Ravinia Festival

Every type of music can be seen and heard representing the most celebrated, diverse music festival; the oldest in the United States opening in 1904. Ravinia, for me, brings memories of first seeing the Chicago Symphony orchestra; a mesmerizing experience for a young Baby boomer girl with her family. For my grandmother, it was known for the best opera in the 1920’s. For a dear friend, it was Earth, Wind and Fire. Born and raised in Chicago, my Aunt remembered the trains that would stop at the entrance. Trains still stop at Ravinia’s historic entrance today, serviced by the Metra Union Pacific North line, making it the only private train stop left in Illinois.

When it was originally built, besides including an amusement park, Ravinia offered a Casino, Grandstand, Music Pavilion, and a Theater which showed live performances as well as motion pictures. From 1919 through 1931, Ravinia was known as the “summer opera capital of the world and after the Great Depression, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra became a mainstay and still performs today. For five decades, Ravinia has made music more accessible through fine education programs now called Reach Teach Play® so attending student orchestra performances is not uncommon.

Today Ravinia operates as a self-owned nonprofit—the Ravinia Festival Association—still overseen by a volunteer board of business and community leaders, but now managed by President & CEO Jeffrey P. Haydon. The park and Pavilion are available for limiting seating this year. You can still bring your own food for picnics. A non-for profit festival shop is open for gifts and souvenirs. Ravinia Market, located in one huge indoor/outdoor dining pavilion, features five mini restaurants serving burgers, paninis, tacos, pizza, and barbeque. Dining options are run by Levy Restaurants (Spiaggia, River Roast, Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap).

Ravinia is hiring for all positions this summer including front and back-of-house positions for food operations.

Poplar Creek/Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre

It was at Poplar Creek that I saw Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band on July 6th in 1991. Our seats were located in the covered pavilion and were comfortable; the band easy to see and hear. Actually it was a great night and I am not the best at large, outdoor scenarios. The theatre opened in 1980 and closed in 1994. It consisted of a covered pavilion and grass seating area, and had a capacity of 25,202 people: 7,202 reserved seats and 18,000 lawn seats. John Denver was the first to perform along with great bands such as James Taylor, Chicago, and Jefferson Starship.

Poplar Creek began to face declining audiences even though it was suppose to be used for theatre productions, graduations and other shows. World Music Theatre was opened in 1990 in Tinley Park and shows declined even further at Poplar Creek. Sears acquired the property and now the Sears Centre opened right near the former Poplar Creek. At World Music Theatre, Cher was the first performer and I saw Garth Brooks on August 28th 1992. Friends were drunk during that concert and I did not enjoy like my experience at Poplar Creek.

Now called Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, it is one of the largest music venues in the Chicago area, with a capacity of up to 28,000 spectators: 11,000 reserved seats and 17,000 lawn seats. It is a venue pulling fans from the city of Chicago, as well as surrounding suburbs and neighboring states and had over 1,500 concerts.

Believe it or not, many concert ticket stubs from Baby Boomer days are on sale at Ebay. For those into collectable items, ticket stubs are a valuable commodity. Ticket collecting for sports fans is an avid interest and tickets can sell for hundreds of dollars.

Dairy Queen

By Caryl Clem

Hot summer days or nights call for a trip to Dairy Queen for the famous “concrete” served flipping bottoms side up to prove thickness. A tradition started when a customer kept challenging Ted Drewers to make his shakes thicker.  In 1959, Ted tipped the container upside down to prove the ultimate thickness had been reached. Some places will not charge for these if this trick is forgotten. When an Oreo cookie was crushed into a Blizzard in 1985, a legend was born. Sales climbed to over 175 million in the first year.  A farmer, J. F. McCullough and his son perfected the soft serve creation in 1938 now the largest seller of soft serve products worldwide.

In Kankakee, Sherb Noble, owner of a small ice cream shop agreed to execute a sample run of their product to gauge popularity. On a steamy August afternoon the ploy, “All You can eat for 10 cents “brought so many eager customers storming into the small shop, Noble was afraid of crowd damage. After surviving the 1,600 customers, Noble made plans to sell this new product.  Later a freezer was found made by Harry Otis that poured the soft serve treat efficiently.  J.f. McCullough has been quoted for saying, “the cow is the queen of the dairy business.” thus the name “Dairy Queen”.  In 1940, Noble opened the first Dairy Queen store in Joliet.

