A quarter century of chronicling communities

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By KEN TRAINOR

A lot's happened in 25 years, here's a quick summary of some of the important stories we've covered"plus a few of the oddball items. How many of these you remember?

1980

• Village Manager Jack Gruber resigns in village hall shake-up. In June, Ralph de Santis of Connecticut is named to replace him.

 In September, the National Socialist Party of America (a neo-Nazi group) holds a rally in Lindberg Park. Three hundred residents gather to protest, supervised by 150 or so state police and sheriff's deputies. Only 13 Nazis show up.

 River Forest was in the midst of its Centennial Celebration. At the Centennial Family Sports and Picnic Day in Keystone Park, July 27, River Forest Police Officer Gary Linden manned the kissing booth and ended up on WEDNESDAY JOURNAL's very first front page in mid-smooch.

 In December, a Bible student named Steve Linscott tells police about a dream and finds himself charged with the October murder of Karen Phillips.

1981

 In March the JOURNAL endorses independent Bob Varnes over the VMA's Sara Bode for village president. Bode wins, becoming the first female president of Oak Park, but it dents persistent rumors that WEDNESDAY JOURNAL is in the pocket of the VMA.

 In September, the JOURNAL moves from 107 Harrison St. to 141 S. Oak Park Ave.

 In December Oak Park's two top cops"Chief Wilbur Reichert and Deputy Chief Harold FitzSimmons"announce their resignations just before the release of a management study.

1982

• Stouffer's Cheese Cellar (now Winberie's) opens, arousing indignation and protest because of the Nestle Infant Formula controversy (Stouffer's parent company).

• New Police Chief Keith Bergstrom is hired in June.

• New District 97 Superintendent Ernest Mueller is hired in July.

• A man with the unbelievable name Basil P. Boobas is hired as village purchasing agent, then fired, then sues, then drops the suit, then files for personal bankruptcy.

1983

• Four murders ties the village's all-time high for one year. Another killing is ruled accidental.

• In November, a man with a long criminal record, recently out of prison, invades the home of an Oak Park couple, stabs the husband, who manages to alert police while the intruder escapes holding a gun to the wife's head. After a 30-minute chase through east-central Oak Park, the kidnapper is killed in a shootout. The hostage is unhurt, but Officer Charles Willet receives a gunshot wound in the abdomen.

1984

• Oak Park's handgun ban goes into effect Oct. 24. It had been passed by the village board April 16 despite vocal opposition. The ban was proposed by a coalition led by Chris Walsh, called The Oak Park Citizens Committee for Handgun Control, which was formed after the shooting death of Oak Park lawyer James Piszczor. The Freedom Committee, organized to oppose the ban, pushed for a 1985 referendum.

• Kathleen Lombardo is murdered during the summer.

• On Christmas Day, George Polos, 52, a veteran driver for the RTA, is murdered while driving his route.

• In December, letter writer Mary G. Hoover remarked that she was "flabbergasted by Bruce Kraig's commentary about eating dogs. I couldn't tell whether he was serious or kidding."

1985

• In January, 13-year-old Ean Barnard announces he will seek the office of village president.

• Dist. 97 Supt. Ernest Mueller proposes the controversial "rescheduling" program.

• In February, the Lake Theatre is sold to Willis and Shirley Johnson, who plan to renovate it and convert it to a 3-screen complex.

• Dist. 97 announces that Hawthorne School will be renamed Percy Julian Jr. High.

• Village Manager De Santis becomes the main campaign issue in the village board election between the upstart CARE party and the VMA. CARE candidates promise to fire De Santis. The VMA candidates say they will give him a chance to mend his ways. In April, CARE pulls a stunning upset, gaining three seats"the first non-VMA trustees since the '50s. The VMA holds four seats, including newly elected president Cliff Osborn.

• Poor Phil's opens in May, but the absence of food service violates the liquor license ordinance. Village officials aren't aware of the issue until the JOURNAL writes a story on it.

• In July, Ralph De Santis resigns after five stormy years. Park District Director John Hedges is appointed interim village manager.

• Teachers Linda Olson and Bob Trezevant are fired by District 97 after speaking out against rescheduling. They later win their free-speech suit and are awarded $95,000 in legal fees and damages.

