Legacy of bookmarks

I was attending a meeting with other assistants and teachers in our southwest suburban school district that contains three schools. As soon as I walked in a mother who now works in the district flags me down with her son beside her who is now in fifth grade. It took me only a brief minute but she said,” Do you remember my son? “I remembered him in kindergarten; a delightful boy who was a joy to work with and now a fan of the Greenbay Packers, like me. “He still uses all the bookmarks you made for him and he nods with pride,” she said.

The bookmarks???? Five years ago, it began….before the pandemic. When I started making bookmarks to celebrate all holidays in our school building. The school hosts kindergarten-2nd grade while the two other schools supported 3rd-5th and 6th -8th.  First, I began making them for the classroom I was in which was usually kindergarten and would try to personalize each with their name. Then, I would create a bookmark of something they enjoyed such as a unicorn which I distinctly remembering how popular. It also depended on the time of year or holiday.

They were three-dimensional in some way whether it be fancy heart stickers for Valentine’s Day or the great snowman with delicate snowflakes for winter break. And everybody usually got their favorite colors if my memory served me well. Sometimes if I was really in the mood, bookmarks would have an original saying such as follow your heart for Valentines Day.

After my first attempts, I would have the occasional student from another class ask if I had a book mark and so it began. I started making more….just in case. And for many that would go on to the next grade, my bookmarks followed. They would see me in the hallway and ask if I was still making them for my current students. I always had extras… given with approval. They knew where to find me. Again, never missing a student who needed that bookmark for their favorite book.

Last year, I did create bookmarks at the end of the year for a first grade class. Each in a plastic bag with a glow worm necklace following pandemic rules. They weren’t impressed. I had lost my touch with few stickers and variety. No, there is a difference in maturity levels in first grade.

I am helping in the kindergarten and have not made one this year. Maybe after the beautiful message from the fifth grader, following my heart and God, my latest bookmark beginnings will celebrate the upcoming holidays with the best snowman art I can create. But again, that is not what they like. It is just creating something handmade which is special to them even if it lacks variety. This is their first year of school and generally they are just more accepting of mistakes; trying our best, forgetting all the rest. Forging ahead with patience and love this Thanksgiving break…….the bookmarks are almost done.

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.

Where is the Wish Book?

After leafing through a small catalog mailer checking out the two page kid section, it was certainly far from grand as I remembered during my time when the Wish Book came in the mail at our house….just about this time of year, every year. For those that remember, The Wish Book was every child’s hopes and dreams to be eternally satisfied in gifts from Santa for the holiday season. The Wish Book was every parents dream to keep us busy marking the pages, even cutting out, and highlighting the most important choices that would be wrapped and placed under our Christmas tree. I made excuses to stay on the potty longer than usual, my posterior sore just to intensely study and plan with my Wish Book. This was no flimsy flyer. Published by Sears in the forties, fifties and 1960’s holiday additions where over 400 pages in length. In 1964,1968, and 1969 proudly boasted over 600 pages and it took two hands to carry. I finally cut out the Barbie I wanted and carried that around until Christmas.

How beautiful the dolls…. dressed in ruffles and fairyland colors just like it says in the book in 1964. There was Betsy Wetsy, the tiny kissing cousins, the exceptional Thumbelina. Barbie, Ken, Midge, Allan and Skipper, Barbies new dream house, vinyl cases and sculptured doll carriages priced as low as $4.98. Then there were pages of vanities with neatly filled cosmetic trays, Little Hostess Buffet, All in I kitchen in corrugated card board as well as all steel play kitchens and fully furnished Split level houses of sturdy steel for under $10.00 along with phonographs that never needed a tube replacement. There were tuck and touch needlepoint sets that were never that easy. There were paint by number which were my favorite that I still do.

Of course there were the 3 speed bikes, Gilbert train sets, Ford J slot cars, Gemini rocket to blast to the moon,walkiestalkies with code buttons to send secret messages. There were the electric build it sets and basic science club kits, chemical sets and wood burning sets in all shapes and sizes with an actual analog computer for only 5.88. Gas and battery powered miniature cars and planes and at one point motorized erector sets. Make things work boys, with your own 53 piece workshop with a workbench to match for under 20 dollars. And there were plenty of guns from the newest assault rifle to the western marshal outfit.

