My Favorite Thing is Monsters Embraces Creativity and Differences in Brilliant, Dark Story

I thought I left comic books behind in early adolescence, however, Jeff convinced me recently to read Saga, an intriguing, often risqué, beautifully illustrated 7-set graphic novel volume based on the comic. So began my sojourn back into the world I left behind, albeit on a completely different level of existence than the fluffy comic books of my youth. While I enjoyed Saga, after hearing her interview on Fresh Air, I looked forward to reading My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, the first graphic novel by Chicago illustrator Emil Ferris. Her personal story of perseverance is remarkable and tugs at your heartstrings, but even without the back story, this book is so incredibly brilliant, I found myself mesmerized.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Cover

Karen and her Mom

About 15 years ago, Ferris contracted meningitis and encephalitis from a mosquito infected with West Nile Virus, losing her speech and suffering from partial paralysis which impacted her right hand. As a child, she suffered from severe scoliosis, which was exacerbated by childbirth years later, leaving her spine quite vulnerable to infection. Her then 6-year-old daughter duct-taped a pen to her right hand and she arduously retrained her brain and hand to draw. She developed the fantastic, truly unique dense crosshatching technique employed in Monsters many years prior to that. The book is printed on lined paper with a facsimile spiral spine, resembling a typical composition notebook. Ferris used Bic pens to draw the images and Paper Mate Flair felt tips for the text. Continue Reading

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Old Town Through Rose-Colored Glasses … Looking Back at Wells Street

1967 Tourism Poster

North and Wells 1960

The Meter Maid: The late Judy Marco, April 11, 1966 (Credit: Judy Marco)

Wells Street Street by Art Shay 1970

Lately I have been thinking about how much I adored North Wells Street in Chicago’s Old Town in my youth. My parents took us to Old Town on occasion and every single trip was imbued with magic. I’m not alone in this adoration – in my research I found quite a few blogs devoted to this unique street. Of course Old Town is far more than Wells St. – it consists of the charming, tree-lined residential and historic district defined by the triangle formed by North Avenue, Clark Street, and Ogden Avenue. Commercial Old Town is the busy stretch of North Wells running from Division Street roughly north to Lincoln Avenue and a small piece of North Ave., east and west. To residents in the 1960s to 70s, North Wells was a fabricated medley of oddities targeted at suburbanites and tourists looking for an edgy, artsy thrill in the big city. This June 7, 1964 Chicago Tribune article certainly implies North Wells was a Disneyfied tourist attraction.

“It’s far from the true Bohemian atmosphere the tourists think they are savoring, but North Wells street is fascinating, lively, colorful, crowded and a pot of gold for the merchants. Like any night-life addict, Old Town’s Wells street sleeps until just before noon when it opens one reluctant eye to welcome the day’s first visitors: the suburban matrons. Sleek and well-dressed, they motor in from the north shore or the far western suburbs to infiltrate the shops and restaurants. ‘They arrive at 11:30,’ says Kris Perkins, co-proprietor of Charlie’s General Store, citing their movements as precisely as an almanac predicts the orbits of the heavenly bodies. ‘They eat lunch until 12:30, then shop until 3 O’clock when they all leave at once to beat the traffic and get home before their husbands.'”

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Defunct Discount and Department Stores – Lincolnwood and Nearby

This article is strictly about discount and department stores with locations in Lincolnwood and nearby. I am saving some stores for my next article on Skokie. I won’t be waxing nostalgic about Marshall Field’s here, because such a venerable store deserves a post of its own. I covered select Chicago area stores in a 2011 blog called Windy City Memories … of the Way Department Stores Were. I may mention a few of the same stores again, however, in such instances, I’ve endeavored to unearth new intriguing facts and photos.

Shoppers World 1964

Shoppers World Chicago Tribune Ad

Shoppers World

Community Discount

Shoppers World opened on August 15, 1962 across from Lincoln Village at 6211 Lincoln Ave at McCormick. Shoppers flocked to the opening as seen in the photo. I really don’t remember Shoppers World because I was too young, but do have vague recollections of Community Discount, which I believe acquired Shoppers World in the late 1960s. When Community Discount closed, Zayre opened at this site.