•  Cliff Osborn issues the first-ever presidential veto, reversing a board-approved vehicle purchase on the grounds that the board was getting too involved in day-to-day government functions.

•  A WEDNESDAY JOURNAL report on the flock of starlings on the 700 block of South Humphrey leads to the first in a long line of village attempts to dislodge them. The first technique used was blasting them with firehoses.

•  In November, the handgun ban is approved in an advisory referendum, 8,031 to 6,368.

•  James Murray, 17, of River Forest is shot and killed during a party on Fair Oaks Avenue involving alcohol, leading to a community-wide outcry against teen drinking.

1986

•  A citizens committee recommends the redistricting of school attendance boundaries in order to maintain racial balance and to help balance enrollment disparities throughout District 97. The plan would send 800 students to different schools. Parents object.

•  Old village hall is demolished. A time capsule from 1903 is discovered and opened.

•  Village Health Director Nancy Haggerty becomes interim village manager when the Park District insists that John Hedges return to his job full time.

•  Dist. 97 discusses middle schools as a way of correcting enrollment imbalances.

•  In March, gun-toting gas station owner Don Bennett is charged with violating Oak Park's handgun ban when he chases two men who robbed him at gunpoint and fires his Colt .45 at them several times in a nearby alley. The incident receives national press coverage.

•  In April, Marshall Field's announces plans to cease operations and sell its store at Harlem and Lake.

•  In May, almost a year after De Santis resigned, the board names J. Neil Nielsen, former city manager of Rock Island, to be the new Oak Park village manager.

•  Farmers' Market expels an 11-year vendor for selling contraband cauliflower, violating the rule that only homegrown produce can be sold.

•  Ralph De Santis is named the village manager of Naperville.

•  Columnist Mike Royko caves in and allows Clare and Paul Obis of Oak Park (owners of Vegetarian Times magazine) to enter their vegetarian "wheat gluten" ribs in his Royko Ribfest. Ever after, Royko looks for ways to rib Oak Park.

•  Fireworks are canceled because of skyrocketing liability insurance costs.

•  In October, Don Bennett is somehow acquitted of charges that he violated the handgun ban. His announced plans to meet with President Reagan in Rapid City, S.D. never materialize.

•  Police Chief Keith Bergstrom is forced to resign by Village Manager Neil Nielsen. Joe Mendrick becomes acting chief.

•  Oak Park resident John Poole goes on a Thanksgiving-Christmas fast in front of the main post office in support of the movement to make Oak Park a sanctuary or "safe haven" for Central American refugees.

1987

•  Pres. Cliff Osborn appears on Nightline to discuss Oak Park's handgun ban. His comments anger foes of the ban.

• Oak Park Hospital pays $3 million in an out-of-court settlement with the family of the Berwyn woman who died when a sponge was left inside her following a C-section.

•  In February, the Dist. 97 school board rejects the concept of grade 6-8 middle schools, instead revising the boundaries to balance enrollments and ensure racial balance.

•  In June, a consultants' report recommends re-opening Lake Street to traffic. It had been a pedestrian mall since 1974.

•  Don Bennett sells his gas station and food mart.

•  In July, William ("Wild Bill") Kohnke, former chief of Battle Creek, Mich., is named the new chief of the Oak Park Police Department, following a 7-month nationwide search.

•  In August, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK, visits Oak Park while researching a book on the U.S. Constitution and meets with anti-handgun activists, including Don Bennett.

•  In September, Don Bennett is acquitted of charges that he pointed a shotgun at a patron.

•  In October, public comment at village board meetings is moved to the end because the time is being abused by opponents of the handgun ban.

1988

•  The village board votes 4-2-1 to spend $3 million from a special development fund to reopen Lake Street (and Marion north of Lake) to traffic. The 60+ property owners along the mall are thrilled.

•  More than 5,000 residents sign petitions to put the mall issue on the ballot in November. Hundreds speak against
re-streeting in public hearings. The Committee to Save the Oak Park Mall asks for a delay, but officials, fearing it would kill efforts to create a new management corporation (Downtown Oak Park), move ahead. The committee tries to get a court injunction, but a Circuit Court judge allows the work to continue.

•  On Nov. 19, Lake Street is reopened by Santa Claus and a community parade, even though anti-restreeters won their advisory referendum in the November election several weeks earlier.

