Hegewisch pride is running high this week thanks to the great news that St. Florian School will remain open. This neighborhood, which may be considered small compared to many of its Chicago counterparts, is never lacking in the size of its heart.
It's easy to see on a large scale like the community's efforts to save the school, but you also see it every day when you drive through town. During this horrible winter, I noticed neighbors helping each other with snowblowing and shoveling. In the summer, I see residents come together for block parties and throughout the year, I see supporters enjoying a breakfast or dinner with the local Knights of Columbus volunteers.
It's time again for a Knights of Columbus General Pulaski Council 3323 spaghetti dinner, which will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday at St. Columba Social Center, 13323 S. Greenbay Ave. in Hegewisch.
Dine on all-you-can-eat spaghetti and meatballs with meat sauce, salad, bread, dessert, coffee and milk. Carry outs are available. Price is $8 for adults, $5 for children 10 and younger.
If you read the news article I wrote for Saturday's paper, you know that St. Florian supporters had their prayers answered on Friday when the Archdiocese stated the school can remain open as long as it continues to be financially self-sustaining. Many in the Hegewisch community worked tirelessly to turn this lofty goal into a reality. They collected money during tag days, held special event fundraisers and started various social media campaigns to spread word of the effort.
It was really inspiring to see all their hard work pay off for the St. Florian students and our community as a whole.
Michael Dejanovich, who has two daughters attending St. Florian and three daughters who graduated from the school, was a happy dad when I spoke to him Friday night. He said he felt scared when the Archdiocese originally slated the school for closure.
“What would Pope Francis say about this? He’s a common man and Hegewisch is made up of the common man, we’re from all walks of life. We’re glad this is staying open. A lot of the community depends on the school and the parish. If the school goes, I’m afraid the parish will go. I’m thinking Hegewisch will stay strong and stable too by this announcement.”
His daughter Sarah Dejanovich, who graduated from St. Florian in 2005, said, “This wasn’t just a one-month effort and now it’s done. We have a long way to go. This is great news and we have a great team supporting us. Look what we’ve done in a month.”
She said they can now have more time to plan activities and fundraisers, including an annual winter banquet and annual summer fest in support of the school.
Those feelings of joy and optimism were echoed by other St. Florian supporters.
"I’m beyond excited,” said committee member Sammantha Brooks of news the school would remain open. “We’ve worked so hard for it. The biggest thing for everyone to remember is that we still have a lot to do. We’re going to continue as hard as we were when we were trying to keep the school open.
“We did so well in such little time and we were hoping they would see how much work we did and give us the thumbs up.”
Brooks, who attended St. Florian from nursery school through sixth grade and is one of the lead committee persons for social media and community outreach, said her heart is at St. Florian.
“I can’t wait for two years for my daughter to be able to go to preschool there.”
I think we are all ready to say goodbye to February and look forward to springtime. March gets us one step closer and it seems a lot of new activities are sprouting up next month.
Our four-legged friends seem just as antsy to get out of the house as we are. Many of them had a chance to get out and about during the American Kennel Club Dog Show, which took place this weekend at McCormick Place in Chicago. My friends and I had a great time checking out the hundreds of dogs, shopping the pet-themed vendors and visiting the animals representing area dog rescues.
If you are looking for a way to help out local animals, tickets are now on sale for South Suburban Humane Society's 25th annual spotlight gala. The event, themed Springtime in Paris, will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. April 26 at Glenwoodie Golf Course in Glenwood. There will be dinner, a silent auction, pets on parade and beer and wine.
Tickets purchased before April 1 are $40 each. After April 1, they will be $50 each.
For information, call the shelter at (708) 755-7387, ext 389.
Pet lovers can also check out a free seminar hosted by my friends at Glenwood Village Pet Hospital. You can learn about the importance of preventative dental care for pets from 6 to 7 p.m. March 6 at the clinic, 555 E. Glenwood-Lansing Road in Glenwood.
Veterinarian Katy Parr gives the talk, followed by a question-and-answer questions. Refreshments will be provided. For information, call (708) 758-2400.
Another informative event next month is at 7 p.m. March 15 when Annunciata Church will host a screening of "The Fourth Partition," a documentary about the Polish steelworkers of South Chicago at the turn of the 20th century. The church is at 11128 S. Avenue G in Chicago's East Side neighborhood. Call (773) 221-1040 for more information.
If you are dreaming of the outdoors, plan to attend the fish and sports show taking place from 7 to 11 p.m. March 21 at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St. in Merrionette Park. It's hosted by the Fraternal Order of Police Evergreen Park Lodge 27. Tickets are available at the door and cost $25. It includes access to guest speakers and sporting vendors as well as a full buffet, draft beer, wine and soda, raffles and prizes. Advance tickets can be purchased through the Evergreen Park Police Department. Call (708) 422-2144 for more information.
The new building at the Illinois side of Wolf Lake looks quite cool and should open soon to visitors.
A few weeks ago, I spoke to Christopher Rollins, the site superintendent of the William W. Powers State Fish and Wildlife Area in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood. He said the visitor center should be ready for the summer season with hopes to open it by the end of the school year so local school children can visit. A grand opening event will take place when the time comes.
He was also excited about a catchable trout program at the park. In the fall, they held the first program of that kind at Wolf Lake and they were lucky enough to be chosen to do the program again in the spring. It will be held the first Saturday in April and participants only need a fishing license and salmon stamp. The trout are raised in the state’s fish hatchery.
“Not many places have it both spring and fall so we’re really glad the agency saw the good turnout we had for fall,” Rollins said. “It’s hard to get on that list so we’re really excited about that.”
