught me about marriage

He let me in the door. He looked afraid.

I was a substitute professional caregiver and no one told him I was coming, or he just couldn’t remember, another symptom of progressive dementia. I followed him to the kitchen, sat down at the kitchen table and tried to introduce myself again but he had a difficult time…wondering where Sharon was; his full-time care giver.

I tried to create conversation asking about his family, but he seemed confused. He did have a daughter who was responsible for his care. He must have been having a bad day…he couldn’t remember her either. However, as time wore uncomfortably forward, he did remember. She lived in Colorado or was it Chicago?

In most homes, the refrigerator usually displayed the identifying factors of life, love and the family tree. A colorful ‘Happy Birthday Grandma’ magnet caught my eye but his wife, he explained, had left some years ago though he wasn’t specific on a date, time or year, even whether she had passed away. He did mention that they had done a lot together, his eyes less fearful of his own loss of memory and my reason for being there. He was still not sure.

Though emergency caregivers were always briefed about the client’s condition and a file was present at every home with the most recent documentation, the refrigerator offered a compilation of discovery. It serves as a file of life, the latest pharmacies visited as well as medical clinics and an array of family photos of all generations.

I was told to clean up the bathroom upstairs in this tri-level home so I attempted to do so. But not without his companionship…he was suspicious while I constantly tried to reassure him.

As I began to pass a bedroom, a miniature dark blue Victorian two-story dollhouse with white trim dominating most of the room, caught my attention. It was huge, my eyes wide with excitement since I had a passion for the small and lifelike.

It started with the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago when I was young. The Colleen Moore Fairy Castle, the dollhouse of her dreams and every young girl who spied it, containing over 1500 miniatures; Jack and Jill tumbling down the hill in one room, Cinderella’s drawing room, and King Arthur’s round table in another. Every fairy tale imaginable was displayed in the castle.

This beautiful Victorian sat on a platform that extended pretty much the length and width of the bedroom with workbenches surrounding it along with a few cabinets…low against the walls for materials.

“My wife and I worked on this together,” he spoke in a small, peaceful tone. “We worked on everything together up until the end.”

Each room was intricately decorated with furniture from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Each room was uniquely wallpapered sometimes with wainscoting or borders as he pointed out who did what. There were clocks, and artwork that adorned the walls along with bookcases, removable books, and ornate oriental rugs that covered the floors. He still knew what switches worked as he lit each room; one adorned with a Christmas tree for the holidays, even rooms designated for the grandchildren with dolls and toys.

He described their fascination for completing the house. How they began, their challenges with each room, there determination to work together. And it was then that I glimpsed how the Victorian represented the floor plan of a marriage.

The porch was somewhat empty compared to the rest of the home and he knew I noticed.

“That is where we had to stop…that is when she…” He did not finish his sentence and walked out of the room.

He sat back in his chair in the kitchen, lost in confusion for a brief moment. “Who are you?” He asked again somewhat disturbed and we called his daughter to explain. She was able to get through to him, but during my brief time there, he was quiet, still not sure of the next moment.

Before leaving, I noticed that each room in the dollhouse was still glowing with soft light…even the Christmas tree blinked with color.

“The lights in the dollhouse are still on,” I reminded him.

At first he looked at me with fear, and then his eyes finally relaxed as he thought.

“Maybe I will keep it that way,” he said.

Finally, I got it…my own lights shimmered in realization. The collaboration of the Victorian dollhouse truly defined the magic of what marriage should be.

Not just words of endearment spoken between two on a journey but the action taken to building a meaningful partnership. Enthusiastically addressing the challenges together displayed in various rooms. Passionately obtaining knowledge and recognition to improve each other’s craft.

Not a superficial marriage, as many dollhouses can display, but an ongoing demonstration of how to truly stay in love. Regardless of his Alzheimer’s, he was able to remember the details of his love; offering him peace during moments of question.

Ultimately, he had taught me the true meaning of unconditional love; how it is challenged and how it can be rescued.

In the end, what else matters? I knew then that I wanted to travel the same glorious journey in my own life.

Now, he and his Victorian Dollhouse remind me of my destiny; the beginnings, the struggles, the joy and the finishing touches, as I build my own dreams of love, companionship and total commitment to the one I love.

Picture: Courtesy of the Strong Natural Museum of Play

Fond memories of fine dining: Restaurants now extinct

Fine dining was a special favorite for my Dad and we went to a new place frequently. He was a business owner and that was the way he felt he could thank those that purchased his product. That was the way he thought he could teach his only child manners and grace. Though, I loved to explore new places , it was always the same as far as my food choice, a kiddie cocktail and a steak sandwich/medium rare without the bread. After he passed away, my Mother continued the tradition with me through the decades. Though long gone and my list could go on and on, I just included places that I had visited in the outlining suburbs/towns of Chicago back in the day.

