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!

Favorite Chicago land clubs, taverns and suburban bars: Gone but not forgotten

After exploring extinct restaurant favorites in one article, I decided to check out the bar scene; the gone but not forgotten taverns/clubs in the Chicago land area. Though I don’t drink today, my most frequented places were generally lounges attached to restaurants. I visited my first vodka gimlet and last vodka gimlet at Cavalinni’s in Dolton on Sibley and Chicago Rd. My first was wonderful but after visiting again years later, my last vodka gimlet took everything out of me. I was celebrating a South Suburban College dedication which was once known as Thornton Community College; not knowing I had a serious case of mono. That drink lead me to a doctors visit and was confined to bed for three weeks.

Balducci’s in Willowbrook when my children were little was another lounge/restaurant I liked to frequent with my husband. However, during a Halloween party after trick or treating with my little ones covered in trash bags due to the rain, my stamina was not there. One shot sent me home shivering. Maybe that is why I don’t drink!

After my research, two that I enjoyed during my hayday or whatever it was called was Lassens in Homewood and  Blarneys Island where you traveled by boat to the wild island in Fox Lake. Still open today, Lassens has not changed. Blarney’s Island, located in Grass Lake ,was and still is, the place you wore your swimsuit, danced to local bands , drank alot of beer, always got picked up: catching a ride in a boat. Today, when Blarneys Island is mentioned, I get the usual wide eye looks like you went to that place. Yes, I, too had my moments.

The following gone but not forgotten bars and clubs may bring that smile of oh no, (or oh yes) to your face too!

Nicks Sports Page  was filled with autographed sports stars and pennants because this truly was the American sports bar and only appreciated by the oldtimers from Dolton, Riverdale and South Holland.  For me, Nicks was the best place for a beer and they had excellent hamburgers if you were hungry.

Jukebox Saturday Night had three locations; one on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, Oak Forest and Lisle. Lisle is where I went for a casual return to the 50’s with a girlfriend that always said this was the place she could release all tension and get crazy. It was here that we danced are problems away with contests that included the twist and you could show off your expertise with a hula hoop.

Studebakers owned by Walter Payton was located in Schaumburg/Woodfield Commons and was quite a success. People really had fun with an active dance floor, crazy bar attendants and not potentially dangerous in anyway. They closed but opened to another venture-Thirty Fours. All of this between the late 80’s and early 90’s.

PJ Flaretys in Evergreen Park hosted many rock legends that included Three Dog Night, Edgar Winter,Leon Russell,  Rare Earth and the list goes on since they really tried to pack in new local and national talent. They had a capacity for over a 1,000. Blue Oyster Cult played there on Feb 8th, 1992 with a set list till available on line. You had to buy tickets in advance which were only about 10 dollars and 12 dollars at the door.  Today, that would be the cost of your drink.

Poor Richards Pub in Gurnee was a northside landmark finally torn down and located on Grand Avenue. I remember the bar back in the late 70’s and they actually held one of the largest Miller beer accounts. Halloween parties were always fun while always hosting special events.  It was a comfortable place to wind down and meet people.

Last Chance Saloon was a Grayslake institution for nearly 20 years owned by father and son. Again, known for some fun parties that took place surrounding a Western decor. I actually remember making my first toga and toga party at the Last Chance with a date. It is now Emil’s Tavern on Center street.

Finally, Fiddlesticks in Lincolnshire was a place I enjoyed with a square bar where you could sit on one one side and flirt with others, not too far away, but far enough if you decided it wasn’t the right move. A small, crowded dance floor existed behind one end of the bar.  People always talk of the bars that they met their significant other and I, too, met the man I married and had two children in this bar on Olde Half Day Road. He was quiet…not your average flirt who liked to read books on bar stools rather than assume the normal pick up role. And I loved to read.

(Picture:  a Chicago Speakeasy 1920)

The Ghost Army: Hero lives in Arkansas…raised in Kankakee, IL

Born and raised in Kankakee, Illinois, Leslie Gates, 93, currently lives in Arkansas and is finally able to share his astonishing secret. The top secret unit that he was involved in during World War II, the Ghost Army. Officially known as the 23rd headquarters of special troops….Operation Quicksilver.  After D-Day in France and until the end of the war, over 20 battle deceptions were staged very close to the front line deceiving German soldiers and officers between 1944-1945 ending in the Rhine Valley.

A secret for over 40 years, some information still considered classified today, the Ghost Army was finally able to share their personal experiences in the last couple of years. Consequently, able to share the fascinating battlefield illusions they created whose American purpose was to fool Hitler with fake strategic games and theatrical events.

These disguised missions were composed of inflatable tanks and false radio transmissions. Giant speakers were used to broadcast the sounds of men and artillery to make the Germans think that the units were larger and deflect their concentration from other battles. Painters designed hundreds of rubber tanks, jeeps and aircraft. Aircraft could be inflated with gasoline fueled air compressors that looked authentic to Nazi military. They also pretended to be members of fellow units by sewing patches on their uniforms going as far as spending time at French cafes dressed up as Generals. Only the best of actors and creative artists were part of the 1,100 elite men in the Ghost Army.

Les Gates lived on the 400 block of  Harrison street in Kankakee during his childhood and high school years; his father a lifelong resident who worked for the post office. He has visited Kankakee several times and I, too, went back for him; the picture I took where his house once stood bought by one of the churches in the early 1970’s and now torn down.

Les talks about his experiences with the Ghost Army who saved tens of thousands of lives because of their unique deceptions. Les and his one brothers talent was music and composition. In 1938, in Kankakee they formed a band that included the band director from his high school and was sponsored by the Rural Letter Carriers Association of Illinois.

Delighted they were selected to play in Washington DC and it happened that the Hardin Simmons University band was also playing. Les’s brother was offered a music scholarship to attend the University. After attending, Les Gates traveled with his family to visit his brother in Abelene Texas and often played trombone for entertainment there.

Of course, the college heard his brilliance and offered him a scholarship too. However, the war changed all of that.  Beginning his training in the Army, because of his musical talent, he began at Fort McClellan and learned the art of radio dispatch. Voice transmission were not as popular as morse cord and it was the dots and dashes that was clearly easy for him as a trombone musician.

I spent the better part of three years with the 3132nd and 3133rd  signal service companies. I got to the 3132nd from the A S T P program when it was dropped. The 3132nd was the first organization that started training in the art of sonic deception at Pine Camp, N Y . We were all ushered into a room with guards outside the door and we were told we were not to speak to anyone about this. I developed appendicitis at Fort Slocum-Port of demarcation and “missed the boat” and was transferred back to Pine Camp to join the 3133rd. The 3132 operated in the European theater .

The 3133rd went on to Italy and operated there until the end of the war. Both units were reported to have been VERY effective in their operations. There were VISUAL deception units, also, and of course you couldn’t suddenly have a division of armored tanks appear without the appropriate sounds, thus the sonic units were VERY important to the overall operation. We had amplifiers that could , project “sounds” for 5 or more miles, and were very convincing. We could actually bounce speakers off the clouds to get as much distance as possible. The tanks were not just inflatable and if hit by artillery, just pop like a balloon but had a framework of tubes so the enemy could shoot and it would not fall so quickly.

Only a few dozen members of the Ghost Army are still alive throughout the United States as the ranks continue to dwindle.  According to Ghostarmy.org, as of May 2017, bipartisan legislation has been re-introduced in both the House and the Senate to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops for particular recognition. “Rarely, if ever, has there been a group of such a few men which had so great an influence on the outcome of a major military campaign,” In the past eight years,  World War II units including the Native American Code Talkers, Women Air force Service Pilots, the Monuments Men and the Doolittle Raiders have received the Congressional Gold Medal. “The dangerous, life-saving, top-secret work of the Ghost Army is well deserving of similar recognition,” Rep. Kuster says.

Les Gates ended his army experience, actually, as a band man. Since World War II, he has played in numerous bands, concerts, dance bands and symphony orchestras. Since his move 10 years ago to Arkansas he has not played.

I would be incredibly honored to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. Not just for me but for so many of my comrades whose lives were saved. Though at 93, I do hope they make a decision soon.

