Kids on wheels can thank a Chicago entrepreneur

By Caryl Clem:

Chicago hosted the World’s Fair in 1933 where businessmen showcased their products hoping for worldwide approval. A young Italian immigrant had first designed a wagon in 1917 named Liberty Coaster to honor his first impression of landing in New York. He came to Chicago hoping to own his own business, working his way up in the world by various jobs that including washing celery to sell.  By the 1930’s in Elmwood, his manufacturing firm was expanding producing his renamed wagon, The Radio Flyer.

Antonio bravely risked most of his money to grow his business as he made plans for the Chicago World’s Fair. He and another immigrant friend constructed a giant boy and his wagon for his exhibit. Antonio Pasin passed out toy wagons for 25 cents each to future customers interested in his product.  After this business venture, he became famous and firmly established his company’s image to be part of every child’s future.

Through the decades, this wagon worked its way into parents and kids worlds mixing fantasy and reality. Radio Flyers had featured specials from Disney star specials to the 1950’s model I used, “Town and Country.” I delivered papers, transported flower pots and found countless uses for my wagon. I even trained my dog to take rides as I pulled the wagon.  Antonio had a flair for appealing to his customer base by clever advertising. I recall a slogan in the 1950’s , “The only wagon to outsell the Ford station wagon”.The product line kept evolving adding scooters, tricycles, and plastic replaces metal by 1994.

The current CEO is a grandson of the Pasin founder who turned a sagging business in the late 1990’s into a powerhouse that still rocks with success selling in the 100 million dollar range.  Robert Pasin enacted product development as the main focus, researching how the product was used by the consumer. In 2011, a Play Lab with a test tract was installed in the Chicago main office. “Radio Flyer offers nice perks: flex time, parties for employees and their families, a wellness reimbursement program, an exercise room, and a garden with a walking path at Chicago headquarters.

Last year, Crain’s Business Chicago ranked the company the seventh-best place to work in the city, calling out its employee incentives and philanthropic efforts. Radio Flyer donates thousands of wagons to local and national charities.

I don’t think you can outgrow the love of a wagon ride so as Spring Days are rapidly approaching, it is time to get your Radio Flyer Wagons out of hibernation.

Chicago’s Art Institute

For me as a child in the 1960’s, it was the Thorne rooms first that truly excited me to see what was inside of the building with the huge lions. I loved dollhouses and anything miniature to collect and play.  And I also liked to visit them again during the Christmas holidays catching glimpses of holiday decorations in the rooms.

My children loved the Thorne rooms too in the 1990’s and to this day, somehow we head to them first. The rooms were elaborate and different from our own homes; a wonderful learning experience of the past where we could view a Pennsylvania kitchen in 1752 or an English cottage during the Queen Ann period.

The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications. Her work shows the upper class homes in England and Frances as well. Hours can be spent visiting the Thorne room exhibit and examining the precise details behind the glass in cased rooms.

From here, it was important to see the Georges Seurat painting  A Sunday on La Grande Jatte and we were interested in counting the dots. The Art Institute has one such sketch and two drawings. We also had to see the most popular American Gothic by Grant Wood. This familiar image was exhibited publicly for the first time at the Art Institute, winning a three-hundred-dollar prize and instant fame for Grant Wood. The image contained the farmer with his pitch fork and daughter in front of their house.

And then it was on to the gift shop and being a true lover of all books, this was one of my favorite shops. Though not a good painter or sculpture by any means, the shop had wonderful art books, postcards, colored pencils, special paper, and reproductions such as Monet’s Water Lilies. And today, they offer fashion items and jewelry. You can created an account and order online.

Today, there are a variety of dining options at the Art Institute that includes a fine dining restaurant called Terzo Piano. There is the Museum Cafe that provides great choices for kids and the Balcony Cafe that provides a snacks and desserts.

