Wilmington, IL

After moving to my home in Downers Grove in 1988, it was time to decorate, and I always loved antiques. One of my best friends from college did also, so we would plan trips to furnish my home, and the cabinet above was my first purchase from an antique shop on Water Street in Wilmington, IL. Over the years, it has been filled with more collectibles including gifts of LLadro and china. In the 1990’s, my children and my mom visited the famous Gemini Giant and had lunch at the Launching Pad. Mom shared her stories of traveling down Route 66. She lived in Kankakee for awhile. It has been over 10 years since I last visited Wilmington. A good friend I met at work a few years ago planned a wonderful shopping excursion through the historic town this week. Though we spent too much time talking…someone I can truly relate…I really enjoyed visiting the beautiful gift and antique shops. In my after-effects mind, I have already picked out charming candles and Christmas décor that I would like to purchase on a return trip.

Mimi’s Cafe was a great place to meet my friend (above) on Water Street offering an amazing variety of coffee lattes, macchiatos, breakfast, and delectable sandwiches. They have two locations in Wilmington and Bourbonnais, IL and then we headed next door to The Flower Loft. Not only do they offer an extensive collection of flower arrangements for all occasions, but they also have a variety of unique home decor gifts which include painted globes, exquisite lanterns, and interesting wall hangings. The shop has been family owned and operated for several years. Because it was Tuesday, some shops were closed, but we continued on to Milltown Market, which has several different areas and another floor. I always enjoyed a mall setting; many antiques are in sections. They have an area for antique children’s toys, a great kitchen area with Mason jars that my friend collects, rocking horses, clothes, but I especially loved the Christmas collections that included wonderful Santas and great dolls.

Finally, we ended our trip at the Gemini Giant, or better known as the Launching Pad restaurant, a museum on the infamous Route 66 which has become famous bringing out new visitors everyday. The restaurant opened in 1956 as a hot dog and ice cream shop called the Dari Delite. In 1960, it was bought by John and Bernice Korlic and named the Launching Pad drive in. Because of the space age, they bought a 28ft. spaceman made by International Fiberglass, California. A visitor named it the Gemini Giant. The Korlics and family owned the restaurant until 2007. The next owner closed it down; on sale for 5 years; deteriorating. Tully Garrett and Holly C. Barker bought it in 2017. They are a blended family; Tully’s two sons and Holly’s son; tragically losing both their spouses to cancer. They have a gift shop and min-museum. The hot dog and Dole Whip, a soft, fruity dessert, were out of this world; pardon the pun.

Gino Vannelli

I Just Had to Stop when I learned that Gino Vannelli, who was my first heart throb, turned 70 last week. What????? Come on! If people remember his music, I Just Had to Stop was one of his classic songs released in 1978. It was also in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that one of my best friends from college loved him as much I did and we celebrated his music at a concert in Chicago in 1976 at the Auditorium theater. I still remember sitting fairly close to the stage; mesmerized by his talent. My friend Joyce, who passed away a few years ago, sat next to me and we could not stop smiling. We bought albums for each other during holidays and birthdays during those years. His best-known singles include “People Gotta Move” (1974), “I Just Wanna Stop” (1978), “Living Inside Myself” (1981) and “Wild Horses” (1987). His first album was released in 1973 called Crazy Life. He played at what was then Chicago Stadium to a much larger crowd in 1979.

The Auditorium Theater is an historic landmark. The famous architectural firm of Adler and Sullivan designed the theatre, which officially opened in 1889, using the most modern technology at the time, including electric lighting and air conditioning. Former presidents gave speeches as well major performers such Jimmy Hedrix and Aretha Franklin to name just a few.

Gino was born in Montreal and actually aspired to be a drumer like Buddy Rich.In 1969, at the age of seventeen, he signed a contract with RCA Records, using the name Vann Elli. But it didn’t amount to anything and he and his brother Joe moved to Los Angeles in 1972. They waited outside of A&M records which was co-owned by Herb Albert. They waited for hours and desperate according to sources, Herb Alpert finally came out and Gino ran after him with a demi tape for him to play. The security grabbed him but Alpert heard his tape and that was it releasing Crazy Life. Gino was invited to perform on Soul Train which was a first for Caucasians. From that point, he was asked to tour with Stevie Wonder. He received the Juno Awards for the most promising male vocalist of the year in 1975. In 1976, and again 1979, he received Juno Awards for the best male vocalist. He and his brother Joe, his musical partner during those years, shared the Juno for Best Production for Brother to Brother in 1979.

