Culture, Science

Birthday Buzz

        Why did Benjamin Franklin think it a good idea to fly a kite in the rain? And why did he further believe that tying a key to the kite string was a helpful experiment?
        Never understanding the whole event, I learned that he really was determined to prove that lightning was electricity. The kite string was hemp, which was soaking wet in the rain, but contrary to many depictions of Franklin standing, drenched to the ears, in the middle of a field, he was not. He was standing dry in the doorway of a barn, where he was holding onto a dry piece of silk string tied to the wet hemp. He tied the key to the hemp.
        What happened next is important in preserving life. As the winds tore around the kite, it collected static electricity that was transmitted down the wet hemp cord. When the charge began to accumulate, Franklin saw that the strands of the hemp bristled like a brush. Impressed, he moved to touch the key with his knuckle, and got a little buzz for his curiosity. This was enough for him to conclude that there was electricity in the air around the kite. Had he hung in there for a lightning strike, he would have been a cindered lump, incapable of later writing up his findings.
        I present the true events of this mythical story because I am not good with electricity. I do not understand the relationship between amperes and watts and volts. I have experience with volts, but limited at that.
        I hate electric shocks. Like scrubbing across the living room rug and zapping yourself on the stereo. Once, I stepped out of my car and the shock was so strong I nearly welded my hand to the door. I cannot imagine the blind temerity of electric car owners who drive about, sitting on top of twelve hundred pounds of lithium battery, the same stuff that spontaneously ignites laptops and cell phones in one’s pocket.
        My electric experience was early in life, but indelible. There was a time in history, before the advent of digital cameras, that I was charged with taking a family picture at a birthday party. The flash extension on my camera used disposable flash bulbs. As the crowd grouped together, I called cheese, and at the critical moment of a united smile, the flash did not work.
        So off I went to the photographic shop—remember those? With the old flash battery in hand, I entered the store, and placed it on the counter. It was a small metal cube about the size of a thimble. The girl across from me looked at it.
        “I think it’s dead. Can you test it?”
        “Yes sir,” she responded and pulled out a contraption with wires and a needle under a plastic window, “let’s see what we’ve got.”
        The needle wavered lethargically.
        “Yep, you need a new battery. This one’s flatter than a hat on a highway,” she smiled.
        But I wasn’t so sure. “Just hang on,” I said. “What if I just do the old taste test?” With that I placed the little cube on the tip of my tongue, and touched its other end with my finger. It felt a little warm on the tongue, which meant the battery still had some juice.
        “I think it still might be good.”
        She looked at me like I might stick a pen into an outlet, or put my thumb into a light socket. “No, it’s dead. You need a new one.”
        “Well, just wait,” I countered, and lifted the battery again to my mouth. “Let’s give it another go.”   With that said, I touched my tongue to the bottom of the battery, but inadvertently my lip touched the other end.
        Shazowee!!
        The shock arced through my brain like a giant blinding klieg light with tinsel exploding in all directions. For a moment my eyes froze wide open like Buick hubcaps in a car show: bright, spinning and impossibly shiny. I had never seen stars before. The jolt was so strong I nearly swallowed the battery. Then my eyes slammed shut and I spat the battery onto the counter. It skidded to a rest beside her calculator.
        “You okay?” she asked, incredulous. I jiggled my head.  My mouth was limp.
        “Could you teth it again? I hink it thill hath thome juith lef.”
        She picked up the little brute and studied it closely, and then the tester.  “Oh! No wonder,” she chuckled. “It’s fifteen volts. I set it for one and a half! Hah! Sorry!”
        I pointed out that you can start a Mack truck with twelve volts. She tested it again, and it registered “replace”. I took her word for it, and bought a new battery, which was egregiously expensive I thought.
        “Eight bucks?? That’s adding insult to injury,” I protested.
        “Would you like to test it?” she countered.
        “Ha ha. Wrap it up.”
        I stomped out of the store and returned to the party which was in full session. I had missed the cake and candles, and the ice cream was relaxing in a pool at the bottom of a crystal serving dish. I installed the battery, and again herded the partiers to the couch for the birthday shot. Everyone retrieved their smile. The camera clicked, but no flash. A collective groan followed.
        “Hey maybe you bought a dead battery!”
        “Yeah, did you test it?”
        “Yeah, why don’t you test it now?”
        “Yeah, just put it on your tongue…”
        I cut them all off.   “We are going outside to the picnic table, now!” I instructed. “Out! Out! And when we’re done, you can all go fly a kite!”