 

Chicago land Miller’s Pub and the Italian Village

My first time at Millers Pub on Wabash in Chicago was in the late 1970s and a group of us was having a night cap after a play. I think the play was Send in the Clowns. Though I wasn’t a beer drinker, other drinks just didn’t seem appropriate so I had a beer that tasted better than most. It was later that I had dinner before the theater as they actually promote. In 1950, three brothers of Greek descent, Pete, Nick and Jimmy Gallios, pooled all of their resources and purchased the flailing Miller’s Pub from the Miller brothers, who had established the bar in 1935. After the purchase, the Gallios brothers did not have the $500 it would have cost to change the sign on the pub, so the name Miller’s remained.

Many celebrities have frequented the pub and celebrity photos grace the walls along with authentic oil paints. The family still owns Millers and thousands continue to enjoy an exquisite beer collection as well as extensive menu. Jimmy Durante never came to town without stopping by for some figs & cream- he didn’t drink. Millers is open until 4am that is why it is a great stop after the shows for even coffee and dessert.

It was in the upstairs restaurant with the beautiful wall design and Italian lights that I first visited the Italian village, built in 1927, the oldest Chicago restaurant. It was a date in the 1970s, the perfect elegance for romance. I don’t remember what I ate but always favored the wine.

Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, Italian Village is home to three restaurants, each with its own chef, menu specialties and unique ambiance. Italian Village’s origins began on September 20, 1927, when Alfredo Capitanini opened the doors to what would soon become a Chicago landmark. Italian Village was kept in the Capitanini family, and in 1955, the second generation of Capitaninis opened the doors to their second restaurant, La Cantina, in the lower floor of the Italian Village building.  Mom liked that restaurant best and it was here that we shared special field trips. With business doing so well for the Capitanini family, they decided to open one more restaurant in their Italian Village building called The Florentine Room now called Vivere, focusing on true gourmet.

As we visited Miller’s pub after the show, the Italian Village offers a great before the theatre menu including lasagna, their house specialty and always my favorite.

 

Tribute to single parents on March 21st

By Caryl Clem:

On March 21st, a shout out and special THANK YOU to single parents for meeting the challenges of raising children solo. Praise for the over 19 million single parents facing all the duties parenting involves with dedication and devotion.

Factors that lead to single parenting are diverse in today’s culture. Parenting magazine covers a wide range of possibilities from a war veteran returning to Vietnam to take his child back to the United States to a never married, over 40 years old woman, internationally adopting a child.  The 1960’s research to uncover why single parenting occurred pointed to lack of birth control and poor education. In the broad spectrum of single parents today, only 13% are the result of teen pregnancy.  The frequency of divorce has had a much larger impact. According to recent statistics, over 44% of single mothers were married. The image of an “average” single mother today is changing from past perceptions. She is older, educated, has full time employment, and participates in a network of community support while raising more than one child.

Over 3 million men are the sole parent, shouldering the double parenting roles on their own. Today’s single parents represent an exceptionally talented and skillful group who are able to navigate the seas of child rearing successfully. Moving forward, children of single parents are able to be just as successful as children from two parent homes.

The “to do” list for raising emotionally stable children applies to everyone.  Current research is documenting that positive single parent kids have these advantages:  1) closer communication bonds with their parent and involved family caretakers 2) ability to respond to situations sharing responsibility 3) are friendly and cooperative working with others. (Nicole Lyn Pesce, “Research shows single moms are raising kick-ass kids” March 20, 2018.)  As single parents increase their support systems, the premise, it takes a village, pays off for their children. New York Post quote, “The children of many single-parent families have the same success as those with married parents”.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to share shaping a child’s dreams into a future reality understands the mix of magic and challenges. Today, single parenting has resources from support groups and community organizations. Since 1957 the agency, Parents without Partners, has been offering a spectrum of services to address the needs single parenting presents. The birthday of this group is March 21, a fitting day to declare a tribute to single parents!  In recognition that family is the most important factor in our lives; praise for the single parents in our communities!

Are leprechauns real?

For me, it was the Lucky Charms cereal created in the 1960s that first talked of magic and leprechauns. Lucky the leprechaun( he actually smoked a pipe) debuted in 1964 with an expensive marketing approach featuring colored ads and comic books. It worked and the cereal still is magically delicious.