We both had view masters with our collection of pictures from Cinderella, Bambi, Batman and the Man from Uncle as well as an etch a sketch for under 3 dollars. I guess those were like our cell phones today. We both played music. For the boys, it was Roy Rogers Guitar, an accordion and girls tended to receive pianos in all different sizes.

And what about the games for the entire family? There was dominos, chess, checkers of all types,along with CandyLand, Cootie House, Dr. Kildare, Lie Detector, Dick Tracy, Snakes Alive, battery operated table top Pinballs.

And believe it or not, my wish book has finally arrived once again. Not in the form of back breaking print but I can peruse through the pages of several Sears catalogs from my time at Wishbookweb.com. I can thumb through the entire catalog while sitting on the potty with my phone.

I wonder if I could place an order too!

Aww…..the good old days!

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 everyday 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 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.

The magic of the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle

One kindergarten student went to the Museum of Science and Industry, loving the baby chicks as her favorite exhibit. I did too and so did my own children. But when I begin another trip in the room with the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle,I am constantly in awe. I am quiet and so overwhelmed by the intricate detail of the amazing workmanship, artistry and beauty every time I visit. Maybe I have missed something again. I always do. But one year, I finally bought a book before the Internet was a resource.

The creation is the ultimate dollhouse/castle donated by Colleen Moore to the museum in 1949. She was a  Hollywood icon and one of the highest paid actresses. She conceived and designed it with about one hundred Hollywood craftsman and designers between the years of 1928 to 1935. She spent about a half a million on the castle. It has toured the US raising over a half a million dollars to give to children’s charities. Currently, the castle has 11 rooms and wonderful stories to go with each room.

The following describes each room and the finishing touches that were fascinating to me and my children:

Kitchen: It was not just the Mother Goose fairy tale murals on the walls. The best thing I liked is the kitchen of the witch from Hansel and Gretel.

Dining Room: The tapestries on the walls are so intricate that you cannot see the stitches at and the silver ware and plates on King Arthurs table are made of gold. So many pieces are over 100 years old.

Cinderella’s Drawing Room: The floor is made from China combined with quartz and jade. There is a beautiful of mural of Cinderella. A grand piano with an illustration inside the top is an instrument I always wanted to play on. I took piano lessons for many years and taught lessons.

Great Hall: On walls, windows and the ceilings there are amazing drawings of several fairy tales. There is a rosewood table that has Cinderella’s slippers on it and the chairs of the Three Bears. Of course, the balusters throughout and the stairs are gold.

Chapel; On the prayer bench is a small bible. The smallest in the world and printed on real type. I always stared at the electric pipe organ with gold pipes and music pours from it. The stained glass windows are actually made with diamonds and emeralds taken from Moore’s brooch.

Library: Is a sea motif in beautiful blue shades. There are pictures describing the classic literature of Gullivers Travels and Robinsoo Caruso. There are over 100 real books in the library many of them handwritten by famous authors.

Princess Bathroom and Bedroom: The bath tub is silver and real water can flow from the dolphins mouths on both sides of the tub. The bed is the same that Sleeping Beauty, my favorite Disney character, slept in. There is also a golden harp instrument that I always wanted to play

Prince’s Bathroom and Bedroom: The bathroom is upstairs with a mirror filled jewels. The bedroom has a huge white bear rug with real mouse teeth that I was always a little afraid.

Attic: This is just like most attics. Things that used to be in other parts of the castle are stored in the attic.

Magic Garden: Another favorite of mine. I loved the cradle that rocked the baby and you could actually see Santa Claus all year round.

The origin of Candy Land

Candy Land has been another favorite game that I like to play. Especially with the kindergarten class during indoor recess. During the polio epidemic which many Baby Boomers experienced, hundreds of children were in hospitals and thousands quarantined at home in 1948. Strange times… like today. It was then that a young San Diego schoolteacher named Eleanor Abbott invented Candy Land. Abbott created the game inside a polio ward, as a patient herself; trying to inspire the sick children; taking them on a magical trip through Peppermint Stick Forest or Gumdrop Mountain. She wanted them to experience travels, far from this devastating illness. The game was made for them and tested by the children in the same polio wards in the hospital. They loved it and she pursued Milton Bradley. The boy at the start of the original game had a brace on his leg. The Atlantic offers a picture of the first Candy Land board courtesy of the Strong Museum.

