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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Sense of Community = Always Something to Celebrate

There's an old Christmas chestnut, "The Christmas Waltz," that I pull up on the iPod every year. I was pondering one of the lyrics, "It's that time of year when the world falls in love," while noticing the angry drivers, grim-faced shoppers and non-stop advertising frenzy of the last few days. And we're just getting started, folks! A good antidote for holiday madness is personal gladness and there are plenty of ways to attain that right here in Des Plaines.

For starters, the Library has holiday programs a-plenty this year and every year. Kids from grades 3-8 can participate in a winter printmaking session with a professional illustrator, Terri Murphy, on Thursday, December 9, from 4-5:30 PM. On December 11, you can check some names off your shopping list while doing good for your public library by coming to the Friends Holiday Book and Gift Sale! The sale is on Saturday only, December 11, 2010, from 9:30 AM - 3:30 PM. Moms and dads, do your browsing at the sale while the kids conjure up some magic of their own at the drop-in holiday craft session up on the second floor, from 1-4 PM.

We always host a holiday extravaganza for families and this year it's "Peace Tales From Around the World," on Sunday, December 12, 2010, from 2-3 PM. Spending quality time together enjoying music, dance and storytelling is a perfect escape from the commercialism and hectic pace of these times.

Why not get out and spend time with your neighbors, too, at the Des Plaines Holiday Lighting Street Fest this Friday, 12/3/2010, in Metropolitan Square beginning at 5:30 PM? You can get all the details on the city's Web site. The weekend brings another Des Plaines tradition, the Lake Wonderland Winter Festival! Meet Santa, take a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh, and maybe even catch the sounds of the Singing Librarians while you wander the winter wonderland of Lake Park. Full details in this brochure.

Finally, there's nothing that erases stress quite like a simple act of kindness. Why not make a donation to our Mitten Tree or the Self-Help Closet & Food Pantry of Des Plaines? Purchase new mittens, gloves, scarves and hats - they don't have to be fancy, just warm! - and they'll be given to local families in need. The food pantry needs no explanation. Bring non-perishable food items to the red barrel in our lobby and help a local individual or family through a difficult financial time. You'll never notice what it cost you but it will sure make a difference to them. You might even help the world fall in love, as the old song says. :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving, 1970 - Des Plaines Style

Here we are again, this time with a look at Thanksgiving circa 1970, courtesy of the Des Plaines Suburban Times. The cover picture was similar to what we saw in 1948, only this time it's an actual photograph, rather than a cartoon. Is this your house, by any chance? Click to enlarge and see the entire front page - you can click and enlarge all the images below as well.

 For many years, my family has gone out for our Thanksgiving meal. Not one of us really likes to cook and we have several family members who don't like turkey, so a restaurant full of options works well. Forty years ago, we could have feasted like kings at the Des Plaines Holiday Inn.
"All the good trimmings," and not one entree over $7.00 
Looks to me like this Holiday Inn was located in the current spot of the Radisson - sound correct?

Okay, alright, so this has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. It was in the November 25, 1970, Des Plaines Suburban Times and brought back some childhood memories for me. Plus, according to the ad, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were right here in Chicago that weekend.
Did you attend the livestock show and rodeo at the Amphitheatre?
Do you remember the International Amphitheatre and
did you know it was built primarily for the livestock show?

An editorial cartoon. A little dark, but, I get the idea. 

Even 40 years ago, religious imagery and wording were somewhat commonplace in the newspaper.
 Hmmm - it's interesting to ponder the line, "for the challenge of the unlimited opportunities which lie ahead." Do we feel that way today?

