Menu

Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn in good health

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Serving as mayor, or village president, of a southwest suburban municipality is a daunting task these days. Not only do these mayors have to balance a strained budget, but they are left sitting on the sidelines while the budget impasse in Springfield drags on and on.

And not much was going to come from a meeting between Gov. Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd) and other legislators on Tuesday. The southwest suburban mayors are resigned to the fact that this tug-of-war is going to continue into the new year.

I thought about all that while working on a story this week on a healthy competition between Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn in terms of attracting big box stores, retailers and other assorted businesses. Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton admitted he would like to draw more businesses from other suburbs, including Oak Lawn.

While Sexton and Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury are often competing to land businesses for their communities, both officials have one common goal: they want the best for their southwest suburban towns.

Sexton reminisced recently about the demise of The Plaza, once known as the Evergreen Plaza and a model for malls across America. Sexton was given the first opportunity to strike the first blow with a sledgehammer on the old Montgomery Ward building to begin the demolition of The Plaza. He enjoyed the photo-op but admitted that it was also a sad day, an end of an era.

But since Sexton is the mayor of Evergreen Park, he can’t afford to get too wrapped up in nostalgia. That’s why he also quickly mentions that a new era has arrived in Evergreen Park. The Evergreen Marketplace is going to replace the old Plaza. The Plaza had over 120 stores in its prime. The Marketplace will be closer to 95th and Western and will draw a variety of well-known stores. The Marketplace will have anywhere from 25 to 40 stores.

Evergreen Park already has a Mariano’s and a Wal-Mart. A drive north on Western Avenue shows mores businesses where the Evergreen Park golf course used to be. Both Sexton and Bury have had to adapt following a brutal recession that began at the end of 2007 and is beginning to finally subside. However, that does not mean everyone has found work. Many people who have been laid off are working for less money or juggling a couple of part-time jobs.

This is what Sexton and Bury have to deal with. But both mayors refuse to sit on the sidelines. They have been instrumental in helping to draw new businesses to their communities. Both mayors have been assisted by efficient staffs who have worked hard over the years to convince developers that Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn are viable communities.

One thing I have discovered over the years is that having similar businesses in a community encourages more businesses to enter the arena. That’s why this healthy competition is just that. Sexton said that while he may lose out on one business that prefers Oak Lawn, this opens the door for other retailers.

In a story that appears in this edition, Bury said that when Evergreen Park does well, Oak Lawn does well. I believe that is true. If a neighboring community is mired in economic difficulties, it can cause a chain reaction. Boarded-up businesses can damage the quality of schools and a rising crime rate often follows. That can cross over into neighboring towns. It is much better to have strong business communities. This, in turn, attracts developers who normally may have been eyeing more affluent communities.

The positive aspect of having a healthy competition for retailers and restaurants is that both municipalities develop a reputation that they are business-friendly. And this does have a direct effect on schools, neighborhoods and crime.

Hey, let’s be honest here. Life is far from perfect in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn. While there has been an increase in businesses, there are empty storefronts. But that does not make Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn much different than other suburban communities.

The Stony Creek Promenade District at 111th and Cicero in Oak Lawn has drawn Mariano’s and Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant. Suddenly, a once lifeless corner that featured a dated Kmart has more appeal.

Yes, not everyone is delighted with every aspect of the project. Flap-jacks, the popular breakfast spot known for its omelettes, found a new home where the Top Notch restaurant was located at 95th and Cicero. Many people were angry when the plans for the Stony Creek Promenade were made because that meant Flap-jacks would have to move. But the owners are happy at their new location.

But if you also look down 95th Street, a variety of restaurants ranging from Chipotle to Lucky Burrito can be found. In the regard, Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn are on the right track. Maybe they can teach some legislators in Springfield about efficiency.

A Thanksgiving tale featuring Jack and Rosie

  • Written by Joe Boyle

 

We often hear that Thanksgiving gets lost between bags of candy collected at Halloween and wrapping presents for Christmas.

