Michigan Avenue Chicago: Through the decades

The first places that come to my mind when I think about Michigan Avenue in Chicago that decorate my childhood was The Art Institute and the Grant Park parking garage below street level.

Most of all, I remember driving from Michigan Ave to Lake Shore Drive and back again several times when a handmade sign was placed in front of the ramp to let travelers know that the garage was full. But they must have been pretty good about monitoring customers and that sign. It would always open for us to park if we circled patiently.

I would glance at the Prudential building as we would circle…For me the highest on the 41 floor where we visited the observation deck many times. But then in 1970, the John Hancock opened and at 100 stories high, it was the tallest building in the world.  Now, of course, Sears or should I say Willis in 1973 was built 110 stories surpassing the World Trade Center buildings in New York, destroyed on 9/11.

A trip to the Art Institute during my younger years would have me consumed by the most remarkable Thorne Miniature Rooms, sixty eight glass boxes in walls displaying European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot,  rooms were designed by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932-1940. The Art Institute had the best museum shop that included a wonderful collection of art books, wall decor, special jewelry and charms. Now they have an expanded and you can order right now online.

During the 1960’s/1970’s, it was the historic Blackstone hotel on Michigan where I attended a young friends Bar Mitzvah in one of its banquet rooms. The Blackstone Hotel has been dubbed “The Hotel of Presidents”. It was once considered one of Chicago’s finest luxury hotels, and a dozen 20th-century U.S. presidents have stayed at the hotel. Today, the Blackstone is still a stunning hotel example with beautifully decorated rooms and marble bath facilities.

I still remember The Conrad Hilton on Michigan Ave in the early 1970’s where I attended an overnight convention now called Hilton Chicago. Hilton Chicago is still an elegant choice to stay in as it was for me as a young girl but today the Hilton has one of the largest fitness centers along with cellular phone rental and complimentary WiFi for Hilton Honors members.

Now known as the Magnificent mile,  north Michigan ave  boosted the construction of Water Tower Place in 1975 but in the 1960’s it was Saks Fifth Avenue that was probably the tallest most prominent shop.  900 North Michigan Shops is a visually stunning and highly desired shopping destination that resides on the north end of Chicago’s vibrant Magnificent Mile.

The exclusive tenant mix offers shoppers an unparalleled experience of more than 70 luxury lifestyle shops featuring Bloomingdale’s and a strong line-up of national brands perfectly complemented by an eclectic collection of unique boutiques and a diverse selection of delectable dining options.

Michigan Avenue extends south into near south side of Chicago and beyond – past what was once the notorious Levee District,  the historic Second Presbyterian Church, which was built in 1874 and still offers services today.

The former home of the legendary Chess Records at 2120 South Michigan. In 1993, Willie Dixon’s widow, Marie, purchased the building which was then renovated and re-opened in September 1997 with a dedication ceremony. It is now home to Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation.

The Lexington Hotel was a ten-story hotel in Chicago at 2135 S. Michigan Avenue that was built in 1892, once a home to Al Capone. The hotel was closed in 1980 and destroyed despite being a landmark.


The Sucker Tree

My grandfather’s whitewashed farmhouse was located in small town, central Illinois framed by an ever-changing horizon and guarded by cornstalks.  Each had grown tall with gangling arms, restive and ready to capture their trespassers, twisting their leafy fingers round and round, threatening to arrest me. I was only six years old then.

I quickly made my way inside the chipped picket fence, protected from the grasp of the tawny soldiers.

The screen door creaked and cracked like the bones of an elder, opening and shutting again as Granddad reached for me with outstretched arms of endearment.

Behind the thick panes of his spectacles, his narrow eyes glistened with delight.  His face flushed with excitement, the color of the early autumn foliage that vividly shaded his home that day.

“I have another surprise for you, little one,” he spoke in a whisper.

Of course, I was expecting this and returned his words with a huge grin.  Once again, Granddad had not let me down for my visits were always greeted with something truly wonderful, a phenomena for the entire world to see but, unfortunately, allowed for Granddad and my eyes only!

He slowly took a seat in his polished, Hitchcock rocker and I piled into his lap, anxious to listen.

“Out back, only a few feet away from the house, my child, something very special is happening,” he said.