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Culture, Economics, Marketing

Along The Amazon: The Real Invasion

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug: perennial invader.

For the two previous summers, our community has been infiltrated by legions of quietly intrusive stinkbugs.  They seemed to magically appear, just out of the corner of our eyes, posing on a wall or lampshade.  

Amazon Prime van passes the broken shell of a Macy’s store.

Little did we know that these were just the first wave, doing reconnaissance for the main invasion: Amazon. Now, virtually on every street, at every corner, we catch a glimpse of an Amazon delivery truck slipping in and out of view.

Amazon first broke into our consciousness in 1995 with a simple concept: a place to buy books online.  Their ads claimed access to all of the world’s contemporary literature available, and their warehouse was in outer space, “The World’s Biggest Bookstore”.  We might have listened.

Today Amazon is the world’s second largest company, by market capitalization, following Microsoft, and just ahead of Apple.  It has the world’s second largest retail sales volume, following Walmart.  

Barbarians at the gate: Amazon vans use shuttered Macy’s parking lot in Northbrook, IL.

It has up-ended the retail business model.  In 1997 3% of its sales were attributed to third party sellers.  Today, 58% of its sales come from third party.    In response, 2019 saw the closing of 9,300 big brand retail stores in the U.S.  The shift will continue.

The most physical sense of Amazon’s presence is its growing fleet of delivery vans.  In 2019, Fedex and UPS and the United States Postal Service delivered approximately 13.9 billion parcels in the United States.    But on its own, Amazon dropped 2.5 billion pieces at our doors.  According to Morgan Stanley, that will increase to 6.2 billion in the next 3 years.

The Amazon convoy. Dispatched regularly in 10-15 vehicle sorties on Butterfield Road.

I remark on these stats primarily because we watch the daily procession of Amazon trucks that travel Butterfield Highway, between Libertyville and Mundelein. The company has leased space to stage its fleet in an available lot on Technology Way on Libertyville’s west side.   There, independent owners and employees are regularly dispatched in squads of 10-15 vehicles at a time to head south to Allanson Road in Mundelein where they will pick up their allotted parcels for delivery.  The system is efficient, and it is supported by a good road, courtesy of Lake County.

Staging area in west Libertyville.

Just over the Illinois/Wisconsin Line, there is a vast Amazon distribution center off of US Route 94.  It measures several football fields in size, plus parking lot.  Not coincidentally, directly across the highway sits an equally large U-Line facility that makes shipping boxes. One wonders if there is a tunnel.  According to Amazon’s 2018 statements, the company has 230 million square feet of fulfillment space.  Its premises house nearly 650,000 employees.  One might also wonder how many of those people used to work for Sears, Macy’s, Pier One Imports, Abercrombie & Fitch, Office Depot, Victoria’s Secret, The Gap, and Payless Shoes.

This is not a critique of Amazon in any way.  The company’s mission statement is in part to serve a “customer-centric obsession”.  To that end, it has grown from simply books to sales of more than 100 million items.  Its website lists not a few business diversifications, but a vast portfolio of divisions relating to fashion, video streaming, groceries, pharmaceuticals, publishing, music, movies, web services, home automation and home security.

We can mourn the loss of the local store, but we have gravitated toward a business model that for much of our wants and needs, is just plain easy.

I wish I could feel as good about the stink bugs. 

