Courtesy Forest Park Historical Society

It was a momentous year for Forest Park and its “Paper with the Personal Touch.” The village elected its first female mayor in 1987, an iconic restaurant burned down, and the Review was under new ownership. 

Wednesday Journal Inc. had just acquired the Review from publisher Bob Haeger. The newspaper’s offices remained at 7509 W. Madison, though, where Haeger operated his Forest Graphics printing business. Haeger also continued to pen his “Once Over Lightly” column, where he predicted, “The new Review will be just as habit-forming as the old one.”

The Review raised its newsstand price to 25 cents and grew to a robust 25 pages. In 1987, it published its largest edition in 70 years! Mary Mateer was the managing editor and the columnists included Dr. James Murray (handwriting analysis), Jackie Schulz (who is back with a column in today’s edition) and Lyn Anderson. 

Former Review reporter and state Senator Judy Baar Topinka, kept her keys to the Review office, so she could sneak in once a year to decorate it for Haeger’s birthday.

There were plenty of reasons for celebration in 1987. Cindy Lyons, the beloved director of the community center, was named “Citizen of the Year.” “Fashion plate Kay Madden” was retiring as an officer from Forest Park National Bank. And Commissioner Lorraine Popelka ran unopposed to succeed Fred Marunde as mayor. 

There was so much news, the Review pleaded in a public service ad, “We’ve got all the headlines we can use. Don’t drink and drive.”

A hit song from 1987 was “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which could have been the lament of John Condon, who failed in his campaign for commissioner. Kudos to Condon, though, for classily placing an ad in the Review thanking the voters. The successful candidates included Jerry Jacknow, Maureen Booth, Kenneth Stange, and Dan Watts. 

Watts immediately criticized the newly-constructed Forest Park Middle School building, claiming the brickwork was substandard. Besides the price of this construction, the district paid $250,000 for asbestos removal at Field-Stevenson. Supt. Joe Scolire warned of a “looming deficit.” In other school news, only 20% of Forest Park students attended Proviso East H.S., and Jerry Lordan was named the new principal at St. Bernardine’s. 

Kids from St. B’s could frolic at the new Park playground, which underwent a $50,000 makeover. Mayor Popelka lamented that the playground was overshadowed by a new billboard looming above the Eisenhower. She was pleased, though, when a communications company paid the village $150,000 to plant cellphone antennas on the village’s “Smiley Face” water tower.

Residents of Marengo Avenue were also smiling when the village turned the street into a cul-de-sac north of Roosevelt Road, to cut down on traffic from nearby bars. The village made another improvement, opening a new commuter parking lot at Desplaines & the Blue Line terminal, with 200 spaces. They took on an even bigger project, constructing a pipeline down Desplaines to supply a million gallons of water a day to Brookfield and North Riverside. 

In business news, Harry Chaddick sold the Forest Park Mall to Lexington Development Corporation. Sitting inside one of the mall’s storage units was “The Death of Cleopatra” statue, which Dr. Frank Orland reported was “on its course toward restoration.” In other cultural news, Circle Theater mounted a successful production of Born Yesterday under the direction of Wayne Buidens.

However, the big news in entertainment wasn’t plays. It was the miracle of the VCR, which allowed residents to watch movies in their homes. Magic Video opened on Harlem, while Blockbuster started a store on Roosevelt. Circle Video’s investors bought the 18-unit building at Circle & Madison for “less than half a million” and stocked the store with 7,000 films. 

Not far from this new kid on the block, Ben Franklin was still open at 7445 Madison and Venture Restaurant was a “landmark” at Desplaines & Madison. Just south of Venture, the village lost a mainstay when Calcagno’s closed at 439 Desplaines. Another grocery store, Butera’s, closed at 215 S. Harlem and was replaced by an F&M Drugstore. 

These losses paled compared to the blaze that destroyed Homer’s Restaurant. Two Forest Park firemen happened upon the early-morning fire, and firefighters battled the flames for 17 hours. After the ashes cooled, arson was suspected. 

By contrast, Lee-Choi Restaurant was thriving inside the Park Lounge, at 7244 Madison, and Schuler’s Corner opened at 7522 Madison. The bars were doing well on Madison in 1987, starting on New Year’s Eve, when they were allowed to stay open all night. It’s not known whether the bouncers at Side Kicks were busy that night but they were ready, after testing their strength on the Revolutionary Arm Wrestling Machine. 

However, the biggest story on Madison Street was the appearance of the “Mystery Man.” He was an unidentified male who startled people by handing them $10 bills. He said he was passing out cash to stimulate shopping on Madison Street. One woman refused to accept the sawbuck, because the man had his face hidden “like a bandit.” 

Generosity of a different kind was displayed by an 11-year-old Girl Scout named Diana Niedholdt. To earn a community service badge, Diana read issues of the Review into a cassette tape-recorder to benefit the blind. She even read the ads! 

There was another heartwarming story in 1987, though it started out scary. Police dispatcher Linda Shrader was on duty, when her water broke and she went into labor. Linda called the cops from inside the station. Sgt. Joe Byrnes squeezed her hand as the police rushed her to West Suburban Hospital. Linda quickly delivered a healthy boy, Steven Richard Knysch. 

At the opposite spectrum of life, former Illinois Governor Sam Shapiro was laid to rest in Jewish Waldheim Cemetery, with Governor Jim Thompson in attendance. Outgoing Mayor Marunde detailed his family’s suffering in Germany during World War II. And Editor Mary Mateer was miffed when the first meeting of the new village council was closed to the public. 

The Review was in its heyday in 1987 and its voice was best captured by Bob Haeger. His column was breezy, friendly, folksy and funny. No surprise his former reporter felt the need to decorate Haeger’s office for his birthday, in a fashion he described as “crazily.” 

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.