In your Easter bonnet

The Easter parade was always planned, following the religious service on Easter Sunday. Never another day which was truly a way to celebrate Jesus. Easter parades involved women who were finely dressed in new clothes and hats. Having new clothes and expensive attire actually began in Europe in the early 4th century as a celebration to the resurrection. It symbolized re-birth, renewal and hope. In 1933, American songwriter Irving Berlin wrote the music for a revue on Broadway called As Thousands Cheer. It included his song “Easter Parade”, which he had been working on for fifteen years, and in which he had finally captured the essence of the parade. Both the song and the revue were tremendously popular. The song became a standard, and fifteen years later was the basis for the film Easter Parade. My family members remember the Chicago parade in 1939 taking place in front of the Drake hotel after services. Women of wealthy families would attend service and then head for a luxurious lunch. Another Chicago parade took place in on Michigan Ave in around the Fourth Presbyterian Church in 1927. Many dressed in fine clothes and bonnets. They were usually wealthy congregants and influential pastors.

The Easter parade is most closely associated with Fifth Avenue in New York City, but Easter parades are held in many other cities. Starting as a spontaneous event in the 1870s, the New York parade became increasingly popular into the mid-20th century—in 1947, it was estimated to draw over a million people. Its popularity has declined significantly, drawing only 30,000 people in 2008. It was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid but now the Easter parade and bonnet festival still exists. The Easter Parade & Easter Bonnet Festival is a spontaneous event that takes place every year in New York City. On Easter Sunday, Fifth Avenue (from 49th St to 57th St) is closed for traffic. The fun begins at about 10 am. The promenade of hundreds of people wearing weird, funny, and inventive costumes usually attracts crowds of spectators.

Other wonderful Easter celebrations planned on Easter Sunday throughout the country:

New Orleans Like so many occasions in New Orleans, Easter Sunday is celebrated with a parade…actually three. The oldest Easter parade in the city is the one founded by Germaine Wells in 1956. Most are Christian so as many have said, it a spritual time in the city. Therefore, Easter gets its fair number of parades dedicated to different issues and topics, such as The Historic French Quarter Easter Parade, Chris Owens French Quarter Parade, and the Gay Easter Parade. The Historic French Quarter parade starts at Antoines restaurant at 9:45 and arrives at the St. Louis Cathedral for mass at 11:00. There are also Easter Bonnet awards.

The Easter Parade on Union Street in San Francisco is another popular event on Easter Sunday. The parade begins at 2pm but there is also Easter bonnet contest as well. Other parades and contests are available to see at Golden Gate Park.

When did all of this dyeing of the Chicago River and St. Patrick’s Day Parades begin?

Today, it is amazing how popular St. Patrick’s Day has become for little ones at school. Their major focus is trying to build traps to catch leprechauns, which I didn’t do, though my kids did at home, opening windows to grab those creatures. But for many suburban Chicago kindergarten children, several talked about taking a family fieldtrip to see the river dyed green. One girl brought pictures to show the beauty of the green Chicago River. One talked about seeing the parade with Aunt Sue. One mentioned her friend who was Irish step dancing in the parade. In the 1970’s, I also remember viewing the river one year celebrating lunch with friends in college, but we were standing closer to Union Station. In the 1990’s, I remember standing with my own little ones near the bridge by the Wrigley building; fascinated by the river as well as the pipe and drums of the bagpipe players. In 1962, the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Union Local 130 dumped 100 pounds of the dye into the Chicago river just to have some fun. It was green for an entire week. Ever since, it has become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition; happening prior to the infamous St. Patrick’s Day parade, which became an official event in the 1950’s.

According to NPR, the green dye was originally part of the city’s effort to clean up the river’s waterfront areas, which had long been a depository for Chicago’s waste. Mayor Richard Daley had originally proposed dyeing part of Lake Michigan green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, he was persuaded by his friend Stephen M. Bailey, who was the business manager of the Chicago Plumbers Union. They used to use an oil based dye but now the dye is a powder that spreads easily. Two boats are used; one to drop the dye into the river and the other to actually steer it. Over the last 65 years, this has become such a proud tradition that other Chicago suburbs have dyed lakes or streams in their area such as Lake Katherine in Palos Heights for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Throughout the United States, other cities such as Tampa, Florida and cities in Texas, are following Chicago’s tradition.

