I notice that Forest Park is becoming an increasingly cultured community. It hasn’t always been that way. When we first moved to town, we had a run-down public library that offered paintings on loan. Now, in addition to a modern library building, Forest Park has its own art galleries.
In the old days, we had a row of seedy shot and a beer joints. Today, that row features a shop offering classes in fine wines. We didn’t have much in the way of live music in those joints either. One of the bars had a sing-along on the weekends. Now we have two jazz venues and outdoor concerts in the summer. We even have our own school of music.
Speaking of schools, did you ever think we’d have gourmet cooking classes on Madison? We can also learn to knit and make jewelry on the main drag.
Used bookstores occasionally called Forest Park home. Now, we have a first-rate bookseller, who attracts top authors for book signings. We didn’t have a record store for years. Today, we can buy and sell new and used recordings at our local shop.
If you consider cuisine part of culture, Forest Park has experienced an upgrade. We’ve had some good restaurants in the past, like Otto’s and Homer’s. Otherwise, the town’s menu was dominated by fast food and pub food. Now, we can enjoy Cajun, first-class Italian and Thai food. What could be next, a Japanese steakhouse?
For years we didn’t know the stories of the famous people and colorful characters buried in our cemeteries. Now, we have cemetery tours as well as historical tours of Forest Park.
As for historic preservation, too often our town tore down Victorians to make way for apartment buildings. We also razed a classic municipal building and replaced it with the cheesiest village hall in the western suburbs. Now, homes are being restored rather than torn down and residents are fighting to preserve the historic character of their neighborhoods.
We have an award winning live theater but we still lack a movie theater. I wonder if Forest Park is now cultured enough that we wouldn’t have patrons yelling at the screen.
We still want some of that rough and tumble spirit in Forest Park. We don’t want to turn into a village of intellectual snobs and pretentious artists. But I think it’s a sign of progress that a town that was heavy in sports and tavern life can offer evenings of fine wine and scintillating jazz.