Well, this is a Thanksgiving tale.

Let me introduce you to my Uncle Jack. Jackie Lynn was a fun-loving and sometimes sarcastic individual. He was the younger brother of my mother. He was a free spirit who did not suffer fools lightly. But he was loyal and hard-working. He liked to have a good time, and my early memories of him consisted of playing games and wrestling on the floor.

He was born in Chicago but moved to Ireland with some other family members after the death of a grandmother I never knew. He returned to the U.S. and did a stint in the U.S. Navy. Jack was proud and often stubborn. He told me that while In Ireland he left school after an argument with his grade-school teacher .

Jack never went back. His education was the school of hard knocks, which involved a series of delivery jobs during the 1960s and the early 1970s. I would work part-time during summers with my uncle during this period, helping deliver Borden's Milk and later Jays Potato Chips. Our days were spent talking about some of our eccentric relatives and baseball.

I should point out that Jack taught me to drive.

“You should have seen the look on the face of the lad,” Jack laughed when describing my driving technique to my father. However, my dad did not share my uncle's enthusiasm

My dad was angry because my first driving lesson came as a 4-year-old. Jack, knowing my love of cars, decided to plop me in his lap and let me take over the steering through the side streets of Chicago's Roseland neighborhood.

“He was smiling ear to ear,” added Jack. My father was not impressed at the time, but laughed about it often in future years.

And now for that Thanksgiving tale. We invited Jack and his family over for Thanksgiving during the late 1960s. I should mention that Jack loved animals. Going to his home was a like a visit to Brookfield Zoo. A couple of dogs, parakeets and even a parrot could be found wandering around his residence.

So, it was not surprising that Jack brought a pet along with his family to our Thanksgiving event. Her name was Rosie. But Rosie was not a dog or a cat, a parakeet or a parrot.

Rosie was a monkey.

She was the type of monkey that would be seen perched on the shoulder of organ grinders. Rosie arrived in a cage, but wasn't there for long. Jack, a big kid at heart, let her out to frolic around the house.

I just remember the monkey did not have the greatest disposition. I believe it nipped at me a couple of times. She would do that with Jack but that did not bother him. He would only laugh and continue to play with Rosie.

While we digested our meal and dessert, Rosie became the focus of our attention. But to make the evening memorable, somebody opened the front door. Rosie made a quick exit, running down the street.

The monkey was quickly followed by Jack, who got to Rosie before she climbed a tree in the middle of the block. I don't remember any neighbors peering out of their windows. Maybe they became used to the antics from the Boyle household.

Jack is no longer with us but these memories are always shared at this time of the year. Jack, and even Rosie, reminds us that Thanksgiving is sharing good times with turkey and all the trimmings.

Maybe it's not a Norman Rockwell moment but this is my Thanksgiving tale.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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. .

Pausing on Thanksgiving to give thanks for God's protection

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia-NEW

Have you ever seen terror in a pair of pupils? If I had, I couldn’t recall. But I recently acquired a firsthand account while watching my 8-year-old daughter, Donae, be targeted by a 6-year-old Border Collie/Eskimo Mix dog named Rocky.

Donae began an excited shuffle up the walkway of her friend Jordyn’s house for a playdate when their dog, Rocky, leaped out their front door laser-focused on my daughter. Just before she had gotten out of the car, we went over the “playdate rules.”

“Be kind, obey her parents and if they have a dog…,” I stated but was quickly interrupted. “Mom, I know. I’m allergic. I won’t go near the dog,” she retorted while getting out of our vehicle. She was anxious to get inside. She and Jordyn had been trying to have this playdate for weeks. Her mother, Michelle, was expecting us and came to the door to greet Donae when I pulled up. But Rocky got a head start with the greeting.

