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Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 - Bring It!

Welcome to the cusp of another New Year! Do you have plans for ringing in 2011? Family, personal or cultural traditions? When I was growing up, just a few suburbs away, in the 1970s, New Year's Eve generally meant frozen pizzas and egg rolls consumed (after cooking them, of course) in front of the TV. Guy Lombardo, Dick Clark, waiting for the Times Square ball to drop and then waiting another hour for local coverage to count down the new year. Not terribly exciting but that's what we had. In young adulthood, New Year's Eve became a glamorous, party night, an excuse to buy a new outfit and brave the wind chill for a night of dancing and merrymaking. A few years after that, I began singing with a number of pop bands in the area, so NYE became a working night, typically the longest of the year but also the most lucrative. I recall one particularly prosperous evening when 5 hours of singing netted me enough for a trip to London - wow.

Now, well, to be honest, I'm singing at my church on New Year's Eve and may have a quiet dinner with my aging parents. Children will be waiting breathlessly for Ryan Seacrest and Train to ring in the new year in New York - although I like Train a lot so I might wait up for that, too, if I can stand listening to Ke$ha. :') Dick Clark remains on the scene but debilitated by poor health. Guy Lombardo passed away 23 years ago but someone, somewhere, will be singing "Auld Lang Syne" on New Year's Eve, particularly in the United Kingdom. I'm certain frozen egg rolls will be enjoyed by millions and many a young woman will pull on a party dress to sing and dance. So New Year's traditions stay the same, we are the ones who change, perhaps.

I thought I'd look around and see what New Year traditions transpire in other places and cultures. Examples:
  • In the Philippines, the well-rounded wear polka dots and eat round fruits, meant to ensure a prosperous coming year;
  • In Denmark, partygoers jump off of chairs as the clock strikes twelve, intending to drive away bad spirits;
  • From Scotland to Panama, many cultures send the old year packing by burning things in quite dramatic fashion. Also in Scotland, "It is considered especially lucky if a tall, dark, and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the new year is rung in." Can't argue with that!
  • Japan celebrates with an enormously popular televised singing competition, "Kohaku Uta Gassen," in which teams of celebrity vocalists compete against each other while viewers at home cast their votes - that actually sounds pretty fun!;
  • For those who prefer a more private way to mark the new year, many South Americans wear festively colored underwear. For example, red underwear is meant to bring love in the new year, while yellow will bring money. Does that mean orange will bring some of both? One can only hope.
Feel free to share your New Year's traditions with us here. Whether your New Year's Eve is mundane or over-the-top, I hope the year that follows brings you renewed health, happiness and prosperity.  Read more about unusual New Year's rituals from around the world on the Travel + Leisure Web site and from the Information Please almanac.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Deck The Halls With Mess And Clutter...

fa la la la la...wait a minute. There is much to enjoy about the December holiday season but inevitably, at least in my house, it also creates a lot of clutter. Mind you, my "house," a townhouse by definition, is tiny, so there's no room for excess. Around Thanksgiving, as I start to accumulate shipping boxes from online retailers, wrapping paper, tissue, gift bags, bows, a stray pair of scissors, roll of Scotch tape, piles of Christmas cards received as well as those waiting to be sent, things get ugly. If I make the mistake of trying to add some decorative holiday flair to the environs, then I've really written the recipe for disaster. Looking around last night, I could scarcely recognize my home underneath all that stuff.

If you're feeling the same way, you could go to the nearest discount store and spend a fortune on plastic storage boxes to see if that helps. I went to one of the famous "big box" retailers on Sunday and they seemed to have imported an entire plastic storage box warehouse into their store, so there must be a demand. But if you long for professional advice beyond "put it in a box and stick it in the attic," the library should be your first stop. We have dozens of books on house cleaning and clutter busting, so you can get a handle on your house and start breathing a little more easily. See what's available right now by using this one-click search:

Cleaning and clutter busting books
If you see something you like, place a hold and we'll let you know when you can come by to pick it up (in other words, save a trip in this cold weather).

Happy house-organizing!  Do you have any advice for someone who needs to help getting organized and reducing clutter and mess? Let us know.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last Minute Shopping?

Every day for the last 8 weeks, I have been bombarded with emails from retailers, offering free or discounted delivery "guaranteed by Christmas." It seems like a radical concept, then I spotted this Spiegler's ad from the Suburban Times, circa 1940:
3 bottles of ginger ale or a bag of Hershey's candies for a quarter is stunning in itself, but then I caught the tag line way at the bottom: "FREE DELIVERY - We Are As Close To You As Your Telephone." So if "virtual shopping" and "free delivery" seem like the conveniences of the modern Internet era, think again. :) The real question is: do men really want white shirts?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Do You Know These Children?

Although, I'm guessing they are now in their early 50s.
Anyone know the identity of these "exceptionally nice children with angelic smiles?" Come on. Enlighten us.  This photo was in the Des Plaines Suburban Times, December 24, 1969.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Season's Greetings - From The Advertising Department

Continuing the trip back through time, here are some local holiday-themed advertisements from the 1957 Des Plaines Suburban Times.

