Oak Lawn opens StoryWalk near its lake

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


 Photo by Dermot Connolly

For the next few months, patrons can walk and read “The Watermelon Seed’’ in Oak Lawn's Lake Shore Park.


What is better than a walk in the park? Perhaps having a book to read along the way.

With the July 1 unveiling of StoryWalk in Oak Lawn’s Lake Shore Park, 96th Street and East Shore Drive, that is exactly what is available now for young children and families.  Brought to Oak Lawn through a partnership between Oak Lawn Library and Park District, the StoryWalk™ Project was created by Anne Ferguson in Montpelier, Vt., and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library.

“The Watermelon Seed,” by Greg Pizzoli, was the first children’s book to go on display in the park on the banks of Oak Lawn Lake.

“Wonderful things happen when people work together,” said Mayor Sandra Bury at the official ribbon-cutting. Among those joining her and dozens of families for the opening were Village Clerk Jane Quinlan, Park District Director Maddie Kelly, Park District Board President Gary Callahan, Secretary Sue Murphy, and other and library and park district officials.

“July is Parks and Recreation Month, so this is a great time to launch this,” said Kelly, adding that the idea to bring StoryWalk to Oak Lawn after she and others saw a similar display in a park in Glenview a couple of years ago.

David MacDonald, recreation supervisor for the Oak Lawn Park District, said the Park District and Library have been working on completing the project for the past two years. The 19 metal and plastic displays were handmade by Public Works employees over the past winter, and have the appearance of large encased books on stands.

Following the ribbon-cutting, girls in the Park District’s IndepenDance team kicked off the entertainment, performing several fast-paced dances. But most of the boys and girls seemed more excited about “The Watermelon Seed.” As soon as the show was over, they led their parents through the book display, laid out page by page, at numbered stations on the path through the park on the banks of Oak Lawn Lake.

In keeping with the theme, librarians dished out fresh watermelon and watermelon ice cream, along with other refreshments during the event. Park District volunteers also handed out sidewalk chalk and bubbles for children who wanted them.

Chicago resident Jeniece Drake-Weatherall, walked the path with her son, Destin, 5, who was eager to read each page displayed along the way. “We like all the programs the  Park District and the Library have,” said Drake-Weatherall. “Destin gets involved in a lot of them. That is how we found out about this.”

Kristina and Daniel Kynaston were there with their daughter, Emma, 4. “She is learning to read, and anything to do with books is good with us,” said Kristina.

Oak Lawn resident Jamie Guardi, and her three daughters, Nora, 6, Maggie, 5, and Kate, 3, also enjoyed the walk, and reading along the way.  While the girls said they liked the book, Jamie said, “I like that it is beside the park, with the playground equipment, and the water. There is something for everyone, and it gives you something to look at along the way.”

The displays will change seasonally, and MacDonald said the next book scheduled to go up in September is “It’s Fall,” by Linda Glaser.

That leaves a lot of time to find out what happens with “The Watermelon Seed.”

Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Don't trust anybody -- not even June Cleaver

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions


Former professional ‘rassler Stone Cold Steve Austin had the right idea.

The anti-hero hero would lull you into a false sense of security and might even graciously stick his meaty paw out for you to shake. Then when you are ready to shake hands with the man, he kicks you in the walnuts and gives you a stunner and you flop around like a dying fish.

Then he laughs and screams at you “DTA! Don’t trust anybody!”

The World Wrestling Association even sold t-shirts with that phrase on it.


Even those you think you can trust.

In recent months, a couple of folks with seemingly clean images have been accused of things that might even embarrass Bill Clinton or Tiger Woods.

Bill Cosby and Dennis Hastert.

What a pair.

Cosby was the comedian/actor who not only made us laugh, he would get on his high horse morally. Publically, he was considered a good guy. He talked a good game. He had pointed advice for anyone who wanted to listen.

Then news broke that he was involved in a variety of sexual assaults with young women. Apparently Hollywood insiders knew what was allegedly going on but it was a pretty tight secret to the rest of the world. Last week, word leaked that he had admitted via court records of drugging up women so he could have sex with them.

Now we have Mr. Hastert.

He was one of us – a guy from suburban Chicago. He graduated from Wheaton College, which has the reputation of being religious, moral and proper. He was a teacher and wrestling coach then dabbled in politics.