“What is it, Granddad?”  I responded, eyes wide with childhood curiosity.

He paused for a moment to gather his thought, clearing his aged vocal cords as well.

“A tree is just starting to bloom!”

……….Granddad had topped himself with amazing stories this time!  I wondered if his mind had taken a wrong turn somewhere, the grownups called it senility, I think.  Anyway, I was always considered bright for my years and knew better to believe that trees did not prosper during this particular season!  Leaves transformed from green to brown, then withered and fell to the ground to be either raked away or covered with blankets of snow at the onset of winter weather.  It didn’t take experience in years to attain that knowledge so what was this man fabricating now?

I was extremely disappointed, to say the least.

“Granddad, trees don’t bloom in autumn!”  I said in defiance.

“This one does,” he answered confidently.

Granddad had never lied to me in the past.  Did he really know something that the rest of Illinois and I had not encountered.  It was certainly possible.  In fact anything was possible.

“What kind of tree is it?”  I asked, attempting to pacify Granddad, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“A sucker tree!”  he proudly announced.  “When all the other trees and shrubs shed their leafy dress, this tiny tree begins to thrive with lollipops of rainbow colors.  One by one, they pop out like magic with stems and all, dangling from the branches.  When each sucker is ripe and just the right size, they can be picked and eaten.”

As Granddad continued to go on and on, I was mesmerized by his delightful description.  This was too good…..just too good to be true!  However, once again, Granddad had me right where he wanted me.

“Are the suckers ripe now?”  I asked, nearly jumping out of his lap.

“Well, let’s find out,” he suggested as we climbed out of the rocker and quickly headed to the backyard.

He gestured for me to go first and my impatience caused me to slide down the back steps, my bottom sore and surely splintered right through my pants!

I didn’t care because, only a few inches from me, a miracle really was occurring right before my startling eyes.

A young tree, only a foot or two taller than myself, caught my undivided attention.  Its’ trunk looked like any other and it was naked of leaves but, lo and behold, lollipops, approximately four inches round, hung delicately on their stems from each branch.  There were five or six already in bloom and pink, blue, yellow, and green colors swirled in their centers.  Each childhood delicacy gently swayed to the tunes of the afternoon breeze.

“Can I pick one?”  I uttered in a small voice.

This was a sight that would be locked in my memory for all time.

“Why, of course,” he smiled.  “Two, if you like”

My mouth watered as I let my tongue whirl around on the colors, blending the pinks into the blues, creating my own masterpiece and savoring its’ flavor while the sucker shrunk in size, eventually disappearing into my belly.

I hugged Granddad tightly, thanking him for letting me share this fascinating September event.

The following year in early autumn, Granddad had passed to another land and my heart ached for his return that could never be.  I would miss him for many years to come.

After his funeral, I removed myself from the crowd and took a seat on those familiar back steps to gaze on nature’s evolution.  Each tree had changed color and their leaves began to drop to their demise, almost like what had happened to my Granddad.

I then focused on the sucker tree.  Its’ barren branches seemed to stretch wearily toward the sky as if asking God to return my Granddad.  Not one lollipop adorned its’ arms.  The tree was lost without him for only Granddad knew the secret ingredients that could provide the tree with eternal like.  The sucker tree had become a fabric of memory along with my brilliant Granddad sitting beside it.

Fun with Dick and Jane: Still addicted to reading

I did not like Dick,Jane, Sally, Spot and whoever else was in the series. I had a difficult time reading in the beginning. I didn’t enjoy Think and Do work books  or a  kindergarten book called Work that is Play.  School work was not playtime for me until about 4th and 5th grade where I started to read…just a little….and write my first composition about a steer named Thunder who won a prize from a county fair.

It wasn’t until junior high where my writing and reading really took off with doing well in my sixth grade class on an essay for Keeping Chicago Clean that was turned in for a contest, a poem published in the Chicago Tribune about two wonderful boys I babysat for named Mark and Michael and I began to enjoy reading:

Laura ingalls Wilder: The Little House on the Prairie Series really began to intrigue me and at night before falling asleep I would day dream of the cottage that I wanted to live with a family like the Ingalls . Based on the real-life adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder, there were nine books that were cherished by readers of all generations.  On the Banks of Plum Creek is the Newbery Honor-winning fourth book in the Little House series, this edition features the classic black-and-white artwork from Garth Williams and probably my favorite in the series.

