Did you know that the Historical Society of Forest Park started in the Forest Park Library? Now we're back with a display case to show off items from our collection. We're next to the local history bookcase, right where we belong.
We've had a HUGE year
Two exhibits in Village Hall Lower Level
Nine tours including walking, biking and bus tours
Veterans Day Dinner
International Labor Day Celebration
Prohibition Pub Crawl
Cemetery Scavenger Hunt
We also brought history to German Fest, Music Fest and the Casket Race
We want 2018 to be even bigger, but we need your help to do it!
Our first Veteran's Day Dinner was amazing. With the generosity of Shanahan's we were able to honor Forest Park Veterans with a complimentary dinner. Attending veteran's were kind enough to share their stories. We look forward to hearing more of these stories in our oral history project.
If you are a veteran and would like to participate in our oral history project please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Even in a close-knit community like Forest Park, there is an awful lot we don’t know about our neighbors—we often don’t know all the struggles they’ve faced, the sacrifices they’ve made, or the obstacles they’ve overcome. Despite the yearly holiday dedicated to honoring them, this is particularly true of our neighbors who are veterans of the Armed Forces. Some of them have served bravely during wartime—seeing and experiencing the horrors of battle firsthand. Others have led lives of quiet dedication to country here at home or abroad. We rarely get to hear their stories.
The Historical Society of Forest Park has dedicated itself to making those stories more widely known and shared. To that end, the Society has begun an oral history project, which seeks to record the stories of our Forest Park veterans for posterity. This effort is being spearheaded by Board Member Nancy Cavaretta, who is actively seeking veterans who are willing to be interviewed on tape, and provide us an enduring record of their service to country.
The Society initiated this effort on Sunday November 12th with a Veterans Day dinner held at Shanahan’s restaurant at 7353 Madison. Forest Park veterans ate free courtesy of Shanahan’s, and were invited to share their stories. 23 people were present—including nine veterans.
Each veteran was invited to share their story---and each veteran gave an account of their service. Joe Byrnes spoke movingly of his service in Vietnam, and of a friend who he thought had died in combat but who contacted him years later to renew the bonds they had forged years earlier. Other veterans gave fascinating testimony of their time in Afghanistan, Germany and here at home. Common themes included the frequency of “military families” where a commitment to military service is passed on from parent to child; the deep friendships that develop in battle; and the lasing benefits of military training and access to education. Two of the veterans were medical doctors.
Veterans attending the event included: Joseph Byrne. Raphael Davis, Patricia Salazar-Davis, Joseph Johnston, Cliff Leber, Debra Funderwhite, Chaplain Chandeep Singh Kabra, and Lt. Col. Dr. Neil Meccia, and Dr. Paul Roach.
The Historical Society plans to make this Veterans Day Dinner a yearly event, and extends its gratitude to all Forest Park veterans—both those who attended this year and those who, it is hoped, will attend future events. It is also grateful to Shanahan’s for providing a space, and their picking up the tab for our Veterans.
Our annual general meeting was held October 18, 2017 at Forest Park Village Hall. President Jerry Lordan discussed the past year for the society. Executive Director, Alexis Ellers spoke about the programming. Jerry welcomed our new President, Terry Stienbach as he steps down to secretary. Long time board member and Vice President Augie Aleksy left the board after serving the maximum six years on the board.
Intern Shannan Evanson was awarded the Dr. Orland Volunteer Award for her work with the collection and exhibitions for the past year.
Following the meeting members and guest viewed the new exhibit in the Village Hall display cases. This exhibit is on cemetery symbolism, view a portion of the exhibit online
Congratulations to Shannan Evanson the winner of our annual Dr. Orland Award. Shannan began volunteering in September 2016. In 2017 she transitioned into our new Exhibition Internship, researching and creating the spring 2017 exhibition on the Forest Park Amusement Park. Shannan researched and illustrated the upcoming fall exhibit on cemetery symbolism. When she isn't working on an exhibit Shannan has taken on the task of digitizing our hand written accession records as well as accessioning new donations.
Shannan has a Anthropology degree with honors from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is currently working at the Indian Trails Public Library as a Check-out Assistant, as well as the Elmhurst Public Library as a Phone Console Page. Additionally she volunteers at the Mayslake Peabody Estate when she is not interning at the Historical Society of Forest Park.
We deeply appreciate all of Shannan's hard work and commitment to the Forest Park Historical Society.
“Ezra and Mike” is a short (22 minute) and honest film about the racial hostility experienced by the first black family to move to Forest Park, and the one neighbor—Mike Chiapetta- who came to their aid. While the film is short, it took a concerted, even heroic effort by John Rice to get it made—and six years of his life to research the story, film the interviews and get them edited. The film previewed at Slainte on Saturday July 29. While it would be unfair to fully review a work-in-progress, it is more than fair to congratulate John on documenting a hidden chapter in Forest Park history, and to urge Forest Parkers to see the film the next time it is shown. It is eye-opening.
We have a hard time talking about race in Forest Park. Opine that racism is still a problem and some white Forest Parkers are liable to squint, scowl and call you the worst name they can think of: Oak Parker! Some others deny there was ever a race problem in Forest Park. Others simply say these issues are best worked out quietly, neighbor to neighbor.
But in 1975—seven years after President Johnson signed the Open Housing Act—Ezra Buckner and his family received mostly hostility from neighbors and constant harassment from thugs who threw bricks through their window, graffiti-ed their property, threatened them by phone and sent them ugly hate mail.
The police refused to intervene.
Mike Chiapetta was a neighbor who simply saw a family with young kids in a dangerous position, and—with experience as a security guard–offered to guard their property overnight. For his trouble, he got arrested for impersonating a police officer, and was released only because the local media got wind of the story.
It was because the Buckners had influential friends like comedian/activist Dick Gregory and Jesse Jackson that the police were finally persuaded to intervene and protect the Buckners. Unfortunately, Mr. Gregory declined to be interviewed for the film, and John was reluctant to interview Jesse Jackson while his son was experiencing hard times.
Sadly—aside from the Buckners and Mike, no other Forest Parkers agreed to be interviewed for the film either. No neighbors. No village officials. No long-time residents. And no police. Nobody.
This is not a film with a Hollywood ending. The Buckners moved away, and did not stay in touch with Mike. A planned reunion of Mike and Ezra never happened, because Ezra died suddenly. In the film’s most poignant scene, Mike is reunited with the remaining members of the still grateful Buckner family.
There are a lot more families like the Buckners living in town these days, peacefully and happily. There are also a lot more good neighbors like Mike. This is a measure of how far Forest Park has come. But 1975 was not that long ago—and the continued silence of so many Forest Parkers who passively watched these events unfold is mute witness to how far we still have to go.
By Brian Kuhr, Forest Park Historical Society Board Member
Originally published on The Forest Park Advocate Community
Photographs by Alexa Rogals, Forest Park Review Staff Photographer