Players had tokens which raced down a track of many rainbow-like colors. Drawing from a deck of cards, they would stop according to the card description or number of spaces suggested. Whoever finished, was the winner. According to some sources, Milton Bradley published the game as a filler to school supplies in 1949 but it then, of course, became their most popular game. Hasbro purchased the game in 1984 and at least 4 versions of the game have been made as well as many limited editions. As of 2013, Candy Land is being sold by Hasbro with a spinner instead of cards. The spinner includes all outcomes that were previously on the cards.

Last year, Candy Land celebrated 70 years of existence. Very little strategy is involved and that is why it sells millions of copies. It is simple; a game producing the feeling of magic and escape when you begin to play. It is easy to get lost in. Above, the board copyrighted in 1962 was different than more recent versions. But, this was my version as well as my own children since I saved that game for them. Even now as the pandemic continues and days are gloomy not being able to play with friends, we are still able to take trips with family through Lolly Pop Woods, Ice Cream Floats, always returning…on my game anyway….to the beauty of home, sweet, home. Regardless of what version you play, Candy Land will continue to take us down a colorful road of sweet surprises beyond the pain real life sometimes expresses.

 

 

Magical summers

Many Baby Boomers growing up did not always have their summers planned with vacations. Some went to summer camp and many, like me, waited anxiously for best friends to get home from camp so we could play or create the next adventure. Some of us had no place to go during the summer with the exemption of exploring the neighborhood because we did have full freedom to go outside and play on a nice day.  Full freedom to explore and be back by 6 for dinner or for some until the street lights came on. No fear of stranger… danger!

Sometimes, we would go to the local playground or city park such as Chicago’s Bessemer which had a community pool or Stoney Island Park, which was popular for its ball fields, now known as Jessie Owen Park on the South Side of Chicago. Of course, riding our bikes(without helmets) often doing all sorts of stunts to get there. Many families had plastic, above ground pools in their backyard…not so different as those today.  The backyard sprinklers were are last resort but always fun once turned on. We never got sick drinking from the hoses either. Playing hopscotch, kick the can, red light, green light, red rover, Chinese jump rope, jacks( inside and out.)

I am not sure if it initially came from boredom or just not sure what to explore next but we produced plays, musicals and all sorts of summer shows for our families. One my friends and I did was about Betsy Ross and instead of the infamous lemonade s tand we re-created the Sip and Stir on a front porch which was originally an ice cream shop in Old Town. We made chocolate shakes and decorated the porch with tissue flowers. Though unless we had help from a Mom, we had to make sure that cooler was stocked with ice.

If in junior high and a Chicago city kid, sometimes we would ride the local Illinois Central Train downtown for lunch in the Narcissus room at Marshall Fields. Sometimes we would ride the bus to Evergreen Plaza in Evergreen Park on the west side; one of the first indoor malls.

However, screens did come into play when it was a rainy day. You could select from 3- 5 channels. If it was Saturday morning, you had a variety of cartoons to choose. Prime television was generally in the evening and reserved as a family event after your friends returned home. Board games or blind mans bluff were always an option and some of us had indoor ping pong or pool tables that we were allowed to play in the cooler finished basement since some did not have air conditioning.

Saturday afternoons could offer corny black and white horror movies such as Attack of The Crab Monsters,Teenagers From Outer Space and I Was A Teenage Werewolf. This was all after adjusting the TV antennas which could take some time especially if weather was poor and Mom watching over you while you made Jiffy Pop, the best stove- top popcorn that you loved to gently slide back and forth over the burner and watch the foil expand to new heights. Evenings were always spent with my favorite paint by number set from Bargain Town or reading which was encouraged before I went to bed. We always took trips to the local Chicago Public Library branch. Today, I am an avid reader and love to paint for fun.

Raising children in the 1990’s actually was pretty similar to the 1960’s though there television sets had a lot more channels to select. And they still made Jiffy Pop and my kids loved to help. Personal computers were just showing up in homes and they were pretty bad. So were pagers used mainly for work and more Mom’s needed jobs. I still let my children take over the neighborhood on bikes.Though, they did not have the run of as many blocks like we did in the old days. They did play outside and established some creative plays to perform for parents. Games were similar like tag, Red Rover with the exception of Marco Polo, a new game at the pool. I found sometimes, as parents,we would get too involved in the preparation of games and adventures. Maybe,we should have taken a back seat more often and just watched them build their creativity and love for one another. A very difficult exercise.