If you’re fishing for a summer activity for your kids, check out Hegewisch Babe Ruth League, which has begun registration for the 2014 season. Boys ages 13 to 18 who want to play baseball and live in Hegewisch, East Side and other local neighborhoods can join this Hegewisch tradition that dates back to 1970.
Hegewisch Babe Ruth offers baseball fun all summer and costs $50 to join.
Those who are interested should register their kids from noon to 2 p.m. Feb. 22, March 1 or March 8 at Hegewisch Chamber of Commerce, 13330 S. Baltimore Ave.
As a volunteer league, it also needs volunteers to help maintain the field when weather isn’t cooperating.
For information, call (773) 357-6466 or email email@example.com.
Don’t forget the Benefit to Save St. Florian, taking place from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday at Knights of Columbus Hall, 17800 Lorenz Ave. in Lansing. They have some really great raffle and auction prizes lined up and tickets will also include dinner and a DJ and live music for entertainment. It is sure to be a great evening.
Prizes include a one-week timeshare good for Orlando, Fla., or Las Vegas, Nevada; autographed Paul Konerko baseball, autographed Jay Cutler jersey, authentic Rizzo Cubs jersey, authentic Shaw Blackhawk jersey, authentic Noah Bulls jersey, Chicago White Sox dugout jacket with practice shirt, custom guitar, introductory airplane ride, introductory helicopter ride, two tickets to see Common, minion tutu dress, US99 gift pack with autographed poster and CD, Grillers gift cards, gift certificates to Sure Fire Tattoos, Kacey's Restaurant gift certificates, Doreen 's Pizza gift certificates, two entrees at Taco Tradera, introductory helicopter ride, introductory airplane ride and more.
Cost is $20 for adults, $10 for children and free for kids 3 and younger. Advance tickets are being sold through the school. Call (773) 646-2868 or after school hours, call (773) 758-4433.
The benefit will support the Catholic elementary school in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood, which must become financially self-sustaining in order to stay open.
Two big birthdays happened in the past few weeks. I turned 35 and the little guy turned 2. You may recall that 35 years ago was the winter of 1978 to ’79, another miserable winter that my mom and many local meteorologists have referred to lately. Two years ago, the winter was nice and mild except, of course, for the snowstorm that fell on Chicago the day our son was born. Like mother, like son?
For his part, he definitely loves snow and would still play outside all day every day if I would let him.
Instead, I’ve been working hard to find indoor activities to keep him busy. This led us to spend some birthday time at The Field Museum. Lucky for us, it was free general admission day for all Illinois residents. We still paid $22 for parking and $33 for three adult admissions to the temporary exhibit “Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World's Fair.”
Still, the free day saved us $54 as the regular fee is $18 per adult just to enter the doors. Upcoming free days are today, Feb. 13, Feb. 18 to 19 and Feb. 24 to 27.
For information on tickets and hours, visit fieldmuseum.org.
The Columbian Exposition exhibit opened in October and runs through Sept. 7. Inside, we saw artifacts and specimens that were on display at the fair and have rarely been seen by the public in the past 120 years. I learned that many of the objects from the fair became part of the museum’s founding collections.
Some of these artifacts were pretty boring to me and my co-visitors. There was a case of birds and feathers, raw materials from South America, a sample of tree trunk specimens and examples of taxidermy. Collections came from all over the world and in 1835, I’m sure these were something to see. In 2014, I’m sorry to say I was expecting fair-related items that were a little more interesting.
The opening gallery did include a few cool artifacts such as souvenirs and archival photographs. Large scale projections were well done and technological enhancements included moving figures and waving flags to make you feel like the scenes were alive.
Overall, this exhibit was definitely designed for adults and not kids. If possible, I would recommend taking turns walking through as little ones enjoy other parts of the museum with another family member.
The museum’s Crown Family Playlab provided a more lively place for us and our son especially enjoyed the room of drums from other countries. He showed off his dance moves to the different beats and played a few tunes of his own. He also had a chance to uncover a dinosaur bone and play with a large scene full of dinosaur magnets. Both were a hit.
It had been a long time since we had visited the museum and it was the first time for the little guy. I think we all enjoyed a chance to get out and see new things in an indoor, heated setting.
The Calumet Memorial Park District is alive with the sounds of music.
I recently found out that our family friend Mike Cierski teaches piano lessons at Calumet Memorial Park District with a new session beginning later this month.
Individual classes run 30 minutes and participants will choose a time slot between 6 and 9 p.m. every Tuesday, Feb. 25 to April 1, at Sandridge Community Center, 600 Oglesby in Calumet City. Ages 6 to adult can attend for a fee of $45 per person.
The park district has an old grand piano that was donated and it works well for the lessons, Cierski said. His current students range from middle schoolers through adults and all are at different experience levels.
The one-on-one ratio gives him time to work on all aspects of learning piano. For some students, it’s hard to find time to practice during the week, so their session is their only time to work on their lesson.
“Even if you haven’t had time to practice, you always need to come to the instrument like it’s your friend,” Cierski said. “It’s your attitude toward the lesson.”
Cierski showed interest in the piano as a baby and began taking formal lessons from Calumet City piano teachers starting in fifth grade. Eventually he moved onto classical and theater organs, which really influenced his decision to move into the music business as an educator.
He is currently a professional musician and educator. This summer, he will receive his master’s degree in music education from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago.
His lessons focus not just on playing the piano but how to play a piano. Even the posture of sitting on a piano bench is important.
