Forest Park Review Tuesday, November 24th, 2020 By Maria Maxham
The word "history" often brings to mind events in the past, stories of our grandparents or great grandparents or strangers in faraway places that lived centuries ago. Dusty books. Ancient artifacts.
But the COVID pandemic, even the parts that have become mundane, the masks and hand sanitizer, toilet paper shortages and remote school, are history in the making.
For sure the things said by politicians and policymakers will go down in history. The contributions of front-line workers, tirelessly taking care of infected patients, ought to and will be remembered. But the day-to-day lives of "regular" people are important too, and documenting their experiences is part of the Historical Society of Forest Park's "Living History: COVID-19" program, which aims to collect resident experiences through an online survey and submissions of photos and videos.
Alexis Ellers, Historical Society executive director, spoke to the Review about the project.
"It can be hard to think of things in our current life as history, even for the Historical Society," Ellers said. "But those casual photos and ads from 100 years ago that we love so much now were current to someone. Had they not been saved we wouldn't have them now."
During the 1918 flu pandemic, photography was still rare, Ellers said, so there aren't many photos that document what the experience was like for people at the time.
"A century later we are on the opposite end of the spectrum; it may feel like we have endless documentation of this experience, but it is important to be intentional with our preservation of it so it doesn't get lost as time goes on," said Ellers.
The idea for the project originated during board meetings, when members were talking about the 1918 flu, looking at stories from that time that seemed relevant today. Seeing the Chicago History Museum's collection of living histories inspired the group to do the same for the Forest Park community.
"We wanted to give people in Forest Park the opportunity to participate from their homes in a way that was easily accessible," Ellers said. "We decided to have the option for either a video interview or a questionnaire."
Collecting a variety of voices is important, so a children's questionnaire was created specifically focused on younger respondents.
"[Children's] experiences are important too and are often overlooked," Ellers said. "I hope it also helps them to understand the significance of living through this time period and gives them some time to express their honest feelings about the experience."
Newspaper accounts of what's happening are a valuable way to look back at something from the future. But they don't typically include the nitty gritty details of people living through something like a pandemic.
"These in-depth first-person accounts tell a story in an unedited, more personal way," said Ellers. "Unfortunately, difficult times happen in all of our lives; knowing that people before you have gone through hard times as well can be reassuring. As we have been looking back at the 1918 Flu Pandemic this year, people in the future may be looking at the COVID-19 pandemic to help them cope."
For now, the Historical Society isn't collecting artifacts, such as masks, but Ellers encourages people to hang on to them so when it's safe to do so, physical items will be added to the collection.
For now, digital photos can be emailed following a link on the survey page at forestparkhistory.org/living-history-covid-19.html.
As we modified our programming calendar for this difficult year we knew we would need to find a new creative way to honor our Forest Park Veterans and to share our continued oral history initiative, Our Neighbors, Our Heroes. We are very proud to display four banners on the fence of Veterans Field, visible from Harrison Street. It is our hope to continue to add banners every year as we collect more stories from Forest Park Veterans. If you are interested in sharing your story please email email@example.com
Thank you to Mohr Oil for their sponsorship which made these banners possible. Thank you to Nancy Cavaretta for interviewing, research, and writing these stories.
The Historical Society of Forest Park and the Forest Park Public Library have joined forces to create the Village Wide Scavenger Hunt. Grab a booklet and solve our riddles! This scavenger hunt is a great way to explore Forest Park and can be adapted to a smaller area for families with smaller children or others with accessibility needs. Answer the riddle to find each location from Forest Park’s history. Take a picture of the location and write the address in your booklet. Share your answers with the form on to see how you did! You can also check your answers against the answer key on the last page.
The Historical Society of Forest Park hosted its third annual garden walk on July 11, the first where masks were worn and social distancing maintained. But despite COVID-necessitated rules, the event sold out and participants enjoyed a day strolling through Forest Park gardens.
Best in Show, an award given to the garden receiving most votes from participants, went to Tom O'Connel and Cameron Wilson for their backyard mural garden at 843 Circle Ave.
At 1054 Thomas, visitors had a chance to see the Worthington Home Veggie Garden and watch a cooking demo from local chef Ashley Simone of Zesty Catering.
Ralph and Andrea DiFebo gave tours of their outdoor living space, which includes a pizza oven and three-season screen house.
Pam and Drew Fontana opened their yard for people to visit their sculpture garden, featuring pieces collected over the years.
Kathy Caldwell's cottage garden at 821 Ferdinand St. is home to fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs.
And the Taylor Home Small Space Garden featured flowers and historical relics the owners found in the 116-year-old home they rehabbed.
From Marigolds and Masks, Forest Park Review July 14th, 2020
Thank you to everyone who came to our Leap Day History and Community Fest! Big thanks to all our community groups, our sponsor Mohr Oil, Living Fresh for their cake donation, Smokey Joel’s Red Hots for donating hot dogs and lemonade, the Howard Mohr Community Center for allowing us to use their space and our face painter Ginger Gypsy.
Partygoers, dressed in 1920s attire, enjoyed live period music and craft cocktails at the Historical Society of Forest Park's prohibition fundraiser. Held in the side room of O'Sullivan's, 7244 Madison St., the evening's entertainment "celebrated" the Jan. 20, 1920 Volstead Act while learning about the impacts on Forest Park through a slideshow featuring some of the early saloons in town — and had a swinging time doing so.
According to the Historical Society's presentation, Forest Park had 42 saloons when the 18th Amendment was passed to prohibit "intoxicating liquors" in the United States. The National Prohibition Act prohibited the "manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors" anywhere in the country.
Nearly 30 Forest Park saloons closed their doors or went into another line of business after the passage of the law a century ago. On Jan. 20, 1920, the Volstead Act was passed to provide federal enforcement of the law.
While Forest Park, along with Berwyn and Cicero, was one of the local "wet" towns, neighboring Oak Park, River Forest, Maywood and Riverside were all "dry." The loss to the village was steep, as each tavern paid $500 for a license. To make up for the loss of revenue, the village doubled the water rate and increased other taxes.
Taverns were social centers, exclusively inhabited by men, and generally quite peaceful. There were no TVs or recorded music, so conversation was the entertainment, and profanity was rarely tolerated back then. If there was a disagreement, the bartender would wave a club and that would usually settle things down.
In 1908, the Oak Leaves newspaper reported troubles with Oak Park "roomers" loitering in their business districts. Police would tell the young fellows to "move on," and they would. Apparently, these fellows would "move on" by crossing the "line" into Forest Park's saloon community. The taverns reportedly had "doors wide open," with cozy tables, perhaps music and someone to talk to. If only they purchase a glass or so of beer, they are treated as if they were really some personage."
Based on several federal raids in town at taverns, restaurants, in garages and in homes, it is fair to say that the liquor was still flowing in Forest Park in the 1920s.
And it still is today.
By Jill Wagner
From the Forest Park Review
This year our Dr. Orland award for volunteering went to Amy Binns-Calvey for her amazing and committed work with the Haymarket Martyrs Monument. Amy has been giving our monthly tour for the past two years. We are so fortunate to have her knowledge and passion.
Join Amy the first Saturday of the month (May-October) 11:00 am at the Haymarket Martyrs Monument in Forest Home Cemetery.
Oral Historian and retiring Board Member Nancy Cavaretta completed two new compelling stories this year.
Visit our website to hear the stories of Mike Close and Don Lines.
Hear their stories.