 

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Entertainment, Culture, childhood

Down At The Rink – 3

The Delhi Arena: Home of the Ice Carnival

The Delhi arena was our community center. It housed our public skating in winter and summer, our hockey teams, our figure skaters, our bike races, wrestling matches and the odd magic show.  But chief among its attractions was the Ice Carnival, that happened every March.

Small towns like Delhi enjoy a trait you can’t find in a big city: togetherness.  The Ice Carnival brought together hundreds of parents, children, fans, performers, business leaders, round-the-corner store owners, and just as many more contributors who worked tirelessly in the background, unknown to many of us as they mobilized for this annual event.

Juniors in full clown get-up.

The Delhi Figure Skating Club put on the Ice Carnival. This was the capstone to four months of figure skating instruction.  Youngsters would show up every Wednesday afternoon to learn the basics of skating.  They scrabbled over weak ankles and catchy toe picks that tripped them every time they moved.  Yet four months later, they had mastered forwards, backwards, modest hops and skips, and skating hand in hand with their groups.   The Intermediate and Senior skaters appeared on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, and had learned or polished their ability to execute spins and mid-air jumps, dances in pairs and precise figures.

Fulfilling the dream of being the next star on ice.

All of these accomplishments were the fulfillment of many parents’ dreams of one day seeing their child be the next Karen Magnussen or Toller Cranston.  But in the short term, they would be happy just to see them applauded as a star on ice, and that’s what the carnival promised.

The themes generated ideas for costumes and duets.

Every year the DFSC would choose a theme.  Maybe one time it was Peter Pan, or Wizard of Oz.  The musical Gypsy was nominated one year.  Other times it was Deep In The Heart of Texas, Nutcracker and Aladdin. The theme became the platform for choosing characters which might be Munchkins, or gum drops, Tinkerbell, scarecrows, clowns, broncos, cowgirls, roughnecks, roses, skunks, elephants, pink panthers, candy canes, Belles of The Ball, you name it.

It was a war effort of volunteerism, sewing 100’s of costumes.

The carnival ignited a war effort of volunteerism.  The juniors show would require possibly 200 costumes.  And for each of these, a mother would get a pattern which might be for a teddy bear, to be sewn in three segments.  If she couldn’t deliver, there were sewing dynamos who were skater mothers like Jackie Byron, Hazel Osborne, Yvonne Kelleher, Georgette Rapai, Marjorie Klein who would bang out ten teddy bear costumes, or fifteen skunks with stuffed tails, as long as you brought the material.

A milk maid with her charges.

The theme was rounded out with backdrop and props. Moms and dads would show up to staple 40-inch tin foil around the entire boards of the rink, and string electric lights.   Under the direction of Gord Franklin, sheets of plywood and lengths of 2x4s would appear, and were pounded into scenery walls across the back end of the rink.  Teams of painters would arrive with buckets of tempera to draw forests, and houses, and oil wells, windmills and whimsical street scenes.

Odd man out: boys were in high demand.

Truly, if there were 200 skaters in the carnival, there were 200 parents who helped sew, paint, build and deliver.  One year we required 30 tambourines for a big number.  With some ingenuity Cy Stapleton acquired enough steel pie plates into which he cut and welded flattened, perforated bottle caps that rattled raucously.  Not quite symphonic, but still impressive.

A Swiss Miss with smiling escort.

The music was key for the Ice Carnival.  Under the direction of Floyd Thomas, the Delhi Band would practise and perform perhaps 20 different tunes and bumper segments to bring our solos, dances and parades to life.

The Delhi Community Band delivered sound and rhythm to mobilize the acts.

Meanwhile at the business end of the production, every skater was assigned a group of tickets to sell. These challenges were as daunting as a walk to the principal’s office.  Neighbourhoods were canvassed door-to-door by mumbling, addled urchins with handfuls of card-sized tickets, going for $2,$3,$4 each.  We were exhorted to get them all sold, or don’t come home.

Elves waiting backstage for their cue.

