Irene Dunne Remembered
The following interview with Ann-Marie Streibich, granddaughter of actress Irene Dunne, was conducted by phone on May 21, 2020, by film historian Matthew Hoffman.
MH: Your appearance in 2014 was one of the more memorable evenings we’ve had at the Park Ridge Public Library Classic Film Series. You were very generous with your time, and that's why I wanted to reach out to you now for a (long-delayed) follow-up interview. When the library series (“Legends of Laughter III: The Screwball Comedies”) resumes, we're going to have a couple screwball comedies starring your grandmother, Irene Dunne. I thought now would be a good time to revisit her legacy with an interview with you… I know Irene was initially hesitant about doing comedy. Yet, despite that, she was recognized as one of the finest comediennes in the genre. She of course starred with Cary Grant in The Awful Truth and My Favorite Wife, both of which will be shown when we resume our schedule. Irene starred with many of the major leading men in the industry, and Cary was certainly at the top of that list. Did she share any memories of working with Cary?
AMS: Actually, not really. The only thing that I remember is that my grandmother always considered her acting as a job. The people that she fraternized with… she had such an array of different people in her life who were in business, they were in politics. They were mostly things around volunteering. She was very big on the Catholic Charities, and with that being said, that's really all I remember. She never socialized with him. She was proper, and I think that he was a little more wild.
MH: Irene was such a great actress—nominated five times for the Academy Award—but acting certainly didn't define her life. She was also a great humanitarian. Of which accomplishment beyond Hollywood was she most proud?
AMS: You have to remember I was a child, a young adult, and of course in retrospect, had I really appreciated what she had done… There is an autobiography, you know, that she wrote, and I should probably get a copy of that to you because there might be answers in there that could answer some of the questions. I would say that the most promising things were things that she did to enhance Catholic women’s education. She was a huge supporter of women.
MH: I mean, she certainly exuded a positive energy. She had that deeply-rooted Catholic faith, and that must have been a comforting presence for you growing up.
AMS: Right. With that Catholic faith... And when I say that, I say that with such reverence because she wasn't pious at all. I think certainly she saw a lot of things going on [in Hollywood], but like I said, it was her job. But she was very revered and respected by the Hollywood studio owners—and both the gossip columnists [Louella Parsons, Hedda Hopper], which normally you had to align yourself with one or the other. They both adored her. She was the first woman to negotiate an independent contract from the studio, which really did pave the way for women in the business.
MH: Not many people—then or now—have that kind of reputation or influence in the Hollywood community.
AMS: Well, you know, it's kind of interesting. If you look at actors like Reese Witherspoon, and their intention is very similar—the power of women.
MH: Ann-Marie, though she's been gone nearly 30 years, what lessons from her life help you today in dealing with present-day realities?
AMS: I'm very much into empowering women. I went to a private high school here in Los Angeles, Marymount, and four weeks ago I started a group—I’m calling us “The Marymount Zoomers”—and it’s starting out kind of small and it's grown up to twelve of us. But there's only like fifty people in our class! So my point is, I’m integrating people into this group. It’s been a month, and my intention that I brought up for them is that I want to ask this group if they would be interested in being a mentor, being a sponsor to another Marymount graduate right now, you know, who maybe isn't leaving in August to go to college. We're a very tight class. I have great admiration when I look at all the careers of all the people doing this in the class. With that being said, I think it's a really amazing collaboration to create a platform for our high school in general to use in other classes, to help young girls navigate their future, and it's obviously confidential, you know. We will try and match who can help who with the administration of the high school... My point is that this is something my grandmother would completely admire of me.
MH: Ann-Marie, my favorite movie of hers has always been Show Boat. Which of her films is your favorite?
AMS: I love Penny Serenade. I love it because my mother was adopted and there's that scene, you know, “I don't know how to bathe a baby!” When she was doing that scene, she really meant it! I also love Anna and the King of Siam because I have so many still pictures and I could just see her surrounded by those Asian children and really being… delighted on that set.
MH: Which was Irene's favorite? Do you remember?
AMS: Well, I can tell you the ones that weren’t her favorite like It Grows on Trees. Her later films were not her favorites.
MH: How did she feel about Theodora Goes Wild? Was that one of her favorites?
AMS: I don't remember, but knowing her spunk—when you see some of the smiles, the joie de vivre, the motorcycle kind of thing [from The Awful Truth]—she just had that nature where I can see that would have been fun for her to do.
MH: I know she was born in Kentucky and raised in Indiana, and she had the Chicago connection; she attended the Chicago Musical College with the hope of being an opera singer. Although she sang in many of her films, did she ever have any regrets about not having a full-time singing career? Did that ever come up?
AMS: You know, no, I don't believe she did because she sang in so many of her films. Maybe she considered, you know… she got different kind of training and exposure, but that’s conjecture. I wouldn’t know that. Clearly, whatever the training she had, she went for the interview for Ziegfeld for Show Boat, and that of course was made into the movie. She was young and just rolled with it.
MH: Ann-Marie, for those wanting to know more about your grandmother's life and legacy, where should they start?
AMS: That's a good question. I think if you're really interested, you'll find the answer yourself because there is enough out there. I mean even Wikipedia alone… Matthew, my daughter graduated from Notre Dame law school last May, and I bring that up because of my grandmother. There's a school that is kind of a sister school to Notre Dame, and it’s called St. Mary's College. My grandmother had given a commencement address there. And she also received a layman's medal—you can look up the significance of it—but it's called the Laetare Medal. I can send you some pictures, too, because it was so special… So the library at USC has an archive. My grandmother received the Laetare Medal, and the Laetare Medal is given to individuals—and you should look this up, too, to see who has received it—like from somebody in politics, somebody in education, or somebody in science, somebody in the Arts. My grandmother had received it as someone in the Arts. And I had set up a tour with the library archives people when my daughter graduated. I had a surprise for her. They had set up two tables of all the archives they had of my grandmother, and these were all, you know, print and were interviews, for instance. The recipient of the Laetare Medal is voted on and they don't know about it. Everything was in writing [such as when the recipient gets the letter stating they had been awarded the medal]. I mean, these two tables! So for my daughter's graduation gift, I gave her the Laetare Medal as I gave her the tour…. I always said to Haley, my daughter, “Your great-grandmother is watching over you every single second and that I know to be sure.” So I know it’s a highly-esteemed Catholic honor when my grandmother was addressing the women's college, and I have the speeches, too. I have a collection of all of her speeches.
MH: That’s a beautiful story. Irene was so well-loved—not just in the industry but in her humanitarian work.
AMS: Exactly. So that's why I say, she was a delegate for the United Nations. She was bred so well. She just did a lot for women. She adopted my mother, so the empathy that must have given her to support women who had no other means of support than to be in a Catholic hospital, who gave birth to these children only to give them up to an orphanage.
MH: She was certainly an inspiration to women everywhere.
AMS: Absolutely. To answer your question, delving a little deeper, I'm curious if I reread the script from her autobiography—there is a biography of her—the answer to that question would, I guess, be in there. But I'm not sure, and I don't have that here in Los Angeles, but I can also say that her friends were all very civic-minded, and her best friend was Loretta Young. And so Loretta and she were at the same church together, went to noon mass every day. And, of course, Loretta had an affair with Clark Gable...
MH: But no scandals with Irene!... I’m glad we were finally able to talk again, even by phone.
AMS: It’s easier for me. I can think quicker on my feet with bullet questions, but I think what I was a little intimidated about is the fact that there are just a lot of answers, and I can't say I know for sure that I know them all. And, of course, as an adult, I look back and wish I had had the wisdom to even ask those kinds of questions.
MH: Well, when it comes to her legacy and keeping her name alive, you are my main contact, obviously. I appreciate everything that you've done for me over the years.
AMS: Well, I will continue to do so as long as I can and help you…. Check out the Irene Dunne Society on Facebook. You'd be surprised at how much these people know. They come up with pictures and I'm like, “Where did they get that?” I mean, even pictures of my mother and my grandmother or my grandfather and my grandmother…
(Ann-Marie mentioned a gift she had presented me several years ago, a framed photo of Irene from Show Boat which included Irene’s writing on the back.)
AMS: I honor the energy, and I think that the intention behind these gifts… it gives me joy to keep my grandmother's spirit alive by showing the generosity and not holding and harboring anything that could mean something more to somebody else.
MH: It's great that you have that attitude and that's how you see things. It means so much to me, and that's why I wanted to try and pay it forward to some extent and get younger audiences interested in your grandmother's legacy and keep her name alive.
AMS: It’s interesting… So wish me luck with the Marymount Zoomers. I always say I'm really good at ideas and I'm really bad at execution, but I think something like this really taps into what I do best, and I do best by female collaboration. People say you're lucky if you can count your friends on one hand, and I'm completely surrounded by such strong spirits that it all comes from love for one another, I have to say…. As a matter of fact, I'm going to go start some volunteering serving meals at a church around here… In her later years, I would probably say that was the biggest fulfillment of hers. I mean, as you know, we were just so close. So I know she would be proud of the woman I became.
MH: She would be very proud of you now. That’s wonderful that you are surrounded by so much support.
AMS: I'm a very positive person, and I do have hope, and I think hope is what we are all praying for right now, and really digging deeper to understanding that we are so blessed. I know that so many people are really struggling, and it's so hard and people are dying… for those who can keep their heads above water and have faith and have hope. We can hold each other up.
MH: That's the only way you can approach it. Thank you again Ann-Marie. I appreciate you taking the time tonight to keep in touch. I wish you and your family well.
AMS: Thank you so much, Matthew!
The Pickwick Theatre is the most identifiable landmark in Park Ridge. It's been a source of pride for the community since 1928. Filling the theatre, however, is not always an easy task. Suburban multiplexes and the repertoire theatres of Chicago provide stiff competition for the Pickwick. Within this milieu, the Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series strives to bring in good "box office." But once upon a time, the Pickwick's closest competitor was here—in Park Ridge. Few people today realize a second movie house once existed in town. In fact, it had been built years earlier. For those who appreciate the glorious movie theatres of yesteryear, we thought we'd post a few words about the forgotten "Ridge Theatre."
The Ridge Theatre was located across Hodges Park at 203 Vine Avenue (next to the building which now rents to the D’Vine beauty salon). It was constructed by the Park Ridge Amusement Company and designed by architect Elmer F. Behrns (1896-1975), who had worked on many movie theatres in Illinois, including the Egyptian in DeKalb and the Woodstock Theatre. Unlike the Pickwick's modernistic style, the Ridge Theatre's terra cotta facade distinctly recalled Spanish Colonial, and it was nearly identical to the York Theatre in Elmhurst. The York, which was also designed by Behrns, opened in 1924. Though we have no photos of the inside of the Ridge Theatre, we know that it, too, was patterned after the York.
The interior design of the Ridge was done in the style of the French Renaissance and was supervised by John Paulding and the McPherson Decorating Company. The interior included a dome decorated in silver-leaf that also featured a three-color lighting scheme. The rear wall of the theatre was near the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, which may have affected the acoustics during performances. But any screening would have certainly been enhanced by the $15,000 Gottfried pipe organ that had been installed.
The Ridge was originally part of the Chicago-based Lynch theatre holdings. "Lynch Theatres" received top billing above Ridge Theatre on the programs; it was affiliated with and operated by Balaban & Katz. According to a 1931 edition of the Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, the Ridge seated 1200 while the Pickwick had 800 seats. This is inaccurate since the original design for the Pickwick had nearly 1600 seats. By 1941, years after the Ridge had closed, the seating capacity of the older theatre had dropped and was reduced to 800. (The Pickwick's seating capacity, meanwhile, would eventually drop to 1400, and today it is currently 850 with the newer seats.) Though the Ridge was a good-sized neighborhood theatre, William H. Malone, the town's second mayor and eventual developer of the Pickwick, thought the Ridge was simply not big enough. (The population of Park Ridge in 1928 was considerably less than 10,000.)
The Ridge opened its doors nearly ninety-six years ago on November 15, 1924—four years before the Pickwick. The first film shown was the silent movie Her Night of Romance, which starred Constance Talmadge and Ronald Colman. The mayor at the time, E. Leslie Cole, was there to greet the Opening Night crowd. The theatre operated on weekdays from 7:00 to 11:00 PM; Sundays 2 to 11 PM. There was a children's matinee on Saturdays from 2:00 to 6:00 PM. General admission was normally "15c for children and 35c for adults."
The programs that have survived reveal a theatre operating at the height of the silent era in the late 1920s. The movie ads featured names like Ronald Colman (Beau Geste), Harold Lloyd (Speedy), Dorothy Gish (Madame Pompadour), Renee Adoree (Back to God's Country), Victor McLaglen (The River Pirate), Myrna Loy (State Street Sadie), Lewis Stone (Freedom of the Press), Mary Philbin (Surrender), John Gilbert (The Big Parade), and hundreds of others. These silent films were given a voice thanks to the impressive Gottfried organ. Programs from the era reveal that several house organists performed on it during the course of the year.
A typical evening might include a double feature program, a "Junior Fun Frolic," or a Chinaware Night ("Free Chinaware to the Ladies.") Whereas today you might pay $14 to see TV commercials, back then you could see a two-reel comedy, a newsreel, and a movie serial chapter with the feature presentation. A wonderful ad for the jungle adventure Chang (1927) lists the added attraction of a "Crazy Cat Cartoon and Paramount News." Though the programs were simple bi-folds made up of silent movie artwork, they conjured up a strong sense of time and place. There was genuine excitement to be found with previews like: "Coming Next Week: Lon Chaney in The Unknown." A handful of other film stars and their films might also be listed for the following week.
The theatre was managed by Robert C. McGregor (1884-1954), who was also part owner. (Years afterward, he became an alderman in Park Ridge.) In The History of Park Ridge, author Orvis Jordan writes, "The Greater Chicago Magazine was enthusiastic over the modernity of the new show house. It had oil heat, which had only recently come to Park Ridge. It also had washed air. The entire output of United Artists, Paramount, First National, Universal and Fox was controlled, though not all of this output was used, for under McGregor no picture that would offend public taste was shown."
A 1928 advertisement in the Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World for the Kohler Electric Plant. The films on the marquee are The Big City with Lon Chaney and The Crowd. The building also included retail space for a lingerie and hosiery business.
Pickwick Theatre owner William H. Malone (1877-1956) eventually bought out his competitor, forcing the Ridge to go dark. It closed its doors in 1936. The Ridge made a brief comeback in the mid-1950s as an art house—renamed the Park Avenue Cinema—but it was a short-lived venture. In 1956, the theatre was converted to a Michael Kirby ice skating studio. The skating rink lasted until 1973. Then, ten years later in 1983, a condominium complex went up on the site of the old theatre. No doubt most people today, making their way along Vine to City Hall and the residential area, would never guess that a movie theatre had once stood there. Sadly, nothing visible remains. Even the Gottfried organ became a thing of the past. (If this instrument was relocated, it never survived to the present day.)
For more information about the Ridge Theatre and the era of American movie palaces, visit the following website: www.historictheatres.org.
Special thanks to Paul Adlaf of the Park Ridge Historical Society and the Reference staff of the Park Ridge Public Library.
Sometimes it’s just a voice you hear through the “Ring” doorbell speaker. Or maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of one as they quickly emerge from the front door (only to disappear again). So what exactly are those masked, Patron Services staff up to anyway? Since I’m one of them, I can tell you.
For the last three weeks, the Patron Services Department has been implementing the “contact-free pickup service” whereby patrons can pick up their hold items by appointment. Every day that the library is open, there are between sixty and seventy appointments to be processed.
Each morning, we print up a report of all the patrons who plan on visiting us that day. But the reports and appointments never end, and while we are preparing the items for that day’s pickup, members of our page team go around the library and pull the latest requests that will be picked up in the days ahead. Each day there are between 300 and 600 items requested. Items are located on the shelves and brought to the meeting room to be “trapped”—or triggered in the computer. The items, now showing as available for those patrons, are then bagged. A sea of brown paper bags—organized alphabetically on the tables-- gives an idea of just how many reserves are placed by Park Ridge patrons. Because of the restrictions on the amount of employees allowed inside a public space, there are no more than six staff handling all these materials on a given day.
From the meeting room, we collect the bags, containing all the materials the patrons want, and we begin the process of checking the items out to them. We do this using our efficient check-out stations, which print receipts that we enclose inside each bag. Then, at every hour, we place the paper bags out on the two tables in front of the library entrance. Patrons who have made appointments online or by phone are thus able to stop by and collect their materials at the prescribed time. Sometimes, however, patrons haven’t completed the process online—there is a button at the bottom of the reservation page that asks you to continue—so throughout the day we have patrons arrive looking for their bag that isn’t available yet. Other times, patrons simply get an email informing them that their holds are available but don’t realize you still have to make an appointment to pick them up. An email telling you that your holds are in doesn’t mean they will be out on the table that day. If you have any questions about making a reservation, please contact us at 847-825-3123.
It’s a lot of work, so we appreciate it when patrons show up to collect their items. The “no shows” are contacted the following day and we try and reschedule their appointment.
This week, in addition to continuing our holds service, we will begin the process of checking in returned materials. With over 30,000 items expected to be dropped off, this is no small task and precautions must be taken. Returned items must first be quarantined for a period of a week. Due to a lack of space, the library must store these materials where space is available, such as in the Children’s Department. The black plastic bags, seen in the picture below, contain many of the items that have been checked out these past several months.
For more about contact-free pickup: https://www.parkridgelibrary.org/pickup/
For more about when and where you can return your materials: https://www.parkridgelibrary.org/library-now-accepting-returns/
A Film For Our Time:
Stars in My Crown (1950)
What I'll always remember most is the image of the parson standing on the front porch of Uncle Famous' shack and facing the KKK. They've come to lynch the old black man, but this mob isn't made up of strangers. Under their sheets, they're the local townsmen, and every one of them has had some personal connection growing up with Uncle Famous.
