The amazing life of Miss Frances

I don’t remember her since I was only about 3 or 4 but my Mother, who died the same year in 2001, did not like her because she always told the children on television to run and find their mother. And that is what I did, supposedly, every time I watched her. Miss Frances would then discuss with Moms what supplies were needed for projects. Miss Frances was the host of the children’s television program Ding Dong School, seen weekday mornings on the NBC network in the 1950s and nationally syndicated between 1959 and 1965. Each began with the ringing of a handbell. Miss Frances Horwith was extremely bright and grew up in Ohio skipping many grades because of her intelligence and love of academics.

She came to Chicago and earned her Bachelors degree from the University of Chicago in 1929. She taught first grade from 1929-1932 at a school in Evanston. According to sources, she then became the supervisor of the Works Progress Administration‘s nursery schools in Chicago until 1935. She earned a Masters at Columbia University, directed junior kindergartens and became Dean of education at Pestalozzi-Fröbel Haus Teachers College. Finally, she earned a doctorate at Northwestern and was in variety positions as a Chicago school counselor positions and taught at Roosevelt University.

Ding Dong School was a half hour children’s TV show which began in Chicago in 1952 and the first pre-school series before Romper Room by one year. Just after the show aired for the first time, the station received 150 phone calls praising the show. She was the only one on air admired by Fred Roger and activities could range from modeling clay to finger-painting. She had over a million viewers and won the Peabody Award but the show was cancelled because she refused to commercialize childrens education.

She was the author of over 25 children’s books and had moved to Arizona since her husband was having health issues in the 1970’s A month before her death, Horwich was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Chicago Chapter of the National Academy of the Television Arts and Sciences on June 2, 2001. She died of congestive heart failure at the age of 94.

Aragon ballroom

By Caryl Clem:

In 1925, Americans felt secure in the promise of continuing prosperity. Uncle Sam is boldly standing on the Peak of Prosperity waving a banner proclaiming, “Highest Living Standard in the World” in a 1925 political cartoon. The Chicago Tribune’s slogan, The World’s Greatest Newspaper spread the influence of Chicago style living.  Andrew and William Karzas in 1926 built a lavish Spanish castle style ballroom complete with stars and clouds moving across the ceiling.  Alcohol was prohibited, crowd control was maintained by “chaperones” and a strict dress code was enforced.  Classy, glamorous entertainment with live band performances, in Uptown near the “L” propelled the Aragon Ballroom into an instant success.

Wayne King played his saxophone and led his band featuring all the favorite love songs with waltz and fox trot rhythms.  He started recording with RCA/Victor in 1929. In a ballroom that could hold thousands, Wayne King sold millions of his records.  During the 1930-40’s decades romance ruled the dance floor;  song titles such as “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” – Cole Porter, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – Jerome Kern ,“Night and Day” – Cole Porter , “My Funny Valentine” – Rodgers and Hart“How Deep is the Ocean” – Irving Berlin .  Recorded in 2014 by Barbara Streisand and Michael Boule, a favorite of mine from this time period, “It Had To Be You”.

Radio was the main vehicle to transmit information and entertainment.  Chicago’s own WGN owned by the Tribune featured live broadcasts from the Aragon Ballroom since 1927. Not only were there stars twinkling in the ceiling but many star performers graced the Aragon Ballroom. In 1958, a fire next door to the Aragon closed it down for about 6 months.  When the Ballroom opened its doors again, dance styles and formality were changing. By 1964, the swanky ballroom dance era was over.  Top Hits from 1965 showcased The Beatles singing “Ticket to Ride”, “Help”, The Rolling Stones groaning about “Satisfaction” and the McCoy’s belting out, “Snoopy Hang On” introduced new styles of music entertainment. .

The Aragon hung on trying different venues such as wrestling, roller-skating and disco. Rock concerts lasting for 6 hours were held during the 1970’s.  Zack Snyder‘s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was filmed in 2015.  Eventually the new ownership in the 1970’s linked up with the promoters of Jam Productions. Currently, Aragon has hosted over 1,000 rock concerts in the last few years.  A picture of these events testifies to the ongoing popularity of entertainment.  In August 2019, the Chicago Sun-Times announced Byline Bank sponsors the Aragon, offering a full concert schedule of events that will start performing when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Photo found on Creative Commons “Aragon Ballroom Chicago IL.” by CharmaineZoe’s Marvelous Melange is licensed under CC BY 2.

Summer road trips

WRITTEN BY CARYL CLEM:

The travel bug bites again

Packing suitcases, phoning friends

Destination selection conversations.

