Good Old Days: Strange parallels with 1918 and the Asian Flu in 1957

My grandmother had saved 50+ copies of these comics in the 1950’s. She, too, was a published writer for a newspaper and artist. As I searched through the copies this week, I found a group called Miserable Moments, having no idea that this comic, written by Erwin L Hess, described the Spanish flu from 1918 comparing to the new pandemic of 1957 that was just beginning. The grandfather talks about 1918 when churches, school and theaters were closed…most people still getting it regardless of wearing mask. The author also talks about the flu which would probably get them in October, 1957 when this was published.

The “Asian flu” was the second major flu pandemic outbreak of avian influenza(H2N2) that originated also in China early 1956 lasting until 1958. It originated from a mutation in wild ducks combining with a pre-existing human strain. The virus was first identified in Guizhou. By June 1957 it reached the United States. Some of the first affected were United States Navy personnel at destroyers docked at Newport Naval Station, as well as new military recruits elsewhere. 

The first wave peaked in October which he talks about in the comic and the second wave, in January and February 1958 among elderly people, which was more fatal. It was spread among children but not harmful to them.The vaccine was available from October 1957 in the United Kingdom in small quantities but once sent to the US, it was effective. According to sources, about 100,000 people died in the US and almost two million died world wide but considered the worst flu epidemic. Some only experience mild symptoms such as a mild cough, fever while others developed severe respiratory illness such as pneumonia. 

Comic artist Erwin L. Hess (1913-1999) featured nostalgic memories in his popular newspaper comic panel The Good Old Days. His detailed art combined with easily-recognized themes from American family history resonated with readers who grew up in small towns and farms across the country. The Good Old Days was published from 1946 to 1981.

After reading about the history of the Asian flu and the onslaught of H1N1 in 2009, one report commented about in spite of the scare stuff in the lay press. When it comes to social media and the news emphasizing fear over faith, some things never change.

National Stress Month

By Caryl Clem:

April is a National Stress Awareness month, ironically during a time America is facing the most traumatic event in decades. As uncomfortable as you may currently feel staying home, flip your feelings using this time to your advantage. Everyone has a story to tell about their experience. Telling your story releases the pent up emotional baggage, reducing stress while increasing brain activity according to research from Harvard. Writing or taping personal experiences turns your brain on to creating a cause effect scenario. ‘Stories are the way we understand and make sense of the world we find ourselves in.’ says Clare Patey, Director of the Empathy Museum.

Creating a story folder could combine your feelings and images. Keep the stories short, they provide a future window to revisit how you faced the pandemic. I remember finding an antique food stamp book in my Mother’s dresser drawer. I had no clue what feelings surrounded this relic. I wrote about how I changed during this time. When I couldn’t fall asleep, I started cleaning blinds at 1 a.m. Never in my life have I tackled a job I hate the most to get so tired I would fall asleep. A friend of mine called ,she felt she was living in a science fiction fantasy, driving down an empty street with empty stores. Years from now these stories will breathe life into the pictures being taken.

During the 1930’s, America was recovering from the epic Depression Era. A phrase heard on the street reflecting the economy was,” Brother, Can You Spare a Dime”. This meager amount could buy a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, or a gallon of gas. Couples would gather to share a pot luck dinner and play a game. A popular game was buying and selling real estate, invented by Elizabeth Magie in 1903. There were no written rules, game procedures traveled by word of mouth. A frequent player of this game, Mr. Darrow, unemployed, low on funds, asked his friend to write the rules down. Darrow sold these rules to Parker Brothers. The allure of wealth and power skyrocketed, Monopoly, into a financial success.

A common theme in games is overcoming hardship. If you feel creative, design your own board game that mirrors surviving with practices of stay at home and social distancing. Design a card deck with short examples given either positive or negative points. Running out of food, lose 5 points, utility bill forgiven, 10 extra points, sunny, warm day to walk the dog 5 extra points, free pizza with delivery coupon, 10 extra points are examples of what is possible.