All students are encouraged to have a basic keyboard or piano for practicing. “It’s the same thing as if you want to play baseball,” he said. “You have to have a bat, ball and glove.”
Learning to play the piano uses all three domains of education. It uses your brain, which is cognitive. It uses psychomotor, which is learning through movement. The third domain, which Cierski most takes to heart, is called affection.
“It’s the emotion inside of you that comes out while you’re playing the piano. You have to love what you’re doing.”
Cierski said that while some of his younger students are already experienced piano players, his adult students are all newcomers who are doing great.
“It doesn’t matter what age you are. If you have the desire to learn something new, go and do it.”
Sandridge Community Center also holds many great dance classes such as modern, ballet, tap, hip-hop, lyrical and praise, emailed recreation supervisor Candice Phelan. New this session is Mom and Tot Ballet from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Feb. 24 to April 4, at Sandridge Community Center. Moms can attend with their children ages 3 and 4. Cost is $20 for residents, $25 nonresidents.
Phelan, who joined Calumet Memorial Park District in January 2013 after working five years as a dance instructor for the Chicago Park District, said there’s a different dance class every weekday. The best part of her job is creating programs like the ones she grew up with while guiding children to become great leaders, dancers and just plain awesome in anything they want to do.
Everyone can enjoy the tunes during the annual Daddy-Daughter Dance taking place from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 8 at Memorial Park, 612 Wentworth Ave. Girls 14 and younger and their daddies can enjoy a night on the town together. It costs $15 per couple and $5 per additional daughter. Moms can volunteer to help as hostesses.
Call (708) 862-6443 for more information on any activities.
A little frigid weather can’t stop ice fishermen. Even as temps were dipping below zero on Monday, they were dipping their lines into Wolf Lake waiting for a nibble.
Chris Rollins, the site superintendent of the William W. Powers State Fish and Wildlife Area in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood, said, “It’s cold but it’s not stopping people from enjoying the park.” The park is at 12949 Avenue O.
This year has brought more anglers to the park than any year in recent memory, he said. They use sleds to load gear and set up nylon shelters along the now extremely frozen lake.
“We’ve had ice cover now for weeks and weeks,” Rollins said, adding that the anglers report some areas of ice as thick as 9 to 12 inches. “It’s a good solid ice cover.”
I asked him what brings fish seekers out this time of year and he said for some, it is a chance to fish areas they can’t reach in other seasons. It gives them a shot at reeling in a big northern pike or another noteworthy catch.
“If you’re local and don’t have a boat, this is a time of year you have access to all of the lake,” he said. This is also the best time to catch fish to eat, the fishermen tell Rollins.
“They’re all season guys. Fishing doesn’t stop just because the lake is frozen.” Due to Wolf Lake’s waterfowl season, access to all of the lake was limited until mid-January. The new free rein also brings out many folks and having the rest period early in winter helps preserve the fishery.
Rollins does caution there are still dangerous spots on the lake.
“Ice fishing is a fish at your own risk activity. We have no ability to rescue people,” Rollins said, adding that most of the anglers are extremely safety conscious.
In addition to ice fishing, the park also offers visitors a chance to glimpse some pretty special birds. With no foliage to block your view in winter, you can look for bluebirds, woodpeckers and other feathered creatures. It’s also a good nature pastime that can even be enjoyed while in the warmth of your car.
Earlier this year, spotted snowy owls were seen and bald eagles appear from time to time, Rollins said.
Indian Creek, the outlet of Wolf Lake, attracts waterfowl including swans, geese and few kinds of ducks such as blue bills and red headed ducks. Diving ducks enjoy the open water created by the creek.
Park visitors are not allowed to feed the birds and should not bring bread. For swans, in particular, feeding can be dangerous. It stops them from diving to the bottom of the water, an activity needed to keep them warm.
Snow shoeing, cross country skiing and hiking are other popular winter activities at the park.
“If those are the hobbies you enjoy, this is the time for that,” Rollins said.
The north end of Wolf Lake is currently closed to vehicles due to issues with keeping it clear of snow, but it is accessible to those on foot, boot or snowshoe.
The frigid temps haven’t stopped activity at the lake, with visitors coming every day, Rollins said.
“It’s surprising to me because I’m not much of a cold weather guy. I’ve gained a new appreciation for my fellow humans and sportsmen.
“If people like the winter scenery, the lake is a great place to see that. It’s beautiful with the snow on it. It’s different for sure than it would be in spring or summer but it’s still nice to get out and enjoy the outdoors here.”
As always, I’m inspired by volunteers who work hard in their community to make a difference.
In our Hegewisch neighborhood of Chicago, the talk still focuses on St. Florian School and its efforts to stay open beyond this summer. The Chicago Archdiocese has listed the school as one of those set to close this year, but school parents and the community have rallied in an effort to show they can raise the $200,000 necessary to help subsidize the school themselves.
Tag days held in downtown Hegewisch and efforts to shovel snow for donations have been helping. A local pizza place donated part of its profits from Monday and Tuesday nights. Even the delivery drivers insisted on donating a portion of their tips. It’s been great to see all the community coming together to save the school, which serves students through eighth grade.
To make an online donation, you can visit gofundme.com/6aq2vg.
The message on the site sums it up the best. “A community is only as strong as its neighborhood partners, and St. Florian School is a vital partner to the Hegewisch community. The school’s closing will not only affect the students and their families, but also the thousands of students St. Florian has offered quality education to over the past 108 years and the entire Hegewisch community.”
Pledge forms are also available on the school website, stflorianschool.org, and in the school office.
The Save St. Florian committee has a Facebook page, which it updates almost daily with the most recent efforts. It currently has more than 1,000 fans.
