Warm weather arrived before summer solstice

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Summer has officially arrived for readers who probably did not notice. The summer solstice officially began at 5:34 p.m. Monday.

For grade school, high school and college graduates, summer began for them the minute they walked out of the classrooms and later picked up their diplomas. The same can be said for the students who have not graduated but are free to spend most of their days in the sunshine for the next couple of months. Chicago Public School students will see another year come to an end this week.

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas had it right when they sang “Summer is here and the time is right for dancing in the streets.” “Dancing in the Streets, the 1964 Motown hit was an anthem of sorts that summer coming at the emergence of the civil rights movement. The song has been interpreted in many ways but the majority of the cities mentioned in the song were from the North and South, where many racial conflicts would occur.

Instead of fighting, it was a call to dance and have fun. As a kid growing up in the 1960s, I had a lot of fun but witnessed a lot of conflict. It was all part of growing up.

I do recall those long, hot summer days. This past Monday was the longest day of the year but when you are working, most of us are not even aware of it. The summer solstice began but if you ask most weather forecasters, they will tell you that meteorological summer started on June 1.

Since I was already out of school for a couple of weeks at this time, I don’t recall celebrating the summer solstice or realizing that even occurred. This year, it was not until I came home from work Monday evening and began watching the news did I realize something historical took place. This year coincided with the “strawberry moon,” the folkloric name given to June’s full moon.

The term strawberry moon had nothing to do with color. It was given that name by the Algonquin tribes because it occurs right at the height of the season when strawberries are harvested, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

I did see the full moon that evening but did not realize the significance. This was the first time this has occurred in about 50 years. The last strawberry moon and the summer solstice occurred at the beginning the so-called “Summer of Love” in 1967. This won’t happen again until 2062.

All I know is that we are experiencing more warmer days. When I was a kid, if I was not practicing baseball or playing a game that evening, those hot, lazy day were spent a number of ways. I had a friend who lived across the street from me by the name of Jim Prendergast. He was from a large family and had several brothers. Some of those days were spent playing Wiffle ball off the front steps of their bungalow home. Usually it was just us playing. Essentially, the steps served as the catcher because the ball would come back to you. The pitcher was also the fielder. Balls hit on the ground that were caught meant the batter was out. That also went for popups.

Several games would be played a day on our block at 97th and Throop in Chicago. Sometimes we would drift from our block to catch up with other friends. But a few innings of Wiffle ball passed the time of day. I already mentioned that if the pitcher either strikes out, catches grounders or fly balls, then an out was recorded. But if the batter hit the ball past the pitcher it was a single. A double was when the ball went over the pitcher’s head and hit the street. If the batter’s hit reached the grass just over the curb on a fly, that was a triple. Hit the ball over the sidewalk on the other side of the street and that was a home run.

We had fun and there were occasional arguments over strikes and balls called. I don’t see too many kids doing this anymore, but the suburbs don’t have as many bungalows or Georgians where you could use the stairs as a catcher.

Nearby schools also served as a place to play ball. Wiffle balls were replaced by rubber balls and a strike zone was made with chalk against the building wall. We would listen to music and probably heard Dancing in the Streets more than a few times.

Those summer days seemed to last forever. I had fun even if I don’t remember summer solstices or strawberry moons.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Palos Hills mayor credits retiring employee for modernizing system

  • Written by Michael Gilbert


Palos Hills officials said goodbye to one of the city’s longest tenured employees last Thursday, but not before sending her out in style at the city council meeting.

On the eve of Water and Sewer Department administrative clerk Nancy Witt’s retirement, Mayor Gerald Bennett presented her with a plaque honoring her 30 years with the city. The council as well as all staff and residents in attendance then gave Witt a long standing ovation.

“When somebody mentions about this administration being a success over the years, I always point immediately to the people who work for the city,” Bennett said. “Nancy is an example of the type of quality people we have working here in Palos Hills. Her dedication over those 30 years is pretty hard to summarize.”

Bennett credited Witt with “modernizing” the department, noting water billing was previously done on ledger cards and is now all computerized.

“It was pretty outdated and archaic,” Bennett said. “Nancy and (former) building commissioner George Lutz stepped in and modernized the entire water billing system. Certainly the changes that have taken place over the years – improving that system and the quality and reliability of it – are second to none around our area.”

Witt also performed clerical duties for the Public Works Department in addition to her work in the Water and Sewer Department. Public Works Commissioner Dave Weakley called it a “pleasure” to work with Witt for the past 22 years.

“I’m going to miss Nancy every day,” Weakley said. “You’ve had my interests in your heart and I truly appreciate it. I‘ve turned to you for guidance and you have definitely provided me plenty of opportunities for guidance. I truly thank you.”