Volunteer work accomplishes releasing stress reducing body chemicals. Health care professionals are notoriously independent. If you know one, reach out and ask if you can help by doing laundry, shopping for groceries, checking on an older person they know, preparing food for their families. These saints among us don’t have the time or energy to conduct their lives normally. Food pantries are short on help. The key to managing stress is STAY POSITIVE. Relish creating memories your family can look back on in the future.

Buckingham Fountain

My first experience visiting Buckingham Fountain was not pleasant. I remember my Dad and I walking very close to edge of the fountain; terrified of the Art Deco seahorse that was, supposedly, a state staring at me, spouting water. I began to cry; only in kindergarten at the time. The fountain represents Lake Michigan, with four sets of sea horses (two per set) symbolizing the four states—Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana—that bordered the lake. Setting gracefully in Grant Park since 1927, from afar, Buckingham Fountain was absolutely beautiful whether it was during the day or watching the light show at night. I remember many summer evenings driving “downtown” as we described it then to gather at the fountain.

In 1924, one million was donated to the city to build the fountain by Kate Sturges Buckingham, philanthropist and art patron in memory of her brother, Clarence Buckingham, who was director of the Art Institute. My grade school built in 1962 was named after Kate Sturges Buckingham so I know the name well. Work began in 1925; taking two years to build. The fountain is one of the finest ornamental structures though not always appreciated for its elegance The Buckingham Fountain was manually operated from 1927 through the 1970s and my significant other who was 18 was arrested for the first time swimming drunk in the fountain with his friends one night. Back in the 1970’s days, they were arrested but let go, generally without legal consequences, after their parents picked them up.

For years, the fountain was entirely manually operated by two stationary engineers who each worked a daily twelve-hour shift. Historically, the major water displays occurred only twice a day, three times a week. These displays were so popular that they began to be offered every day in the late 1950s. According to the Chicago Park District, they used a keyboard with twenty-one electric switches that could fade, brighten, and blend colors to create numerous light effects. Although the light show was first automated in 1968, the water continued to be manually operated until 1980, when the operations were fully computerized. There were some years that the fountain was not operated here in Chicago but in Atlanta. The Chicago Park District offers some wonderful information concerning the structure, the fountains water capacity and upgrading the computer controlling the fountain in 2013 as well as water display hours.

In accordance with the stay home order, all Chicago Park District fieldhouses and playgrounds will remain closed until April 30th. But generally the fountain does not open until mid May through October, so visiting would be a great trip to put on your wish list.

Keeping in step at the parks

By Caryl Clem:

April’s monthly theme is for everyone to walk so put on your favorite soles and head for a park while practicing social distancing. Cook County Forest Preserves feature 70,000 acres and over 350 trails to investigate while Chicago’s parks cover 7,600 acres. To locate the scenic 31,000 acres with 206 pathways and trails to explore; the largest selection of endangered and wildlife species in Lake County along the Des Plaines River or the shores of Lake Michigan.

A contest had been held to decide what the best park should offer and the winner influenced the next 50 years of park designs, Frederick Law Olmsted. The New York Central Park in 1857, was a showcase of beauty, a park with rolling landscapes and graceful wrought iron benches. The most frequent visitors were the wealthy. The best roads were there for carriage races held on a regular basis. By the turn of the century parks were constructed for the working class in neighborhood locations.  The love of sports becomes part of park services in the 1960’s.  Parks offers a huge variety of activities from museums, conservatories, cultural centers in addition to exercise.  A majority of parks feature a younger child area with playground equipment and sand boxes. Any park is an adventure to walk through while studying nature. There are interactive maps with GPS available, for instance LCFPD.org/maps.

The Rails to Trails movement idea started in Chicago. May Theilgaard Watts in 1963 wrote to the Chicago Tribune proposing closed Chicago-Aurora-Elgin railroad line was a space to walk going to waste, this was a missed opportunity. In her words, “ if we have the courage and foresight..then from this strip we can create a proud resource.”  Years later, The Illinois Prairie Path Organization turned her words into a reality currently used by over 800,000 people who have walked along the Illinois Prairie Path. Outside of  Chicago, this site offers locations complete with ratings.

