Go With the Birds

By Caryl Clem

Birdhouses in yards are common throughout Illinois providing homes to the possible 400 species. This month in Chicago, WGNTV Published on April 12, 2022 by Mike Lowe and Kevin Doellman an inspiring story about how spare time during the pandemic for creating a project led to walkers changing course to view the hand painted display.  The article titled, Chicago neighborhood tree filled with colorful hand painted birdhouses is a gift to the street is proof of birdhouse popularity. Beyond the appeal is the need to provide shelter to 25 common birds in this region.

Trailside Museum of Natural History in Cook County sponsors a birdhouse building contest every year. Entries run from March 15 to May 15, 2022. The University of Chicago industrial design course includes a design studio for adobes to provide air circulation and feather comfort. The Southbank riverside park will feature birdhouses designed by University of Chicago students.  Chicago’s Botanic Garden created a bird apartment complex for Purple Martins that fly from South America every spring. A sign in Griggsville Illinois boasts Purple Martins have been credited for consuming 2,000 mosquitos a day. Named, The Purple Martin Capital of the Nation for 30 years from the 1960’s a Purple Martin housing industry flourished in this town run by J.L Wade. A 70 foot condo with 562 apartments dwarfs other pole structures on every street. Famous for their songs and areal flight maneuvers, Purple Martins are a favorite.

I have “regular” bird nest returners in my trees or outdoor light fixtures. I have a determined dove that rebuilds a nest every year over one of my garage beacons. The light pole in my front yard has had several different occupants that ignore the 45 year old maple towering overhead. Obviously, these are signs to provide better housing. Birds are my best friends as they consume annoying, biting insects. Simple birdhouse guidelines encourage birds. Earthy natural colors that blend into the environment are safe for nesting birds that do not want predator birds eating their young. Florescent, metallic, or iridescent paints contain chemicals that can harm birds. Brighter colors in a heavily blooming area attract robust fighter birds. Paint can make the wooden birdhouses more durable. Dark colors hold in the hot summer sun heat and can kill a bird inside. Swallows do not want a perch so an invader has a harder time to gain occupancy.

I believe to help nature maintain a healthy balance means “ Go With The Birds “ ,support them in your yard while enjoying a better solution to insect control than chemical sprays.

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.

Dining in Chicago’s north suburbs: The Country Squire Restaurant and The Rustic Manor

I was a teacher at Warren Township Highschool in Gurnee in the early 1980’s when I walked through the doors of this Grayslake mansion. I actually remember one visit where I wore one of my favorite lavender, white pin-striped dress with shoulder pads purchased at Chas A Stevens(no longer), sitting with a young friend and his Dad. I can see myself sitting at the clothed table overlooking the beautiful grounds. I remember taking my Mom, celebrating mother’s day for a special brunch and she commented about the magnificent clock in the lobby. I remember attending a special wedding of a friend in the banquet hall. Also meeting friends at the fireside reception or dark paneled bar was unique. Spending time on the beautiful property once owned by Wesley Sears, as a summer home, son of Richard Sears who owned Sears and Roebuck, was an amazing adventure; strolling through a courtyard that had thousands of tulips and daffodils. An iconic place that made Grayslake popular.

The house was built in 1938 with 17 rooms, eight bathrooms, and four fireplaces at the corner of Route 120 and 45. The Country Squire Restaurant was opened in 1954 by Martin and Edna Giesel and acquired by the Govas family in 1977. Patriarch William Govas died in 2008. The family continued the operation until 2012 when it was sold to Northwestern Medicine and completely raised to the ground. They closed without warning. Some claim to have venues booked there and had a rough time contacting anyone to resolve issues.

Again, another favorite of my Mom’s and many friends I worked with though different in decor was the Rustic Manor in Gurnee. One of my closest friends for 30 plus years, Caryl Clem, also a contributing writer, lived down the street; her family were Gurnee residents for many years. Caryl was a waitress at one time, wearing an Indian headband with a feather. Caryl talks about the red/white check tablecloths which was a trademark. There was a souvenir store inside the courtyard selling Indian artifacts and country decor. Gurnee was the Indian crossing point across the Des Plaines River so history was honored. I celebrated many family occasions at the restaurant. My Mom loved the Poor Man’s lobster. The restaurant was truly known for its western theme continuing inside and outside. It was also known for its taxidermy animal displays, as well as a waterfall that was there when you walked in the door. They were located on the northeast corner of Grand Avenue and Kilbourne, looking more like a house when they opened in 1947. According to what sources claim, the owners received their liquor license in 1945.

