Chicago can’t compare to Mission Hill

Chicago can't compare to Mission Hill By Bob Karolevitz CHICAGO: We are in the Windy City on a tour. One thing is obvious: both it and I have changed a lot in the half century since I once briefly held a job there.

We've been back a number of times since then, of course, but this is my first real look at Carl Sandburg's city of hogs and steel without a specific reason.

I had studied the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 when I was writing the biography of Frank Osgood Butler, the paper merchant and later the munificent benefactor of South Dakota State University.

Phyllis and I had done research at the Chicago Art Institute where South Dakota-born artist Harvey Dunn had once posed sheepishly in the nude for sculptor classes to earn money for his stay there.

Then there was my abbreviated interlude as a public relations representative for the Curtiss Candy Company during which time I was more involved with Baby Ruths and Butterfingers than with the city itself.

But this trip has no particular purpose except for fun and enlightenment, and we have experienced plenty of each.

Our venture into the ethnic neighborhoods has been a highlight of our tour.

Being of Polish derivation, I obviously have to rank our visit to the Polish Union Museum at the top of our list. Of personal interest was a display devoted to the Kosciuszko Squadron of the Polish-Russian War of 1919-20 about which I wrote in my book, Flight of Eagles. Ignace Jan Paderewski's piano is there as are momentoes of Frederic Francois Chopin.

Chicago, incidentally, has the second largest population of Poles next to Warsaw, Poland. Polish jokes are frowned upon here, so I kept my mouth shut.

We ate at a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, and I showed off my skill with chopsticks. The Year of the Hare was 1998, so shops offered discount prices on rabbit items. It was a good place to buy gifts for our friends in Brookings where South Dakota State University is the home of the Jackrabbits.

In the German district we enjoyed "guten appetit" at the Chicago Brauhaus. (It seems we were always eating.) We sang German songs and tippled a beer or two.

A stop at Scafuri's Bakery was a feature of the Italian neighborhood. We watched the owner � a little lady in her seventies � demonstrate the art of kneading dough by hand to make various Italian breads. She said the work was good for her arthritis.

The restored St. Patrick's Irish Catholic Church � one of Chicago's oldest � is undergoing a revitalization as more and more families (not necessarily Irish) move into new high-rise apartments and condominiums nearby. But of all the churches we saw, the Ukranian Catholic Church of Saints Volodymyr and Olha was by far the most impressive.

The Byzantine liturgy is all celebrated in the Ukranian language in a most ornate setting of colorful icons, under an immense chandelier with religious connotations and before a sanctuary and high altar which are reminiscent of past centuries.

The Greek, Korean and Mexican areas which we saw were characterized mostly by signs of storefronts and other buildings. All are part of Chicago's unique "ethnic pockets" which one doesn't normally see in visits to the Windy City.

We did other things, of course. A gastronomical treat was a luncheon at the Cookings & Hospitality Institute where future chefs are trained.

At the John G. Shedd Aquarium we marveled at a dolphin exhibition and watched Beluga whales swimming in their gigantic glass-enclosed tank. (By the way, caviar doesn't come from the whales but from Beluga sturgeons. I just thought you'd want to know.)

At the Blackstone Hotel we enjoyed an improv performance of Shear Madness, the comic murder mystery now in its 17th season in Chicago. The weather was clear for viewing from the Skydeck of the Sears Tower which is 1,353 feet above the ground. To build the massive skyscraper, they had to go down to the height of the Statue of Liberty to bedrock to give the thing a firm foundation.

A visit to the luxurious Chicago Library was impressive, and we watched the life of Mark Twain with our Martian-type headgear and glasses at the Navy Pier's I-Max Theatre.

Now it's time to go home. Chicago is a wonderful city, but Mission Hill is "our kind of town."

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