Through every trial since the birth of this nation, there have been Americans who have challenged intolerance and oppression—characters not unlike Josiah Gray in Stars in My Crown (1950). The preacher, as portrayed by Joel McCrea, embodies the very best of what this country can offer. When he confronts the Ku Klux Klan at the end of the film, there's no shoot-out or sanctimonious sermon. Instead, Josiah shames them. But he does this in a way that I, the viewer, never saw coming.
What he does to those hooded townspeople is something that probably should be done to a great many people today who, through poor judgment, have aligned themselves with the worst elements of society. How many cling to partisanship over common decency? America's well is poisoned. Not from the typhoid in the water, as depicted in the movie, or from COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of thousands. No, this is something longer-lasting than a pandemic, and it's at the heart of Stars in My Crown.
Stars in My Crown is a film for our time, an episodic portrait of Americana that addresses the issue of racial intolerance. In fact, the story presents a dual conflict a town is faced with. Two diseases are tearing it apart—typhoid and racism. A parallel could be made to events in 2020, which makes Stars in My Crown all the more relevant now. At the time of its release seventy years ago, the film received the prestigious Freedom Foundation Award, which recognized its role in exemplifying the American ideal.
Set in the postbellum South, Stars in My Crown is the story of a small town, Walesburg, as remembered by the film's narrator, John Kenyon. What he recalls, however, is something more than a nostalgia for one's childhood—it's a longing for a special time and place. There were problems to be sure, but there was always the parson to guide the town through it all. And during the darkest hours, Josiah faced his own self-doubt and questioned whether he had failed the town. The story was based on the book of the same name by Joe David Brown with an adaptation by Margaret Fitts. Both the novel and the film took their title from a 19th century Protestant hymn, Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown.
Parson Josiah Gray embodies strength and empathy. It is through people like him that Walesburg has a spiritual foundation and a sense of community. McCrea biographer Tony Thomas wrote, “Stars in My Crown is one of the stars in the crown of Joel McCrea. The role of the strong, likeable pastor fits him like a glove. It is quintessential McCrea, thoroughly American and straight as an arrow. This pastor is no mere Holy Joe; when he strides into a saloon and slams a pistol on the bar the patrons pay attention. And when he faces down the Klanners there is no doubt that this is the man who could do it. He knows about prejudice and greed and ignorance, and how to do something about it. Josiah Doziah Gray is Joel McCrea at his best.”
Stars in My Crown features a wonderful ensemble cast: Ellen Drew as Harriet Gray; child actor Dean Stockwell as John Kenyon; James Mitchell as the practical doctor with more faith in medicine than in prayer; Amanda Blake as the schoolteacher; Alan Hale (in his last film); Lewis Stone; and Juano Hernandez as Uncle Famous. The previous year, Hernandez had appeared in Intruder in the Dust, another film that dealt with lynch mobs. Also in the cast, though uncredited, is James Arness. Both he and Amanda Blake would go on to star in the long-running television series, Gunsmoke.
The film was beautifully directed by Jacques Tourneur, a Paris-born filmmaker who is best known for the Robert Mitchum film noir, Out of the Past, as well as the horror films he made with producer Val Lewton at RKO. But the darkness of those earlier films has been replaced here by the light of a summer day. In a style that recalls the best of director John Ford, Tourneur’s rural compositions, character vignettes, and homespun humor make this distinctly American tale one of the stellar films of the 1950s—and perhaps the most underrated of the decade. Tourneur reportedly waived his normal salary demands in order to make the film his way without studio interference. As a result, he made what he believed to be his best.
There’s a wonderful introduction of the film on the online site reddit in which the moderator writes, “Tourneur conjures the palpable aura of one era giving way to another, with an emphasis on growth, renewal and healing—both spiritual and physical. Pastor Gray’s fight on behalf of Famous Prell for the community’s soul is paralleled with the story of a young, idealistic atheist doctor fighting a typhoid outbreak. As we transition from one era to another, the characters learn to see themselves not as divided polarities (young and old, black and white, men of faith and men of science), but as forces of complementary balance, inextricably linked together, each with inherent worth and dignity.”
Acknowledging this is the first step in solving our current troubles. Understanding the complementary balance of how society is made up—and accepting the inherent worth and dignity of the individual. From this starting point, you can then build opportunities to succeed.
A film for the entire family, Stars in My Crown was screened at the Park Ridge Public Library Classic Film Series in 2015 as part of a "Films of Faith" program. It's a title I wish more people would seek out, a comforting film in difficult times. In a society that is ever-changing—with values being reinterpreted—Stars in My Crown presents an image of America on film that was constant and reassuring. The film reflects a sense of community, a spiritual identity, and a fundamental decency—the bedrock upon which our house now stands. Stars in My Crown is a glowing memory and a vision of small-town America at its finest—an America that faced its challenges and overcame them.
Above: Teamwork! Allison (pictured bottom right) with her fellow nurses.
As part of our appreciation for all our essential workers, the Park Ridge Public Library has initiated the #parkridgestrong campaign through which our community can express its gratitude to our nurses, doctors, first responders, grocery store workers, family—even those who are simply staying home. To tie into this project, it was important for me to speak to someone who has been on the front lines and can tell us firsthand what it’s been like on a daily basis.
I recently did a virtual interview with Park Ridge’s own Allison Chaplin.
MH: Allison, thank you so much for your time. The community is tremendously grateful for what you and thousands of other health care professionals have done for us during the pandemic. If you could tell us where you work and your position at the hospital.
AC: I am a registered nurse and I work at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in the Lakeview neighborhood in Chicago. I am a float nurse, which means that I work on a different inpatient floor each shift.
MH: How has your work and family life changed in the past ten weeks?
AC: My work life has changed greatly. The biggest change has been that I have to gown up before I go into rooms. It takes more time to don and doff the protective gear it takes to keep ourselves safe while taking care of COVID positive patients. Obviously, the biggest concern is contracting the virus and keeping myself safe and healthy. In saying this, this has affected my family life and I have not been able to see them in order to keep them from contracting the virus.
MH: What has been a touching way that someone has shared their gratitude with you or made you feel appreciated? Do you have an example of how you have impacted a patient’s life recently?
AC: Since family members have not been able to visit, I have been trying to do a lot of Zoom meetings for patients and their families. It means so much for the family to visualize a loved one and I have seen some tears shed virtually. Families are so grateful to the people who are taking care of their loved ones and they have been sending a lot of food to keep us fueled for the shift.
MH: How have you been made to feel supported on the front lines?
AC: While being on the front lines, our hospital has been supporting us by ensuring our safety. Our hospital has mandated that all employees wear masks at all times. We also get our temperatures screened when coming to work. Finally, the hospital gives us the proper protective gear to take care of the patients, which includes an N-95 mask, gown, gloves, and a face shield. We also have the mental health staff available and respite rooms for when we need to de-stress.
MH: What are you grateful for as a nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic?
AC: I am grateful for a renewed purpose and direction in my nursing career. I have stepped up and am now the charge nurse of the COVID units. I have [found a new purpose and] invigorated my passion for both the nursing field and my patients.
MH: Can you give an example of something that has changed your perspective being an essential worker during this time?
AC: My perspective has changed in the fact that I pay more attention to isolation precautions. Pre-COVID, I can say that I was guilty of not always following isolation precautions or washing my hands frequently. However, this pandemic has made me hyperaware of hand hygiene and sterile technique. I bring this practice into my personal life as well and practice social distancing and frequent hand washing when out in the public.
MH: What would you want people to know about what nurses and other medical professionals are experiencing right now?
AC: I would just want the public to know that we are experiencing emotional and physical stress and that it is coming in waves. It has become our new normal but that does not mean it is any less stressful. With Illinois opening up soon, we just would like the public to remain respectful of the guidelines that have been recommended by the CDC so that there is not a surge in cases and that we can handle the influx at the hospital. By doing your part, you are helping the medical community conserve resources so they do not run out. Stay safe everyone! ☺
The Empire Strikes Back:
A Fan Remembers
Interlibrary Loan, Park Ridge Public Library
Forty years ago this week, The Empire Strikes Back—the long-awaited sequel to Star Wars—finally opened to almost universal acclaim from critics and fans alike...well, almost universal acclaim. For as big a Star Wars fan as I was—a follow-up to My Favorite Movie Of All Time was something I thought about every hour on the hour during the three year wait between movies—my initial reaction to Empire was No Thank You, I'll Pass...I was actually quite devastated.