•  After a 13-month investigation, a police department probe, led by not-yet-best-selling-novelist Scott Turow, reveals charges of selling stolen property against Sgt. James Wilson and theft against Sgt. Ronald Greco. Both are dismissed from the force. Meanwhile, the Police and Fire Commission dismiss Officer Selester Gilty on charges that he lied about his academic record during the promotional process. Gilty charged retaliation for being outspoken about racial bias in the department. Officer Thomas Stec resigned after he was found to be posing as an attorney. Two other officers retired over lesser charges. The force ended 1988 with a 21-member manpower shortage.

•  The Dist. 97 referendum fails 13,000 to 10,000.

•  The First Church of Christ Scientist at Oak Park Avenue and Ontario Street, is put up for sale, and an all-black congregation, the Unity Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church of Chicago offers to buy it for $500,000. The Oak Park Development Corporation counters with an offer of $505,000. The NAACP cries foul. The Sun-Times also suggests a racial motive. The board and OPDC back off, but the church has problems financing the deal, so River Forest entrepreneur Chatka Ruggiero purchases and converts it to the Oak Park Arts Center, which now houses the Hemingway Museum.

•  President Cliff Osborn is charged with violating the ethics ordinance, though it is later overturned on appeal. He attended an Indianapolis Colts game at the invitation of owner Robert Irsay, who owned the former Stevens building on the mall, now known as the Colt building. Irsay was one of the property owners lobbying for the removal of the mall, which was being considered by the board at the time Osborn attended the game.

•  John Fagan replaces Ernest Mueller as Dist. 97 superintendent.

1989

•  Dist. 97 passes two referenda in April, raising a total of $8.75 million to offset its financial difficulties.

•  Jackson Boulevard is ripped up to lay a water pipeline for DuPage County. Many residents are upset about the number of lost trees.

•  In June, the village board votes to include "sexual orientation" in its Human Rights Ordinance. In December, OPRF includes it in the school's anti-discrimination policy.

•  Citizens protest pesticide use on public lands. The two school districts and village hall suspend pesticide use. The park district follows in 1991.

•  Citizen outcry prevents the closing of Trailside Museum.

•  African-American Parents for Purposeful Leadership in Education (APPLE) is formed to promote more black parent involvement at the high school.

•  In November, following passage of an advisory referendum by the voters (15,445-7,489), the village board passes a resolution declaring Oak Park a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, following in the footsteps of Chicago, the Cook County Board and Evanston. The resolution supported "a symbolic ban on the design, development, testing and production of nuclear weapons within the Village of Oak Park."

1990

•  Oak Park resident Marjorie Judith Vincent, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, is named Miss America in July.

•  River Forest begins top-of-the-drive recycling because curbside is too declasse.

•  After 72 years, the Oak Park Memorial Day Parade is canceled.

•  Village hall hires its first recycling coordinator and the C-bag yard waste system is introduced.

•  Controversial police chief Bill Kohnke is fired and becomes chief in Greenwood, Colo., where he is reportedly joined by his new wife, controversial former village trustee Patricia Andrews.

•  Joe Mendrick is appointed acting chief again. The following year he is named permanent police chief.

•  A citizens report alleges long-term racial problems in the police department. The village board enacts most of the report's recommendations.

•  The first two murders since 1987 are committed, including the shooting of a manager who was apparently closing up in the wee hours at Bakers Square Restaurant near Harlem and Lake.

•  Oak Park Hospital's plan for a new physician's office building concerns hospital neighbors, is put on the back burner by the hospital's new president. The issue will cause a stir again at the end of the decade.

1991

•  Following a pit bull attack, the village board approves a stricter dog control ordinance and formation of a "Panel on Dog Behavior."

•  David Matz, 21, is charged with strangling OPRF student and friend Rachel Visconti, 17, and dumping her body in an Indiana wildlife preserve.

•  The Citizens Police Oversight Committee is formed.

•  Police recover the bust of Frank Lloyd Wright stolen from outside Austin Gardens.

•  William and Mary Pat Sieck file suit challenging OPRF's discipline system after their son is suspended for 10 days, charged with stealing a can of pop.

•  The Klinkows, owners of the Frank Lloyd Wright Gale House on Elizabeth Court, take out a permit to install aluminum siding in order to highlight why a proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance is necessary.