Zayre

Zayre Ad

By the end of 1966, Zayre had 92 stores with major concentrations in Greater Chicago, Miami, and its home base Boston. Zayre Corp. wanted to buy the Marshalls chain, which didn’t pan out, so they founded and opened the first T.J. Maxx in 1977. Ten years later, T.J. Maxx was acquired by TJX Companies, the parent company of Marshalls and subsequently other stores. Zayre went belly up in 1990 after several years of financial losses. I still find vintage socks and other sealed items marked Zayre. Home Depot has been at the 6211 Lincoln Ave site for a number of years. Continue Reading

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The Village Once Called Tessville – Lincolnwood, Illinois Part 2

In my first Lincolnwood blog, I was determined to feature businesses for which I could find images, with a few exceptions. There were also some I didn’t mention – either because they bit the dust too recently or I forgot about them. I tried to focus primarily on Lincolnwood in the first article, although I included Hollywood Kiddieland, Lincoln Village, and a few business in West Rogers Park and Edgebrook. For this blog, I expanded my scope and included additional businesses in areas of Chicago and Skokie close to Lincolnwood. I will devote an entire blog to Skokie in the near future, due to the availability of a vast number of images and more abundant information. There will also be a third part dedicated to defunct discount and department stores due to the fact this article got a little too long! In any case, when you are writing about a topic both subjective and near and dear to so many people, there are bound to be a few oversights. Thank you to everyone who responded enthusiastically to the first article … your invaluable suggestions helped me identify oversights and inspired part 2, which I present here!

This blog is dedicated to all the former Lincolnwood residents who passed away, including two guys I grew up with – Mitch Tarczynski and Ian Goldman, who I only found out about recently as a result of writing the first Lincolnwood article. A special shout out to the late Leroy Kaplan, whose daughter Roberta commented on the first article. In 1974, Leroy and Elaine founded Lincolnwood Girls Softball with Fred Hosfield. Elaine Kaplan, who was very sweet, owned Gift Motique (on Touhy east of Crawford) with her sister. Leroy supervised the Lincolnwood Girls Softball Umpires – he was a character with a heart of gold.

 

Restaurants & Bars

 

Allgauer's Fireside  5-13-58

Topper's Cicero & Touhy After Fire 10-30-53

Toppers Drive-in

The top photo shows the fire at Allaguer’s Fireside on May 13, 1958. A known arsonist named Morris Rappaport, who lived at 6600 Harding in Lincolnwood, was the prime suspect, but not prosecuted, from what I could ascertain. He was arrested in December 1958 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for burning down a church and adjacent home in Minneapolis. The second photo shows the aftermath of a grease fire that ravaged Topper’s Drive-In on October 30, 1953. The mystery is solved why my parents don’t remember Topper’s – they didn’t move to Lincolnwood until 1959. Black and white photos courtesy of Eric Bronsky collection. Eric is a historian, urban archaeologist, and author of three books on Chicago. Continue Reading

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Lincolnwood, Illinois – A Trip Down Memory Lane

Lincolnwwod License Tag

Ernie's Flowers

In 1959, my parents moved from Rogers Park to Lincolnwood, a quiet Chicago suburb with a current population of about 12,697 people. My dad broke the mold of all his physician friends, many of whom moved from Hyde Park or South Shore to North Shore suburbs such as Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, and Highland Park. They all thought he was a little nuts for choosing this somewhat obscure, unassuming village. However, he had the last laugh because Lincolnwood is an easy commute to North Michigan Avenue, where nearly all of them practiced and my dad has since 1958 – and still does part-time at age 93!

Lincolnwood Towers Xmas

My dad could have bought a house in the Lincolnwood Towers, famous for its extravagant Christmas decorations. Back in 1959, there were very few if any Jewish families living in the Towers, so instead he opted for a house in the Lincolnwood Terrace section just east of the Towers. My dad loves recounting the story of live reindeer with a manned sleigh that graced one homeowner’s front lawn when they first moved to Lincolnwood! Actress Barbara Eden lived in the Towers briefly when she was married from 1977-1983 to Charles Fegert, a Chicago Sun-Times advertising executive.

Lincolnwood is just a stone’s throw away from Chicago – Sauganash and Edgebrook are the lovely communities closest to where I grew up, near Pratt and Cicero. When I went to college on the East Coast, nobody heard of Lincolnwood, however, when I mentioned Skokie and Evanston, that elicited a glimmer of recognition. I wrote before about Lincoln Village, which was just over the border in Chicago on Lincoln Avenue between Kimball and Kedzie and the adjacent Hollywood Kiddieland. I discuss both beloved places later in this blog.