The best example of wetlands is in the Spring Bluff forest preserve in Winthrop Harbor that links to the Chiwaukee Prairie in Wisconsin. The 4, 500 acre is the highest quality of coastal area in Illinois and southeast Wisconsin awarded the Ramsar Wetland of International Significance in 2015.

History and culture exploration are offered in several parks; for example The Dunn Museum in Libertyville, Indian Park near the West Rogers Park area’s Cultural Center offering Native American themes to pay tribute to the former Pottawattomie tribes that occupied this territory,  and Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park . Old roads and horse trails wind through Ryerson Woods in Riverwoods.

For dog owners,  (annual permits required )pawsitivly great spots In Lake County,

   Dog Park Maps
Duck Farm »              Independence Grove »             Lakewood »
Prairie Wolf »             Waukegan Savanna »

For Chicago, check out these trails for your favorite pet.

Currently, many parks are closed so check before going. Spend April walking, even around your neighborhood. Doctors advise a minimum of 30 minutes for at least 5 days a week. When the parks open again, explore and feel the excitement of a new adventure while improving your health.

Remembering Chicago street cars

She was 100 in 1999 and said the biggest change she had seen during her life in Chicago was not having streetcars though that was before the Internet and cell phones. She probably would have spoke differently. At one time, Chicago had the largest railway system in the world. The street cars began in 1859 with a horse-drawn cart running along a single rail track down State Street. However, they were replaced with cable cars and then replaced again with electric streetcars powered by an overhead trolley. Over 3,000 passenger cars existed.

As a girl, my Aunt used to ride the red street cars for only a nickel back in the early 1900’s and she said she could go anywhere in the city of Chicago for that cost. They also had a free transfer privilege where you could switch from one car to another. The streetcar industry began to decline in the 1920’s because of automobiles but at the time her family could not afford a car so she was a regular streetcar customer. A white band surrounded a pole to indicate where the car would stop. And according to my Aunt, you only had to wait a few minutes for the next car. There were over 100 routes throughout the city. A motorman stood in front of the car while the conductor was in the back where people loaded onto the car. The conductor rang a trolley bell to let the motorman know they were ready to go.

The PCC car was her favorite which only last a short time from 1945-1946. The streetcar company known as Chicago Surface Lines would not give up on their streetcars. Four companies formed the CSL: the Chicago Railways Company, Chicago City Railway, Calumet and South Chicago Railway, and Southern Street Railway which continued with Hammond, Indiana until 1940.

The new public agency Chicago Transit Authority took over Chicago Surface Lines and the streetcar system in 1947. They began to integrate the surface lines with the city’s elevated train network. The last street car journeyed down Vincennes Avenue on June 21, 1958. James O’Neil talks about his memories as a child with streetcars and living near a large streetcar, later bus, “barn,” as they used to call it. He used to have quite a collection of paper transfers.

Many years ago, I took my son to Illinois Railway Museum where he saw the red street car that my Aunt talked about. He was too young when she passed away but his love for everything on rails was passionate. The Illinois Railway Museum is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization which is owned entirely by its volunteers. The museum receives no state or federal money for its operations. All capital and operating costs are paid by individual donations and revenue derived from tickets and on-site sales. Currently, they are closed until early May but they are always looking for volunteers.

 

 

Forgotten Malls: Lincoln and Lakehurst

After moving to the south suburbs in the early 1970’s, I had friends that moved even further south. Spending time with friends in high school and college, it was time to hang out in the nearest mall. Besides, River Oaks in Calumet City, we went to Lincoln Mall in Matteson which opened in 1973 with anchors Carson Pirie Scott, Montgomery Ward, Wieboldt’s, and JCPenney. B Dalton Bookstore was another favorite there. The one place I remember the most was riding the glass elevator at Lincoln Mall. The Mall was developed by Randhurst Corp, the same developer consisting of Wieboldt’s and Carson’s executives who developed Randhurst Mall and Lakehurst Mall.

Moving to Waukegan in 1978, to teach at Warren Township High school, shopping after school or on weekends was an important event especially since we had a dress code. Besides Marshall Fields, another favorite was Carsons in Lakehurst Mall. Pier I, Service Merchandise and Red Lobster, some of my other choices were built on the outskirts of the mall. My mother loved to visit and treat me for dinner at the Red Lobster. Lakehurst Cinemas were also popular built across the street.