Cheap gasoline fills tank for less than a five

The open road, 2 lanes with sparse road signs

Mom and Dad, navigators

John and I, back seat observers

Maps, snacks, Mom’s daily journal

Wallet ready, a cash withdrawal

Inked map messages bold dots

Time to buy gas town stops.

Cool cotton throw covering hot vinyl seats

Hours pass, I’m waiting for a place to eat.

Mom and Dad listening to radio fame

John reads, I play the alphabet game

Real ice cream milkshakes, fries, cheeseburgers

Truck stop diners to delivery done by roller skaters

Foamy root beer floats, dogs Coney Island style

Lunch was savored for many a mile.

Next surveying the landscape for Mom and Pop motels

Stark white buildings stick out, is there a place to dwell ?

Ready to call it a day sense of urgency

We felt lucky to spy signs flashing vacancy

61,000 motel choices

No credit cards, only green back dollars.

Today, guesswork replaced by internet options

Road trips remain an American pastime passion.

 

 

 

Fond memories of fine dining: Restaurants now extinct

Fine dining was a special favorite for my Dad and we went to a new place frequently. He was a business owner and that was the way he felt he could thank those that purchased his product. That was the way he thought he could teach his only child manners and grace. Though, I loved to explore new places , it was always the same as far as my food choice, a kiddie cocktail and a steak sandwich/medium rare without the bread. After he passed away, my Mother continued the tradition with me through the decades. Though long gone and my list could go on and on, I just included places that I had visited in the outlining suburbs/towns of Chicago back in the day.

Green Shingle in Harvey had exemplified true love from the early 60’s. It with my first date with my Dad in my best dress, shoes and gloves. It was my first steak sandwich medium rare but would not be last.After my Dad passed away, it was my second date with my college professor who helped to celebrate my birthday with fellow students;  that same college professor who passed away from cancer a few years ago. And finally, a date with my first boyfriend as we first held hands at the candlelit tabkle; killed in a car accident shortly after.

Dunlaps started as a concession but moved in 1937 to its Palos Heights location on 123rd lasting for 60 years. My father owned a business in decorative and auto glass. One of his clients was Dunlaps in which he created the smoked glass that enhanced visitors behind the long, bar still in exquisite condition when the restaurant closed. Even as a child and adult, I remember staring at my self, proud of my family contributing some part to an institution for great food including real relish trays with pickled beets.

Yesteryear in Kankakee,IL was a restaurant situated in the Frank Lloyd Wright home the B. Harley Bradley House located on Harrison Avenue. In the early 1940’s, my Mother lived in Kempton, IL and wanted to go to college. She rented a room from the Gates family who lived in the 400 block of Harrison Avenue  and attended Kankakee’s Business College.  The Gates, George, Ruth  and son Les became her adopted  family until they passed away in the late 1970’s. Les, who is 94, is still alive today. As a very young child, we would walk to Yesteryear which had opened in 1953. As a young adult, I attended a 50th anniversary of a family member from Cullom, IL.

Phil Schmidts, on the border of Illinois in Indiana, had been opened for 97 years . It was a place of many memories that included the celebration of events such as graduation parties. Known for their seafood, their most popular was frog legs and perch. Beginning in 1910 and closing in 2007, also made their own amazing tartar sauce.

The Tivoli on Glenwood Rd in Chicago Heights was also a favorite establishment especially for weddings or other family events. Though older when I visited the Tivoli, I had graduated from a steak sandwich to a wonderful porterhouse they served there and a broiled filet mignon topped with blue cheese.

The Old Barn in Burbank was a beautiful, elegant adventure for me as a child and adult dating back to the 1920’s when it originally was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Another great choice for wedding receptions and family dinners which had closed in 2008 and was 87 years. The Old Barn was especially beautiful during the holidays with leather chairs in the dining area and beautiful sofas and fireplace in the lounge.

Country Squire in Grayslake, IL was originally built in 1938 as the residence of a Sears family member and it was a mansion that became the Country Squire Restaurant in 1954. A breathtaking estate that I enjoyed often as an adult, experiencing on a date and also enjoying a wonderful wedding of a dear friend. I remember celebrating Mother’s Day with my own Mom  as she cried for its beauty and wonderful food.

The Flame, finally, in Countryside became another family favorite celebrating the same Mom’s  65th birthday there with her grandchildren. The restaurant was a classic with another dress me up atmosphere and the best in seafood and steak.  My love still was always steak or a Chateaubriand for two and for Mom, the best orange roughy she had ever tasted!