A Short History

Incorporated as Tessville in 1911 by 359 residents, the village was a rough and tumble place in its early days. During Prohibition, Tessville became a haven for speakeasies and gambling facilities and this didn’t change until Henry Proesel was elected mayor in 1931. Proesel made huge changes such as planting 10,000 elm trees on village streets (many of which have succumbed to Dutch elm disease) and limiting the number of liquor licenses allowable within the village limits. Tessville officially became Lincolnwood 5 years later in 1936 and Proesel enjoyed a 46-year run as mayor, earning himself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. I went to grade school with one of his grandsons, Ed.

Proesel Park Aquatic Center

The park where I spent much of my youth is called Henry A. Proesel Park. The water park section wasn’t there when I grew up, but I fondly remember basking in the sun with my friends when I was in junior high school and high school. I’ll never forget when Bart Connor showed up with his Lincolnwood pals and did spectacular flips off the diving board.

Once Upon a Time in Lincolnwood

While most of the stores and businesses from my childhood are now just memories, it is reassuring Bunny Hutch and Novelty Golf & Games are still in business! Here is a brief picture history of businesses that existed before my parents moved to Lincolnwood, followed by a few I clearly remember from my youth. Unfortunately, despite scouring several great internet sources, I could not uncover photos of my little corner grocery store, North Shore Food Market, where I spent every cent I earned on candy bars, nor Van Zeelt’s Lawn and Garden, which was just around the corner from North Shore on Cicero Avenue.

South Seas Postcard

South Seas Lounge

South Seas was around in 1944, 15 years before my parents moved to Lincolnwood. It was located at Lincoln and Pratt and offered nightly dancing and specialties including aged steaks and milk-fed chicken. For those who love Tiki bars, it must have been awesome with its painted murals of beach scenes and palm trees behind the bar, bamboo around the front of the bar, and fish nets and floats on the ceiling in the dining area. The matchbook is pretty risqué for its time!

Yellowstone Restaurant

According to the ebay seller, Yellowstone existed in the 1930s to 1940s. Obviously it would have to be 1936 or later since that is when Tessville became Lincolnwood. I couldn’t find any other details about this establishment.

Toppers Drive-in

My parents have no recollection of this super cool drive-in, so it was obviously defunct by the time they moved to Lincolnwood in 1959. It looks pretty darn cool – this place likely existed in the 1940s, but I couldn’t locate the exact dates nor anything else. I don’t know if it was still around on December 20, 1951 when the Edens Expressway opened with exit and entrance ramps at Touhy just west of Cicero.

The Fireside

Given the address and name, this must be the same restaurant as Allgauer’s Fireside, although this postcard is dated 1945 on the back. In 1951, this restaurant was definitely Allgauer’s Fireside, also called Allgauer’s and Allgauer Restaurants – perhaps it was owned by somebody else in the 1940s.

Allgauers

Gustave Allgauer built his reputation with 2-pound lobsters and oversize prime steaks. The Lincolnwood location is quite infamous due to a presumed mob hit which burnt the restaurant to the ground. Two masked gunmen entered the popular restaurant on May 13, 1958. While one hoodlum stood guard over a night crew of seven porters and bus boys, the other drenched the interior of the restaurant with gasoline, draped the tables and chairs with rolls of toilet paper, and set the place on fire. Damage to the restaurant amounted to about $1,400,000 and the crime was never solved. Allgauer’s on the Riverfront restaurants operate today in Hilton Hotels in Alsip, Lisle, and Northbrook.

House of Pierre

The House of Pierre was at the same intersection as Allgauer’s Fireside, however, it must have been on a different corner since The Fireside was definitely around in 1945. I love how Lincolnwood is defined as “Outskirts N.W. of Chicago” on the menu cover. Back then it was likely way off the beaten path for most Chicagoans. The only thing I could find was an unsavory news item from January 1950. Apparently, suspected members of a gang had been preying on many fashionable Chicago area night spots. James Ziedman, a 26-year-old man from Chicago was shot twice and fatally wounded when he attempted to flee officers questioning him outside The House of Pierre. What is it about this location – it seemed to be cursed?!