The adventures of Laura Ingalls and her family continue as they leave their little house on the prairie and travel in their covered wagon to Minnesota. They settle into a house made of sod on the banks of beautiful Plum Creek. Soon Pa builds them a sturdier house, with real glass windows and a hinged door. Laura and Mary go to school, help with the chores around the house, and fish in the creek. Pa’s fiddle lulls them all to sleep at the end of the day. But then disaster strikes—on top of a terrible blizzard, a grasshopper infestation devours their wheat crop. Now the family must work harder than ever to overcome these challenges.

Trixie Belden: The title character in a series of “girl detective” mysteries written between 1948 and 1986. The first six books were written by Julie Campbell Tatham, who also wrote the Ginny Gordon series, then continued by various in-house writers from Western Publishing under the pseudonym Kathryn Kenny. Today the rights to the series are owned by Random House. The series was out of print for a number of years, but Random House began releasing a new edition of the books in mid-2003. As of mid-2006, volumes 1 – 15 have been reissued.

Beatrix “Trixie” Belden is a young teen living just outside the fictional town of Sleepyside-on-Hudson, in the Hudson Valley area of New York. She lives at Crabapple Farm, which had been in her family for either three or six generations (this varies between books), with her parents and three brothers, Brian, Mart, and Bobby. The first book establishes her friendship with lonely, sheltered rich girl, Honey Wheeler, whose family has just moved into the Manor House next door and soon the girls are embroiled in their first case.

I loved Trixie and the book was not always easy to find. Many of my friends liked the Bobsey Twins or Nancy Drew and though I read those years later, it was Trixie that got me excited about reading and girl time adventures.

Anne of Green Gables: A 1908 novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery (published as L. M. Montgomery). Written for all ages, it has been considered a children’s novel since the mid-twentieth century. It recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. The novel recounts how Anne makes her way with the Cuthberts, in school, and within the town. Since its publication, Anne of Green Gables has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into at least 36 languages

I vaguely remember reading Anne as a school assignment and again fell in love with the detail and description. I struggled, but was willing to do my best with learning the delicate vocabulary.

From them on through the decades, not just years, I have never been without a book. I have given up smoking, adjusted to new people, new jobs, new things but can’t imagine life without a book. I will never forget someone telling me years ago that you are never bored if you love to read.

And reading opened the door for constant writing of new form and ideas; another love I try to do daily.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles William Eliot


30th Anniversary of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest® Live Finals

Registration Still Open For Historic Competition

Thousands of Students Compete to Pour a Bowl of Cereal in the Most Complicated and Comical Way!

New York, NY — Rube Goldberg, Inc. continues to celebrate laughter and invention through their annual RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE CONTEST®, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary by having its Live Finals relocated to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago April 20-22, 2018. Registration is now open and students of all ages across the country are encouraged to enter in this year’s contest, which will also premier an Apprentice Division for the first time, aimed at kids in elementary school.

“We’re excited and honored to be at the Museum of Science and Industry for this very special year in our history,” said Jennifer George, the RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE CONTEST®’s Legacy Director and the grand-daughter of Rube Goldberg. “We’re both committed to creating a fun and engaging experience where kids not only learn a lot about S.T.E.M., they also learn to laugh at the same time.”

Started in 1988 as a college competition, the RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE CONTEST® uses the iconic invention cartoons of the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning artist, Rube Goldberg as its inspiration. Since that time, thousands of students, teachers, hosts, inventors, museum personnel and Rube fanatics have participated. The competition is also a learning experience which falls in the category of S.T.E.M. / S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math– and Art) education. Rube Goldberg is often referred to as “the grandfather of S.T.E.M.”

Each year’s contest focuses on a defined task which every machine is designed to accomplish. For 2018, the simple task is “Pour a Bowl of Cereal” and the RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE CONTEST®’s 2018 Task Sponsor is General Mills. Students from elementary to the university level are encouraged to make this simple task ridiculously complicated and will be judged on their teamwork, creativity and spirit of Rube Goldberg.  Approximately 40-50 teams will be competing in the Live Finals at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.  The teams which compete at Finals have won regional competitions, where more than 250 teams compete.