And finally...Santa arrives at Spiegler's. One thing I noticed as the decades unfolded in the newspaper pages - in 1948 and 1952, Christmas was just a blip on the radar around Thanksgiving. By 1970, there were more mentions of Christmas than Thanksgiving in the late November papers! So, bowing to the trend, here is the ad from Spiegler's, letting children know that Santa would be making two special appearances to hear their Christmas wish list. (A little different from now, when Santa spends 2 months at the mall - don't the kids wonder why he doesn't have anywhere else to go?) This ad particularly appeals to me because, of course, the Library now resides right next to the spot where Spiegler's used to stand. Maybe I could have looked out my window and seen Santa arriving. :') 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving, 1963 - Des Plaines style

Welcome to the third part of our look at Thanksgivings past in Des Plaines, via some old issues of the Des Plaines Suburban Times. I thought that you, our readers, might enjoy some news stories and advertisements from Des Plaines in decades past. (You can see 1952 and 1948 if you scroll down this page) The only November issue I have available to me is from 11/27/1963 - and Thanksgiving, 1963, was a dark time for America.

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 - 47 years ago today. He was buried on November 25 of that year and so the Suburban Times took the opportunity for a solemn tribute, rather than the typically cheerful Thanksgiving message. Click the image above to read the full text. "...I feel the need to assure myself and my readers as we prepare our tables and minds for the annual Thanksgiving ritual that we as a nation and a community have many, many things to be thankful for."

You can read local thoughts about President Kennedy's death and other topics from the editorial page - again, click to enlarge. Note the message about "Safe Driving Tips" from the Chicago Motor Club.

Nevertheless, I am sure many of the ads had been placed well before the tragic events that ended 
President Kennedy's life, so whether one needed a funeral home or some ice cream,
you had plenty to choose from here in Des Plaines...
Well, I hate to sound sarcastic but there's something about the image of praying hands
being associated with a savings and loan...ahem. But they meant well!

Pesche's was back with a Thanksgiving ad in 1963, too. The model has a different look from the 1952 gal - a look that seems partially based on Jacqueline Kennedy, a great tastemaker and trend setter, whose life was turned upside down on Thanksgiving, 1963. 

I hope you're enjoying our trip through time via Thanksgiving-themed Des Plaines newspapers! 
1970 is just around the corner. While we did not have any newspaper from the 1980s recently digitized, if I have time I may collect a few of those images as well. I appreciate those who have commented - if you have information about the businesses and stories above, please let us know.
There is something so special and compelling about our local history - we need to keep it alive.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving, 1952 - Des Plaines style

Welcome to Part Two of our Thanksgiving walk down Memory Lane. Today I'll post some clippings from the Des Plaines Suburban Times, November 26, 1952 - Thanksgiving week. (Scroll down to the last post to see similar clippings from November 18,1948 - over the weekend we'll check out the swingin' Sixties) Click any of the images to enlarge them.

You'll need to click to enlarge the cover page -the photo is a little difficult to see, it's a family with heads bowed in prayer right before their delicious Thanksgiving meal. The caption exhorts readers to " thankful for...the advantages of living in the United States...the opportunity of sharing in its progress and prosperity..." and more. Perhaps a message we can take to heart during our own difficult times! It's also interesting to note that the writer of the caption chose freedom of religion as the most significant freedom -
think that would be true in 2010?

 Wouldn't be a special occasion in Des Plaines without our good friends at Pesche's. Did you know Pesche's also carried groceries for a time? Note the line in this ad: "Produce prices are subject to change. We are sold out on Hunt's Peaches and quart size Miracle Whip." Wow - wouldn't it be great it stores today would tell us ahead of time if they ran out of something? :)

It's fun to compare grocery prices then and now - mmmm...Cracker Jack...
No address listed for this store - was there an A & P Super Market here in DP
or was this in a neighboring suburb?

There is still an Oehler Funeral Home in Des Plaines - no longer at Lee and Perry, today's location is on Miner Street, east of downtown. A number of businesses took out ads like this, with a simple reminder to be thankful on Thanksgiving. It is interesting that religious imagery and wording were quite common -
do you think that would be true today?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving - Des Plaines style, 1948

Most of my work here at DPPL involves staying on top of the latest trends. Yet, like many librarians, I have a soft spot for old stuff, from the Book of Kells to, yes, old Des Plaines newspapers. I recently had occasion to look over some "digitized" copies of the Des Plaines Suburban Times and thought you might enjoy the opportunity to experience Thanksgiving in Des Plaines, IL, over the last 70 years. For the next week, here in PlainTalk, I'll share Thanksgiving-related cover stories and advertisements from the Suburban Times. Enjoy. Today, let's go back to November, 1948. Click the images to enlarge them and read the fine print.