Now in the interest of full disclosure I knew everything that was going to happen in The Empire Strikes Back a full month before it opened, thanks to my questionable decision to read the film's novelization, which someway, somehow got released to bookstores early. Reading the book was not a happy experience: the tone was all wrong, this was much darker, scarier—where was the fun, the Big Victory at the end? Why was this Yoda creature berating poor Luke Skywalker? And Darth Vader's Big Secret? Completely, totally unacceptable—I vaguely remember crying while brushing my teeth the night I finished the novel, thinking I waited three years just to wait ANOTHER three years to see if Han Solo—everybody's favorite Star Wars character--would survive his Carbonite prison. Like I said, totally unacceptable.
Those feelings definitely stayed with me a month later on Empire's opening day...But then it was time to see it a second time, approximately 20 whole minutes after seeing it for the first time. Since the Norridge Theatre wasn't asking us to leave, my group of Weber High School pals stayed put and experienced Empire again—and it was then that the film started to work its way into my skull. The sheer spectacle of the film was overwhelming: the massive land battle on the ice planet Hoth with the ragtag Rebels taking on the mighty Imperial AT-AT Walkers, all happening within the first half-hour of the movie; the chase with the Millennium Falcon through the asteroid field; the epic light saber duel between Luke and Darth Vader on the Cloud City of Bespin; and of course the Jedi Master Yoda, who 40 years ago seemed like the ultimate risk: if audiences didn't accept this Muppet-like creature who sounded strangely like Miss Piggy, the whole film would have collapsed under its own weight. But Star Wars guru George Lucas and Empire director Irvin Kershner rolled the dice, and today Yoda is a cornerstone of the Star Wars Universe.
If The Empire Strikes Back was truly going to work, however, it had to rely on more than just spectacle. It took me a moment to come on board, but ultimately it is the joy of reuniting with our favorite characters from Star Wars but seeing them in new, unpredictable, sometimes scary situations that make the film so special. And then there are those moments big and small: the appearance of the bounty hunters, including the reptile-like Bossk, on screen for all of 20 seconds but still one of my favorite Kenner action figures..."Wars Not Make One Great"....Darth Vader in full-evil mode, presiding over the massive Carbon Freeze Chamber set..."I Am Your Father"...the Tauntauns, Dagobah, and of course Lando Calrissian—not to mention Lando's mysterious robot aide Lobot, who has The Greatest Eye Shift in the history of cinema—all this punctuated by one of composer John Williams' greatest, most lyrical scores.
It was all too much for this Star Wars fan to resist...and that I think is the true genius of The Empire Strikes Back: George Lucas and Irvin Kershner gave me something I didn't think I wanted—until they convinced me it's exactly what I wanted with all their imaginative, risky, typical-sequel-mold-breaking choices. Even with our heroes all facing an uncertain future, waiting another three years suddenly didn't seem like a bad proposition, it actually fired the imagination...plus what else was I going to obsess over every hour on the hour?
So, 40 years after its debut, is The Empire Strikes Back the greatest movie sequel ever? Why yes, of course it is—was there ever any doubt?
Above: Part of Tony's Star Wars memorabilia
collection on display at the Library.
What’s For Dinner?
Since we’ve been “All in Illinois” and staying at home, some of us have had more time to cook. Others, maybe not so much. In either case, we went around asking for food recommendations from our library staff—specialties that can be easily prepared or just picked up. Here are some of their suggestions!
We've been cooking at home every night (which is usually the case!) and I have been trying out new recipes, including homemade pasta noodles and baked bread. But on the nights that things feel a little more rushed, my go-to is always a family favorite from Trader Joe's freezer section: Chicken fried rice and steamed pot stickers. Trader Joe's has so many frozen ready-to-cook meals that are easy, delicious and affordable! So lucky to have one nearby!
We cook dinner almost every night. It’s usually a roasted vegetable and some type of poultry. BUT I will share with you this excellent scallop recipe that I encountered during this pandemic.
Here is the recipe for Garlic-Lemon Scallops:
¾ cup butter
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 pounds large sea scallops (I used small scallops because some in my household aren’t HUGE fans of the texture)
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Melt butter in a large skillet over a medium heat. Stir in garlic. Add scallops and cook on one side then turn over and continue to cook until they turn opaque. Remove the scallops and whisk, salt, pepper and lemon juice with butter and pour sauce over scallops. My final addition was a box of herbal flavored couscous to serve as a bed beneath the scallops. I bet a bed of mixed greens would also be delicious.
Prep time was about 10 minutes and cook time was 10 min.
Also, I have been baking cookies and sharing them with neighbors. Trying to keep everyone plump in case they get sick! So they have some reserves to battle the illness!!
Claire, Children’s Services
I just picked up a chopped salad from Sonny's -- my favorite! They also deliver through Grubhub.
Lisa, Children’s Services
World’s Best Greek Potatoes | To Die For
Mary, Children’s Services
Here's a quick and easy recipe that I think is very good.
Chicken and Couscous - Simply combine cooked couscous (plain or herb flavored), pesto sauce, and rotisserie chicken (shredded). And viola . . . dinner!
Lan, Children’s Services
We ordered from the family meal from Spuntino's this week and it was delicious. Although it says the meal feeds 6 (for $39.99), there's enough food for more than that. We had leftovers for at least another meal for the four of us. And if people are looking for breakfast or lunch, Lola's is open. We always love their breakfasts - and their value.
As for a dish to prepare, this is a great, fast and easy recipe and it works as a main course for vegetarians. It does call for fresh spinach and arugula but those are widely available at grocery stores.
Jazmin, Patron Services
I've been cooking a lot at home but also have ordered out a few times. These two favorites of mine can be found on Grubhub:
Falafel Dream, located in Chicago, has DELICIOUS food. My go-to's are the falafel sandwiches and a veggie combo dish which consists of hummus, baba ghannouj, rice, falafel, and Jerusalem salad.
Penny's Noodle Shop, located in Oak Park, is a mostly Thai restaurant. Love their veggie fried rice platter!
As for home-cooked meals, I've made vegan banana pancakes for breakfast using this recipe: https://avirtualvegan.com/vegan-banana-pancakes/
(The other day, I topped them off with some Nutella, and it's my new obsession!)
For dinner one night, I made some enchiladas in red sauce. The recipe I based them off of is found here https://www.budgetbytes.com/weeknight-enchiladas/. I would recommend frying the tortillas a little first rather than just heating them up on a skillet. Also, I used black beans instead of pinto because they're my favorite. Budget Bytes, in general, is a fantastic website that includes a ton of yummy, budget-friendly recipes.
Alison, Patron Services
There are so many great family meals being offered at Edison Park and Park Ridge local restaurants! Nonno Pinos, Spuntinos, Firewater Saloon and Zias are some of the restaurants we have ordered from. We are trying to order out from one local restaurant a week to help support their business during these challenging times.
Tonight, we are picking up popcorn from the Pickwick Theatre, the library's great neighbor from across the street!
Bob, Patron Services
I'd like to recommend Dolcetti bakery on Vine in Park Ridge. This small bakery is usually a great place to get a coffee and some nice pastries, but because of the current situation they are only selling frozen meals and some pastries to bake at home. The blueberry scones and chocolate chip cookies turn out very nicely!
Laura M., Patron Services
Pick up at Paradise Pup!... Besides supporting local restaurants, we have been cooking a lot! I have made my homemade mac and cheese, meatloaf and a crazy but yummy make ahead potato dish. We have done pork chops on the grill, my husband's gumbo with chicken and andouille sausage. My husband also makes his mom's chicken and rice recipe with French style green beans, mushrooms and garlic. For Easter we had a small rack of lamb on the grill and a small carver ham from Costco. I have also baked brownies and a cake. Now I am planning on banana bread and chocolate chip cookie bars.
Tony, Patron Services
We love picking up food at Bob-O’s and Lonnie’s Pizza, both on Irving Park just east of Cumberland.
Sarah, Reader Services
I'd like to plug Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club (at Kimball and Bryn Mawr in Chicago), which is still open for carryout and delivery.
Kelly, Reader Services
This week I made: traditional Cornish pasties -- made from grandmother's recipe. My great grandfathers and grandfather were iron miners in the UP of Michigan, so this is a family tradition.
I also made Indian Butter chicken with homemade naan.
Creamy French Onion soup with gruyere biscuits.
Bourbon-soy marinated pork tenderloin with roasted asparagus and mustard sauce.
Scalloped potatoes with ham.
Boneless pork chops in the instant pot served with southern fried cabbage.
For take-out (trying to limit to once per week!) we did a family meal from Graziano's in Niles, as well as tacos from Que Onda in Edison Park. And hot dogs from our favorite dog stand, Nick's, at Touhy and Harlem in EP.
Aida, Technical Services
One tool that has been saving me, is the old "crockpot"… I love simple, less than 5 ingredients recipes. My favorite is dumping chicken breast, any veggies in your fridge, (potatoes, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, your favorite spices etc.)
I usually use plain salt n pepper. Cover it and forget about it. I also have a rice cooker. Add proper measurements, rice and water and forget about it. It turns out so good and smells great. You can eat it with tortillas and make a taco.
My son loves pancakes, so one of our fav's is mixing one egg and a banana and you have yourself healthy, delicious pancakes. Taste great! Simple!
As for ordering out, we have used Sunrise Grill (1930 E Touhy Ave, Des Plaines) Breakfast special. For $20 you get eggs, pancakes, sausages, bacon, French toast & hash browns. For those that are vegetarian, you can substitute meat for veggies. It literally feeds an army and it's a steal for the price.
Another place we have used is "Que Onda" (curbside pickup)
Mexican Restaurant on Northwest Hwy. For $30, you get 14 tacos, rice, beans, shaved corn, chips, Guacamole and salsa. You can choose from steak, fish, shrimp, ground beef, chicken just to name a few. My favorite is their fish tacos.
Things To Do At Home
(Not Involving A Book)
There is a wealth of information online about things we can do at home. We’ve compiled a list of a few of them—things other than reading a book. Although, for those die-hard readers who are undecided what their next book will be and would like to plan ahead, we have included some suggestions on that as well.
The following categories are ideas for you, and we’ve included many useful links to help guide you.
Ancestry Library Edition is temporarily available from home!
Try it today with your Park Ridge Library Card: https://www.parkridgelibrary.org/databases/
Ancestry is one of the best online sources for genealogy, made up of thousands of collections of genealogical records. Not sure where to start searching? Ask a librarian! Email email@example.com to reach our Reference staff.
Build your family tree by searching over billions of public records and Census data. Get obituaries, marriage records, immigration papers, military information and more. You can find the link on our Databases page: https://www.parkridgelibrary.org/databases/
Also of note: Genealogy Activities for Coronavirus Quarantine
This one is important! Take 10 minutes to support our community - and the library - for the next 10 years. Take the census at www.census.gov.
The 50 America’s Test Kitchen Recipes You Need Now
A special collection of 50 all-time favorite recipes free for everyone during the COVID-19 emergency:
Easy recipes you can make during coronavirus quarantine with five ingredients or less:
The best online resources for quarantine cooking at all skill levels. They include beginner-friendly recipes and ways to use what you have on hand:
Try this array of Skillshare classes to engage your creativity:
Stuck Inside? Come Hang Out with The Mighty Community!
Start a new hobby, keep your hands busy, and get lost in your own creative headspace – even for just a few minutes. And for those who are home with young ones, we guarantee this is screen time you can feel good about. Take your crocheting to a new level of cuteness with Creativebug! Use your library card to access thousands of tutorials, including lessons in crocheting from beginner to "OMGsh you made that?!" The site has thousands of award-winning art and craft video classes taught by recognized design experts and artists. Log in here: www.creativebug.com/lib/prpl/login
Start your own routine at home. Need guidance? When it comes to personal fitness, check out Park Ridge’s own Drake Susral -- “Body By Drake” -- who is offering Zoom sessions:
Now is the ideal time to start a garden! There are daily online gardening classes:
Our personal favorites are the websites with online exhibitions that tell important historical stories using primary sources.
To learn stories from Chicago's past, we recommend Chicago History Museum's online exhibitions: https://www.chicagohistory.org/exhibitions/#online,
or Lake Forest College's Digital Chicago: http://digitalchicagohistory.org/.
Donate your time—transcribe letters for the Newberry Library, a world-renowned independent research library located in Chicago:
For history that isn't Chicago focused, we recommend the Digital Public Library of America online exhibitions: https://dp.la/exhibitions.
It's hard not to include the Library of Congress in any recommendation list! There are many wonderful pages to explore on www.loc.gov, but it can be overwhelming, so we usually recommend the "Today in History" page:
Learn a new language
Have you always wanted to learn a new language? This might be just the time. Try the Library’s Mango Languages database.
Mango Languages is an online language-learning system teaching actual conversation skills for a wide variety of languages. Mango uses real-life situations and actual conversations to more effectively teach a new language. https://www.parkridgelibrary.org/Foreign-Language/
A mobile app is also available: https://www.parkridgelibrary.org/mobile-apps/
Be sure to visit the Library's website and #parkridgestrong to thank our health care workers, first responders, front line workers and everyone staying home.
Use your Library Card:
Apply for a library card through our online form (link below). One of our team members will email you your library card number and pin so you can access online resources and your account. Remember to pick up your card and show proof of residency when the library reopens.
UPDATE: For questions regarding your account including card expiration, resetting your pin on your account, renewals or overdue materials please email our Patron Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Library is offering all kinds of online programs: Virtual Open Knitting & Crocheting, Virtual Teen Craft Club, Virtual Teen Book Bites, Virtual Library Pub Quiz, Virtual Book Discussions and even a Teen TikTok Challenge!
Virtual programs calendar: https://parkridgelibrary.libcal.com/calendar/
Catch up on past Oscar nominees and other legendary comedies and dramas, or revisit old favorites! Try Kanopy, our online streaming collection of feature films, documentaries, foreign language, and training videos, including the Criterion Collection, The Great Courses, the Frontline series, and international films? Right now they have a special Credit-Free Viewing Collection with 54 titles! https://parkridge.kanopy.com/category/48060
Also, try Hoopla: www.hoopladigital.com/
Quaint English Village Murder Mystery TV Shows with A Million Seasons, For Your Binge-Watching Pleasure During These Hard Times:
ESPN has been broadcasting The Last Dance miniseries, about the Chicago Bulls historic 1997-1998 basketball season.
Staff recommendation: Some Good News:
How to visit some of Chicago’s best museums without leaving your house:
Online art courses:
Worst Bestsellers: http://www.frowl.org/worstbestsellers/
Hugo Award-winning SciFi fiction & nonfiction: https://uncannymagazine.com/type/podcasts/
Pop Culture and Geeky Podcasts:
The Incomparable Network: https://www.theincomparable.com/
NPR “Fresh Air”: https://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/
Our recommendation for families is old-school!
“Those Were the Days” Saturdays on 90.9 FM (WDCB) 1-5 p.m. with Host Steve Darnall. This program offers the best in old-time radio. Besides being entertaining, the weekly broadcasts are always informative. Their ongoing coverage of World War II’s 75th anniversary has been exceptional radio.
Learn how to tie a tie, knit, dance, or change a flat tire. There are many skills you can learn on YouTube. The following article lists fifty of them: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/572087/learn-skills-on-youtube?fbclid=IwAR0RiashNYcL1Bn0t4cYW7ToCt9jlVNFhBBnI8jUs-U34d4KGLW472mElfs
Coping with the stress of living through a pandemic:
If you have no interest in hitting the golf links, maybe some audiobooks about sports will get you through this lull. Sports fans, we get it, everything is cancelled and you need a distraction. Try a sports story audiobook!
Find audiobooks free with your card at www.parkridgelibrary.org/ebooks-and-downloadables/
Staycation from Home
Board a virtual tour of the Chicago River without leaving the house:
Enjoy WTTW’s Geoffrey Baer’s tours from your own sofa:
13 Virtual Train Rides From Around the World That You Can Experience Right Now:
Visit the most haunted places in the U.S. right from your couch:
Story Time Live!
Starting May 5, join the library for virtual storytimes on Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, and a pajama storytime May 13. Thursday morning storytimes will also continue. We can't wait to see you! Get details here: https://parkridgelibrary.libcal.com/
Also of interest: Disney Bedtime Hotline is back to lull your kids to sleep with a nighttime story: https://www.shopdisney.com/sleep-shop-content/
During the pandemic it’s important to keep a journal. Future generations will be interested in knowing how we lived through COVID-19. The Illinois Digital Archives repository, for example, would certainly have interest in how Park Ridge adapted to the crisis.
If you’re feeling bold and would rather start that novel you’ve been putting off, inquire about the library’s Writers’ Group. We recently talked about the group on PRPL Focus.
Also of interest:
Friends of the Library: Books & Beyond
One of the biggest events of the year has always been the Friends of the Library Book Sale. Over the years, it has become a tradition to see the long lines of patrons arriving early on Friday for the Preview Sale and getting their numbers to go in. Saturdays would always see great crowds, and on Sundays, the local teachers never failed to take advantage of the reduced prices. I’ve attended the sale dozens of times and found good deals and rare finds. In fact, I’d say a large percentage of my own book collection has come from this sale, held twice a year. Whether you are a fan of popular fiction or vintage books, you’re bound to find something of interest—no pun intended.
Unfortunately, due to the current health crisis, the Library has had to cancel the 2020 Spring Book Sale. Since this event is sponsored by the Friends of the Library, I thought I’d reach out to these dedicated volunteers and see how they are doing. I recently spoke to Deborah Kuhlman, who is co-president of the Friends with Judy Donovan.
MH: Deb, thank you for your time. I’m sure that many patrons are unaware that a portion of the Library’s funds for programming and events come directly from the Friends. Is there a recent example?
DK: Thanks for reaching out. We are providing the monies for the Summer Reading Club prizes. (NOTE: Adult Services and Children’s have a team that works on purchasing the prizes with the Friends’ money. These will be gift cards. The Library is planning to buy as much from local businesses as possible.)