•  Oak Park Hospital's request to put a cross on their large smokestack is denied by the village board. The incident gains national attention.

•  Leaps & Bounds, a children's play group, is renamed after corporate bully McDonald's decides it wants the name. The Oak Park group changes its name to Partners in Play.

•  Virginia Moe, 83, longtime director of Trailside Museum, dies. WEDNESDAY JOURNAL columnist extraordinaire, Frank Walsh, also 83, also passes away. His column was called The Spectator.

•  Sister Teresita Weind creates controversy at St. Catherine-St. Lucy Church by exceeding her ministerial role in some parishioners' minds. She transfers to the Saginaw, Mich. diocese.

• Dist. 90 Superintendent Wayne Buchholz, a 14-year veteran of the district, is indicted by a Cook County Grand Jury on felony charges of theft and fiscal misconduct for using $22,000 of school funds for travel and the purchase of power tools.

1992

•  Village Manager Neil Nielsen is replaced after six years by Allen J. Parker, the former manager of East Palo Alto, Calif.

•  Margaret Coder is murdered in her home on South Humphrey Avenue.

•  Fenwick goes co-ed after 63 years.

•  OPRF Supt. George Gustafson is fired and replaced by Donald Offermann.

•  The "December Dilemma" debate arises in Dist. 97 after a multicultural advocates committee exploring the use of religious symbols in the classroom, issues its report recommending what should and shouldn't be allowed.

•  The Tri-Village PADS homeless shelter opens at six local churches on six nights. No one is willing to take on Saturday.

•  Lone Tree Area Girl Scouts Council charges Community Chest (the local United Way agency) with funding discrimination after getting cut 20 percent. Boy Scouts, on the other hand, are receiving 75 percent more funding than the Girl Scouts. Meanwhile, the Thatcher Woods Boy Scouts announce they're leaving town for a merger with LaGrange.

•  The Hemingway Foundation purchases the Birth Home for $275,000.

•  Tyra Manning is hired as Dist. 90 superintendent.

•  River Forest board members vote against donating $1,000 to restore the grave marker of Ashbel Steele, the founder of River Forest.

• A Bengal tiger, believe it or not, is discovered in a River Forest backyard. It was on a leash, however.

 

1993

•  The era of privatization begins. Garbage pick-up is one of the first big shifts from the public to the private sector in an effort to erase the budget deficit.

•  The old Wieboldt's building is torn down.

•  An Emerson student attacks another with a hammer.

•  The CTA announces plans to close the Lake Street el for a two-year, $300 million renovation project, beginning in January of '94. Many wonder if it will ever reopen.

•  The River Forest Community Center/Civic Center opens at 8020 W. Madison in an old textbook warehouse.

•  River Forest resident Cynthia Chemler, a Concordia University student, is found murdered in the forest preserves.

1994

•  In March, the River Forest village hall/police station suffers $300,000 in damage during a fire. The village decides to build a new complex.

•  In April, the Domestic Partnership Ordinance passes, providing health benefits to the partners of any gay employees at Oak Park Village Hall. The vote followed months of heated debate. As far as we know, no one has ever applied for the benefits.

•  The River Forest Town Center"a new Prairie-style strip mall"opens in August on the old Wieboldt's site with three tenants who relocated from neighboring Oak Park.

•  A significant modification in Oak Park's overnight parking ban creates 2,200 new legal spaces in areas dominated by multifamily buildings.

•  Neighbors collaborate with police to curtail rowdy behavior by youth in the East Harrison Street area.

•  Szechwan Beijing's roof collapses, fortunately, right after lunch and after WEDNESDAY JOURNAL publisher Dan Haley leaves the premises.

1995

•  WPA-era murals at Hatch School cause controversy when African-American parents object to stereotypical depictions of black figures. After a lengthy discussion process, the board votes to have them taken down, preserved and stored for later restoration and possible future display in another location.

•  Voters turn down an OPRF referendum. The school board election gets ugly and divisive with controversial leaflets distributed, warning River Foresters against an Oak Park "takeover" of the board.

•  In August, a drive-by shooting incident outside Julian Jr. High brings representatives together from the various bodies of government to discuss ways to address the issue. From that collaboration is born the Youth Interventionist Program, working with at-risk students. The high school discusses closing its campus at lunchtime for underclassmen.

