The last week

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless you all!

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 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 south suburbs: Chuck Cavallinis, The Cottage and The Tivoli restaurant

My mother and I moved from the south side of Chicago to Dolton, Illinois in 1970 living in an apartment at 15222 Chicago Road within walking distance of Cavallinis Restaurant at the intersection of Sibley and Chicago Road. I was a steak lover and it was here that she and I would have the occasional Sunday dinner. It was also here in 1976 that I had my first vodka gimlet; soon to be my drink of choice…then. Not anymore. It was also a favorite place of friends from Thornton Community College now South Suburban to hang out for lunch, dinner or to celebrate a special birthday. It was also place I visited in the early 1980’s to celebrate a special anniversary and almost fell asleep at the table; not knowing that I had mononucleosis at the time. Chuck Cavallini opened his first restaurant in Midlothian beginning as an ice cream shop in 1932 but then a family restaurant finally closing in 1989.

The Cottage in Calumet City was a wonderful French restaurant that was truly an exclusive dining experience. A friend mine took me to the new restaurant in 1976 for my 21st birthday and the food was so good that it became a major Chicago destination. The restaurant opened in 1974. It was owned by Carolyn Bust Welbon and her husband for about 20 years located on Torrence Avenue. It was a risk but the atmosphere was really special….just like a cottage….with the most tasty soups and swordfish that was out of this world. According to sources, the couple divorced in 1993, the husband brought in another chef but closed the restaurant in 1996. Carolyn passed away in 2017.

The Tivoli in Chicago Heights was opened in 1947 and grew from 50 to over 300 seats. It was an excellent restaurant located at 19800 Glenwood Rd but also offered banquet rooms for birthdays, funerals and weddings. My girlfriend’s daughter celebrated her wedding at the Tivoli. They offer great steaks but was known for its Italian cuisine. John Giobbi was founder and opened another restaurant called the Tivoli II in Country Club Hills. He was known for greeting many patrons by name. He passed away in 1990 and his wife, Dolores in 2007.

Worthpoint offers a wonderful menu that I remember, preciously holding in my hands. It is in beautiful condition with gold engraving. Inside it says may it always be bluebirds in your trees. Strange, how that memory stays with me decades later. Worthpoint also offers a vintage ash tray of Chuck Cavallinis restaurant in Midlothian in great condition; packed away for many years. I had just started smoking back in the days when smoking was allowed inside and I am sure I had shared an ashtray with several. Matchbook covers were available to represent The Cottage but no longer for sale. Wonderful restaurants enjoying friends and family are missed but not smoking.

A Looking Glass…..Colored Thankful

A reflection written by Caryl Clem

Thanksgiving season is a great time to reflect on the blessings in our life. Not all blessings are tangible because I am grateful for the time I spent in classrooms during my life.

As I walked to school as a child thinking the cold stern brick building with unblinking eye windows appeared formidable. I soon discovered that classrooms are alive with caring and sharing.  I thrived in the small town classes. Kids on phones are missing out on the secret note passing experience.

Magically through the years, friendships are at the top of the blessings list. I doubted my continued career in education then a birthday gift changed my mind. A small picture frame contained a big moment in life message: “ One Hundred from now…it will not matter what your bank account was, the sort of house you lived in, or the kind of car you drove, but the world may be different because you were important in the life of a CHILD.

Every time I view this silver framed jewel, like a movie reel inside my head a past teachers’ voice and smile surfaces. “I had talent. I must never give up. Believe in yourself and your potential.  Stay positive.” The same advice I carried into my classrooms.

When I asked my Dad for guidance on how to manage students, he thoughtfully replied: humor, compassion, preparedness. He said his favorite teacher opened every class with a joke, or some thought provoking comment.  I remembered my Dad’s classroom with an array of Salada tea bag sayings, quotes or Peanuts’ cartoon plastered on a bulletin board.  Dad urgently stated, “Listen to every student’s story, they need to feel you are on the same page with them.”

Years later, a few students have updated stories left unfinished when they graduated. A former gang member had a scholarship in Criminal Justice.  Another former gang member, now a mentor working with the Sheriff’s Department.  Students who thought college was not possible became college graduates.  A determined male teen opened a successful business with his older brother. Years of stories have convinced me the majority of students win in the Game of Life.

I am thankful for all the teachers who know the unbeatable formula, combine your heart and soul with the science of learning.  A classroom is so much more than a backpack with textbooks.

(the glass is available at ETSY)

Happy Halloween

For me as a Mom in the 1990’s in Downers Grove, it began when my son was only two and hated being a clown. That’s because the face Mom had painted on his delicate skin was way too scary for Halloween. He scared himself when he looked in the mirror and trick or treating was just out of the question. But it did get better especially when he was some sort of car robot with a mask and my daughter was a princess with her best friend as a cat…still a best friend today (above/color picture). As my son and daughter celebrated the season each year, costume decisions improved to include Robin Hood and a court jester, a baby. a Power Ranger instead of Super Man and a nerd with a huge dictionary….not a computer… Though there was one Halloween, that costumes were trash bags since the rain was incessant for trick or treating. That didn’t stop us. We also decided that a carved pumpkin was not enough so the house was dressed with lovely rust and yellow floral arrangements and a yard filled with ghosts, signs, funny gravestones, and spider webs throughout.