“We’re very excited to host the Live Finals this year, as The Museum of Science and Industry, American’s foremost science museum since 1933, has always focused on hands-on, experiential learning. We’re looking forward to seeing the comical, creative and complicated Rube Goldberg Machines come to life in our community,” said Anne Rashford, The Museum of Science and Industry’s Director of Special Exhibitions and Business Partnerships.

Registration for the contest will remain open through March. There are four divisions to accommodate students at all school levels. Participants can go to http://rubegoldberg.com to register and get more information.


Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist best known for his zany invention cartoons. Rube Goldberg is the only person ever to be listed in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as an adjective. It’s estimated that he did a staggering 50,000 cartoons in his lifetime. Rube Goldberg, Inc. is dedicated to keeping laughter and invention alive through the legacy of its namesake. Annual competitions, image licensing, merchandising, and museum and entertainment opportunities continue to grow and enhance the brand. At the helm is Rube’s granddaughter, Jennifer George, whose best-selling book on her grandfather, The Art of Rube Goldberg, is now in its fourth printing.RGI is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 dedicated to promoting STEM & STEAM education for students of all ages.

First grade

I thought it had been lost decades ago…..I looked because we were supposed to bring a picture of me in first grade, 56 years ago, to my current school early in the month of February….my first grade classroom where I assist with special needs students today in 2018. This photo had been posted unexpectedly on Facebook and so, as always, it was time for a story.

It is class picture month at our school too! Which school…..yeah, I am getting confused too. Sometimes these past to present stories that continue to blossom in my mind amaze me.

So what it the same about first grade today in 2018 compared to 1962?

  • First of all, both elementary schools were named after courageous woman, Kate Buckingham and Elizabeth Ide.
  • With the exception of plastic today versus metal, the desks are really not a whole lot different and now we slice tennis balls to place on each metal foot of the chairs to protect the floor.
  • We have the same lined paper that we learned to place our letters and numbers correctly.
  • We, too, have the flag in our corner and we still say the pledge
  • The alphabet in the back of the room is attached in the same spot
  • Still globes exist on shelves and windowsills
  • Plants still grow as well as artificial arrangements decorating classrooms
  • Still tights and leggings for girls
  • Still learning how to tie shoe laces


  • White blouses for the girls and boys
  • Ties on picture day for the boys
  • Black and white photographs sitting at desk…only choice. Now, individual photos include a colorful garden background in 8 by 10, and numerous 5 by 7’s. Lots of choices.
  • Chalk board instead of white board
  • My room today’s theme is a classroom of monkeys
  • Back in 1962, it looks like it was elephants
  • Desk blotter and no lap top or COMPUTER
  • Teachers desk chair…much more comfortable and generally swivel today
  • NO STICKERS ANYWHERE IN 1962….especially on desks…
  • Books on shelves but more organized in 1962…of course it was clean up time for the picture
  • No snacks, lunch or water bottles….In 1962, we went home for lunch and went back
  • Walls are jammed packed with color in 2018

I brought the picture to school t o share with my first grade class. Actually, they were more excited about it more than I was and because they saw an old childhood photo of me just recently for a school contest, they knew who I was. They said the hair gives me a way even now……the same thin hair. 1962 they cried!!!! You must be as old as my grandmother.  Somehow, they don’t seem to make a correlation between teachers that can be as old as Nana!

And many asked for a copy to take home. Maybe they already understand the cost of an antique photo. They are much more mature than we were. Maybe they already realize they need to collect now so memories may be triggered in the future.

Mrs Sullivan………who was she? Where is her cell phone? I vaguely remember this old…..







Calumet Heights/Pill Hill Chicago

It began at 2436 East 91st Chicago Ill, 17. Phone: Essex 5-5930. That’s how I remember zip codes, addresses and phone numbers. It was called Calumet Heights where I went to Hoyne Elementary with Mrs O’Brien and because the area was overcrowded, a new school was built in time for first grade in 1962, Kate Sturgis Buckingham that provided kindergarten through fifth grade.