I remember growing up and hearing some of his speeches and he sounded impressive. The man said he was someone you could believe in because he wasn’t a true politician. He was just a teacher and coach from Illinois.

He was a man you could trust.

I wasn’t the only one impressed. The sometimes gruff, sometimes folksy Hastert was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1987.

It was almost a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’’ scenario.

He worked his way up to Speaker of the House. But in 2007, he was done with politics and fell out of the limelight and we forgot all about him.


Well, you know the rest. An ugly story about alleged sexual misconduct with young boys – some at the high school he taught and coached at – just keeps getting worse.


Heck, you can’t even trust June Cleaver from “Leave it to Beaver” or Alice the maid from “The Brady Bunch” for goodness sakes.

Cleaver is considered the 100-percent pure All-American mom. Surely you could trust her, right?

Well, there was one episode in which she made a group of boys some sandwiches. Troublemaker Eddie Haskell requested that his sandwich should be free of mayonnaise because he is allergic.

If anyone deserves a beatdown or some bad karma to come his way, it’s that rascal Haskell. And June was out for vengeance – Cleaver style.

Eddie shoved Beaver around while Mrs. Pure was looking outside the window and June fumed. So she muttered something about putting mayo of Eddie sammich and painted the bread with a big dose of mayo. Later in the episode, we found out Eddie had to go home early because he was ill.

Geez, June – what if the kid died from your spite sandwich?

Now, it could be argued that Eddie was not too bright to even take one bite of a sandwich filled with something that would be hazardous to his health, but he trusted Mrs. Cleaver.

He should have listened to Austin.

Alice, the simple but pure-hearted maid from the Brady Bunch, was also involved in some deception when she and some of the kids went door-to-door to have neighbors sign a petition to save a park.

The kids got nowhere with one crabby guy but Alice took a crack at him with some come-hither looks and flirting. After the guy signed the petition, sweet Alice purred that she would come over that night and that the man could cook steaks and pop open some champagne.

Once the guy got all Cosby with desire, wholesome Alice then singed him and said she would bring her boyfriend along.



In this age of cynicism, nothing should surprise us anymore. But what are we going to find next? Dirt on the Pope? Tell-all stories about the late Mother Teresa?

There are not a lot of people we can place our trust in anymore. Maybe close friends and family. As for the the rest of the world? The skeletons in the closet have grown into big, fat monsters.

Maybe the only person we can trust is Stone Cold Steve Austin.

His advice is making the most sense.


Lexington House to close

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins




 Photo by Jeff Vorva

The Lexington House will give way to a used car showroom.



It is the end of an era.

The longtime iconic Lexington House Restaurant in Hickory Hills, host of weddings, anniversary parties, bridal and baby showers an even a couple of Bruce Rauner rallies, will soon be home to a new business. Its final even will be held Aug. 24.

The Hickory Hills Council unanimously approved a proposal last Thursday from DriveTime Car Sales Company, LLC., to open a used car showroom on the Lexington House property located 7717 W. 95th St. The company is in process of purchasing the land.

One of the Lexington House owners, Barbara Vuletic, was in attendance to support the project and the  sale.

“As hard as it is, our family knows it is time for this decision,'' she said. "Times change and unfortunately, our grandchildren are not inclined to carry on the family business. We are comfortable with the plans proposed by DriveTime for the property.”

The plans, as presented by Attorney Dan Sosin, of Sosin & Arnold, Ltd., in Orland Park, call for considerable changes to the front of the building.

“On average, there will be an inventory of approximately 100 cars at the facility,'' he said. "We will basically be using 40 to 50 percent of the existing building.”

Sosin said the company has the sixth largest volume of used car sales in the country.

“These are reconditioned cars. They are not just acquired and put on a lot, they are extensively reconditioned and then delivered to the showrooms.” he said.

DriveTime Car Sales currently has two locations in Illinois -- Lombard and Schaumburg. 

Mayor Mike Howley said that he had visited one of the facilities.

“It was an impressive showroom,” he said.

Howley and Alderman Tom McAvoy asked Sosin about plans for the existing parking lot. “It is in bad shape and needs to be repaired,” said Howley.

Dan Packowski, Managing Director of Real Estate for DriveTime, replied that the company has a standard protocol with their parking lots.