Here is the cover story - note the quaint cartoon of grandma, mom and daughter 
preparing the traditional turkey and fixings.

Jewel has turkeys for just 59 cents a pound! You'd have plenty left for ice cream and olives, too.
I'll pass on the beets. Click for full detail.

Oh my goodness! I don't know what to make of this.
They shot the turkeys in a heated tent? Until midnight?
If you or anyone in your family participated in the VFW Turkey Shoot,
please leave a comment and explain this event! :)

Gathering the family together during the holiday season is a great time for the younger generations to hear about days gone by. I know watching football is something of a tradition, but in the moments between games or at least during the meal, take time to let the older guests talk about what life was like "back in the day." Everybody gains when we preserve memories and learn about simpler (not always easier) times.
Stop back in a few days when we look at Thanksgiving in the 1950s!

Monday, November 15, 2010

One Bag At A Time

I am very proud to say we have successfully made the switch over to reusable tote bags here at DPPL. We introduced our nifty blue $1.00 bags in September of 2008 and to date we have sold more than 5,000! While it was certainly a dream of mine to get away from the tens of thousands of disposable plastic bags we were handing out every year, it helped that we had your support, too. We would frequently get emails or suggestion box comments asking us for reusable bags. One concern our administration had was cost: they weren't convinced anyone would buy a $5.00-10.00, organic cotton canvas tote with a fancy handle and a silk-printed logo. Knowing that grocery and discount chains sell bags for $1.00 or less, I was given the task of finding that price point for our own bags.

As you know from your own shopping experiences, sometimes a lower price means lower quality and often the lowest priced items are made overseas. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with purchasing items made in other countries - trust me, if you've shopped at a big box retailer or dollar store, you've bought plenty of items not made in the USA - I had concerns about the fair treatment of workers in some of these other locations. Recently, you may have seen some alarming news reports - that some reusable shopping bags have been tested and found to contain unacceptable amounts of lead. Here's what I want you to know about our bags and their manufacturer, One Bag At A Time:
  • Yes, the bags are made in China. The reason we chose to work with One Bag At A Time and will continue to do so is that they are able to supply the bags we need at a cost right around $1.00 per bag and they guarantee the bags are made "with no child labor, no forced labor, and that all workers are paid at least minimum wage." Labor conditions in their Chinese factories are monitored by Verite an independent advocate for workers worldwide. One Bag At A Time's corporate offices are in California, so they provide jobs in the USA and they have really helpful customer support people. We are pretty small potatoes in terms of order size but I frequently talk directly to the company's owner - can't say that about too many businesses these days.

  • About lead: You will be pleased to know that One Bag At A Time's bags were recently tested and found safe. 100 ppm (parts per million) is the legal limit for lead in consumer products.  The bags our library sells have been found to have 5 ppm or less in recent testing. You may be interested in knowing that the study which claimed that reusable bags contained high amounts of lead was funded by the plastics industry, not exactly an objective source. 
Things you may not know: you can wash our bags in cold water and hang them to dry and they can even be recycled when they wear out. Here's an interesting blurb on their Web site about companies who claim to make bags out of recycled materials. In a few days I hope to share with you some information on our new "technotrash" recycling company, based right here in Chicago, IL, and the truly amazing things they are doing with your old soda bottles and car bumpers (and shared similar concerns with us about companies claiming to use "recycled" materials). I wanted you to know a little bit more about our bags so you can continue to feel safe using them for your library materials or anything else you want to tote around. Use our bags to be more "green," or to be more frugal (those "free" plastic bags we used to give out were not free, you know!) or simply because a clean, elegant tote bag looks a lot more attractive than a crinkly plastic bag.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Holiday Light Recycling!