The Purple Hotel

No trip down Lincolnwood memory lane is complete without a mention of the Lincolnwood Hyatt house, aka the Purple Hotel. Hyatt House-Chicago broke ground in January 1961 at the corner of Lincoln and Touhy, the former site of Allgauer’s Fireside restaurant. In the 1960s-1970s, the hotel was a swinging Chicago hot spot where Barry Manilow, Roberta Flack, and Perry Como among others stayed when performing in the Chicago area. In 1981 when I married my first husband, several out-of-town relatives stayed at the Lincolnwood Hyatt House.

The Purple Hotel

Purple Hotel Demolition

The grisly, unsolved murder of Teamster Allen Dorfman in the parking lot on January 20, 1983 spelled the beginning of the end for this once swanky hotel. Dorfman was convicted of conspiring to bribe a U.S. senator and faced up to 55 years in prison.  He was shot eight times with a .22 caliber pistol and FBI wiretaps revealed the Chicago Mafia may have been connected to his execution-style murder. Although the case was never solved, it was speculated Dorfman was killed out of fear that he would divulge information related to his longtime ties to organized crime. The same year, Oscar Gerber, owner of Gerber Plumbing on Lincoln was murdered at the hotel by a mentally ill employee. The hotel had one last claim to fame when a young basketball player named Michael Jordan stayed there on his first visit to Chicago in 1984.

In 2004, Village Resorts, Inc. assumed management of the hotel and dubbed it the Purple Hotel. Despite fully renovated and tastefully furnished guest rooms, the hotel had a rep for sleaze. The Lincolnwood Police frequently busted patrons on prostitution and drug-related charges and the hotel hosted sex parties and sleazy conventions. In 2006, an inspection turned up more than 30 violations such as a leaking roof, garbage disposal issues, a failure to exterminate insects and rodents, and moldy rooms. Unable to cover the cost of renovations, the hotel was ordered to close in January 2007. It took more than 6 years for the hotel to be demolished in August 2013. Purple bricks from the hotel are still being sold on ebay.

Other Defunct Businesses

Some Lincolnwood businesses bit the dust recently like Whistlers on Devon, Myron & Phil Steakhouse on Devon, and Kow Kow at Pratt and Cicero, however, this blog is primarily devoted to more vintage memories.

Novak's

Novak’s was apparently a classy restaurant with live entertainment, as noted in this Chicago Tribune article. I have no recollection of Novak’s whatsoever, likely because my family never ate there. Lou Malnati bought the property from the former owner of Novak’s Chicken in the Rough when it closed in the early 1970s. Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria has been at this location since 1971 and is wildly popular with a cult-like following!

Renaldi's Pizza and Pastas

It was either gutsy or foolhardy to establish a pizza restaurant less than a block away (at 6717 N. Lincoln) from the venerable Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria at 6649 N. Lincoln! A Renaldi’s restaurant still exists on Broadway in the Lakeview area, although I am not certain it is the same owner.

The Kenilworth Inn

The Kenilworth Inn was an independently owned restaurant at 7110 N. Lincoln at Kostner, just north of Proesel Park. In 1979, Lettuce Entertain You Founder Rich Melman opened Bones at this location. I remember going to Bones once, but my parents preferred Carson’s Ribs in Skokie. According to Melman, he decided to change-up Bones and open up L. Woods due to declining sales and an aging clientele. We have been to L. Woods several times, but when we celebrated my mom’s birthday there 3 years ago, we were disappointed with the ambience and food.

Pedian Carpet

Pedian Carpet’s flagship location at 6535 N. Lincoln boasted this tacky but cool roadside architecture sign. According to their website, they are in Highland Park and have served Chicagoland for more than 100 years. In 2005, the Lincolnwood showroom received very poor marks from a trade publication.

Doral Restaurant

I have vivid memories of the Doral Restaurant sign, but we never ate there. The popular, lively restaurant Psistaria Greek Taverna was established at this location by the Bournas family in 2005. I am pretty certain the Doral went out of business and sat empty for quite a few years prior to that.

The Milk Pail

Located on Devon about one block west of McCormick, The Milk Pail was a perennial family favorite. They had an excellent deli department with delicacies my dad loved, such as pickled lox and smoked trout. I particularly liked going to The Milk Pail in high school because a lot of cute guys I grew up with worked there. When I was married to my first husband, he worked with a woman who was married to the owner – this was around 1990, if I recall correctly. By then, the only Milk Pail still in business was in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Lincoln Village Shopping Center

I have incredibly fond memories of Lincoln Village Shopping Center, just east of Lincolnwood at the intersections of Devon, Lincoln and McCormick.