“We make a preliminary survey to see what needs to be repaired and seal-coated, both for appearance and safety,” he said.

Howley and Alderman Deborah  Ferraro also expressed concern about the landscaping and aesthetics at the front of the building. Howley told Sosin that the city has a consistent plan for 95th Street.

”We will want to see your plans for the landscaping,” he said.

Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Committee, Syed Imam, told Howley that the committee had met with DriveTime representatives and were satisfied with the proposal as presented.

“It is a good fit for the city.” he said.

Sosin said the company anticipates estimated sales revenue to the city at approximately $100,000 to $200,000 annually. Anticipated opening date is March, 2016 

After the vote, Mayor Howley thanked Vuletic and her family for their contributions to Hickory Hills since 1968.

“The Lexington House put Hickory Hills on the map. It is an iconic landmark. It saddens me that it will be gone,'' he said. "It was a rite of passage for teen-age boys to become busboys at the restaurant. In high school, you either worked at the Lexington House, the Sabre Room or the Delphian House.

In other action, a bid was awarded to Hasse Construction Company, Inc., of Calumet City, for drainage improvements on 85th Court, at a cost of $1,816,328.95. Village Engineer, Mike Spolar said the work is expected to start in August.

Also bidding on the project were John Neri Construction Company, Inc., and Riccio Construction Company.


OL board approves Glory Days bar and restaurant

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Ensuring that “Glory Days” will not pass them by, the Oak Lawn Village Board Tuesday approved the ordinances necessary to allow a new bar and restaurant by that name to open at 9630 S. Pulaski Road.

The votes were among several decisions aimed at helping new or existing businesses in the village.

Cardinal Liquor Barn, at 9630 Southwest Highway, also was awarded the license necessary to install video gaming machines in the package liquor store.

With Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) absent, the vote allowing the Glory Days restaurant to open in a vacant Pulaski storefront was 4-1. The only dissenting vote was Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th), who represents the district where it will be located. He had asked for a 30-day postponement, until the next board meeting, but that was voted down 4-2. Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) sided with him.

 Vorderer said several constituents living nearby had expressed concerns about the new business, which will have live entertainment. He requested the extra time to get more details about the project and make an informed vote.

“I have some concerns with this moving into a high-density area,” said the trustee, noting that many senior citizens live in the condos and apartments to the south and west of the commercial site. While others on the board said the project has been in the works for two months, he asserted that he only heard about it recently, and received the details with his packet of information before the meeting.

When it was noted that all six investors live in Oak Lawn, Vorderer said he had nothing against them.

“I represent the people who vote in that district. I just think it would be irresponsible of me to vote for this without more information.” He agreed that the strip mall has a lot of vacancies, and planned to meet with the property owner.

“It is perhaps the most depressed property in my district,” he said, adding that because the strip mall serves as a drop-off point for a senior daycare facility, it may not be the best place for a busy restaurant and bar. It would be located beside Wagner’s Seafood, and a physical therapy center, sleep disorder clinic and credit union are also found amid the vacancies in the strip.

“I trust the six people involved in this venture,” said Trustee Mike Carberry (6th). “They have submitted plans to our staff. It is going to be good for our community, with great food. They need time to market it,” he said, asserting that there was no need to delay the vote.

Trustees Bud Stalker (5th) and Bob Streit (3rd) also spoke in favor of the project. Stalker said that several of the investors live in his district. “There is a vacant lot on one side of the business, and five storefronts are for lease,” he added. The shopping strip to the west of it, which includes Kmart, also has vacancies He said the fact that video gaming will be allowed, as it is in other similar businesses in the village now, is appropriate.

“We have to give them a level playing field,” he said.

Stalker noted that the site is located on borders of Chicago and Evergreen Park, and video gaming is not allowed in Evergreen Park.

“It is a huge improvement. It is a quality development in a strip mall with significant vacancies, and we should support them,”  Streit said


Following the discussion about Glory Days, the board voted unanimously for the license changes for Cardinal Liquor, a longstanding local business. Although Stalker said he did not want video gambling to be the main revenue generator for any business allowed to have the gaming machines, the trustees agreed not to limit gaming licenses to businesses that serve food.

Jim Shirazi, the owner of Cardinal, thanked the trustee following the vote.