As the day approached, dress rehearsals were convened, and under the stressful din of our instructors we were given our routines. The Juniors were herded in groups of ten or fifteen. Their performance consisting of a couple tours around the ice, perhaps a rotating ring or parade of bunny hops.  The more accomplished were picked to do solos.  The soloists usually got exclusive costumes with more colors or frills or trim.  They were stars.

The girls were dressed in sequins, gloves and tiaras.

The intermediates and seniors had more complex routines to maneuver and there were more opportunities for truly gifted skaters to create and perform solos and duets, showing off impressive turns, spins, jumps and speed. They looked special, and the crowds loved them.

There were always a few dance numbers.  A dozen or more seniors would waltz around the ice while the band played.  The Averys, a very senior and elegant visiting couple would skate the equivalent of a ballroom dance, dressed in tails and evening gown.   They glided around the rink, gracefully, classy, smiling and  wowing the audience with their apparent ease on ice.

The guys grabbed all the comedy routines, in ridiculous outfits.

Ice Carnivals also provided comic humour, and the few remaining senior guys, Paul and George Rapai, Skip Lumley, Mike Byron, Chris Brown, Rob Lammens, contributed. The crowds enjoyed their romps in weird cow costumes, throwing confetti into the bleachers, riding steel wash buckets, pedaling two-seated bicycles backwards on tacked tires, skipping rope and lassoing each other.

The Precision Line on ice was spectacular, and good.

One legacy of the Ice Carnival was its famous precision line.  While most of us at the time did not know of the Rockettes, it was certainly the model after which the senior girls and ladies were instructed. Thirty or more would appear in stunning short-skirted outfits, embellished with ruffles, ribbon, sequins and gloves to dazzle the crowd with powerful confident moves in unison, rocking and skating to the up tempo sounds from the band.  They circled, counter-circled, wiggled and swayed, and finally lined up to deliver a jaw-dropping kick line forwards and backwards.  The precision team became a show piece in the region for years after under the direction of Karen Haskins.

Wizard of Oz, in full dress.

All of these things are indelibly etched in my memory for the years that I participated.  The experience of putting on a show, the excitement and tension of huddling behind a backdrop, surrounded by giggling groups of pretty girls, goofy guys dressed in party gear and faces smeared in grease paint, lipstick and Nivea cold creme like Mardi Gras, waiting for a cue…and the music would start up, the lights dimmed, the spots went on, out we went, and the crowds would cheer… it was a special time.

Thanks for reading and sharing!  I hope you too remember a special time when you were down at the rink!

 

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childhood, Culture, Sports

Down At The Rink 2

The Delhi Arena, In An Uncommon Quiet Moment

Down at the rink there was a constant stream of guys from youngsters to teens who slogged in and out, all winter, with bags of equipment, tapes, pucks, pads, skates and sticks.  They came at all the hours of the day and night.

In this small hockey-crazy town, how did I end up in the figure-skating club?

Of all the gifts my parents bestowed, this was the one that took the longest to understand.  But whether it was their intention to produce a figure skater, or just to keep me occupied, I eventually saw the light.  And it was dazzling.

Barbara Ann Scott, 1948 Olympic Gold Medalist for Canada

My parents moved to Delhi in 1948 and in a short time took a lead role in starting the Delhi Figure Skating Club. It was the same year Canada’s Sweetheart, Barbara Ann Scott, won the Olympics. This may have been Dad’s idea, but Mom would have pushed him along, and with the help of those many post-war friends who landed in this small tobacco-growing community, the DFSC was born.  It drew widespread endorsement, especially by parents whose daughters couldn’t play hockey.   Within a couple of years there was a long list of members aged 7-70 who came to the rink on Wednesdays and Saturdays to cut figure 8s, do steps, spins and jumps and dance in wavy processions around the rink.  You might say it was a little Arthur Murray mixed up with some chilly ballet.

CCM skates, built tough for hockey.