Gino met his wife Patricia (Trisha) in 1974 in Portland, Oregon. Touring was so tough for Gino, it made him depressed since he was considered the sexiest man of all time, and that was not what he wanted. In 1991, partly in response to advice from spiritual teachers and partly out of a desire to live more simply, Vannelli left Los Angeles, where he had lived for years, and moved with his wife Patricia and their son Anton to a modest home in Portland, Oregon. Yonder Tree was an album released in 1995 and his father died a few months prior to the release, so they dedicated the album to him. His mother lived to be 93 and died of Covid in a seniors home in Montreal in 2020.

Still living in Oregon, he continues to play and teach lessons. He continues to write music and perform. He is multi-instrumentalist and still an incredible song-writer and singer. When I first heard Evermore, which was released in 2021 as a dedication to his wife, it brought chills because is so exciting to see an amazing performer like Gino still sing and play the piano with such distinction.

Lewis University

After graduating with an Associates degree from Thornton Community College, which is now South Suburban College, I moved on for two years to finish my education in at Lewis University. Receiving a Bachelors in 1977 with an emphasis in education, speech and drama was one my proudest moments for myself and my Mom. My father had passed away years before, but was smiling on that day and from there I followed my heart in a lifetime of education. I have returned with my own adult children in the past, but wanted to take a recent walk through the campus before I can’t walk anymore. Lewis is celebrating their 90th anniversary this year. The day I chose was beautiful weather, first beginning my walk through the center of campus where the chapel is located. What came to mind was not friends, parties or classes, but the strange serenity I felt visiting the campus for first the few times before I applied. The picturesque campus that offered hope. Lewis has advanced since my day; their main campus in Romeoville, which includes 410-acre suburban setting, now houses 1,300 students in twelve residence halls, all within walking distance of well-equipped classrooms, the library, the Student Recreation and Fitness Center, the Student Union, and Sancta Alberta Chapel.

There is no way to describe the many changes that have occurred in the last 40 years. My biggest memories were the visitor gate and library which always greeted visitors as they drove in. Memories of classrooms, dining hall, the theatre, aviation and some of the dorms really takes place in the center of University Drive North and South. Teachers such as Brother Paul French, who was a teacher of mine, is memorialized with his name on FSC Learning Resource Center (LR), 39. The Phillip Lynch theatre was an air plane hanger that they were just finishing. Many close graduate friends, I still talk to, were helping create a magnificent theater. I acted in one of the first plays produced in the new space; One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Chet Kondratowicz was the theater director and teacher at the time. Keith White and I graduated from Lewis about the same time and he has served as a full-time faculty member at Lewis since 1994. Previously, he served as the department’s theater manager for eleven years. Mr. White has directed more than 30 productions at the Philip Lynch Theatre and recently retired. Actually, today the entire building is called the Oremus Fine Arts Center which include, Art and Design, Black Box Theatre, Brent and Jean Wadsworth Family Gallery, Caterpillar Gallery, Ives Recital Hall and the Philip Lynch Theatre.

As I continue my walk, Sheil hall brought back memories since one of my good friends stayed their and had a party or two though I lived in Dolton at the time and drove to school. I also liked spending time in the dining hall which has changed. And I will never forget the Lewis Airport and any focus on aviation….still passing a full-size airplane as I continue on.

Founded in 1932 , under the direction of the Chicago Archdiocese and Bishop Bernard J. Sheil, Lewis began as the Holy Name Technical School, a school for boys, which opened with 15 students. Aviation technology courses were the focus during the early days. The school of aeronautics in the 1940’s trained 100 of pilots to fly during World War II. By 1949, women were admitted as students, and high school classes were discontinued. More appropriately named, Lewis College of Science and Technology granted its first baccalaureate degrees in 1952. A new phase in the history of Lewis began in 1960 when the Brothers of the Christian Schools assumed direction of the institution. The De La Salle Christian Brothers brought new meaning and the institution became Lewis College in 1962 and achieved accreditation by the North Central Association in 1963. In the early 1970’s, the college of business, continuing education, college of arts and sciences and nursing became established. When the nursing program was beginning, a great friend’s Mom taught there. For that reason, among others, the decision was made in 1973 to become a university. The name was changed officially to Lewis University and in 1975 graduate programs were approved. In the 1980’s, Lewis expanded to off-campus sites. Today, they have a facility in New Mexico.