Committee members are selling beautiful drinking glasses, called angel glasses, painted with the St. Florian logo for $25 each. One hundred percent of the price goes to St. Florian. You can see the glasses on the Facebook page.
They will also be sold at the school’s pancake breakfast and book fair, which takes place from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday at the school gymnasium, 13110 S. Baltimore Ave.
Breakfast costs $6 for adults, $4 for children and is free for kids 3 and younger. Dine on all-you-can-eat eggs, waffles, chorizo and sausage.
There will also be gift raffles.
When people comment about the school recently, I’m seeing a lot of them saying, they “only” have 108 students. Well, when you see how hard those 108 students and their families are working, it makes you realize how much the school matters. Keep it up! Your community is behind you.
Lansing Golden-K Club
The Lansing Golden-K Club recently collected donations at the Strack & Van Til store in Munster.
All of the donations go to about 17 different charitable organizations the club helps. They include cancer research, the police and fire departments and two high schools in Lansing, among others.
“We had a great many people give their donations to our club, which we were very grateful,” said Ray Scahill, one of the club members.
Among those collecting funds was Franklin Corpuz. He is a Kiwanis Club member from the Philippines who was working as a guest collector.
One seventh-grader at St. Florian School has taken action to save the school she loves. Jennifer Dejanovich, a seventh-grader at the Catholic school in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood, started a Facebook page to bring together those who wish to help the school, which is among those to be closed by the Archdiocese of Chicago for financial reasons.
Dejanovich has attended St. Florian since kindergarten and would like to graduate from it after eighth grade like her older sisters.
“All of my three older sisters got to graduate (from St. Florian) and me and my little sister won’t.”
During a meeting Thursday night, parents were told the school would close in June. Dejanovich said her classmates are sad and mad and that one of her teachers, who has taught at the school for 26 years, was crying.
“I love all of the teachers and the classrooms. I’ve been there for a very long time. I can’t imagine leaving the school,” Dejanovich said.
On Saturday, she started a Facebook page titled “Save St. Florian” and by the time we talked Sunday night, the page already had 470 likes.
The page includes St. Florian related news, such as the “save St. Florian” meeting that occurred Tuesday night. It’s also been a place to suggest ideas for fundraisers and other ways to keep the school afloat.
Suggestions included car washes, an online charity, having an antique sale and asking local big businesses like Ford Motor Co. for assistance.
Dejanovich said she wants people to know about the school’s situation and having to close. Those who wish to donate money can contact the school she said. The number is (773) 646-2868.
If St. Florian closes as planned, she is not sure where she will attend eighth grade.
“A lot of people will go to Annunciata (School in Chicago’s East Side neighborhood) but my mom was talking about moving and going to another school,” she said.
A previously planned pancake breakfast fundraiser will still take place from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Jan. 26 in the school gymnasium. “We’re still going to have it,” Dejanovich said and she encourages people to attend.
St. Florian is the last Catholic school in Hegewisch. It celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007. Hegewisch’s St. Columba Elementary School closed in 2001.
It may have seemed like the past few days have been winter fest enough, but another sort of fest is taking place in a few weeks near Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood.
Winterfest 2014 will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Jan. 18 at Rowan Park Ice Rink, 11546 S. Avenue L in Chicago’s East Side neighborhood. This is just south of Washington High School and the closest ice rink to us.
There will be free skate rentals, games, open ice skating, refreshments, music and prizes. This event is sponsored by the Chicago Park District and 10th Ward Alderman John Pope.
The ice rink also hosts Cartoon Skates from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sundays, now through Feb. 16. All ages can come for open skate with their favorite cartoon characters. It costs $3 per person. At the end of the month, there will be free skating lessons sponsored by the Chicago Blackhawks. For information, call the park at (773) 646-3180.
If you’d rather stay indoors, Chicago’s museums have planned many free days this month. The Museum of Science and Industry offers free general admission to Illinois residents Jan. 6 to 10, 13 to 17, 20 to 24 and 27 to 31. For more information and free days throughout the year, visit msichicago.org.
Shedd Aquarium is also offering discount days to Illinois residents. Receive free general admission Jan. 13 to 14, 19 to 21 and 24 to 28. Visit sheddaquarium.org for more information.
The Field Museum offers Illinois resident discount days today, Jan. 15 to 16, Jan. 21 to 22 and Jan. 29 to 30. You will receive free basic admission. For information, visit fieldmuseum.org.
To end this week’s column, I wanted to say thank you to all the city workers who have kept Chicago going these past few days. I know Hegewisch is filled with police officers, firefighters, paramedics and many other city workers who didn’t get to rest or enjoy the “snow days” the rest of us did.
In spite of nonstop snow and then temperatures well below zero, I saw the snowplow driver working all day, I watched the mail carrier deliver letters and I saw pictures of firefighters pushing a stranded motorist around the block from our house.
They must be exhausted and cold and deserve our thanks every day of the year, but especially on these days when we need them most.
Let’s remember to listen to the warnings, follow the rules and stay safe to make their jobs easier.
Now that it’s a new year, it’s time to plan some educational and healthy activities everyone in the family can enjoy.
The Chicago Park District offers a variety of special events and classes to choose from in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood. Most residents know about the indoor pool at Mann Park, which offers open swim times for adults and families, swim lessons and aquatic aerobic classes. New classes are starting next week. Not everyone knows about all the other activities offered by the park, 3035 E. 130th St.