While all my friends went the hockey route, I went figure skating, primarily because it was my ride home.  So, I owned a pair of black, shin-high laced skates with long, slim silver blades with chiseled picks on the toes.  My buds all had CCM hockey skates: black with brown trim, yellow laces, reinforced tendon guards, and wide, hard, puck-stopping steel blades riveted into the soles. Their scarred and dented toes resembled miners’ helmets. Mine shone like OPP boots.  There couldn’t be a greater contrast between the two sports.

Or could there?

The girls came in numbers: a serendipitous awakening.

In fact, I discovered in figure skating that for every boy there were at least five girls. This may have been the unintended consequence of my membership, but it was a serendipitous awakening that I have never regretted, much less forgotten.

In the earliest of my stumbling skating career as a Junior, I wandered around crowds of other newbies on the ice, learning to push out for forward and butt-wiggle for reverse.  Once ice-friendly we graduated to Intermediates where we attempted three-turns and hops like little bunnies in the snow.  We raised our legs and arms for spirals, imitating clumsy birds landing on the feeder.  I perfected the nose-plant.

Paul Rapai, Marion Pitts, Suzanne Klein, Skip Lumley nailed it.

In the midst of my imperfect executions however, there were some real stars.  Paul Rapai, Suzanne Klein, Skip Lumley, Marion Pitts, Jack Kellum, Mary Ann Coyle, Nora Marie VanHove–these older kids were excellent skaters. Gifted with balance, strength and grace, they captivated their audience, both those of us on the fringes, and the adoring crowds on the benches.  They had nailed it.

But as a 12-year-old, I found the boy numbers had thinned, my skating buds had evaporated to the hockey track, and I was accompanied by a few guys who hung on, to witness like I did, that we were surrounded by girls. It was a stunning, magical, delirious moment for an addled kid who until then had been happiest with a pellet gun in the woods.

The girls always dressed up for figure skating.  They wore colourful toques, scarves, furry ear muffs, white gloves or mitts, smart tunics and on occasion, impossibly short skirts and tanned tights.  They had immaculate white skates with bows or jingle bells laced into the toes.  To a one, they had fresh rosy cheeks and bright eyes, lovely curls and some even sported earrings.  In the middle of a cold grey winter I had somehow stumbled into a warm, sunny bakeshop at Easter.

Chris Brown, Bunny Klein. Boys came at premium in the DFSC.

The task of serious figure skating still advanced however.  We were now instructed in drawing crisp, neat figure 8s on our outside and inside edges.  My 8s looked like shaky ampersands. We learned to launch into the air with 3-jumps.  Mine looked like 4s and scratchy 5s.  A simple cutback into a spin left me doodling aimlessly, slowing to a halt after one rotation.  In short, I was a figure skating klutz.

And I was treated that way, pretty much.  But still there were high points.  In the annual competitions I could draw a bronze medal for third place because there were only two other guys in the field.  But best of all, I was indispensable as a dance partner.  We needed boys to partner with girls to perform dances.  So I may have been a solo wash-out, but I truly learned to deliver a passable Dutch Waltz, a Swing Dance, or my favourite, the Canasta Tango.

These dances guaranteed a pairing, arm in arm, hand in hand, eye to eye, with some of the prettiest girls Delhi had.  We strode around the ice to orchestra tapes of Perfidia, Blue Moon, Wonderful Copenhagen… it was surreal, exciting and riveting all at once.  While I may not have ever shared a social word with these girls at school, on the ice it was a joint challenge to perform, and that seemed the winning ticket.

While my hockey friends were scrambling and whooping around the ice like scrappy junkyard dogs, slamming the boards and crossing sticks, I was gliding along smooth arcs, laughing and talking our way through a complicated foot-move in time to Andre Kostelanetz.  While the guys were groaning in the sweaty change rooms breathing the high-sulphur coal-heated air, I was enchanted by the occasional wafts of Breck shampoo, Noxzema and Juiceyfruit gum.   How bad was that?

The ice carnival, exciting, enchanting, memorable.

The climax of the skating season however was the Ice Carnival.  This was the DFSC’s presentation to the town.  It was a top-tier war effort, and in addition to its spectacular performance, the carnival was, to many of us, the most exciting and enchanting event of the season.

