It was a year of upheaval — locally, internationally and, for some, personally. Not all of this turmoil was bad. The highlight of 2015 for me was the political miracle pulled off by “209 Together” in the Proviso High School board race. The election of a new majority on the District 209 school board was an electoral earthquake that sent seismic shock waves throughout the western suburbs. More importantly, it gives hope to the parents and students of Proviso Township.
We also had a healthy shake-up of the village council, with a transfusion of new blood and young leadership. It was exciting to see fresh ideas for the green space at Altenheim and plans for the Roos site.
As usual, I had the privilege of meeting new people and saying goodbye to some very special ones. These included Maurice O’Connor, Zyg Stutz and William Callaghan Sr. I discovered the remarkable stories behind some of our local businesses, like the Golden Steer, American Music World and Kagan & Gaines. I had the honor of interviewing our local hot dog lady, Sonya, who operates Parky’s.
I did my first-ever painting, at Creativita, under the guidance of the incomparable, Jessica. I learned a great deal about the worlds of Soap Box Derby, bonsai trees and local archeology. I got to visit my second favorite statue, Blackhawk, rising above the Rock River. I learned the therapeutic value of coloring books.
I was a tour guide on our first-ever Speakeasy Tour, as well as a centennial Eastland Disaster tour and a history tour of Forest Park. Saw another miracle take place when the Historical Society found a permanent home at 1st United Church of Christ. That’s where we pulled off a community concert that had a few glitches but displayed some splendid talent. Among these musicians was jazz singer, Alyssa Allgood, who later made her debut at the Jazz Showcase and competed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
I also heard some fabulous gospel music at Living Word Christian Center. They treated me and my French students like royalty. However, there was one sour note in the world of music — when I had to part with my giant ’70s-style stereo speakers.
We got to welcome Panda Studios back to Forest Park. They are directly across Harrison from the 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame. And, yes, I wrote the preview for the No Gloves Tournament for the 25th year in a row. Stumbling across a previously-unpublished Mike Royko article about softball made it all worthwhile.
We covered Little League games for the Play Ball section. In fact, I experienced writer’s burnout for the first time but survived. I also survived the loss of my teaching job. My daughter, Nicole, consoled me by telling me I was on maternity leave. She said I was giving birth to a book, while she was having a baby and we both had the same due date: Dec. 20.
This made sense because our book, The Ghost of Cleopatra, had taken nine months to write. I began having contractions, in the form of revisions, before my due date, but like Nicole, I had to be induced. I labored for 17 hours but she had it much harder — 24 hours. Our adorable grandson, William Henry Callaghan IV weighed in at 6 pounds. The book weighed 299 pages at birth. But you know how newborns lose weight. It’s now a trim 289.
Can’t wait to see what 2016 brings. Enough with the upheaval.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.