•  Village Manager Allen Parker is sacked following a contentious vote that splits the board. John Eckenroad is named interim manager.

•  Native Oak Parker Carol Shields wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Stone Diaries.

•  Bernie Abraham is elected village trustee, upsetting the VMA for only the second time in its history. His first action is to vote against the village's 22-year-old diversity statement.

1996

•  The Green Line re-opens ahead of schedule.

• Controversy erupts over free-range dogs in the parks. The park board raises the fine for off-leash dogs from $10 to $100, but their bark turns out to be worse than their bite, and dog owners lobby ferociously to allow dog-frolicking in certain parks at certain times.

• The new Taxman development on the Oak Park side of Lake Street begins to take shape with the village's acquisition of The Gap and Bakers Square properties for $6 million. Another $4 million goes for parking improvements. Target date for opening The Shops of Downtown Oak Park is the fall of '97, but not before a lot of wrangling with Taxman over the look of the development.

• A flower shop owner and her daughter are murdered at Lady Caroline Florist, 20 W. Chicago, shortly after 5 p.m. The owner's sister was also shot, but survived. The incident looks suspiciously like a gang-related hit and the case remains unsolved.

• In June, a Downers Grove South student is murdered in an alley behind the 400 block of Home. Antwaun Cubie, a basketball star at Downers South High School and former Fenwick student, is arrested along with Oak Park resident Kevin Jackson. Both are eventually convicted of the crime.

• The Lake Theatre celebrates its 60th birthday with a grand opening of its expanded, renovated movie palace. The $2 million overhaul includes a restaurant, Alonti's (now Panda Express), and adds 800 more seats to bring the theater's total to 1,800.

• Carl Swenson of Bellevue, Wash. is named the new village manager. John Eckenroad moves to the Oak Park Development Corporation, where he eventually succeeds Art Replogle as director.

• OPRF passes a scaled-back referendum that is seen as a triumph of coalition building, which included opponents of the previous referendum.

• Larry Jackson, a star basketball player at OPRF, takes a swing at Coach Al Allen and is kicked off the team. His attempts to transfer and play for Farragut High School in Chicago spark even more controversy.

• "No Tourism" signs appear in the windows of homes along Forest Avenue near the Frank Lloyd Wright district.

• Jaslin Salmon, WEDNESDAY JOURNAL columnist and provocateur, departs Oak Park to mixed reviews.

• River Forest dentist Charles Smith is charged with murdering his wife. Out on bond, he continues to practice but is eventually convicted.

• River Forest resident Dani Tyler plays on the U.S. women's softball team in the Atlanta Olympics. She hits a homer, but misses home plate. Her gold medal, however, is untarnished.

• Rosary College changes its name to Dominican University.

• Former First Chicago Bank president Martin Noll opens his new Community Bank of Oak Park and River Forest in the old Forsyth Building at Lake Street and Forest Avenue.

1997

• OPALGA lobbies the new village board for a Domestic Partnership Registry at village hall. The measure had been defeated back in '94 when the Domestic Partnership Ordinance was passed. The new board voted in favor of the registry 5-2 on Sept. 1 in spite of vocal opposition, which filed signatures to put the issue on the ballot the following March.

• Three murders match the 1996 total, including Angela Glover, stabbed to death by an intruder in August and Marc Feldman, a pawn shop operator who was shot during a robbery in his store on Harlem.

• In River Forest, the Washington School battle rages on in the courts. The Neighborhood School Group gets the building declared a landmark to save it from demolition. Village Trustee John Rigas resigns in order to pave the way for a key rezoning vote.

• OPRF closes its campus for freshmen and begins to focus on closing the academic achievement gap between minority and non-minority students. More academic support resources are promised.

• Fenwick's capital fundraising campaign will soon fund a new gym, pool and library.

• Jim Mullen dies at the age of 57, former WEDNESDAY JOURNAL sports writer and columnist.

1998

• The words "coal tar" are uttered aloud, freezing the hearts of Barrie Park-area residents. The Park District plans to remediate the former site of a coal gasification plant that left the nasty residue"if they can get the Utilities to pay.