Witt addressed the council to thank them for the kind words and state she has been “fortunate to work with some really wonderful people.”

“From where Palos Hills started when I moved in in about 1976 to where it is today, a lot of the credit needs to be given to Mayor Bennett and all the aldermen that have served, but the progressive thinking of Jerry Bennett has profited the city to be a phenomenal city.

“I’ve been very thankful to work for the city and meet so many wonderful people. It’s been a great 30 years.”

Bennett praised Witt for her “loyalty” and “commitment” through the years. She started with the city on Sept. 4, 1986.

“All good things must come to an end,” Bennett said. “So is true for the marvelous and memorable contributions that you’ve made to the City of Palos Hills.    

“You have done a remarkable job. It’s so hard for me to say thank you enough for your service to the city.”

In other news, Ald. A.J. Pasek (3rd Ward) told the council registration is now underway at the Palos Hills Community Center for the second annual hot dog eating contest and inaugural pie eating contest at the city’s Friendship Festival to be held July 7-10 at the Moraine Valley Triangle, 107th Street and 88th Avenue.

The pie eating contest is to take place at 7 p.m. on July 9 and will feature a competition for both children and adults. Youths ages 17 and under will chow down on a five-inch berry pie while adults will take on the eight-inch version. A $50 cash prize will be awarded to the winner of each contest. The cost to enter is $15, Pasek said.

“It’s a no-hands contest,” Pasek said of the rules for the pie eating. “People are going to get a little dirty.”

The hot dog eating contest, which also costs $15 to enter, is slated for 6:15 p.m. on July 10. Competitors will see who can gobble up 10 hot dogs and buns the fastest. The winner will take home $50 while medallions will be presented to second and third place.

Each contest will be limited to 10 competitors. The deadline to register at the Community Center is July 8, Pasek said.

“The hot dog eating contest was a success last year and I think the pie eating contest will be fun,” Pasek said, noting more than 200 people crowded the beer tent to watch last year. “I think it’s going to attract people to the fest.”

Café gets liquor license on its third attempt

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

In an on again, off again issue of approving a liquor license for Sonny’s Slots and Café at 8841 W. 87th St., it seems the third time was the charm. The Hickory Hills Council approved a Class E Liquor License for the facility at the council meeting last Thursday.

The action increased the number of Class E Liquor licenses in the city from nine to 10.

Previously, the license had been granted to the café owner several months ago, but was removed when he announced the business would not be opening. When he returned a second time with the request, it was denied because there was additional work required on other properties in the Plaza. The approval at the June 9 meeting came after Mayor Mike Howley announced the required work at the Plaza was near completion and everything was up to code.

Also approved was an ordinance approving a Class 6b tax incentive for property located at 7731 W. 98th St. Village attorney Vince Cainkar explained that the tax incentive reduces taxes on industrial buildings, particularly on those which have been vacant for an extended period of time.

The prospective buyer of the property is Mariesa Errico, a Hickory Hills resident. She and her family have a contract on the property, contingent on the approval of the Class 6b incentive.

“We are planning on converting it into a wholesale bakery. Our products are sold to hotels and restaurants in the Chicago area; we are not a retail bakery,” she said. Currently, they anticipate 35 to 50 employees, with expansion plans that could bring that total to 100 employees in the future. The family presently owns a bakery on the North Side of Chicago.

An Intergovernmental agreement was approved calling for Hickory Hills to join with Hometown and the villages of Summit and Bedford Park in police dispatching efforts. The dispatch center will operate out of Hickory Hills.

A second ordinance introduced by Cainkar was an intergovernmental agreement to establish a Joint 911 Authority with the villages of Summit and Bedford Park. Cainkar stated that the plan has to be in place by July 1 in compliance with state law.

“It is good to be keeping this local. And the contract can be terminated after one year with a 60-day notice, if the city thinks it is not working,” Cainkar said.

In a third intergovernmental agreement, approval was given for the city to join in the establishment of a Southwest Major Crimes Task.

“Formation of this group will reduce the number of call-outs for our department,” said Hickory Hills Police Lt. Tim Stevens. “We will continue to be a part of the South Suburban Major Crime Task Force for the time being, to see how this works, but this new group could be a benefit to us. As members of the South Suburban Major Crime Task Force, we are often called out to assist in communities as far as University Park, Richton Park and Harvey. With a Southwest task force, the call-outs could be fewer."