It was in the gym where we had a make- shift library session in the third grade where I sat and stared at the wall clock when President Kennedy was killed. Fourth and fifth grade were probably my favorite with Mrs. Mary Landon who taught me to write and love to read… the little girl that grew oh so much over the years as she wrote in my eighth grade autograph book from Joseph Warren Elementary in 1969. Though, my least favorite teacher was Mrs. Madsen at Warren school, I did win an award in my sixth grade class for writing an essay on Keep Chicago Clean. Overcrowded then at Warren, we had several mobile classes.

My friends are too numerous to mention and we still keep in touch today on Facebook. Some lived in what was known as Pill Hill, where many of my friends parents were doctors that worked at South Chicago Hospital and dentists though there was a variety of business owners in the area; some owned furniture stores.  We had a special group of girls called the Consolettes though I don’t exactly know why we were or established or  what we had done. Every week we met at each other’s home after school….that I remember.

Since we went home for lunch, many of us ate at Marcon’s restaurant, only a block from Warren. A hamburger, fries and Green River float was my standard. During the summer, the Jewish Community Center was next to Marcon’s and it was a special treat to go swimming in their outdoor pool. On 87th street, between Jeffrey and Stony Island we would travel to one place that had the best lochs and bagels, and Totville for clothes.  I think there was a Woolworths there too where I could spend my meager allowance.

I have been back to the old neighborhood many times through the decades. It is not quite the same. In 2009, I knocked on the door of my childhood home and a Mrs. Grishman opened the door. I told her who I was and she had just found the bill of sale when my Mom sold the house to her in 1970. She could not show me the inside but told me my Dad’s mirrors and glass work still decorated the interior.

Recently, I have been back and Buckingham School is closed. In the last few years it had been a special education school but CPS closed the school in 2013 due to lack of funding and need…just the opposite in my day when it was a booming community. The original Warren school had been built in 1920s which had been torn down and a new junior high built. A student was just shot in the playground not long ago.

The windows of Marcons restaurant are sealed with concrete and the community center is still there though I am not sure about the pool.  Perruso Cleaners is still there on 87th Street though most places are closed. However, at the corner of East End and 87th is Thomas’s restaurant….I am also certain that it is where I ate lochs, bagels, and now it  still has an excellent menu and reviews.

The homes have stayed the same with Pill Hill still remaining elegant and many have kept the same landscaping over the years. One day I did a Google run through the neighborhood and in my research found, that Mrs Grisham had died in 2014 and her son had inherited the house.

How ironic that her obituary represented the family, friends and parents I recognized in the same neighborhood.

Mrs. Grisham and I were neighbors for many years. She was a hard-working, intelligent, proud woman. The apple of her eye was her son, Terrence Paul. We grew up together on the south side and cared for our neighbors.

We made a village that took care of each other.

We were neighbors that protected the children and offered the best in culture and education.

Just like us!

Happy Valentines Day

After sitting down to tutor a young fifth grade 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 Samantha’s grandmother. My Mother and Dad had passed away several years ago but I knew where the box was stored. 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. 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 so I began the search of Valentines from my own personal scrapbook collection. I was looking specifically for Valentines that were given to me by my own children, now aged 25+.

I always loved scrap booking and am pretty organized in creating scrapbooks that preserve memories from certain years or should I say decades.  But, completely forgotten about, were my own childhood Valentines sent to me when I was in elementary school.

Lets be a couple of Love Birds graced the cover of my own childhood years in the 1960’s from Michael and Tommy….though can’t really remember who Michael and Tommy were. I had also saved several from my Mom and Dad; to a wonderful daughter. At that moment, I cried at the irony.

And the next day of tutoring, I shared my collection with Samantha. 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.

Alzheimer’s: The perfect love story

When I worked in home health care to help in emergencies, I was told that the husband would relay my care taking  job duties when I arrived at their home.

I knocked… but the door was ajar…he told me to come in. He would not leave her alone. When I walked in, the kitchen wasn’t in the best of condition; crumbs on the counter, frying pans that needed elbow grease. That is where he spent most of his time. She needed to be fed soft foods because of her condition. He tried to make interesting recipes.

She really didn’t know what they were but she ate them without complaint. She would smile as he picked up the fork and spoon, alternating between one dish and feeding her steadily. She didn’t know how to do that anymore. I just sat and watched.

“Sorry that the kitchen is such a mess, would you mind cleaning it after we are done. Then you can iron…I just don’t do well with the iron at all, he commented.