MH: It doesn’t sound like the Friends have slowed down.
DK: Although the Spring Book Sale has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Friends of the Park Ridge Library have not ground to a halt. We all have our fingers crossed that we will be able to host our Summer Taste of Park Ridge Pop-up Sale on Saturday, July 11. This annual event is held in the open air in front of the library and features great summer reading selections for children and adults as well as DVDs. We always have cookbooks, travel, and gardening books as well as plenty of fiction. Once the library reopens, we invite everyone to visit the Book Nook on the second floor outside the Quiet Reading Room, where you can find great bargains in hardcovers and paperbacks, audio books, DVDs, CDs, and magazines. The Book Nook is the perfect place to stock up between the Book Sales.
MH: What else can patrons do to support the Friends?
DK: We encourage everyone to consider supporting the Friends by becoming a member. Memberships start at just $25; more information can be found at: https://www.parkridgelibrary.org/join-the-friends/. All money raised by the Friends goes to supporting Library programs and materials that are not covered in the Library’s annual budget. In addition, the Friends help to buy DVDs and video games for the library collection as well as licenses for movies shown at the library. If you have any questions about the Friends, our activities, or ways to participate, please email us at: email@example.com.
Rally Around Our Community: Part I
With our town facing tough challenges in the weeks and months ahead, I thought I’d reach out to some of the local business owners to see what we, the community, can do to help during the current pandemic. If you are an owner and need support, please contact us at the Library and we will include you in our efforts to get the word out. I posed the following questions:
- As a business owner, what types of things are you doing during the current crisis to either keep the business going (in a limited capacity) or have it prepared for re-opening?
- Do you have any advice for customers or any suggestions of how they could support you?
Dino, owner of the Pickwick Theatre
We have a newsletter we send out weekly to keep our customers informed. We recently started a popcorn (curbside) pickup in which we deliver the popcorn right to your car as you pull up. This will be on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The service has gotten off to a great start. On the first day (April 15), we had 90 orders in the afternoon and 150 orders scheduled for the evening. In the future, we plan on offering ice cream as well. Visit the Pickwick Theatre website for schedule times: https://www.pickwicktheatre.com/. (Your popcorn will be handled accordingly with the staff following the proper health safety protocols. Gloves and masks will be worn by all staff handling and distributing popcorn.)
Additionally, to help support the theatre during this time, we have partnered with Magnolia Selects https://www.magnoliaselects.com/ , which is offering a streaming service. They’ve teamed up with independent theatres around the country. If you sign up for their service, the theatre receives 100% of the net proceeds through June 30. After that period, ½ of the proceeds goes to the theatre. You’ll need a code: MOVIE141
For more about these services, be sure to go to the theatre’s website and click on “Sign Up” for their newsletter.
Chris, Dick Pond Athletics
These certainly are different times, but we do benefit from being in an amazingly supportive community.
I’m the Manager and we are a business that is deemed nonessential, so we have been closed for the last four weeks and we aren’t sure when we’ll open again. With the lock-in in place we’re all seeing more people out walking and running, and they need shoes.
So what we are doing at our shop is offering free home delivery, Contact-less curbside pickup and free shipping if they’re more than 10 miles away. We have a customer history, so in many cases people are just getting the latest model of their current shoe. For new customers, I’m having them email me a video of themselves walking so I can evaluate their walking gait. I can use that to help narrow down the options and find that perfect pair.
My advice to customers is to Just Keep Moving. Try to use these times to make changes. I’m running more than I was before. I’m also keeping my shopping to a minimum at the moment but when I do need/want something I’m reaching out to local shops first. They need us now, and I want to make sure they’re still there in the future.
Ryan, Savvy Salon & Spa
Thanks for reaching out and recognizing small businesses during this uncertain time! I'm a fourteen-year hairstylist at Savvy and happy to answer the questions for you on behalf of our salon.
The salon is open weekday mornings to take calls to make/change appointments. We have been resting up for the rush we expect once this order is lifted and will continue to follow CDC guidelines to keep our space clean and safe.
Embrace the grays & put down the scissors and box color! Now is the perfect time to do some hair masks and take a break from heat styling. We can't wait to get back to work and make everyone feel beautiful again! If you're looking for a way to support the salon while we're closed, we have Bumble & Bumble products and gift certificates available for purchase over the phone.
Park Ridge History
Did You Know:
The Day Charles Laughton Came to Town
Over the years, the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge has hosted a variety of events with guests ranging from authors, to politicians, to movie stars. The latter should come as no surprise. Just last September actor Keir Dullea visited the Pickwick Theatre for a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But few are aware that one of the greatest actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age appeared here in Park Ridge in the early 1950s.
The English stage and film actor, Charles Laughton (1899-1962), was recognized as one of the most distinguished actors of his profession, a term used so often that Charlie, as he preferred to be called, wanted to be distinguished for something else! He was the husband of actress Elsa Lanchester. Together they lived in a Mediterranean-style home on the Pacific Palisades bluffs of California, which overlooked the ocean.
No picturesque vistas greeted Charles Laughton when he arrived in the Midwest. Tuesday, January 22, 1952, was a cloudy, windy day during a typical Chicago winter. Laughton was in town to perform his “one-man act” at the Pickwick Theatre. At this point in his career, Charles Laughton had divided his time between personal appearances, such as the one in Park Ridge, and his work in a New York play, George Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell, which he was then directing and playing in with Agnes Moorehead and Charles Boyer.
Charles Laughton’s live performance tour was scheduled nationally, and his one-day appearance at the Pickwick would be his only stop in the area. The event was sponsored by the Women’s Circle of Community Church of Park Ridge. Tickets were just $2 and were being sold at Scharringhausen’s Drug Store, Avenue Gift Shop, Fenders Bootery, Dean’s Park Ridge Stationers, and the Community Church office. There were also locations in Des Plaines and Edison Park that offered limited tickets.
On that night, Laughton performed dramatic readings, everything from James Thurber to the Holy Bible—with a very apropos selection from Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers added for the occasion. (Laughton had played Samuel Pickwick in Mr. Pickwick at the Theatre Royal in London in 1928.) It was said that Laughton knew his material by heart and only used the books he carried out on stage as “props.” This was seemingly confirmed at a prior performance in which he held a copy of a Charles Dickens book upside down.
At the Park Ridge show, he read to a thoroughly captivated audience. There was intensity and warmth in the presentation. Even though the temperature outside had dropped below 20 degrees, the weather did not affect attendance. The Pickwick Theatre was filled to capacity, and in 1952, the auditorium had many more seats than are currently available, somewhere in the vicinity of 1400.
It is no wonder that the Park Ridge community came out to witness this theatre magic. Charles Laughton was famously known for his roles in such films as Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), in which he played the blustery Captain Bligh opposite Clark Gable, the comedy Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), the definitive version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), and the courtroom drama Witness For the Prosecution (1957). Laughton, a student of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, had made his stage debut in 1926. He later arrived on the New York theatre scene in 1931.
His Hollywood film debut came in 1932 when he appeared opposite Boris Karloff in director James Whale’s The Old Dark House. His major breakthrough in film, however, came in 1933 when he starred in The Private Life of Henry VIII. It was a performance that would earn him his only Academy Award for Best Actor. (He would later be nominated for Mutiny on the Bounty and Witness For the Prosecution.) Laughton also directed one film now critically praised as one of the greatest of the 1950s: The Night of the Hunter (1955).
But unlike stage or film, his performance at the Pickwick was unique. It was literally a one-man show, and that’s how Charles Laughton preferred it. For Laughton, it gave him the opportunity to play all the parts and become dozens of characters. Beyond his ability to deliver lines with dramatic effect, he proved to be a master storyteller who knew how to keep an audience engaged. He was once asked by a reporter how he chose his program. “I don’t know,” Laughton replied. “I may be on stage all of ten minutes before I ‘dig’ the spirit of the audience. Sometimes they’re in a mood for the ‘toughness of Caesar’; sometimes for the delicacy of ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’; sometimes for the lusty story of ‘David and Goliath’; sometimes for the solemnity of the ‘Psalms’; sometimes for one of Dickens’s Christmas stories, sometimes for one of his melodramatic passages; always for James Thurber, and old Aesop and stories and poems of romance never fail.”
There was an unpredictability about these performances. Even Laughton himself didn’t know what he might do on stage. A critic at the time had described Laughton’s readings as “a combination of the Sunday comics, an act of ‘Julius Caesar,’ a Bible service, a roller coaster ride, and a trip through the Looking Glass.” For his Pickwick appearance, which lasted two hours, Laughton closed the evening with a reading of Abraham Lincoln’s The Gettysburg Address. (This was one of those selections he had performed hundreds of times all over the country. A little over two months later he would recite an unrehearsed version of it on “The Colgate Comedy Hour” with Bud Abbott & Lou Costello.)
