I believe all people are accomplished and creative in their respective callings even though they may never gain widespread fame. The people I mention here have left their mark on Oak Park and River Forest, the nation, and the world, and I have been fortunate to have known them-some only in passing and others somewhat better.

I attended O.W. Holmes School with Percy Julian, Jr., his sister, Faith, and their cousin. We lived only a few blocks apart, and I saw Dr. Julian a number of times, but I never formally met him. He was the scientist who discovered many chemical components now used in the treatment of arthritis, glaucoma, and certain allergies. In the first years of his residence in Oak Park, he courageously overcame racial threats aimed at his family.

I attended both elementary and high school with John and Bill Gilmore, whose father and uncle founded the William Y. Gilmore & Sons retail department store on the southwest corner of Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street (Winberie’s location). Every time I went into the store, I saw John and Bill’s dad walking up and down the aisles greeting shoppers and calling many by name. Gilmore’s was a gem of a store.

For many years, I lived next door to Bob Follett, the head of Follett Corp., the giant textbook publisher. He was a man who exuded energy and a fine sense of humor. Both he and his wife, Nancy, were very active in community affairs. Many a summer evening, Bob and I would discuss the Sox and Cubs until we both agreed that it would be best to “wait till next year.”

I have known Doris Christopher, the founder of Pampered Chef, for many years. Her family and mine are members of Grace Lutheran Church, and I see her and her husband, Jay, quite frequently on Sunday mornings. Both she and Jay have contributed so much to the betterment of our communities.

Although I did not know either Dr. Harold Sofield or Dr. Walter Herrick, I did attend school with their children, Julie Sofield and Walter Herrick, Jr.

From Dee’s to Candyland

The place I remember best is Wessman-Cunningham Sporting Goods (now the site of George’s Restaurant). Mr. Wessman was a kindly, grandfatherly man, but Mr. Cunningham, also known as “The Major,” was a no-nonsense-type guy.

This is the place where I bought my first baseball mitt-a Stan Musial Trapper. Stan was a lefty and so am I, so the mitt was perfect. I also bought my first Louisville Slugger bat-a Ted Williams-and real Major League baseball here. These items were the real thing and not poorly made imitations. In those days, bats were made of wood and baseballs were covered in cowhide. They lasted and lasted.

On the northwest corner of Pleasant and Oak Park Avenue (now a real estate office) was Dee’s Pharmacy. I probably was in there only three or four times, but I do know that this is the place where my classmate, David Lodge, met his future wife, Carolyn Winslow. Carolyn worked as a clerk for Mr. Dee during her school years at Oak Park High.

Across from Dee’s was and still is the magnificent St. Edmund Church. Every Christmas I look forward to viewing the beautiful nativity scene that stands on the Church lawn. It is now behind a window because, I imagine, it was vandalized once too often.

By the way, there once were two or three houses between St. Edmund and the two-story brick building that now houses various businesses. Further north on Oak Park Avenue and near the corner, Dr. Demeur had a podiatry office. My grandmother praised him to the heavens because he kept her walking well into her 80s. His son, Basil, was a classmate of mine and still remains a good friend.

On the southwest corner of Oak Park Avenue and South Boulevard was “Candyland,” a popular confectionery. Christ Cates, the owner’s nephew, once told me that more Alka-Seltzer was sold late on Friday nights than was ice cream or other sweets. Now, really, who would need Alka-Seltzer late on a Friday evening?

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