Lincoln Village Exterior

When I was in grade school, we shopped at a cool ma & pa children’s department store called Howard Juvenile. When I was in junior high, I loved a gift shop called Harmony Hall that sold all sorts of gag gifts, Mad Libs, limited art supplies, greeting cards, and other nifty things. My dad was a stereophile before it was a fad and loved buying expensive gadgets at Devon Audio, which was right near Harmony Hall. Of course we adored shopping at Wieboldt’s and I have fond memories of getting little gifts with S&H Green Stamps in the basement. Hit Or Miss was one of the first off-price discount stores long before the existence of Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Ross, or Nordstrom Rack. Even though it was more miss than hit, it was fun shopping there. The National grocery story in the above picture predated the Treasure Island grocery store that I remember.

Bronson Coles Photography Studio

My close friend Joan worked at Fannie May in Lincoln Village and told me about a help wanted sign posted next door at Bronson Coles Studios looking for a photo retoucher. The studio was located approximately to the left of the rear end of the Honda Civic in the below picture.

Lincoln Village

I was very lucky to get a job as a high school junior retouching wedding and Bar Mitzvah photos – back in the day when this was done with tiny brushes and dyes! I graduated early from Niles West in January 1976, so I was able to work at the studio full time until I went off to college. In one of those serendipity moments, the darkroom technician Dennis left to start his own studio in Park Ridge, so I was promoted to his position. I worked at the studio full time until I went off to RISD and then every summer during college. Joan and I would meet in the scary communal basement bathroom when we were on breaks. In retrospect, this was a darn good job for a kid who always loved photography, moreover, everyone I worked with was super nice! Sadly, the entire Bronson family passed away – my former boss Robert Bronson in February 2014 and his lovely wife Jane just 12 days later. They were preceded in death by their son Dr. Darryl Bronson, a prominent dermatologist who passed away in September 2012, and daughter Corinne Bronson-Adatto, a well-known dietician who passed away about 2 weeks before her father.

Hollywood Kiddieland

In 1949, Louis Klatzco, his wife, and older son Richard opened Hollywood Kiddieland, on the northwest side of Lincoln Village Shopping Center. When their son Buddy returned from the Korean War, he established Hollywood Miniature Golf next to Kiddieland. In 1955, the five Acciari brothers bought Hollywood Kiddieland from the Klatzcos. Their purchase included 18 rides and concession stands. They added an arcade in 1958.

Hollywood Kiddieland

Bunny Hutch

Novelty Golf

In the mid-1960s, the Klatzco family bought Novelty Golf & Games and the Bunny Hutch at 3650 W. Devon in Lincolnwood, which are both still in business. I went to Kiddieland as a little kid at least once every season. My favorite ride was the Little Dipper roller coaster, pictured above – the subtle drops and few curve spins on that ride were enjoyable. My favorite Kiddieland memory involves the batting cages and a sweet boy named Jim who I dated for a few months our junior year in high school. I was not supposed to be there so we had to crouch down in this little booth to avoid getting in trouble. I’ll never forget kissing Jim in this cramped booth with the distinctive sound of baseballs hitting wooden bats providing a unique “musical” interlude to our sloppy, innocent kisses. Sadly, Kiddieland was razed in 1975, but I will always have those sweet memories of youth and stolen puppy love kisses.

A Little Farther Afield

Due to its close proximity and the fact that my parents lived in Rogers Park prior to Lincolnwood, we often shopped on Devon Avenue. Two bakeries from my youth still exist – Tel Aviv and Levinson’s. The Red Hot Ranch was really just a shack, but the hot dogs on poppy seed buns and the crispy, greasy fries were to die for.

Thillens

Just east of McCormick and Lincoln Village on Devon was a lighted baseball stadium called Thillens. When I was on a Lincolnwood Girls Softball Team during high school, we played one night game in this stadium. WGN-TV televised youth league games from Thillens, pioneering the use of the center field camera there back in the mid-1950s, about the same time the iconic baseball was installed. The Thillens family established the stadium in 1938 and in 2005, donated it to the City of Chicago. While it is listed online as being in Chicago, I think it is actually within Lincolnwood borders. The cool baseball started crumbling and actually became more of an eyesore over the years – it was removed in June 2013, much to the dismay of grown ups like me who played in the beloved stadium in their youth.

Lincolnwood Grill

Just to the east of Thillens was a super cool, Art Deco diner. I am not certain if this is officially in Lincolnwood or in West Rogers Park – hard to tell on an online map. My mom and I ate at the counter several times after I graduated from high school and once or twice before it was torn down when I was in college. It was a greasy spoon but they had very good burgers and fries and the architecture was classic. There was a bus terminal nearby and of course, the stadium, which must have sustained it for awhile. I vividly remember the lone waitress who served us – a gruff, tough blonde with a heart of gold.

Edgebrook

A quaint neighborhood of Chicago just west of the Lincolnwood Towers, Edgebrook was home to several fun businesses during my childhood. Joan and I would ride our bikes there during their annual summer sidewalk sales. Among my favorites was Charles Value-Ville on the south side of Devon – a sign in the back alley still exists as an artifact of this long defunct business. Cut Rate Toys opened in this location a few years after they closed their flagship store in Rogers Park.

Cut Rate Toys

Lockwood Castle

On the northwest corner of Devon was Lockwood Castle. While their food was mediocre, they were known for spectacular fountain creations. The Giant Killer was a 24-scoop sundae topped with hot fudge, strawberry, marshmallow, caramel, cherries, wafers … and sparklers in a large glass bowl. If your group could eat it in one sitting, you were given a free one on your next visit. In retrospect, putting lit sparklers in soda fountain glasses … pretty dumb and unsafe, but the colorful crepe paper fans and umbrellas were very cool. I remember going here for my grandfather’s birthday in the mid 1960s.

Vague Memories

When my childhood friend Myra and I were about 5-years-old, we walked by ourselves all the way to Touhy to a tiny toy store. This was on the south side so we didn’t have to cross the busy street. I cannot find anything about this store, so if anyone remembers it, please comment. Another vague memory is of a card shop and a small coffee shop on the east side of Cicero, just north of Devon. Don Koehler, a true life giant (he had a pituitary condition called acromegalic gigantism) was hanging out at the coffee shop while we were dining – I was about 5 or 6-years-old. While not as famous as the giant Diane Arbus photographed, Koehler was famous in his own right for being over 8 feet tall! Thank you to the readers who identified him by name – he lived in Rogers Park – not Lincolnwood, but perhaps he was a friend of the card shop and/or coffee shop owner.

Lincolnwood will always have a special place in my heart – if you feel the same way, share your memories. If you have vintage Lincolnwood photos you wish to share, please send me an email and I will consider adding them to this blog.

Click here to read The Village Once Called Tessville – Lincolnwood, Illinois Part 2.

Photo sources: ebay, Cinema Treasures, Illinois Digital Archives, Pinterest, 70sSkokie.blogspot.com, Thilllens, Yelp

 

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Antique Employee Badges Offer a Unique Glimpse into American Industry

MHR Company

It seems appropriate to be posting this in honor of Labor Day, which is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

A few years ago I picked of a mixed lot of vintage and antique ephemera at a Pace Auction. I sold most of the items – which ranged from political tie tacks to celluloid pinbacks, but held onto one piece for quite a while. Pictured above, this was a well-worn, but intriguing employee photo badge of a woman, circa 1940s from the M.H.R. Company. I’ve always been drawn to vintage photographs of random people and have collected a few over the years, including daguerreotypes in beautiful tooled leather cases. I love doing research, especially in the realm of Americana and defunct industries, so this type of collectible is a perfect fit for my sensibilities. These badges offer a glimpse into yesteryear – back to a time and place in America where workers sometimes toiled long and hard hours in poor conditions.

I found out that these badges are highly collectible and most of them are well out of my price range. I wonder why they are so sought after – are others as fascinated by the visual qualities and historic aspects as I am? The finest examples sell for as much as $200 – while even poor, damaged badges sell for $25 and up. Since my interest is primarily historic, I don’t need to own any to fulfill my fascination with the companies’ history, so I sold mine. Alas, it only fetched about $20.00, likely due to the obscure company. While some have the names of the employees, most are random faces and employee ID numbers of workers who have grown old and passed away. Only surviving relatives would possibly know who they are, but nevertheless, they possess an intriguing aura. Here is a selection of my favorites downloaded from recent ebay auctions. Continue Reading

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When Being Honest Is Not Worth the Steep Price – Obamacare!