As I was leaving, I did not notice how truly beautiful the Lewis entrance is with it’s array of plants and flowers. Maybe that is the way it was in the past for me and many others in the 1970’s; racing out to go home for vacation, visit friends, or get together at a Romeoville or Lockport bar and restaurant. Not now! Now I take my time, cherishing every moment of the beauty. It is the amazing quality of a university that continues to fulfill the goals of so many students. Many people who I have met over the years approach me with excitement and say, “You graduated from Lewis……..me too!”

Lemont

Christmas Inn at 107 Stephen Street is where we would take the little ones in the 1990’s to see Santa. Moving to Downers Grove in the late 1980’s, Lemont was a new excursion and still close to home. At the restaurant, everywhere you look there were Christmas decorations-on the walls, on the doors, over the bar, but mostly hanging from the ceiling. There was an amazing toy train that traveled on a track above the bar. There were hundreds of ornament balls and teddy bears, trumpets, tin drums, ice skates, snowmen, gingerbread houses, girls on sleds, jack-in-the-boxes and Raggedy Ann dolls. And all of this, anytime of year… even during summer. This is what the owners wanted. Tom Sheu, who with his wife, Shirley bought it when it was a biker bar and wanted to transform it to attract children and their families. Between the two of them the couple had seven children and 14 grandchildren ranging in age from 1 to 11 years. However, the bar has closed and in its place is La Dolce Vita.

My first time at Nick’s Tavern was to meet a friend from out of town and as we were walking in, there were several women and men bikers pulling up in front of the tavern; stopping and talking outside since it was a beautiful night in 1992. For the first time, I wished I had a motorcycle and a group to hang out with. Nick’s Tavern is still a highlight in Lemont celebrating the Nickburger which I still think is one of the best. Nick’s Tavern first opened at the current location in 1945. Their well stocked bar and great bartenders will accommodate most drink requests. Nick’s Tavern is a great place to catch your favorite team on their HD flat screen. Another favorite restaurant for Mom and I back in the 1990’s was the Lemon Tree at 1035 State Street and is still a great choice for submarine sandwiches and breakfast. The Lemon Tree was established in 1981 and is still family owned. They also offer some of the best homemade butter garlic fries.

Today, downtown Lemont offers some great shops to explore including Three Stories Books and Mabels Market on Canal street as well as Hughie Mcclafferty’s, a cozy Irish bar. Also on Stephen Street is Corner Stone Tavern which used to be Stonebridge; another popular place and Smokey Row Antiques.

According to the Village of Lemont, Lemont’s first settlers arrived in 1833. The town, then called Athens, began its development along the site of the Illinois & Michigan Canal that flows through the town. You can explore the Heritage Quarries Recreation Area, a 100-acre nature park to hike, bike, picnic, bird watch, boat and fish, with a 6-mile crushed stone marked trail. Take a guided tour of the quarry area in the spring or fall with the Lemont Historical Society. Call 630-257-2972 for available dates and times.

Seals and Crofts

Hearing on the radio that Jim Seals passed away just recently at 80 years old, brought back visuals of their first hit, Summer Breeze. For the most part, our generation knew exactly where they were when a song is brand new and sometimes heard for the first time. I can recognize song years better than any other memory. Summer Breeze was released in 1972 and I didn’t have to research the date. I remember sitting in my bedroom at the apartment on Chicago Road in Dolton. It was a very simple song, and my mother liked it too, because it represented home, family and security; coming home from work and sitting out on the porch. It was simple. “Summer Breeze”, reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as Diamond Girl which came out in 1973. Diamond Girl, you sure do shine. Not the most brilliant song, but something that has stuck with me for almost 50 years. My all-time favorite from 1973 was We May Never Pass This Way Again. Hummingbird was a beautiful melody that a friend of mine, who passed away many years ago, loved. When I hear the song today, I always think of him. Other songs were “I’ll Play for You” in ’75, “Goodbye Old Buddies” in ’77 and “You’re the Love” in ’78.