Victor and Marian Tryboms, along with their children Marjorie and Marvin, were farmers in Gurnee in the 1930’s and decided to give up farming to open the restaurant. The menu was based of Mrs. T’s family recipes. In 1986, the Desplaines River which was located behind the restaurant and Caryl’s home, also severely flooded. I remember helping her move out at the time. Even though the Rustic Manor tried to recover, a fire destroyed the restaurant soon after. The area was designated as a floodplain but just too costly to rebuild. The property was given to the Village of Gurnee and is now the Esper A. Petersen Park. Petersen was a businessman who helped donate the property.

Worthpoint offers a wonderful menu of the Rustic Manor and matchbooks on Ebay of Country Squire.

Pretty soon you will hear them prancing!

She found the book a few days ago; sharing her memory as well as my own. Twenty one years ago, my daughter wrote a Christmas poem, given to her teacher at Indian Trail school in Downers Grove to be submitted to the Anthology of Poetry since she loved writing. Though at times, I wonder if it was me more excited about my love of writing; guiding her my way. However, both of us strongly remember sitting on the bed working and I think there was a great deal of time spent at dining room table where arts, crafts and homework always took precedence.  I, too, had published in poetry anthologies and now they were looking for young writers. If hard to read in the picture, the copy of the poem is written in this article.

The poem was accepted in the 2001 addition. The editors accepted the poems in their format and punctuation; extending a warm thank you to those they selected as well as expecting great things from them in the future. Just being able to spend a wonderful time with my daughter then and appreciating her love now is what I call a great things in the future that the editor had hoped for all who had been published in the book.

Anthology of Poetry still exists since their first publication in 1990. Working with elementary, middle school and high school teachers throughout the United States, the AOP offers a professional forum for students’ poems and short stories. They also engage teachers in the selection process for our Teacher’s Selection anthologies. We recognize how challenging it is to develop a love for reading and writing in students when there are many distractions and few tools.

Christmas

Hang the stockings

Trim the tree

Make snowman cute as can be

Watch the snowflakes fall to the ground

Grab your boots and let’s run around

Drink hot chocolate from a Christmas cup

Build a fire to warm you up

Check the sky for Santa’s sleigh

He sure won’t be far away

Very soon you’ll hear them prancing

Santa’s reindeer will be dancing

The time has come for you to hear

Santa Claus’ jolly old cheer

You leave your room to sneak some peeks

At the man with the big red rosy cheeks

He piles packages under the tree

And turns around to smile at me

Then we go to find a treat

And we both sit down to drink and eat

When he is ready to leave I go to bed

And out of my window I see his fabulous sled

From high in the sky he waves goodbye

Until next year comes for my friends and I!

Home alone and more of John Hughes

It had occurred to me to write about this Chicago based movie last year since in 2020 we would be celebrating its movie anniversary, produced in 1990 but the draft had been put on hold. Everybody was writing about the infamous movie’s anniversary. Then I talked to a student at school this month and he could not stop talking about his field trip from Downers Grove, Il to the northside. He wrote about it in his first grade journal. He saw the Home Alone house! The Home Alone house is located at 671 Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, Illinois. and so I pulled some pictures online for him to verify. Oh my,,,,that was it though I had to be extremely careful. He knew the difference between older pictures of the home that did not have a fence around the house. The fence was fairly new to the property; keeping current onlookers at a distance.