I felt like I was watching from my vehicle in slow motion. I remember hearing barking and Donae saying. “Yeah, I think they have a dog,” as she turned to wave goodbye. Then, it was like I blinked and the next thing I saw was Rocky coming at Donae with full velocity. She began to sprint back to the car in terror. I swear that kid jumped the sidewalk, hurdling the grass and curb into the car before I could even react.

Rocky, still barking frantically, had his nose peeking into the opened door. At this point I started screaming, thinking he was going to make us his dinner. My 5-year old, Rhonda-Rene, was strapped in her seat right next to Rocky’s and his perceived vicious teeth.

I was frozen with fear. My hands had not moved from the steering wheel at ten-and-two. I’m sure if he did get in, I would have begun to flail by arms into some sort of weaponry, like a morphed version of martial arts.

But while watching it unfold, I froze with panic and was unable to think of a rational way to intervene. Luckily, Michele came to relieve us of the mayhem.

“Sorry,” she said, cheerfully leading the dog back into the house. “Thank you, Jesus. Oh thank you, Lord,” exhaled Donae as she re-exited the car for her playdate.

I imagine there are many of us with similar concerns for our safety. The television barks viciously through news reports every day. “We can now confirm the Russian plane that went down on Oct. 31 killing 224 people over the Sinai desert was a result of terrorism,” reported CNN. As were the attacks on Nov. 13 that occurred in Paris where mass shootings, suicide bombings and the taking of hostages took place.

Hasn’t that sent many of us into a state of panic? Perhaps the aggressors are gaining on us. We may in fact become the target of their next malicious bite.

Many of us watch in horror, stricken with fear with our hands locked at ten-and-two. Some lobby for the heads of state to intervene while others make an attempt to flee. But, I don’t believe we can run from evil. Each day the sun rises, the innocent and unsuspecting are fed a fresh serving of hate. It is my belief that above all else, we must pray.

It was a revelation to me that Donae didn’t scream my name while she was running frantically. And once safe, she didn’t acknowledge me as her protector or rescuer. “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Lord,” she cried out.

I trust that while we remain present on this Earth there is a purpose for us to be here. We do not have to live with a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. Let us be forever grateful for God’s love and protection. He is able to keep us safe from harm.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Relax and enjoy Thanksgiving Day

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Thanksgiving is just one week away. That means this weekend we will be cleaning up the house because will be hosting the event.

This is also a time of the year when you realize that the holiday season collides with each other. At least it seems that way. When you are a kid, you can’t wait for the next big event, which is Christmas. Time sort of stands still for youngsters who can’t wait to open those presents under the tree.

Kids also enjoy Thanksgiving because of the large meal with all the trimmings and desserts. They also get a chance to see other relatives or friends. That may also mean watching football games or other specials. Essentially, kids show up and take part in a special meal.

They have been taught what Thanksgiving means and why it is special. I knew at an early age the origin of Thanksgiving and that it is a day of giving thanks for what we have. It is also a day to enjoy with family and friends. We want to celebrate their presence, while remembering those who are no longer with us.

Thanksgiving is a special day. It is truly an American holiday. Everyone can celebrate Thanksgiving no matter what religion you practice or your ethnicity. Thanksgiving Day is for all Americans.

So, while we are cleaning up the house and raking some more leaves outside, we will go shopping Sunday for a turkey over 20 pounds. That becomes necessary when you have guests who are usually hungry when dinner is served.

The preparation of the meal involves some work. When you host these Thanksgiving dinners long enough, you get the routine down pretty well. The turkey is in the oven before 10 a.m. as the Macy Thanksgiving Parade in New York can be heard in the background. Now it is just a matter of preparing the side dishes so they are ready when the turkey is done. Sometimes that is no small accomplishment.

Trying to time this for when guests arrive is another trick. But it all works out. Once the meal is served, the desserts are brought out and the coffee is poured. Then it is time to relax. That’s when hosting Thanksgiving has its advantages. This the time to converse, reminisce and catch up on what is going on in everyone’s lives.

