Road back to Springfield via a familiar route

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Don Harmon lives in the house he grew up in on North Elmwood Avenue, so it seemed natural to make that one of the spots where he announced the beginning of his re-election campaign last Saturday afternoon. The one-term state senator also figured that, instead of walking a precinct to begin collecting the needed signatures to put him on the ballot (due in December), he would walk his childhood paper route instead.

"I went door to door as a paperboy," Harmon said. "I'm still doing it 30 years later."

Back in 1975, he and buddy Mark Torgerson split an afternoon Daily News route on the 700-1000 blocks of Elmwood and the west side of Ridgeland, plus cross streets Lenox and Berkshire. Harmon, now 39, recalled wrapping his bag around the handlebars of his Schwinn stingray and taking one side of the street while his friend did the other side.

"We made about $14 a month," he said, "split two ways, but it seemed like a lot back then."

The Daily News even put out an edition on Thanksgiving, which he learned the hard way when Mark rang his doorbell, interrupting the holiday celebration to tell him they had just dropped off the papers on his porch.

"That was a rude awakening," Harmon said. "Welcome to the work world."

He did the paper route until his dad died in 1977.

Harmon thought collecting signatures on his old route was more interesting than walking the precinct. "It's fertile ground, I hope," he said, adding that he enjoys talking to people directly to "find out what they care about."

One of those things at the moment, of course, is baseball. Which way does Harmon swing?

"Growing up in Oak Park with Madison Street running down the middle, I never realized you had to choose," he said, diplomatically, then acknowledged, "As kids, we always watched the Cubs on TV but went to Sox games. At the moment, of course, my house is firmly in the grip of Sox fever."

But who does he root for? His political answer is always the same: "I'm a Bear fan."


The White Sox and other minor miracles

Bernie Mac got most of the celebrity attention during the first game of the World Series Saturday night. But the cameras also caught Dan Castellaneta, Oak Park native and OPRF grad, in attendance. Dan, of course, is best known to TV viewers as the longtime voice of Homer Simpson, and apparently a Sox fan.

Father Larry McNally, whom we profiled last week, was one of those who pulled off the "ultimate double-header," attending the Bear game Sunday at Soldier Field, then continuing south to The Cell for the second game of the World Series. The weather, you'll recall, wasn't exactly clement, and those who know Fr. McNally recall that he doesn't have an excess of insulating body fat, so we're not quite sure how he survived.

Rick Meegan, Oak Park's foremost newstand proprietor (the only one if you don't count the guy on the bridge over the Eisenhower), had his Sox hat on last Sunday morning at North Boulevard and Oak Park Avenue, so we asked him how far back his White Sox allegiance extends. He said he sold newspapers outside the old Comiskey Park during the 1959 World Series. "But I've been a fan longer than that," he said. "I'm from the South Side."

On Monday morning, the sun burst through the clouds in the east and, refracted by the rain, cast a gorgeous rainbow across the western sky. When we pointed it out to an elderly gent walking by, he said with a smile, "It's for the Sox."

No more free java?

The popular White Hen deli store at 661 South Blvd. has long offered free coffee and pop to police officers. Recently, however, it posted a sign notifying the cops that it would no longer be doing so.

"As of Oct. 1, due to rising prices, we will no longer be able to provide free coffee and soft drinks for Chicago and Oak Park police officers."

That turns out to be just fine with Oak Park Chief of Police Rick Tanksley, who said Tuesday that while he appreciates the thought behind the gesture, his officers are strictly prohibited from accepting any gratuity.

"We appreciate the gesture, but it's not necessary," said Tanksley, adding that while he can't stop business owners from offering discounts to cops, he can expect his officer to politely decline such courtesies.

"I didn't know that," said White Hen owner/operator Melissa Miller, who also said that she's never heard any objections from visiting officers.

The Oak Park department prohibition against such freebies to law enforcement personnel was at the center of a disciplinary case last year in which a sergeant was dismissed from the force, due partly to being found guilty of demanding a discount on a sandwich in an Austin restaurant, among other violations.

Miller said the store still intended to offer coffee and pop for 50 cents.

However, Oak Park officers should know that the departmental regs also prohibit accepting discounts.

"Officers make enough money to pay for their own coffee," said Tanksley. "It is our policy that they not accept discounts. They should lay their money down and say, 'Thank you very much.'"

Full disclosure, Pillsbury style

Before a 5-hour meeting last week to talk about redevelopment of the downtown superblock area, Trustee Elizabeth Brady arrived with a plate of brownies, which she passed around to everyone in the room.

Later, when Joseph Antunovich?#34;planner, architect, and possible investor with Focus/Taxman, which owns much of the property in the superblock?#34;rose to speak, he began with a statement of full disclosure.

In a voice that sounds much like Robin Leach's, Antunovich, with great solemnity, confessed that Trustee Brady had offered him a brownie on the way into the meeting.

"I took the brownie. ... I ate the brownie. ... It was delicious."

Later, Antunovich, while describing an al fresco dining area in one proposed building, used an unusual synonym for the Great Outdoors: "... a place where you can sit outside and enjoy the exterior."

Avenue's Halloween parade Saturday

Starting at the corner of Pleasant and Oak Park Avenue, costumed trick-or-treaters will be led along The Avenue shops toward Lake Street by the Oak Park fire and police departments and Village President David Pope as part of the business district's annual Halloween celebration Saturday.

Events last from 10 a.m. to noon this Saturday, Oct. 29, and include pumpkin painting, trick-or-treats given out by Avenue merchants, face painting, arts and crafts, and free trick-or-treat bags.



OP raises White's low profile

We read with interest Crain's profile last week of Dean White, the man "who got rich planting billboards in front of as many eyeballs as possible" while keeping a "surprisingly low profile" himself.

White's estimated $1.2 billion net worth provides the black ink for Whiteco Residential, poised to build at Harlem and Ontario.

The article, titled, "The richest man you've never heard of," takes a few moments to flesh out Whiteco's Oak Park project. "Whiteco's development arm won approval from the village earlier this year to build the project, but not before residents groups complained loudly about its size and scope?#34;as well as some subsidies the village is providing.

"The protracted debate subjected Whiteco to just the kind of public scrutiny that [Dean] White has tried to avoid."


In case you were wondering ...

The Oak Park and River Forest official Trick or Treat hours are Monday, Oct. 31, from 3 to 7 p.m. in both villages. For more information on Halloween community events, check the LifeLines section.

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