The month of January was named for a god with eyes in the back of his head, so what better time for us to look backward at Forest Park.

There have been so many changes in Forest Park in recent years. For example, look at how the so-called gateways to the village have evolved. Cermak and Desplaines used to be undisturbed cemetery property. Now Woodlawn’s elegant new funeral home and McAdam’s sprawling landscaping operation dominate our southern entrance.

Over at another gateway, a currency exchange replaced Quitsch’s rustic florist shop. The western portal at Lathrop and Randolph was the longtime home of Campbell’s service station. The place didn’t just look old-fashioned with its 1920’s style canopy. How many stations allow customers to run a tab on full-service fill ups?

Our main street literally lost some of its blue-collar culture when the uniform shop closed. The space has gone upscale with art glass and gourmet cooking. Quaint clothing shops like Bernice’s and Sam Zussman’s have given way to boutiques.

We also lost both of our Chinese restaurants on Madison Street. An Irish bar replaced Lee Choi while China Night’s space is being redeveloped into condos and a Japanese steakhouse. At least we still have Thai food and the Fuji Grill.

As for American cuisine, the Pines and Golden Steer are still going strong. It’s true that Pete’s Grill became Louie’s Grill but I doubt the clientele noticed much difference with the cheeseburgers.

Forest Park used to have three independent video stores. All Star Video should be congratulated for outlasting the competition. The former site of Circle Video has been transformed into a topnotch restaurant, with its own jazz club. There’s a jewelry store there now and the building’s façade has been dramatically upgraded. High-end condos are replacing its low rent apartments.

Our old furniture store houses an Irish bar, Mexican restaurant and a sandwich shop, topped by a health club. Because the building has no parking, it epitomizes the squeeze we’re feeling on our streets and lots. So far, no buildings have been torn down to make space, and you can still get your teeth fixed on both sides of Circle Avenue.

As for knocking down buildings, the Reverend Tom Holmes Parking Structure will be built on land once occupied by the Mobil station, as soon as we level McDonald’s and the District 91 headquarters.

Forest Park’s decline as a military center started with the closing of the torpedo factory. It’s continued with Wal-Mart replacing naval housing. Now, our Reserve center is scheduled to close.

Some of our churches date to the 19th Century but our largest congregation attends a church that was founded in the 1980’s. It’s hard to believe we had a mall at that location, complete with shops, a food court and a theater.

Sorry to get so nostalgic. Forest Park has made great gains in recent years but I miss some of the old places. At least we’ll always have Parky’s.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball...