WBEZ | Chicago Suburbs http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-suburbs Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en How Blue Island fought off Chicago's annexation attempt http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-blue-island-fought-chicagos-annexation-attempt-109763 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/136868066&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>If Blue Island, a Southwestern suburb of just four square miles, once beat back Chicago&rsquo;s attempt to annex it, we shouldn&rsquo;t be surprised that they trounced other suburbs in a Curious City face-off.</p><p>Recall that curious citizen Jim Padden asked Curious City how Chicago grew over time by annexing its neighbors. (The answer? It&rsquo;s in an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/gulp-how-chicago-gobbled-its-neighbors-109583" target="_blank">animated map</a>).</p><p>But then, we asked you: Which Chicago suburb&rsquo;s story of resisting annexation do you want to hear more about?</p><p>Blue Island prevailed against Oak Park, which is on the city&#39;s western border, and Evanston to the north. I want to thank the&nbsp;<a href="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/forms/d/1hZ7pRixGl5BicB0a6JZQ7Iz94ZRrx9cTcgxD3Wn8GQQ/viewanalytics#start=publishanalytics" target="_blank">thousands of you who voted</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>If you&rsquo;re not familiar with the place, Blue Island is a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/echo-past-help-blue-island%E2%80%99s-future-105883" target="_blank">diverse, proudly working class suburb</a> of about 24,000 people. It&rsquo;s about 16 miles southwest of Chicago&rsquo;s loop, as the crow flies.</p><p>To get to the heart of why this suburb said &lsquo;No thanks&rsquo; when Chicago came knocking, we need to go back in time.</p><p><strong>Which is the city, which is the suburb?</strong></p><p>In the 1830s, Blue Island and Chicago were just whispers of their future selves among Illinois wilderness.</p><p>&ldquo;Blue Island is just two years younger than Chicago,&rdquo; said chair of the Blue Island Historical Society Mike Kaliski. &ldquo;So Blue Island was a stopping point for travelers going on to Chicago. It was still a day&rsquo;s travel from here to Chicago. So between Chicago and Joliet, Blue Island was it. There was nothing else and this was a big town. So Blue Islanders always felt maybe Chicago should be the suburb, not Blue Island. &rdquo;</p><p>But Blue Island remained a modest four square miles while Chicago grew, annexing its neighbors one at a time. By 1914, Chicago had sidled up to Blue Island&rsquo;s doorstep.</p><p>&ldquo;Morgan Park had voted for [annexation by Chicago in 1914],&rdquo; Kaliski said. &ldquo;So now, oh boy, it&rsquo;s getting closer. Now what are we going to do? So there was probably a little more urgency to the Blue Islanders&rsquo; frame of mind at that time.&rdquo;</p><p>Blue Islanders got to see what happened to their neighbors in Morgan Park after Chicago gobbled them up in 1914. For one thing, Morgan Park lost half its street names in the transition; its east-west streets took on numbers (e.g., West 111th Street), following Chicago&rsquo;s convention.</p><p>We dug out some old newspapers to give a sense of how the arguments for and against annexation played out. Here&rsquo;s an excerpt from the Blue Island Standard on February 2, 1915.</p><p>&ldquo;Who is Annexation Society? The writer afraid or ashamed to disclose his identity...The first gun in the annexation campaign was fired last Saturday when hundreds of circulars called Volume 1 Annexation filled the mails and found their way into nearly every home in the city.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>The anonymous &lsquo;Annexation Society&rsquo; flyers touted Chicago&rsquo;s public schools and other city services. But they didn&rsquo;t convince many Blue Islanders. In 1915, residents rebuffed Chicago in a landslide, with about 77 percent voting not to join Chicago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/blue%20island%20historic%20western.PNG" style="height: 207px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="Archival image of Western Avenue in Blue Island. (Courtesy of Rock Island Public House)" /><strong>Blue Island roots</strong></div><p>The outcome doesn&rsquo;t surprise Richard Bauer. The 83-year-old comes from a family whose roots in Blue Island run deep. He&rsquo;s a direct descendent of Henry Bauer, who <a href="http://www.blueisland.org/landmarks/33-bauer/" target="_blank">opened a brewery in Blue Island in 1858</a>. Richard Bauer was born 15 years after the annexation vote, but remembers plenty of stories about why it failed.</p><p>&ldquo;There were certain businesses and politicians that were very prominent and it wouldn&rsquo;t be any advantage to them at all,&rdquo; Richard said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;d be out. Naturally they&rsquo;d want to stay the way it was.&rdquo;</p><p>Richard said he never heard anyone in Blue Island consider joining Chicago again.</p><p>&ldquo;If there had been any talk it wasn&rsquo;t serious talk,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Jason Berry is a city planner and history buff who loves Blue Island so much he braved a blizzard to come out and talk about it.</p><p>&ldquo;We have our own identity,&rdquo; Berry said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a shock to me that in 1915 Blue Islanders also felt the same way &mdash; growing up in the shadow of Chicago doesn&rsquo;t mean you have to give up who you were. The pride that Blue Islanders have today you see echoed in these old papers. Blue Islanders always felt strongly about their place in history and I&rsquo;m glad that they were able to hold onto it.&rdquo;</p><p>Identity. That word keeps popping up. Sure, taxes, politics and plenty of other things factored into Blue Island&rsquo;s fear of annexation. But it seems that &mdash; for most folks I talked to &mdash; it&rsquo;s about identity.</p><p><strong>Identity and infrastructure</strong></p><p>It&rsquo;s one thing to have a strong community identity. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-how-are-chicago-neighborhoods-formed-103831" target="_blank">Plenty of Chicago neighborhoods do.</a></p><p>Shoot, Hyde Park was annexed into the city way back in 1899, but if you ask someone at 55th and Woodlawn where they live, odds are good the first words out of their mouth aren&rsquo;t &ldquo;Chicago,&rdquo; but &ldquo;Hyde Park.&rdquo;</p><p>So the warm fuzzy feeling of a Blue Island identity wasn&rsquo;t enough to fight off annexation. It had to have city services good enough to make Chicago&rsquo;s offers of infrastructure unconvincing.</p><p>A big part of it was that Blue Island had already secured a way of getting fresh water from Lake Michigan without Chicago&rsquo;s infrastructure.</p><p>&ldquo;They didn&rsquo;t need Chicago to come in and say, &lsquo;Hey, you&rsquo;re going to get water, you&rsquo;re going to get this and this &mdash; we&rsquo;ve already got it,&rsquo;&rdquo; Kaliski said. &ldquo;We got a contract and they already secured the water. So you gotta understand their attitude was we don&rsquo;t need you. We don&rsquo;t want to be part of Chicago. There&rsquo;s nothing Chicago could offer except higher taxes.&rdquo;</p><p>Blue Island was also bolstered by its connection to the railways and had diverse industry. It made everything from bricks to beer.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rockislandpublichouse_elliott.PNG" style="float: right; height: 200px; width: 350px;" title="Blue Island’s Bauer brewery opened in 1858 but didn’t survive until today. The the beer-loving tradition continues with a new business: Rock Island Public House. (WBEZ/file)" /><strong>Depending on diversity for future growth</strong></div><p>The only thing more diverse than the industry in Blue Island&rsquo;s past is its people. The <a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17/1706704.html" target="_blank">latest U.S. Census numbers</a> show residents are:</p><ul dir="ltr"><li>41.3% white</li><li>47% Latino (can include other categories)</li><li>30.8% African-American</li></ul><p>The city just elected its first Latino mayor: <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBsnlL7YcVc" target="_blank">Domingo Vargas</a>. He says Blue Island&rsquo;s diversity still keeps it distinct from Chicago and newer suburban sprawl to its west.</p><p>Blue Island businesses struggled in the 20th century to compete against suburban malls.</p><p>But Vargas &mdash; whose own family has lived in Blue Island since 1914 &mdash; says the suburb is poised to grow again. They&rsquo;re not making bricks anymore, but they are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/echo-past-help-blue-island%E2%80%99s-future-105883" target="_blank">brewing again</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Blue Island&rsquo;s basically been a community of churches. As well as the breweries. So from one extreme to the other,&rdquo; Vargas said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re coming back. The churches are coming back, the breweries are coming back, and eventually hopefully more of the small businesses will be the unique niches here again.