Little ones have two classes just for them. Art & ABCs at Mann from 2:15 to 3 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, Jan. 6 to March 21 in Mann Clubroom 3. There is no charge. Children should be between 3 and 5 years old.
Fun and Games at Mann is from 2:15 to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Thursdays, Jan. 7 to March 20. It’s for ages 3 to 5 and is also free.
Older kids, ages 8 to 13, might enjoy playing dodgeball, which meets from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Jan. 8 to March 19 at Mann Park. It’s $10 for residents, $20 nonresidents.
This activity teaches the basic fundamentals of catching and throwing. It stresses participation and teamwork.
Floor hockey for ages 8 to 12 meets from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Jan. 8 to March 19 in Mann Gymnasium North. It’s $10 residents, $20 nonresidents.
Basic skills and fundamentals of hockey will be taught through demonstration and team play indoors. Participants will also learn rules and hockey etiquette. Athletes may have the opportunity to compete with their peers at Chicago Park District area, regional and citywide championship games.
Adults 18 and older can get fit with low impact aerobics from 7 to 8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Jan. 6 to March 21 in the Mann gymnasium. This activity offers low-impact, fat burning cardiovascular aerobics, designed to reduce stress on the spine and joints while using all major muscle groups.
Also for ages 18 and older is Woodcraft at Mann, where attendees will learn to use scroll and band saws to create a variety of wood projects. Projects are based upon age, skill level and interest and include birdhouses, small cabinets and bookcases. No experience is necessary.
This class meets from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Jan. 6 to March 20 in the Mann Woodshop. It costs $20 for residents and $50 nonresidents.
For seniors, there is the Senior Citizens Club at Mann, which will meet from 8:30 a.m. to noon Mondays and Tuesdays, Jan. 6 to March 21.
The club is ideal for those interested in socializing with friends and neighbors. They will participate in activities such as bingo, card playing, board games and more.
Online registration and in-person registration is going on now. Winter programs run Jan. 6 through March 17. Visit chicagoparkdistrict.com for more information. Call Mann Park at (773) 646-0210.
Sounds like plenty of activities to keep us all busy and give little excuse for hibernating this winter. Let’s get out and enjoy our park.
As I get older, Christmases from the past start to blend together. They’re a cherished collection of memories, tastes, smells and emotions.
Now we have the challenge of duplicating the Christmas magic from our childhoods while adding some of our own traditions for our son. I hope he will love lights as much as his dad and my dad. I hope he will know the stories of his ornaments and the special people who gave them to him. I don’t know what bits and pieces of this Christmas will become part of his memory, but I hope at least a few of them stick around.
I might not remember what year my parents built me a dollhouse, but I can still feel the excitement of seeing it at the bottom of the steps on Christmas morning with a miniature Santa and reindeer on the rooftop.
I’m not sure how many times my mom and aunt took me, my brother and our cousins to eat at the Walnut Room, but I think of them every time I go with my husband and son.
I don’t know the first time I tasted my Grandma Pallay’s Christmas cookies but I remember how the house smelled as she baked them each year and the crunch they made as you bit into one.
In recent years, my cousin’s daughter has re-created the signature cookie by using my grandma's recipe and cookie cutters. I know my grandma would be happy that her family still experiences some of what Christmas meant for her.
Another way we do that is with what is now called bagna calda Christmas, the gathering of Pallays for the holiday season.
Over the years, this Christmas Eve tradition rotated from house to house, first hosted by my grandma’s generation in Dolton and Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood. During my childhood, it was hosted by my father’s generation in South Holland, Calumet City and Orland. In recent years, its date was moved to the Saturday before Christmas, to give the immediate families more time to enjoy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together. It has also moved to the third generation of family’s homes.
The name bagna calda Christmas comes from the traditional Italian appetizer that is always served and hard to forget. The garlic-anchovy-oil mixture is used for dipping veggies and crackers and produces a one-of-a-kind smell reserved for this special night.
My grandma and her siblings were 100 percent Italian and the bagna calda was part of their family’s European tradition of not eating meat on Christmas Eve.
The pan must be stirred constantly to avoid burnt bagna calda. Burnt fish and garlic are also a smell you do not soon forget. This year, my 14-year-old niece did the stirring and she, along with her siblings and their guests, were the dip’s main consumers. Maybe someday our son will join his cousins in this tradition.
Whether it’s the sweetness of cookies or the tastes of garlic that remind you of Christmas, I hope they’re part of your day today. I hope the new memories you create are as good as the ones you remember from the past and I hope you have a wonderful day with the people who mean the most to you. Merry Christmas.
I had a nice chat with Santa Claus during Sunday morning’s Knights of Columbus breakfast at St. Columba in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood.
With the delicious smell of pancakes and French toast wafting through the air and the chatter of happy families spending time together, the man in red and I talked about his job and how someday my son will be happy to see him.
Santa told me he’s been doing this 15 some years and that he’s happy to see younger kids in attendance. The older ones have stopped believing in him, he said. Still, he enjoys watching them grow up over the years.
Now he has a new batch of little guys and girls to receive his presents and candy canes and most importantly, to believe.
Our son has met Santa a few times this year and hasn’t been too overjoyed with any of the encounters. The Hegewisch Santa told me not to worry because by next Christmas, he will understand better.
Before I became a mom I didn’t understand when I’d hear parents say, “you better behave right now or Santa won’t bring you any presents.” I never wanted to use Santa as a pawn in the battle for good behavior, but as they say, parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about and the hardest job in the world to do.
I thought about that this week as I caught myself telling my soon-to-be-2-year-old that Mickey Mouse was sleeping in his TV. We had watched the same episode of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” most of the morning and it was almost naptime when I came up with the clever idea that Mickey had to go to sleep.
I turned off the TV and we said “night, night” and “shhhhhh” and he seemed happy with the fact that Mickey was still there but taking a little siesta. Maybe this pawn business isn’t so bad.
I realized that parents don’t use Santa to be manipulative. They use him to make their lives and their kids’ lives easier and yes, more magical. I definitely have a lot of learning left to do about parenting.
Maybe in a year or two when a tantrum is coming or a mess is made, I will be the first one to bust out the Santa is watching line. For now, I’m happy that he finds magic all around him whether it’s flipping on the light switch or seeing snow on the ground or even saying night night to Mickey.
Driving home through downtown Hegewisch the other night, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful it looked with snow on the ground. I saw Christmas lights on the Baltimore Avenue streetlights and painted winter scenes on the grocery store windows.
It was easy to see why Hegewisch is such a wonderful neighborhood, especially around Christmastime. One local resident contacted me about a month ago and said she had many great memories to share about growing up and celebrating family holidays in Hegewisch. I talked to her this week about those memories.
Carol (Forystek) Kelly grew up above Ted’s Tavern, which was located at 13250 Houston Ave. Today it’s an empty parking lot but back then it was home to her parents, Ted and Helen Forystek, and their seven children. The Forysteks owned the tavern, which included a banquet area and dining room. Famous for its Friday fish frys, Carol said they served the best fish in Hegewisch. “People would come from all over,” she said.
Her parents owned the tavern from the late 1940s through the 1970s.
“There were seven us. I had five brothers. I was the only girl for years,” Carol said when describing her family.
She remembers Christmas as a wonderful time when her family would get together, have great food and celebrate the season.
“My dad would close the tavern early on Christmas Eve and Santa Claus would come.” The older kids would have fun trying to guess who was playing Santa each year.
Christmas dinner included Polish sausage, pierogi, mashed potatoes and other sides. It was a big meal to prepare with many guests to feed.
“My father and mother, all my siblings, my grandparents, Jacob and Victoria Forystek, and all my cousins and aunts and uncles from that side of the family would come for Christmas Eve dinner. After that, we would get all of our gifts for Christmas Eve. We were spoiled rotten when we were kids but all kids are.”
Carol also remembers attending midnight Mass at St. Florian Church in Hegewisch and doing Christmas shopping in downtown Hammond. She also remembers seeing the large Christmas tree put up in the parking lot at Opyt’s Funeral Home.
“Everybody knew everybody in Hegewisch back then. It was not like it is today.”
She also has fond memories of holiday gatherings with her maternal grandparents, Betsy and Walter Tworkowski, who lived in Burnham.
Her grandma would make all the food and her grandpa would wish everyone a merry Christmas before passing the Oplatki around. The traditional Polish Christmas wafer was broken up as it was passed around with family members making their wish as it came to them.
“It was so nice. It was great times, good times, you know. All the cousins and aunts and uncles were there.”
At the end of our talk, I asked Carol if she had anything else she wanted to share with readers.
“We had a large family and everybody knew us in Hegewisch. My parents had a wonderful business. My folks were wonderful people. They gave to people like you would not believe.”
Buying toys for kids and seeing their faces as they open their gifts is one of the best parts of Christmas. Even though my son has plenty of toys, it was hard to resist buying the Little People airplane, the Thomas the Tank Engine train set and the Mickey Mouse ball pit.
When I’m picking up toys for him, I always look for good toys to donate to toy drives, going on a lot this time of year.
Glenwood Village Pet Hospital is a Toys for Tots donation spot and incorporates it into its annual holiday open house held for clients and the community.
The event, which includes pet pictures with Santa, will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 10 at the clinic, 555 E. Glenwood-Lansing Road in Glenwood.
Pets, kids and their grown-ups are welcome to pose with Santa, who will be played by veterinarian Terence Locke. Photos will be uploaded to a free share site after the event or prints can be purchased during the event for a nominal fee.
My friend Karen Laurinas is the hospital manager at the animal hospital and said the staff is excited about the event.
“This is our fourth year collecting toys and hosting the open house and it gets better every year. Last year, we collected almost 200 of toys to help the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve with its Toys for Tots efforts. We love giving back to the community and the enthusiasm for this project really inspires us all year after year.”
For each toy donation, a ticket will be given for a free nail trim. The nail trim can be done during the open house or at a later date. Owners must provide proof of rabies vaccination.
Toys should be new, worth at least $10 and unwrapped.
Refreshments will be provided and there will be raffles. Each visitor will receive a raffle entry when they enter and they can choose which prize they’d like to be in.
Toys are being accepted through Dec. 13 during regular business hours, which are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
“It should be a great night for pets and their parents as well as for the local kids who will have toys for Christmas thanks to the Marine Corps," Laurinas said. "It’s also fun to see Dr. Locke dressed up like Santa Claus so make sure you come join us.”
For information, call (708) 758-2400 or visit the Glenwood Village Pet Hospital Facebook page.
The Lansing Golden-K Kiwanis Club recently celebrated its 34th annual awards banquet at J.J. Kelley's Restaurant, 2455 Bernice Road in Lansing.
The group’s publicity chairman Ray Scahill emailed me to tell me about the event. The 28 guests had an enjoyable time at the banquet, which included a lunch provided by Jo-Ellyn Kelley and her staff, he wrote.
“There was a lot of fun, delicious food and great fellowship by everyone present.”