Green Shingle in Harvey had exemplified true love from the early 60’s. It with my first date with my Dad in my best dress, shoes and gloves. It was my first steak sandwich medium rare but would not be last.After my Dad passed away, it was my second date with my college professor who helped to celebrate my birthday with fellow students;  that same college professor who passed away from cancer a few years ago. And finally, a date with my first boyfriend as we first held hands at the candlelit tabkle; killed in a car accident shortly after.

Dunlaps started as a concession but moved in 1937 to its Palos Heights location on 123rd lasting for 60 years. My father owned a business in decorative and auto glass. One of his clients was Dunlaps in which he created the smoked glass that enhanced visitors behind the long, bar still in exquisite condition when the restaurant closed. Even as a child and adult, I remember staring at my self, proud of my family contributing some part to an institution for great food including real relish trays with pickled beets.

Yesteryear in Kankakee,IL was a restaurant situated in the Frank Lloyd Wright home the B. Harley Bradley House located on Harrison Avenue. In the early 1940’s, my Mother lived in Kempton, IL and wanted to go to college. She rented a room from the Gates family who lived in the 400 block of Harrison Avenue  and attended Kankakee’s Business College.  The Gates, George, Ruth  and son Les became her adopted  family until they passed away in the late 1970’s. Les, who is 94, is still alive today. As a very young child, we would walk to Yesteryear which had opened in 1953. As a young adult, I attended a 50th anniversary of a family member from Cullom, IL.

Phil Schmidts, on the border of Illinois in Indiana, had been opened for 97 years . It was a place of many memories that included the celebration of events such as graduation parties. Known for their seafood, their most popular was frog legs and perch. Beginning in 1910 and closing in 2007, also made their own amazing tartar sauce.

The Tivoli on Glenwood Rd in Chicago Heights was also a favorite establishment especially for weddings or other family events. Though older when I visited the Tivoli, I had graduated from a steak sandwich to a wonderful porterhouse they served there and a broiled filet mignon topped with blue cheese.

The Old Barn in Burbank was a beautiful, elegant adventure for me as a child and adult dating back to the 1920’s when it originally was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Another great choice for wedding receptions and family dinners which had closed in 2008 and was 87 years. The Old Barn was especially beautiful during the holidays with leather chairs in the dining area and beautiful sofas and fireplace in the lounge.

Country Squire in Grayslake, IL was originally built in 1938 as the residence of a Sears family member and it was a mansion that became the Country Squire Restaurant in 1954. A breathtaking estate that I enjoyed often as an adult, experiencing on a date and also enjoying a wonderful wedding of a dear friend. I remember celebrating Mother’s Day with my own Mom  as she cried for its beauty and wonderful food.

The Flame, finally, in Countryside became another family favorite celebrating the same Mom’s  65th birthday there with her grandchildren. The restaurant was a classic with another dress me up atmosphere and the best in seafood and steak.  My love still was always steak or a Chateaubriand for two and for Mom, the best orange roughy she had ever tasted!

Chicago land vintage amusement parks

All summers in the 1960’s always included a trip to one of my favorite amusement parks. Only about three or four years old, the first I can remember was to Riverview where I traveled in the tunnel ride with my aunt and got a tiny stuffed animal, a monkey, no less, as a souvenir. One of my father’s favorites was the Kiddieland on 95th street in Oaklawn across from the old Branding Iron restaurant; my parents looking forward to a cocktail and dinner after my rides on the flying planes and the toy boats. The Little Dipper was the best at the Kiddieland in Melrose Park and Adventureland was the largest amusement park in Illinois from 1967-1976. Today, Santa’s village continues to capture the excitement of our children, grandchildren and some great grandchildren. The following offers more historic information on each park and the anticipated adventure every vintage child shared.

Riverview operated from 1904 to 1967….closing over 50 years ago this year. My aunt who took my father to Riverview in the early 1920’s remember him being deathly afraid of what became the most popular ride; the Bobs.  She also told me about her and my uncle Frank in the Tunnel of Love….though harmless for lovers in tunnels. Riverview was located in an area bound on the south by Belmont Ave.,on the east by Western Ave, on the north by Lane Tech High School, and on the west by the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Green Oaks Kiddieland located at 95th and Pulaski Road was the closest for me to visit as a south side child in Chicago and was closed in 1971… now a KMart. Opening in the late 1940’s, it offered all sorts of rides that were great for the very young such as army tanks. a beautiful merry-go round and a small Ferris Wheel which my Mom was always afraid. The Branding Iron restaurant across the street continued on until the 1980’s and had a second location in Downers Grove.  My father loved to bowl so having lunch or dinner at the Branding Iron was a treat since Oaklawn bowl was a part of the establishment.

