Courtesy Forest Park Historical Society

It’s highly appropriate that the hit song of 1927 was “Blue Skies” because when Charles Lindbergh flew his airplane, the “Spirit of St. Louis” across the Atlantic, he dominated the news. 

Few towns had a connection to Lucky Lindy like Forest Park. The former air mail pilot was a houseguest at 536 Circle in 1923. A.L. Hall, the publisher of the Forest Park Review, hobnobbed with Colonel Lindbergh in 1927 and his company later published The Story of Lindbergh, a 300-page epic about the aviator. Plus, when the new Post Office opened at 316 Circle, it sold the new Lindbergh Air Mail stamps. They cost 2 cents.

In other world news, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. The Holland Tunnel was opened in New York, where the Yankees’ “Murderer’s Row” ruled baseball. The hit movie The Jazz Singer, was the first feature-length talkie. In 1927, a steak sandwich cost $1.25, men’s suits were $16 and a raccoon coat would set you back $40. Henry Ford lured legions of workers to Detroit, offering the unheard of wage of $5 a day.

The Gold standard 

1927 was an election year in Forest Park, and it was as intensely fought as present-day campaigns. The year began with Mayor Kaul re-stating his promise not to seek a second term. Referring to his self-enforced term limit he said, “Everyone knows where I stand.” Soon a crowded field was vying for his seat. Back then, bookies placed odds on the races for mayor and commissioner. There were 15,000 villagers that year, up from 10,768 in 1920. 

George R. Gold, who campaigned with the slogan, “A vote for Gold is a vote for a clean, upright and honest administration,” won the mayoral contest. The new village council held their first meeting on April 30. It lasted from 8:15 p.m. to 1 a.m.! A few spectators lasted to the end of the Monday night/Tuesday morning meeting. The election had other repercussions besides inducing sleepiness. Voters approved lighting the streets but defeated a proposal to create a municipal band (Henry Hill would have been disappointed). 

The council passed a new code of village ordinances. They included don’t spit on the sidewalk; don’t sleep on the sidewalk (without a good excuse); and don’t roller-skate in the middle of the street. Other prohibitions included permitting any horse, ass, ox, cow, goat, or pig to roam the streets. It was also against the law to let an un-muzzled bear go forth unattended. 

Speaking of prohibition with a capital “P,” a large still was discovered in the alley between Harlem & Elgin. Government agents confiscated 261 five-gallon cans of alcohol. However, government control went only so far. The Zoning Board reported they could not keep out apartments. “There is now an apartment house on practically every block of the village,” commissioners complained.

Just west of Forest Park, a 200-acre parcel of land south of 22nd Street was donated by Edith Rockefeller to the Chicago Zoological Society for the creation of a zoo, “with lakes and mountains.” Cook County voters approved $5 million for the construction of Brookfield Zoo. To the north, the North Avenue Bridge across the Des Plaines River was completed. The Review reported “vague plans to pave North Avenue to Du Page County and into Kane County.”

The village council also tried to make street improvements. They were stymied in their attempts to widen 12th Street. It was approved by all the property owners “except the Harlem Golf Course.” There were “rumors plenty but little fact” indicating that the owners of the golf course were going to revive the Harlem Race Track (now the mall), which had held its last race in 1904. In other “fake news”: “Seller of bargain oranges turns out to be fraudulent.” 

In 1927, Alonzo Cary, the last remaining Civil War veteran in Forest Park, died at the age of 82. At the school bearing his commanding general’s name, an addition was near completion. It would be named in honor of longtime teacher, Elizabeth White and become known as Grant-White. If it had been named for Alonzo, it might have ended up Cary-Grant. In other school news, St. John Lutheran planned to open a south school on Marengo to accommodate 50 students. Field School parents took in a jazz program. Over 1,000 public school students flocked to the Altenheim Grove for their annual picnic. And the paper proudly announced that 16 seniors from Proviso High School had been named to the National Honor Society. 

Forest Park’s own radio station, WBNA, broadcast big bands from the Triangle Café. Owner M.J. Rafferty expanded the hours of the 5,000 kilowatt station, which aired live music from a tower atop the ballroom. Rafferty would later survive getting shot five times in the parking lot, which may have induced his retirement. The Review retired 1927 by wishing all of its readers “Merry Christmas,” which could be controversial today.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.