The club presented a $1,000 check to Ed Schussler, lieutenant governor of our local division of the Kiwanis Club. The check will be used toward The Eliminate Project, which provides immunizations to expectant mothers and newborn babies in developing nations to prevent tetanus.
Our local Golden-Ks have been raising money to benefit The Eliminate Project, a joint effort of Kiwanis International and UNICEF. Visit Kiwanis.org for more information.
Scahill also reminded me of the time I served as guest speaker at the group’s annual awards banquet. That year it was held at Theo’s Restaurant in Highland and Scahill asked me to talk to the group about my job at The Times. Back then, I used to put together the community news section so I explained the process and showed some samples of how the paper comes together.
The Lansing Golden-K Kiwanis Club participates in a variety of fundraisers and activities, including a weekly Men's Bible Study that meets from 7 to 8:30 a.m. every Wednesday at Westminster Presbyterian Church at 8955 Columbia Ave. in Munster. There are 18 men who currently attend and everyone is welcome.
"For the last two months we have discussed the teachings of Our Lord and His many miracles,” Scahill wrote. Attendees take turns preparing a delicious breakfast to share while they chat.
In Hegewisch news, don’t forget about the library program called The Lake Calumet Area Airport Plan, 20-plus years later.
It’s taking place from 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Hegewisch branch of the Chicago Public Library, 3048 E. 130th St.
Local historians will talk about the Lake Calumet Plan that would have wiped out Hegewisch, Burnham and parts of the East Side and Calumet City. Audience participation is encouraged.
There’s something for everyone happening in Hegewisch the next few weeks. Whether you love a good meal or learning about local history, we’ve got you covered.
My neighbors asked me to remind my readers of a spaghetti dinner taking place this weekend. Hosted by the General Pulaski Council 3323 Knights of Columbus, the dinner is from 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 16 at St. Columba Social Center, 13323 S. Greenbay Ave. in Chicago's Hegewisch neighborhood.
Dine on all-you-can-eat spaghetti and meatballs with meat sauce, salad, bread and butter, dessert, coffee and milk.
It will cost $8 for adults and $5 for kids 10 and younger.
Before I ever even knew Hegewisch existed, it was making news. Back in the '90s, local residents rallied to stop the city from building an airport over the neighborhoods where we live today.
A program called The Lake Calumet Area Airport Plan, 20-plus years later, will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Hegewisch branch of the Chicago Public Library, 3048 E. 130th St.
During this free event, you will hear local historians and authors Cynthia Ogorek and Rod Sellers along with other speakers. They will talk about the Lake Calumet Plan that would have wiped out Hegewisch, Burnham and parts of the East Side and Calumet City.
Local neighbors and activists who helped derail the plan will speak. Audience participation is encouraged.
I emailed Sellers to inquire about the event and he said his presentation will review the history of the Lake Calumet Airport from the events leading up to the initial official announcement by Mayor Daley in February 1990 until he withdrew the plan in July 1992.
Ogorek will focus on reaction to the airport in Hegewisch and nearby communities.
“I think that people should come out to see that you can fight city hall,” Sellers wrote.
There will be memorabilia on display from the airport battles including signs, posters, T-shirts, buttons and news articles. Audience members can also bring their own memorabilia.
Refreshments will be served.
The event is presented by the Calumet Heritage Partnership, The Calumet Ecological Park Association, Southeast Chicago Historical Society and Southeast Environmental Task Force.
Now that Halloween is over, it’s time for November and all the wonderful food and activities in store for us. If you didn’t get enough tricks and treats at Halloween, check out Timothy Tegge, a Midwestern magician and comedian coming to town.
The Timothy Tegge Show will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 22 at St. Columba Parish Hall, 13323 S. Greenbay Ave. in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood. Tegge’s show is a Vaudeville style comedy and magic act.
Tegge was raised in the world of show business, first wearing clown makeup at 3 years old to appear in a parade with his father, also a clown at the time. That started the love of the spotlight for this third-generation performer, according to his official Website.
Tickets cost $7 and must be purchased in advance. Call (773) 646-2660
For information, visit timothytegge.com.
If you’d like to have pierogi at your holiday meal, you can purchase them through St. Hedwig Church, 3320 E. 134th St. in Hegewisch.
They are selling potato, cheese and onion, sweet cheese and sauerkraut varieties for $6 per dozen. Call (773) 646-0300.
In addition to holiday meals, we can start to think about holiday lights. The city of Chicago will have its tree lighting ceremony starting at 5 p.m. Nov. 26 in Daley Plaza. Congrats to the Moore family, of South Holland, whose blue spruce has been selected to be this year’s Christmas tree.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Christmas tree ceremony.
The tree will be on display through Jan. 9, 2014. For more information, visit cityofchicago.org.
The city will also commemorate the sacrifices of our veterans with a Veterans Day remembrance ceremony at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 at Soldier Field, Gate 0, 1410 Museum Campus Drive. This event is free.
For more information, visit cityofchicago.org.
Calumet Memorial Park District will have its annual Turkey Shoot at noon Nov. 16 at Sandridge Community Center, 600 Oglesby. Come out for this Thanksgiving tradition where families shoot baskets for prizes including frozen turkeys. For information, call (708) 862-0880.
People always want to know about the casket on our front lawn.
Is it real? Is it used? Where did you get it? Let me explain by saying yes, yes and funeral home. Our lawn is in full Halloween mode decked out with a variety of ghouls and ghosts and a casket with a body inside. Said casket was a gift to my husband from his friend who works at a funeral home. The casket’s handle broke in one way or another and it could no longer be used for viewings. Somehow it found its way to our house.