&rdquo;</p><p>There&rsquo;s even talk now in Blue Island of making room for newcomers by snapping up a few bits of available land in the surrounding area.</p><p>Because, as just about everyone we met there said: Who wouldn&rsquo;t want to live in Blue Island?</p><p><em>Tricia Bobeda is a WBEZ web producer. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> @triciabobeda</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 24 Feb 2014 16:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-blue-island-fought-chicagos-annexation-attempt-109763 Suburban board election to be decided by coin flip http://www.wbez.org/news/suburban-board-election-be-decided-coin-flip-106923 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Stickney_130501_sh.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In April, the Stickney&#39;s Village Board of Trustees election tied with 573 votes for each candidate. Under Illinois law, ties must be broken by lottery-- usually a coin toss. So David DeLeshe and Lea Torres met at the Cook County Clerk&rsquo;s office to decide the winner.</p><p>DeLeshe sat at one end of the room, bouncing his knee. He said he had been feeling&nbsp; nervous since the ballot counts started coming in. &ldquo;Initially, I was down by four, then the next day by three, several days later it was down to a tie. So [I feel] anxiety to the point that I want it over,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Torres sat at the other end of the room, with a few good luck charms in her purse. &ldquo;There are just little holy cards from my mom, dad and mother and law. I keep them close to my heart all the time.&rdquo;</p><p>There was a&nbsp; brief discussion of using a half dollar or quarter from Illinois. But neither was on hand, so they used a Hawaii quarter.</p><p>DeLeshe won a drawing that determined who would get to call heads or tails. Then Cook County Clerk David Orr flipped the coin. DeLeshe called heads. The coin rolled on the floor, and everyone crowded around it.</p><p>&ldquo;There it is, it looks like a head. So David is the new trustee of Stickney,&rdquo; announced Orr.</p><p>Those who are skeptical about whether or not their vote matters, might want to consider that Cook County suburban elections have been decided by coin toss in both 2007 and 2011.</p><p>As for that quarter? DeLeshe says he will frame it.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h" target="_blank">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Wed, 01 May 2013 08:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/suburban-board-election-be-decided-coin-flip-106923 Park Ridge, past and present http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/park-ridge-past-and-present-106638 <p><p>Park Ridge is one of Chicago&rsquo;s older, inner suburbs, located about 15 miles northwest of the Loop. The name is descriptive of its park-like setting along a gentle ridge. Local legend to the contrary, it does not contain the highest point in Cook County.</p><p>The area that became Park Ridge was originally part of a Potawatomi settlement. After the 1833 treaty, people from New England and upstate New York began moving in. They were mostly farmers. Reflecting their Yankee background, they called the district Maine Township.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/A--Prospect.JPG" title="Welcome to Park Ridge!" /></div></div></div><p>George Penny was a driving force in the early years. When the first railroad came through in 1854 he opened brickworks near the line, and then arranged to have trains stop by building his own station. The community was informally known as Pennyville, until Penny himself suggested it be called Brickton.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>By 1874 the brick pits had been worked out. The residents voted to incorporate that year, naming the new village Park Ridge. Over the next decades the community took on the look of a traditional New England town, with large homes on wide lots and plenty of trees. Apartments were banned and industry discouraged.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/A--z--Park%20Ridge%20Map.jpg" title="" /></div><p>The 1910 census counted 2,009 people in Park Ridge. Anticipating annexation pressure from Chicago, the village reorganized as the City of Park Ridge in 1910. The population continued to grow steadily, reaching 10,417 in 1930. With its pleasant surroundings and convenient Chicago &amp; North Western rail service, Park Ridge had found its niche as a commuter suburb.</p><p>The depression came, and building stopped. During the early 1940s and World War II, some new housing was constructed for war-industry workers. However, away from the main commuter station, much of Park Ridge was still open land.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/A--After School 01.JPG" title="Picking up the kids after school" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">A new boom began with the war&rsquo;s end in 1945. Americans were moving to the suburbs. They were looking for the good life away from the crowded central city. They wanted quality schools and their own ranch homes. Park Ridge satisfied all these desires. The population rose to 16.602 in 1950. Twenty years later it was 42,466.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">And once again, location was important to the growth of Park Ridge. In 1962 nearby O&rsquo;Hare became Chicago&rsquo;s chief airport. Meanwhile, the metropolitan network of express highways was under construction. The suburb was at a prime spot, near the junction of two major tollways and the Northwest (Kennedy) Expressway.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/A--Athletic and Academic.JPG" title="Maine South High School--celebrating athletic and academic excellence" /></div></div></div></div><p>The sleepy days were over. With the expanding population and demand for services, Park Ridge moved to increase its tax base by encouraging office-building. A small number of apartments and condominiums were allowed. However, a proposal by Marshall Field&rsquo;s to build a store in Uptown was rejected, and commercial development remains limited.</p><p>New residential construction has continued, even though the community has reached maturity. Beginning in the 1980s speculators started buying small houses, tearing them down, and replacing them with larger dwellings. The &ldquo;McMansions&rdquo; caused some controversy. Still, it&rsquo;s acknowledged that they&rsquo;ve helped keep general property values high.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/A--Two%20Eras.JPG" title="Two eras of Park Ridge houses" /></div></div><p>Park Ridge retains a feel of uncluttered openness. The Cook County forest preserves along the Des Plaines River are just to the west. And the suburb even has a pair of its own man-made lakes.</p><p>If Park Ridge has a signature building, it&rsquo;s probably the Pickwick Theatre. The landmark structure has been in place at the summit of Uptown since 1929, and was used in the credits of the Siskel-Ebert TV show &ldquo;At the Movies.&rdquo; Another art-deco gem from the same era is Maine East High School. Hillary Rodham Clinton&rsquo;s girlhood home still stands on Wisner Avenue, a few blocks from the house where actor Harrison Ford grew up.</p><p>The latest census reported that Park Ridge has a population of 37,480. About 93 percent of the residents are identified as white, with the remainder mostly Asian or Hispanic.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/A--Murphy Lake.JPG" title="Park Ridge's own Murphy Lake" /></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 23 Apr 2013 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/park-ridge-past-and-present-106638 Palatine's deathly, intergalactic secrets http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/palatines-deathly-intergalactic-secrets-106723 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F88481381" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20palatine%20topper%202.jpg" title="(WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></p><p>The village of Palatine sits about 30 miles northwest of Chicago. It&rsquo;s marked with a water tower you can see from I-90.</p><p dir="ltr">Like a number of our suburbs here, Palatine was founded around the 1830s by settlers leaving Chicago&rsquo;s Fort Dearborn, who walked along various Indian trails until they found the right spot.</p><p dir="ltr">That spot, now Palatine, had its own trading post and railroad station by the 1850s. And the population kept growing. Now, Palatine is home to about 70,000 people. And it&rsquo;s also home to the state&rsquo;s largest space-themed roller rink, and a mini golf course located in the basement of a funeral home.