And so the story that appeared in print in the February 2021 issue goes online…
On January 23, a large envelope arrived in the mail from a childhood friend, addressed to “Stephanie Jean Penick.” I chuckled that Linda Clark Dague had used my given middle name before I married.
Inside I found three pages of typewritten notes as well as a poem, “The Rolling Oaks Christmas Tree,” composed in 1996 by Mrs. Broyles. The Broyles’ had lived on University. Mr. Broyles had begun developing Rolling Oaks on the outskirts of Muncie, Ind., in 1946.
Dague said she and other childhood buddies, Mary Le and Dan Hargreaves, found the notes when they cleaned out the Hargreaves’ attic. Both the Clarks and the Hargreaves lived on Hawthorne, a couple houses from the Broyles.
As my own recollection goes, my dad had purchased property on Cardinal Drive around the block from the Broyles home where he built our ranch-style house in 1954, back before Rolling Oaks was within the city limits. After all the lots were sold, 30 custom-built homes landmarked the neighborhood where 17 active youngsters, all within a few years in age, grew up together. Mr. Broyles had planted a fir tree in an island, welcoming folks just off Jackson Street that neighbors decorated with colored lights for the holidays for 65 years.
One of Mrs. Broyles’ paragraphs addressed the challenge of public schooling before the addition was within city limits. Without school boundaries, all us kids were run around from one school to another until a line was drawn to one elementary, one junior high and one high school.
Many of Mrs. Broyles’ thoughts rekindled mine.
By the time I was ready to enter junior high after 6th grade, and considering that we moved to Rolling Oaks when I was in first grade, I’d already changed schools five times. The good news was I knew loads of kids my age all over town.
The last line of Mrs. Broyles’ narrative reads, “It really seems that Rolling Oaks has been especially blessed by the good Lord and when politicians are looking for a good environment, where family values are of importance, or there are fine citizens, just look here!”
One thought led to the next as I began more than ever to appreciate growing up in the 1950s and 1960s in a much-studied community. In fact, often times Muncie was used as a test market for new products and all of us residents were guinea pigs. (Sorry PETA.) “Middletown,” the renowned book written by a couple of sociologists and published in 1929, portrays Muncie as “typical.”
Counting and recounting my experiences as well as my lifetime of travels, I found it curious how I ended up right here with ramblings of these times for our February issue. For nearly 20 years, this publication has been a preview of upcoming events that get to the heart of this community, supported by independent local businesses. Then came the disruptive coronavirus. With so many of our cultural events canceled, and less opportunities to be out on the beat, I figured I’d try to connect some dots to history.
That Was the Week That Was (TW3)
While in high school, “That Was the Week That Was” (TW3) introduced Americans to British media personality David Frost and his satirical TV program that sometimes attracted my attention late at night.
For some reason when the week of Jan. 23, 2021, wrapped up, the short-lived show’s title, “TW3,” seemed altogether fitting as I reflected on the events of the week that began with PN’s online stories recognizing the birthdays of Benjamin Franklin on Jan. 17, followed by Ann Good Lord and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., on Jan. 18.
Though I take seriously much of what occurred that week, including the inauguration of the 46th President, a momentous event sandwiched between a Naperville City Council meeting on Jan. 19 and a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Jan. 20, events did connect to some warm-hearted memories that took me back to designing creative cakes during the political challenges of the 1970s.
But first, allow me to recount the resolution regarding Criminal Justice Reform Bill HB 3653 as presented at the aforementioned City Council meeting. The resolution stated disapproval of the legislative process and recommended Governor Pritzker’s veto. (The resolution and video of the meeting are posted in the archive on the City’s website.)
Before the hearing, Mayor Steve Chirico advised that public commentary be directed toward the process and not the contents of the bill. Up for questioning was the process that sent a bill to the Illinois Governor for his signature, one that appeared to be a 764-page Criminal Justice Reform Bill passed in the middle of the night.