I’m happy to report that everything else on the lawn is fake. Yes, it’s that time of year again when I run from my car to the front door trying not to make eye contact with any of the masks and creatures along the driveway.
There was some hope when my husband listened to my request to keep the replica “Scream” villain off the porch this year. “Scream” was the last and only scary movie I ever saw in the movie theater and that guy is just too much for me.
After that success, I tried to talk to my husband into a more kid-friendly haunted house. It seemed to be going my way when he showed me a preview of singing pumpkins he planned to use.
They work like the ghostly busts in the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World. In this case, you project the faces of jack-o-lanterns onto real pumpkins. I pictured the jack-o-lanterns singing among some hay bales and a cute scarecrow or two. Kids would come and take pictures in their costumes.
But no worries, he busted out the electric chair, mummies and rats so we will be scaring and emotionally scarring the Hegewisch kids as usual. They will run from our house laughing and screaming and come back 20 minutes later to do it again.
You’d think after five Halloweens here, I’d be used to it but I am such a scaredy cat that even those singing pumpkins can be a little intimidating at night.
Alderman John Pope’s office said that Hegewisch and the East Side will have trick-or-treating from 3 to 7 p.m.
While driving around looking at the competition, we made a list of some haunted Hegewisch addresses you should visit:
13316 Avenue O, 13019 Avenue O, 12908 Exchange, 12919 Manistee, 12939 Muskegon and 12634 Muskegon. Some are spooky, some are cute but they are all worth seeing.
Taking a tour of St. Florian School was a trip down memory lane for 30 alumni who recently reunited for the first time in 15 years.
Members of St. Florian’s eighth-grade graduating class of 1963 came together a few weeks ago at Steve’s Lounge and Banquet Hall in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood. A total of 30 of the original graduates attended, bringing along their spouses and significant others.
Mike Skowronek, a family friend of my in-laws and one of the reunion committee members, said everything went wonderful and classmates had a great time.
“A lot of folks came up to us at the reunion to say thank you and say how much work we did. The committee members talked afterward and said it was a lot of work but we had nothing but fun.”
It all started in late 2011 when classmate Bob Waninski sent an email saying that the 50-year mark was approaching and they should plan a reunion.
Skowronek agreed and recruited the committee including classmates Bob and Joan Waninski, Ted and Barb Targonski, Mike Faron and Jim Ciciora.
The reunion kicked off with 4 p.m. Mass at St. Florian Church in Hegewisch. The current pastor then gave the alumni a tour of the school.
“We went into the old school which was above the church,” Skowronek said, noting the school has added a new building since their time there as students.
“I guess the furniture was a little different,” he said. “When we went to school, the desks were permanently attached to the floors and now they have the stand alone style.”
Some of their former classrooms were going through a rehab but they also saw some that are still in use.
“I was talking to the pastor and thanking him for giving us the tour. I joked, 'you’ve been here about a year and a half and we came here for nine straight years. We should give you a tour.' “
After the tour it was onto the reunion at Steve’s where the classmates and guests had dinner, drinks and danced.
They did a lot of dancing, Skowronek said, to songs that were hot in 1963 including “The end of the world” by Skeeter Davis.
During dessert, they played a movie put together by committee member Ted Targonski.
He gathered photos from as many graduates as possible and combined them with music and 8 mm film footage of different school events.
The committee was able to locate many of the original '63 class members although eight have passed away. Nine still live in Hegewisch, Skowronek said, including himself.
The 30 attendees came from throughout the Midwest and even as far away as San Diego. The award for farthest traveled went to Carl Klimek, who traveled from his home in Sydney, Australia.
“We got a hold of him early enough," Skowronek said. “He does come back every few years and he planned his visit to coincide with the reunion.”
It sounds like everyone had a great time getting back together with old friends and remembering their days at St. Florian.
Shiny chrome, spinning wheels and sassy tunes filled our weekend as we attended car shows Saturday and Sunday.
First up we stopped by the parking lot at St. Florian in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood. The parish car show took place Saturday and had quite a few participants. Lots of passersby paused to sneak a peek at the beautiful cars as old and new friends chatted on the sidelines.
Classic, muscle and modified cars were judged and awarded first, second and third places. Adam McInturff came in first with his 1967 Pontiac Gran Prix. Tom Ruboli placed second with a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. Steven Drexler won third place with his 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass. The Father’s Choice Award went to James Miller’s Chevrolet Corvette. Congrats to everyone who participated and to the winners.
On Sunday, we went to a car show in Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood and enjoyed the beautiful day, historic sites and cool cars.
It was the last show of the season for my in-laws who will soon be putting their 1954 Chrysler New Yorker away for the winter. The little guy is going to miss hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa and their car buddies but I’m sure the spring and summer roster will fill up quickly with 2014 shows.
The Pullman car show was cool for me because it coincided with the 40th annual Historic Pullman House Tour. One weekend a year, Pullman residents open their homes to the public for the house tour.
These 120-year-old landmark homes range from executive mansions to 14-foot wide worker's cottages to multiunit apartments, all with a charm that is part of the Pullman experience.
The tour looked like a great time but don’t worry if you missed it because there are more chances to learn about Pullman’s history.
The Historic Pullman Visitor Center, at 11141 S. Cottage Grove Ave., is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. It’s $5 for adults, $4 for students 18 and younger and $4 for seniors. The center shows a 15-minute introductory video on the community's history through today's preservation efforts.
There are also exhibits and photos of Pullman-related items. Visitors can also start a self-guided walking tour of the district by picking up a copy of the walking tour brochure.
For more information, visit pullmanil.org/visitorcenter.htm
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