</p><p dir="ltr">Sandra Levin bought <a href="http://www.orbitskate.net/">Orbit Skate Center</a> in 1992. In this audio clip, she talks about why she bought a skate center, of all places, and what that means to her:<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F88450687" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">We also meet Ryan Breede, an employee at the rink who&rsquo;s been skating for about 15 years. We convince him to teach us some skate tricks. Surprisingly (not), we&rsquo;re both pretty rusty. And yes, we do operate a camera on a tripod on roller skates. But Justin Bieber and disco lights keep us motivated. You should really just watch this whole ordeal on your own:<iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" scrolling="no" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/QP5JIMg1soo" width="560"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">All of those new moves really work up our appetite. We want energy for the trek ahead: the journey into the basement of Ahlgrim Funeral Home.</p><p dir="ltr">So we get a bite at a place suggested by Sandra, our roller rink owner: <a href="http://www.thepalatineinn.com/">The Palatine Inn</a>. She adds there is a museum of the village&rsquo;s history in the restaurant, and that maybe we would find it useful for our story.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20palatine%20inn.jpg" style="float: left;" title="The Palatine Inn (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Turns out, the museum is more of a one-wall grid of framed pictures once used in a calendar featuring some of Palatine&rsquo;s memorable history. This includes a human pyramid of Palatine&rsquo;s Mens Athletic club from 1918, mustached men playing cards at a saloon in 1900, an aerial view of the village from 1929.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">We stick around for the food. The Palatine Inn is the type of place where matzoh-ball soup, a BLT and rice pudding just seems like the right choice.</div><p dir="ltr">Around 2 p.m., we start heading to <a href="http://www.ahlgrim.com/">Ahlgrim Funeral Hom</a>e, but get sidetracked by <a href="http://www.spunkydunkers.com/">Spunky Dunkers</a> along the way. Spunky Dunkers is a doughnut shop owned by three sisters who have kept the place in its original everything. It&rsquo;s clean and cozy and lined with chrome bar stools under big windows. Newspaper clippings and photos of past employees are spaced evenly throughout the walls.</p><p dir="ltr">One of the workers, Doreen, has been there for about 10 years. She says she&rsquo;s not really a doughnut person, but she sticks around for the customers. Sometimes they go to brunch in a nearby town or play cards on weekends. She says her customers would kill her if she quit.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20ahlgrim%20hole.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Ahlgrim Acres is the mini golf course in the basement of Ahlgrim Funeral Home (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></p><p dir="ltr">We finally get to Ahlgrim Funeral Home. We were excited about coming here long before we even started our drive: It came up in a search of mini golf places one day, and we&rsquo;ve been scheming how to get here ever since.</p><p dir="ltr">The funeral home itself is familiar to people in Palatine - it&rsquo;s been around since the 1960s. But not everybody knows there&rsquo;s a death-themed mini golf course and arcade in the basement.</p><p dir="ltr">Bradford Hein, Ahlgrim&rsquo;s funeral director, explains how this whole thing got started and why it seemed a natural fit to open a golf course in the basement:<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F88451183" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">He goes on to explain the creative ways to bury people these days:<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F88451594" width="100%"></iframe></p><div id="PictoBrowser130418140311">Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer</div><script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser/swfobject.js"></script><script type="text/javascript"> var so = new SWFObject("http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser.swf", "PictoBrowser", "620", "470", "8", "#EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("source", "sets"); so.addVariable("names", "Palatine, IL: April 18, 2013"); so.addVariable("userName", "chicagopublicmedia"); so.addVariable("userId", "33876038@N00"); so.addVariable("ids", "72157633277356060"); so.addVariable("titles", "on"); so.addVariable("displayNotes", "on"); so.addVariable("thumbAutoHide", "off"); so.addVariable("imageSize", "medium"); so.addVariable("vAlign", "mid"); so.addVariable("vertOffset", "0"); so.addVariable("colorHexVar", "EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("initialScale", "off"); so.addVariable("bgAlpha", "90"); so.write("PictoBrowser130418140311"); </script><p><span id="cke_bm_202S" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><i>Rob Wildeboer is the criminal and legal affairs reporter for WBEZ.&nbsp;Logan Jaffe is a web and multimedia producer for WBEZ and Curious City. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZCuriousCity" target="_blank">@WBEZCuriousCity</a>.&nbsp;</i><span id="cke_bm_202E" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span></p></p> Thu, 18 Apr 2013 13:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/palatines-deathly-intergalactic-secrets-106723 Maywood, Illinois: A small village with a circus of talent http://www.wbez.org/news/maywood-illinois-small-village-circus-talent-106467 <p><p>There are two Maywoods in Illinois.</p><p>One is a 2.72 square-mile small town nine miles west of downtown Chicago that has produced a circus of raw talent ranging from NBA players to activists, folk singers and Emmy award winners.</p><p>The other is a Chicago suburb with a fewer than 25,000 people struggling with crime, blight, housing issues, poverty, changing demographics and identity.</p><p>On the south side of town, you have boarded up buildings, burnt-out brick buildings in a slow-state of repair, a quiet little downtown area and a Masonic lodge that serves as a Boys and Girls Club.</p><p>The north side boasts an eclectic mix of Chicago architectural styles where Frank Loyd Wright&rsquo;s students were said to have practiced. You can find 16 homes on the National Register of Historic Places, many tucked away in a quiet little neighborhood just west of the Des Plaines River.</p><p><object height="465" width="620"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633156114641%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633156114641%2F&amp;set_id=72157633156114641&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633156114641%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633156114641%2F&amp;set_id=72157633156114641&amp;jump_to=" height="465" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="620"></embed></object></p><h2><strong>You&rsquo;re in Pirate Country</strong></h2><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/PTHSpic0101.jpg" style="height: 211px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Image courtesy of Proviso East High School alumni site)" /></p><p>What the two Maywoods share, besides history and square footage, is a high school called Proviso East, which has proven a fertile ground for more than athletic achievement. The last man to walk on the moon, the inventor of the Sidewinder missile, the founder of BET and an influential member of the Black Panthers all attended the school.</p><p>Proviso East High School - formerly the home of the Proviso Township School District until it was split into east and west schools - is a focal point of the small town.&nbsp; Its colossal brick field house and impeccable blue track make it look more like a small college than a high school.</p><p>Rivaling the school&rsquo;s physical size is its lengthy list of impressive alumni:</p><ul><li>Folk singer John Prine</li><li>Black Entertainment Television (BET) co-founder Sheila Johnson</li><li>Dennis Franz of <em>NYPD Blue</em></li><li>Christopher Gardner, the inspiration for the Will Smith film <em>The Pursuit of Happyness</em></li><li>Dr. Walter LeBarge, undersecretary of the Air Force</li><li>Tony and Pulitzer prize winning producer Dennis Grimaldi</li></ul><p>At a concert at the school a few years ago, John Prine said: &quot;Boy, I spent a lot of time in this place, I had a lot of naps...it was rumored that the Dean of Students had a metal plate in his head, so we would carry magnets in our pockets.&quot;</p><p>The school&rsquo;s athletic prowess, especially in basketball, is legendary. Proviso players who made it to the NBA include Reggie Jordan, Steven Hunter (currently with the Denver Nuggets) and most famously Glenn &ldquo;Doc&rdquo; Rivers, the NBA All Star who went on to coach the Celtics all the way to an NBA championship in 2008.</p><p>Donnie Boyce also played in the NBA.</p><p>Boyce was born in Maywood and grew up just down the street from Doc Rivers.&nbsp; He was one of the so-called &ldquo;three amigos&rdquo; (along with Sherell Ford and Michael Finley, both of whom also played in the NBA) on the Proviso team that won the Illinois State Championship in 1991.&nbsp; Boyce played for the Atlanta Hawks in the late &lsquo;90s.</p><p>Two years ago he came back to Proviso, this time to coach.</p><p>For an ex-player with offers to coach in Europe, his decision to come home was a big one for himself and the community.