Lakehurst Mall was the first regional shopping complex in the northern Chicago suburb of Waukegan. The mall officially opened in 1971. It was built to service the growing town of Waukegan, the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, and the northern suburban sprawl of Chicago. On August 8, 1991, Gurnee Mills opened seven miles (11 km) away from Lakehurst. The newer, larger Gurnee Mills proved a much larger draw than expected, devastating Lakehurst’s retail base.

After several years of decline, Lakehurst closed in 2001, and was demolished in 2004. Lincoln Mall was demolition in 2017. Matteson casino group gets the ok, just a few months ago,to make old Lincoln Mall site its new proposed location.

Playing jacks and cats cradle

When I was young, bored and had few to play with, jacks would keep me occupied. I vaguely remember getting a set in a cloth, draw-string bag. You can play alone or with friends. And metal jacks with a ball were much easier to pick up then plastic jacks. But it was a great stay at home game…especially now. It was also called Knucklebones, known as Tali, Fivestones, or Jacks, which is a game of ancient origin. First, you need a set a jacks and a ball. Begin by throwing the jacks on a smooth surface or on ground in front of you. The old way to play the game is throw the ball into the air … pick up one jack … then catch the ball after it bounces one time. Continue picking up the jacks one at a time. When you have collected all the jacks, throw them again and start picking the jacks up two at a time. When you get to three you have to pick up the three sets of three first, and so on. Continue until you are at ten. Amazon still sells the old-fashioned metal set and ball with the pouch which is great to keep all the jacks in one place.

Cats cradle is one of the oldest games of all time and has always used string and more than one player. You build a string configuration using two hands and your partner tries to take it off one hand onto his or her fingers Actually, you complete three shapes..passing back and forth. The idea is too see how far you can keep going. I had to watch the video since I forgot a few of the shapes in between. Mom’s Minivan provides a demonstration of how to play the game solo. There is a book that describes Cat Cradle and different string figures you can make such as the Eiffel Tower, Jacobs Ladder,Cup and Saucer, and the Witch’s Brew.

Mission of Our Lady of the Angels needs your help

When we hear of Our Lady of Angels in Chicago, for Baby Boomers, our first thought is the tragic fire over 62 years ago that killed 92 children, three nuns and hundreds who walked away with significant injuries in West Humboldt Park. Today, school fires of this magnitude rarely exist because of major fire reform. The Our Lady of Angels parish, that we knew, closed in 1990. But today, an amazing, gracious, community of young men and women serve and live at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. Side by side, with the angels who help them, they continue offering their assistance during the economic impact of COVID-19. Those that believe everything was lost …then and now…maybe not. Gods love never stops.

The school was a charter school until 2017 when given back to the Franciscans at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels . Fr. Bob Lombardo came to Chicago in 2005, at the special request of Cardinal George, to set up a mission outreach to help the poverty- stricken neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. Fr. Bob has functioned as the founder/ director of the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, founder/ superior of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, a newly established religious community of young men and women living and serving at the Mission of Our Lady of Angels.

The Mission of Our Lady of the Angels is currently taking food donations. Their monthly food pantry provides food to about 1000 families a month. They provide fresh produce, non-perishable food, clothing, and household goods to about 250 families every Tuesday at their Mobile Pantry. On St Patricks Day, they transitioned the pantry outside and served 260 families. And, yes, the pantry will remain open.

Presently, they are concerned about food supply streams and are welcoming all donated food still! They have also partnered with the Chicago Police Department to bring food to home bound seniors. The mission is asking individuals to call before dropping off food donations in person at its West Side location. People can also buy food for the Mission’s pantry on the Amazon wish list.

In times of greatest need, we turn to prayer. The Mission of Our Lady of the Angels continues to pray for the children, families and friends lost in the tragic fire decades ago. Their prayers are constant for all of us as we face a new crisis. In many places, public masses have been suspended in an effort to help stop the spread of coronavirus. However, masses our being streamed and the mission will rise to every challenge they meet. As one nation under God, let’s continue to pray, spread the word, donate and purchase what we can so that the Mission can provide food security to the increasing need in our communities. Acts of compassion are greater than any hardships we can ever face.