Obamacare Exchange

When I first signed up for health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – aka Obamacare, like many other people, I experienced glitches including outages. Based on my income, I supposedly qualified for Medicaid, which turned out to not be true. I ended up starting a new application in the Marketplace and outsmarted the system by declaring income just above the Medicaid-qualifying amount. In fact, a very competent person I spoke to at my local Medicaid office provided this tip.

Apparently, there were several phantom accounts already under my name, so I was forced to create a new account with my maiden and married name. No big deal … my premium was affordable and a huge relief compared to what I experienced the prior year – getting screwed big time by Humana. That is a whole other saga, but in summary, they investigated me as if it I was a witch in Salem, all prompted by an MRI of my neck. I had to fill out pages and pages of medical history which resulted in a declaration of a preexisting condition and out-of-pocket costs of $3,000 for the MRI! Continue Reading

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Matisse and Monet – the Artists and Our Kitty Cats

Matisse and Monet

When we adopted two kitties in May of 2015, it took a little while to come up with two perfect names. I never had a kitten and did not have cats growing up. Sweet Pepper came into my life fully grown when I met Jeff in 1998. I fell in love with him, but it took a few more years to fall head over heels in love with Pepper and truly become a cat person. Pepper succumbed to kidney disease at age 19 1/2 in December 2014. While I thought we would never get over this loss, I have to say that Matisse and Monet have filled the collective hole in our hearts.

Jeff let me choose the names Matisse and Monet for our male and female kitties – he liked the names right away, but now he cannot imagine any other names for our two little characters. Aside from the fact that we are both artists and these were two of the greatest French artists of all time, the names are beautiful, rolling off the tongue like music to the ears. I love van Gogh as an artist more than Matisse or Monet, but I could not see naming our male cat after the talented and tortured Dutchman – when you pronounce it the correct and guttural Dutch way, it’s not so pretty! When I first told my dad the names of our new kittens, he said, “Monet is a man’s name,” and yes – Claude Monet was a guy – and an immensely talented one at that. However, Monet is also a girl’s name, as in Monet Mazur. Continue Reading

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Woolworth Memories ~ From Main Street to State Street

Woolworth's Unknown Location

The F. W. Woolworth Company, also called Woolworth’s or Woolworth, delighted children and their parents alike for more than a century. In Illinois, 25 Woolworth stores, mostly in Chicago and the suburbs, were shuttered forever in July 1997. In the UK, the stores lasted a decade longer, going out of business in December 2008. The very last thing I bought at Woolworth’s when the store was liquidating stock, was a pair of Barbie roller skates for my then 9-year-old daughter.

nside Woolworth's 1955

The store closures symbolized the end of quite a run that began on February 22, 1878 when Frank Winfield Woolworth opened “Woolworth’s Great Five Cent Store” in Utica, New York. The first store failed after a short time, however, the second store that opened on July 18, 1879 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was a big success. When he launched the Lancaster store, Frank enlisted his brother Charles Sumner Woolworth to join the business. Continue Reading

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The Achingly Beautiful Journey of a Timeless Genius

M Train Journey

My obsession with Patti Smith began in 2011, after reading Just Kids, her brilliant, touching memoir about coming of age in NYC with Robert Mapplethorpe. When I was an art student at RISD, I was aware of her music because my freshman roommate Katherine played Horses over and over again. Her music back then was too raw and visceral for my immature tastes, so I did not worship her like many of my art school peers. However, by my senior year, I worshipped Robert Mapplethorpe – strictly for his bold imagery – which inspired my marble carvings of nude muscular males. I met him at the Young Hoffman Gallery in 1982, where he was standing all by himself – a handsome, soft-spoken cowboy whose demeanor completely belied his promiscuous sexual proclivities and frank sexual imagery.

As I wrote in a prior blog, by a stroke of serendipity, I briefly talked to Patti Smith in December 2012 at a little Nepalese boutique in Soho that was going out of business. When I read Just Kids, I found myself sobbing at times, and it was this poignant book that provided my opening line, so I endeavored to maintain some composure. While she was nice enough to engage me for a few seconds, she turned her back before I was done talking and clearly wanted her privacy. I will never forget this chance encounter, as fleeting as it was. Continue Reading

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