Please feel free to contact Les if you know anyway to help him and share his story at lesgates@suddenlink.net or me at karlasullivan17@yahoo.com

Childhood road trips: Good Old Neon

As a Baby Boomer child  in the car traveling  with my parents, there were no cell phones to play or movies to watch on video players. You were lucky if your parents played games like 20 questions, Name that Tune or Alphabet  where you would look for every letter of the alphabet from the road signs you passed. It could be any sign but neon were easy to see with their beautiful varieties of color, sparkle and great logos.

Though for me, I didn’t really care about the games. Unfortunately, reading a book while traveling made me sick. I just loved to pass the majestic signs. Ultimately, it was the neon signs alone that offered a colorful road trip suggesting great places to visit such as Kiddieland , Margies Candies or the Seven Dwarfs Restaurant.  How my parents loved the Green Mill Lounge with its beautiful gold array of lights highlighting the green title,even back in the days of mafia connections.

I always wanted to stay at the Tangiers Motel…something I thought…  truly out of the country. Fortunately, I was spoiled. When I pointed and cheered with determination at the mesmerizing neons, we would actually stop at many taking advantage of the rides, sweets or a chocolate shake; maybe even an overnight stay.

Remember Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket neon sign in Willowbrook?  I am only a few miles from the Chicken Basket and the sign still guides me today…one of my favorite restaurants.

Nick Freeman felt the same way about neon growing up and Chicago’s rich neon heritage is published in his full-color collection of delightful signs. From the South Side of Chicago to Wisconsin, his book Good Old Neon  spotlights the familiar signs captured in over 130 photos; many fast-disappearing artifacts of a glorious era when brightly lit signs filled the landscape.

“Several dozen of the signs pictured in my book have disappeared since its publication, and once they’re gone, they’re not coming back,” Nick comments, ” Big reason for my passion for preserving them through photography.”

Nick talks about the cost of the neon which is expensive due to the hand-crafting that goes into each one, as well as the physical and technical requirements involved in their construction and placement, not to mention upkeep.  The fragility of glass tubing continuously exposed to harsh Chicago weather makes the survival of an old sign a kind of urban miracle, deserving, at the least, of photographic preservation. Even the many that have outlived their functional glory days have their own visual appeal. Animated neon signs, working or not, are a special treat.

Nick Freeman, a life-long resident of the Chicago area, has been involved with words and pictures throughout his professional career. Starting at Feldkamp-Malloy, one of the last of the old-time art studios in the city, he spent 30-plus years in advertising–god help him–serving as production director at Leo Burnett and other agencies.

He now devotes his time and attention to his first love, oil painting, and has exhibited his work in a number of local and regional shows. His art, both paintings and photography, can be seen at galleryfreeman.com.

After viewing his work on his website, I was amazed by his polished, realistic technique and use of color. Two of my favorites were Isla Jane and the Pumpkin Farm which were sold. But his wonderful collection offers a great painting of Dog N Suds called Root Beer, Flea Market II, the Blue Goose for sale and many others. He currently resides in St. Charles, Illinois.

Good Old Neon is available direct from Lake Claremont Press, Amazon or wherever fine gift books are sold. Founded by Sharon Woodhouse in 1994, Lake Claremont Press has been publishing amazing histories and guidebooks about Chicago by Chicago authors.

Unlike many publishers, their books truly capture the passions and knowledge of their authors. Many have been featured in national newspapers and numerous television shows such as the History Channel and The National Geographic Channel. Because of their credited field expertise, most authors are actively involved in non-for profits and several of the the greater Chicago land missions.

Please visit their site and you can sign up for the Lake Claremont Press newsletter to receive announcements about new book releases and special offers of distinguished Chicago authors.

Remembering the mass murder 51 years ago in this house

 

Though I was only 11 in the summer of 1966, it was the first time on the south side of Chicago, we had a evening curfew. Because the killer had not been caught. The night of July 14th was a cloudy, humid day, similar to the weather before a storm; silent, beckoning.

And we all went into our homes before the curfew began even the troublesome boys listened to their city’s request.  The neighborhood streets were vacant which was completely out of nature for a warm summer night. We couldn’t play with our phones, all we could do is watch TV, the unfolding drama. Porches were empty. Even those were not safe.