And the neighborhood was packed with children trick or treating; knowing the adults that answered their doors. If we didn’t have an appropriate trick or treat bag, a pillow case would do and besides the candy bars, suckers and Bazooka gum with comics, we would get even more like a popcorn ball. Sometimes we would worry about the occasional razor blade showing up in our candy but candy being spiked with chemicals was rare.

Now, though there are no grandchildren, I am assistant in a grade school and there is nothing more fun than watching the fabulous costumes, parties and parades every year. They continue to knock on the door, same door, on October 31st, 2021. Though the signs have become faded and the gravestones totter, new additions such as a family of scarecrows have been added, floral arrangements refurbished and my 30 plus daughter coming to spend a pre-Halloween weekend, carving the best pumpkin ever, while munching on roasted pumpkin seeds and home-made pumpkin bread.

Once a child, forever a child and another year of adding more pictures to that scrapbook or should I say, Facebook page instead.

Memories of the Pump Room

In my best dress, I barely remember eating in a beautiful booth with my Mom and Dad; one of my first Baby boomer childhood trips of elegance. In later years, I celebrated a friend from college’s birthday and excited about seeing the unexpected appearance of one of Charlie’s Angels; a TV series in the late 1970’s and Kate Jackson was her name from the program. My daughter also celebrated a friends birthday at the Pump Room in the 2000’s; bottom picture, my daughter, is second from the right. Dining at the Pump Room, opening on October 1st in 1938 and located at the famous Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago was a popular place for many celebrities who wanted to be seen such as Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, and even Judy Garland and her children. It was the infamous booth number one where they would eat together. It always remained vacant until someone important arrived. The table actually had access to a rotary phone where they could make and receive calls. They could also unplug the phone from the wall if they wanted privacy.

Ernie Byfield created the restaurant based on the concept of the original Pump Room in Bath, England, where aristocrats would meet and wanted the same for celebrities visiting Chicago. It worked. Another area I remember is the hall leading to the restaurant that for over 50 years have shared the framed celebrity photos that fill the walls of the room’s entrance, lives that are gone for many. The Ambassador East was located on the northeast corner of State Parkway and Goethe Street in Chicago ‘s Gold Coast area and later was renamed. Until the 1950’s, train travel across the US was the only way and celebrities would have a special cross-country Pullman car switching at the LaSalle Street Station. Sometimes they would stay overnight, but they did have a suite where they could freshen before returning to the train. Many stayed for lunch at the Pump room. Irv Kupcinet also talked about the Pump Room and his celebrity interviews in his column for the Chicago Sun-times.

According to a wonderful article by Dr. Neil Gail, Saving Illinois History One Step At A Time, in 2010 real estate developer Ian Schrager—known for cofounding New York’s Studio 54—buys the Ambassador East for $25 million. In 2011, assets are auctioned off including the phone and is remodeled which reopens as Public Chicago. In 2016, Schrager sells Public Chicago to investors Shapack Partners and Gaw Capital for $61.5 million. In 2017, the hotel is renamed Ambassador Chicago. Rich Melman’s restaurant group, which formerly owned the Pump Room, returns to manage the space and renames it Booth One. After a remodel, the team installs a rotary phone at the famed table. They actually operated the Pump Room from 1976-1998.

The Pump Room went through many changes before finally closing in 2019. Ebay offers some great items of the historic Pump Room including a variety of match covers, boxes and menus.

Songs still played in kindergarten

Working with students in kindergarten, it continues to amaze me how they are mesmerized listening to the same songs like I did in kindergarten over 60 years ago. And my own children reacted the same when they were little; 3+ decades earlier. One day I watched one little guy work on his ipad to the sounds of Go Tell It On The Mountain, Skip, Skip, Skip, To My Lou, Are You Sleeping, Brother John, also known as( Fre er Jac Que). I learned the French version of Brother John in third grade. Do You Know The Muffin Man, and B-i-n-go, B-i-n-go, B-i-n-g-o, and Bingo was his name…..O, more of the past. I thought that was it….done… until the teacher put on the video of the famous all-time children’s song Wheels On The Bus and he couldn’t stop singing….neither could I. The music we sang when learning the ABC’s is another melody where everything stops and they listen to the classic creative music. We play that every day just before we leave for home; a celebration song earned for a good day.

Go Tell It On the Mountain is a Christmas carol as its original lyrics celebrate the Nativity of Jesus: Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born. An alternate final line omits the reference to the birth of Christ, instead declaring that “Jesus Christ is Lord”. This is popular with Cedarmount kids who released a music series in the 1990’s. Skip to my Lou was a song produced in 1844 and was recorded by Judy Garland in the movie Meet Me in St Louis. BeeCeeDee is a popular You Tube channel for kids with entertaining vidoes of the old music and nursery rhymes with over 2 million followers. Are you sleeping…..is another video that you can’t stop listening to as well as watching.

Do you Know the Muffin Man was a traditional nursery rhyme for the Baby Boomer generation but back then it ended with the guy who lived on Drury Lane since the song originated in London. This was a street where fresh foods delivered, such as muffins, which were delivered door-to-door by a vendor known as a muffin man. The “muffin” in question was the bread item known as an English muffin, not the typically sweeter U.S. variety of muffin. Drury Lane is still a thoroughfare bordering Covent Garden in London. You Tube, once again, has transformed the song into a creative video with cartoon characters that also introduces the Ice Cream Man and the Fruit Stand Man!

Bingo was a folk song created as early as 1780 and has been transformed in a number of ways for children. Again, a Barney video created in 2004 with the Bingo song as well as number of videos that include the Muffin songs, the Countdown Kids, The Countdown Singers, the Little Series and Debbie Doo. “The Wheels on the Bus” is a traditional American folk song from the 1930’s written by Verna Hills in Boston, MA. The song is based on the traditional nursery rhyme “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush ” sharing the same tune. It was a popular for teachers to share in the 1950’s and has been translated into several languages. The YouTube video by Cocomelon is the one our school children delight over but YouTube provides many animated rhymes.

The ABC song is the same melody we learned as we watch the video by Cocomelon and as she writes the letters on a green chalk board just like ours and our children. The song was first copyrighted in 1835 by the Boston-based music publisher Charles Bradlee, and given the title “The A.B.C., a German air with variations for the flute with an easy accompaniment for the piano. Music done well never dies.

Highlights for children

A husband and wife team began a magazine in 1946 to give children Fun with a purpose (their tagline). And it worked, giving children the encouragement to learn in all different avenues that included stories, art work, puzzles, games and for me as a child, finding the hidden picture. It took me awhile to learn to read, write, and comprehend but I could not take my eyes off the picture page whether I checked it out at school or in a doctor’s office where Highlights were found for many Baby Boomers. Highlights encouraged me to read and now celebrating 75 years, Highlights has a book that is a collection of just hidden pictures. I have placed my order.

Founder Garry Meyers and his wife were teachers of illiterate soldiers and became nationally known in education for a column called Parent Problems and co-authored many books before starting Highlights. Their first copies only sold approximately 20,000 copies. In 1995, they sold over 2 million. Highlights circulation numbers declined by 2015, and the magazine announced that it would move some content onto tablets and mobile devices with the help of San Francisco startup, Fingerprint Digital, led by former LeapFrog Enterprises executive Nancy MacIntyre. The magazine launched a new mobile app Highlights Every Day, in April 2017.

Highlights today offers clubs and a variety of magazines including Highlights Magazine ages 6-12, High Five Magazine which focuses on pre-school ages 2-6 and Hello Magazine. With new discoveries in every issue, HELLO magazine is made for babies and toddlers. Durable, wipe-clean pages and stitched binding means they’ll enjoy it all month. They offer a great collection of picture, puzzle, arts and craft, sticker and game books for all ages besides the magazine as well great gift bundles. It’s never too early to inspire a love of reading!

Celebrating 70 years of Colorforms

When assisting in kindergarten in past years, the kids would share their version of colorforms with me knowing it was my favorite game to play as a child myself. But just last week I walked into a kid’s store and there they were…the original colorforms…dressing up for the weather just like when I was kid in the 1960’s but modernized. I also remember dressing up Tammy, the Beatles in 1964 and for the boys they gravitated to Batman and Scooby Do. In the 1990’s, my son enjoyed Colorfoms when he wanted to play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Curious George. Colorforms is easy with shapes cut from vinyl and can cling to a smooth background making your own special design. Colorforms is one of the most loved and respected toys beginning with the couple Harry and Patricia Kislevitz in 1951.

The first Colorforms® set was hand-cut: a thimble, a bottle, and a medicine container top were just some of the shapes that would become the foundation of the very first Colorforms set, designed by Patricia, and now housed in the Museum of Modern Art in its permanent collection. Colorforms® first launched through FAO Schwarz.  Colorforms first launched through FAO Schwarz and in 1957 Popeye became the first licensed cartoon character to be featured in a Colorforms set.

In the 2000’s, though Internet use boomed, Colorforms came alive with Harry Potter, Sponge Bob, Dora the Explorer and the Hungry Caterpillar. In 2011, Time magazine awarded Colorforms as the toy of all time. In 2014, Out of the Blue Enterprise acquired Colorforms. Billions of sets have been sold and Colorforms continues to make the best plastic creative toys, and I continue to gravitate towards any student who is playing with a set. I can’t wait to play.