It’s no secret that the Review has had a few editors since I moved here — Josh Adams, Ken Trainor, Jean Lotus, Tom Vogel, Maria Maxham and one other whose name I don’t remember. Forest Park is a complex and layered community, and after 20 years I am still trying to figure it out.
So deciding what to highlight on our 2.4-square-mile tour of Forest Park — for Andy Viano, the new Review editor — was a difficult task. Unlike a realtor tour of the cosmetics of Madison Street and the quaint Circle Avenue bridge — the editor needs a little more than charm in the tool kit in order to report with excellence.
While “news” will always be related to proximity, conflict, human interest, and consequence, complicated issues need responsible journalism to help a community understand the larger context, and offer space for comments and thoughtful letters to help understand the layers of a story.
Our office on Oak Park Avenue made starting the tour at Circle and Harlem a natural choice. After passing Kribi Coffee’s new second location at Cross Function (on South Boulevard in Oak Park) we entered Forest Park next to the Green Line CTA station, the northerly connection to Chicago. Took him past the former CVS and the curving Circle Avenue, which goes back to the early days of Harlem. The tour mostly focused on industry and schools, but the historical context of cemeteries and saloons came into the story over and over. I pointed out Circle Bowl, Circle Inn, Forest Oaks, Goldyburgers, Beacon, and we even took a trip into the parking lot of Farmington Foods to get a grasp of the influence of the railroad in the foundation of our town.
Industry, or lack of industry, has ravaged some neighborhoods just a stone’s throw away, and slowly eroded communities — and the Eisenhower Expressway provided a route to “progress,” leaving a mark literally in the heart of communities that surround it. So top on my list was to be sure the new editor knew about local industry, which often hum behind the scenes unseen. While Farmington Foods, Industrial Drive’s Weinstein Meats, Thule, Duraco, Iron Workers Union 1, 2XL Corporation, and of course Ferrara Candy, Sievert Electric, U.S. Bulk Mail facility, and Walmart, are often overshadowed by the glamor of the dynamic Madison Street. A unique business diversity found within the small footprint of Forest Park.
Schools, the institutional connection for children and families, was the other theme of the tour. We drove past Grant-White, Proviso East, and PMSA (before heading past Miller Meadow and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Salt Creek Sewer Interceptor project across from Loyola -one of the major health-care industries in our area) — all were part of the overwhelming introduction.
I could have driven the length of Harlem, to give him the scoop on the new and the old — the strange neighboring PepBoy and Elite Tire; the new Mr. Beef; the old Forest Park Baptist; the new Taco Bell; the old Parky’s; the new Chipotle; the reconstruction of an old road house at Adams; purchasing gas (and more) from Thornton’s; the unusual left lane entrance to the Ike from Harlem; Crystal Car Wash; the vacant lot at Harvard — but that southbound trip did not make the cut. Unfortunately, the houses of worship also got short shrift on the tour. While we did see St. Paul’s, St. B’s, and Living Word, we did not pass St. John, First United or Mount Mariah.
After a quick detour to Showman’s Rest at Woodlawn, we took Greenburg to Circle, to Roosevelt (the secret southern route). West on Roosevelt to highlight the car wash, the liquor store, Blue Cab, the Steer, Nadeau’s, Kagan & Gaines, Dollar Tree, McGaffer’s, the happenings at 7-11, the corner of Currie Motors (or whatever it is now), and the recently remodeled 1979 condo-apartment buildings on Des Plaines. I pulled to the side several times because even a short drive on Roosevelt reveals so much about our past, present and future.
We did go to Village Hall and happened to run into firefighter Lindsey Hankus (now a lieutenant) who was making sure the fire engine was cleaned; ran into Steve Glinke, director of Health and Safety, just as he returned from visiting a community rat trap; gave a hello to the police clerks, and made our way to the window where one of the busy village staff stopped busy cubical work to mask up and come to the window. We lastly were connected to Moses Amidei, the newest administrator.
We drove to see the gem — the park district — whose 16-inch Softball Museum serves as the gateway; the fields for no gloves and Forest Park Little League and Forest Park Youth Soccer’s home (thanks Mike Hill) at Veteran’s Field; the skate park, which is correctly called the Bud Mohr Skate Park (and these details matter); and the Roos Recreation Center. Then we turned past Forest Park Middle School, Field Stevenson, and Ed’s Way. From there we headed west to see the unassuming Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio because Edmonia Lewis, Haymarket, and restoration need a voice in our town, too.
Took him past the Grove Residence to the Altenheim, now without chapel and vacant buildings, to see the nearly 11 acres of land that he will be reporting on. Traveled down Madison, where River Forest-Forest Park connect, pointing to the mighty but small businesses — Empowering Gardens, Famous Liquors, Exit Strategy, the Reinsdorf condos, Gaetano’s Artisan Foods, Mugsy’s, Starship, Happy Feet, and Panda Café. The sheer density of information on every three blocks of Forest Park alone could fill an afternoon.
It will take time for him to master the language — “commissioner form of government,” “pocket parks,” “video gaming,” “PTO in the south schools and PTC in the north schools,” and all the nuances of our hometown. Please consider taking Andy out for coffee or lunch, invite him to your business, or offer a handshake in the next month or so.
Please, this time if he doesn’t send you a formal typed letter of introduction, be a little less angry and offended. We all know there is so much to learn, and he could use a hand not a fist on our friendly neighborhood social media groups.
Now is the time to email an invite to firstname.lastname@example.org for your own introduction and welcome the new editor to Forest Park. Be a part of the narrative; this is, after all, your hometown news. It is only as healthy as each of us make it.