Civil War Days

Saturday was a beautiful day for a trip to the annual Civil War Days at Naper Settlement in Naperville, Illinois. As we entered the Civil War era camp, we noticed the crude replica tents the re-enactors set up to sleep in, as well as the wonderful aroma of around 50 campfires (most with meat hanging above). Hundreds of re-enactors were busy with their rustic way of life; some brought their babies swaddled in 1800 cloth.

The battle re-enactment was great. We were forced to stand behind five or six rows of people, but we were able to see just fine. The battle used black powder muskets and era cannons which filled the air with light gray smoke. I couldn't imagine how smoke-filled a civil war battlefield would have been given the huge amount of smoke these few guns put out in such a small period of time. It must have been almost impossible to see anything. During the larger battles of the Civil War, it has been said that so much sulfur was released into the air that after a few days of fighting, the sulfur would seed the clouds and rain would begin to fall.

Here's a shot of a single Union soldier - notice the fire exiting the barrel of the musket (but please don't notice the guy taking his picture in the background)!

Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin

A quick visit to Carthage College for a copyright workshop turned into a 4 1/2 hour drive in heavy Chicago traffic. I gave myself three hours to drive less than 100 miles on interstates and I probably averaged 20 miles per hour! What a headache.

The conference was informative, and I was able to take a few quick shots of Lake Michigan and some Carthage landmarks on my lunch break.
Lake Michigan Shoreline Kenosha, Wisconsin

The conference was in the main library which had an auditorium seemingly equipped for performances and perhaps videography.

Hedberg Library, Carthage College

The Kissing Rock is a landmark of Carthage College. Click on this link to read about its history. It has been painted many many times by students and organizations. It appears this time it was painted black and colorful feathers were stuck to it. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with the fact that Carthage removed the feathers from its logo last year, or if it's just supposed to be pretty. Maybe someone will comment....

Kissing Rock


Part of growing up on the south side of Chicago was spent shopping along Archer Avenue, between Kedzie Ave. and California Ave. This was before Walmart and all the others became so prominent.

I can remember "Archer Avenue Big Store" a department store that took up a good portion of the block just north of Sacramento Avenue. This was an old fashioned, private owned department store with worn out hardwood floors, and wide terrazo stairs leading to the lower level. I spent most of my time on the lower level looking at the toys when I was young, and then graduated to the decorations and housewares around Christmastime as I grew up. I purchased my first set of miniature Christmas lights for $3.99 sometime around 1979. Before then, most Christmas lights I knew of used the large, colored glass bulbs, so it was a treat to get a set of the tiny ones.

Another well known store on this section of Archer was Neisner's, a variety store that sold everything from greeting cards to mothballs, clothes to vases. The old five and dime with a lunch counter! Where have those days gone?

My mother would take us there for lunch occationally, where we would sit at the counter on the swivel stools attached to the floor and watch the cook make our lunch. The long Formica counter held a variety of juice fountains that cycled the different colored juice to the top of the clear, rectangular container where it dripped down the sides creating a fountain of juice. Soft drinks were served in paper cone cups placed inside aqua colored plastic holders similar to the ones shown here. conecupsodacup1When the cup was in the holder, an hourglass shape was created. Using a straw to get the last drops of juice out of the pointed end of the cone cup made a lot of noise!

After lunch it was off to the toy department! I still have a little red firetruck, Santa Clause figure and assorted other toys and decorations from that store. Neisner's had some other prominent features of dime stores of the time: A photo booth where you could get six pictures for a quarter; a record bin where you could get a 45 rpm record for under $1, and an original stamped tin ceiling complete with tin crown moulding.

Neisner's closed in the early 1980's, but was replaced with another variety store called McCrory's. I worked there for about seven years from high school and through college; it was close to home and a fun place to work. While ripping out some old shelves in the store basement, I found the cast iron Neisner's sign that was originally mounted on the brick facade of the building.

The sign is about 14 inches long and weighs at least three pounds. It's part of my small collection of things from the past that I won't part with.

5 cents to a dollar? Where can you buy anything anymore for 5 cents?

The "Right" Way to Look at Things


Here's a sign I ran across while driving in Lockport, Illinois.
Such a bold statement for a business, I had to get a shot of it.