By his tone of voice, he wanted household responsibilities to take precedence such as cleaning and laundering. Not feeding his wife of 50 years; the latter was his job and his job only with never ending love and patience.

“She loved to cook and the holidays were always here at the house. She would invite neighbors, friends that didn’t have a place at a festive, dining room table with the best of food. I was out working in one job after another”. I really didn’t pay attention to what went on in the kitchen” I came and just ate,” he said, a sad tone escalating, “Why didn’t I tell her then…. I don’t know.”

“She knows, I am sure of it,” I responded assuredly.  Because of what you are doing right now.”

“It is the least I can do,” he said, “Isn’t she beautiful?”

“Quite, I said. Though her beauty had been ravaged by Alzheimer’s and other physical issues, to the unknowing eye anyway. Never to his.

She turned to meet his gaze. In a whisper, she said, “Thank you,”.

Unsure whether she was thanking him for his compliments or just a reciprocation for his efforts, it was a thank you with emotional meaning and trust.

He told me more about their life together, the minute he met her…. knowing that it was just natural for him to feel comfortable, the sense of humor they both shared, the instinctive level of intelligence they had assumed.

“No problems?” I asked though I knew that only fairy tales were without those.

“Of  course,” he said but I learned that women think differently than men.  It was probably better for me to just nod and accept. I have two daughters.I will never quite understand them either. I guess that is okay….it worked for us.”

“And women should just stop trying to figure you guys out as well,” I laughed.  He agreed.

Filling the spoon more slowly and gently nudging her to eat one more bite, he smiled at her, as their eyes briefly met.

“I guess with her beside me all these years, that is all I have ever really needed. You know you are with the right one when you lay your head on the pillow, place your arm around her and close your eyes to sleep.

You just know!

Lost in love

Lost in the past websites not only bring back detailed memories of events and places but can make you quite the historian. No, Kresge’s didn’t close that year, but Zayres did. Scary that many don’t know the real statistics.

And as I scroll with a midlife friend born the same year, we scream out the name of the person, place or thing with recognized excitement; we sing the phone number or song that was repeatedly drilled from one ad to the next in out childhood….will probably still remember to sing during our future days of dementia.  We stop for a moment at the photo of W.T 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.

I slowly turned and Mom wasn’t there. I just walked down the same aisle and I would be sure to see her and 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….no Mom. Finally, someone grabbed my hand,

No, we will find her…. a saleslady had said. How did she know?

I was only sobbing a little by this point and the kind lady walked me to the service deck and 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. That was always an exception to the rule. But she found me…did not leave me stranded.

So we continue on our journey down memory lane, buying our first records at Rose, ski jackets at Robert Hall, Buster Brown Shoes and helped collect our S & H green stamps to buy a phonograph. Strange, how we all went to the same places for the same stuff at the same time.

Finally, the dining experience begins with chuckles of neighborhoods Chicken Unlimited, Aunt Jemina’s kitchen, Howard Johnson’s breakfasts, Cals Roast Beef and of Uncles Als barbeque, hotdogs, polish sausage. It seems like there is an Uncles Al’s for everyone’s eating pleasure across the county.

But when we begin to visit the photos of the more elite restaurants of our time, our moods become more contemplative of our own unique dates, desires. and turning points. It was the Chez Paree my friend celebrated prom.

For me, instead of prom, I chose a Jethro Tull concert instead but, yes I do remember the formal restaurants.  It was at Dunlap’s restaurant opened in 1935 that my fathers handwork in glass was displayed behind the bar and only polished until the restaurants closing in the early part of the millennium. A tear descended, while envisioning elegant ladies and their partners, sitting at the bar, my own Mom and Dad gazing with satisfaction in the smoked glass mirror beyond.

We began to crawl through the pictures to maintain our emotional composure. and suddenly, The Deacons Bench was discovered, boosting eighteenth century decor with hurricane lamps on the tables, scattered benches with embroidered seats and crisp red and white checked table clothes, My first visit when I was 10 with my Mom and best friend for lunch, mesmerized at being able to truly step back in time, my second visit for lunch with my Mom when I was twenty one; her sternly lecturing me about my after hours social life even though we lived apart.