Funtown Amusement  was located at 95th and Stony originally called Kiddietown. This park used to have a fire truck that would pick kids up for birthday parties. This kiddieland I did visit with my neighbors since it was in the same neighborhood I lived and do remember the moon rocket and go carts.

Kiddieland Amusement Park in Melrose Park  at the corner of North avenue and First Avenue was opened in 1929 finally closing in 2009. Now home to a Costco store. It began as a pony ride park and then a few years later, they added miniature gasoline-powered cars  which my family loved. The train, the German carousel and of course, the Little Dipper were my loves. The Little Dipper I could never tire even attending the park with my own children; all of us loving that thrill  when taking off and arriving  back in one piece. It was just enough to ride the coaster over and over again.

Adventureland was originally a restaurant know as Paul’s Picnic Grove and an attraction from 1958-1961 known as Storybook Park. This was the largest park in Illinois until Great America opened in 1976, another an amusement park that deserves its’ own article soon. Adventureland offered numerous rides that included Italian Bumper Cars and the Italian Bobs. But I always wanted to visit the Storybook Park that included Cinderella’s Coach and Prince Charmings Castle.

Santa’s Village, now called the Azoosment park,  is located in Dundee, Illinois, a field trip we would have to plan in advance when I was a child as well as taking my own children. Probably the most fun for myself and family were the bumper cars, twirling inside a snowball during summer and the pumpkin coach. On Memorial Day, in 1959 Santa’s Village opened and many went a few years later to the state of the art ice rink. Over twenty million people have visited Santa’s Village through the decades.

Quieting the Storm

After grabbing the key that had been securely hidden from the eyes of most, I unlocked the door and stepped inside. As her professional caregiver, these were the instructions for taking care of her. She would wander the streets if the doors were not locked from the outside.

At first, it was quiet; maybe Emily was asleep and then I heard it.

“I don’t remember, you should know where Dennis lives,” her voice angry and desperate. “That’s why I called you,” she pleaded.

Knowing Emily was on the phone, I followed her anguish to the bedroom. She was pacing back and forth, the cordless in her hand. I noticed that directory assistance was talking to her. Emily had a son who lived in town named Dennis. Her husband of over 60 years was still alive, but recovering from a stroke and currently in a rehabilitation facility.

His absence played more havoc with her dementia, especially shortly before the hours of sundown. Emily’s symptoms of memory loss and confusion were much more enhanced during this time of day.

Gently taking the phone from her hand, I quickly apologized to 411 and put the phone on the receiver. Simultaneously, I grasped her arm, and looked into her eyes.

“I have Dennis’s phone number,” I said, waiting for some recognition before I continued. “Let’s call him”.

“Hi Mom,” he said and assured her that Dad would be home soon. But she would forget, and in a matter of minutes it would have to be repeated. She may not be sure of the time, date or even season. After she hung up, it seemed she had not been satisfied and started to become more agitated. Emily needed constant stimulation.

I got up and removed the painting from the nearby wall. Maybe she could tell me about the majestic movie house called The Chicago Theatre, with 1941 written on the marquee. Built in French Baroque in the 1920’s, the theatre was one of the most lavish in the country; remodeled in the 1980’s. As I brought the picture closer to her eyes, the tension began to fade.

“Oh my,” she started as she began to search for the answer, “My first date with my husband. Oh, he was such a good-looking man. The line of people that night reached all the way around the block to see The Lady Eve.”

Emily couldn’t remember if he was in the military, or his involvement in World War II, but she could remember how he held her hand in that line that seemed to stretch forever.

Giggling and moving closer while grasping my hand, she said, “I could tell he just didn’t have too much experience with the girls like I had with the guys.”

“How could you tell?” I asked.

“His hand was perspiring and shaking,” she laughed again.

“And you hooked him for sixty years…I imagine!”

“I knew he was the one the first night. He gave this painting to me for our anniversary.” She responded tenderly.

“Which anniversary?”

“I have no idea,” she giggled, “there were so many!”

Later, I found her wedding picture; a breathtaking bride with large eyes, dark hair and beautiful smile. But Emily seemed more interested in talking about her mother, after eyeing this photograph, who did not see her dressed in white because she had passed away before her marriage.

“My mom passed away just a few years ago,” I commented.

“You have a Dad,” she stated matter of fact.

“No, he is gone too.”

“Brothers and sisters?”

“Only child.” Emily just couldn’t fathom a 50+ woman to be the only one and parentless.

“I do have two children. I am a Mom like you too.”

That didn’t matter much to her; it was about who was going to take care of me. She asked if I was hungry…most mothers do. Her vivid heart and mind remained cognizant, regardless of the disability, of her partner’s love and parental obligation.

Love always somehow survives in the end. Every time I visited as her caretaker, we did it all again; sometimes the phone call, the Chicago theatre and their wedding. Always before leaving, she asked if she could cook me something to eat.

However, one Monday the routine had changed; allowing an astounding new journey to begin. Her son had told me that his daughter had just gotten married and because Emily was not in the best condition to attend the wedding, they brought the party to her the Saturday before. Emily dressed in her finest while receiving the wedding party, between the service and reception, in her living room.

New pictures were shared in front of the family fireplace; cake was cut and served along with dribbles of champagne. As I viewed the new pictures, the bride and grandmother shared the same tears.

On that autumn afternoon, with brilliant color shading the home, Emily displayed a new color in her cheeks and vibrancy in her eyes. This time she remembered every exciting detail of blossoming new love in front of her own fireplace that weekend; just like her own in first encounter in 1941.

(Originally published in Maria Shriver’s Architect of Change- Taking care of those with Alzheimers/2013http://archive.mariashriver.com/quieting-the-storm-karla-sullivan/

Ingredients for love and family

 

I thought about her famous recipe.

And beginning in my pre-teen years, I wanted to be just like her. It seems like yesterday that I knocked on the door of her duplex that was located across the street from my family home; introducing myself and asking if she needed a babysitter.

Her voice was articulate but child like, her smile, dark eyes and thick, short haircut, fashionable for the late 1960’s added to her confidence more than most 22 year olds could conceive. There was a playful side on the surface, a sterling intelligence deep inside and a young mother to Marc who was only two years old.  I was only 11.

My first time babysitting was while Marc was asleep not suspecting that his Mom had left him with me. Of course, he woke and cried miserably until she walked in the door; only gone a short time which seemed like an eternity for me. I was sure my days as a babysitter had begun and stopped all in one day but I was wrong. Nothing was ever said about me being more upset than her baby and I learned that I truly had talent; my first job. Finally, I was promoted from an afternoon sitter to evenings and when her second baby came along, Michael, I become an expert in my field at 50 cents an hour.

She loved to read one I again remember clearly, James Michners The Source…a story of the history of the Jewish people, her nationality as well, that she could devour in a few hours. A novelist whose writing was based on extensive, detailed research. I could only handle Trixie Beldon and maybe Nancy Drew. I wasn’t sure that I could sit quietly during a read of such depth.

Judy could appear in her husband’s oversized button down shirt with jeans rolled to the knees but when she dressed to go out or entertain, her makeup was expertly designed to compliment her features as if she used none at all and her clothes did the same for her figure; the latest in conservative fashion. But it was her nails that always caught my eye, watching her white hands maneuver the steering wheel of her blue Bonneville 1965 Pontiac. Her nails were the perfect length as we headed to the new McDonalds or Rainbow beach.

Her interior style of decorating was creative, black and white stripes in their bathroom, deep blues with yellow and white accents in her living room and off white dining room with powdered blue French curtains. Her den was made from her own imagination with tall barrels and handmade tops as end tables. The boy’s room had red, blue, yellow and green stars made out of felt decorating the ceiling.

But her real talent was her cooking and, most of all, her pepper steak published in the Chicago Tribune. Her signature smile, turtleneck sweater replacing the usual button down, was photographed as she sat on a stool by her favorite kitchen counter while Julia Child endorsed her work. Throughout the city, she was known for her Pepper Steak where all mothers, including my own, attempted to create the same.

Where was that recipe that sat in Mothers yellow metal recipe box? Where was the box after mother died?

Remember when your dad died?

Yes, I was only 12 and during the ride with neighbors to my father’s wake, I had vomited on my good clothes, remembering a variety of women all shapes and sizes, ushering me into the washroom when we arrived to clean me up the best they could. After spending a few minutes in front of Dad’s casket with my trembling mother, somebody suggested the little family room behind.

My nylons were stained and another lady kindly rinsed them off to hang there. I sat and waited in the small room away from other’s drama…too much toxicity for my own soul. It was Judy and her husband who finally rescued me and suggested that the best place would be at home with them that evening. They had no idea what they had done for me in that small gesture.

In the 1970’s, we all relocated to the suburbs and somehow the years of college, becoming a teacher and then mother became the essence of life; the recipe removed for a different time.