The first logo for Dairy Queen was a Dutch girl with pigtails.  Next logo, Dennis the Menace reigned for over 20 years until he was considered outdated to be retired in 2002.  The most important feature, the menu. This year the Dreamsicle Dipped Cone came back on the 2021 Spring menu, 3 new shake flavors, Choco Hazelnut Chip Shake, Mint Chip Shake, Raspberry Chip shake, Tropical Lemonade Twisty Misty Slush  (mango, lemon lime and lemonade) plus they reinvented the  1955 Dilly Bar  option that is gluten and dairy free. An array of soft serve favorites and (charcoal grilled food by Brazier’s at many locations will satisfy hunger and your sweet tooth.

Summertime food good for you and others because Dairy Queen’s charitable work is  done through International Dairy Queen Corporation which donates to Children’s Miracle Network. In the over 5,000 stores there are franchises that are independent. I am ready to try the new Tropical Lemonade Twisty Misty Slushy.

Introduction to the Good Old Days: The Fourth of July

I found them in a Victorian box the cover decorated with miniature roses of days long ago.  I remember the day which was cold, wet and a time where I had nothing constructive to do.  Being an only child, there were days like this so I decided to play in our basement and look through old packing boxes of memorabilia.

It was my grandmother’s box and it looked like it had contained real flowers at once time.  The box was like the cover of a book and had a gold binding.  Scripted writing said “roses for you” and I wondered if my grandfather had given real roses from this box on a special occasion. But it wasn’t dark and disintegrating flowers that I found beneath the cover, but piles and piles of 5 by 7 sheets of yellowed newspaper clippings.  There had to be over a hundred comics and in each corner the label read “The Good Old Days by Erwin L. Hess.

These had been printed in the 1950’s but their black and white pictures depicted the world much younger, in fact, beginning at the turn of the century. The detail of each comic frame reminded me of scenes from perfect doll house rooms.  You could look at one drawing several times and still not see everything.  This shows a celebration of the Fourth of July in 1954 but it talks about remembering 1919; over a hundred years ago. That is why I have taken out the box many times through the years.

Today, begins the journey of the good old days series and I will post a story and comic to match a topic throughout the year. Of course, I will also being doing other writings about everything and anything. However, you will always know by the yellowed comic chosen with label and title, The Good Old Days.

There is an expression that says “one picture is worth a thousand words”.  As you view the comics in later posts, not only do you learn about the past and its progression, but you will experience the artful moments of family, canvases of adventure, scenes of the seasons and just plain enjoyment. You will realize the milestones of invention, the joys of house and home, entertainment in different forms and that unconditional love for family or friends has never changed from past to present.

Erwin L. Hess was an artist for all types of comics and began “The Good Old Days” series  in 1947.  Believe it or not, the comics were still being published until 1981.

During the 1930’s and 1940’s, he did artwork for comics such as Roy Rogers.  He had also illustrated several children’s books.  He had become quite popular for his creation of Captain Midnight , another newspaper comic strip.

Burning with elegance: Tiki

Memorial Day weekend is a wonderful time to celebrate our military who have passed away but also enjoy friends and family entertaining outside on an exquisite spring/ summer evening. My own holiday weekend began on Friday, relaxing on my backyard deck surrounded by a new garden filled with geraniums, impatiens and a colorful of array of potted plants. But besides special conversation with guests, snacks and cool drinks, it was the new Tiki product that created an outdoor paradise.

The long lasting adjustable flame torch truly added to the party creating the perfect flame while repelling against mosquitoes. The easy-to-use knob control lets guests create the perfect flame height for every occasion and adjustable flame torches are available in five multi-use torch styles and four table torch styles.The citronella and cedar formula in this fuel provides proven mosquito repellent; working with all TIKI® Brand torches and table torches. It also comes in an easy pour bottle for fewer spills and less mess. One friend commented on how my Tiki torch really added to the atmosphere and worked to keep insects away. Burn time can last several hours.