According to sources, Jim Seals and Dash Crofts were both born in Texas, Seals in Sidney and Crofts in Cisco. They first met when Crofts was a drummer for a local band. Later, Seals joined an outfit called Dean Beard and the Crew Cats, in which he played sax; later on, Crofts joined Seals in the band. With Beard, they moved to Los Angeles to join the Champs, but the two did so only after the group’s “Tequila” reached No. 1 in 1958. Seals also spent time during 1959 in the touring band of Eddie Cochran. The were then involved in a band with Glen Campbell and Jerry Cole but finally decided to play as a duo with Seals on guitar, saxophone ,and violin and Crofts on guitar and mandolin. They were extremely gifted to be able to write music as well as play. Both were married. Crofts was married to Billie Lee Day in 1969, and Seals married Ruby Jean Anderson in 1970. 

Though the duo disbanded in 1980, they reunited briefly in 1991–1992. Jim Seals’ Bahá’í faith reflected his work life. In later decades, Seals still toured occasionally, joining Crofts for a brief reunion in the early 1990s. They reunited for one final album, Traces, in 2004. Seals also performed on occasion with his brother Dan, who died in 2009. Crofts lived in Mexico, Australia, and then Nashville, Tennessee. He currently resides on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country. Seals moved to Costa Rica and had lived on a coffee farm off and on since 1980, as well as in Nashville and southern Florida.

Wall calendars

Though the tiny calendar at the bottom is missing, this was my father’s business calendar that he brought home fromwork to hang next to the new wall phone in the kitchen. Glass Sales & Service was his shop where he created glass furniture tops, mirrors, windows as well as repair auto glass located at 6755 South Chicago Ave, BUtterfield 8-5558-59. The framed calendar also had a thermometer on the side. The calendar was supposedly from 1962. Mom said the reason he brought it home after the year had ended was in honor of the death of John F. Kennedy as a keepsake. Though he voted Republican in the past, he did like Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You, Ask What You Can Do For Your Country. And each day passes on as wall calendars continue to be popular decades later; in every shape or sizes to 12, 16 or 24 months. Back then, companies would share them with clients like my Dad did. As the years continued, wall calendars sometimes hung from strong magnets on refrigerators. I found a picture of me teaching in a class during the 1980’s and there it was…a wall calendar. It was a theater class. In the 1990’s, when I was involved in scrapbooking, I created a wall calendar with favorite pictures of my young children.

The best of calendars could be wooden, magnetic, tapestry, and dates or years demonstrated on plates as well. Of course, for the guys, the vintage Snap-on calendars with pin up girls were a must. Though Snap-on created great calendars celebrating vintage cars. Snap-on tools continues to make calendars today, announcing a special UK customer garage contest to be featured in the 2022 calendar.

In the last decade, I have collected several wall calendars that depict special artists. One was a Van Gogh from 2010. Sometimes I will frame a picture and others times I will try to copy a painting, creating my own work of art. I was never good at it so now I have an art table where I practice my sketches using water colors, acrylics, and oils. Still not very good, but I try. Another calendar that I have from 2019 contains the paintings of folk artist Mary Singleton.

The Spruce offers some great suggestions for Wall calendars where they spent hours researching wall calendars, evaluating design, ease of installation, and customization options. One of their favorites with Minted’s beautiful calendars, designed by independent artists. Start you calendar on any month, and customize with favorite photos and important dates for the year. Receive a FREE calendar when you save 10 personal occasions.

Gone But Not Forgotten, Maxwell Street

By Caryl Clem

Chicago’s Maxwell Street culturally impacted city lifestyles since the late 19th century. A family affair started by Jewish residents to enjoy music, food and shop among local vendors. This area stretched from Roosevelt and 16th street to a central location at Maxwell and Halsted.  All the flavors and sounds left behind in Eastern Europe including Ukraine, would be reborn on Sundays. The City of Chicago recognized this popular spot in October 1912 by officially naming the location as The Maxwell Street Market; forerunner of the Sunday flea market tradition of hunting for treasures. 

