40 years ago

The Forest Park Chamber of Commerce capped its annual banquet with the first naming of its Man of the Year at Mangam’s Chateau in Lyons. Bob Conklin, representing the Fraternal Order of Police made the (surprise) award to Homer Bale, longtime proprietor of Homer’s Restaurant on Madison Street.

For decades Homer’s was the place to gather when eating, meeting and greeting whether for friendship or business. “Homer earned respect and admiration from all who knew him,” said Conklin, “He had a reputation for helping deserving people and causes in the community.”

For anyone who has never attended the yearly affair, the soiree mixed serious notes with high jinks. Father Joseph Levoy of St. Bernardine’s regaled the crowd with his bag of priest jokes. And a suspect collection of high-kicking cross-dressers made a shambles of the term, “female beauty.”

This add-on – it only took a few more years for the equality contingent to change the name of the award to “Person of the Year.”

From the Feb. 25, 1970, Forest Park Review

30 years ago

Someone named Edwin Feulner wrote a syndicated appreciation picked up by the Review. The “appreciated” was a comic from the days of vaudeville ’til his death early in 1980 – Jimmy Durante. With time passing and tastes changing, I’m guessing that very few people under 30 have heard of him. He was funny, he was kind, he was lovable and he was a genuinely good man.

Those lucky enough to remember him, remember him as a superb song and dance man, who couldn’t sing or dance. Still, no one could out-strut him. And all that real estate between his eyes and mouth was accompanied by a warm gravel voice that sang his “In-ka-dink-ka-do” theme song.

He often played an upright piano while standing upright, usually beneath his trademark crumpled fedora. His self-mocking one-liners were a joy – “It’s my nose’s birthday. Two weeks later, I arrived on the scene.” He mangled the language delightfully once protesting, “I don’t want anybody to put me on a pedesil.” More than once when the band had a train wreck (broke down) he would cry, “Stop the music! Stop the music! We’re havin’ a catastastroke!”

Yet, you’d have to read his biography, Schnozzola, to know the hurt and tears that followed when he was taunted as a boy. It probably had everything to do with the warm humble and essentially good person he became – one of those who never said anything to hurt anyone.

Writer Feulner ended with this telling remark: “Jimmy Durante was one of those comic spirits who made the world seem worth bothering about again. Personally, I won’t forget a serious moment in a light-hearted television interview when
Schnozzola posed the heartfelt question, “Why doesn’t everybody … leave everybody else … the hell … alone.” Still a valid point.

“Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.”

From the Feb. 27, 1980, Forest Park Review

20 years ago

A Forest Park couple is driving a beater on Roosevelt Road approaching Clinton. They think they hit a pedestrian yet keep driving, panicky, unsure and fearful. Two weeks go by, during which the victim, a 61-year-old Oak Park man dies, and the couple has sold the car for $100.

The irony is that the guilty party tells the buying party about the hit-and-run. A routine check of ownership records reveals an L.D. match. Who’s not thinking?

From the Mar. 7, 1990, Forest Park Review

10 years ago

Couldn’t come up with much for 10 years back, yet the Columnist’s Code demands that space be filled. To me that means joke time!

Old, old man walking down Broadway on a hot, hot August night. Crowded. He faints. Concerned people gather around him (it’s possible in New York). Policeman makes his way to the old man, folds his coat under the geezer’s head as a pillow and asks, “Are you comfortable, sir?” Old man replies, “Eh, I make a living.”

From no particular issue of the Forest Park Review