Today, just give kids markers, chalk, paper, and even washable paint. Let them go for it outside. Give them boxes, paper towel rolls, saved cereal boxes, tape and let them create their own summer houses, vehicles or forts. Pull out old clothes, dresses and see what they can do. Let them play with their friends and learn together. As far as games,Duck, Duck Goose and Monkey in the Middle seems to be popular. Gathering by themselves to play without you is the best of time for your children during the summer.

But never limit your field trip trips to the local library. You can actually cook Jiffy Pop on the grill outside. And watch the entire shows and movies from the past on Netflix. Maybe true summer fun hasn’t changed that much after all.

A special trip to Chicago’s Our Lady of the Angels

Of course, what comes to mind for many of you my age and older, is the tragic school fire on Dec 1. 1958 at Our Lady of Angels school in West Humboldt Park. I was only three when my mother began to cry when watching the news. But I will never forget. Being taught fire safety in elementary school, teachers always referred to the horrific event that killed 92 children, three nuns and hundreds who walked away with significant injuries. Consequently, the fire did lead to major fire reforms in schools throughout the country and over 60 years later, you rarely hear of a child being hurt in a school fire.

Over decades, I have visited the neighborhood, saying a prayer, feeling the unrest and watching the massive decline. If you or your family were not involved in the fire, you certainly knew someone on the street that you lived who may have lost a child. The pain was too great and many moved on to begin a new start. In the late 1960’s, blockbusting occurred in many parts of the city where real estate practices essentially forced whites from their homes to create high housing prices for blacks. Whites also took the jobs with them and blacks were unemployed. Our Lady of the Angels couldn’t survive and the parish closed in 1990.

The school closed as a Catholic school first but was a charter school until approximately 2017 when given back to the Franciscans at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels . Fr. Bob Lombardo came to Chicago in 2005, at the special request of Cardinal George, to set up a mission outreach to help the poverty- stricken neighborhood that struggle with gang infiltration and drug trafficking on Chicago’s west side; one of the most violent areas in the country.

Many may not realize that  Fr. Bob erected the first on-site outside memorial for the victims of the tragedy, which was blessed by Cardinal George in 2007. He is a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. In Chicago, Fr. Bob has functioned as the founder/ director of the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, founder/ superior of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, a newly established religious community of young men and women living and serving at the Mission of Our Lady of Angels.

Fourth of July weekend I visited their monthly food pantry with an added bonus in which they gave away 80 mattresses for those in the community. They provide fresh produce, non perishable food, clothing, and household goods to about 250 families each month at their Mobile Pantry. They have 75+ volunteers that help and you can sign up at any time. Families can take a cart filled with food and volunteers will help walk the family to their homes as long as it is within a block from the pantry. But the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels does so much more.

The Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago are an extremely educated and talented group who have been invited to take part in pilgrimages throughout the world. In the beginning, Fr Bob graduated from Notre Dame University in 1979 with an accounting degree and worked at Price Waterhouse. It was shortly after when he found his calling to become a Franciscian and a priest with over 30 years of religious experience.

Sister Kate, originally a nurse, talked about her humbling experience working in the community and their excitement in being able to renovate the school for more program space and retreats. The Church currently provides Eucharist adoration as well as neighborhood prayer services while the original Convent houses the female Franciscans and their offices. The rectory currently houses Fr. Bob and the male Franciscans. Kelly Hall hosts their monthly food program as well as senior programs. And they have received incredible donations that have allowed them to re-build and continue their unwavering commitment to help others. It not easy being who they are, but their graciousness towards others is genuine, constant and truly God’s gift to all of us.

Those who believe that all was ultimately lost in that community after the unforgettable fire…..maybe not. For the Franciscans do pray for those lost in 1958 and their survivors. But their current passion is not giving up on their mission to improve the lives of others they meet today; reminding us who is always in charge with them.

They improved my life in just a few hours and maybe the blessings of the community angels……. many so young…… are assisting the Franciscans to trust and always have faith in God’s timeless love.

 

Memorial Day

By Caryl Clem:

Signs announce parade date, time information

Reminders of a deeper message

Our military personnel’s sacrifice and dedication

Battles remains, bloody carnage

Countless names and bodies

Final testament to fighting  bravely.

For those lost, not found, a painful memory.

 

Celebrate that their values did not perish

Invest in love, faith, hope and charity

Live these values with appreciation

So our freedoms and choices flourish.

 

Pay tribute to fallen soldiers in our military forces.

They insured Democracy is our past and future tense.