Thanksgiving should be a great time for conversation and some laughs as well. It should be great day, a relaxing day.

I guess you can say Thanksgiving is the calm before the storm. Christmas shopping will begin in earnest, if it has not already. This is where I should remind everyone to enjoy Thanksgiving and don’t let it just speed by.

I guess that’s the appeal to me regarding Thanksgiving. It is does not come with bows or wrapping paper. We don’t approach Thanksgiving with great expectations. We don’t celebrate the arrival of Thanksgiving for a month. We probably don’t think about special Thanksgivings from the past.

But what I like about Thanksgiving is that it is essentially simple and has not changed. We are surrounded by more technology but the basis of Thanksgiving remains. It is old fashioned in a way that is appealing.

However, holidays before and after Thanksgiving has been screaming for more attention. Decorations for Halloween are on store displays about the time kids are going to school in September. Adults have a hand in this. They went trick-or-treating as kids and now they have grown up. They are now attending parties where they can wear costumes. I guess it makes us feel like kids.

Thanksgiving falls in between Halloween and Christmas. Some people think that Thanksgiving gets overlooked. I don’t know if that is really true. But I understand some frustration when people are leaving to go shopping on Thanksgiving night, which I guess is the eve of Black Friday.

The way I look at it is if people think it’s necessary to run out and shop on Thanksgiving night, I’m not going to stop them. I’m just not going to join them. The pressure on retailers to turn a profit over the holidays is enormous. It sometimes can mean turning a profit or going out of business.

I can’t blame some of these retailers from opening their doors on Thanksgiving. But I have more respect for those employers who at least hold off to the next morning. The fact is there will be a lot of sales right up until Christmas.

So, I’m going to enjoy Thanksgiving Day with family. Pass the turkey and the trimmings. Some apple pie would be nice with that cup of coffee.

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. .

A man's dark side is painfully revealed

  • Written by Joe Boyle

  

   I recall going to the show when I was a kid to see the western “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” starring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. The film dates back to 1910 when Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard, is a lawyer who arrives in a western territory that is still run by corrupt influences who hire gunman Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) to enforce their will.

   Stoddard’s idealism eventually brings him into a gun duel with Valance even though he is a novice shooting. Everyone is stunned when the greenhorn lawyer shoots Valance to death. Or did he?

   This is where I guess I should write, spoiler alert. Stoddard is dismayed that he is known more for killing Valance than for his call for law and order. Tom Doniphon (Wayne) talks to Stoddard alone. Doniphon is in love with Hallie, but she has fallen for Stoddard. It was Hallie that contacted Doniphon when Stoddard went to duel Valance. The rough but decent Doniphon explains to Stoddard that he shot and killed Valance.

   Doniphon represents the Old West and Stoddard represents progress. Doniphon realized that despite the fact the girl he loves adores Stoddard. Twenty-five years have passed and Stoddard has become an accomplished legislator while Doniphon has faded into obscurity. Stoddard and his wife, Hallie, come back to the town where he began his career because Doniphon has died.

   Local leaders and the town newspaper wonder why Stoddard has come back to pay respects to someone who lived most of his life in anonymity. Stoddard relents to the newspaper and tells them about Doniphon and that he was the one that killed Valance.

   The newspaper editor, Maxwell Scott, would have nothing of that and told Stoddard he was not going to print the story. Stoddard asked why. “This is the West,” said Scott. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

   Well, I doubt that editor would do that today. A story of that magnitude would be hard to pass up. I was thinking about that great 1962 western after reading about the twisted life of Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz. The 52-year-old veteran officer was believed to be shot and killed on Sept. 1 along a deserted area of Fox Lake. He mentioned three men – two white and one black – that he was going to check on. He called for assistance. Police found his dead body along a deserted path. An expansive manhunt for the suspects followed.

   The initial reports we heard on Gliniewicz was that he was a good cop who was revered in the community. He was noted for creating the Explorers program that taught young men and women about preparing for work as a police officer.