More, next week.

 

 

 

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Cars, childhood, Culture, Government, Legal

The Nose Count

“Opinions are like noses: everybody’s got one,” which is what one of my best bosses ever advised me. And so it is, the 2nd Appellate justices reviewed the Libertyville appeal, buttressed by eloquent oral arguments, and came to the opinion: “No dice.”

Our appeal to reverse the Lower Court Judge Michael Fusz’ ruling was refused. The ruling stands. The Archdiocese of Chicago may now expect the Village to re-zone the 40-acre lot on Butterfield for residential building, and along with that, allow the final plats to be submitted and approved for building the 148-units which were proposed in 2017.

This of course is subject to the Village Board’s acceptance of the decision, which will be deliberated in the next few weeks.

There is no upside to predicting future events. However, if there is an upside of any sort, it is that the proposed development still has to respect and comply to the fifty-plus requirements which the Village planning department had stipulated two years ago. And that is assuming that there is a developer who still is eager to pursue the enterprise.

Putting it all aside, we hang on to the original objections to the development as values and concerns the neighborhood held about this development. We hope that the Village departments will remember these too.

Chief among our concerns today is the forecasted population of 150 children who will live and play a stone’s throw distant from Butterfield School, and its magnificent and inviting playing fields. They are there within sight, viewed from the opposite side of a 4-lane Butterfield highway.

Hindsight is perfect vision. While the Village focused on the difficulties in local motorists making left turns out onto Butterfield, little light was shed on the dangers of pedestrian traffic– young kids, minors, venturing across the highway over which 24,000 cars speed through at 47 mph. every day.  The lower court judge never heard that insight, and the opportunity to remind him now is moot.

However, the developer will still have that, among many other hurdles to pass before the shovels go into operation.  We will wait to see what the Board chooses to do next, and how the parties involved will respond.

Thanks for reading and sharing, loyal Butterfield Friend and Neighbor.  We will see how it all works out!

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childhood, Culture, Sports

Down At The Rink-1

The Delhi Arena, our sports center year round.

If it wasn’t for the Delhi Arena, most of our youth would have been spent watching TV. But as it turned out, the “rink” was the birthplace of our skaters, hockey players, and curlers. It was also the winter playground where we grew up, showed up, showed off, fought, danced, laughed, spectated, spat, scraped, yelled, screamed and inexorably, became self aware.

The building was the largest and tallest in Delhi, a cinder block fortress with a vast yawning wooden frame roof. Below were two rows of wooden-backed  spectator benches painted in bold reds and blues. Sitting in these, one could look up and wonder at the ceiling. Massive multi-ply planking formed the immense rafters in a parabolic curve that supported tons of shiplap and asphalt roofing tiles.

A modular wooden track is installed for bike races.

Under the rafters, there were hangers and struts arranged in geometric, weight-sharing designs.  These were bolted into the 120-foot wooden joists that stretched the width of the rink.   The walls were held together by penetrating steel rods that crossed the expanse twenty feet above our heads. One could only marvel at the steeple jacks that created this edifice.   And suspended in the middle, at center ice was a four-sided game clock and score box, sponsored by Players cigarettes, that was large enough to house a two-story chicken coop.  Fully automated, it could record Home and Visitor teams scores, count to twenty minutes, and blast a brash game-over siren that was unmistakable.

Here was every Delhi kid’s excuse to get out of the house.  We had a raucous, robust minor hockey league that was a rite of passage for boys.  Typically, we were up before 7am on a Saturday, grabbing a breakfast, and then hiking down to the rink.

For most of us, standard equipment included flimsy little shoulder pads, hardly more protective than a grilled cheese sandwich.  Plastic kneepads, held up by rubber Mason Jar rings, were worn under our jeans, or if we were devoted to the sport, inside Canadiennes or Maple Leaf socks. Most of us had huge sweaters,  hockey pants and suspenders.  We stuffed the whole kit with our skates into a burlap potato sack, and slinging that over our hockey stick, shouldered our gear along streets, alleys and wooded paths, over Big Creek, and down to the rink.