</p><h2><strong>Fred Hampton&rsquo;s legacy of black activism</strong></h2><p>Another famous Proviso alumni is Fred Hampton, the charismatic activist who founded the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party (and became chair of the Illinois BPP). Hampton was shot and killed by the Chicago police in 1969. &nbsp;Hampton earned three varsity letters and graduated from Proviso with honors in 1966. Though he didn&rsquo;t join the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) until he enrolled at Triton Junior College, he seems to have developed his political consciousness and organizing skills at the high school.</p><p>While at Proviso, Hampton led student demonstrations and boycotts over a number of issues: disparities between the treatment of black and white athletes, the lack of black teachers and administrators, and even the election of homecoming queen, a contest limited to white females. <a href="http://www.westsuburbanjournal.com/Maywood/sep17_09_hampton_fred_article55624.html">He won a number of reforms and was head of the school&rsquo;s Inter-racial Council</a>.</p><p>After high school, Hampton continued his activism while rising to lead a Youth Chapter of the NCAAP. He led a campaign to get an integrated public pool in Maywood. Some demonstrations he was involved in apparently became violent, including one against a city board meeting in 1968.</p><p>Many associate the term &ldquo;rainbow coalition&rdquo; with the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., but it was actually Hampton who coined the phrase to describe the alliance he formed between the BPP, Chicago street gangs, youth organizations and student political groups.</p><p>Maywood has remembered Hampton by naming both a street and that very pool he fought for after him. Outside the pool is a bust created by famous Chicago sculptor Preston Jackson. But on Proviso&rsquo;s wall of famous alumni, Hampton&rsquo;s name and image is notably absent.</p><p>Still, not everyone has forgotten him. Donnie Boyce says Hampton had a big impact on him - in fact he thinks Hampton helped quell racial tensions at Proviso.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F86363109" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>Maywood Now</strong></p><p>In his 1978 song &ldquo;Bruised Orange&rdquo; John Prine described Maywood like this:</p><p>&ldquo;My heart&#39;s in the ice house come hill or come valley<br />Like a long ago Sunday when I walked through the alley<br />On a cold winter&#39;s morning to a church house<br />just to shovel some snow.</p><p>I heard sirens on the train track howl naked gettin&#39; nuder,<br />An altar boy&#39;s been hit by a local commuter<br />just from walking with his back turned<br />to the train that was coming so slow.</p><p>You can gaze out the window get mad and get madder,<br />throw your hands in the air, say &quot;What does it matter?&quot;<br />but it don&#39;t do no good to get angry,<br />so help me I know&rdquo;</p><p>If you talk to residents now, you&rsquo;ll find that some are mad. They are mad about what they perceive as high property taxes and water rates. They&rsquo;re mad about murder rates.</p><p>Even the mayor of Maywood, Henderson Yarbrough Sr. <a href="http://www.maywood-il.org/News&amp;Info/Newsletters&amp;Releases/Releases/2010/VoM_d042210_PropertyTaxAppeal.htm">says that property taxes are high</a>. He&rsquo;s held an appeal forum with <a href="http://www.cookcountygov.com/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_0_0_336_226_0_43/http%3B/www.cookcountygov.com/ccWeb.Leadership/LeadershipProfile.aspx?commiss_id=506">commissioner Larry Rogers Jr.</a> for three years running.</p><p>With a murder rate hovering near an average of <a href="http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Maywood-Illinois.html">eight murders per year</a>, and the blight of old buildings boarded up and empty houses, it might be easy take Prine&rsquo;s approach and gaze at the window and &ldquo;get mad and get madder.&rdquo; &nbsp;But with elections coming up on April 9, citizens have that one quintessentially American way of expressing themselves at their disposal. &nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 04 Apr 2013 10:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/maywood-illinois-small-village-circus-talent-106467 Skokie stores highlight print's past and future http://www.wbez.org/skokie-stores-highlight-prints-past-and-future-106098 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202013-03-14%20at%201.18.49%20PM.png" style="height: 383px; width: 620px;" title="Bob Katzman of Bob's Magazine Museum in Skokie. (Tricia Bobeda/WBEZ)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><p>Bob Katzman calls his store a magazine museum, but everything is for sale. The 63-year-old has been in the print business for almost a half century.</p>He started a newsstand as a South Side kid trying to make ends meet so he could keep attending The University of Chicago Lab School.<p>He moved his business to the Northern suburb of Skokie a few years ago. <a href="http://oldzines.com/">Bob&#39;s Magazine Museum</a> is one of 22 new businesses opened since the suburb&#39;s downtown revitalization project started, according to the local chamber of commerce. There&rsquo;s a new Yellow Line CTA station just down the road and the Village is funneling TIF money and other aid into this area.&nbsp;</p>Katzman&#39;s store is not a typical retail experience. But it is an experience. And it&#39;s is one of two businesses on Oakton Street in downtown offering a glimpse into the past -- and possibly the future -- of print publishing.<br /><p>Two claustrophobic columns of shelves holding more than 100,000 magazines shotgun back from the big front windows at that proclaim Katzman&#39;s store as &quot;Where Print Still Lives!&quot;</p><p>&quot;I wish I was valued more,&quot; Katzman said. &quot;Because what&rsquo;s the good of knowing this if people have an indifference. What do you have? You have 100,000 magazines. So what would I want? I&rsquo;d want Chicago to realize they&rsquo;ve got something remarkable.&quot;</p>His oldest publication is from the 1500s - an English publication railing against the Catholics. It hangs high on the wall next to the front page of a newspaper from the day Marilyn Monroe died.<p>Katzman worries that as the Internet gobbles up the world of print, it&#39;s more than just the glossy covers and smell of paper we&#39;ll miss.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that the present generation - which includes my children so obviously I adore them - is going to have an awareness of things that&rsquo;s a mile wide and an inch deep,&quot; he said. &quot;So they&rsquo;ll know who Davy Crockett is but they won&rsquo;t know all the other material. And you could say &lsquo;so what&rsquo;, right? But to me all of that&rsquo;s important. There&rsquo;s a lack of comprehension, a lack of depth and you end up with superficiality.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 1.18.34 PM.png" style="float: right; height: 233px; width: 350px;" title="Marc Hammond is co-owner of Aw Yeah Comics in Skokie. (Tricia Bobeda/WBEZ)" />Down the street at <a href="http://www.awyeahcomics.com/">Aw Yeah Comics</a>, relationship between print and digital is different.</div><p>Co-owner Marc Hammond says technology and social media are transforming the comic book industry.</p><p>Aw Yeah Comics will celebrate its one-year anniversary in April. It&#39;s a collaboration between Marc Hammond, who runs the store, and comic artists Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani.</p><p>&quot;There are a ton of really amazing [comic] shops in Chicago,&quot; Hammond said. &quot;We didn&rsquo;t want to be one of many stores in Chicago. We&rsquo;d rather be the store in Skokie.&quot;</p><p>Baltazar created a couple of characters - Action Cat and Adventure Bug - to be the store&#39;s mascots. They liked the characters enough to keep drawing. But would their customers want to hear about these super friends?</p><p>They took the question to the crowd-source funding platform <a href="http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1197720703/aw-yeah-comics">Kickstarter</a>. Their pitch: donate a few bucks and we&#39;ll be able to print the duo&#39;s adventures in comic book form. They set an initial goal of $15,000. The campaign closed last week after banking $47,483.</p><p>Hammond says digital tools like this democratize the publishing process.</p><p>A few dollars each from a lot of fans up front added up to enough to cover the cost of printing 12 issues.</p><p>Hammond said the comic shop and magazine museum refer customers to each other often, since their stock doesn&#39;t overlap. And they&#39;re both optimistic that downtown Skokie can add more traffic without losing its charm.</p><p>Katzman is no slouch when it comes to the digital world. He has a website and a Facebook page. He publishes his poetry online.</p><p>But some days, no one comes into the store.</p><p>&quot;I wish I was valued more,&quot; he said. &quot;Because what&rsquo;s the good of knowing this if people have an indifference. What do you have? You have 100,000 magazines. So what would I want? I&rsquo;d want Chicago to realize they&rsquo;ve got something remarkable.