After a World War and crop failures in Europe, Chicago throbbed with a variety of cultures as immigrants flooded into the factories and neighborhoods. Maxwell Street with hopeful business entrepreneurs earned the nickname, “Ellis Island of the Midwest. “Music artists gained recognition and fame playing during Maxwell Street Days. Communities changed as blacks migrated from the jobless Deep South to work in Chicago. Established Jewish merchants were eager to rent out spaces to the newcomers. Black musicians replaced the Jewish Klezmer style music with appearances including Louis Armstrong who produced records in Chicago starting in 1925. The competitive drive of emerging musicians evolved into using amplifiers and technology to blast loud music over the noisy crowd.  Maxwell Street became a stage for blues and jazz artists.                                                            

The  shoppers’ thirst to hear musical performances attracted Big Bill Broonzy singing solos and playing a  new type of jazz releasing over 250 songs from 1925-1950 that evolved into “Chicago Blues.”    Names that ring a bell in our memory today such as Muddy Waters, Bo Diddly, Howlin Wolf, Little Walter, Memphis Minnie and others under the mentoring of Broonzy ushered in a new era of rock and roll.  A famous Broonzy song, “Black, Brown and White” echoes issues still faced today. Throughout his career, Bill Broonzy kept in touch with his Maxwell Street roots including Papa Chris Jackson who linked him to Paramount Records.  Jimmy Davis was a Maxwell Street regular for over 40 years.

In 1994 the University of Illinois at Chicago required more land for their campus so Maxwell Street was relocated to Canal Street, then in 2008 to DesPlaines Street.  Still in an historical district less than two miles away from the Art Institute, the new environment is reported to be dominated by Mexican food and vendors. The flea market tradition with hundreds of vendors to tempt your wallet thrives in Chicago at Wolff’s Flea Market at Allstate Arena or for those willing to travel to Kane County Flea Market, Illinois or Elkhorn, Wisconsin or Wilmot Flea Market, Kenosha, Wisconsin.

State Street Bridge turns 73 years old

Memorial Day Weekend brings the parade back to Chicago this year to honor those who have served in the military. But an important bridge celebrates its birthday. Through the decades, how I remember watching the State Street Bridge rise and fall for boats and yachts to travel past. When I was young in the 1960’s, I remember holding my mother’s hand tightly as we walked across the bridge, even though it was enclosed in railings. It was back in the early 1980’s that the bridge began to open, and one girl was caught on the bridge near the center. She could not maintain her grip and started to slip. Her fall was saved by police, who got her before she fell into the water. According to sources, she did break her leg. In the early 1990’s, my children were terrified to walk across. The State Street bridge was officially christened the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge when it opened in 1949, dedicated as a memorial to World War II veterans who fought in the Philippines.

Actually, the bridge has been reconstructed five times. The first one was built in 1864 but was destroyed by the Chicago fire. The crossing is actually one of the longest and handles six lanes of traffic. The American Institute of Steel Construction or AISC is a non-profit trade association founded in 1921. Its purpose is to promote the use of fabricated structural steel. AISC recognized the bridge as a steel bridge that exhibits innovation, aesthetics, and cost effectiveness in it’s engineering and design. Limestone-clad bridge tender houses are on the SE and NW corners of the bridge though they are not open to the public. The bridge was the last to be built in Chicago.

It has been 73 years that we celebrate the beauty of the bridge; a constant reminder of our wonderful military veterans. Happy Memorial Day.

The last week

After many years in a variety of educational positions, for the last five years, my retirement job has been in an elementary school as an instructional assistant in a pre-k through second grade school in Downers Grove. For them, this is their last week before summer break, so they are excited and the week has been filled with extra activities to celebrate moving on to the next grade. As I lovingly watch them learn and grow, I can’t help but think about the week in Uvalde, Texas which we will never forget. The horrific mass shooting occurred when an 18-year old with an assault weapon murdered 19 children and two teachers in their elementary school classroom while injuring more than a dozen others. It fills me with an overwhelming sadness, grief for those lost in Texas, and fear.

