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Only Last Month

Due to an unaccustomed burst of energy to get out two columns in advance-and unbeknownst to my vast readership-my wife, Barbara, and I took off to visit Daughter Number One and her husband in a place called California. I thought a brief account of this fortnight might be more interesting than the price of pork roast at the White Way 40 years ago.

Besides being a state of mind, La-La Land has been summed up in a cartoon showing a car passing a road sign reading, “Leaving California. Resume Normal Behavior.” The notion occurred that when the Big One hits, the major break will be along the Cal-Nev border, and that everything else will slide into the ocean.

Southeast of Santa Barbara, we followed some of the winery and restaurant scenes from the hit movie, “Sideways.” North and further inland, we visited near the small town of Cholame at the small diner where James Dean stopped just minutes before his tragic auto accident. It was more than nice to find that the diner and the town have not excessively exploited his fame.

A favorite memory is that of the Pacific surf, relentlessly rolling and breaking with the spindrift dancing across its tops, than crashing. I found my mind recalling a poem about how such waves broke long before Sophocles, and how they would do so long after we’re gone. The temporary and the eternal.

From no particular time or place–except California

Thirty Years Ago

The unthinkable happened. On Feb. 4, after their weeks work, the Friday commuters were settled into their seats (some stood) on the CTA Lake Street line. They were pulling away from the Loop for their homes and a weekend’s respite. First one, then another, elevated car careened over the curve at Lake and Wabash. Eleven passengers died, two from Forest Park.

Gail Woiniewitz, 23, a former Oak Park resident, had been married for only a year to her husband, John. They lived on the 7200 block of Dixon Street. Marion McKeag, 45, had left John M. Smyth Co. early to get some shopping done. Charles Marinier, a co-worker and a well-known local school board member, had assured the former Londoner that the commute to and from Forest Park, “would not be all that bad.”

Two surviving Forest Parkers described the chaotic scene. Robert Greco, 28, was sitting near the motorman reading his newspaper after a full day as director of training at the First National Bank. In car number two Jill Hines, 30, was also reading. Feeling the train hit something, they realized the horror of their cars tilting, and then falling from the trestle to the pavement 25 feet below. Two cars fell to the intersection, one dangled. More than 180 people were injured.

From the Feb. 9, 1977, Forest Park Review

Twenty Years Ago

If nothing else, publisher-editor Bob Haegar was a Barber Shop Quartet enthusiast–and a performing one. In his “Once Over Lightly” column he shared some “oldie” titles that he had come across. Such finger-tapping favorites as: “When the Phone Doesn’t Ring, You’ll Know It’s Me” … “Who Paid the Rent For Mrs. Rip Van Winkle When the Ripper Went Bowling and Almost Didn’t Come Back?” … “The Worst You Ever Gave Me Was the Best I Ever Got” … “It Took a Heck of a Man to Take My Ann, But it Sure Didn’t Take Him Long.” Note how the women get the short end. More from the Haeger (and Sullivan) song bag next week.

From the Dec. 22, 1986, Forest Park Review

Ten Years Ago

The 65-year-old woman had re-entered her car and was about to leave the lot of the currency exchange at 7431 Roosevelt Rd. A man suddenly wrenched the door open, flashed a hunting knife and demanded the cash she had withdrawn. When she hesitated, the man put the knife to her throat and repeated his demand. After grabbing the cash he pulled the keys from the ignition, threw them across the lot and took off in his nearby black sports car.

From the Jan. 17, 1997, Forest Park Review