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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Picture:  a Chicago Speakeasy 1920)

Unemployment can be a blessing

Since the early beginnings of the millennium, I had been in more than one job followed by doing time on unemployment. Being a single mother at the time and sole provider, I had always taken the first job offer to put food on the table.

For most, becoming unemployed is a serious professional crisis that depletes energy, reputation, self-esteem, health and, of course, money but unemployment can be a gift.

Unemployment offers quality time to be there for others in our life who may be suffering from crisis that is much worse than our own. Our purpose is not what we do but what we can do for others.

Maybe it is in the divine plan that we are forced to take a break and focus on what is important. If not a coincidence, then how do you explain the repeated stories of individuals losing jobs only to find themselves taking care of aging and ill parents during their unplanned sabbatical?

One friend admitted about being able to spend time with Mom located in another state, planning and celebrating Mom’s 90th birthday and experience her passing shortly after.

Three months after her mother’s death, she was offered a job better than the one before her unemployment.

One of my own unemployment stints allowed me to travel daily and take care of my son who was hospitalized and my Mother, who was in a nursing home, all at the same time. My mother passed away in the month of August and I was offered a position a month later.

Maybe we are rewarded with our return to the workplace because we utilized our vacation time without pay to extend our hearts; a gift of love that keeps on giving love to others.

Ultimately, being unemployed offered me exploration; time to become aware of my own passions and realize that we are meant to utilize our talents with the sole purpose of sincerely guiding others to a better day rather than spend time off strategically figuring out how to win the lottery. Not knocking those that do. If you have the answer to that one, feel free to share.

What talents of my own could I use to reach those goals? For me, it was by being able to write about my struggles in life and career that could express hope in volatile times.

Unemployment allowed me to develop my writing talent and consistent belief about the price of gold in a positive attitude and becoming a true survivor. It was time for me to write about being a true friend. As a result, I have contributed to several publications but my message remains the same; for my readers to believe in their own greatness.

Maybe we are in transition in our career with a job that is not paying the bills and though we keep applying, interviewing, we just never receive the results we expect. Maybe we are suppose to be in that position, not for ourselves, but for the sake of our co-workers who really need us. Another divine purpose we may not recognize.

Small gestures, smiles, words of encouragement, and determination can define the blessings of unemployment. Helping others will find a place of life-time achievement in own our hearts; more important than any other type of awards we could add to our resumes.

It has been said that most in their final days never seem to reminisce or talk about their career, financial accomplishments and wishing for that bigger house….only the love we have shared with others .

Childhood road trips: Good Old Neon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remembering the mass murder 51 years ago in this house

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I still remember the light bulb.

 

Photo courtesy of Chicago Crimes Scenes

What Baby Boomers didn’t know

Those over 60 were taught that we would retire with a substantial savings from a company we had worked for all of our adult lives.

Unfortunately, our parents lied to us.

They did not teach us how to jump from one job to the next and still be able to hobble to the workplace at the tender age of 72.

They didn’t teach us about the healthcare market; astronomical costs to maintain our health. They went from insurance on the job that the company paid for, after decades of working for the same company and retired directly into Medicare.

They did not teach us that we would be competing with youth of all ages and that are experience and wisdom didn’t mean quite the same as it did for them in the workplace

They also did not tell us that people would be promoted whether they were qualified or not.

They taught us about establishing college funds for our own children but forgot to tell us how much we needed to send our kids to school.

They did not tell us that our tri-level home or two-story condo would cause havoc on the kneecaps and that a steady banister on stairs would actually be useful.

They did not teach us to celebrate our golden anniversaries and birthdays with a designated driver. In fact, they left out the part that one alcoholic beverage would knock us out and caffeine would keep us up all night.

They did not teach us organization tips like putting our keys in the same spot every day so we didn’t have to rely on failing memory to find them.

They did not show us the proper way to go down a playground slide with our grandkids.

Unfortunately, in their timeline, there was no way to teach us about internet violence, terrorism,  social media political back-stabbing, online buying subject to constant security checks and threats.

We were taught to never speak in public about politics or religion.

We were taught decorum and respect.

We were taught to trust.

They didn’t tell us that we would hate crowds, loud music, traffic jams and driving in bad weather. They didn’t let us know that we would be fearful driving in blizzards and that is why their older counterparts moved to warmer climates. Now we know!

They didn’t tell us that we would be screaming out 1973 after a song recorded 40 years ago had been played. Nor did they admit that 40 years ago would seem like yesterday.

They didn’t tell us about constant maintenance and more maintenance of the mind, body and spirit. And they didn’t tell us about the exhaustion that came with all that constant maintenance as well as a waistline that would continue to bloom regardless of what we did to decrease it.

Finally, they did not teach us how we should take care of them. They never wanted to go there and neither did we.

What We Do Have

When I take the time to look back and remember, my aunt used to always tell me that it was hell to get old. I was just too ignorant to listen. Why should we, old age was incomprehensible and would never happen to us. Surprise!

They didn’t say surprise when we started to falter or that, ultimately, old age would sneak up on us and be filled with all sorts of surprises.

It all depended on how you looked at it.

For me, however, they did give me one quality of life that is timeless and I intend to keep regardless of the aging factor and that is a sense of humor!

Hopefully, the rest of you can laugh at yourselves as the gifts of aging, keep on giving. 

And the love we shared in our youth for many is stronger in memory than ever before.

Actually, those are the healthiest resources we have!