One of Delhi’s many All Star rep teams, courtesy of Vandenbussche Irrigation and The Knights of Columbus.

The rep teams, the All-Stars, had company-sponsored jerseys and played their games in the evenings and weekends, at home and away.   Our rink hosted future hockey royalty too, when a championship match included a young 12-year-old Wayne Gretzky.   He glided across our ice like a jet, maybe aware of what was to come.

But the rep game was far beyond my mediocre skills, intuition or strength, so I spent my hockey hours on Saturday mornings chasing runaway pucks, bouncing off the boards, picking myself up, with occasional wobbling shots aimed at scrambling goalies.

The highlight was Sunday at the rink when our Junior B team, the Rocket 88s would take on a visiting team from neighbouring towns, like Simcoe and Waterford and Tilsonburg, all within 10 miles of Delhi.  The 88s were named for their sponsor, Wills Motors which proudly sold Oldsmobiles.  These games were the quintessential celebration of small town spirit.  500-600 fans would fill the wooden seats and cheer the 88s for every goal, upset and penalty called.

Wills Motors named their team the Rocket 88s for the classic Oldsmobile.

As kids, we ran up and down the concrete aisles, popping empty paper Dixie Cups under our heels, razzing the visiting team behind their bench, banging the boards with broken hockey sticks, scarfing down hot chocolate and cups of salted french fries.  The fans roared for our hometown heroes like Rolly Thibault, Bob Sabatine, Tony Benko, Earl O’Neil, Dan Barrett and Joe Kelly, who was rumored to be Red Kelly’s cousin, but we never knew for sure.  And beside home bench, sat Dr. Ron McCallum, the team’s very own, who eyed every shot, and high stick for a possible injury.

Worthy of note, the ice hockey back then was different from today: no head gear, including the goalie, and no fights.

Between periods there was a solemn procession that never varied.  A cadre of older teen age guys had earned the right to shovel the ice.  This was in the pre-Zamboni era.  About ten of them split into two teams, and would push heavy steel shovels up and down the length of the rink in formation like Canada geese.  The shaved ice would flow off the first shovel onto the one beside and back a few paces, until it had cascaded across 5 or 6 blades.

Hockey the way it used to be: no helmets, masks or fights.

The shovelers had a uniform, too.  Not with stripes or corporate sponsoring, but just as important.  They were on display.  It would be a flight jacket or heavy windbreaker, zipped half way up the chest to reveal a plaid flannel shirt open at the collar displaying a white t-shirt.  The jacket collar was always turned up.  Their hair was slick and groomed to perfection. The uniform called for jeans that were draped into black rubber wellingtons with orange trim, folded down to reveal about 4 inches of the boot’s canvas lining.  An acceptable alternative was the zipped rubber boot which by consensus must be unzipped down to the toes so that the boots’ collars flapped open like Batman’s cape.

The game clock, courtesy of Imperial Tobacco’s Players cigarettes.

After circling the rink, the two shovel teams corralled all the shaved ice into the middle lane.  There, in the grande finale, they would cup the snow into one pile and all ten shovelers would push the shavings out the back door of the rink.   They didn’t return, but it’s likely they paused for a smoke out back as the crowds waited inside for the next act.

It was very special.   A small, quiet, older gentleman with silver hair, Ivan, would apply a new surface to the ice.  Before Zamboni, ice makers rigged up a 45-gallon drum filled with steaming hot water.  It was mounted on two black rubber tires, and had two 6-foot-pipe outriggers that oozed hot water through toweling onto the ice.  Ivan wore steel cleats.  He would carefully pull his contraption along the scarred and riddled surface, and opening the valves a tad, create a smooth satin sheen before us.  Ivan could resurface the entire rink in about ten minutes, under the watchful eyes of impatient ’88 fans who couldn’t help but notice the “Vandenbussche Irrigation” sign displayed on a tent over the drum.

