I found your column by accident as I was searching to see if my old friend, the Maze library, was still standing [Maze: a storybook place to dream, Ken Trainor, Viewpoints, April 21, 2021. Your words took me back to my magical time at Maze, which took me places that never in my wildest imagination did I dream would come true.
A quick autobiography: I lived in Oak Park from 1956 until 1970. Our family of six lived on Highland Avenue in a third-floor attic. We had very little. Four kids slept in the only bedroom. I attended Longfellow Elementary and was enrolled at OPRF until I was jettisoned to Hillside.
The ’60s in Oak Park were a turbulent time, I was labeled a greaser back then and in a gang. I was good in school but enjoyed trouble. My family was from Greece and college seemed like a pipe dream. I never thought I’d advance to more than a trade job.
One day the teachers at Longfellow took us on a field trip to Maze. This would have been first grade. My life changed forever. As you so eloquently described, I fell in love with the warmth, the kindness, the knowledge on the walls and more importantly the security from my violent world. It was my cave.
I would walk to Maze and for hours read biographies, journals and take trips to the Grand Canyon, Mexico and Europe.
I remember watching the seasons change outside the windows. The story times where the calm voices soothed my racing mind. I read my first Hemingway stories and The Great Gatsby on the old oak tables.
My father took us to the western suburbs in order to change my environment. I must admit it worked. I ended up playing college football at the University of Wyoming and the University of Memphis. I actually graduated with a degree in journalism.
I was short-lived in the profession, ending up retiring from FedEx as the director of North American operations.
I’ll always credit God, my parents, Oak Park’s educational system, and the Maze library for altering my life and pointing it true north. I’ve traveled the world and every state, and the books in that warm cozy library were right: it is a wonderful world filled with phenomenal people and rich history. My world became larger than life.
I’ve lived in 12 cities and currently reside in Texas. But I always brag that Oak Park is my home. Last week I was in Key West and swelled with pride telling the Hemingway tour guide I was from Oak Park.
I don’t know your age but I can only imagine you were on the opposite side of Maze one cold winter Saturday sharing my dreams and passions.
Ken, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences and God bless Adele Maze for her legacy. Ms. Maze brought the world to my doorstep and I slammed it open.