What???? Another school shooting??? Not again, and it can happen anywhere, including the suburb of Downers Grove though administration throughout the suburbs are taking the right action. A school resource office should be in every school building. All outside doors are locked and some schools require scanners as people walk through the doors. All visitors must present a government issued photo ID. Safety drills are conducted at each of our schools throughout the year, and staff receive training on how to respond in crisis situations. Whatever it takes to keep children safe.

There is one argument after another about gun laws. My concern is have the recourses to handle mental health issues and drug addiction. According to Impact Dupage, behavioral health continues to be a chief concern in DuPage County. Addressing behavioral health requires attention to substance use disorders as well as mental health. According to sources, the opioid epidemic in Illinois continues to manifest in multiple ways that include historically high rates of overdoses and overdose-related fatalities. Children and families need more resources for counseling they can afford and even more social workers at schools that can get a handle on the issues going on with a child.

There is always something positive that develops from tragedy. Maybe one mother will become sober for life and maybe one father will suggest counseling for his family. Maybe one grandmother will spend more time with their grandchildren, maybe one couple will recognize the love of their life. Maybe one teacher will give their children more hugs, maybe one parent will hug their child a little tighter. Maybe one person will finally honor another without complaint, maybe one company will offer a product at no cost for those that struggle. Maybe we will demonstrate more respect for our teachers, administration and staff at school. Maybe one more person will believe in God because there are truly more angels in heaven than ever before.

As we pray for the grief of the families and friends related to the following:

  • Eva Mireles, 44
  • Irma Garcia, 48
  • Xavier Lopez, 10
  • Uziyah Garcia, 9
  • Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, 10
  • Jose Flores, 10
  • Tess Mata, 10
  • Amerie Jo Garza, 10
  • Jayce Luevanos, 10
  • Jailah Nicole Silguero, 10
  • Miranda Mathis, 11
  • Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10
  • Jackie Cazares, 10
  • Ellie Garcia, 10
  • Alithia Ramirez, 10
  • Rojelio Torres, 10 
  • Makenna Lee Elrod, 10
  • Nevaeh Bravo, 10
  • Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, 10
  • Eliahana ‘Elijah’ Cruz Torres, 10
  • Layla Salazar, 10

God bless you all!

Lilacia Park

I have to smell the lilacs in May. It reminds me of Mom and Dad. After living in Downers Grove for over 30 years, I had no idea that I could smell the flowers at a historical park in Lombard, a neighboring suburb, only 15 minutes away. A friend had posted about her field trip to Lilacia Park on Facebook so I took a morning trip there last Sunday. It was the perfect day for the weather and photographs. A beautiful walk! Lilacia Park, an 8.5-acre garden, is located at 150 South Park Avenue, Lombard, Illinois. Yes, I could smell the lilacs but I didn’t think about the past, but the elegance of the moment.

Lilacia Park is aworld-renown horticultural showcase that features over 700 lilacs and 35,000 tulips annually. In 2019, the park was named to the National Register of Historic Places for its significant contribution to horticultural history in the United States. Lilacia Park is most recognized for being home to Lombard Lilac Time, a blooming festival happening during the first two weeks of May. Col. William Plum and his wife Helen Maria Williams Plum traveled to Chicago in 1869, where he wanted to practice, but also investigated areas outside of the city. One was the new village of Lombard which had been known as Babcock Grove.

He purchased land on the corner of Park and Maple. The estate would eventually be known as Lilacia, the Latin term for lilac. The couple had taken a tour to France and visited the famous gardens of Victor Lemoine where they fell in love with the lilacs. They bought the first two after touring the Arboretum. Helen passed away in 1924 and the Colonel lost interest in the estate. He tried to sell it to Joy Morton. It was Morton that told the Colonel that the collection had become so much a part of Lombard that they should remain there, and not at Thornhill Farm, now known as the Morton Arboretum. The Colonel passed away in 1927 and in his will, he dedicates the gardens to Lombard requesting it to become a public park. The home was used as a small library but was demolished when a new library opened in 1963, still dedicated to Helen Plum.

The park is open all year. Lilacia Park hosts many special events each year, including the Mutt Strut Annual 5K & 1-Mile, Movies & Concerts in the Park, Jingle Bell Jubilee, Holiday Lights, and more. Host your wedding at Lilacia Park!