In our circulation office stands the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, the downtrodden spindly tree that is flopped over from the weight of the single red ornament on its branch. 

In 1965 when the famous newspaper comic strip came to life, in A Charlie Brown Christmas, Forest Park was hopping with business and goodwill. Ben Franklin was selling battery-operated race cars. Calcagno’s Food Mart had the biggest Santa Claus in town. Harlem-Madison Sales Co. offered 7-foot Royal Scotch Pines for $19.95. Trage Bros. sold hair dryers and AM table radios. Peaslee’s Hardware had in stock for the holidays the electric cordless Shave Master. Forest Park Vogue had smart ‘n’ sassy suede outfits. N.M. Miller sold zippo lighters and Timex watches. Forest Park Gift and Stationers sold musical powder boxes, gift wrapping and toys. And Sam Zussman’s Men’s Shop was selling Stetson Hats for $12.95. Tired shoppers with tired feet were encouraged to go to Cesar’s Pizza on Randolph for a meal, and for a holiday banquet, people met for gatherings at Homer’s Restaurant and Seven Oaks.

 Mayor Howard Mohr and the village council grappled with the volume of charity drives in town and, in an effort to help residents determine the validity of charities, organizations were encouraged to submit financial records to the council. 

Charlie Brown, our weary hero, navigated the complicated Christmas season 50 years ago, struggling with commercialism, loneliness, gift-giving and the scriptural meaning of the holiday. In the end, he is redeemed through the spiritual wisdom of Linus, great jazz music, and the spindly Christmas tree that becomes a symbol of holiday goodwill and overcoming odds. 

As I shop in the local businesses in town today, I think about Charlie Brown and the lessons Charles Schultz shared. I feel great shopping here in Forest Park and Oak Park at our local independent stores. I visit Century & Sleuths for books, for the gift drive at Cocina Lobos, stop at Hallmark for the Star Wars mug set, purchase jewelry at Camile, hot cocoa from Brown Cow, a sign from Team Blonde, a scarf from Deedee and Edee , a thank-you gift from Yearbook, the Hop-a-long Cassidy pencil set from Krenicks, a box of French creams from La Maison de Bonbon, Famous Liquors for late night wrapping, and order ahead for a pick-up of ribs and fish from Smokin M’s or pizza from McGaffers.

Much like Forest Parkers of 1965, I am grateful to the independent spirit of our hometown businesses. Thank you to all my neighbors who put up Christmas lights, our teachers, our police and firefighters, our bus drivers, public works employees, postal carriers, park district staff, the community center for planning holiday meals for our community friends, and those who contribute to the coat drives, food drives, donations, and our local church and parish families. 

From my family to yours, peace and good will this holiday season and all year through.