According to Choose Chicago, Chicago is one of several U.S. cities that drew large numbers of Irish immigrants in the 1800s. By 1850, about one-fifth of the city’s population was Irish. What was an unofficial parade that began in 1843, became legendary and official. The parade also has a parade queen and Grand Marshal every year. The city of Chicago actually has three parades that are extremely popular. The South Side Irish Parade and the The Northwest Side Parade. Alone, this year over 100 floats and 15 bands was involved in the South Side Parade. The parades are probably some of the largest in the country.

Happy Valentine’s Day

After sitting down with a young Downers Grove student, she reminded me of Valentine’s Day.  She shared a story about her grandmother who lost her Dad when she was a teenager, then her husband just recently….Grandpa…..It was a cedar box that her Grandmother opened when she was sad and inside were a special collection of Valentine’s Day cards. Beautifully wrapped in tissue, she would open each one and smile. Sometimes, tears of love would tag along. The cards were elaborate with elegant designs in red, white and pink while others were framed in lace or velvet. To my love, my darling, my precious; written in neat handwriting to introduce the verse inside which was usually an encouraging message. After listening, I realized that many of us have probably done the same with our own inspired Valentines either preciously saved in a box or scrapbook.

My mother had a box just like this student’s grandmother. My Mother and Dad had passed away several years ago but I knew where the box was stored and couldn’t remember when was the last time I looked inside. So after returning home, I found her box. I found my Mother and Dad. A glossy silver card with a vase filled with flowers complimented the cover made in the 1960’s. In small writing, it said I love you in a white heart…he had signed his name though difficult to read…placed among the assorted floral collection designed on the card. To my darling wife stood proudly inside.

Now, I was excited…..this really was the true meaning of Valentines Day for me. I was thinking about Valentines that were given to me by my own children, now aged 30+ and I had several scrapbooks but I wasn’t sure which one. But, I, continued on checking out my Mother’s cedar box; I had forgotten what was in it. As I leafed through the photos, documents, I found two cards for Valentines Day. One was from my mother that said You’re A Wonderful Daughter. I was an only child. And the next one was from my daughter, Your Love Means So Much. At that moment, I cried at the irony. Maybe I pulled my daughter’s years ago to save in the special box so that I would never lose or misplace it in a scrapbook. Maybe, she put it there, knowing, too, the special family memories were always intact in that box. Maybe, it showed up just because it needed too.

And the next day, I shared my collection with the student. She decided to make her Grandmother a special card to add to her box of treasures this year.  Nothing says I love you like the hand-crafted cards trimmed in elaborate lace and personalized just for you.

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.

Christmas reflections 2021

By Caryl Clem

Holiday’s allow us to travel through time

Bouncing back and forth between then and now

Cherished Christmas tales lit by fireplace flames

Imagination casts a spell over moonlit lawns

As children fight sleep to spy

Or hear the whisper of a silent sleigh

Pulled by reindeers hooves on frozen stardust

Trails in the starlight sky

Shining proof he has stopped by

Musical bells heard below

Blend with Secret Santa’s HO! HO! HO

Every tradition and custom feels brand new

Timeless wonder the magic surrounding Christmas

Another year passes with grace

As we reflect on the love in our lives

Eager to begin another year

Celebrating promise and hope

Stepping forward into a Happy New Year.

Pretty soon you will hear them prancing!

She found the book a few days ago; sharing her memory as well as my own. Twenty one years ago, my daughter wrote a Christmas poem, given to her teacher at Indian Trail school in Downers Grove to be submitted to the Anthology of Poetry since she loved writing. Though at times, I wonder if it was me more excited about my love of writing; guiding her my way. However, both of us strongly remember sitting on the bed working and I think there was a great deal of time spent at dining room table where arts, crafts and homework always took precedence.  I, too, had published in poetry anthologies and now they were looking for young writers. If hard to read in the picture, the copy of the poem is written in this article.

The poem was accepted in the 2001 addition. The editors accepted the poems in their format and punctuation; extending a warm thank you to those they selected as well as expecting great things from them in the future. Just being able to spend a wonderful time with my daughter then and appreciating her love now is what I call a great things in the future that the editor had hoped for all who had been published in the book.

Anthology of Poetry still exists since their first publication in 1990. Working with elementary, middle school and high school teachers throughout the United States, the AOP offers a professional forum for students’ poems and short stories. They also engage teachers in the selection process for our Teacher’s Selection anthologies. We recognize how challenging it is to develop a love for reading and writing in students when there are many distractions and few tools.