Disney World 1973

Originally opened in October 1971, Walt Disney World has grown into an American institution. My first visit was in 1973, when the park was only about a year a half old.

Stepping onto the ferry for the ride across the lake to the main entrance was exciting. Here's a view of lake with the park in the background- not much there yet!


The Disney officials did not allow any photos of the rides or attractions, so we didn't get too many photos at the time.

I do remember admission was a lot different than it is today. Back then, you purchased a booklet of tickets. You needed a ticket to get on every ride, so basically, you could only go on a ride once (unless they had different types of books for more money).

I also remember they were planning Space Mountain at the time, and we saw the area fenced off and under construction. So many rides have come and gone, including 2000 Leagues under the Sea, the submarine ride. If you pretended not to see the strings, the fish appeared to be swimming in the water. Here's a neat site with a lot of photos of the ride, including behind the scene pics:

It was probably the most crowded place I've ever been. We still talk about the crowd, but in those 30 years, Disney has really learned to keep that crowd moving. I'm sure it's more crowded now than ever before, but the lines move pretty quickly and you no longer remember the crowds more than the fun.

Starved Rock State Park

It was a great day for a weekend excursion to Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois. The Chicago forecast was for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures near 70; but Utica, about 60 miles west experienced cloudless skies and temperatures into the mid 70's.

Starved Rock got it's name from an event that took place between the Illiniwek Indians and Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes in the 1700's. Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa tribe, was killed by the Illiniwek. Battles began to avenge his death and a group of Illiniwek Indians climbed up the sandstone cliff now known as Starved Rock to seek refuge. The Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes surrounded them and fought until the Illiniwek group starved to death.

The views from the top of Starved Rock, Lover's Leap and other buttes are great, but the hike to get to them is difficult if you have a toddler with a stroller!


The Illinois River runs along the edge of the park, providing great views, fishing and the reason Fort St. Louis was established by the French on top of Starved Rock in 1682-83. It's easy to see why this point was chosen, the butte allows views both up and down the river for miles.


This is a definite destination for our next Summer, Fall and Winter hiking, the canyons, streams and waterfalls (after a rain) are great.

Pear Tree Blossoms

Our pear tree is finally in bloom. Each bloom is smaller than a dime, but when the tree is in bloom, the "odd", not too pleasant (but not horrible) fragrance can be detected for a long way.
These photos were taken around 7:00 pm, just as the last rays of sunshine washed over the tree.


US Senator Durbin Visits

Photo by T. Gill

United States Senator Richard Durbin (D IL) spoke with College students and staff this morning at North Central. His main topic was his legislation to reduce college loan interest rates and to reinstate the option for students to consolidate existing loans for lower interest rates.

Senator Durbin was gracious and remained positive as he encouraged students to use the internet to research the topic and to get involved by contacting their own Senators and Congressmen.


Somewhere along US 31 between Indianapolis and Kokomo Indiana, John G. found this fancy little restaurant and gas station.

Kind of makes you hungry, doesn't it?

Thanks for the photo, John!

Cypress Gardens Waterskiing


Here are some of the talented waterskiers that performed at Cypress Gardens in 1965.



A Solitary Bloom

First Sign of Spring

The daffodils made an appearance this weekend.

Silver Springs 1965

Florida's original themepark - Silver Springs shown here back in 1965. As I understand it, this park opened in the late 1800s when people from up north flocked to see the "unusual" tropical beauty of Florida. The area was settled by local Indians in the 1500s but the Spanish invaded in 1539 lead by DeSoto looking for wealth. A wooden boat still exists from this time -I believe - at the bottom of the river. It can be seen today while riding in one of the famous Glass-Bottom Boats. You can check out the history of the park here.

It seems that Silver Springs had a relatively popular beach area in the 60s (photo above) I don't recall seeing that on my last visit, but the park has expanded to included a waterpark and music venue.

I've always enjoyed the peaceful and relaxing atmosphere of Silver Springs, it's like stepping back in time to when Florida was unexploited and unspoiled. When you're on the Silver River, it's hard to imagine how someone actually found the river. The trees and plants are so thick it's difficult to see 50 feet ahead; not to mention chopping through the thick undergrowth
in the blazing Florida sun to create a trail for the expedition.

