By Dan Haley
I go back a long way on Oak Park Avenue and its intersection at Lake Street. I was explaining this last week at the annual meeting of The Avenue Business Association where I was rounding out my term as the absolutely interim, 100 days tops, president of the group. By the time you read this on Wednesday, I will have shed that heavy mantle and returned to my more comfortable role of shooting darts at people who stand before groups and speak.
The Avenue is a bit in the news this week because we announced last week that we were changing our name to The Hemingway District. Of course, this being Oak Park some people think this is swell. Others? Not swell. So it goes.
Cue the "wide lawns, narrow minds" narrative. Discuss the efficacy of a commercial district taking the name of a noted author and possibly profiting from the association. Debate the possibility that Ernest Hemingway would be completely upended by how the conservative burg of his childhood turned into this peculiar bastion of free-thinking wonder and self-absorption we all call home.
Whether you like The Hemingway District or think it is daffy, you'll admit it is more distinctive than The Avenue. "I'm going to The Avenue," said the newly married wife to her unsated husband. "On the way back, you want anything from Tasty Dog, ya big lug?" Or, "I am so out of this house. You'll find me on The Avenue!" screamed the rebellious teen to his quaking mad dad. Or, "Isn't The Avenue that place that used to be cool because it had Midnight Madness? Wow, remember the Giant Slide?" said the unsated young husband as he asked his wife to bring him a gyros.
Yes, it has been so long since we ended May Madness that the last era of little hooligans who ran through the streets shooting off Silly String is now married and eating his way through his unsatedness.
But I go back further. I'm so old I remember the last time The Avenue changed its name. And I'm also so old I don't recall exactly when that was. Maybe 25 years ago. Until that point the shopping district at Oak Park and Lake was known as The ALPS (Avenue-Lake Plaza). Talk about an improbable moniker. A bunch of flatlanders without anything that resembled a plaza naming a shopping area after a great range of mountains.
So clearly The Hemingway District is way better than either The Avenue or The ALPS. And as the now former interim president of The Hemingway District, or THD as I like to call it, I want to thank the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park for making the case to the son and grandson that the renaming would be a lasting connection to Ernest Hemingway's roots at Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue.
Speaking of roots and The Avenue, at our little soiree last week we also offered up our thanks and a few wisecracks to Ed Hadac, our strip's longtime beat cop. Ed is retiring after 30 years on the police force, the last seven pounding the beat in our area. Outgoing, warm, funny, imposing and always present, Ed has been like glue in our business strip, sharing news, passing the good word, calming nerves.
This being Oak Park, Ed and I grew up across the alley on the 700 block of South Taylor/Lombard. Had a lot of fun running in and out of those yards, messing around way back when. All the best to Ed and his family.