Christmas

Hang the stockings

Trim the tree

Make snowman cute as can be

Watch the snowflakes fall to the ground

Grab your boots and let’s run around

Drink hot chocolate from a Christmas cup

Build a fire to warm you up

Check the sky for Santa’s sleigh

He sure won’t be far away

Very soon you’ll hear them prancing

Santa’s reindeer will be dancing

The time has come for you to hear

Santa Claus’ jolly old cheer

You leave your room to sneak some peeks

At the man with the big red rosy cheeks

He piles packages under the tree

And turns around to smile at me

Then we go to find a treat

And we both sit down to drink and eat

When he is ready to leave I go to bed

And out of my window I see his fabulous sled

From high in the sky he waves goodbye

Until next year comes for my friends and I!

Home alone and more of John Hughes

It had occurred to me to write about this Chicago based movie last year since in 2020 we would be celebrating its movie anniversary, produced in 1990 but the draft had been put on hold. Everybody was writing about the infamous movie’s anniversary. Then I talked to a student at school this month and he could not stop talking about his field trip from Downers Grove, Il to the northside. He wrote about it in his first grade journal. He saw the Home Alone house! The Home Alone house is located at 671 Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, Illinois. and so I pulled some pictures online for him to verify. Oh my,,,,that was it though I had to be extremely careful. He knew the difference between older pictures of the home that did not have a fence around the house. The fence was fairly new to the property; keeping current onlookers at a distance.

My 30 + year old daughter and I have taken several field trips to the house too; some years ago with Starbucks in our hands. No fence! Home alone was and still is one of the favorite movies in our family. My daughter became a connoisseur of John Hughes films, especially produced in Chicago. Another family favorite was Sixteen Candles is a 1984 American coming-of-age comedy film starring Molly RingwaldMichael Schoeffling, and Anthony Michael Hall. It was written and directed by John Hughes in his directorial debut. In 1985, he produced the Breakfast Club. It stars Emilio EstevezAnthony Michael HallJudd NelsonMolly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy as teenagers from different high school cliques who spend a Saturday in detention with their authoritarian assistant principal. (Paul Gleason). Again, we traveled to Maine North High School in Des Plaines, Illinois, which had been closed in May 1981 and filming took place here for the Breakfast Club and Molly Ringwalds home in Sixteen Candles. Again, Sixteen Candles was mainly filmed in the north suburbs of Chicago. The Baker house is located at 3022 Payne Street in Evanston. The church (Glencoe Union Church – 263 Park Avenue) and parking lot where the final scenes take place are in Glencoe. Glencoe has become our favorite spot for a field trip to walk the beach.

Home Alone premiered on November 10, 1990, in Chicago, and entered wide release in the United States on November 16, 1990. With a total gross of $476.7 million, it was the highest-grossing live-action comedy until 2011. An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation. Home Alone has won one award after another and is considered one of the best Christmas films of all time. A sequel, Home Alone 2, Lost in New York was released in 1992. According to NBC Chicago, this year you can actually book a one night stay at the Home Alone house this holiday season. This can be found on Airbnb’s website for only 25 dollars, but you must pay for travel expenses to Chicago.

Who burned the St. Lukes Methodist Church on the south side of Chicago during the holidays?

We had just finished our Christmas pageant in the sanctuary. I was only 10 in December of 1965 and didn’t like being in shows since I was pretty shy back then. I think I was an angel because I vaguely remember my mother and Ms. Elaine, my Sunday School teacher helping with my wings. But I was going to do this because my father was going to come and watch. He was not a regular church-goer as I called then like me and my Mom. We attended St. Lukes Methodist Church at 93rd and Paxton on the Southside of Chicago. My first religious experience. My mother sometimes taught Sunday school and made new friendships. It is where I also met my friend Sue who I still talk to today. The pageant, however, is not a strong memory because of the arson fire that took place days later. In January of 1966, one arson fire followed eight days later by a suspected second arson fire at St. Luke Methodist Church.

The church served only about 100 families but we enjoyed the smaller space for it gave my family more opportunity to be involved. After the first fire, we were hopeful due to some water damage, we still gathered hymnals to save as well as other remnants and church carried on. My friend of over 50 years, Sue and her brother retrieved quite a few things from the burning building. She still has two of the small footed bowls, above, that the ladies served the cranberry sauce in at their turkey dinners. And her brother had painted a paint by number of the last supper or the face of Jesus that he retrieved. But it was the second fire that destroyed the pulpet. It was completely blackened with soot and as a young girl, I remember thinking how could anyone destroy Jesus…his image. My mother just told me she thought it was a young man who came to the church off and on but had some mental issues. Even after researching, I don’t think anyone was arrested for the crime. The remainder of the church was torn down.

According to the History of Southlawn church, picture above, around 1965, the Calumet Heights Community began undergoing racial change and transition, as did Southlawn. African-Americans were welcomed. In January 1966, one arson fire followed eight d Some believed that the fires were related to then pastor, John K. Brown’s active support of civil rights. Following the arson fires, the St. Luke congregation was merged with Southlawn. In 1968, the Methodist Church abolished the Central Jurisdiction. Portions were added to the Rock River Conference, which was the predecessor Conference of The Northern Illinois Annual Conference. The merger created The United Methodist. I did go through the confirmation process at Southlawn but it was just not the same.

My friend Sue believed that the church was too small and had to be subsidized—a lot of force mergers at the time. Plus,negotiations were going on for the merger with another denomination to become the United Methodist church. She distinctly remembers discussions at her house about the 100 families in the church. Her dad insisted they could get $1000 pledges from each family to rebuild and most members were in agreement. It was her understanding that politically it was just not to be allowed because of finances and the merge with Southlawn was forced by the bishop at the time. The racial discrimination and further integration of the neighborhood may have played a large role, but Sue or I never heard any issues about that: all she heard was the financial issues.

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.

Decades of Chicagoland holidays

Growing up on the south side of Chicago in the late 1950’s, for my Dad, it was the Christmas Tree. In the picture, this was my second Christmas, My second tree. The Christmas tree that was real. Not the fake trees that were first metal, silver and generally had coordinated ball ornaments that were all the same. The metal tree also rotated in a stand to music with floor lights. My father had to have an 8ft real tree with over 600 colored bulb lights where two lights of the same color were never together, bubble lights which were effectively scattered as well as intricate ornaments  placed with care on each branch to compliment the space. Tinsel was hung one string at a time. And that was it…sometimes he would put colored lights to frame his creation around the front window facing the street. The tree took hours, sometimes days to complete but it was his masterpiece and still remembered by many today. After Dad passed away , I tried to carry on the tradition in the 1970’s for my Mother. She switched to a fake, green tree with the new Italian lights and garland while living in Dolton. My own children had the same in the 1990’s only with new ornaments, bows and taller since it sat in a foyer at our home in Downers Grove.

What about other holiday decorations famous through the years? Over 108 years, the Chicago downtown tree has always been a major favorite to visit. The first official Christmas tree in the city of Chicago was installed in 1913 in Grant Park and lit on Christmas Eve by then-mayor Carter Harrison. This first tree was a 35-foot (11 m) tall spruce tree. Beginning with Christmas 1966 the official Chicago Christmas tree was placed in Civic Center Plaza, now known as Daley Plaza. At that time, it was over 70ft tall and made of several trees. I was mesmerized as a child though my children were not as excited. With the exception of 1981, the tree was installed in Daley Plaza each year until 2015 where it moved to Millenium Park. The Civic Center now celebrates the 25th year of Christkindlmarket. The booths were always fun to visit with my children occasionally buying a mug of the best hot chocolate.

At two years old, my son began calling it the Christmas Tree House. His first trip was in 1989 and that is what stuck with our family all these years. Throughout the 1990’s, my son and my daughter traveled there every year for Christmas and just could not stop staring; could not be pulled away regardless of the weather. Some called it Santa’s house, others, the Christmas House. However, it was the most beautiful holiday home in Downers Grove, created by Diane and Rion Goyette.

More great places today!

Lincoln Park Zoolights 
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Dr., Chicago
On the north side of Chicago, for over 20 years Lincoln Park Zoo has provided a beautiful light display of over 2 million lights. You can also find beautiful ice carvings throughout the zoo grounds and other holiday related activities such as ice skating where you can bring your own skates or rent a pair.

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo
Brookfield Zoo 8400 31st St. Brookfield, Il 60513
Just south of Chicago in Brookfield at the zoo, you can see over 30 years of celebration for the holiday season. Visitors can be dazzled by over a million lights and can enjoy caroling with the animals and special treat with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Several corporations have set up trees set to music and one that you can actually interact.

Chicago Botanic Garden is bringing back their experiential Lightscape experience for another year. The awe-inspiring display is set along a mile-long path where visitors can admire light installations by artists from around the world. Lightscape is open on select dates from November 12, 2021 to January 2, 2022.

Morton Arboretum is wonderful place but tickets are currently sold out.

Aurora Festival of Lights One of the largest free outdoor drive-through holiday light displays in Northern Illinois, the Aurora Festival of Lights, returns for its 15th year in 2021 with dazzling displays that will delight both adults and children. The light show begins the day after Thanksgiving, Friday Nov 26, and runs through Dec 26. Sunday  through Saturday 5-9pm. Last year, the festival had over 50,000 cars. Buses are welcome too.