Well, another long year has passed, and with it, a flood of information has passed from my ever-researching mind to the pages of the Landmark. The first thing I wrote in 2005 was my comical column on Jan. 12, “The Morton Avenue guide to swearing.” Trust me, it was all rated G, and nobody swore at me for writing it.
Photographic viewpoints of Brookfield, from 1895-1995 were the subject of, “The photo shoot that spanned a century,” printed on Jan. 19. Revealed for the first time in 110 years was the name of the man, Emil T. Behrens, was most probably the photographer back in 1895. Also noted were camera setup locations, and why they were chosen.
“Gimme Shelter,” was the article headline on Jan. 26, and it related the evolution of the Kiwanis Park Shelter, also known as the John Staren shelter, named for the once-prominent local philanthropist. Discovered was the name of Mrs. Dorothy Garst of Hollywood who had envisioned the project from its earliest conceptual stage in 1953.
“Brookfield Zoo’s biggest fish story” appeared on Feb. 16, and the article dealt with the history of the Porpoise, Seal and Penguin Show open since 1961 at the Brookfield Zoo. I don’t know if show attendance was up any due to the article, but just being inside the wonderfully warm and humid new Seven Seas building in the cold, dry winter was indeed a treat to experience.
I was “Correcting the errors of history” in my Feb. 23 column, when I wrote about the Brookfield Diamond Jubilee Book of 1968, which was researched and printed in a little over a year’s time. Investigation of the village’s history was pretty much in its infancy, and I thought it was time that some old “facts” were changed or eliminated altogether.
Talk about being timely! On March 2, I wrote the article, “Epidemic proportions,” that reported on the history of the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918, and its effects locally. And what have we been hearing about lately? The oncoming of the deadly Bird Flu. It was as if I were seeing into the future when I wrote about the 1918 flu:
“What was the cause of America’s worst epidemic? No one is sure, even today, but recent studies link it to birds. A virus that jumped from birds to humans. ‘Bird Flu’ it’s called. Health and animal experts warn it could happen again, perhaps even worse in scope. So the next time the flu comes around, maybe we shouldn’t be looking at the [germy] dishwater, but, instead, be looking to the skies.”
Remember, you saw it here first, Landmark readers.
I made my mark on the Brookfield political scene when I commented on Bill Russ’s big secret idea to sell off some of Kiwanis Park and let an inn be built there, in “To dream the inn-possible dream,” on March 9. I usually hate to get involved in local political races, but this time I felt that I just had to comment. I gave some history on Kiwanis Park, and how it was never purchased with the intention of turning part of it into an inn. I don’t know if this column had any effect on the April election, but I knew if I didn’t say anything, I would’ve regretted it for the rest of my life.
Also on March 9 was printed my article on the history of the Roosevelt Fountain at the Zoo. Each year, millions of people have admired its spray of waters rising into the air, but few know how it came to exist. So, gathering my own personal research materials that included actual press releases from its dedication day on May 14, 1954, I went to work and told the story of the “Tribute fit for a president.”
In the March 30 article, “The marvelous Mr. Melville,” I related the history and importance of man and his family who were among the earliest settlers of Brookfield.
It’s always good to pay especial attention to “A high flying flag,” as I did in my April 16 history article about Brookfield’s own village flags.
One of the most useful articles I ever wrote was the one titled “Bike trek,” on April 13, which offered a basic history of the Salt Creek Bicycle Trail, as well as practical tips for riding or walking on it. My article “brought back fond memories” for Mark and Evie Theis of Brookfield.
In May 4’s “Building boom,” I took a good look at the known history of Brookfield’s oldest apartment buildings, dating back to 1928. Covered in detail were the Eleanor Apartments at 4005 DuBois Blvd., the Vernon-Lincoln Apartments and the Gloria Apartments at 3636 Grand Blvd.
Baseball season was in full swing when, also on May 11, I told of my family’s “Baseball daydreaming” memories. The Cubs got plenty of mentioning; the Sox, not a word. Take pity on me. How could I know the Sox would win it big? It sounded almost as impossible as the Cubs doing it.
Sometimes I write a feature news story, as I did for the May 18 issue, when Brookfield Zoo’s gorilla mother, Binti Jua, had a little baby boy. That same week, I plunged back into history again, telling the story of “Brookfield’s old timer,” the ancient Constitution Tree in Kiwanis Park.
It was both my honor and pleasure to be able to write about Brookfield’s one and only Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Colgrass, in “From pots and pans to a Pulitzer,” on June 22. Colgrass, the great percussionist and composer, commented via e-mail that, “I just read your article, and liked it. I appreciate the conscientiousness with which you went about the job; very professional. You covered a lot of territory and also had some amusing and homey touches. Thanks for the good job.”
I might also mention that the Colgrass article could not have been so well written without the help of his sister, Cathy Colgrass Edwards, who is currently one of Brookfield’s village trustees.
People were always asking me about Brookfield’s old address numbering system, so I explained the 1914 House Numbering Ordinance, and the 1930 change over to the Chicago style in the article, “Brookfield by the numbers,” on July 27. Since then, no one has asked me about it again!
“Mold-A-Rama magic” on Aug. 10, covered the 11 wax figure-making machines at the Brookfield Zoo, and their history. Since then, readers have let me know that this article brought back many fond memories. It was one of those subjects that I also had a personal interest in.
Brookfield was celebrating a centennial in August, but few people seemed to realize it, so I wrote about “Brookfield’s secret centennial,” on Aug. 17, which was also the date of the 100th anniversary of Brookfield being named Brookfield.
August was really a busy month for me. I also wrote about a reunion between “Big Ed” Marcin, Jeff Cermak, and 26 other old Hollywood “boys,” in “Still Hollywood after all these years,” on Aug. 24. Then came “Greetings from Brookfield, Illinois,” on the Aug. 31, the story of how postcard publisher Curt Teich immortalized Brookfield.
Conrad Schneider’s boulder homes and “castles” received the historical treatment on Sept. 7, in “Bigger and boulder.” On the 14th, I took on the Cock Robin story, in “The land of the last One-in-a-Million.”
I thought it was about time something was written about the A&P food stores that had once been in the village, so I tackled “47 years of food at the Brookfield A&P,” on Oct. 5.
“The Grossest of them all,” was the title given to the Oct. 12 article on the history of the Gross School, and how it came by its unusual name. On the 19th, “A final look at the Olde Country Store,” offered an expanded history of the Scamans’ unique business at 8420 Brookfield Ave.
The Brookfield Jaycees’ Haunted House was opening, and on Oct. 26, I wrote a part news, part historical article about it, where, every year, “Insanity begins at home.” Also on the 26th, I revealed more helpful facts about the Salt Creek Bicycle Trail, in my column on “Off-Season biking on the trail.”
The Nov. 2 issue contained the “West Grossdale Story,” that presented the little-known history of both the community of Congress Park, and also of its train station, torn down on March 17, 1979.
The news came that Brookfest would not be held next summer, so I thought that now was the appropriate time to offer an alternative, in my Nov. 16 article, “Party time in Brookfield,” about the two Village Block Parties that, in 1989 and 1990, were celebrated on the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard.
“A noble Enterprise” examined the history of Brookfield’s most renowned and remembered small newspaper, the Enterprise, that later became The Times. This article appeared on Nov. 30. By the way, the photo on page 19 of the 1982 Illinois Press award, camera, film, and newspapers was taken by Elmer Johnson’s son, Denny.
From 1962-85, Brookfield Zoo visitors had the chance to ride on a railroad train, and in “All aboard!” on Dec. 7, I recounted the glory days of its operation.
For several months, the locally-operating Whispering Oaks Girl Scout Council had been in the process of merging with the DuPage County Council, and I finally managed to assemble enough material for the Dec. 14 news/historical article about it.
My Dec. 21 article, “Postal ghosts of Christmases past,” colorfully explored the history of the first Christmas cards, and Christmas postcards in particular.
Also on Dec. 21 ran my holiday column on “Remembering our Morton Avenue Christmas.” Here I recalled, with my well-remembered childlike viewpoint, the both exquisite and awful agony of waiting for the Big Day, as well as some of our family’s tradition, such as eating the popcorn chains on the Christmas tree
Now another year has come to a close, and I’ll bet you’re wondering what articles I have up my sleeve for 2006. Well, sometimes I wonder, too. In 2005, I wrote approximately 72,092 words, covering 36 articles and 20 columns. If you have any suggestions for articles or columns, e-mail me at chrisstach @hotmail.com, or call the Landmark at 442-6739.
I would like to thank, in print, the kind and patient people at the Brookfield Library, and also both Sondra Katzen, the Brookfield Zoo media relations manager, and Courtney Lavery, the zoo librarian, for all their help.
Happy New Year to you all!