Charles Laughton may very well be the finest actor to ever appear on the stage at the Pickwick Theatre, or in Park Ridge for that matter. Nearly seventy years have passed since that January night. The old stage is covered now behind a new screen, and the memories of that show have long been forgotten, but if by chance there is someone out there who had been in attendance and spent “An Evening with Charles Laughton,” please contact us at the Park Ridge Public Library. We would love to have you share those memories. Perhaps one day the spirit of Charles Laughton will manifest once again at the Pickwick. How about a screening of Mutiny on the Bounty at the Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series?
A special thanks to Larry in Adult Services (Reference) at the Park Ridge Public Library for his research in finding articles related to Mr. Laughton’s appearance at the Pickwick Theatre.
Park Ridge Writers’ Group:
An Inside Look
As a former student in the Fiction Writing program at Columbia College Chicago, I was excited to learn that our own Writers’ Group here at the Park Ridge Public Library has taken off in popularity. I recently sat down (virtually) with Kelly Mayer of Adult Services to get the inside story. Kelly will be doing a Zoom meeting of the group on Wednesday, April 22, at 7 pm.
MH: The Park Ridge Public Library offers a "Writers’ Group." Could you tell us a little about this program and when they meet?
KM: The Park Ridge Library Writers’ Group meets the first Wednesday of every month at 7 pm, at the library. A patron (Hilary Sopata) actually approached Sarah Vessalo about hosting the group at the library, as they were meeting at Panera Bread and it was getting too loud. I connected with Hilary and some of the other group members, and we started meeting last September.
MH: What is your role in the group?
KM: I facilitate the group. At this point, I come up with a topic for the meeting, based on member questions, or something that we had talked about in the last meeting. I generally give a short presentation about the topic, and then we discuss that and move on from there. If someone has work to read/discuss, we do that. I generally like people to submit work via our Google group before the meeting, so the other members can read and give thoughtful feedback, but we're definitely open to reading something someone brings that night. I really want the group to be a supportive environment where writers of all levels of experience can come and discuss and learn. I've always felt that talking about the craft of writing itself, even in regards to someone else's work, can spark ideas and breakthroughs in your own work. And of course, getting the words down on the page is the first and most important step. It doesn't matter that your draft isn't perfect—it matters that the words are on the page so you can revise them!
MH: Kelly, could you tell us a little something about your own background?
KM: I am currently working on my capstone project for my MFA in fiction at Northwestern, which is a novel told in linked stories, something like Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. I started that when my kids were younger, but my final project got shuttled aside when my boys were in high school. Now that I have to think about writing for the library, I feel prepared to complete my capstone!
MH: Is there a particular process you have to stimulate creativity in your group?
KM: I do try to connect members with authors I think might help them with their own writing. One of our members, Hank, brought in a piece he's working on where the main characters take a walk downtown as they flirt. The feeling of the piece reminded me of Stuart Dybek's Pet Milk and the young lovers on the L train, so I copied that and brought it in for Hank to look at. I try to recommend authors that inform the topic we are discussing. Hilariously, Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander novels, shows up in our discussions quite often—because she breaks all the conventions we commonly hold as writers, and is wildly successful. She's a good example of how a writer needs to try new things and break the "rules."
MH: Could you say a few words about the importance of writing, particularly at this time when we are facing a pandemic?
KM: I think writing during this pandemic time is important. Writing is a great way to acknowledge and process feelings, as well as reduce anxiety. It's also important to keep a family record of these weird, historical times. I know we are all generally in the same situation, but no one experiences this pandemic in quite the same way. People should jot down their thoughts in a notebook, save their children's artwork, take pictures, etc. You never know what might serve as a spark for a really meaningful piece of writing.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the Park Ridge Writers’ Group.
Welcome to our inaugural entry in a series devoted to you, our patrons. Over the course of twenty-two years, I’ve met hundreds of people while working at the front desk of the Library. Every one of them has a story…
Len Johnson has served the Park Ridge community in a variety of ways over the years. The Johnson family literally helped build the town with a brick business. After being a bricklayer himself, Len became a fireman, now retired, and he’s been the stage manager for the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra. More recently, Len was honored with a 2019 Community Star Award for his efforts to preserve the history of the Maine Flyer. This transport plane, a C-54 Skymaster, had been purchased through a bond rally by the students of Maine High School during World War II. This past February marked the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the Maine Flyer at the Douglas Aircraft Co. factory at Higgins and Mannheim in Des Plaines. After its years of service, the plane eventually wound up abandoned on an Indian Reservation in Arizona.
MH: Len, could you tell us what was the most challenging aspect of retrieving parts of the Maine Flyer for the Park Ridge Historical Society?
LJ: One of the most challenging aspects of being able to retrieve artifacts off of the "Maine Flyer" was taking almost ten years in back and forth Government and Indian Affairs bureaucracy. Constant back and forth negotiations with the Pima Indian Nation Chiefs was definitely frustrating. After several years of diligent persistence and explanations of the Maine Flyer's historical value to Park Ridge history and its community, the Pima Indians finally saw the value and importance of returning parts of the aircraft back to the place where it was born.
MH: You are an avid airplane enthusiast as well as a pilot. As a hobby, you’ve been part of a group restoring a B-17 bomber called the Desert Rat. Could you tell us more about that restoration effort and when you hope to complete it?
LJ: I began working with the B-17E "Desert Rat" restoration group back in 2009. This aircraft is a B-17 model "E" and very rare; it was built in 1941 right before WWII began for the USA. I believe that the Boeing Corporation only produced a little over 500 of this model "E". It was found in a scrap yard in Bangor, Maine, over 30 years ago by its current owner. Sections of the plane that have been completed or are near completion are the horizontal stabilizers, the vertical tail fin, the two wingtips as well as most of the fuselage. The right and left inboard wings which contain the two engines and the landing gear still have a lot of needed restoration as well as the right and left outboard wing sections. All four engines still have to be completely rebuilt at an estimated cost of approximately $100,000 per engine. This project has been a small group effort and has come a long way with getting much done above and beyond FAA Standards. As time goes by, much more money and qualified manpower hours will be required. At this point it looks like several more years of restoration are in store; but someday this B-17E, the "Desert Rat," will be Airworthy Certified and will become one of the oldest B-17's to fly as a historical museum to shows around the country. Currently there are only ten airworthy B-17's in the world. Boeing built just under 13,000 of these famous Flying Fortresses.
MH: You’ve also assisted behind the scenes with the Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series. It was interesting to read that a classic movie starring James Stewart inspired your interest in plane restoration.
LJ: Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors and yes, he was also a B-17 pilot back in WWII. When I was a kid living on the West Side of Chicago in Humbolt Park during the 1960s, my mother took my brother and I downtown on the CTA bus (my mom did not have a driver’s license yet and we only had one car that dad used for work) to do some shopping on State Street and then we went to see the movie, The Flight of the Phoenix. I was instantly bit by the aviation bug after seeing this inspiring movie of survival in the middle of the Sahara Desert and being able to engineer and build a make-shift aircraft from surviving aircraft parts and fly out of there back to civilization.
MH: In addition to airplanes, you are a rocket historian with an expansive collection of memorabilia related to space flight, particularly autographs from the Apollo astronauts. You were the leader of a rocket launching team for St. Andrew’s Lutheran in Park Ridge. Could you tell us how you shared that passion with younger students? What was that experience like?
LJ: My experience of leading the students of the St. Andrews Rocket Team, ORION, was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Our team was able to qualify for the TARC National Finals out in Manassas, Virginia, five consecutive years and also earned a two-year contract to work with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Three students from our team also were awarded a summer internship with NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. One of the students actually got to work with the Engineers and Technicians on the Upper-stage Simulator of the Ares 1-X Rocket that NASA built and launched at Kennedy Space Center for the Constellation Program, which was eventually cancelled around the same time that the Space Shuttles were retired. Many of our students went on to careers in Aerospace, proving that promoting STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) works for success. Along the way of our six-year existence, we got to meet many famous people in person such as Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Shuttle astronauts, the Secretary of Defense, Scientists and Engineers. There are just volumes of things that went into this program.
MH: Over the years you and your family have been regular patrons at the Park Ridge Public Library. Could you tell us about a time when the Library was able to assist you in your interests or in your research?
LJ: The Park Ridge Public Library has always been a friendly and helpful access point for our family since our three children were very young. My wife would always bring our children to the Library and introduce them to all the great things that the Library and its staff have to offer. Whenever I needed to do some special research for our rocket team or aircraft restoration, the PRPL would always be there to help out.
MH: Do you have any new projects you’ll be working on when the world gets back to normal?
LJ: When we all get back to normal, which will happen hopefully sooner than later, I will always have several projects to catch up on or start. Never a dull moment I say. Each and every day of life is a Blessing, and I have always said to take advantage of that time; don't procrastinate or hold things off because sitting in your rocking chair years down the road you might look back and say, why didn't I do those things when I was able and had the chance?
MH: As a former first responder, do you have any advice for families trying to get through the current pandemic?
