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!

Happy Mother’s Day, Beautiful

That’s what I said to my Mom in a card when I was a child. Strangely enough, a kindergarten student calls me “Beautiful” everyday. I think she needs glasses. On the cover of the cards displayed, my own painted artwork with Mom and a basket of candy. It should have been for Easter. My talent in writing was more than I expected at that young age. Mother, Mother, I’ll help and stay until the day you pass away. I’ll make you happy all through the year with kisses hugs and wonderful cheers. I don’t know about the hugs and cheers but I did stay with her until she passed away in 2001. Though my card was printed in block print, I did know cursive and signed it Love, Karla. Mom told me that most of my cards were signed, Love, Karla Korff which she always loved. As far as gifts for Mom, she was not a breakfast in bed lover. She did like breakfast at Denny’s in Calumet City when we lived in Dolton. But dinner was her favorite, choosing red snapper at the Green Shingle in Harvey,Chuck Cavalinnis in Dolton or the Flame in Country Side.

Back in the late 1990’s I found another card in a treasured box that says For Mom with our love and appreciation on Mother’s Day. And I know why I kept it. It was signed by both children in their best cursive. Their Dad probably bought it and for them to do something together was quite unique. I did like the beautiful bow and especially the line that says how thankful they were for my faith to help get them through difficult times which I still try to do today by responding to their phone calls and text messages. Though I have learned that it is not just my faith in them but my steady faith in God. Some of my favorite gifts have been fresh flowers for the dining room table, and a candle from my daughter as well as Lindahl chocolate. My son is known for bottled water since he works for Hinckleys, teas and he knows I love my Starbucks. Jamesons for a filet mignon in Downers Grove is my favorite for dinner but there have been many years spent having breakfast and lunch at Stevens in Woodridge.

And as I write and read this again; it is not about vacations or the most expensive gift, it is truly the love and encouragement we give to each other every day until we are able to call heaven our new home.

Happy Mother’s Day to all that celebrate with kisses, hugs, and wonderful cheers.

In your Easter bonnet

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

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

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

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

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

What Easter means to me

It began with an Easter bonnet that never fit me right, but I had to wear it since hats were all the rage in 1960, when I was five. I remember loving my lace ankle socks, Mary Jane shoes and my white clutch purse, holding it delicately with white gloves. I remember many beautiful dresses….and it seemed like hours that my Mom took me shopping to find the best one on Easter Sunday. I remember a white linen dress with multiple colors of trim; that I still have in a box. I remember the dress in the above picture and having Easter, brunch or dinner; sometimes at a restaurant like the Green Shingle or at home with friends and family. I remember the excitement of my Dad’s good friend who had just gotten his first Polaroid camera and couldn’t wait to take a picture of Mom, Dad, and me.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, it was about Easter celebrations in Downers Grove with my own children now adults. As I do every few years approaching holidays and birthdays, I travel back in the storage boxes of their youth like traveling back in time in a Polaroid memory. In my son’s baby book, sure enough, there is his first Easter card. I remember one his first bunnies bought to celebrate….there it is. I remember Mom and a neighbor buying my daughters’ Easter dresses, one with colorful tulips and my young son had to wear a tie. Once again…found among the blankets, stuffed animals and other memorabilia. We would have an Easter egg hunt at our house for the kids and neighbors. My neighbor, who was the Mysterious Bunny, that no one knew, left baskets at my front door every Easter. Before John passed, he left new bikes for my children at the front door.

As a kindergarten assistant, our school celebrates Easter with talk of the Easter bunny. Students had to take home a plastic egg and fill it with something. When they bring, it back to school, the classmates have to try to guess what it is. Today, the best Easter gifts include Dylan’s Candy Bar, Harry and David gourmet food gifts for adults. However, Carters has the perfect outfit for your little one, and, of course, Crayola that include buy one get one get one free so that you can include coloring books and art supplies in the basket. Hanna Andersson offers jammies for the little ones.

After many decades, what does the holiday mean. First of all, it begins with Palm Sunday which is the precious start of Holy Week. The Sunday before Easter. The celebration of Jesus entering Jerusalem; sharing palm branches. Later, he is tried and crucified; the darkness of Good Friday but knowing in my heart that he has died for our sins. Finally, it is Easter and his resurrection; a yearly celebration realizing that there is something greater and more powerful than ourselves. Knowing that there is always hope. Hope in the God above. Hope that giving our lives to God will always bring miracles in many forms. And finally as we continue to believe and give, we learn that God’s timetable for our lives is perfect.