Was I really too frivolous in those days?

Though a great work ethic, my free time had its moments of carelessness. Savings in the bank, a fleeting thought. Maybe, I should have been planning for the retirement that I don’t have now.  Finally, the Green Shingle restaurant that had somehow captured the most love in the early 60’s. It was 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. It was my second date with my college professor who helped to celebrate my birthday with fellow students after my Dad passed away. A 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 candle lit table.; killed in a car accident shortly after.

Until today, I never realized that we had all shared the same place. A Dad, a lifelong mentor and my first love in a building who enclosed the magic of it all.  Though the restaurant is part of that which is lost.  Love never is. Though life moves on to another dimension, the surrounding spirit remains as long as I do.

The friend I sit and laugh with today; another love of a new day.  How wonderful it is to be reminded. How wonderful it is to be loved.

Who’s your favorite clown?

Chicago children’s television for Baby Boomers were the most popular nationwide TV shows in the US. As a child, I was fortunate to be able to attend a couple of those shows live.  The first was Here’s Geraldine in 1959 which was hosted by Jim Stewart bringing puppets to life on stage with his giraffe co-star and fellow puppets Rosemarie Bud Stewart.   I remember thinking how small the performing area was where we sat on seats that actually were behind the giant cameras and lights. I was only 4 when I visited and my Mom said I was a little intimidated by all the equipment. I had a hard time concentrating on the puppets even though he was always one of my favorites.

Another Chicago children’s television show that I didn’t have to wait a lifetime for after my Mom ordered tickets was probably the most exciting because I was older, approximately 7 or 8. Some parents knew the routine. Some newlyweds quickly got their orders in for their unborn offspring! The wait time even back in the 1960’s could easily run 7-10 years.

For many, you know exactly which show I am talking…Bozos Circus is on the air! Beginning at noon on June 20th, 1960, Bozo( Bob Bell) began his journey with Ned Locke as Ringmaster Ned, a 13 piece orchestra and a 200 member studio audience. Though changing characters throughout the decades,  Bozo lasted over 40 years.

It seemed like forever that we stood in the narrow hallway at the WGN studio where we waited to enter the small set in 1963.  I remember heading in on the right while being directed to our seats and again, overwhelmed at the lack of size for all the skits. The orchestra was seated at the far left and I couldn’t take my eyes off the amazing cameras, lights and how much technology was being used that you never saw from your television screen.

During cartoons and commercials, we did not watch them on a screen but watched stage hands and the cast getting ready for the next live event.  When it came time for the magic arrows, again, we could not see ourselves in any television on the set. The invisible arrows flashed and stopped over someone in the studio audience selected to play the famous Grand Prize Game where a young boy or girl would toss a ping-pong ball into a series of six buckets. Just like the television audience, we had no idea where the arrows would stop.  And back in our day, whoever chosen to play made sure they stayed behind the line in front of bucket number 1 and did not bend at the waist when tossing the balls to successive buckets.

Besides Bozo and Ringmaster Ned, we were met by Oliver O. Oliver from the also popular Ray Rayner Show, Sandy, Band leader Bob Trendler and his Big Top Band. By 1963, the show had welcomed its 100,00th visitor and reached the 250,000 mark in 1966.

I don’t remember bringing in cameras or the luxurious 8 millimeter movie camera with attachable lights. In fact, I want to say that cameras were not allowed during the live production at that time nor did we receive a film or a copy of our visit. It was a live taping and, of course, with the exception of seeing a few captured vintage movie moments on You Tube today posted by visitors in later years, videos on our cameras just was not part of our childhood.  Even after making my public appearance, it was a national tradition for me and other Chicago children to run home from school at lunch time to catch Bozo.

The show’s final telecast aired on August 26 2001. Children’s television would now be just a nostalgic reminder of it’s past.  From the late 1940’s through the early 1970’s, local television stations created a golden age of Chicago children’s television unique in American broadcasting.

My memories also include Miss Francis and her Ding Dong School, Kukla Fran &; Ollie, Ray Rayner and His Friends and Garfield Goose and Friends. And if you were just a little more sophisticated and mature, it was Sunday afternoon in front of the TV, with your family watching Family Classics with Frazier Thomas.

For me, I will never forget……..WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE CLOWN?