Usually bearded, little old men; leprechauns like to get into trouble. If captured by humans, they are often granted three wishes. Others say that they have to tell you where the pot of gold is. When my son was four now 31, I was traveling on a business trip out of the state but arrived home on St Patrick’s day. It was then that my son’s room was totally destroyed trying to catch a leprechaun in a special shoe box designed for that purpose.  The box was intricately built with string that stretched from box to window but no leprechaun. Even after trying to clean his room together; hoping to convince him that we would eventually find the leprechaun. We did end up with a clean room, better than ever, but no luck with catching this creature.

Now as an assistant in kindergarten last week, there is still Lucky the leprechaun. I have not seen him yet. Last week, he began visiting, secretly watching and left two messages for the teacher concerning the children s behavior which had not been the best. Lucky usually leaves treats at this time but the classroom teacher has said that Lucky has not been real happy with students speaking without raising their hand and not cleaning up after recess.

But last week on a Thursday night, Lucky appeared; making a mess of the room, writing on the board and leaving treats at the children’s tables since behavior had improved the day before. I did not see him which many asked if I had. The children told me that I had to look for a little guy with a hat. If he didn’t have a hat, he was not a leprechaun.

This week, the activities with Lucky continue. We spent one day writing individual designs of traps to catch Lucky and the day after, build traps with tooth picks and marshmallows. From what I have heard, they have not caught Lucky or any leprechaun in the past but remnants of leprechaun life were left behind.

On Thursday, 21 traps of marshmallows and tooth picks have been built with fake gold coins in the traps. And on Friday, Lucky left footprints and walked over the traps because he thought it was a playground. He also left special treats.

Now is it really Lucky or the teacher? After packing my bag today in an empty room at dismissal, I thought I heard someone laughing at me. No one was in the room. I turned to walk out and heard the tee hee again. And I checked the corners…..nothing. I practically ran to the parking lot!

One more week until spring break!

Honoring K9 Veterans on March 13

By Caryl Clem:

Dogs have their own day for military service recognition.  A national day to give them credit took over 100 years.  I had no idea that dogs served as equal partners in combating the enemy dating as far back as 600 B.C.  In the United States, dogs were first used in the Revolutionary War but never gained recognition until after World War I.  A retired military dog trainer, Joseph White originated the idea to honor veteran canines on the birthday of the first Army K9 Corps which was March 13th.  An estimated 2,500 dogs are in service today while 700 maybe overseas.

I grew up watching television famous, Rin Tin Tin dog adventures. I had no idea that the brave, compassionate dog I adored had been rescued from a battlefield during World War I.  One of the strategies noticed by troops overseas during WWI was the Europe’s employment of dogs during warfare. As a young man fighting for his life in Germany, Lee saves a pup from a bombed demolished dog kennel. Lee Duncan, when young had been orphaned then taken away by his mother to have a dog as his sole companion. The fascinating story of Lee and his dog going to Hollywood after the war is in the book, RIN IN TIN, The Life and The Legend by Sue Orlean.

During World War I, several dogs are credited with saving troops lives. One story is about a stray Pit bull who prevent a siren gas attack and survived injuries from other combat arenas. Three Presidents met this dog at the White House.  Sergeant Stubby’s remains are in the Smithsonian.  In Italy, Chips attacked a group of soldiers in a machine gun nest forcing them out to be captured.  Chips was given medals but they were rescinded because the Army has a law that animals cannot receive awards.

Sources to supply United States trained military dogs are from breeders in Germany and the Netherlands. To become a certified pup trainer is a credible career with specialized training. Various duties the dogs perform fighting alongside our soldiers include locating bombs, searching for drugs, tracking people and imitating an attack.  US Navy Seals use Belgian Malinois dogs who join their handlers to parachute from helicopters and rappel on steep inclines.

A life career for a military dog averages from 6-7 years before they are forced to retire. There was no program in place to find homes for these gentle giants so many were released or euphonized before 2000.  President Clinton passed a law that protected these dogs, now over 90% are usually adopted by their handlers. The Department of Defense handles thousands of adoptions and many dogs transfer their military skills to law enforcement police departments. A bomb sniffing canine has $150,000 estimated value. Dogs are 40 times more aware of a scent than humans.

The loving unbreakable bond between a human and a dog is described in the official poem selected by the K9 Corps to represent the regard for the canines that stand by our military men and women Guardians of the Night .

The phrase “Man’s Best Friend” gains more appreciation and depth as we honor our canine veterans on March 13th.

Ice skates, roller blades and roller skates

The second graders talk of ice skating as they come through the door. Indoor ice skating especially and they really, really like it. When I was their age, I was told by a friend of my Moms that my ankles were too weak for ice skating. Not sure how and why that conversation took place but my Mom never took me ice skating. In fact, I never put a pair of ice skates on because of it.

When the weather is nice and tarmac is dry, I will sit outside to this day and watch my 30 year old daughter roller blade. Both son and daughter as kids learned roller blading but I did not try that either. Weak ankles??? In 1980, Scott and Brennan Olsen, two Minnesota brothers, discovered an older in-line skate in a sporting goods store and thought the design would be perfect for off-season hockey training. They improved the skate on their own and soon were manufacturing the first Rollerblade in-line skates in their parents’ basement.

No, I did not roller blade or ice skate but I did get to roller skate. Eventually, though, it did break up a friendship. Dad’s old 8 millimeter movies are the first recollection of roller skating down the neighborhood street with my best friend. Those were the skates that clamped over your shoes and you adjusted with a skate key to tighten or loosen though the discovery of shoe skates were not far behind. Especially those that you could rent at the the nearest roller rink.

In the early 1970’s, one of my close friends was an amazing skater. We had moved to the south/ southwest suburbs and together we discovered the Oaklawn Roller Rink. Oak Lawn Roller Rink was a popular rink where Chicagoan’s skated for over 40 years and was located at 91st and Cicero avenue. My friend was attractive and knew how to cross one foot over the other as well as spin to any song. I tended to let her go and hang by the rail. I was an awkward skater as well as awkward in appearance. And, of course, I was jealous at the males being more interested in her than me. I finally stopped going to the rink. She stopped asking and somehow we grew apart. However, she did meet her husband of many years at the rink.

One day I finally learned to cross one foot over the other without falling. That was enough for me. Just tell me your stories of rollar blades, roller skates and ice skates. I will be happy to come, sit and watch.

Forever changing culture-our phones

By Caryl Clem:

On March 7, 1876 the son of a hearing impaired mother and instructor of elocution father patented a device to transmit sound.  On March 10, 1876, a ground breaking first-phone call from Alexander Bell to his electronics assistant, Mr. Watson was executed. Alexander Graham Bell had the simple desire to transmit sounds. He was a Professor instructing deaf mutes in Boston, Massachusetts. His beloved wife was an ex-student.

Fast forward a few decades while the marketing of the telephone for business and consumer use was growing by leaps and bounds.  From an article entitled, Telephone Tribute, the first directory had 21 listings in 1878, by 1900 over 856,000 telephones were in use.  1881 – Mr. Eckert, who ran a telephone company in Cincinnati, said he preferred the use of females to males as operators. “Their service is much superior to that of men or boys. They are much steadier, do not drink beer nor use profanity, and are always on hand.”  As inventions increase distance and quality, owning telephones becomes a priority instead of a luxury. Telephones symbolize overcoming communication distance with speed. Compared to the horse and carriages, early cars, and mail of the early 1900’s, a phone call seemed like a lightning bolt.

American music even reflects the impact of the telephone. Glenn Miller in 1940 releases Pennsylvania 6-5000, a popular jazz ensemble piece.  By the 1940’s code exchanges were developed to aid remembering a phone number. I grew up in a northern suburb of Chicago, during the 1950’s and I recall using MAjestic 3, and ONtario 6.  By the 1970’s, phone use was taken for granted.  From an Oscar winning hit  written by Stevie Wonder, “ I Just Called To Say I Love You “ 1984, or “Last Call” song  by Lee Ann Womack in 2008, and “ Hello” by Adele in 2015, demonstrates phone use remains a part of our lifestyle.  If interested, there are 100 songs with telephones as a theme through the decades.