Typewriters for sale

The kindergarten students saw a picture of Dr. Seuss typing his famous manuscripts and somehow the subject of typewriters came up. Some did know what a typewriter was. For me, speed was a major issue when learning how to use a typewriter because of an incessant teacher making sure my hands were positioned perfectly over the keys at Thornridge High School in Dolton. I was a piano player…I could do this…the teacher said during my class back in the 1970’s and I got a D first semester. Though I continued on taking shorthand with Mrs Whitesec who calmed me down and helped me to advance at my own pace. 

My mother had an old, manual, black typewriter that was not easy. It sat in a case and was my grandmothers who was a professional writer. She had written for newspapers and loved writing poetry. Kind of like me. My mother worked as a secretary where she typed quite well and loved it. 

The first commercial typewriters were introduced in 1874, but did not become common in offices until after the mid-1880s. It was widely used by professional writers, in offices, and for business correspondence in private homes.

Typewriters did not possess the means to communicate to the the world but they did the trick when typing a simple letter and believe it or not, they are still for sale. If we still couldn’t fix it, the handyman’s shop down the street could repair it and you could kill two birds with one stone, another expression you don’t hear much anymore, by taking your clogged vacuum to him as well. 

You can still buy brand new typewriters at Typewriters. com  Some businesses still use type writers for typing quick documents such as funeral homes as well as federal prisons for inmates. Vintage typewriters are available at Ebay and those that still work can be expensive. One Vintage IBM Correcting Selectric lll Electric Typewriter is priced at $150.00.

At any rate, owning a typewriter would be a fabulous addition to your collectibles and would be available in the event of a major solar flare break or something to play with while hunkered down because of the virus. Have your grandchildren take a seat in a stiff back chair in front of it, shoulders back and eyes on a sample text to the left of the typewriter. Have them insert a piece of blank paper all by themselves. Command them to flex their wrists properly, not look at the elevated keyboard and see what they can accomplish. Now, you are finally in control and are able to give back all those times that they thought they knew something you did not. Have a wooden ruler in hand to threaten them with a generous tap if their fingers flop. Show them who’s boss!

Becareful, however, with ruler tapping since they could have you arrested for assault. The ruler may also create another distracting problem since they may not even know what a ruler is.

River Oaks Mall

Moving from the south side of Chicago to the south suburb of Dolton in 1971, the first shopping trip my mother and I took in the south suburbs was River Oaks Mall in Calumet City. We always parked in front of Marshall Fields, my mother’s favorite, which is now Macy’s. Early in the 1970’s,  a women drove her car into Green Lake which was quite a talked about story. The Forest Preserve is still across from the mall, though not sure what happened to the women driving into the lake. Some say there were children in the car as well. Sears was positioned at the far end of the open air mall. While in late high school and early college, many of my friends worked at Sears. Next door to Sears, I took a job at Kresges, right next door to Sears one summer in the diner part of the store. Many did offer food back in the day. I was a very poor waitress, my uniform always covered in some condiments. One day I fell and hurt my back. Don’t remember if it was at the store or at home but I quit shortly after.

River Oaks opened in 1966 and was a development of KLC Ventures a firm that included the pioneering developer Philip M. Klutznick and his son Tom. The elder Klutznick had developed Park Forest, Illinois, after World War II, as well as Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook in 1959 and Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie in 1956. Kresge s closed in 1987 and became a theater. Today, River Oaks is enclosed, In 1994, the redevelopment was completed. 

The Forest Preserve has become much larger providing different groves, hiking paths, fishing, ice fishing and walking events.

Its been a long time since I have been to Rivers Oaks and the theaters next door which are closed and demolished. I did see the first Stars Wars at the theater. Unfortunately, the crime has escalated in the area and people have been shot in the mall. Though violence and gangs have always existed, I truly miss the way things were. However,  Trip to the Mall provides some wonderful photos showing how the mall is today inside.