News that Dorothy Hamill, the Olympic gold medal ice skater who launched a million wedge haircuts and inspired a generation of little girls to follow her toe loops, is undergoing treatment for breast cancer hit the news Jan. 4 and along with it a rumor surfaced that Hamill had lived in River Forest as an infant and toddler.

“I have never heard that one,” said Frank Lipo, executive director of the Historical Society of Oak Park-River Forest. “We have nothing to support that.” But armed with the names of Hamill’s parents, Chalmers and Carolyn, and the years (the late 1950s), Lipo waded into the records and emerged triumphant.

“There is a Chalmers Hamill Jr. of 736 Forest Avenue in River Forest from 1954-1959,” he crowed. The self-written biography for Hamill indicates she was born in 1956 in Chicago, where her father was an engineer for Quaker Oats, and moved to Connecticut in 1958.

A trip to the 700 block of Forest Avenue netted additional evidence.

“I remember hearing that she had lived at 736 when we moved in,” said Bill Gaucher, who has lived at 740 Forest in River Forest for 21 years. “She was of my generation-she’s America’s Sweetheart, the 1976 Olympics, right? But the person who really knew her was Mary Elwood, who used to live on this street and now lives in a condo in what we call ‘the Irish ghetto’-407 and 411 Ashland,” he said.

“She was a beautiful little girl with big blue eyes. Her father, Chalmers, was an engineer and her mother, Carol, was a homemaker,” recalled Elwood, who lived with her husband, Joe, and their children, next door at 730 Forest Ave. “They had two children, a boy named Sandy and a girl named Marcia. They had Dorothy when they lived here.” Hamill was born on July 26, 1956.

Elwood said Hamill’s parents were “very athletic-they both skiied”-and were also very social. “They were bridge players and had a nice circle of friends here; they belonged to the Episcopal church on Franklin.”

Elwood stayed in contact with the Hamills after they moved away. “Dorothy started skating in Connecticut on a pond and the family supported her,” she recalled. Elwood’s son, Bob, who “was a newborn when Dorothy moved away” went to an athletic club in Oak Park a few years ago when Dorothy Hamill was doing a promotional publicity tour and was appearing at the club. “Bob introduced himself and told her he knew where she used to live,” said Elwood. “She asked him to tell the address to her chauffeur, so I guess she drove by later.”

Jim O’Brien is the current resident at 736 Forest with his wife and three children. “You are kidding,” he said, upon hearing the news. “Don’t you mean she lived in Oak Park?” O’Brien has lived in the home two years. His daughters, Grace, 3, and Annie, 2, playfully jostled around his legs at the front door, perhaps not unlike Marcia and Dorothy some 50 years ago. When asked if they had heard of Dorothy Hamill, Grace said, “No, but we have been ice skating once.”

At the Ridgeland Common ice rink, Dorothy Thurman, the sales clerk and a longtime area resident, said she had never heard that Hamill had lived around here. Marge Balchunas, the rink supervisor, had never heard that either. “Boy, can you imagine if she had skated here,” she wondered aloud. But the Ridgeland Common ice rink was built in 1962, a few years after Dorothy Hamill moved to Connecticut.

“She could have skated here before the roof was put on,” Thurman noted excitedly.

That’s how rumors get started.

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