When exercise meant beautification

Opinion

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In this health-obsessed age when people are so preoccupied with weight and exercise, it is interesting to observe the many service trucks parked on so many Oak Park streets.

They deliver lawn service, gardening upkeep, leaf removal, window washing, maid service and snow removal on private property. There was a time in this community when people cut their own grass, raked their own leaves, shoveled their own walks and then, helped their aged or infirm neighbors.

There was a time in this town when citizens like Elsie Jacobsen and friends planted flower tubs in front of gas stations; when Ella Engle maintained a huge border of petunias around Scoville Park; when 70-year-old Liz Walsh and 90-year-old Julia Sears preserved Austin Gardens. All of this before there was even a Beautification Commission, which no longer exists.

There was a time in Oak Park when citizens planted twice the number of mini gardens that now exist. Under the auspices of the Community Design Commission, they prepared the soil, planted, watered and weeded hundreds of flats of annuals which provided constant color for six months of each year.

There was a time in Oak Park when, at a specified time, large groups of people would congregate to clean up notoriously dirty and littered areas. The program was called K.I.C. (Keep It Clean).

All of these activities involved plenty of hard work and exercise, but of greater importance, they were communal, productive and rewarding.

Now, in this community, we have the individual pursuit of health and the "Loneliness of the Long (or short) Distance Runner."

Perhaps they are also engaged in communal efforts. I hope so.

Peggy Studney
Oak Park

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