To say that Jim Goelitz has deep roots in Forest Park would be an understatement. His great-grandfather, Henry Goelitz, started the paving company that laid down brick streets in Forest Park, Oak Park, Berwyn and Cicero. As times changed, the company paved over most of the brick streets with asphalt. Goelitz continues to live and work in Forest Park. He has been teaching music lessons at Kagan & Gaines, 7655 West Roosevelt, since 1995.
“Forest Park is the greatest music town,” Goelitz said, “It’s also a great business town.”
His family’s business, however, wasn’t always located in Forest Park. First, it was at 105 South Oak Park Avenue and, at least initially, was a plumbing company. Then, Henry got into the paving business.
A vintage photograph shows Wm. Goelitz & Bro, with the storefront advertising plumbing, gas fitting, sewerage, hot water and steam heating. The workers are wearing bowlers and straw hats and there is a horse-drawn wagon bearing the company’s name.
Around 1900, Henry Goelitz broke away from the family business to start a paving company. He bought paving bricks from suppliers and used these incredibly durable bricks to pave local thoroughfares. He even constructed his home from paving bricks. His impressive mansion sits at Thomas Street & Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. Goelitz even used trolley rails, instead of steel beams in the construction.
When paving bricks went out of style, Goelitz opened one of the first asphalt companies in Illinois. He started it in the 1920s, at 5757 Ogden Avenue in Berwyn. Both family businesses were prospering. The plumbing company occupied some valuable property.
“My family owned the west side of Oak Park Avenue, from North Boulevard to the alley,” Goelitz recalled, “They lost it in the crash.”
The paving business survived the stock market crash but its founder died of stomach cancer in 1931. Henry’s son, William, took over. He continued the asphalt business in Cicero and built his own home, next door to the house on Thomas. William later bid on urban development projects. He worked on Oak Park’s ill-fated shopping mall in 1973.
Jim Goelitz was destined to work in the family business, so he attended cement finisher school, at Local 502, in Bellwood. He worked as a cement finisher for nine years, from 1979-1989.
“It was a horrible job,” he confessed, “I’ve had two hand operations but I’m now on the mend.”
His father, William, Jr., insisted on using union workers, even after unions fell out of favor in the 1980’s.
“He could no longer compete with non-union companies,” Goelitz recalled, “The overhead made it not worth staying in business.”
With the family business in decline, Goelitz began attending Elmhurst College. He ended up earning his Bachelor of Music Degree in Jazz Studies, at Roosevelt University in 1997. Goelitz had been fascinated with music, ever since he first picked up a guitar at age five.
“I was self-taught, except for a few lessons,” Goelitz said. “My mother, Rosemary, played the guitar and sang. She had a great voice. She could sing opera.”
She was mostly drawn to folk music, though, playing songs by Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.
“I enjoyed sing-alongs with my mom. My dad also sang,” Goelitz said. “We played Christmas songs together, or played guitar at family barbeques. I feel blessed.”
His older siblings encouraged Goelitz on the guitar and influenced his musical tastes. They introduced him to the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and the Temptations.
At the ripe age of 20, Goelitz moved from the family home into a tiny apartment above a laundromat in Oak Park. If nothing else, it was handy for getting his wash done. Goelitz and his wife later moved to Forest Park and spent ten years living on Rockford. They now live on Lathrop Avenue.
“We can’t get away from Forest Park,” Goelitz said. “I want to live here forever,”
Goelitz started teaching guitar and repairing instruments at Kagan & Gaines. He also worked as a studio guitarist and played wedding bands, bar bands and corporate bands
Goelitz has performed in clubs, hotels and festivals throughout the East Coast and Midwest but his first love is teaching at Kagan & Gaines.
“I teach guitar, bass, vocals and beginner piano,” Goelitz said. “I enjoy seeing their progress, although improvising can be painful.”
Besides giving individual lessons, Goelitz believes “music is best learned and expressed in a group atmosphere.”
“We were doing ‘school of rock’ at Kagan & Gaines, before anyone else was doing it,” Goelitz added. “It’s a stress-buster and lots of fun.”
Goelitz teaches two ensembles, in addition to his 30 individual students.
His adult ensemble group is called Blue Groove. “It’s an 11-piece band, with three horns, keyboard and a full rhythm section.” They are performing at Healy’s Westside, Circle & Madison, on June 23 at 8:00 p.m. They will later be performing Saturday, July 22, at noon, at the Forest Park Music Fest.
To put Goelitz’ career into his own parlance, “I’m a music teacher who paves the way for students to learn the joy of music.”