For over 60 years, Tiki has provided outdoor torches to illuminate yards along with candles and molded glass table torches made in a variety of colors. Tiki continues to help create a beautiful, versatile design of style and decor in their products to suit any lawn, patio, garden or even a front porch.

Tiki can be purchased in packages such as a four pack of 57 inch Luan Bamboo torches or a three pack of 6 inch glass table torch packs of red, green and blue. You can purchase a Tiki Brand 3 pack pineapple paradise glass table torches.

But I think it was the next day of the weekend, I enjoyed my Tiki torch the most after everyone had gone. As the sunlight was diminishing, I lit the torch while finishing my final coffee, reading the last chapter in my book, and noticing some beginning to descend. It was then that I knew I would spend more summer evenings on my deck with a new flame by my side; keeping away uninvited guests. Tiki is the best!

Tiki products can be found at most major retailers, online on Amazon and at tikibrand.com.

Through the decades: Lake Lawn Lodge/Lake Geneva

My father loved to drive. He had a massive 1959 Oldsmobile Super Olds when I was four and then bought a 1966 Vista Cruiser. From the south side of Chicago, it was perfect for our summer trips to Wisconsin. The first time I met Bucky was at Lake Lawn Lodge, a wooded resort that was closed and re-opened in 2011 after 4 million dollars in renovations.

Over 130 years old, the lodge was built on Lake “Waubashawbess” or “Swan Lake”  which was the original name for Delavan Lake, given by the ancient Native Americans who called it home. Bucky, the friendly Native American, was on every wall, in every passage way, escorting us to the indoor pools, the gift shop and of course, restaurant and lodge. Over the years, Native American artifacts have been found on the property. This is the first place that I learned how to play patio shuffleboard on a deck overlooking the lake.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s. Lake Lawn was a popular retreat were you could stay at the Main hotel or one of the lodges that had its own indoor pool. Timber and Boulder was established in the early 1960’s and in the 1970’s; Shorewood, Norwood, and Woodlawn. The main hotel, however, was demolished in 1984.  Now, a new lobby and reservation area beautifully awaits guests.

And during the late 1970’s and 1980’s, since I could now legally drink, though the drinking age was only 18 in Wisconsin compared to 21 in Illinois, I spent more time in nearby Lake Geneva. Some preferred to stay at the Abbey; others… members of the Playboy club in Geneva which opened in 1968. We stayed for a pool and drinks in the late 1980’s at the resort…no longer the Playboy, but was the Americana. Now, the resort is the Grand Geneva.

However, it was the Sugar Shack that brought out the worst; still a world-class Gentleman’s club. Though, it was great for a bachelorette or bachelor party, and when I was there, the men kept their underwear on…thank God.  The Sugar Shack is one of the only clubs in the world to offer a completely nude male venue today.

Today, I would rather go back to the Treasure Cove which originally opened in 1985; now a true historical landmark. You can’t miss it on Broad Street with the giant mermaid out in front. The store was a great place for souvenirs that included fudge, mugs, t-shirts, jewelry and just a wonderful variety. Today, Turkish lamps can be purchased for a reasonable price, planters and Kisii Soapstone by Kenyan women who you are helping with employment opportunity.

Worthpoint offers a great collection of items you can purchase of vintage Lake Lawn Lodge

Where are the lightning bugs?

As I sit on the back yard deck during a warm evening, the true meaning of summer in June are the gently moving lights in mid-air.  I have not seen them yet. I really need to pay determined attention to the surrounding foliage and the stream that runs behind the property among the trees.

As a child, I did not have to wait for them to show up…they were everywhere. I was not mesmerized by their light show but more excited about collecting them as pets. Quietly, I would move to the light that seemed to be blinking on a leaf, off, as soon as I get close, on, and as they began to fly. I would cup one with both hands.

They don’t bite, they have no pincers, they don’t attack, they don’t carry disease, they are not poisonous, they don’t even fly very fast. That is why you can catch them in your hands and carefully place them in a glass jar with grass and maybe food. After collecting a whole bunch, you screw on the metal lid and keep them safe until morning. Mine usually didn’t last that long.