My 30 + year old daughter and I have taken several field trips to the house too; some years ago with Starbucks in our hands. No fence! Home alone was and still is one of the favorite movies in our family. My daughter became a connoisseur of John Hughes films, especially produced in Chicago. Another family favorite was Sixteen Candles is a 1984 American coming-of-age comedy film starring Molly RingwaldMichael Schoeffling, and Anthony Michael Hall. It was written and directed by John Hughes in his directorial debut. In 1985, he produced the Breakfast Club. It stars Emilio EstevezAnthony Michael HallJudd NelsonMolly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy as teenagers from different high school cliques who spend a Saturday in detention with their authoritarian assistant principal. (Paul Gleason). Again, we traveled to Maine North High School in Des Plaines, Illinois, which had been closed in May 1981 and filming took place here for the Breakfast Club and Molly Ringwalds home in Sixteen Candles. Again, Sixteen Candles was mainly filmed in the north suburbs of Chicago. The Baker house is located at 3022 Payne Street in Evanston. The church (Glencoe Union Church – 263 Park Avenue) and parking lot where the final scenes take place are in Glencoe. Glencoe has become our favorite spot for a field trip to walk the beach.

Home Alone premiered on November 10, 1990, in Chicago, and entered wide release in the United States on November 16, 1990. With a total gross of $476.7 million, it was the highest-grossing live-action comedy until 2011. An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation. Home Alone has won one award after another and is considered one of the best Christmas films of all time. A sequel, Home Alone 2, Lost in New York was released in 1992. According to NBC Chicago, this year you can actually book a one night stay at the Home Alone house this holiday season. This can be found on Airbnb’s website for only 25 dollars, but you must pay for travel expenses to Chicago.

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)

Thankful for Chicagoland theaters

It was the Chicago theater where I went to see my first movie. Though only three, I remember sitting on the right side of theater only a few rows from the front; fascinated by the colors, magic and amazing action presented in Sleeping Beauty. It was also at the Chicago Theater that I remember seeing Mary Poppins in 1964 and Sound of Music shortly after.

Another favorite for Southsiders’ was the Jeffrey theater on 71st in South Shore with a vertical marquee that could be seen up and down the street. In addition, The Hamilton Theater was opened in 1916, for the Cooney Brothers circuit, in the heart of the South Shore neighborhood’s 71st Street retail district.

Evergreen Plaza in Evergreen Park was a place we could hang out with our friends and Evergreen Theater was added in a separate building located on the malls south side in 1964. I remember seeing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Originally Evergreen Plaza, the shopping center opened in 1952 as an open-air mall, with Jewel, Lerners, Kresges,Carsons, Chas. A Stevens, Lyttons, and Walgreens being early anchors. The mall was enclosed in the early 1960s, becoming the nation’s first suburban indoor mall.

After living in the south suburbs, the original one screen River Oaks Dimension 150 Theater was opened May 30, 1969 by ABC Great States Theaters. It had 1,600 rocking chair seats, a large curved screen, auditorium lights on the sides of theater that were dimly lit during intermission, and a giant curtain that opened from both sides at the middle. It was here that I saw the GodFather somehow remembering the horse head the most.

It was at the Ford City Mall Theater that I saw the Exorcist becoming one of the highest grossing films and the best in horror along with Jaws a few years later, of course, being released in the summer. Actually according to statistics, Jaws was the highest grossing film of all time until Star Wars was released in 1977.

Opening at the Biograph,was the Rocky Horror Picture in 1975 which probably gets more attention now than ever before, always accompanied by a live cast.

Throughout the early 1980’s, there were many others that included the 400 on Sheridan Road in Rogers Park and the Genesee theater in Waukegan which opened into a huge lobby with a large chandelier. The stage was created for live theater and movies. In 1982, the Theater stopped showing movies due to economic decline and the rise of major movie cineplexes. And in 1989, it officially closed and went up for sale.

The City of Waukegan purchased the building in 1999 and began renovations at a cost of almost $23 million with the help of over 120 volunteers. The Genesee Theatre reopened on December 3, 2004 and still a host to many old time favorites that include Huey Lewis, Gordon Lightfoot and REO Speed Wagon.