Superman needed to change his clothes in a phone booth, not to mention the unforgettable adventure in 1989 of Bill and Ted in a phone booth traveling through time.  Movies such as Midnight Cowboy and The Birds have various phone booth shots. The first phone booth was in a bank in 1889, and the customer paid for the call after its completion. Within a span of 10 years, the new improved telephone booth used a prepaid system that stuck.  The first outdoor booth was present in 1905. The glass door models I hunted for while in college in the late 1960’s were introduced during the 1950’s.   According to this author, Nathaniel Meyersohn from CNN Money Watch on March 19, 2018, 100,000 phone booths still remain. During a natural disaster pay phone use stays active while other services tend to disappear.

My favorite phone improvement (1971) was being able to turn on an answering machine.  I could screen my calls eliminating worrying about a missed call and better yet, ignoring the calls you did not want to answer.  Ironically, the answering machine was available in the 1940’s but the fear of decreasing phone use delayed product development. I spent the first 40 years of phone use worrying about the length of the cord. New York Times archives in 1983 ran an article stating that “Cordless Phones Were Catching On”. I can’t imagine feeling chained to a phone again.

A cell phone that weighed 2.5 pounds was the last game changer for phone use. Inspired by Star Trek‘s Captain Kirk who had a communicator in his hand. Martin Cooper in 1973 invented the wireless, handheld cell phone. He hoped it would increase safety and freedom for consumers.  The bulky cell phone took several years to gain popularity before Motorola introduced a winner.  Voicemail and advancing internet technology keep advancing what cell phones accomplish.

Currently Smartphones, a minicomputer at your fingertips, dominate the market. Worldwide cell phone use keeps increasing, thanks to a room to room call made on March 10, 1876.

Dr. Seuss

Sally and her brother watch the rain pour outdoors while Mother is away. They have nothing to do. They have no massive TV, cell phone, computer, iPad and they can’t wait for The Cat In the Hat to step through the door in 1957, written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss and published on March 12. As an early reader myself when the book was brand new, I was terrified that the kids, the cat, Thing One and Two, would not clean the house in time for when Mother would come home. I also was so amazed at the massive machine the Cat came up with to clean the home.

As kindergarten students are introduced to The Cat in the Hat today, celebrating Dr. Seuss week, I noticed that the machine isn’t as entrancing as it was for us since households probably have all sorts of vacuums, carpet cleaners and electronic robots to take over the house work just like the Cat.

Geisel created the book in response to a debate in the United first published on August 12, 1960. As of 2016, the book has sold 8 million copies worldwide. Discussions were established about literacy in early childhood and the ineffectiveness of traditional primers such as those featuring Dick and Jane.

It was One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish that I can’t forget because Dr Seuss truly had a gift with the 1960s rhyming book.  You may not remember the story but always the title. Though I think the kindergarten class today liked the adventures of Jay and Kay. As of 2001, over 6 million copies were sold and in 2007, it was named one of the top books for children .

The next day in the class the teacher read Green Eggs and Ham. I forgot to wear green and I do not like Green Eggs and Ham, Sam I am! I kept whispering throughout the story that he was not going to eat those moldy eggs and ham. The children kept telling me that he was because this wasn’t about bad food, it was about friendship. I was quite amazed at their realization. Green Eggs and Ham was first published on August 12, 1960. As of 2016, the book has sold 8 million copies worldwide.

It was Wacky Wednesday. That is what we read and the children came in wearing all sorts of wacky clothes and shoes. I had forgotten about dressing up since I am just wacky anyway  so one student showed me how he had turned his shirt around and I did the same with my sweatshirt. He was pleased. Wacky Wednesday was originally published in 1974, one of my own children’s favorites.

Actually, Dr. Seuss’s birthday is today, March 2nd, 1904 and his second wife just passed away in December. Probably one of my favorite quotes “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
― Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday to you too, Dr. Seuss!