Practical jokes + Christmas = two ideas I don't normally put together. Hmmm. Did you ever patronize the Correspondence Shop? What else did they sell besides practical jokes and "correspondence?" Enlighten us, please!

I'm not sure what the cartoon has to do with "the pleasures of Christmas," but it's actually a pretty funny joke. I wonder how many women these days are looking for a man who is square...It appears that in the late 1950s, the place to shop in Des Plaines was around Algonquin Road. Have any memories of Christmas shopping over there?

In the last year, Des Plaines lost a local landmark, Romano's Restaurant - well, I guess it was lost very briefly and then magically reappeared! Here is their New Year's Eve ad from 1957. Fun, Frolic and Favors for all!

Finally, some festive "vinylite sparklers" from Square Deal Shoe Store, still located right across the train tracks on Miner Street. I wish I could run over there and pick up a pair of these super-retro-cool dress shoes - especially for $6.95!

Friday, December 17, 2010

And What Should Santa Bring You?

More old-timey Christmas fun from the 1948 Des Plaines Suburban Times. It's fascinating to read the lists of what local children wanted for Christmas that year - their requests seem so simple, old-fashioned and utterly charming. Two year old Ricky wants a "beep-beep" - a toy car, perhaps? And he's got new puppies to give away! He's also got a smile that won't quit.

Diane is another little cutey and selfless, too - she's mostly concerned about getting a gift for her Sunday school teacher. I picture her being a great mom later in life, since she loved the stuffing out of her "Dy-Dee Doll." 

Pam must have been especially good since Santa made a special delivery with her new bike. She's not shy, though, so she's going for an electric train and doll buggy, too. Go for it, Pam! :') And we hope your brother's homecoming was a joyful one. 1948 - 62 years ago! If you know any of these folks, we'd love to know if they're still here in Des Plaines and if they have memories of talking to the Suburban Times about their wish lists.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I've Heard Of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,"

But what on Earth is happening in this photo? It's time for more Des Plaines history via Christmas stories from local newspapers.

Click to enlarge
I've read the caption and I still don't get it. Anyone know the Dahl family? They apparently were washing their Christmas stockings and the children decided to beat up on dad. For heaven's sakes, kids - YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD FOR CHRISTMAS! This photo is from the Des Plaines Suburban Times, December 24, 1957.

Click to enlarge
There was a time when all the local communities had their official Santa Claus. In the article above, you can learn more about the differing fortunes of two local Claus representatives, circa 1940. This article appeared in the Chicago Daily Tribune, December 15, 1940. You can find more like it by using our ProQuest historical newspaper databases - useful, fast and a lot of fun, too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Countdown - Des Plaines Style

Since our tribute to Thanksgivings past in Des Plaines proved popular, let's have some fun with the upcoming celebration of Christmas as well. For the next 10 days, I'll share with you photos, advertisements and other items of interest from long-ago editions of local newspapers. Want to do some searching yourself? Try our historical newspaper databases, which you can find on our Newspaper Subject Guide. (the databases can even be searched from your home computer if you have a valid DPPL card number) The pictures and articles I'll post here are from some old Suburban Times newspapers we recently had digitized. The quality of the photos isn't perfect but you can definitely enjoy the trip down Memory Lane regardless.

Click to enlarge
From December 24, 1957 - spelling errors aside, let's give a shout-out to the "hightlights"of the Northshire Civic Club Christmas Party, Des Plaines' very own Accordion Band. The band members ranged in age from 9-13 - anyone you know? Did you ever polka merrily or tap your feet to the sounds of the DP Accordion Band? Let us know!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Congratulations, Via Roma

Everyone at DPPL sends our heartiest congratulations to the good people at Via Roma on being named one of the Top Ten Suburban Restaurants in 2010 by the Daily Herald! You can read all about it here:

Via Roma was one of the first businesses featured in our "Des Plaines Means Business" video project and they have definitely won our popularity contest, too, with over 1,200 views thus far. You can watch and learn more about this wonderful local restaurant right here.

It's been exciting to see new businesses of all kinds moving into downtown Des Plaines. Let's support our community by dining, shopping and doing business locally, whenever possible.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's On Your List?

From Thanksgiving through the end of the year, it's quite common to ask, "What do you want this year?" We ask our children if they have any special toys in mind. We ask our spouses if they want a kitchen gadget, some power tools or a nice watch. We may even make the request of strangers, via gift-giving charities like "Sharing Trees" or the Mitten Tree we have here at DPPL. Increasingly, over the last few months, many of my family members and friends have adjusted their year-end lists, adding a particular item to the number one spot: somebody give me a job.

Remember that the library offers a number of services and resources that can help you with that wish, should it be on your list as well. For example:
  1. Use our Reference USA database to research potential employers - use the advanced search options to create a customized list of companies that are looking for someone just like you (it's a great database for marketing a product or service, too).

  2. Join our Job Seekers Group - networking is a great way to stay inspired and energized and you never know who might bring you the contact that leads to a job. The next meeting is on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 9:30 AM. All are welcome, no need to register.