&quot;</p><p>He has no plans to retire and his children aren&#39;t likely take on the family business.</p><p>Katzman hopes someone make his dream come true and turn the magazine collection into a real museum. He&#39;d like to stick around as curator. Sounds like the start of a Kickstarter pitch.</p></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 12:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/skokie-stores-highlight-prints-past-and-future-106098 Echo of past to help with the Blue Island’s future? http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/echo-past-help-blue-island%E2%80%99s-future-105883 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BlueIslandMain.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="775" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/March/BlueIsland/2013_03_06_BLUEISLAND_620_INTERACTIVE.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Dave Brown, the owner of Rock Island Public House in south suburban Blue Island, hopes to prove people wrong when it comes to getting good beer in his area.</p><p>&ldquo;The reason we actually opened this bar was in part because everybody said it couldn&rsquo;t be done,&rdquo; said Brown. &ldquo;Everybody said there&rsquo;s no room for craft beer on the South Side. We feel that Blue Island&rsquo;s kind of gotten lost or gets a bad reputation.&rdquo;</p><p>Selling craft beer is not novel, of course, but it is part of what Brown sees as a new back-to-the future strategy of development along <a href="https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=205386033664818854506.0004d74bb50b3198d595a&amp;msa=0&amp;ll=41.652689,-87.682421&amp;spn=0.006381,0.009645">his stretch of Blue Island&rsquo;s Olde Western Avenue and Broadway Street</a>.</p><p>His building, like many on the block, has historic value and hearkens back to a time when Blue Island was teeming with industry and a sense of community. Blue Island was once home to many blue collar workers, but industry in the region has struggled. Residents have recently tried to revitalize the city through environmental initiatives and artist outreach &mdash;&nbsp;all while cautioning against the label of &ldquo;hipster destination.&quot; The large Latino population is strongly blue collar, as is the ethos.</p><p>And when you meet Brown and other area business owners, they&rsquo;re not shy about telling you so.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to emphasize there&rsquo;s much more down here than public perception leads to,&rdquo; Brown said.</p><p>The 35-year-old former resident of New Orleans moved to Blue Island in 2005 with his wife, Jennifer, who has been a longtime resident. Brown is also a part-time firefighter for the city.</p><p>Jason Berry, a city planner for Blue Island, told WBEZ &ldquo;You have a chance to be pretty progressive. We&rsquo;ve tried to do that with active transportation stuff with environmental stuff with music and the arts.&rdquo; He added that the city&#39;s trying trying to push, and it&#39;s great that &quot;The community all along seems to be saying yeah, keep doing it.&rdquo;</p><p>Business operators told WBEZ that there will soon be an opportunity for Blue Island to consider playing up its past and rejuvenating the retail environment, as Republican Mayor Donald Peloquin is leaving after a tenure of nearly 30 years.</p><p>&ldquo;This area of Olde Western Avenue could be really something special in this town because it&rsquo;s a historic district,&rdquo; said Mario Mendez, a lifelong resident and owner of Mario&rsquo;s restaurant.</p><p>&ldquo;This building was built before Abraham Lincoln became president,&quot; he said. &quot;This area could be very special if it was taken care of if the city devoted money and time into making it something that no one has around here.&rdquo;</p><p>Mendez pointed out several historic photos on the wall of his Mexican restaurant. Such photos are also shown prominently at Brown&#39;s public house as well.</p><p>That kind of civic pride is also on display at neighboring Jeben&rsquo;s Hardware, where customers can stand beneath antique airplanes suspended from the ceiling. A whistle can surprise visitors, too. The source? A model train that circles the store shelves.</p><p>&ldquo;I hope to see a new mayor that comes in to all of the businesses because even the chamber of commerce. This is what makes this community,&rdquo; said Judy Tuma, the hardware store&#39;s manager.</p><p>Tuma and Mendez both think the city could do more for Olde Western Avenue to help increase local business.</p><p>&ldquo;What I see is we&rsquo;re down here cut off from main street Blue Island and sometimes this area can be more prosperous and buildings full compared to what&rsquo;s going on uptown&hellip;. We need to clean up,&rdquo; Tuma said.</p></p> Thu, 07 Mar 2013 08:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/echo-past-help-blue-island%E2%80%99s-future-105883 Woodstock: Beyond the Groundhog's shadow http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/woodstock-beyond-groundhogs-shadow-105615 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F80126382" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Twenty-one years ago the town square in Woodstock, Illinois was just another idyllic little red cobble-stoned street surrounded by quaint shops and historic buildings.<br /><br />Then actor/director Harold Ramis, known for films such as <em>Ghostbusters</em> and <em>Caddyshack</em>, allegedly took a trip out to the far northwestern Chicago suburb and viewed the town and its square from the vantage point of the old bell tower in the town&rsquo;s beloved Opera House.<br /><br />He decided to cast the town, its square and its people in a little flick that would pump millions into the local economy and forever associate the place with groundhogs and Bill Murray stuck in a never-ending February 2.<br /><br />The film, <em>Groundhog Day</em>, was released Feb. 12, 1993, and more than 80 percent of the initial filming took place in and around the town square of Woodstock. Now more than 20 years later, the town and its people still venerate the chubby woodchuck enough to hold their own week-long festival that culminates in a prognostication to rival that of Punxsutawney Phil.<br /><br />Rather than attend the festival and join up with the crowds enjoying the festivities of Groundhog Week in Woodstock, we opted to visit the town a week after the festival, just to get a sense for what normal life is like there.</p><br /><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8490960300_bc98452275_z.jpg" style="height: 127px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>WBEZ producer Eilee Heikenen-Weiss and I arrived on a Tuesday morning to skies that were grey and ominous, much like they had been in the film, only we didn&rsquo;t have a threat of blizzard hanging over us.<br /><br />We drove slowly around the red-brick square, coming to a stop near the Starbucks, which was a block or so from the eye-catching Opera House in an already idyllic setting.<br /><br />In need of caffeine after the hour-and-a-half drive from downtown Chicago, we stopped into Starbucks only to find the place overtaken by the <a href="http://home.netcom.com/~fuffle/HTS/current.htm">Hollow Tree Spinners</a>, a group of fiber artists publicly spinning wool into yarn.<br /><br />&ldquo;We think that more people need to see people doing the crafts that are important to what the pioneers did and what people still enjoy doing,&rdquo; Jean Hervert Niemann, of Marengo, told us. &ldquo;The way you get to yarn. Most people don&rsquo;t even know.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8489860939_3be0ced98e_z.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="" />They show up every Tuesday and spread out around the large wooden table pulling combed fibers, some of it locally produced, into the diameter they want and then spinning it into yarn for knitting, crocheting or weaving.</div><p>&ldquo;The Starbucks is great, Niemann said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;ll see everyone in town come through here.&rdquo;<br /><br />It&rsquo;s not quite the place you&rsquo;d expect people to gather, but the Tom Waits on the sound system and the crafters suggested otherwise.<br /><br />Their husbands sat around the other end of the table chatting about beekeeping over coffee. And sure enough, as folks lined up for their beverage, they chatted amicably with the spinning club members about Alpaca, bobbins and skeins of handspun yarn.<br /><br />It was an auspicious start to the day, with barely a mention of land beavers or Bill Murray.<br /><br /><strong>The Opera House</strong><br /><br />The limestone, terra cotta and fieldstone building sits themed in beige and red colors as the main architectural feature in town, which befits its historical designation as the town&rsquo;s main attraction.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8489861825_b2db32cb0f_z.jpg" style="height: 234px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="" /></div><p>John Scharres is the director of the Woodstock Opera House. It&rsquo;s a city job, because the city runs the Opera House just like it runs the police department, the fire department or the library department.