Chicago was ready and waiting to catch Richard Speck, who had stabbed, strangled and raped eight student nurses that worked at South Chicago Hospital; one nurse had survived and who escaped by hiding under a bed.  I had been hospitalized at South Chicago Community Hospital only a few years before with a broken arm. That was my neighborhood trauma zone and the two story townhouse had only been a mile from the safety of my block.

On July 15th, me, my girlfriend and her Mom was doing errands. Errands that took us by the town home where the second flood murders had occurred. Lines of cars crawled past what was usually a busy, no nonsense street.  The picture window was black, the glass had been removed…a light bulb hung from the dark living room with yellow tape across the window, house. Policemen were everywhere on the grass, in and out and directing traffic. I will never forgot the bleak glassless window. A single bulb telling us to stay away.

Speck was found in Chicago at Cook County Hospital where a doctor recognized him and called the police on July 16th. Richard Speck had over 30 arrest records and was sentenced to the death penalty initially but the Supreme Court invalidated that law. He ended up with 400 years in prison and died of a heart attack on December 5, 1991.

Though not much of a newspaper reader at the time, it was always during traumatic events that you remember the historic headlines, the pictures of tragedy when you see them again years later.

I still remember the eight nurses; attractive, healthy, accomplished and in a child’s mind at the time, wondered if the same thing could happen to me. How could that happen to such beauty? Could I be gunned down by Richard Speck or someone like him? Do I want to grow up? That’s what we thought back then. Not the beauty of young adulthood waiting for me. Another lesson in fear.

Corazon Amurao, who survived the ordeal, was not deterred from her goal and went on to become a critical care nurse in Washington, D.C and has a daughter who is also a nurse.

And I still remember the light bulb.

 

Photo courtesy of Chicago Crimes Scenes

Native Community Disaster Preparedness Leaps Forward with Publication of New Resilience Handbook

By Vincent B Davis, CEM

As in any community, a solid network of partnerships is needed to address the specific needs of its community members. Native American and Alaska Native populations span the nation, but face similar preparedness challenges. To address resilience gaps, a public-private sector collaborative approach was used to create a tool as a foundational document for community outreach by tribal stakeholders, as well as tribal emergency managers and others to train new staff.

There are 567 federally recognized tribes, living on more than 300 reservations, representing 22% of the 6.6 million Native American and Alaska Native population. Many tribal families live in remote rural communities, where 68% of homes on tribal lands still lack access to broadband internet service, as of January 2016. This rate is lower than that of some developing countries. In contrast, more than half of African-Americans and Hispanics and about three-fourths of Caucasians have high-speed access at home in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. A 2012 report from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Office of Native Affairs and Policy noted, “Reservations of many Tribal Nations are located in rural areas with challenging terrain.” The FCC cited the badlands of the northern plains states and the mountainous forests of the Pacific Northwest as particularly challenging situations.

Statistically Challenging Circumstances

Because the vast majority of disaster preparedness material resides on the internet, this information is nearly impossible to obtain for many Indian Country families. For those born on reservations, the economic outlook can be especially challenging because Native American households earn only a little more than half as much as the average American ($37,227 compared to $53,657 for the nation as a whole). Approximately 28.3% of Native American and Alaska Natives are living below poverty and, without basic preparedness plans, these families are even more vulnerable to injuries and fatalities in a disaster. With the growing number of floods, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural catastrophes, and the ever-present threats from man-made contamination of tribal lands, family preparedness has become an even greater challenge for survival in Native communities.

To further exacerbate the preparedness dilemma, most tribal nations are in remote, rural communities with few response resources readily available. This increases the chances for delayed response in a major event, leaving families to care for themselves for extended periods without assistance. As many Native communities struggle to maintain a meager existence, the resilience gap continues to widen.

Tribal Handbook – Closing the Resilience Gap

To address the Native resilience gap, Preparedness Matters, a disaster preparedness consulting group specializing in underserved community preparedness, collaborated with key stakeholders in the tribal emergency management community and Native communications experts to develop a strategy and discuss ways to reach tribal families who have limited electronic media access. The challenge was not just to develop a tool, but to make it comprehensive and accessible to a wide audience of stakeholders. Working with Native Public Media, the nonprofit organization that coordinates training and support for the 59 radio and TV stations broadcasting in Indian Country, and the National Tribal Emergency Management Council (NTEMC), which represents 277 tribal emergency management groups in the Pacific Northwest, Preparedness Matters launched a project to develop the “Native Family Disaster Preparedness Handbook.”