Silver Springs



Rose of Sharon buds blanketed with early morning snow

Bush Gardens 1965

Before the installation of countless thrill rides, Bush Gardens was just what the name implied- a garden. Here are some photos of the park when all you saw were beautiful gardens, a brewery and a few flamingos!



Bush Gardens once claimed to have the world's tallest escalator; it was high, take a look:

While visiting Bush Gardens in 1995, I don't recall seeing too many of the lush gardens- without rollercoasters running through them - but today it seems that most Florida attractions need to provide more than just pretty scenery to attract visitors.

Kapok Tree Elegance

The Kapok Tree Inn of Clearwater, Florida was a wonderful restaurant and banquet hall elaborately decorated with lush gardens inside and out including statues and fountains beautiful enough for a European palace.

Here we see some of the gardens outside in 1977.

The name Kapok Tree Inn came from the huge Kapok tree that grew right next to the original restaurant that was founded by a New York couple in the late 1950's by the name of Baumgardner. The Restaurant grew into the opulent Inn you see here.

This photo of the Kapok tree was taken in 1965, before the building expanded and before a fence was erected to protect the tree. Kapok trees produce a fiber similar to cotton that was used- because of it's buoyancy- for flotation devices such as life vests for boaters.

The tree still stands today (923 N McMullen Booth Rd) and can be seen from a mile or more, but the Kapok Tree Inn is no more. Mrs. Baumgardner sold her interests in the company in the 1980's and the Inn became a large music store with one of the old gardens still open to the public, but not kept up the way it once was. The pianos and other instruments are arranged in the former banquet rooms and the hallways are lined with the dry fountains of yesteryear. It was truly a disappointment when I last visited in 2000. Last I heard it the name changed to Sam Ash Music.

Does anyone still have any glassware from the Kapok Tree Inn?

Tarpon Springs Sponge Operations

Tarpon Springs, Florida was once called the "Sponge capital of the World" for good reason. Natural sponge harvesting and processing was a major operation along the waterfront of the Anclote river. Today, you can still walk along the river bank and watch fishing and sponge boats come and go, but in the 1980's the sponge operation practically disappeared.

As a child in the early 1970's, I recall walking by the spongedocks watching sponge divers preparing for a dive. They would wear large diving suits with lead shoes to keep the divers from floating to the surface. Here's an old diver from the early 1970's taking a rest.

After the sponges were gathered and brought back to shore, the crew of each boat had to trim and clean the sponges. This was done either on the boat while it was moored, or on the dock itself.

After cleaning, the sponges were taken to the Sponge Exchange where they were sold or auctioned. I can remember the pungent odor of the drying sponges that were stored in the cells of the sponge exchange.


In the 1980's The Sponge Exchange was converted into a small, outdoor mall with only one or two of the original "cells" still in existence.

The Original Louis Pappas Restaurant

The original Louis Pappas Restaurant in Tarpon Springs was a far cry from the one you see today. This rather modest restaurant was a frequent stop for many northerners visiting the Tampa Bay area. Located across the street from the Anclote river sponge docks, the restaurant was right in the middle of "mom and pop" gift shops famous for selling sponges, shells, canned Flordia sunshine and anything else you could print the word "Florida" on.
This photo was taken in 1972, a few years before Pappas built a brand new restaurant right on the sponge docks on the corner of Dodeconese and Alternate 19. The new restaurant was ultra modern for 1975, and would seat over 1000 people.

With the shell of the building complete, you can see how the new Louis Pappas looked in 1975, just a few months before opening up.

It looks the same today.

Time for a Snowman!

Chicago didn't get too much snow this year, so when it snowed today, the kids were out to build a quick snowman or two.

More of Six Gun Territory 1965

Somewhere between Silver Springs and Ocala Florida, there once was an old western town called Six Gun Territory.
Here we see the Hitching Post at Six Gun Territory in Florida. Like most things in this theme park, the horse was not real, but the gunfights were certainly a realistic event.

Men walking through town moments before a well rehersed gunfight.