<br /><br />&ldquo;Historically, there were a lot of municipalities that had facilities like this,&rdquo; Scharres said. &ldquo;Especially in the midwest. You weren&#39;t a happening municipality if you didn&rsquo;t have an auditorium in the community for people to get together en masse to be educated, entertained or recognized for some important achievement in the community.&rdquo;<br /><br />If you watched the film, then you should recognize it as the Pennsylvania Hotel, a central location and backdrop throughout the movie.<br /><br />Its iconic bell tower is the place from which Murray&rsquo;s character tries to end the Sisyphean repetition once and for all by jumping off. &nbsp;&nbsp;<br /><br />Groundhog Day is not the only brush with Hollywood for the old building. Renowned actor/director Orson Welles attended the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock and began his career belting lines from the small stage in the auditorium of the building.<br /><br />Scharres said the stage is almost accurate to the way it looked in 1890, when it was built in the style of the grand theaters on the riverboats that once plied the Mississippi.<br /><br />&ldquo;Well, you can&rsquo;t use open flame in the lights anymore,&rdquo; Scharres said wistfully.<br /><br />You wouldn&rsquo;t know it to look at it, but behind the soft light and the antique fixtures and muted colors is a high-tech sound and lighting system.<br /><br />&ldquo;Probably the most technically sophisticated theater of its size really anywhere,&rdquo; Scharres said proudly.</p><br /><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8491083989_2ed9edd49d_z.jpg" style="height: 234px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="" /></div><p>It doesn&rsquo;t take much to get him talking about the town&rsquo;s entertainment prowess and Hollywood connections.<br /><br />&ldquo;Woodstock has a lot of history,&rdquo; Scharres said. &ldquo;<em>Scenes from Planes, Trains and Automobiles</em> were filmed here and Alan Arkin&rsquo;s <em>American Playhouse</em>.&rdquo;<br /><br />Like the 6 a.m. alarm clock in Groundhog Day, where you hear Sonny and Cher sing <em>I Got You Babe again</em>, and again, and again, the conversation inevitably returns to the film.<br /><br />&ldquo;We used to eat them, and now we celebrate them,&rdquo; Scharres said jokingly about groundhogs.</p><p><br />The first prognostication brought about 20-30 people, mostly from Woodstock. But as the film began to take on an almost cult-like status, the curious showed up to see the fake Punxsutawney, PA.<br /><br />Chicago day trippers, Midwestern weekenders and eventually buses full of Japanese tourists arrived. This year, just a few weeks ago in fact, there were more than 800 people there in the early morning of February 2 to hear the prognosticator of prognosticators indicate that spring would be early.<br /><br />Thousands more participated in activities throughout the week during Groundhog Days.<br /><br />Scharres calls it a slow burn.<br /><br />&ldquo;If it hadn&rsquo;t been such a successful movie, we would have not probably embraced it so much after the fact,&rdquo; Scharres said. &ldquo;If it had been something like <em>Dude, Where&rsquo;s my Car</em>, we would probably hide our faces in shame. But this has long-term staying power.&rdquo;<br /><br />Embracing the film might be putting it lightly.<br /><br />There are <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagopublicradio/sets/72157632808243325/">plaques in nooks and crannies</a> all around the square depicting where Bill Murray stepped and indicating Ned&rsquo;s Corner.<br /><br />There is somewhat of karmic cycle for Woodstockians too, as Scharres likes to call townspeople.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a blessing and a curse,&rdquo; Scharres said. &ldquo;I keep wondering what I have to do to get myself out of the loop, because we kind of live <em>Groundhog Day</em> here. On the other hand, it&rsquo;s been a really good boon for the city. We get a lot of positive publicity. We get a lot of tourists, many of whom come back for other events here.&rdquo;<br /><br />Woodstock is a big, old slice of Americana, and the town offers far more than a walking tour of an old Hollywood movie set.<br /><br />Scharres oversees all of the technical setup for the City Band, which performs all summer in the gazebo in the square. There&rsquo;s a jazz festival, farmer&rsquo;s market and parades. The city is definitely setting itself up to be a regional musical destination with its investment in the Opera House.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8490960420_fcec148a32_z.jpg" style="height: 234px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="" /></div><p>&ldquo;A lot of the basic structure was restored,&rdquo; Scharres said. &ldquo;This one we were able to year after year, bite after bite, do one project after another. We did a complete rehabilitation of the roof, reversed improper construction, rebuilt 114 windows, cleaned and rebuilt the stone work. And the reconstruction of the portico from old photos took 17 years.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>Stepping out of the Groundhog&rsquo;s Shadow</strong><br /><br />Like most towns, Woodstock has been impacted by the recession, and the challenges for city departments and small businesses are the same as other similar-sized towns.<br /><br />The movie&rsquo;s influence might be strong around the start of February, and the town certainly has made investments in infrastructure and development, but Bill Murray&rsquo;s influence won&rsquo;t last forever.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s sad,&rdquo; Jim Davis said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s kind of like we&rsquo;re still talking about the &#39;85 Bears.&rdquo;<br /><br />Davis has a front-row seat to the action on the quaint town square. He owns a building that houses his wife&rsquo;s telephone counseling business, The Divorce Busting Center.<br /><br />His business is not reliant on tourism.<br /><br />&ldquo;So you&rsquo;ve walked around the square? Have you seen the plaques?&rdquo; he asked us. &ldquo;Ned&rsquo;s corner. Bill Murray jumped off the tower. You&rsquo;d think we&rsquo;d have more going on here than that.&rdquo;<br /><br />He concedes that the square is pretty, and though he doesn&rsquo;t know what would make the town more viable, he knows exactly what he&rsquo;d like to see there.</p><p>&ldquo;Some good restaurants would be a great start,&rdquo; Davis said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s difficult in small towns to make them viable. Parking is a problem. It doesn&rsquo;t have the money that a Geneva or St. Charles has, but it&rsquo;s physically quaint.&rdquo;<br /><br />Speaking of food, we ate lunch at La Petite Creperie &amp; Bistrot, which is a popular lunch spot for locals and visitors alike. <a href="http://www.foodspotting.com/reviews/3136641">I ate the Pâté Sandwich</a> with fries and washed it down with a Dutch beer.</p><p>Even though there are dozens of good food options in Woodstock, the square has had its troubles.<br /><br />&ldquo;Restaurants have had a difficult time lately,&rdquo; Mayor Brian Sager told WBEZ. &ldquo;Some have had to shut their doors, there has been some turnover of our restaurants.&rdquo;<br /><br />But he says that&rsquo;s not abnormal for a place like the town square in Woodstock.<br /><br />&ldquo;We just revitalized an economic commission to talk more specifically with businesses,&rdquo; Sager said. &ldquo;How to help them and see what their needs are.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8490960534_1a84667821_z.jpg" style="height: 234px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="" /></div><p>More foot traffic, more music attractions and a general influx of food businesses would help, according to Sager.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think we&rsquo;ve identified as being themed as a dining and entertainment destination,&rdquo; he said. &quot;Events focused around music like folk, jazz and Mozart. It will bring people interested in music to square area.&rdquo;<br /><br />But so does Bill Murray&rsquo;s bronze shoe imprint on a sidewalk next to a Mexican restaurant formerly built as a prop for the cafe scenes in <em>Groundhog Day</em>, for now.<br /><br />The trick will be to figure out what draws people to Woodstock in 20 years.<br /><br />And the town is betting its going to be their quaint, idyllic movie-set of a town square.<br /><br />&ldquo;Come here on a summer Wednesday and the band is playing in the gazebo, the birds are chirping and the sun is shining,&rdquo; John Scharres said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s like something out of a picture book.