1980 Looking back on a watershed year

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By Doug Deuchler

Twenty-five years ago this newspaper was born. While Ted Turner was creating his Cable News Network (CNN) to televise round-the-clock news coverage during the summer of 1980, WEDNESDAY JOURNAL sprang full-blown uponâ€"and fromâ€"this community.

The first issues of the then 20-page publication ("Yours For The Taking") were available free in over 125 drop-off spots throughout both villages. If you think this community never changes, all you have to do is scan the list of WEDNESDAY JOURNAL pick-up locations and you'll quickly notice most of the businesses no longer exist, including Al Smith's Sport & Ski Shop, Morken Foods, Gerber's Hardware, Springer's Office Supplies, Granny's Deli, Avenue Pharmacy, Blackstone's Variety, Bruce & Ken's Pharmacy, Chip & Dale's, the Marion Cigar Store, The Booksmith, The Little Cheese Shop, Klotz Drugs, and the River Forest IGA.

There were far fewer restaurants in town in those days and most of those establishments are also long gone, like The Paddlewheel, Murphy's Off The Mall, The Parasol, Argos Snack Shop, Little Lulu's, and Captain Bob's Wharf.

Lots of establishments still with us were to be found in different locations. The Academy of Movement & Music, for instance, was situated at 111 S. Marion, now the home of LaBella. Many other businesses were on the move in the summer of '80. Left Bank Bookstall left its original home on Westgate and relocated to 104 S. Oak Park Ave., now the south (entrance) section of Thyme & Honey restaurant.

Logos moved around the corner from Lake Street to 101 N. Oak Park Ave. C. Foster Toys also moved around the corner from its Oak Park Avenue store to 810 North Blvd. (C. Foster's was then selling the latest fad item, the Rubik's Cube, as well as the new African-American Barbie dolls). Long-time Oak Park Ave. residents, Palmer Flowers and Village Camera (100 and 104 N. Oak Park Ave.) were dislocated as Avenue Bank expanded.

Like any year, 1980 was truly the best of times and the worst of times. Post-It Notes were introduced by 3-M, 7-Eleven introduced the self-serve "Big Gulp," Beatle John Lennon was murdered by a deranged fan, and 69-year-old Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter to become the oldest elected president in American history. Yellow ribbons were everywhere in memory of the American hostages in Iran. In 1980 the average car cost $7,574.

River Forest celebrated the centennial of its founding with a variety of village-wide activities scheduled throughout the summer.

The Lake Theatre was not yet the success story it was to become later in the decade. It had but one screen. Audience members often complained the sound got garbled and the original 1930s air-conditioners no longer kept the auditorium cool. Movies playing at the Lake during the summer of 1980 were: Ordinary People with Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore, Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, Urban Cowboy with John Travolta and Debra Winger, and George Lucas' The Empire Strikes Back.

Nutritionist Barbara Mullarkey's column dispensed advice that seemed to some at the time extreme or unnecessarily alarmist. Mullarkey urged her readers to carefully read labels, for instance, eliminating as much as possible products laced with sugar, salt, artificial coloring, flavoring, and preservatives.

Michael Allen, Midwest coordinator for the National Socialist Party of American, appeared before the Oak Park village board to request a permit for a neo-Nazi rally at Lindberg Park. Allen was quoted as referring to Oak Park as a "racially changing neighborhood," a community "threatened by ghetto blacks ... importing their ghetto ways." Dr. Rupert Wenzel, who supported the landmark open housing ordinance while on the board of trustees in 1968, said, "Oak Park is strong enough to withstand this. The best thing to do is to ignore them." Thirteen Nazis eventually held their rally, though Michael Allen's 40-minute speech was largely drowned out by chants and jeers from hecklers. Allen was protected from projectiles by shields held by other members of the group who encircled him. The village of Oak Park spent $19,000 on police protection for the Nazis. They never returned.

Steve Linscott, 26, a second-year student at Emmaus Bible School, 156 N. Oak Park Ave., was arrested and charged with the murder and rape of nurse Karen Phillips in her apartment, 326 N. Austin Blvd. Linscott, who lived at Good News Mission, just a few doors away, phoned Oak Park police two days after the murder to say he'd witnessed the slaying in a clairvoyant dream. At the time he had nothing on his record except a parking ticket. He was later convicted for the crime, then still later exonerated.

Cablevision of Chicago was still not permanently located in the village of Oak Park. In the fall of 1980, after signing on its 1,000th household in Oak Park for programming service, Cablevision purchased the old Gene Wulbert Ford building, 820 Madison St. for $375,000.

By 1980, Lake Street had been closed off as an outdoor shopping mall from Harlem Avenue to Forest Avenue for seven years. The popular "Summer On The Mall" entertainment series sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department of Oak Park provided free Monday night concerts. The week the WEDNESDAY JOURNAL was born in 1980, "Chubby Checker, The King of the Twist," drew a huge crowd. Residents carried folding lawn chairs and sat on the landscaped berms during these Mall events.

"Stankus Hole," a vast, decade-old crater on the edge of the Oak Park Shopping Mall at Lake Street and Forest Avenue, continued to be a huge eyesore. The proposed "Hemingway Square," a twin-towers residential skyscraper structure was having difficulties with financing. The project had been sold to village trustees largely on the basis of its strong financial underpinning.

At Cardinal Foods, 215 W. Harrison, bacon cost $1.19 lb., eggs were 59 cents a dozen, milk was $1.39 a gallon, and eight 16-ounce bottles of Coca Cola cost $1.29 (plus deposit). Groceries were placed in brown paper bags.

The Jewel Food Store on Madison Street drew criticism in WEDNESDAY JOURNAL when neighborhood shoppers complained it had become a second-rate store catering to a West Side clientele who didn't gripe about the spoiled foods, dirty conditions, and inferior service. Jewel top brass finally made a commitment to change the store for the better and "clean up its act." The first visible difference was that Andy Frain guards were hired to protect the parking lot.

Richard Bruatigan, a counter-culture novelist who wrote Trout Fishing in America, appeared for a book signing at Barbara's Bookstore, then located at 121 N. Marion St.

At The Grandstand, Madison & Ridgeland, a Polish with fries cost $1. Short Stuff Revue, 911 S. Oak Park Ave., sold second-hand children's clothing.

At Val's halla, popular 1980 records for sale included: "Call Me" by Blondie, "Rock With You" by Michael Jackson, "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton, "Ladies Night" by Kool & The Gang, "Funkytown" by Lipps Inc., "On the Road Again" by Willie Nelson, and "Do That to Me One More Time" by Captain and Tennille.

The refurbished Scoville Square, the large 1906 E.E. Roberts, Prairie-style building on the southwest corner of Lake Street & Oak Park Avenue that had long been home to Gilmore's Department Store, re-opened in the fall of 1980.

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