The Forest Park Review was thriving in 2007. The newspaper continued to win Illinois Press Association Awards. The issues were a robust 30-plus pages and featured a “Hometown” section to focus on local features. The managing editor was Josh Adams. The paper’s new slogan was “Growing Community.”

Forest Park was certainly growing in 2007. Residences at the Grove were under construction, as the first 70-unit condo building was completed. The Roos building was still standing and a developer proposed filling the property with 70 condos and 30 townhouses. The YMCA also had a proposal to purchase the Altenheim property for $4.3 million. 

Real estate was pricey in Forest Park, as home prices skyrocketed. However, in 2007 the real estate market began to slow, due to a small rise in interest rates. Houses with big price tags weren’t selling as fast. The average sale price in town was over $300,000. More cracks appeared in the economy and, before the end of the year, foreclosure notices were appearing in the Review. 

In business news, the Brown Cow moved from its cramped quarters at 7314 Madison to a former movie theater at 7347 Madison. Sylvan Learning Center came to 7217 Madison, while residents could learn knitting at Chix with Stix, 7316 Madison. Flavour Cooking School was teaching culinary skills at 7401 Madison, where Twisted Cookie is now located. 

Some longtime businesses closed. After a 40-year run, Rosann Costello sold her Hallmark shop at 7443 Madison to Wayne Schauer. Reich & Becker, a realty firm founded in 1964, closed with the retirement of Carl Schwebl. The Sav-er Grocery shut down at 7404 Madison, where aXcan Mexican Grill now serves food. Another restaurant, Thyme & Honey, fled Oak Park to open its doors at 7525 Madison, where Madison Park Kitchen is now located. 

The village’s biggest loss, though, was losing the award-winning Circle Theatre, when its building, at 7300 Madison, was sold. The Review’s Doug Deuchler used to regularly review the outstanding plays the theater staged. Nutbush City Limits, a gay bar since 1976, closed at 7201 Franklin. Another longstanding bar, Horan’s Snug, closed at 7218 Madison, after the death of its founder, Aeneas Horan. The site is now occupied by Duckfat Restaurant. 

The biggest story of 2007, though, was the mayoral election. Patrick Doolin and Theresa Steinbach challenged incumbent Anthony Calderone in a primary. The Review endorsed Doolin but, when he finished third, he elected to leave politics. This left two next-door neighbors, Steinbach and Calderone to fight it out in the general election. Tony triumphed 54% to Terry’s 46%. Rory Hoskins was also elected as the village’s first African American commissioner. 

Meanwhile, Mayor Calderone’s predecessor, Lorraine Popelka, was gravely ill with cancer, when the village honored her for a lifetime of service. She died at the age of 75 on June 24, 2007. Another longtime supporter of Forest Park was honored, when a stretch of Harrison Street was named Nello V. Ferrara Way, in tribute to the candymaker. 

Candy was among the treats people enjoyed at the growing St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In 2007, Forest Park found plenty of excuses to party. Summerfest was still in full swing on Madison and fireworks were still bursting at The Park on the 4th of July. RibFest was successful in its second year. The village even decided to celebrate its centennial for the third time! Centennial-fest called on local businesses to decorate and display elephants as a symbol of Forest Park. Unfortunately, Two Fish Art Glass had their baby elephant statue stolen after just six days on display. Brown Cow also had its elephant poached. Both crimes remained unsolved.

The hotbed of crime in Forest Park, though, appeared to be Thornton’s Gas Station, at Harlem & Jackson, where the Forest Park police battled drug traffic. In the first 193 days of 2007, the police responded to 183 incidents at the gas station. The village also planned to crack down on traffic violations, by installing red light cameras. A red light district of a different kind was proposed when an entrepreneur tried to open a strip club on Industrial Drive. Plans for the topless bar were denied. 

Meanwhile, the village completed a two-year $10 million infrastructure improvement. Forest Park also partnered to build a new pedestrian bridge over the Des Plaines River, to connect the Blue Line with Maybrook Courthouse. However, some accused the village of operating with a lack of transparency. CU in Forest Park did its best to shine a light on village government. 

In school news, Dr. Lou Cavallo replaced Randolph Tinder as superintendent of District 91. The district auditioned two private detective firms to investigate suspected “border jumpers.” Neither firm made the cut. 

PMSA Principal Melvin Berry, found wanting, was fired in 2007. District 209 continued the purge by suspending Superintendent Stan Fields after just 12 months on the job. A month later, Fields quit. There was also upheaval in the private schools. St John Lutheran School was slated to close, due to declining enrollment. Fortunately, Walther Lutheran High School stepped in to continue the school as Walther Lutheran Academy. 

The Review reported on all of this, with John Rice replacing Bill Lichtenberg as the weekly columnist. Tom Holmes and Jackie Schulz continued as columnists. Dr. Murray was still analyzing the handwriting of readers, including one who signed off as “A boy named Sue.” Bill Dwyer and Andrea Blaylock and Bob Sullivan also contributed on a regular basis. 

There was a celebrity sighting when Rev. Jesse Jackson addressed students at Proviso East High School. But the village’s big star of 2007 was a local mechanic named Robert Lang, who saved the lives of two other mountaineers, when he was scaling Mount McKinley! He was recognized for his heroism on the country’s highest peak by officials of Denali National Park. 

And that concludes our tour of Forest Park history through the “7s.” The first issue of the Forest Park Review came out on Oct. 17, 1917. We’re now 100 years old. Worth celebrating.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball...