40 years ago

The year 1969 didn’t have a chance – in this country or abroad. The score sheet for 1968: Nearly 250,000 American troops knee-deep in the Big Muddy. A nation never so divided since the Civil War. Assassinations: Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy and Medgar Evers. The “fated four” freedom workers, murdered in Mississippi. The killings of Black Panther co-founders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago. College students vs. school administrators. Radical hippies and protesting yippies challenging the “suits” of the Establishment. Head bashing when marchers confronted police outside the Conrad Hilton Hotel during the Democratic Convention.

With 1969 came continuing dissent, discontent and madness, Armstrong and Aldrin had an out-of-this world trip in June. Agent Orange was anything but a character on television’s Get Smart. Dead U.S. troops numbered more than 9,000. The total would exceed 58,000 – and more than a million Vietnamese civilians would perish. The My Lai massacre and the killings at Kent State, still to come.

Enough, and too much.

Back home, a group called the West Suburban Clergy and Laymen gathered in front of the Selective Service Board on Madison Street. Statements were read, punctuated by readings of names – those of the Illinois servicemen and women killed thus far.

There was no violence. Neither was there much satisfaction.

From the June 18, 1969, Forest Park Review

30 years ago

Many people think they can’t write very well. Very well, give them a strong incentive like convincing their insurance company that they should be collecting big bucks from their claims. Here are just a few examples of creative writing that Aetna Insurance has received from its claimants:

A Vermont policyholder was sued when a visitor drew blood after slipping on her host’s throw rug. The homeowner countersued because the blood “ruined her nice new drapes.”

Guy walks into a tree. (No joke.) Said dust from nearby construction job was the cause. No payoff.

Finally, this bizarre complaint: “A horse ate my steering wheel.” Now there’s a sentence you may never encounter again.

From the May 16, 1979, Forest Park Review

20 Years ago

Jackie Schulz’s column is current, linear, and follows real time. Mine is telescopic, backwards and requires the reader to wallow in time past. Hers reads like it was written by Brenda Starr. Mine, more like Bart Starr. She’s not sure but thinks she might’ve started her column around 1970. Jackie still maintains that a little devil is perched on her shoulder all those years that keeps shrieking, “Nobody ever reads your stuff.” Say it ain’t so, Jackie.

So where does all this leave John Rice? People think John is funny because of his Irish hormones. The truth is, he comes from a different part of the forest. What else? He has written serious columns, has done a lot of straight reporting, and has written many an entertaining and historical newspaper feature. He digs poetry, old and new, and is currently trying to worry Hoagy Carmichael and Fats Waller on the 88s. Sure as dogs chase cars, he is fond of tracking down people – for a fee. (He’s a private eye.) Finally, John strongly endorses the Ben Franklin maxim, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

From the May 17, 1989, Forest Park Review

10 years ago

Steve Lee’s Chinese Restaurant on Roosevelt Road failed to meet necessary standards of health and cleanliness, and was shuttered. The place was cited for nine violations. Ironically, it had been honored with a “Mainstreet Pride Award” when it opened just three years before. The place had a chic, upscale look to it, but failure to comply after repeated warnings closed its doors for good.

From the April 28, 1999, Forest Park Review