The City Council listened to seven (7) speakers, pro and con, who phoned into the virtual meeting. City Council also received 74 written responses, pro and con, mostly in support of the resolution. The City Council received 37 “no” responses from the public and 215 “yes” responses regarding support of the resolution.
After nearly 2.5 hours of deliberation, the 9-member City Council voted 4-5 against sending the resolution to Governor Pritzker that asked for his veto of the Criminal Justice Reform Bill because of the process. The vote was 4 (Coyne, Gustin, Hinterlong and Chirico) to 5 (Kelly, Sullivan, Krummen, White and Brodhead).
The deliberation was a reminder that in 1976, on the heels of Watergate, an imperfect time for our nation, President Gerald Ford signed the Government in the Sunshine Act into law. Though sunshine laws date back to the beginning of the 1900s, ever since, shining light on the process has focused on requiring transparency and disclosure in government. Sunshine laws make deliberation at meetings, records, votes and other official actions available for public observation, participation, feedback and/or complete inspection.
What’s more, the Naperville City Council has aimed to finish meetings by 11PM. To continue meetings after 11PM, Council members must request extensions. Sometimes City Council as well as Planning and Zoning Commission meetings have been extended into the wee hours of the morning. In our opinion, middle-of-the-night deliberation and voting is never the best way pass policy that comes with costs. All government must be accountable and conducted in the best light that includes constituent input to keep it honest and participatory.
When I was a teenager, Muncie had a curfew of 11PM because the community adhered to a policy that little good happened after 11PM. Though I’m a night owl, and I’ve watched City Council meetings and PZC extend beyond 11PM, I’m pretty confident that the best government fails to happen in the middle of the night when lawmakers’ eyes are blurry and most constituents are sleeping. Think about it.
A GOAT to Remember
On Jan. 22, while my husband and I were headed home, we heard on the radio that Hank Aaron had died at age 86.
I asked Jim if he remembered that I’d baked a birthday cake for Aaron in the late 1970s, a replica of a baseball stadium with cheering fans, presented on the TODAY show to the homerun hitter who broke Babe Ruth’s record.
Back then, we lived and worked in New York City.
Once home, I headed toward my collection of albums with photos of Creative Cakes from 1974 to 1986 where I found a picture of the cake, graced with a marzipan likeness of No. 44 standing at home plate.
My memory flashed back to my excitement on a cold February day when the cake had been picked up by a limousine driver early in the morning for delivery to NBC studios. More than a few times, my cakes rode in style for TV appearances, usually without me.
I searched duckduckgo.com for a Hank Aaron quote.
“I’ve been fortunate and lucky in some ways,” Aaron said during a 2020 interview on TODAY. “I would just like to be remembered as someone that God gave him the talent to play this game, and he did everything humanly possible to make the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Then as I continued this story, I lost count of the times the word “hypocrite” had found its way into so-called unbiased news commentary as folks addressed devastating lockdowns from here to California and New York. Even some local issues at City Council tended to fall under double standards. But I digress.
For more than 20 years, since the days when I also wrote a weekly column in the Daily Herald, I’ve tried to present the bright side of life, an informed account of the good things happening in Naperville, mindful to stay focused on the kind of intelligent patriotism and can-do spirit that built this community. Quite frankly, I think our city’s welcomed volunteerism since the days of Capt. Joseph Naper has been essential to preserving free and open government, blessed with private/public partnerships when appropriate. Volunteerism and resident initiatives have made a difference in our rich history as well as our culture since 1859. Consider the Naperville Municipal Band, Centennial Beach, the Riverwalk, Naper Settlement, Century Walk and the DuPage Children’s Museum. What’s next?
That was the week that was. What follows here is the week that began January 24.
Finally, after nearly 11 months, public schools were preparing to welcome students back into the classroom following a whole set of new protocols and limited hours.
Local restaurants were about to reopen with Tier 1 availability. Here’s hoping for the beginning of the end.