&rdquo;</p><p><object height="520" width="620"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157632755935777%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157632755935777%2F&amp;set_id=72157632755935777&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157632755935777%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157632755935777%2F&amp;set_id=72157632755935777&amp;jump_to=" height="520" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="620"></embed></object></p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/takimoff" rel="author">Tim Akimoff</a> is the digital content editor at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/timakimoff"> Twitter </a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/timakimoff"> Facebook </a></p> Tue, 19 Feb 2013 17:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/woodstock-beyond-groundhogs-shadow-105615 A Forest Park vet struggles to keep others out of homelessness http://www.wbez.org/news/forest-park-vet-struggles-keep-others-out-homelessness-105502 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79127553&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>When I met Homer Bizzle in his tiny food pantry in west suburban Forest Park, the lights were off.</p><p>Even though the pantry, called America Cares Too, had been open all day, Bizzle said the darkness was typical.</p><p>&ldquo;We just trying to conserve lights, cause, non-profit, you know,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Bizzle started the service project for vets and their families in 2011 after leaving the Army Reserves. He&rsquo;s been running the project on volunteer labor and financing it with small donations and cash out of his own paycheck.</p><p>&ldquo;I just wanted to give back to my fellow veterans and their families,&rdquo; Bizzle said.</p><p>By day, the 33-year-old native of the Austin neighborhood is an advocate for people with disabilities. In the evenings, he heads over to the his spare storefront on W. Harrison St. to meet up with the vets who come here seeking support.</p><p><strong>The battle at home</strong></p><p>In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama announced that 34,000 troops will be home from Afghanistan by this time next year. That&rsquo;s a little over half the remaining troops in what most consider America&rsquo;s longest war.</p><p>But when they get here, many military vets face new, even longer battles - battles with trauma and homelessness. Many come home with mental or physical disabilities, and all come home to a slouching economy. Unemployment among veterans is higher than the national average, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/discrimination-against-our-countrys-heroes-103510" target="_blank">veteran status itself can be a stigma in a job search</a>. One in three men living on the streets is a veteran (although <a href="http://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/USICH-_Report_to_Congress_on_Homeless_Veterans.pdf" target="_blank">those numbers have declined in recent years</a>). And a recent study estimates that 22 vets commit suicide every day in the U.S.</p><p>All of this is familiar to Bizzle.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7008_009-scr.JPG" style="float: right; height: 169px; width: 320px;" title="The America Cares Too storefront in Forest Park (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>&ldquo;Some of them suffer from PTSD, some anxiety, some have flash backs, shell shock...&rdquo; Bizzle said of the vets he serves.</p><p>While the VA does offer mental health services, Bizzle said traumatized vets who don&rsquo;t feel they can trust the government aren&rsquo;t left with many options.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s kinda hard for a soldier that&rsquo;s coming off active duty to get those kinda treatments in the civilian world because everything costs money, unfortunately,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>He believes the best solutions can come from veterans themselves.</p><p>&ldquo;No offense to politicians but they don&rsquo;t understand the veterans situation, and by me being a veteran I could understand our own situation, the problems we deal with,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The main room at America Cares Too contains a donated TV and a desk with no phone (Bizzle uses his cellphone to run the project because the ComEd bill was too high).</p><p>Three computers sit on folding tables donated by a recovery group that meets next door. And in the back there&rsquo;s a spare office where Bizzle keeps vets&rsquo; files. The walls are lines with boxes of donated toys and socks and underwear purchased with TJ Maxx and Target gift cards. Bizzle&rsquo;s appeals to local government bodies and the VA for financial support <a href="http://austintalks.org/2013/01/former-austin-resident-starts-veterans-nonprofit/" target="_blank">have been unsuccessful so far</a>.</p><p><strong>A chronic lack of support</strong></p><p>This month Esquire reported that the Navy Seal who shot Osama Bin Laden is jobless and living without health insurance. The headline: <a href="http://www.esquire.com/features/man-who-shot-osama-bin-laden-0313" target="_blank">&ldquo;The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden...Is Screwed.&rdquo;</a> Although Esquire&rsquo;s story can&rsquo;t be independently verified - the man in question chose to remain anonymous for his own safety - it reflects a widespread disappointment in the services provided by the state for vets, especially younger vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the case of &ldquo;the shooter,&rdquo; as he&rsquo;s called in Esquire, the Navy Seal retired after 16 years of service. That meant no pension, and no more health care for his family. The cutoff point for long-term support is 20 years of service.</p><p>Bizzle&rsquo;s located just a couple miles from the Hines VA Hospital, which helps thousands of vets each year. The Hines complex includes housing for homeless vets, and a network of social service providers. I called them to ask how a vet would end up at a little joint like Bizzle&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;I think the predominant reasons are, there are a small cohort of veterans who just do not want to be in any system,&rdquo; said Anthony Spillie, the head of social work at Hines.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7009_015-scr.JPG" style="height: 214px; width: 380px; float: left;" title="Homer Bizzle reorganizes his small food pantry for veterans. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" />There are an estimated 18,000 homeless vets in the greater Chicago area, and he says that despite offering extensive services, some people just fall through the cracks. Groups like Bizzle&rsquo;s can help catch them.</p><p>&ldquo;There is no wrong door approach,&rdquo; Spillie said. &ldquo;You know most of the time you think of accessing services through the front door. Well, we&rsquo;ll open whatever door we can possibly open for veterans to end and treat their homelessness.</p><p>Bizzle wants to hire veterans to be case workers and counselors, and one day turn his own Bellwood home into a transitional housing center for <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-27/returning-home-presents-different-challenges-female-veterans-89707" target="_blank">female vets</a>.</p><p>But the lack of support is frustrating - and so is seeing what his fellow vets go through.</p><p>&ldquo;It be times I wanna throw that uniform in the garbage,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter</a>.</p></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 10:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/forest-park-vet-struggles-keep-others-out-homelessness-105502 Forget Poles: Palestinians find a home in suburban Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/forget-poles-palestinians-find-home-suburban-chicago-105416 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Laila%20Grape%20Vine%20small.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Laila Maali has owned Grape Vine in Orland Park for nine years. Maali, who is part of the region's large Palestinian diaspora, has lived in the U.S. for 26 years. (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" /></div><p>Chicagoans are fond of saying that there are more Poles here than anywhere outside of Poland. But ask about Palestinians and you may get a blank stare. As it turns out, there are likely more Palestinian immigrants living in the Chicagoland area than anywhere else in the U.S.<br /><br />The nexus of Arab American life in the Chicago region is the city&rsquo;s Southwest suburbs. Bridgeview, the oldest and most established of the area&rsquo;s Muslim community, is seen as the hub, but the community also extends to neighboring towns like Oak Lawn and Orland Park.<br /><br />When listeners learned that reporter Michael Puente and I planned to visit Orland Park this week, they asked us to look into the town&rsquo;s diverse population. &ldquo;I work out in Orland and I&#39;d be interested to hear you address the large Arabic populations here,&rdquo; listener Eric Olsen told us. &ldquo;Where are they from?&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>Lunch in Little Beitunia (or Big Beitunia, as the case may be)</strong><br /><br />We started our research with a visit to <a href="http://grapevine-orlandpark.com/">Grape Vine</a>, a small storefront grocery and bakery on John Humphrey Drive. It was lunchtime, and the sun filtered in onto shelves lined with pita bread and pickled cucumbers, red lentils and Royal World Tea, bags of rice and jars of butter ghee. Aluminum trays of savory pastries and stout, cigar-shaped falafel sat on the counter. Grape Vine&rsquo;s owner, Laila Maali, stood behind the cash register in a navy blue blouse and loosely draped black hijab, rattling off phone orders from catering customers in a quick mix of Arabic and English.