The publication was designed to consolidate the vast amount of preparedness information into a single resource guide that would be easy to digest, culturally relevant, and affordable for tribal residents. Additional collaborators with expertise in mitigation, disaster trauma, and tribal recovery were included to provide subject-matter expertise. The group set forth several goals for the design of the Handbook. The main objectives were to “demystify” the tribal disaster process by explaining the sometimes-complex procedures and nuances of tribal recovery, and to provide simple steps families could take to protect children, homes, livestock, and pets. The added challenge was how to get the Handbook to communities where daily survival is their main priority, and preparing for disasters poses a difficult task few are likely to undertake without help. To accomplish distribution of the handbook, the team developed an outreach strategy to reach key stakeholders in all sectors of the Native community, as well as non-Native partners and supporters.

Sorting through a massive amount of disaster preparedness data presented its own challenges for the handbook project team. Initially, a book outline was created to keep the team on track, with a course of action that adhered to “less is more” when developing the chapter information. Throughout the process the team had to stay focused on the main goal, which was to keep the information culturally relevant, while providing a flexible tool that could be updated and customized by the user. To accomplish this, the spiral bound booklet has a convenient rear pocket that can be used to add information, and a tear-out family plan template to make it easy to copy or secure personal family plan data.

Developing a Culture of Preparedness

Major concerns for Indian Country families in disaster include the reunification of families, and the safety of displaced children. The Tribal Handbook team identified 17 categories of functional needs in Indian Country, and ways tribal stakeholders can address them, including but not limited to:

  • No 911 services
  • Limited or no internet access
  • No street addresses
  • No paved roads
  • Limited or no telephone access or service

Because of these vulnerabilities, active participation in preparedness activities must become a way of life for Native communities, not an afterthought. This means creating a culture of empowerment and awareness, essential to bring about meaningful behavior and attitude changes, especially among those in greatest peril. Preparing to protect or minimize damage to vital agricultural resources is equally important to the economic recovery of post-disaster tribal communities. The loss of livelihood from damaged crops, wildlife, fishing, mineral mining, livestock, and other resources can have lasting effects on any community, especially one as dependent on these sources of income to support its people.

In addition, protection of a Tribe’s sacred sites cannot be ignored, but rather must be integrated into all phases of the emergency planning process. If a disaster destroys a sacred site such as a burial ground or historical site, the impact on the Tribe can be devastating physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Spiritual connection to the land is a hallowed tradition – where Native ancestors lived and are buried, where the future generations will grow and prosper in the rich heritage and history of Native culture.

A Note from the Author

To be clear, the Native Family Disaster Preparedness Handbook was created by and for Native people. My role as facilitator for the projects was motivated by my resolve to empower positive disaster outcomes for the underserved. As we concluded the publication, one of the Native contributors called me a hero. I humbly responded with a quote from the late tennis star Arthur Ashe who said: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass others at all cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

While many disaster preparedness needs and concerns still exist in Native and other underserved communities, I applaud the efforts of those and individuals and practitioners who work tirelessly every day to bring greater awareness and participation for citizen empowerment before disasters strike. People below poverty, elderly, children, disabled, and those without transportation, limited English speakers, and others most at-risk, need the knowledge and tools required to change outcomes in disasters.

The Native Family Disaster Preparedness Handbook is a significant step in a much larger journey to achieve true whole community resilience. Despite the many obstacles and challenges, as emergency managers, we must all redouble our efforts to address apathy and indifference. Failure to act decisively and deliberately cannot simply be measured in financial losses, or damaged property. The true cost of unpreparedness must be framed in the context of lives saved, injuries prevented, and the survival and well-being of future generations. Only after we have done all we can to prepare ourselves, can we truly then leave the outcome to the Creator.

To learn more about the Handbook project visit our website at www.thenativefamilydisasterhandbook.com

Celebrating your independence

Looking back on my Fourth of July’s, the holiday was always consumed with fireworks of some kind and not the emotional ones either.