• The Domestic Registry referendum passes, 51-49 percent, the first time a pro-gay measure has won a ballot initiative in the U.S., leading to one of our more memorable front-page headlines: "Big Gay Day."

• A Dist. 97 facilities study recommends the building of two new 6-8 grade middle schools on the sites of the current junior highs. The district schedules a referendum for April '99 and plans to ask for $45.8 million.

• The high school wins a dispute with the village over the recently vacated "Gleason property," south of Lake Street between Scoville and East. OPRF plans to use the area for expanded athletic fields and parking if it can ever acquire all the land.

• West Sub balks and votes to divest itself of the previous year's merger with Loyola Medical Center. Oak Park Hospital, meanwhile, enters an affiliation agreement with Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center.

• Washington School demolition is finally ordered by a Circuit Court judge, and the land is sold off for $1,145,000.

• A second pawn shop shooting in four months (this time the owner shot the intruder) prompts a crackdown on pawn shop licenses, and the institution of new reporting requirements and safety measures.

• A "white dress" controversy erupts at OPRF when Genevieve York-Erwin, one of the valedictorians, refuses to wear the traditional graduation garb and asks to wear a white pants suit instead.

• Richard Seed, aka "The Clone Ranger," announces he'll clone a human being, and gets his 15 minutes of fame from the national media. The former OPRF valedictorian (Class of '45), had recently moved to Riverside.

1999

• Dr. Susan Bridge takes over as OPRF superintendent/principal from the retiring Donald Offermann. One of her first acts is to change the white dress requirement to allow white pant suits.

• Oak Park Hospital and its private developer gain a new appreciation for citizen involvement and participatory democracy, but they also get their new physician's office building approved.

• Neighbors south of the Eisenhower, meanwhile, manage to halt plans to shoehorn a budget motel on a horizontally impaired piece of property overlooking the expressway.

• The middle schools referendum passes, but almost immediately, the district discovers $12 million in cost overruns, bringing the total to $72 million.

• Centennial celebrations for Percy Julian and Ernest Hemingway give Oak Parkers a reason to celebrate. The Hemingway festivities draw more national than local attention.

• The new village "identity program" leads to a change in the village's official color from orange to green. Not everyone is pleased.

• The millennium arrives without the predicted apocalypse. Oak Park and River Forest survive the 20th century.

2000

• Density, diversity, and development are the three words that capture the moment in Oak Park, from economics to racial composition of the schools.

• Oak Park discusses the racial balance of the village and the schools and steps to further integration.

• The rejection of a proposed 52-unit condominium on Madison Street by the village board marks the growing influence of neighborhood groups.

• Controversies surround the proposal for a 100,000-square-foot new library: funding, spacing, and the human rights of janitor Paul Gannello.

• Taxman strikes again on Lake Street with a sequel to the successful construction of River Forest Town Center mall: Town Center II.

• Barrie Park: A deal is struck between the village and ComEd on remediation, but the park will remain closed for a long time to come.

• Boy Scouts become controversial because of a national Scout policy outlawing gay leaders and members.

2001

• Tasty Dog, a hot dog stand with considerable sentimental value is threatened with condemnation because it's in the way of plans to develop condos and luxury apartments at Euclid Avenue and Lake Street. Supporters raise a hue and cry, and the issue attracts the attention of Chicago news outlets.

• Oak Park's Boy Scout troops lose their charters for protesting the organization's anti-gay policy.

• Oak Park begins celebrating the 100th anniversary of its secession from Cicero Township and incorporation as an independent village.

• Diversity Task Force, after months of discussion and study, hands in its report: Oak Park's schools aren't segregated yet but the threat exists.

• River Forest caps the density of its multifamily population stirring controversy.

• The 2000 Census results are in: Oak Park stays integrated and ranks among the highest population of gay couples.

• A referendum seals the fate of one Oak Park Public Library and assures its replacement.

• Election 2001: Illinois' first lesbian village president and Oak Park's first openly gay school board member (Dist. 97) take office.

• Barrie Park: remediation begins finally after four years of heated negotiations between the village, park district, and Utility companies.

• Citizen Tree Rescue challenges the village for its tree-trimming policies, accusing the village of "butchering," not trimming.

