The year 1947 was pivotal for Forest Park and its hometown newspaper. The masthead featured a new name, “The Review and Forest Parker,” and the paper had a new publisher, Claude A. Walker. He billed it as “The Paper with the Personal Touch” and with a nod to the many Forest Parkers who fought overseas, “Like a Letter from Home.” These WWII personnel also got a break on the subscription price: “Servicemen any part of the world – $1.00.” A year’s subscription cost $2 for non-military, with the newsstand price at 5 cents per issue.

Walker published the newspaper every Thursday from the Forest Publications Inc. plant at 7233 Madison St. He also penned a lively column called “Personal Observations,” where he unleashed his biting sarcasm against local politicians, ill-behaved children and Sunday drivers. His newspaper reflected the post-war economic boom, doubling in size from two pages to four. 

It was a period when there was a great deal of concern for returning vets. A “Thank-a-Yank” program was launched to raise money for vets being treated at Hines Hospital. Returning vets were encouraged to use the GI Bill to attend the University of Illinois campus at Navy Pier (the forerunner of UIC). There were 3,800 freshmen and sophomores attending classes there in 1947. 

The village also started work on pre-fab homes for veterans. The components were hauled in by railroad and the houses were built on Veteran Court, just north of Madison Street. Jack’s Photo Shop, at 6509 Roosevelt, offered photostats of Army and Navy discharge papers for 50 cents. Amputee vets also enjoyed a bargain: They were entitled to a new car, or tractor, for no more than $1,600.  

Besides advertising services for vets, the newspaper carried ads from the local utilities. Although the electric company, phone company and gas company did not face any competition, they felt compelled to dispense their wisdom. There were five tips from Illinois Bell on how to properly use a telephone directory. The electric company instructed residents to properly light their homes by screwing bulbs into any empty sockets. The gas company offered a recipe for a one-skillet dinner that would cut down on fuel consumption.  

For those who were eating out, Forest Park restaurants offered some grand bargains. A five-course dinner at Forest Gardens restaurant, 7401 Madison, cost 85 cents. Another hotspot was Homer’s Sandwich Shop. It offered wholesome, home-cooked food at 7340 Madison. The owner, Homer Bale, was elected to the school board that year. But in even bigger news, he installed air-conditioning in the summer of 1947 (Homer’s later burned down and was replaced by a bank parking lot). 

The Ed Roos Company was going strong in those days. They honored their male employees who had worked there for 25 years. They also advertised for female employees: “Women for Light Factory Work, $.75 per hour.” There were other career choices for women. The telephone company declared: “Smart is the girl who combines a well-paying job with personality development. Telephone operators are among the better paid feminine workers and by the very nature of their work acquire charm of voice and manner.”

Perhaps operators made more money than teachers. Forest Park’s teacher salaries were $2,400 for first year teachers and $3,600 for those in their 13th year. 

In transportation news, buses replaced streetcars on Madison. Mayor Vernon Reich had long railed against the company for its deteriorated tracks and holes in the pavement. Always looking for an excuse to party, the village held a parade to inaugurate the new bus service. 

Meanwhile, the “L” still ran at grade level along Harrison Street. The Gutenschwager family narrowly escaped death when their car stalled on the crossing at Circle Avenue. The parents and their baby got out just before a Westchester-bound train smashed their car. 

But the big news was the “superhighway” that threatened to slice Forest Park in two. Homeowners, village officials and cemetery owners fought a fruitless battle to stop what is now the Eisenhower Expressway. Plans for the highway included a pedestrian bridge at Beloit (which never happened) and an overpass at Circle (which did). 

Oak Park was well on its way to becoming “No Park” by installing 350 parking meters in its business district.

The Forest Theater was showing Technicolor movies and giving away Easter baskets. The Lil Theater continued to show black and white classics, like The Killers starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner. The hit song of 1947 was “Beyond the Sea,” but Trage Bros. Appliance Co. was also selling albums by Glenn Miller, Louis Prima and Hoagy Carmichael. In other entertainment news, the Betsy Ross pupils staged an old-time minstrel show. 

Some real-life celebrities visited Forest Park. Jim Thorpe, “Indian athlete and world’s greatest Olympics champion,” addressed the Boy Scouts. Thorpe was living in Austin and lobbying to bring the 1952 Olympics to Chicago. Evangelist Billy Sunday came to address the Presbyterian Men’s Forum. 

The village also had a homegrown talent who became a renowned talk show host. Michael Douglas (real name Dowd) was performing at the Palmer House. 

The newspaper publicized local entertainment, such as the league standings at Circle Bowl and the Bowler’s Club. For the teenage set, The Park offered a Week End Whirl dance for “Chicks and Chucks.” The Parichy Stadium Grill offered nightly TV shows that patrons could watch on an RCA Victor set installed by Trage Bros. Less upscale patrons could visit the Terminal Bar, at 720 Desplaines, or West Town Liquors, which advertised, “Beer in cans now available.”

Apart from this frivolity, the village suffered real tragedy. Police Lt. Herman Ziebell was murdered. Charles Crosby was arrested for his killing and faced the death penalty. His accomplice, Henry Hitson, was captured in New York and sentenced to 199 years. His widow received a $4,000 check from the community. In other crime news, the Jewish cemeteries sued the village for $35,000, alleging they were dumping rubbish on cemetery grounds. 

Polio was also a scourge in the community. There was a huge increase in victims in 1946. E.C. Trage headed the local March of Dimes drive to raise funds for these paralyzed patients. The cost of care per victim was $200,000. 

There were plans to remodel Forest Park’s first village hall, at Circle & Randolph, into a private residence. Houses ranged in price from $8,000 to $21,000 and a new subdivision was planned for 15th & Circle. 

Forest Park continued to grow, along with its newspaper. Oh, and vehicle stickers cost $5.

John Rice

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.