Fireworks that snapped, crackled, and popped from all locations, just like the famous cereal, and decorated the sky while everyone awed over the commotion each year.

There were celebrations on boats overlooking the Chicago skyline, there were celebrations at the racetrack that delivered piped in music, and there were local small town displays gathered with neighbors on the closest porch or nearest park.

But, wherever the fireworks were presented, it was the ultimate salute to our country’s accomplishment for becoming independent many years ago.

Probably the best memories of the Fourth of July were as children when we couldn’t wait to have Dad light those sparklers that we would carefully parade around the backyard with our family and friends. Dad’s eyes were as bright as the sparklers and we never tired of lighting one after another. We were young and the meaning of the 4th of July was not really about the country, but about us.

Somehow, we were celebrating our own independence, our own accomplishments for that day, month or year. Maybe we had received high marks at the end of the school year or maybe we spent a vacation with our family, not causing an argument with our siblings. Maybe the lilacs we had brought to our teacher in spring lasted longer than a day. Maybe we were just excited that our firefly collection was better than ever before.

Though I would skip the sparklers since they can cause pain and suffering if not properly handled, don’t skip this day to recognize yourself, the measures you have taken to shine, the skyrocketing moments in your life when because of your independent nature, you made a difference.

Maybe you took the first step to resolving a conflict with a co-worker and you developed a new level of respect from others as a result. Maybe you received 100% on your paper in class while working full-time, being a single parent and saying no when you would rather be going to lunch with your friends. Maybe you are still unemployed but sent out 100 resumes last week, courageously called one company after another while avoiding the temptation of the sofa.

The Fourth of July does not have to be just for the patriotic but a day to celebrate your own liberty; moving forward with pride and dignity in who you have become.

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.

The child behind the crooked smile

He works for microwave, shredder and sometimes gum. Not chewing the gum themselves but chewing a piece of gum for him.  Sometimes he works for a laugh or cough. He likes that too. Microwaves are not allowed in the classroom since he likes burning pencils and whatever he can add to the mix. But one is secretly unplugged, hidden and pulled out for him to open the door and close it five times as a reward in the special needs classroom.

Another likes to walk constantly. So we walk with him as he may laugh, he may cry but he will stand by the door hitting it when it becomes too much. So we walk inside around the school. He is quiet, he follows and he grabs my arm making sure that I am close. Sometimes, when standing together, he places his head on my shoulder. For him, he likes his movie….a small lap top that is available to him daily with one slide after another of his family, his birthday and his special trips with brothers and sister. Though he does not watch, he listens to the music that accompanies the video. He is happy to be with his family.

As they work on daily lessons of reading and math, some will shout try again as they know the teachers familiar comment when they get it wrong. As one works on learning time, when successful with saying the correct time or number, he asks for the high five sign and the brown chair which indicates a break for him.

One young man pulls at his teeth when having a rough time, jumping up and down with his cries but when we suggest that he work, he sits proudly as the speech therapist helps him identify certain objects and says the words clearly while we cheer him on. He loves when we congratulate him. He loves when we are proud of his accomplishments. Sometimes, I wonder if he does this more for us than him.

Some severely autistic, most non-verbal, others with Downs Syndrome, some physically handicapped,come together in my summer school classroom with nurses as well. Some assistants have worked with the students before, some have not and daily we try to see beyond their smiles, their laugh, their screams and their tears.

There are fights, there are scrabbles, there are break downs and we, as staff, have changing faces, voices and eyes in the back of our heads but we continue daily to make sure they have one more day in their lives that will offer encouragement, strength and most of all, love. And we have nothing else on our minds as we pursue the day. There are no room for cell phones and other talk unless it is about those we care for in the classroom.

And as we walk together to assist them on the bus or parents cars at the end of summer school, we breathe a sigh of exhaustion, yes, but fulfillment that we have helped in ways that are not imaginable in most jobs.  None of our personal problems have credence when we go to work every day….that is why we are here. Someone from the classroom turns to me and says I wonder if others know what we do and my comment ….. a gesture to the one above. She smiles…..I guess that is all that matters.