2002

• The 78th District Illinois House Primary election ends in a tie. After months in the courts, and coins flipped, Deborah Graham is pronounced the winner over Oak Park's Dorothy Reid.

• A drunk driver kills jogger Ann Monaco. No one is convicted of the crime because the State's Attorney's office bungles the investigation.

• Public Works department fires 11 employees for allegedly using village equipment on a private plumbing job in fall 2000.

• Two new middle schools are completed. Emerson Junior High is renamed Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School.

• Voters approve a non-binding open planning referendum.

• Voters approve a high school tax-increase referendum.

• Construction on the new Oak Park Public Library begins.

• River Forest's Town Center II opens.

• River Forest residents mow down landscape ordinance.

• Homeowners are worried over a proposed expansion of the Eisenhower Expressway by the Illinois Department of Transportation which would involve acquiring land north of the highway.

• Barrie Park: Remediation halts; IEPA steps in for careful examination of contamination.

2003

• Tax bills pack a wallop: taxing bodies file undervaluation appeal"homeowners see an average increase of 15 percent.

• Oak Park village and schools settle on a Tax Increment Financing District "Carve-out" plan: increased tax revenue from completed developments would be routed back to the taxing bodies.

• OP probes Police Chief Rick Tanksley's alleged misconduct with a subordinate employee. He is sanctioned, but not fired.

• Plan Commission rejects Whiteco"the proposed 18-story development at Harlem Avenue and Ontario Street.

• OPRF wins battle to build a parking garage south of the fieldhouse to relieve their longstanding parking crunch.

• Park District of Oak Park embarks on comprehensive planning process to upgrade its recreation facilities.

• Murder on Washington: Catherine McAvinchey slain in her condominium during a burglary.

2004

• Dist. 90 gets a new superintendent: Marlene Kamm.

• Village steps in to fund Dist. 97: $4 million over the next 3 years to offset deficit spending.

• Whiteco: It's back"new design team presents a revamped plan.

• YMCA announces raises possibility of leaving Oak Park if $9 million expansion plan is rejected.

• Volvo of Oak Park opens doors of expanded new dealership facility at Harlem and Garfield with hopes of doubling its business.

2005

• All the VMA candidates except for Village Clerk Sandra Sokol lose in the April election.

• River Forest celebrates its 125th birthday.

• WEDNESDAY JOURNAL celebrates 25 years covering the ups and downs of community life.

Mistakes, we've made a few...
We've had our share of bloopers over the years. Nothing on the order of "Dewey defeats Truman." More on the order of "homocide."

On Tuesday morning, April 30, we were scrambling as usual toward deadline when wind of a local murder came to our attention"the one and only time in WEDNESDAY JOURNAL history when we covered a breaking murder story on deadline morning. Which means the staff was even more crazed than usual.

The subsequent headline, "Police probe OPRF girl's homocide," left something to be desired"like the correct spelling of "homicide." If it weren't for the seriousness of the story, we might have been able to laugh about it.

As for other bloopers, after an unblemished 20-year record, Dan Haley's greatest fear came true: We ended up with "pubic library" in a photo caption. It's amazing what the absence of one letter can do. "Public" is probably the most frequently used word in community journalism (the other may well be "fundraising"), and it's extremely easy to overlook that "l""except, of course, for all our readers the following day, for whom the omission was, let us say, glaring.

You need an eagle eye when you copyedit. Once we almost had the police department investigating a "hat crime" instead of a "hate crime."

You see the probem"er, problem.
"Ken Trainor

 

A columnist to be cherished
Francis J. (better known as Frank) Walsh was the treasure in the trove of WEDNESDAY JOURNAL's first 10 years. His column featured a great name ("The Spectator") and even better writing. A seasoned, hard-edged Chicago newspaper veteran, he gave us his last, and some of his best, work.

"Fierce labor pains. The birthing room was a shabby storefront on South Marion Street, teetering on the alley next to the old Lamar moviehouse. Furnishings included a couple of Haleys, two old typewriters, a pair of excitable girl editors, one phone, a panicky ad salesman and an empty backroom. Across the street, a branch office, Little Lulu's Coffee Shop. Here Dan Haley offered yours truly unlimited cups of coffee and carfare and lunch money if he would sign on as columnist," Walsh wrote in our 10th Anniversary special section of his induction into the JOURNAL saga.