LJ: As a retired firefighter/paramedic my advice to get through this terrible pandemic is to listen to the scientists and use common sense when doing anything. Stay safe by staying away from groups of people. Enjoy your family by staying in your home and keeping the virus out until the storm has fully passed. Cover up when out in public and wash, wash and wash your hands thoroughly. In the fire service they teach us two important things before entering a situation: Scene Safety and Universal Precautions (PPE). Godspeed!
Essential Park Ridge
by Lauren Maloney
special guest contributor
The new language in this new world has included social distancing, shelter-in-place and non-contact delivery. Social distancing is hanging out together, while apart. Shelter-in-place is a Cold War term in a time of worry about nuclear fallout and now used for the worries of 2020. Non-contact delivery is a strange combination of a sanitized hand-off sprinkled with a little bit of ding dong ditch. Of all of the words we have been using for the last few months the most remarkable to me has been essential. I have never actually thought about this word before and now I think about it all day long. Is essential the same as important? Is it the same for each of us? Is it collective or individual?
I am watching my family, my job, and my community all redefine essential. Our high school and college seniors, needing essential credits and coursework for graduation, have had a breathtakingly abrupt end to their experience and now the final diploma is the singular focus. Senior citizens need essentials and this is day-to-day living, such as basic groceries and medicines and the essential access to them. At work, both companies and employees have had to be agile and transform communication and collaboration to the most essential and important. We have had to define restaurants and ice cream shops as essential but hair salons and the library as not essential—it seems so random but at the same time is so deliberate.
As the trajectory of the Coronavirus changes every day we are all reevaluating the essential parts of each day. Should I make a concentrated and focused trip to the store and make sure to avoid going near anyone? How can I schedule a work call and not use up all the internet in the house when five other people also have online meetings? Can I afford to donate masks to others if my family might need them ourselves? Each day is simultaneously stripped down but also filled up—the essence of each day takes place and we decide what random things from the fridge will go together for dinner, we help each other with e-learning and we wave at neighbors from a faraway distance.
Park Ridge has always had a uniqueness that is hard to describe. Those of us who have lived here for a while know we are both a hidden treasure and a shiny pearl. Everyone in the community is trying to find new ways to connect and innovate and we are doing amazing things here! There are hearts in the windows and candles on the front steps supporting healthcare workers. Some of us try to manage a husband in ongoing social media memes with Lori Lightfoot. We are all keeping kids busy with sidewalk chalk and notes to the elderly. The church bells toll for loved ones who are remembered. The Park Ridge Care Team has a volunteer network of helpers wanting to assist others, and neighbors and friends exchange food and staples to help each other get through all of this just a little bit longer.
Park Ridge will get through the challenges we face and will come out of this together to shine in the light on the other side. We will share ourselves (and share our toilet paper) and trust that we are essential to each other which is the most important thing we can do—not only now, but always.
Check the Library News section of our website and the Park Ridge Community Network website for a list of services and ways to stay connected to your community.
Staff Picks: The Stay-At-Home Edition!
Are you looking for an escape from Covid-TV? Here’s what the Park Ridge Public Library staff are watching when they’re not working:
Heidi, Library Director
Getting caught up on Outlander on Starz. I guess you could say I’m binge watching Gov. JB’s news conferences each day; Anne with an E on Netflix, just started Great News on Netflix, and Some Good News on Youtube:
I've been 'binge watching' movies from the 80s....they remind me of the happy years of my adolescence and transport me to simpler times—and also to a time when going to the mall or movie theater was just what we did! Some are good to watch as a family. Here is a list of what I have watched so far these past 3 weeks: Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Back to the Future Trilogy, Hoosiers, The Rookie, The Big Easy, St. Elmo's Fire, Pretty in Pink, My Own Private Idaho, Say Anything, Can't Buy Me Love, The Lost Boys
Claire, Children’s Services
Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow version, also highly recommend the latest version, you can rent on iTunes!), Legally Blonde, A Man Called Ove, Amelie, Ex Machina, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Return to Me, Mansfield Park, The Commitments, Shakespeare in Love
Mary, Children’s Services
Serendipity with John Cusack (2001 - an oldie but a goody); The Jim Gaffigan Show is available on hoopla and really good for a laugh!
Lisa, Children’s Services
I've been re-watching The Office, starting from the beginning. It is so bingy! I've been staying up way later than I should because I can't stop watching it. It's hilarious, the writing is impressive, and the characters are so lovable and endearing. I am also addicted to the show Little Fires Everywhere, with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Another binge-worthy one!
Lan, Children’s Services
Just discovered the series Four Weddings and a Funeral on Hulu. We're really enjoying it. It's rated MA but we watched it with our daughters (20 and 17).
Denise, Youth Services
Just went through hoopla and here are some of the movies that are on there that I love: 13 going on 30, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Zodiac, Room, Rent, Shakespeare in Love and Heathers. I have been binge watching The Good Fight which is on CBS All Access (which is offering 30 days for free right now!) It is the follow up to The Good Wife which you can also stream on CBS All Access or Hulu or Amazon Prime. You don't have to watch it first but if there is ever a time to jump into a 7 season show, this is it!
Jazmin, Patron Services
Devil's Knot, It's a Boy Girl Thing, and The Black Stallion
Alison, Patron Services
Dead Poets Society is one of my all-time favorite movies. Thirty years later, the scene where Robin Williams encourages his students to Seize the Day (Carpe Diem) with the reading of a poem by Robert Herrick still resonates with me. It’s available on Vudu right now.
Laura M., Patron Services
I have been watching comedies, This is Spinal Tap, The Money Pit, also on Amazon Prime The Man in the High Castle (excellent, still not done). Also, good old tv shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Plus British comedies like Fawlty Towers and we watched The Ladykillers. Good stuff!
Grace, Patron Services
Here are some shows I’ve been watching (and rewatching!) lately:
Gilmore Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Outlander, Queer Eye, Love is Blind, Veronica Mars, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, You, Sense8, Orphan Black, The 100, One Day at a Time
Zena, Reader Services
I Am Big Bird, a documentary about the life of Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who played Big Bird on Sesame Street.
Cathy, Reader Services
Downton Abbey, Father Brown, 800 words, Shetland, Hinterland, Doc Martin, Poirot, etc. Mostly the Brits!
Sarah R., Reader Services
I've been watching The Great British Baking Show (5 seasons available on hoopla).
Rachel, Reader Services
Here's what I am binging: Tiger King (Netflix) Isn't everyone? Could not stop. Killing Eve (Hulu) Can't get enough of Villanelle and Eve. Have to close my eyes sometimes -- it's so dark and fun. The third season is being released early -- yay! Picard (free trial CBS All Access), because Star Trek gives me all the feels. Devs (Hulu): Thoughtful and mysterious science fiction.
Currently streaming Tiger King on Netflix. Insane people doing insane things, but lots of cute animals.
All on hoopla -British tv series The Detectorists, quirky fun comedy of two friends searching for treasure using their metal detectors, Star Trek movies, Doctor Strange and Doctor Who comics, and if you search under Disney Classics, you can find many illustrated picture books with narration option.
Marvel Runaways, Tiger King, Castle Rock, The Outsider
We binged the show Hunters on Amazon Prime.
Bob, Patron Services
I have a few TV shows from Canada that I am fond of. Anne with an E is a current production of the Anne of Green Gables story and is available on Netflix. Kim's Convenience is a funny show about a Korean family living in Toronto who own a small store. It is also available on Netflix. Murdoch Mysteries and Frankie Drake Mysteries are both shows about detectives set in Toronto around 1900 and the 1920's, respectively. Both are in the PRPL DVD collection.
Instant Librarian: Introducing Live Chat
Need immediate assistance? Do you have questions about our online resources, your library card account, or maybe you just want to know more about the 2020 Census? You can now reach us via live chat on our website or via phone at 847-825-3123 every day from Noon to 6 p.m. Get help with downloads, databases and more in an instant with this live support feature! Our building may be closed now, but the Virtual Library is open for business. Staff are working to keep you connected—and informed—during this challenging time.
Have a general question and not sure where it should be directed? No worries! Chats will be re-directed to the appropriate department. Can’t get into Libby? Maybe it’s an overdue fee that is preventing access, so talk to us and someone from Patron Services will look into it. Need some guidance with that homeschool syllabus? A Children’s librarian will direct you. Live chat is quick and convenient. Like magic genies in the bottle, all your favorite librarians will appear in real time!
“What I love about the live chat capability is that it's a way for us to connect with library patrons and the Park Ridge community while still allowing us to be safe and take care of our own families,” said Staci Greenwald, Manager of Children’s Services. “This is such an unusual time for all of us! As a library, where so much of our service feels rooted to the building, this is a great opportunity for us to show everyone that we are more than just a building full of books. We connect people with information, technology, entertainment, books (of course), and each other. Chat is just one more way for us to stay connected.”
In addition to live chat, you can reach us by phone or email. If you do send us something after hours, we will get back to you the following day. For more about our online question service or how to reach each department by email, please visit our website: https://www.parkridgelibrary.org/