Saluting lovers of peanut butter

By Caryl Clem:

Savored American foods have a special recognition day.  I felt guilty about missing one of my favorite all American foods on its special day January 24th.  After reading the holiday list for March, I discovered my chance at redemption.  March 1st is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day.  My favorite 1950’s lunch, a peanut butter and banana sandwich nestled in my brown lunch bag alongside an apple and a homemade cookie. I refused to eat pink, slippery meat or anything that came out of a can. Even when high school offered cafeteria food, I kept a jar of peanut butter in my locker as a backup against hunger. I had learned that during World War I and II, peanut butter sandwiches were a military staple. The icon, Mr. Peanut, was shown wearing a uniform during WWII ads.  Today, Care Package Instructions for our honorable soldiers still suggest a jar of peanut butter.

We peanut butter lovers can claim kinship with Elvis, The King, who would fly a private jet to a restaurant in Colorado that featured his favorite peanut butter sandwich concoction on its menu. Even though the restaurant is closed, our modern social information network offers several how to video’s on YouTube explaining how to create Elvis’s Peanut Butter, Banana, and Bacon sandwich. Remember the detective Colombo’s trench coat with deep pockets he would slip food into during his scenes?  His snacks included hard boiled eggs, peanut butter with raisins sandwich or chili.  If you are a devoted older fan of peanut butter, join the adult Peanut Butter Lover’s Fan Club, and read posts from celebrities written by Texas hauntings.  Current celebrities range from Tom Selleck , Barbara Walters, Billy Joel, to Madonna.

John Harvey Kellogg (founder of Kellogg cereal) patented the first process for making peanut butter in 1895 by steaming the nuts and served it to his patients at his sanitarium. By 1897, the magazine, Popular Science News did an article covering “Recent inventions” suggesting that peanut butter could be used in cooking just as a shortening replacing butter or lard.  By 1902, a Mrs. Rore in her New Cook Book, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania published a peanut butter cookie recipe.  At the 1904 World’s Fair, D.H. Sumner successfully sold a peanut butter treat at his concession stand. New methods evolve, a Californian patents churning peanut butter and using roasted nuts improves the taste.

As a source of protein that was economical and tasty, in 1927 Peter Pan Peanut Butter was noted as one of the most popular snacks for that year. Are you a crunchy or creamy fan? The West section of the U.S. and males usually favors crunchy style while the Eastern section and females favor creamy.  Peanut butter becomes the new star in a cookie recipe dessert in 1932 published The Schenectady Gazette. A section of the cooking instructions includes the distinctive fork crisscross technique used to flatten the peanut butter cookie mound, to ensure evenly distributing the heat while baking.

Proving the popularity of peanut butter cookies today is the statistic from the National Peanut Board reporting 230,000 pounds of peanut butter are used a week to bake the Girl Scouts Do-si-do’s and Tagalongs.  Pillsbury recommends the best recipes for peanut butter cookies in 1933 and 1936. The Peanut Blossom claims fame in 1999 in the Pillsbury Hall of Fame Bake-Off. This recipe was from Freda Smith of Ohio who had no chocolate chips to add to her peanut butter/chocolate chip cookie recipe so she topped the mound with a Hershey Kiss.

Saving the best for last, Peanut butter (or its taste cousin flavor blending caramel and peanuts) with chocolate lay next to each other in a candy bar. Love and marriage mates in the candy world, ingredients that stick together with ease.  According to current Google statistics, Number 1 candy bar debut in 1930 named after horse-Snickers, closely followed by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup first invented in 1923 by a Hershey employee. To keep his invention from being stolen, Reese first appeared in vending machines. By the 1940’s Reese started commanding the store market. Butterfinger bars were dropped from planes to introduce the new candy. Babe Ruth from the same candy company as Butterfinger comes in last. In an age of changing food tastes, candy bars created nearly 100 years ago are going strong.

The standard composition for peanut butter requires 90% no matter what your brand choice.  The oldest peanut butter company, Krema Products Company, is still operating in Columbus, Ohio. No matter what you combine peanut butter with; you will never have to worry about biting off more than you can chew.  Holidays celebrating the influence of the peanut include,  National Peanut Butter Day-January 24,Peanut Butter and Jelly Day-April 2  (https://www.thedailymeal.com/eat/pinstripes-peanut-butter-jelly-menu/032718),Peanut Butter Cookie Day-June 12,Mr. Peanut Day-April 20, Peanut Butter Cookie Day-June 12 Peanut Butter Month-November