Driving down Desplaines Avenue north of 26th Street in North Riverside, you pass by the North Riverside Commons, fire station and police station, but if you listen carefully you may be able to hear the sounds of years gone by and the music from the Melody Mill Ballroom originally housed at the site.
Though it closed in 1984 after 50 years or so, it is still remembered by many. The history of the building includes stories of couples who met to trip the light fantastic or hear their favorite bands in person.
They arrived by bus or car, always fashionably attired. Owned and operated by Ben Lejcar Sr. and his wife, Elsie, followed by members of the Lejcar family, the “Mill” also had its share of ghost stories. Whether true or not, they add to the history of the building now only a memory.
With that in mind, the recently formed North Riverside Historical Society has chosen to call their gala fundraiser “Melody Mill Memories.” The gala will be held on Saturday, Aug. 13 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the North Riverside Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave.
Tickets are available for $20, which includes drinks and hors d’oeuvres. In keeping with the memory of the ballroom, there will be dance music provided by the Steve Cooper Orchestra. Their repertoire will include music from the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, toe-tapping tunes for all ages.
Proceeds from the fundraiser will help to support the society and help refurbish the Melody Mill sign which has long been stored away by public works.
With the focus on the ballroom, members of the North Riverside Historical Society at their last meeting were presented by members of the Lejcar family with pictures depicting interior and exterior of the Melody Mill. These will possibly be the start of a collection on the history of the building, with family members indicating there would be more pictures to follow.
The society is interested in expanding its membership list and finding interested persons who may have information on North Riverside – be it pictures, memorabilia or remembrances. Those interested in the society or purchasing tickets for the gala, please call Dr. Queenella Miller at 447-4211. Please note, the fundraiser is an adults-only function.