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Shnay: Marking 50 years in our Park Forest home

Updated: April 10, 2014 6:13AM



It was a hard slog. We said goodbye to friends in Albuquerque that Saturday and Sunday in March 1964. Our furniture and possessions in the rented house on La Veta Street were in the hands of movers.

Packed the days before, they were to be shipped to our new home in Illinois. Our family of five — Penny, 3-year-old Alan, 7-week-old Deborah, our dog Tosca and me — were quartered in a small motel room that featured a postage-stamp-sized kitchen.

We had to pay $50 for a week’s stay, although we did not expect to be there that long.

There was a new job at the Hammond Times waiting.

We were asked why we would forsake the comforts of a southwestern climate for the rigors of a Midwest winter. The answer was simple. More money would allow us to buy warm winter clothing.

But winter was still winter, no matter where one lived.

We wanted to leave on Tuesday, but late Sunday night a snowstorm closed U.S. 66, the main east-west highway through Albuquerque. Snow in that part of the country at that time of year is usually wet and heavy.

Tijeras Canyon east of town was closed for nearly two days. Monday and Tuesday came and went. Wednesday’s promise of warmer weather heightened spirits, and departure was set for early Thursday.

The 1960 Chevrolet Corvair, the auto with the engine in back, was packed to overflowing with baggage and essentials for the roughly 1,400-mile journey. Alan sat next to me in the front seat.

The cramped back seat held Deborah, her small travel bed, Penny, the dog and assorted paraphernalia to make the journey less arduous.

We departed the Land of Enchantment on Thursday, driving past the debris on the still-snowy side of the road left by cars and trucks.

We made it to Oklahoma City by nightfall. Friday morning dawned clear. We left early and by 7 p.m., we were ensconced in a St. Louis motel.

Chicago was on our mental horizon, and by mid-afternoon Saturday, our car pulled up in front of grandmother Mignon’s apartment on Dearborn Parkway.

We spent that night in the big city, but on Sunday morning were told about the rental reserved for us in a place called Park Forest. Mignon said she looked at a map and saw this new community was “not that far” from Hammond.

To get there, we drove south on the newly constructed Dan Ryan Expressway — a monument to contemporary civil engineering and a terrible reflection of the era’s social engineering. The expressway seemingly separated the races, with neat one- and two-story houses on one side and high-rise dumping grounds for the poor on the other.

There was no Interstate 57 then. The Dan Ryan was linked to the Calumet Expressway (now the Bishop Ford Freeway) which led to Illinois 394 and finally an intersection with a road called Sauk Trail. Heading west, some 10 minutes later we entered the world of new homes and apartments of Park Forest.

The rental office was on Forest Boulevard just south of the Sears parking lot. There we signed the rental agreement and got the keys to a two-bedroom unit on Hemlock Street.

Because of the bad weather in New Mexico, the moving van didn’t get there until late Wednesday, forcing us to spend three days in a Lansing motel.

It didn’t take long to get settled in. We were greeted warmly by neighbors and told about the village’s amenities by Welcome Wagon hostesses.

We marveled at the Plaza, the outdoor shopping mall at the center of town; made plans to join the Aqua Center pool complex; acquired library cards and paid for a car sticker. Within a year, we moved into our current residence.

Yesterday, March 8, was the 50th anniversary of our arrival in Park Forest.

Whenever we go away, we know it’s always nice to come home again. Home to Park Forest because home is always where the heart is.



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