According to research and fireflies.org, fireflies are disappearing from marshes, fields and forests all over the country—and all over the world. Nobody knows for sure. But most researchers blame two main factors: development and light pollution. Fields and forests paved over have caused the number of fireflies to dwindle. Humans’ way of life have caused the firefly to vanish in many areas. For example,today in our backyards, there is too much light with all the solar lamps added to yards and pathways.

However, there are great tips today on how to still catch fireflies and keep them alive overnight:

  • Make sure you turn off any lights outside.
  • You should work with a friend and catch them with a net since this causes less damage to their wings.
  • Carefully take them from a net into a well-ventilated jar with long grass.
  • Add a wet paper towel to the jar. The fireflies should not dry out and will have more air.
  • They should last overnight but always release them after just one night.

If you really want to see synchronous fireflies today, thousands are seen during May and early June for about two weeks. This happens at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee which is actually a firefly mating ritual.

What dates you’ll begin to see fireflies in your back yard is somewhat of a mystery and changes from year to year. Generally, there are no fireflies west of Kansas. And I am not sure there are any here in Illinois either.

We have plants, water, flowers, tall grass and many shrubs..perfect for them to thrive. It is a warm and humid night. I sit and wait. I intensely scan…. my focus from left, to right and back again. Did I miss one.????? What kind of  fertilizers/pesticides are we using that may have a negative affect on fireflies?

Wow….look at the weeds, I just pulled them a few days ago. Boy, we are certainly not deficient in weed growing.

Where are my lightning bugs?

Summers at Lake Michigan

For me, it all began at Rainbow beach which also had an expansive park for picnics. I remember the water purification plant which is now called Eugene Sawyer Purification Plant. My memories of Rainbow had a lot to due with dead fish on the beach and closings due to poor water quality during the 1960’s so since the Southside of Chicago wasn’t that far from Indiana and someone had a car, we would head to Indiana Dunes.

The Dunes was less than an hour from Chicago so a day trip was perfect. Located in Porter County, the beach offered about 15 miles of sandy shoreline with great hiking trails and camp grounds. Though some people became afraid to go to the Dunes in July of 1966 since three young women in bathing suits left the beach, climbed in a small motorboat and were never seen again. Others found the Dunes extremely crowded and in the 1970’s so many of us gravitated to Warren Dunes in Michigan instead.

Warren Dunes has three miles of shoreline, six miles of hiking trails and is open year-round. It also has a dune formation that rises 260 feet above the lake with spectacular views and 1,952 acres of recreational opportunity. Located in Sawyer Michigan, the dunes was approximately an hour and 30 minutes from the city by car and you could take a train from Union Station. The beach was never crowded and always clean. Among the park’s dunes are Mt. Fuller, Pikes Peak, and Mt. Edwards, with the most significant being Tower Hill, the highest point in the park, which stands 240 feet (73 meters) above the Lake Michigan. And downtown Sawyer offered bookstores and antique shops.

Throughout the 1980’s, I lived in the Waukegan area teaching high school and sometimes spending my summers working other jobs or going to school. But did I spend alot of time at Waukegan Harbor and Illinois Beach State Park. In fact, I could hear foghorns from my kitchen window…only a few miles from Waukegan Harbor and the Marina.

The first times I sailed, I did with friends from the Waukegan Harbor and when we didn’t sail, many would fish and take a walk out to the lighthouse. One of the best seafood restaurants was located their called Mathons, which had portholes for windows and a friendly bar. On the fourth of July in 1987, we went down to the Harbor for fireworks and I was pregnant with my son. He had been fairly quiet up until that night when he kicked up a storm at listening to the sounds. He was born only a few weeks later.

The first time I said the words Illinois State Beach Park or was it Illinois Beach State Park when I was in third grade on a stage; terrified to speak. I was so worried that my informational one minute speech, completely memorized, would be botched. It was not by choice. It was a place in Illinois given to me by my teacher to research. All third graders was assigned this project.

That is the first thing that I remembered as a guest at the beach and park. Oh, my, it really does exist! Illinois Beach State Park  stretched 6.5 miles along the shore of Lake Michigan in Zion. The 4,160-acre park, consisted of two separate areas (North Unit and South Unit), which offered ample opportunities for swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping and simply appreciating nature.

In the 1990s, 2000’s and now, I live in Downers Grove with a pool and a pond in the back yard though I don’t think the pond would be good for you! (Caddyshack movie joke for some who remember. In the movie, the pond was better for you.

However, today, my adult children and I travel back and forth, up and down. We have taken a walk at Rainbow beach, had ice cream at the Waukegan Harbor, took pictures of what used to be the beer store at Illinois Beach State Park, explored the Dunes and added Michigan City to our travels.

All through one’s lifetime, great vacations still spent on the shore’s of Lake Michigan!

 

Chicago land vintage amusement parks

All summers in the 1960’s always included a trip to one of my favorite amusement parks. Only about three or four years old, the first I can remember was to Riverview where I traveled in the tunnel ride with my aunt and got a tiny stuffed animal, a monkey, no less, as a souvenir. One of my father’s favorites was the Kiddieland on 95th street in Oaklawn across from the old Branding Iron restaurant; my parents looking forward to a cocktail and dinner after my rides on the flying planes and the toy boats. The Little Dipper was the best at the Kiddieland in Melrose Park and Adventureland was the largest amusement park in Illinois from 1967-1976. Today, Santa’s village continues to capture the excitement of our children, grandchildren and some great grandchildren. The following offers more historic information on each park and the anticipated adventure every vintage child shared.

Riverview operated from 1904 to 1967….closing over 50 years ago this year. My aunt who took my father to Riverview in the early 1920’s remember him being deathly afraid of what became the most popular ride; the Bobs.  She also told me about her and my uncle Frank in the Tunnel of Love….though harmless for lovers in tunnels. Riverview was located in an area bound on the south by Belmont Ave.,on the east by Western Ave, on the north by Lane Tech High School, and on the west by the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Green Oaks Kiddieland located at 95th and Pulaski Road was the closest for me to visit as a south side child in Chicago and was closed in 1971… now a KMart. Opening in the late 1940’s, it offered all sorts of rides that were great for the very young such as army tanks. a beautiful merry-go round and a small Ferris Wheel which my Mom was always afraid. The Branding Iron restaurant across the street continued on until the 1980’s and had a second location in Downers Grove.  My father loved to bowl so having lunch or dinner at the Branding Iron was a treat since Oaklawn bowl was a part of the establishment.

Funtown Amusement  was located at 95th and Stony originally called Kiddietown. This park used to have a fire truck that would pick kids up for birthday parties. This kiddieland I did visit with my neighbors since it was in the same neighborhood I lived and do remember the moon rocket and go carts.

Kiddieland Amusement Park in Melrose Park  at the corner of North avenue and First Avenue was opened in 1929 finally closing in 2009. Now home to a Costco store. It began as a pony ride park and then a few years later, they added miniature gasoline-powered cars  which my family loved. The train, the German carousel and of course, the Little Dipper were my loves. The Little Dipper I could never tire even attending the park with my own children; all of us loving that thrill  when taking off and arriving  back in one piece. It was just enough to ride the coaster over and over again.

Adventureland was originally a restaurant know as Paul’s Picnic Grove and an attraction from 1958-1961 known as Storybook Park. This was the largest park in Illinois until Great America opened in 1976, another an amusement park that deserves its’ own article soon. Adventureland offered numerous rides that included Italian Bumper Cars and the Italian Bobs. But I always wanted to visit the Storybook Park that included Cinderella’s Coach and Prince Charmings Castle.

Santa’s Village, now called the Azoosment park,  is located in Dundee, Illinois, a field trip we would have to plan in advance when I was a child as well as taking my own children. Probably the most fun for myself and family were the bumper cars, twirling inside a snowball during summer and the pumpkin coach. On Memorial Day, in 1959 Santa’s Village opened and many went a few years later to the state of the art ice rink. Over twenty million people have visited Santa’s Village through the decades.