The rink was the town’s sports center, in use all year.  It hosted bicycle races, wrestling matches, roller skating, a little curling – and hockey, for sure.  But that was only part of the program.  The rink had figure skating too, which was magical, and wildly exciting in another way I can’t begin to tell you now.  A weird place for a guy to show up, but there I was.

More to follow, next week.

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Culture, Government, Legal

Red Light-Green Light

The Church’s 148-Unit Subdivision continues to bubble.

Libertyville: The Village had its day in court this morning, with a brisk Q&A between a panel of three appellate court justices and two lawyers who represented both sides of the debate– “Did the lower court make a mistake when it green-lighted the Church’s plans to build a 148-unit subdivision on Butterfield Road?”

As you can guess, the proposed answers were, “yes” and “no”.

As you will recall, in February 2019, the Lake County 19th Circuit court held in favor of the Church that their development could go ahead. The court ruled that the Village could offer no credible proof that the traffic on Butterfield would be dangerous to the health and safety of Libertyville residents. This ruling hinged on the court’s belief that Lake Street at Butterfield Road would not be a dangerous intersection, and that the development’s single access point further south would also not be dangerous to residents entering and exiting the development.

Inherent in that decision was the court found the Village had been unreasonable and capricious in refusing to change the zoning of the area to accommodate the development.

Northbound traffic on Butterfield: tough for left turns.

The Village chose to appeal this ruling.  It’s reversible, on the basis that the developer had not complied with the Village’s subdivision code. The code is steeped in engineering and planning requirements, out of which bubbles a concern for our health and welfare. To wit: traffic is dangerous.

The 2nd Appellate Court is located on the banks of the Fox River in Elgin, Illinois just off route 25, and south of I-90.  It’s a well-dressed building with free parking and pretty efficient entry, unlike Lake County’s 9th Circuit Court in Waukegan where parking is iffy, conflict is more apparent and real, and the justice is being dispensed retail.

Inside the Elgin courthouse you can see large, high-ceilinged courtrooms, paneled in cherry, with a raised bench for the three black-gowned justices.  A foot lower is the single-miked podium and desk for the attorney.  There is ample desk space to lay out volumes of material.  But frankly, not enough time to use it all.  The counter-space could afford two attorneys lying nose-to-nose in a final thumb wrestle if necessary.  The court room also provided for a couple visitor rows.  Interesting to note, there is no steno taking minutes of the proceedings.

What the courthouse does enjoy however is the continual train whistles echoing across the Fox as the freights labor their way back and forth, oblivious to the closed-door grumbling and pleading going on just yards away.

The justices–who commendably had prepped by reading the Village’s 3,000-page appeal statement, plus review the lower court’s 8 days of testimony and final decision– peppered the Village with questions. In 15 minutes, the basic question was formulated, “Where in the lower court trial did the Village ever talk about the subdivision code, while instead only testifying to the traffic safety issue?”

Our response was that the Church never complained about the subdivision code, only the negative zoning decision. So that’s all we defended against.

With that established, the Church’s attorney stepped forward to bat away the justices’ questions. These generally focused on any challenges or approvals that might alert the developer to change plans to comply. “No, in fact we were agreeing to comply, or getting approvals in every negotiation of a planned development. A planned development allows for Village and developer to side-step zoning rules in favor of creative alternatives. For example, narrow alleys and no driveways with small lots provide room for more open space for all residents.”

Following that 15 minute dialogue, the Village attorney resumed for a 5-minute rebuttal where again he re-iterated that both zoning compliance and subdivision code had to be upheld, and that the lower court ruling should be reversed.

The chief justice then closed the session with a promise to find a decision. No time-line was offered, but outside the court, we heard it could take months.

When I asked the Village’s attorney to sum up our position, that despite the Planned Development process, both the Zoning Ordinance and the Subdivision Code both had to be upheld, to paraphrase, he observed: “You can’t have one without the other.  You can’t plead innocence to the judge that you were obeying the speed limit while you ran the red light.”

 

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