    Just a quick note: this weekend you have the chance to turn in those beat-up old Christmas lights you have hanging around in the garage and get a $3.00 coupon toward new LED lights at Home Depot. Read more here.
    I'm a little surprised this incentive program ends on Sunday, November 14, 2010, but that's what the Web site says. Maybe they will offer it again? If you know of other local resources for recycling old holiday lights, let me know!

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Grandpa, Grandma and Me Time

    Typically, I leave the writing about children's and young adult programming to the experts in our Youth Services department. However, new Head of Adult Services Stephanie Spetter caught me in the lunchroom yesterday and said, "Help - we need more promotion of our 'Grandpa, Grandma and Me Time' program!" I was happy to oblige with a photo and blurb on our home page. But it got me thinking about how important "Grandpa and Me" time was in my life.

    The youngest of four children in a happy, noisy, busy household, I often tell people I was blessed to grow up with three parents: mom, dad and grandfather, or, "Papa." My grandmother the year before I was born and suddenly Papa was on his own, despite being a relatively young man in good health. So he came over for dinner a lot - even took us out to restaurants several nights a week. He told me much later in life that when he lost Irene, the love of his life, I became his new reason for getting up in the morning. Spoiled rotten? Yes, I was, thank you very much! Wherever I wanted to go, he was there, chauffeuring me in his enormous Buick, puffing on a stogie. Kiddieland or Dispensa's Kiddie Kingdom? Check. Oakbrook, Yorktown, North Riverside or Hillside mall? Check. A walk in the park, an ice cream cone, a magazine from the drug store. Oh, and, yes - we often went to bookstores and our local public library. He patiently sat while I browsed the shelves forever, leaving with an armful of books and maybe some records. Life was simple and life was great. I lost my Papa 19 years ago, when he was in his late 80s, and I miss him all the time.

    Another thing my whole family enjoyed was playing games together. Candy Land and Cootie when we were very small, Monopoly and Life as we got older, lazy evenings on vacation in Wisconsin playing cards or even impromptu games we created on the spot.I don't have children of my own but I enjoy when my friends and their kids include me in a game. Last year I bought my parents a new laptop computer and we had a lot of laughs playing "Wheel of Fortune" on it - so you're never too old to play together as a family!

    If all of this has made you nostalgic for simpler times or restless to get some of that quality time for you and your family, you can get started this Saturday at DPPL. On Saturday, November 13, 2010, we have two special events taking place. First, from 10:30 - Noon, it's "Grandpa, Grandma and Me Time." Children from ages 4-8 can bring a favorite grandparent (or multiple favorites) and enjoy some special time together. There will be stories, fun and refreshments. Everyone gets their picture taken and the kids will create a photo memory craft to remember the day. As someone who fondly treasures those memories of time spent with my generous and kind grandfather, I can say with confidence that building relationships between the generations in your family is a gift that lasts a lifetime. Register here.

    Then, from 1-4 PM, get your game on @ the library - it's National Gaming Day! Drop in and try your hand at Wii Bowling, Mario Kart or good, old-fashioned board games like Sorry! Read more about the positive effects of gaming and our National Gaming Day celebration in Cheryl Gladfelter's Kidding Around post.

    Remember, though, that the library is here for you 7 days a week almost every day of the year, so it's always the perfect day for mom, dad, kids, grandparents - whoever you are - to come over and spend some quality time together. We noted with both sorrow and pride how often Choice Taylor came to the library after school with his twin brother, Chance. Choice lost his life in an unfortunate accident last week but it lifts our spirits a bit to know we gave the boys a safe place to spend their free time. Life is too short - spend it with the people you love doing things that help you grow together.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    "Let children walk with Nature..."

    "...let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life / their joyous inseparable unity / as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star / and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life." John Muir

    NEW - there is a Facebook page to honor Choice Taylor as well, just follow this link:!/pages/RIP-Choice-Taylor/165765926778229

    The entire Des Plaines community and plenty of hearts and minds far beyond our city are reeling from the tragic, accidental death of young Choice Taylor. We can't help but ask the age-old questions: "Why? Why now? Why in that way? Why so soon?" All human loss is painful but there is something particular to the grief of losing someone young and full of energy and hope for the future. It seemed no accident at all that with Friday's news the sky turned darker at an earlier hour, the air became bitterly cold, the leaves dried up and the flowers wilted.

