I tend to resist new technology during this (Too Much) Information Age. I only just crawled out from under my rock and discovered YouTube. No, I didn’t go there to watch a squirrel water skiing. Instead, I viewed some videos on Forest Park history.
These were posted by Mike Beyer at his Chitownview site, which is devoted to historic Chicago-area stories. His videos included a tour of the 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame, a study of “A Gangland Murder in Quiet Forest Park (1931)” and “The Almost All Gone, Forest Park Neon Tour.” In this video, I learned we only have two neon signs left and they both have burnt out letters.
Mike has been a Forest Parker for three years but has lived in this area his whole life. He has an intense interest in local history and spends a good deal of time researching the past at the Forest Park Public Library. He also visited the historical society and took photographs of the Forest Park Amusement Park for his newest video. He releases about three videos per week.
YouTube allowed Mike to become an international broadcaster, using six different channels. He’s produced over 1,000 videos, as part of his mission to present online history of the 20th century. His videos receive an average of 100,000 hits per month and he just passed the 3,000,000 mark. His films are very big in India.
Mike was an avid reader growing up but always had an interest in TV, movies and the visual arts. Following his education at Rosary College (now Dominican University), where Mike was a trailblazing male student, he studied filmmaking at Columbia College. He developed an interest in vintage videos of Chicago and old surf movies.
Like many locals, Mike didn’t know much about Forest Park, beyond the bars on Madison Street. When he learned we once had the world’s largest roller coaster, he saw the town in a different light. Mike wants to discover more about “Forgotten Forest Park”: the golf course, racetrack and Parichy baseball stadium. He’s also exploring the mystery of “Melody Millie” who allegedly haunts Waldheim Cemetery.
Mike has endless curiosity, which is stimulated by the unique features he stumbles on in Forest Park. He found a totem pole, the mural of an “old man” and a lion sculpture on Elgin. He also studied the stonework on our commercial buildings and swears the faade on a building at Harlem & Madison has mermen.
In his efforts to present history online, Mike hopes to assist the historical society with its website. He’s also open to making a presentation at a historical society event. In the meantime, he just received his first check from the companies that advertise on his broadcasts. It was a small one but, in his unassuming way, Mike is becoming a media mogul.