That is what Easter means to me.

Chicagoland’s Hegewisch Records

Moving to Dolton from the south side of Chicago in the early 1970’s, my record collection expanded. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s first album, Carol King’s Tapestry, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Deja vu and 64 of the Greatest Motown Hits (4 albums) and more became an obsession. As well as my shopping trips to Hegewisch Records & Tapes which was a legendary store that was located first in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the southeast side of Chicago. The store started in 1965 as a novelty shop selling sundries as well as records and music. The record and music operation moved to its Calumet City location in 1974 at 522 Torrence Ave. Other south suburban locations were in Richton Park and Merrillville, Indiana. It was founded by Joe Sotiros. And the store had everything including accessories and t-shirts. Here, you could meet a number of bands for record signings and concerts such as Elton John, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, Roger Daltry. Even the Blues Mobile from the Blue Brothers movie showed up. A dear friend who played drums for a group called Thunder got to meet Wishbone Ash, an incredible rock and blues group. It was nothing to wait in line for hours to see favorite bands and nobody complained. I will say again….no one complained since we all had something in common that we loved.

But on Friday, the 13th, September in 1991, Joseph was murdered on his ranch in Crete. He was found by friends because they had not seen him for a few days and were concerned. They contacted the police immediately. This has haunted his sister Brenda for years since no arrests have been made. The Calumet City store changed hands after his death but closed its door about a year after. The store was finally demolished to make way for a Walgreens.

In Merriville, Indiana, Hegwewisch was a staple from the mid -1980’s through the 1990’s. However, as what happened to most record shops, Circuit City and Best Buy took over with better sales and finally the shop was closed. The building was torn down as well located on Rt 30. Today, Lisa, Joe’s niece, has a Facebook site that truly honor the memories of the record shop. My daughter who is 30+ loving the music of that era, like me, has always said that the Baby Boomer’s generation of music can never be matched.

Chicagoland’s Rose Records

My first experience flipping through 45’s was traumatic. After getting my first portable record player, my Mom took me shopping in 1968 and said I could buy 3 45’s and she didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time. I picked Woman, Woman by Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, even though I loved the melody but have you got cheating on your mind for a girl in fifth grade, was not really what I was thinking about. My second choice, Bend me, Shape Any Way You Want To. But in junior high, my love for rock and roll in the late 1960’s began to expand and I couldn’t wait to buy records which included Spirit in The Sky by Norman Greenbaum, the newest in psychedelic rock. My girlfriend and I would travel downtown from the southside of Chicago on a Saturday on the Illinois Central, get off at Randolph, head over to Wimpy’s and then Rose Records on Wabash. My first album purchased at Rose was Blood, Sweat, and Tears, released in 1968. The building was two-stories later becoming Tower. The escalator was up and the elevator was down. Records were arranged by label and catalog number, and since most people didn’t have those memorized they had copies of the Schwann catalog in the bins so you could look up the numbers.

According to the Tribune, Rose Records is especially noted for its flagship store at 214 S. Wabash Ave., which Aaron Rosenbloom developed and ran from the earliest days of the firm. It is one of the world`s largest record stores, with 100,000 titles on cassettes, CDs and LPs. In 1931, he and his brother, Merrill, founded Rose Records as ”Rose Radio,” retailing Zenith, Emerson and Detrola models. They later added phonographs and records. They had an excellent collection of classical music. Early Chicago bands had entertained at the Rose such as the Smashing Pumpkins who played in 1991.

In the 1980’s, there were 49 outlets but by the early 1990’s, stores began to close because of the cut throat prices at Circuit City and Best Buy. Many of the stores opened during the chain’s expansion were in suburban malls with high traffic flow, but rents at those locations were high, and the spaces were too small for the stores to maintain the wide selection Rose was known for. When Rose moved into outlying markets like Milwaukee and Madison, where it wasn’t as well-known, it had trouble capturing a significant market share.

Today, a Rose Records exists in Germany which includes house music since 2011 but not related to the Rose of Chicago.