“I think the store needs the stimulus you have given it,” he said. Shirazi explained that he opened the store 20 years ago, and business was good for the first 13 years, until the downturn in the economy in 2008. He also said the number of vacancies on Southwest Highway also has hurt business.

“Liquor sales will still be what drives the business,” he said. He said that will only be a supplemental income.

“And the Indian is not for sale,” said Shirazi when Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) jokingly asked about the large statue outside his business, which has become a local landmark since Shirazi brought it there from Chicago Ridge about 17 years ago.

Suggesting that he might add a Chicago Blackhawks jersey to the statue, if he could find one big enough, Shirazi said he also plans to improve the exterior of the property as a way of thanking the village for its support.

“I will be re-doing the landscaping,” he said. “I want to be a good neighbor and reinvest in the property, and improve the appearance of the whole area,” he said.

A real screen gem

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


It was raining like a scene from “Key Largo.’’

The Blackhawks were down 2-1 and playing Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

And yet more than a dozen people – including a couple of big-time Blackhawk fans, spent their June 10 evening watching a couple of old-time comedies. The Marx Brothers’ “Horse Feathers” and
“Duck Soup” were presented at the Oak View Center in Oak Lawn.

CineVerse celebrated its 10th anniversary in early June and the Oak View Center has hosted screenings and discussions about various films on Wednesdays for a decade. Running the show is movie buff Erik J. Martin, who shows the films and then asks the group for input on them.

Almost all of the films are either old or obscure. Black and white, silent and foreign films make up a bulk of the movies shown and discussed.

Martin insists this isn’t some snooty highbrow group, but anyone coming to a meeting hoping for a showing of the super hero movie of the month or sci-fi movies where computer-generated robots destroy each other will probably be disappointed.

“I’m not saying were the cultural conciseness of Oak Lawn,’’ Martin said. “But to the group’s credit, we cater to the tastes of the members. A lot of people show up because they want to be exposed to something they wouldn’t ordinarily rent or watch on TV on their own.’’

Martin is a guy who loves moves and is fascinated enough by them to research them.

“I don’t pride myself on being a know-it-all on this stuff,’’ he said. “I think the majority would agree that one of the great pleasures of CineVerse is discovering stuff that you would have never seen on your own. And it’s important to hear other viewpoints. It’s great to hear what people like and don’t like about a movie. It’s a communal, social experience.

“The crux of it, to me, is that you watch movies all the time, but how often do you really talk about them? That’s what keeps everybody coming back.’’

Hometown’s Brian Hansen and Tom Nesis kicked off the discussion on the Marx Brothers double feature.

While casual film viewers notice the obvious slapstick gags, from Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo, people like Hansen and Nesis observed some of the more subtle humor, double entendres and its satire on world events during the 1930s era in which the movies were made.

Martin likes to bring facts about the movie to the table. He examined the Marx Brothers movies of the early 1930s with some of their later works for MGM, in which more music and love-interest storylines were featured.

“This isn’t trivia,” he said. “I try to find out what is contextually interesting. Historically interesting. What’s relevant? What still resonates today? What were the themes? Were there any symbols or repeated patterns? What was the director going for? Why does this movie still hold up today? Or does it not hold up? Those important kinds of questions that I ask.’’

Ten years ago, the group started by watching the Orson Wells’ classic “Citizen Kane.’’ It’s been shown three times in 10 years. Martin remembers spirited debate over D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent movie “Birth of a Nation,’’ which features the founding of the Ku Klux Klan.

Coming up in July and August include “Casablanca,” “Cool Hand Luke,” and “The Shawshank Redemption.’’

Martin did have an off-night, in which he snuck in some classically bad films.

 “It fell on April 1 and I told them a week before to show up because I had a special surprise planned,” he said. “I told them they would be watching clips from some of the greatest movies of all time. I told them I put a special package together and we will talk about these.

“We got a pretty good turnout. We hit the lights. I hit ‘play’ and suddenly we started watching ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ skewering ‘Manos the Hands of Fate,’ which is a real bad drive-in horror movie, and ‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.’ We tried to get those both in and we just couldn’t take it anymore. We had to turn it off. It was that bad.’’

Films are shown at 7 p.m. at the Oak View Center, 4625 S. 110th St. in Oak Lawn.