  3. Take advantage of our personal Career Counseling. If it's been awhile since you've been on the job market, you need someone to help you strategize. Look for the Career Counseling opportunities on our Events Calendar (generally Thursday mornings) and sign up for a 30 minute session.

  4. If you are on Twitter, follow our DPPLBusiness tweets. Every week, we provide another link to an interesting article, career fair or even job listings in the Des Plaines area. Get fresh ideas delivered straight to you.

  5. Check in regularly at our online Business/Career Resource Center. Research companies, find out about business/career-related events here at DPPL, get resume and job search advice.

  6.  If financial hardship makes it impossible for you to have Internet service at home, remember our public computers and free wireless Internet connectivity are available 72 hours a week.
Job searching during the winter holiday time seems particularly challenging - companies put off hiring until next year and people don't return your calls because they're taking vacation time. Bookmark this blog post and come back to it after the first of the year, too. We're here to help and our holiday wish for you is full employment that brings you financial security and personal satisfaction as well.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Farewell To A Boy Of Summer

    Some time last summer, late July, I gave up on my Cubs. Unlike my father, who has been suffering through Cubs fandom for over 70 years, I was a late bloomer. Thirteen and a half years ago, in a bout of "Now what?" after a divorce, I started paying a little attention to baseball. Suddenly, I was tuned into WGN just about every night or even heading out to watch a game on television. My family started making an annual pilgrimage to Wrigley Field. For better or for worse, I became a Cubs fan.

    But last July, my affections began to wane. Too many wasted opportunities, too many favorite players traded away who then excelled in their new hometowns - I'd had enough. When I woke up this morning, I did what I always do, checked my email, the weather and signed onto Facebook. Had a couple of new messages, including one from a Facebook group I'd joined, "Ron Santo belongs in the Hall of Fame." I figured the voting was kicking off again and nearly deleted it without a second look. Then my eyes caught, "Well, everyone, it looks like Santo has passed away." And that he did - former Cubs third baseman and longtime Cubs announcer Ron Santo passed away on Thursday, December 2, 2010.

    The radio team of "Cubs legend Ron Santo" (as he was always introduced) and Pat Hughes was probably the thing that kept me tuning in even during the worst of seasons. In the years when I worked with two male colleagues who also followed the Cubs, we couldn't wait to get to work the next day to exchange the latest "Ronny-ism." A genuine fan and a hard-nosed player in his day, Santo's moans, groans and outbursts mimicked what the rest of us were experiencing in our cars, living rooms and backyard decks every time a Cubs player swung at the first pitch or made a stupid base-running error: "Awww JEEZ!" I often listened to the games by myself, but having Ron and Pat giggling alongside me made it feel like I was at a cozy neighborhood bar, watching the game with friends. Never mind that Ron often got distracted and missed a play - "Patrick, what just happened?" - or stumbled over his words while reading the faxes and emails that poured in. By the end of the season, I knew every time he was going to say, "And we thank you, Walgreens."

    Santo could be like a mischievous kid, chuckling over someone's unusual name or behavior. Remember the summer they were so bored they had a Barbie in the booth and Ron would comb her hair? Remember Ronny screaming, "HE'S NOT HUMAN!!!!!!!" before any of us realized Sammy Sosa wasn't quite human, but probably steroid-enhanced? Remember his deep hatred for Bernie Brewer and the hilarious story of him trying to sneak a frozen yogurt at the Diamondbacks' stadium, only to be thwarted when the machine wouldn't turn off and yogurt came oozing out, uncontrollably?

    I wish I had memories to share of Ron Santo's career as a Cubs player, but he left the major leagues in 1974, when I was just 8 years old and far away from developing a baseball passion. For a period of time, Ron Santo was a partial owner of a local restaurant chain and I ate there often with family and friends - I don't know if he had anything to do with the food but darn, I could go for one of those open-faced roasted chicken sandwiches right now. One Christmas I scoured an enormous, dusty antiques mall for Santo memorabilia to give to my baseball-loving friends. One summer day, while I waited in line for my pre-game bratwurst and soda, I saw Ron make the long trip up those precarious ramps at Wrigley, heading to the broadcast booth. People called out to him but he seemed subdued and a little uncomfortable, riding in a motorized cart, his grandson perched next to him. This was after his legs were amputated from complications from diabetes and that must have been quite a challenge to a player known for impishly clicking his heels or risking a dangerous slide into the plate.

    Today, a man who made me laugh so many times made me cry instead and all I can say is my summers will never be the same. I prefer to remember Ron Santo not as a baseball player who didn't make the Hall of Fame, not as a radio broadcaster who somehow often managed to be at a loss for words, but as the ultimate fan of the game who refused to let serious illness and disability keep him from living life to the fullest and the best companion for sharing all the frustrations and occasional joys of being a Cubs fan.

    Read the Wikipedia entry on Ron Santo
    See the items about Ron Santo at DPPL
    See the items about the Cubs at DPPL