‘All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley was the hit song of 1957. This is appropriate, because the earth was literally shaking in Forest Park, caused by mammoth construction projects. It was also an earth-shaking year for the Forest Park Review and its publisher, Claude A. Walker. 

Walker was elected state representative of the 4th District. A contingent of 60 Forest Park businessmen took the train to Springfield to witness his swearing-in. Walker was touched. “Their gesture is making a better man of me,” he said. The freshman state rep proved adept at passing legislation. Walker sponsored 35 bills that passed unanimously.

Meanwhile, he was making a better newspaper out of the Review. “The Paper with the Personal Touch” expanded to 16 pages and sold for a dime at 18 locations in Forest Park. The busy Walker found time to represent his district, run the newspaper, and even pen his “Personal Observations” column. 

He wasn’t the only newspaper owner in the state legislature. His colleague, Paul Simon, purchased his newspaper when he was 19, becoming the youngest editor/publisher in the nation. Simon brought his bow tie to Forest Park in 1957 to address a local gathering.

But back to the earth-shaking, work continued on the “Congress Expressway.” The Review reported that the section of the superhighway going through Forest Park wouldn’t be completed for several years. Cook County Board President Dan Ryan urged a speed-up. The last building in the path of the project was torn down: the historic Terminal Restaurant. The owner was philosophical, “Like many others,” he said, “we cannot stand in the way of progress.”

In other construction news, the new, modern Tuberculosis Sanitarium and Clinic opened its doors at 7556 W. Jackson. And it’s still open, though we’re not sure why or how. “A new fortress has been raised to battle tuberculosis in Cook County,” the Review proclaimed. It was also reported that, “Proviso West was rising from the ground at tremendous speed and is set to open in September 1958.”

All the Forest Park elementary schools underwent extensive renovations and one was rebuilt. The cornerstone of the new Garfield School was laid on March 31, 1957. The time capsule contained two issues of the Review. Dr. Frank Orland read an original poem at the ceremony titled, “Our School Anew.” It was written by Orland and his wife, Phyllis. 

Construction also began on a $2.5 million CTA terminal and repair shop at Desplaines Avenue. As the rail line was extended, Forest Park officials lobbied for an entrance at Circle Avenue. There were also some smaller projects. James Triner built a new tavern at 7307 Roosevelt. The White Way store at Harvard & Beloit was expanded and a $150,000 addition to the village hall was constructed to house the police department. 

The police picked up two runaway mothers and their four children hitchhiking on Roosevelt Road. They told officers they were running away from their husbands and headed to Matteson, Illinois. Police divers also recovered a stolen cash register from the Des Plaines River. 

The state of Illinois installed guardrails at Desplaines & Taylor. The curve had been the site of 18 accidents in 18 months. Another streetscape was improved, when the village purchased two parcels on Madison Street for $25,000 and turned them into a parking lot, now known as Constitution Court. But village officials rankled motorists, when they turned Adams, Elgin, Marengo, Thomas and Ferdinand into one-way streets. 

The cars Forest Parkers were driving had bigger, taller tailfins that year. They cost an average of $2,749. Drivers paid 24 cents a gallon to fill up. In other transportation news, the Soo Line advertised its train, “The Laker, the “famous overnight train” that departed Forest Park for Duluth, Minnesota.

Besides ads for the railroad, the Review carried competing half-page ads paid for by our public utilities. Northern Illinois Gas Co. ran ads extolling the benefits of gas dryers and stoves, while Commonwealth Edison countered with reasons why electric was better.  Oak Leaf Cleaners ran an ad celebrating 25 years at 7408 Harrison, which is now the Oak Leaf Lounge. Emery Parichy, owner of the Parichy Bloomer Girls professional softball team, and his wife celebrated Easter next door at the Pines Restaurant.

In entertainment news, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was showing at the Forest Theater along with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in Hollywood or Bust. Residents could also stay home and “See color every night this winter” if they purchased a color TV at Trage’s for $495. The Review sent out an inquiring reporter to ask residents about their favorite TV shows. 

“I like to see and listen to that enlightening program 21, said Mrs. William Hildebrandt, “Charles Van Doren reveals an amazing knowledge of so many subjects.” (The movie “Quiz Show” later revealed Van Doren was getting the questions and answers in advance.) Mrs. Hildebrandt’s other favorites included Father Knows Best, I Love Lucy and I’ve Got a Secret. By the way, we no longer address women as Mrs. William Hildebrandt. 

The reporter also asked women: “Do you think men folk should help with housework?” One answered, “I prefer to do it myself. You know how men are.”

Women could find full-time work at Fisher Pen Co., 7333 Harrison, where they could do light assembly work “in pleasant conditions.” Fisher produced the famous “Space Pen” the only pen used by astronauts in outer space. 

Cutting-edge technology also came to the Bowlers Club, with the installation of automatic pin setters. In other sports, the Forest Park Basketball Recreation League was in full swing at Grant-White. The Proviso High “Cage Team” featured one African-American player, Wendell Johnson. Little League held its annual parade, with Bears great George Blanda, joining the ranks. 

For sports and entertainment, though, no one could top the exploits of Blanche Kos, whose formidable figure was displayed as often as possible in the Review. Kos was competing with other local beauties, who listed their height, weight and measurements, for “Armed Forces Queen.” Kos won the competition and went on a goodwill tour of Europe. But she wasn’t just another pretty face, as they would say in 1957; she won a gymnastics competition in Cicero that year.

Village Attorney Ed O’Shea led a crackdown on substandard housing, proceeding with legal action against the property owners. The Boy Scouts were allowed to run the village for a day, while the Review scolded the real officeholders for holding an 11-minute council meeting. The council was filled with consternation, when only one garbage company bid on the village contract. Van Der Molen was selected but it was embarrassing when one of their trucks caught fire on Randolph Street — during Fire Prevention Week. 

In 1957, village life centered on local churches, fraternal organizations, and business organizations like the Retail Liquor Dealers Association of Illinois. The Review’s pages were filled with church announcements like, “Sock hop at St. Luke” and “20th Annual St. John’s Outdoor Service Held at the Park.” The library announced it had “Lenten books” available during that sorrowful season. Librarians also noted that the Baby Boom, with 4,000,000 births in 1956, “provides a steady demand for books.” 

Many of these Boomers rode their bikes to the pool on June 17, when 3,000 swimmers swarmed the pool in 96-degree heat. At the opposite end of the age-spectrum, former Mayor H.J. Mohr died at the age of 88. Mohr had served as President of Harlem and Mayor of Forest Park for 11 years. He had lived in the village 64 years and started H. J. Mohr & Sons in 1903. 

Wrapping up the news: businesses and basements were flooded by a severe July thunderstorm. “Dog Bites Nose” of Virginia Winson while she was delivering eggs. Another Elvis, Elvis West, was all shook up, when someone stole his spare tire.  

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.