Chicago History Museum

The first time I visited the Chicago Historical Society, which is now the Chicago Museum, was the day after the death of John F. Kennedy. It was a field trip planned in advance with friends to celebrate my 9th birthday that my Mom did not want to cancel. After arriving, I remember seeing the bed that Abraham Lincoln died in and also seeing different guns representing the Union and Confederate Armies. It was a somber event, for many of us kept thinking about the irony of this trip after the recent assassination of our President John F. Kennedy who was also shot in the head in on Friday, November 22, 1963. My actual birthday was on the Thursday, the 21st, though we planned to celebrate on Saturday, November 23rd since we were off of school. Taking my own little ones, to the museum in the 1990’s, they, too, were fascinated with the gun collection, and Lincolns bed, but also loved the clothing that Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln wore on the evening of the assassination. We also enjoyed the beautiful historical paintings and dioramas throughout the building. Learning more about the true Chicago Fire was another interest that sparked our attention.

The museum has been located in Lincoln Park since the 1930s at 1601 North Clark Street at the intersection of North Avenue in the Old Town Triangle neighborhood. The CHS adopted the name, Chicago History Museum, in September 2006 for its public presence. Later that year, the museum celebrated a grand reopening, unveiling a dramatic new lobby and redesigned exhibition spaces. Signature exhibitions such as Chicago: Crossroads of America and Sensing Chicago debuted, while an old favorite, Imagining Chicago: The Dioramas, was restored and updated.

Today, the Chicago History Museum, Stephen Burrows, Scotty Piper, Patrick Kelly, Willi Smith, and Barbara Bates—five stories within the folds of fashion. The clothing we wear and the styles we embrace often reveal what we value and what we aspire to, ultimately helping us understand ourselves and the world in which we live. The clothing collection consists of more than 50,000 pieces, ten never-been-exhibited ensembles were selected to tell the remarkable stories of these five designers. Vivian Maier was an extraordinary photographer who took pictures of real life and many on the streets of Chicago. Maier died before her life’s work was shared with the world. She left behind hundreds of prints, 100,000 negatives, and about a thousand rolls of undeveloped film, which were discovered when a collector purchased the contents of her storage lockers.

Remembering Dr. King: 1929–1968 invites visitors to walk through a winding gallery that features over 25 photographs depicting key moments in Dr. King’s work and the Civil Rights movement. And there is much more to the museum, that includes a variety of programs, publications, temporary exhibits, and online resources such as virtual fieldtrips, on-site fieldtrips and you can host an event. The museum offers a great gift shop with wonderful historical and fictional books about the city. You can also purchase kids’ books that offer a solid look at American history. You can buy apparel as well home goods.

Sambos

We moved to Dolton in 1970, living at 152nd and Chicago Road. Mom and I began going to church at Faith United Methodist, which was located at 15015 Grant Street, only a few blocks away from our new apartment. For awhile, I was involved in the church, and I became a Sunday school teacher, but it was after church services that I enjoyed the most. We headed out to 633 E Sibley Boulevard for Sunday brunch at Sambos. Many breakfasts and lunches were spent at Sambos, many days of the week, probably until 1978. I remember having the best pancakes and how much Mom loved her coffee. At one time, it was only 10 cents. I shared experiences with many friends from Thornridge as well as Thornton Community College, now South Suburban College. After a few drinks for me in later years, at night, it was time for coffee and another sobriety breakfast. Though back then, friends would also hang out at the Denny’s in Calumet City for that reason. Illinois had more than 20 locations of Sambo restaurants, including many situated in Chicago’s south and north suburbs. Downers Grove, Countryside, Arlington Heights, Bridgeview, Glenview and Elk Grove Village to name just a few.

The first restaurant opened in 1957 in Santa Barbara, California. Though the name was taken from portions of the names of its founders, Sam Battistone Sr. and Newell Bohnett, the chain soon found itself associated with The Story of Little Black Sambo. Battistone and Bohnett capitalized on this connection by decorating the walls of the restaurants with scenes from the book, including a dark-skinned boy, tigers, and a pale, magical unicycle-riding man called “The Treefriend.”The restaurant was expanded to more locations. In late 1963, it had restaurants in 16 cities—in California, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona. By 1969, the company had grown to 98 locations. By the late 1970’s, there were 1,117 Sambo restaurants in 47 states. All have been closed for many years, though the original stayed open in 2020 but changed its name. It is owned by the grandson of Battistone and is called Chad’s now. 

The owners did not set out to create trouble, and they were successful, raking in over 380 million dollars a year when Jimmy Carter was President, but in many places, the murals on the wall did not sit well in communities that were fighting for civil rights, and the little black sambo had been considered racist even before the business opened, though they took pride in their murals. But as the late 1970’s progressed, more and more restaurants, especially in the East, were confronted with lawsuits against the name. The company renamed some locations, such as the Jolly Tiger, but it didn’t work. In March of 1981, they tried, “There is no place like Sams.” By November of 1981, they filed for Chapter 11 and continued to fail. By 1982, all but the original Sambos were sold. Several were sold to Bakers Square or Denny’s.

What character did I want to be……Honey West or Emma Peel?

We had one black and white television set up in our den while living in the southside of Chicago in the 1960’s. As a family, we watched the new show Honey West airing on ABC from September 17, 1965 to April 8, 1966. The series starred Anne Francis as a female private detective and John Ericson as her partner, Sam Bolt. It was an historic event because it was a the first TV series where the lead character was female, as well as a private detective. Once again at ten years of age at that time, she was another star that I wanted to be when I grew up. I used my Mom’s eye brow pencil to fake her birthmark when no one was looking. Anne Francis also appeared in a Burke’s Law episode, another series that starred Gene Barry. I was going to marry him. Another strong character role model, expert in spy adventures and martial arts, was Emma Peel. An icon in British culture, Emma Peel was played by Diana Rigg in The Avengers; a British espionage television series, created in 1961, that ran for 161 episodes until 1969 with Patrick Macnee. By 1969, the Avengers were shown in 90 countries. The New Avengers ran from 1976-1977, with Patrick Macnee returning as John Steed and two new female partners.

Anne Francis was also known for her role in the science fiction film Forbidden Planet in 1956 but she won an Emmy and Golden Globe award for her role for Honey West. Others liked her birthmark too and it was actually written into a script. In 2005, she was ranked 18 out of 50 sexy stars list on TV guide. She was born in New York in 1930 and was a child star. She played in numerous film and tv roles. Though she quit smoking in the 1980’s, she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005. She ended up passing away from complications from pancreatic cancer in 2011.

Diana Rigg just passed away last year in September of 2020. According to sources, she played Countess Teresa di Vicenzo, wife of James Bond, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969); Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones (2013–2017); and the title role in Medea in the West End in 1993 followed by Broadway a year later. Her career was complex, first working for the Royal Shakespeare company in 1959. October of 2015, marked 50 years of Emma Peel, the British Film Institute screened an episode of The Avengers; this was followed by an onstage interview with Rigg about her time in the television series. In 2018, she returned to Broadway to play the role of Mrs. Higgins in My Fair Lady. Diana had one daughter, and she was living at her daughter’s home in London after she had just been diagnosed with cancer.

“Winging It” during the Super Bowl

By Caryl Clem

February is a big month celebrating over 50 foods. Get your napkin supply ready. Anyone with a Sweet Tooth, nearly every day offers a treat and it is Chocolate Lovers Month. Watching your sugar intake, National Snack Month offers tasty dips, chips and savory meat snacks. According to sales over 1.4 billion this year, consumers preferred to “Wing It” during the game with chicken wings. The best wings drown in a can’t stop eating rich covering like Aria B Mumbo Sauce created in Chicago. Did I mention, keep those napkins close by!

February is African American Heritage month, Argia B. Collins, an African American who enriched Chicago’s culinary experience. A Navy man from Mississippi thought his entrepreneur dreams could come true in Chicago. He moved here to work for his oldest brother in the 1940’s. By 1950, he opened his first restaurant on the South Side in Bronzeville. The Collins’ brothers were opening successful restaurants in different neighborhoods serving ribs and southern favorites. Competing with his five brothers, Argia opened a test kitchen in his first place and expanded to build two more restaurants featuring his Mumbo sauce on wings and other meats. The customers loved his sauce and kept bringing their own containers to take home more sauce.

To meet customer demand, he opened a manufacturing plant on the Southside and kept advertising. After a feature advertisement in a 1970 Life magazine, the sauce became a national favorite. Barbeque culinary experts across the country raved over this Mumbo Sauces’ combination of flavors. There was an effort to discredit the Chicago claim to this recipe but a court case decided the recipe’s authenticity.  Chicago has the right to claim this brands’ birthplace.

If you love hearty, spicy wings try Aria B Mumbo Sauce. Now a legacy that started as mix of determination and motivation to create the Mumbo sauce he remembered from his childhood. The southern roots for these sauces have led to legends in other towns. In New York, John Young, an African American during about the same time developed a “mombo” sauce for “Buffalo Wings”.  In DC another pair of brothers developed a Mumbo sauce that is well known.  None of the competition has statewide distribution this company supports.