During the late 1980’s, I had heard that Judy had gone back to school to become a lawyer and after locating her law office in a phonebook, I called and explained to the receptionist who I was. Shortly after, I received a call back in that familiar voice to come across and baby-sit with the boys…. for a brief moment nothing had changed. After we met at an old neighbors home for a reunion, this time was with Judy holding my two year old.  Her sons were almost as old as me.

In the 1990’s and 2000s, we had are own intense lives to lead, Judy had become an appellate court judge losing contact with only words and articles in reference to her success on the Internet. The judge was creative, innovative, dynamic energetic, beautiful and charming.

Yes, that was her.

Since divorce, single motherhood, teaching, training and my roles in corporate management, I have bloomed as a writer published in a variety of newspapers, blogs and magazines. Ultimately, an avid reader of all literature. The Source was one of my favorites.

But the thought of Judy’s pepper steak has never been forgotten.

And, of course, one day my search began and, somehow the metal recipe box reared its décor behind an old collection of cook books.  Located in the front was Judy’s pepper steak, neatly written in my mothers handwriting on a significantly yellow card; the original newspaper article not among its files.

After a dinner of delectable flavor with my own family, I journeyed  back to my time of impressions. It does not take much for young children to form impressions. Children as young as 3 tend to judge an individual’s character just by looking at their face. Those young experiences tend to become our own fingerprint as we mature and, hopefully prosper.

As I publish this article today, I realize that it is Judy’s birthday…July 9th. Maybe she , too, approves of the days of old. The days when it was the warm and engaged family dinner that deterred us from the stress of our demons; giving us a more positive view of the future. Being able to enjoy what was important, those that sat at our table, bringing out the best in all of us.

The Kitty Book

I found it and my heart skipped a beat….the cover was torn but thank God it had not been discarded after 50 years of ownership. Because there was very little I knew about her and my introduction was acknowledged by the book. As I gently leafed through the yellowed pages, the book brought back the same smiles and favorites pictures; the same colors that moved me to a different level.  Contained in a brown leather cover with gold letters, it was something I always asked for after arriving at my Aunts for Sunday dinner.

I felt closer to her as a child. She had passed away when I was a baby. The pages of her book lined with similar composition paper that I used to create my own school assignments of passion. Just like Grandma.  The Kitty Book, Grandmas scrapbook, was designed for me before she passed away and her favorite pet graced the pages; cats of all dimension and domestication. Cats climbing out of boxes from old newspapers, cut out cats small and large gracing a scattered page, cats in color from birthday, Valentine’s Day and postcards, and cats playing with mice. We had Tiger Tex and Wildcat Whitney ready for a fight and the lonely bulldog with the majestic Persian.

Everything you ever wanted to learn about cats is in the Kitty Book. And just about everything you wanted to learn about Grandma. She was deliberate, creative and could neatly package a book of love and affection.  She loved cats and in later years, unbeknownst to her inspiration, I owned two cats of my own.  That was just the start of her memories which continued on in later years, finding her scrapbook from her own childhood in the early 1900’s filled with calling cards of friends and beautifully embossed  cards presented to Lottie Emerson; her rewards of merit.

My grandmother was an accomplished pianist and played the organ/piano at church in a small town in Central Illinoia.  I, too, studied piano and won awards for my talent.  The next step of my discovery was found in a ledger with one article after another from a local newspaper outside of Kankakee. Voice of the People was written by my Grandma so much like my own column where we both talk about our yesterdays marked by our today’s or influences exerted in the wrong direction.

While I have published non-fiction essays on inspiration and nostalgia, she and I talk together of the value of a smile, snap judgments, the art of thinking and what constitutes greatness.  Though we are really not carbon copies, I do think talent may just be in the genes.  And I become more amazed at the bond as I study her accomplishments further.

Finally, I learn through a newspaper article that one of her stories had been published in the Yearbook of Public Opinion entitled, Gable, Whiskers and Milksops. The volume consisted of quotations from letters written by the readers of newspapers and magazines in the United States, published somewhere between 1937 and 1938.  So I searched and searched again.  No luck.  But as the Internet and its sources became more advanced,We, The People, The Year book of Public Opinion was found and only one copy of its kind.

Strangely enough, I could afford the purchase.

Lottie M Emerson’s review of Clark Gable’s portrayal of Charles Parnell, the famous Irish politician in the 1937 biographical film graced the pages. Many thought it was Gables worst performance. Grandma thought it was the best she had ever seen in all her career.  Ultimately, Grandma was not afraid of expressing her honesty in the public eye.

Neither was I.