Another sample, from an April 12, 1989 column, titled "Wildflower cultivator:"

"Julia Sears, fairest flower among the Austin Gardeners, was one of this village's greatest natural resources. She managed to celebrate her full rich life by dying precisely on the day of her 98th birthday, last February 17.

"That coincidence, together with the arrival of spring, is seen to be quite fitting. For Julia was a good manager, of herself and others and the conditions that prevailed. She was also a doer, a mover, a shaker. She was funny and feisty and sassy, all heart and green thumb.

"Some Julia-watchers switched to the birds for a simile and affectionately dubbed her "the snowy crested warbler" as she scratched and stooped in her beloved Austin Gardens."

Frank Walsh put down his pen for good in 1991."Ken Trainor

 

The motherlode of targets, issues
I have to admit I was a little upset not receiving an invitation to JOURNAL's 25th Anniversary Celebration. Having begun writing for the newspaper in 1996, I had hoped I had enough gravitas to get an invite, but since the paper has been around since 1980, I am, relatively speaking, a rookie of sorts. Oh well. I didn't get invited to Britney's and Kevin's wedding either.

We moved to Oak Park in 1976 when the paper was just a synapse in Dan Haley's brain. I do remember reading the letters to the editor and thinking how deranged some of the authors were"until I started writing similar letters. I really liked the idea of a paper that tried to include everyone's letter. It was kind of like the art contest in elementary school where everyone's picture was displayed even though some of the artists were awful.

When I was on the District 97 school board in the late 1980s, I always told Eric Linden that when he quoted me I didn't care if it was accurate, but that he just needed to be sure not to make me look like an idiot. Most of the time he was kind enough to oblige.

I'm not going to lie to you. I really like writing for this newspaper. As a lawyer for big insurance companies you don't get much chance to write about things that really interest you or you really want to mock. All of us columnists are fortunate to live in Oak Park with its rich motherlode of targets and issues. The JOURNAL provides the whole community with a forum to air our many diverse opinions. That alone makes it important.

So happy 25th, JOURNAL. Keep up the good work. Please keep me in mind for your 50th!
John Hubbuch

 

 

Where is he now?
The columnist who riled more readers during his tenure as VIEWPOINTS pundit was Jaslin Salmon, who simply would not leave well enough alone when it came to race relations. It drove a lot of white readers batty because he insisted things were not as picture perfect as many wanted to believe.

So whatever became of the dear Dr. Salmon, who left us in the late 1990s? Well he moved to Jamaica, and a quick check of the Internet indicates that he is director of the island's National Poverty Eradication Program, which was established in 1995. According to the website, "The aim is to marshal all the available resources and reorient them to the vision of eradicating poverty through integrated community development." Sounds like Jaslin wrote it.

He also serves as vice president of the Jamaican Red Cross and received a fair amount of local press during the relief effort following the devastation of Hurricane Ivan last September. His e-mail, for anyone interested in making contact, is listed as jsalmon@opm.gov.jm.
"Ken Trainor

 

People we've covered over the years
Oak Park village presidents

John Philbin, 1989 to 1993

Lawrence Christmas, 1993 to 1997

Barbara Furlong, 1997 to 2001

Joanne Trapani, 2001 to 2005

River Forest village presidents

Daniel J. O'Leary, 1973 to 1977

Bruce D. Clausonthue, 1977 to 1981

Thomas Cusak, Jr., 1981 to 1989

Robert B. Jones, 1989 to 1993

Frank M. Paris, 1993 to present

District 90 superintendents

Dr. Wayne Buchholz, 1977 to 1991

Dr. John Swanson (Interim), 1991

Dr. Joan Raymond (Interim), 1992

Dr. Tyra Manning, 1992 to 2004

Dr. Marlene Kamm, 2004 to present

District 97 superintendents

Dr. Charles Railsback, 1979 to 1981

Dr. Robert Baldauf, 1981 to 1982

Dr. Ernest Mueller, 1982 to 1988

Dr. John C. Fagan, 1988 to present

District 200 superintendents

Dr. John C. Swanson , mid-'70s to 1987

Dr. George Gustafson, 1987 to 1992

Dr. Donald A. Offermann, 1992 to 1999

Dr. Susan J. Bridge, 1999 to present

 

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