After basking in small town charm during the centennial fest, it was time for big city access. We headed for Wrigley Field, because there’s no greater place for goofing off on a workday afternoon than the bleachers.
We happened to sit next to a couple from New Zealand, who were attending their first baseball game. Harvey and Janet Brown were in town to visit their newest grandson and their son-in-law, Rich, was nice enough take them away from baby care to see the Cubs.
Harvey watches baseball down under on ESPN but I explained a few subtleties of the game and pointed out some unique features of the old ballpark. I also exhausted all of my knowledge of New Zealand. Let’s see: they have the world’s best rugby team, they lost a lot of soldiers at Gallipoli during World War I and “Xena: Warrior Princess” was filmed there.
Scraping the conversational bottom, I mentioned that I was a columnist for the Forest Park Review. Harvey and Janet’s eyes lit up. It turned out they had lived in Forest Park during the early ’60s. Harvey took courses at UIC, while Janet cared for their firstborn daughter, who was only 8 months old.
The Browns lived on the 800 block of Ferdinand and attended a Presbyterian church in Forest Park. They warmly recalled how their Italian-American neighbors and fellow church members took them under their wing. During their visit, the Browns drove past the Forest Park home they occupied for two years. Harvey said it was a very emotional experience.
Harvey is a retired professor now and the couple lives in a town called Levin, which has 15,000 people, just like Forest Park. Of course the scenery is slightly more spectacular in New Zealand. Plus, I learned the Kiwis have more golf courses per capita than any other country.
Which leads me to my second big city access story: Columbus Park Golf Course let kids play for free this summer. I had vowed at the beginning of the long school break to take off one day a week to hang out with my 12 year old. So, we played many rounds of golf at Columbus.
Mark started out struggling to hit the ball. During a period of weeks, though, he progressed from hitting little dribblers to smacking line drives down the heart of the fairway. Sometimes his big brother would join us. You can’t beat fun at the old golf course.
So, once again we’re thankful that Forest Park is only a hop, skip and an el line from the city. It’s also gratifying to learn how our small town has touched lives from the other side of the world. It’s strange, though. We set out to enjoy big city access but thanks to Harvey and Janet, we found small town charm.