Pumpkin pies’ political past

By Caryl Clem

Before English colonists traveled the high seas to land on American shores, pumpkins were used as a vegetable.  In a Native American cookbook, Spirit of the Harvest by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs a recipe features baking a variety of savory seasonings with meat and rice inside the pumpkin.  As early as 1651 a French chef published a recipe for Tourte of Pumpkin in his cookbook that was republished in England in 1653. Wealthy landowner’s wives baked pumpkin treats. Farm wives stewed sliced pumpkins and apples together with molasses. The first Dutch lawyer who owned land in New England documented his opinion that the North American pumpkin was sweeter and more delicious. The Native Americans believed sharing meals together was a sign of peace and community, sharing the pumpkins with colonists was a sign of goodwill.

An orphan colonial woman was able to publish the first American woman authored cookbook.  The recipes were written in a different format than the English version and included a new vocabulary for cooking terms. American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, in 1796 showed she was a genius combining specific step by step instructions, patriotic terms for dishes like Election Cake and meals for larger budgets and servings. She blended the emerging American culture into her recipes: created the first leavening agents that lead to baking powders, used the staple of corn meal to replace the English pasties dough, and introduced the terms shortening, cookie, and slapjacks. Her cookbook provided an American culinary identity and a way to spread patriotic pride in the new countr

In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale, an abolitionist campaigned to make Thanksgiving a National Holiday. In her novel, Northwood the pumpkin pie portrayed as a most distinguished dish to serve at this meal.  Another abolitionist wrote the poem about the traditional journey to Grandmother’s house at Thanksgiving.  Released in 1842 by Lydia Maria Child, “Over the River and through the wood ended with a shout, hurra for the pumpkin pie. “ Instant recognition and fame spread as it appeared in children’s stories and articles in agricultural journals advising the benefits of eating pumpkins.  In 1828 a cookbook was published by popular Eliza Leslie that featured the pumpkin pie custard we eat today. The pumpkin was cooked; strained then eggs, butter, sugar and spices were added. This mixture was poured on top of a pastry shell with strips of pastry laid across the top. When Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a National Holiday in 1863, the members of the Confederacy in Virginia proclaimed it was a Yankee move to impose Yankee customs in the South. Taste buds finally won the political war as the love of pumpkin pie spread across the country.  In 1929, Libby first released canned pumpkin filling that became the answer to easy pumpkin pie baking.

After checking the top pie sales across the nation, Pumpkin ranked first, followed by Apple in a heated second.  National Pumpkin Pie Day is Christmas Day, Dec 25:  I am not waiting that long to celebrate this wonderful taste of fall.

The wonderful world of untapped innocence in the classroom

One kindergarten student was visiting a classroom and having such a terrible moment in class that within five minutes of him crying, two other kindergarten children gave him their special classroom rewards they had just received from their teacher.

For the last 40 days of school, a first grade student always makes sure the special needs child is securely sitting in their carrier seat on the bus and and tries to cheer him if he is having sad day.

Julie always helps five-year old Amanda on the playground when swinging on swings or going down the slide just to make sure she is having fun safely.

Five year old John helped another another boy, Tom, who was angry, pick up blocks that he had thrown so that Tom would have a better day.

Seven -year old Mary made a special picture for her friend that is very sick and was not instructed to do so. This gesture was created during indoor recess at school.

One boy always makes sure a friend that is new to school finds the right classroom he is in everyday.

Mira always asks another to play with her at recess or when they have a break because the other one feels left out.

Robert struggles with assignments but will sit and concentrate for a long time reading The Pigeon has to Go to School and many of the Mo Willems books as a special treat with his teacher.

A second grade student, Elisa shared her favorite book patiently with a first grader and helped her improve her reading, reading some words for her and sounding out others. She asked if she could help her in the future if she needed assistance.

Sheri McCabe, fourth grade instructional assistant, made a great Wonder Wall last year for a student she was working with and learned about the teaching idea from others on the Internet. She wanted to use it again so she put it in the room she is working in this year. She told the class about. Whenever they have a question about something they wonder about, they can put the questions on a post it and put it on the wonder wall and they will discuss them once a week. Sheri went back to the class a couple hours later and all these post it’s were up on the wall. Here are the questions they asked: How does it feel to be blind? I wonder how a rocket blasts off? Why is there school? Who made books? How do you drive a car? How is candy made? Do plants fart?

It doesn’t get much better than this. God bless them all!!!

I

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.