<br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lunch%20Grape%20Vine%20small.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="The Grape Vine in Orland Park carries a variety of middle eastern groceries -- pita bread, red lentils, butter ghee, pickled cucumbers -- as well as some pretty tasty falafel! (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" />While we chatted with Maali, Edward Hassan walked inside. Hassan was smartly dressed in leather gloves and a wool overcoat, and told us that he owned seven strip malls in the area, including the one we were in. The vanity plates on his white Mercedes Benz read LND LRD.<br /><br />Both Maali and Hassan immigrated to the U.S. from Beitunia (sometimes spelled Baytunya), a town roughly eight miles outside Ramallah in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. Maali said she has lived in the Chicago area for 26 years, while Hassan said he came to the U.S. as a child with his parents 50 years ago, first settling in Chicago at 63rd and Halsted then moving to the suburbs.<br /><br />It was Hassan who first tipped us off to the sheer number of Palestinians living southwest of Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;There are 23,000 people living here from Beitunia,&rdquo; he told us, much to our surprise. &ldquo;And only 2,000 back in Beitunia.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>How many people of Palestinian descent actually live in the region?</strong><br /><br />The truth is more complicated, but surprising nonetheless. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there were closer to 20,000 people living in Beitunia as of 2007. But sociologist <a href="http://www.marquette.edu/socs/cainkar.shtml">Louise Cainkar</a>, a professor at Marquette University and an expert on Arab immigration, backs up the underlying thrust of Hassan&rsquo;s claim.</p><p>&ldquo;Historically Beitunia was the largest feeder village [of Palestinian immigrants] to Chicago,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Cainkar has spent time in Beitunia and has seen the results of this relationship.</p><p>&ldquo;[The village]used to be characterized by agriculture, but is now quite built up,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Cainkar says the investment from money made in the U.S. and sent back to the village in the form of remittances is visible.<br /><br />Cainkar estimates that as many as a quarter of all Palestinians living in the U.S. live in the counties surrounding Chicago &mdash; more than live any other American city. And, Palestinians make up the single largest Arab ethnic group in the Chicago region, according to Cainkar &mdash; as much as 40 percent of the area&rsquo;s total Arab population. &nbsp;<br /><br />It&rsquo;s actually quite difficult, though, to measure exactly how many people of Palestinian descent live in the Chicago area. And it&rsquo;s hard to know how many people of Arab descent there are in the country as a whole. Nationally, the 2010 U.S. Census found that about 1.9 million Americans are of Arab descent, although groups like the Arab American Institute estimate that the number could be much larger, as high as 5.1 million people. It&rsquo;s a similar story in Illinois; the Census found about 85,000 people of Arab descent living in the state, but again, the AAI thinks the number is much higher, closer to 220,000 total.<br /><br />Cainkar thinks the real number of Arab Americans living in the U.S. &mdash; and in Illinois &mdash; is probably somewhere in the middle of those estimates, but agrees that the Census misses a lot of people.</p><p>The short version of the Census &mdash; given to 82 percent of people who take it &mdash; only measures race, and Arabs are supposed to mark themselves down as white. The 18 percent of people who take the longer version of the survey are asked questions about their &ldquo;ancestry.&rdquo; In 2010, of the people who indicated they were of Arab ancestry, five percent described themselves as being of Palestinian descent. But another 11 percent said they were &ldquo;Other, Arab&rdquo; and another 15 percent said they were &ldquo;Arab/Arabic.&rdquo;</p><p>Cainkar&rsquo;s research suggests that many of these respondents are actually Palestinian, too.</p><p>&ldquo;I looked at the Census tracts block by block, based on where people live,&rdquo; she said, adding that many Chicago communities she knows to be Palestinian weren&rsquo;t counted as such.<br /><br />Regardless of the exact number of Arab Americans living in Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest suburbs, their presence is clear, whether in the Prayer Center, the Orland Park mosque with a glowing gold dome and colorful tile walls built in 2004, or the sheer number of businesses that cater to Middle Eastern tastes.</p><p>&ldquo;I counted 100 Arab-owned businesses in less than one square mile between 79th and 87th and Harlem, and that&rsquo;s just a little piece of their commercial enterprises down there,&rdquo; Cainkar said of one portion of the Southwest Side community. &ldquo;That is definitely their hub.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>So why Chicago?</strong><br /><br />What, then, drew Palestinian immigrants and other Arabs to the region to begin with? As is the case with so many elements of Chicago history, Cainkar said the answer lies in the 1893 World&rsquo;s Columbian Exhibition. The fair brought travelers and presenters from all over the globe, including Arab traders who liked the region and found a market here for their goods.<br /><br />That started the first wave of Arab immigration to the U.S., which was followed by many more. And because U.S. immigration policy is focused on family reunification, once a family had one member settled permanently in the U.S., more were likely to follow.<br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Prayer%20Center%20Orland%20Park%20small.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="The Prayer Center, a mosque in Orland Park, was built in 2004, as more area Muslims moved to town. (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" />Of course, the answer to why there are nearly as many Palestinians living abroad as there are still living in Palestine &mdash; about 4.5 million &mdash; lies in that region&rsquo;s troubled history. Many left or were forced out starting in 1948 with the creation of the state of Israel, an event many Palestinians refer to as the &ldquo;Nakba&rdquo; or &ldquo;disaster.&rdquo; (At the time, many Jews were also expelled from or chose to leave their homes in neighboring Arab countries.) Subsequent conflicts, like the 1967 war, prompted subsequent waves of immigration.<br /><br />But Cainkar said the biggest wave of Palestinian immigration to the U.S. came in the 1980s and &lsquo;90s. Many who came were not immigrants but students, Cainkar said, earning advanced degrees.</p><p>Many of those same students-turned-engineers, say, went on to live in Persian Gulf states, drawn by the promise of good paying jobs funded with oil boom money. But 350,000 Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait and other Gulf states in 1990 after the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) refused to back foreign intervention as a solution to Iraq&rsquo;s occupation of Kuwait. Cainkar said that for many of these Palestinians, &ldquo;this meant their only other option for survival was the U.S.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>Putting down roots</strong><br /><br />Arab Americans have been subjected to much unwanted scrutiny since 9/11 turned &ldquo;Islamic extremism&rdquo; into a household term that fueled fear &mdash; the 2004 struggle over the Prayer Center in Orland Park is certainly evidence of that &mdash; and Palestinians carry with them a particularly painful history of struggle.</p><p>But Cainkar said that as a whole, America&rsquo;s Arab population, including the entrepreneurial Palestinian community in Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest suburbs, is thriving.</p><p>&ldquo;Overall Arab income in the U.S. is higher than the median income of the U.S. as a whole,&rdquo; Cainkar said. &ldquo;Usually groups that face discrimination don&rsquo;t do well in this country, but they&#39;re an exception to this pattern.&rdquo;<br /><br />Back at Grape Vine, property owner Edward Hassan talked not just of his business investments, but of his childhood in Chicago and his service during Vietnam. Hassan said he founded an Arab American veterans group that has over 200 area members, some of whom served in the Korean War.<br /><br />&ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t just get off the boat,&rdquo; he told us. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re American.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 07 Feb 2013 16:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/forget-poles-palestinians-find-home-suburban-chicago-105416