Chicago Ridge carries and runs with torch for Special Olympics

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

torch walkers photo 6-16

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge Trustee Sally Durkin (from left), Donna Betsanes and Debbie Badon, led the group of walkers coming from Chicago Ridge to Palos Heights on June 8 in support of the Special Olympics Torch Run.



The Chicago Ridge and Palos Heights police departments sponsored legs of the annual Special Olympics Torch Run across Illinois on June 8, and crowds came out to support them in both communities despite the early hour.

For the past three years, the Chicago Ridge Police Department dedicated its torch run to the memory of Illinois State Trooper James Sauter, who grew up in Chicago Ridge. He was killed on duty March 28, 2013 when a truck driver fell asleep and collided with his vehicle on Interstate 294 near Northbrook.

The event, organized with the help of Trustees Bruce Quintos and Sally Durkin, began at 7 a.m. with an opening ceremony in front of the police department at 10425 S. Ridgeland Ave. to honor Sauter. Deb Pyznarski, wife of Chicago Ridge Police Chief Robert Pyznarski, was also involved in the planning.

After members of Boy Scout Troop 668 participated in the ceremonial lowering and replacing of the U.S. flag in front of the building, they folded the flag they took down and presented it to Sauter’s parents, Donald and Eileen. Village officials also gave them a plaque and framed proclamation.

Rebecca Von Bruchhaeuser then led the crowd in singing ”The Star-Spangled Banner,” while Hannah Bartlett interpreted the national anthem in American Sign Language.

“It is really gratifying to see so many people here so early for such a great organization,” said Mayor Chuck Tokar.

Quintos, a retired police officer himself, has been involved in the Torch Run since 1993.

He said a lot of money has been raised for Special Olympics over the years in Chicago Ridge. “I think we’ve already raised about $3,000 in donations for this event this year,” he said on Tuesday.

The assembled crowd lined Ridgeland Avenue and cheered as the runners took off with the torch and a state and county police escort, followed by a group of walkers that included Durkin and other village officials. They made their way south to 111th Street and then west to Harlem Avenue, where they ran south, over the Cal-Sag Bridge to the Tiffany Square shopping plaza at Route 83 in Palos Heights.

There they met up with Palos Heights Police Chief Larry Yott, and the runners who would carry the torch the 12 miles to Mokena, in Will County.

“It is great to see all our officers get so involved in this. We’ve raised as much as $10,000 some years,” said Yott.

Chicago Ridge Police Officer Dave Jenen handed the torch over to Palos Heights Officer Tony Delaney, a rookie who was given the honor of carrying the torch to Mokena.

“I expect to be able to carry it all the way,” he said. “But it will be hard. I worked the overnight shift,” he said.

He got some encouragement from Joe Kirkwood, of Palos Heights, who was making his fourth torch run.

“It keeps me in shape. I hope to join the Palos Heights Police Department soon,” said Kirkwood.

Jordan McBride, a Bridgeview resident who is working on getting her master’s degree in special education from Dominican University, also was running from Palos Heights to Mokena for the first time.

“I should be able to do it. I’ve run 13 miles before,” she said. “It helps when you think that it is all for a good cause.

The ultimate destination was the campus of Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal, where the Illinois Special Olympics were held Friday through Sunday.



Repairs over Cal-Sag bridge on Harlem set to begin on Monday

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The bridge over the Cal-Sag Channel on Harlem Avenue, connecting Palos Heights and Worth, is about to become a construction zone for the summer.

The Illinois Department of Transportation project is scheduled to begin on Monday, June 20, according to signage on Harlem. It was originally scheduled to begin on June 1, according to an IDOT press release, which said the work should be completed during the summer, weather permitting. It will include bridge repairs “necessary for safety,” as well as painting, according to an IDOT press release.

Daily lane closures are going be imposed for the duration, and traffic will be reduced to one lane, with flaggers directing traffic. However, according to IDOT, the closure times will not occur during the peak traffic volume hours between 7 and 9 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m. weekdays.

Motorists who use the section of Harlem Avenue between 115th and 119th streets are being advised to expect delays and look for alternate routes to get where they’re going quicker. Drivers are also urged to pay close attention to flaggers and signs in the work zones, obey the posted speed limits and be on the lookout for workers and equipment.

Updates on this and other IDOT projects in the southwest suburban region, District 1, may be obtained online at under the road construction tab. Information about traffic caused by construction are also available at

Because Harlem Avenue is considered a state road, neither Worth or Palos Heights governments are directly involved in the IDOT project. Palos Heights police officials said that, similar to when work was done on Ridgeland Avenue, they do not anticipate that any need for special police assistance to assist with traffic control during the construction period.

“But if we’re needed, we will be there,” said Police Chief Larry Yott.