    The Taylor siblings -- Choice, his twin brother Chance and older sister Unique -- were regular visitors here at the Library. Veronica Schwartz DeFazio, our former Head of Youth Services, wrote to me over the weekend, dismayed at the news about Choice. She wrote on Facebook, "...incredibly sad to hear of the death of a sweet young man I watched grow up at the Des Plaines Public Library. Choice was the victim of a hit and run Friday night. Such a good, pure hearted soul. Such a horrible loss."  

    Sara McLaughlin, one of our Youth Services librarians, spoke to me about her experiences with the Taylors: "Choice’s sister, Unique, stopped by the Youth Services Desk a few months ago to say hello. She was so proud of her brothers! When I began working here in 2001, Choice and Chance were somewhat mischievous fixtures in our department, but always – always courteous (well, most of the time!). What I remember most is that they would always say hello and make eye contact with us, even when going through the 'dreaded' junior high years. I’ll miss Choice, and ache for his family." 

     It was a bittersweet moment for all of us when Choice's mother, Loreene Taylor, was quoted saying, "I don't know how many people could call the library and say 'Is my son there?'". She could do that and, more than likely, this is where her son would be. Loreene Taylor's graceful compassion in the face of this tragedy is a profound example to all on how to be thankful for blessing and generous with our forgiveness - life is simply too short, too unpredictable, to live in anger and resentment. We are deeply saddened over the loss of Choice Taylor - we are grateful that for many years, we provided a place where he and his siblings felt comfortable and happy. Appropriately, we offer that comfort to all of you now - on Tuesday, November 9, 2010, from 4:30-7:30 PM, the community is invited to an open house here at the Library. More details:

    The Des Plaines Police Department and The Joint Crisis Response and Recovery Team of Des Plaines/Park Ridge) (JCRRT) are hosting an Open House/Drop in Center from 4:30 PM – 7:30 PM, Tuesday, November 9, 2010, in Meeting Room A,  Des Plaines Library, 1501 Ellinwood Street. This event is being held in honor/memory of Choice Taylor, a 17 year old Maine West High School student, who was struck and killed in a hit and run accident on November 5, 2010.  Choice truly loved the Library and spent many hours of his free time there.

    The purpose of this event is to give community members a place to gather to talk about the impact this tragedy is having on them individually as well as on the community as a whole.  Adult and children’s counselors will be available.  There will be an art station for people who wish to write their condolences to the family. Light snacks will be served. For more information, contact Linda Engeriser at the Des Plaines Police Department at 847-391-5445.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Check Out A Kill-A-Watt Meter And Start Saving

    Have you heard about the Kill-A-Watt meter? Kill-A-Watt meters help you determine how much energy your household appliances consume. From ComEd: "Patrons who borrow a Kill-a-Watt meter will be able to plug this device into a wall outlet, plug an appliance, computer, lamp, or other electrical product into the monitor, and they will find out how efficient (or wasteful) those devices really are. On the large LCD display they will be able to monitor the kilowatt hour consumption of an item to learn how much it costs to run. They can determine electrical expenses by day, week, or month, cycling through displays including voltage (volt), amperage (amp), wattage (watt), line frequency (Hz), and power factor (VA)." Many household devices continue to use up energy even when they are turned off and the Kill-A-Watt meter will help you determine if you have any of these "vampire" or "phantom load" appliances in your home or work space.

    We are pleased to announce that we now have two Kill-A-Watt meters available for 14 day checkout. Just ask at the first floor information desk and have your DPPL card handy. You can watch the informational video above to learn more about how to use the Kill-A-Watt meter and learn from your results. There is also an informational card included with the meter. The Kill-A-Watt meter will help you save energy and money - and who doesn't want to do that? Stop in and check one out today. Thanks to the ComEd CARE program for donating these helpful devices to our library and many others.