Midweek I received an email from Pat Benton with a Rotary brief saying a park ranger with the U.S. National Park Service for the past 40 years was scheduled as the club’s speaker on Wednesday. And my thoughts quickly rushed to the summer between my sophomore and junior years at Kentucky’s Murray State when I worked at Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota, one of two representatives from Indiana, and one of 100 college students from throughout the U.S.
That summer at the “Shrine of Democracy” and looking up to the carved granite likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln; serving the public, answering questions and spreading hospitality to visitors from all over the globe, cemented my love for this nation and its freedoms, imperfections and all.
About the same time on Jan. 26, PN received a query about Naperville Park District candidates and I flashed forward and backward.
‘Tis the season of the Consolidated Election, also known as “Silly Season” because of some of the strategic and playful antics that campaigns were known to ignite for media attention. The term has been around since 1861 when it was used in a “Saturday Review” story about “frivolous” campaigning, and today’s social media certainly has added to its dominance. Be prepared.
Watch and listen as many candidates likely will claim to stand up for their values and the needs of the community, promising to address policy with integrity, education and the desire to listen to public input.
Check to see if any of them are holding their finger to the wind.
Note that “unity” is within community. While looking at the candidates to attract your vote, be sure their values are your values before you lend support. Be prepared to hold elected officials accountable. Know where your choices are headed before you head to the polls on April 6.
Then Thursday evening, Jan. 28, the Naperville Park District was scheduled to meet for the second time in January.
On the park district’s agenda was a resolution “Regarding HB 3653 (Criminal Justice Reform Bill) Disapproving of the Legislative Process and Recommending Governor Pritzker’s Veto.” The process that found the State Senate and the State Legislature in favor now awaits the Illinois Governor’s signature. Unlike City Council nine days earlier, Park District Commissioners unanimously supported the resolution, 6-0.
Another GOAT Remembered
Thursday evening, our daughter, Ashley, called with sad news that Cicely Tyson had died at age 96. Ashley knew the gifted actress had been a frequent customer at my cake shop in Manhattan in the late 1970s. Though Ashley didn’t remember meeting her, she did remember photos of her first birthday cake. The cake was the shape of a pick-up truck. Standing in the bed was a marzipan replica of a giraffe that depicted Ashley’s favorite toy, a present Tyson had given us when Ashley was born in 1979.
Then, more than ever, I became overwhelmed with thoughts of family, friends and neighbors. And the fact that if my folks were still living, they’d be celebrating their 74th wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day.
I looked at a photo of my dad take when he went to Washington, D.C., on the Honor Flight in 2016. Then I hit the push-button recorder with my dad’s voicemail message to my brother that asks, “What the hell’s going on?” Once again, I was reminded that my witty and wise dad who died at age 96 in August 2019 would not have tolerated this pandemic.
That last week in January also marked that it’s been a year since we began following the ups and downs of coronavirus numbers, ones that continually have moved goal posts while impacting lives and livelihoods. Everyone has been praying for the health and safety as loved ones too-often fight the virus when it hits the vulnerable.
Considering everyone’s state of mind that’s been influenced this past year by all the unknowns of coronavirus, more than ever I’m convinced every elected official should take a deep breath, even pause more often to assess priorities, and be especially careful when crafting bills or policies by day or by night that will have an impact on the economy way into the future. More than ever, while we’ve been following the science, doctors and professional opinions (and admittedly, some hearsay), this virus has taught us that not one size fits all. In fact, one size does not even fit most.
Here’s hoping in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, folks everywhere and every day will give more than lip service to local businesses, especially small independent ones. Remember most businesses have websites for online orders. Most businesses offer curbside or home delivery.
Show your caring nature. Support empathy, understanding and individual freedom. And whenever possible, shop and dine where your heart is, right in your own hometown.
One more rambling: Try connecting what’s happening now with your personal history. During a year when many things to do have been locked down, revisiting old photos just might ignite a smile or two. Perhaps you, too, will receive or write a wonderful hand-written letter, communicating with a longtime friend.