New Years 1885 at 12:30PM

wells_street_station_ca_1910On a cold but sunny day in January 1885,  I take you to Wells and Kinzie streets in Chicago, the then Wells Street depot of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. The station was sometime referred to as the Kinzie Depot. It was bounded by the Chicago River to the south and west, Kinzie Street to the north and Wells Street to the east.  The station is long gone, replaced by the Chicago and Northwestern Station (Ogilvie Transportation Center)   The Wells Street Station site is now the massive Merchandise Mart built in 1930.

stean Train number 31  was just one of fifty-five daily Northwestern trains.  What made this train different is that it is the daily Northwestern funeral train taking mourners and the deceased to Rosehill or Calvary Cemetery. The train leaves Chicago every day at 12:30 PM sharp, including Sunday north bound for the two cemeteries. Continue reading “New Years 1885 at 12:30PM”

Christmas in the Cemetery – Sleep in Heavenly Peace

gateeIt is late on Christmas Eve and the cemetery gate is locked. The rest of Chicago is a mix of holiday activities and wintry winds.

Families are busy with the things of the living, shopping for last minute gifts, Christmas recipes, and attending church services to celebrate His birth.  Hanukkah too is also so special for our Jewish friends. But as we celebrate  we feel the empty space left by the people missing in our lives. Christmas can be  a difficult time for people who have lost a loved one,

bbbuuyyttAlthough going to a graveyard might seem an unlikely activity for the festive season, There are exceptions worth noting. In Finland, hundreds of graveside candles glowing in the snow make a wonderful holiday statement. Placing candles on the graves of deceased relatives at Christmastime is a wonderful tradition.  As many as three-quarters of Finnish families visit a cemetery at Christmas, mostly on Christmas Eve.

grave blanket For many years,  florists and cemeteries themselves offer “grave blankets” or a wreath for the mausoleum door. They are commonly made of a variety of evergreen boughs. Most also have colorful, seasonal decorations such as ribbons, ornaments or pine cones. They seem to have been most popular in the upper Midwest where early settlers went out into the woods gathering pine branches to cover an ancestor’s grave. They seem to be less popular these days, but still create a graveside focal point and a way to reminisce and remember. The grave blanket covers the ground at the base of the grave and symbolizes the caring and warmth that friends and family feel toward the deceased person and gives some level of comfort during the holidays . njhgff

You may find other holiday  decorations on graves ranging from small Christmas trees, or even toys. Cemeteries often has rules on how long they can remain or may prohibit them entirely.treee

sleighBack about 1900, Rosehill Cemetery on Chicago’s north side actually had a horse drawn sleigh to transport family to and from the gravesite. An outdoor fireplace offered warmth on cold winter day and offered an afternoon of Christmas music, refreshments and  “holiday cheer“. In a cemetery out east people gather around a 15-foot Fir tree  A children’s choir sing hymns and Christmas carols; a tent holds hot drinks and pastries. The Archbishop blesses the tree, and visitors are invited to hang spherical glass ornaments on the tree in memory of loved ones.

The carol says, “Sleep in heavenly peace”. The Latin, coemeterium or from the Greek κοιμητήριον (koimētḗrion), from κοιμάω (koimáō, translate to  “I put to sleep”) The beloved Christmas carol is well applicable to our cemeteries.  We also seek peace, peace between God and man, peace on earth.

I take this moment to wish you and your family a very blessed Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah, May you find  abundant peace as you remember the family members who have gone before us.  As the words in Silent Night so aptly proclaim, may they “sleep in heavenly peace.”

He died at the keyboard!

For those who have read my blog  “THE EXPLODING ACCORDION” at this is somewhat of a humorous sequel. The Exploding Accordion was the story of my Uncle Jack Erschen, (stage name Jack Rich) who carved out a ten year career on vaudeville stages across the country. Later, in life he became a professional Hammond organist in Illinois clubs and restaurants. Even if you have not yet read his story, read on…

Continue reading “He died at the keyboard!”

Hooray for HOLLYWOOD!

On a warm summer night my Father, Fred Fleig, would drive me to the Milk Pail on Devon for our weekly gallon of milk from Blanche. With a twinkle in his eye, he would say, “Would you like to stop at Kiddieland?”big shot small

We all thank the Klatsco and the Acciari families for Hollywood Kiddeland,  first opened about 1948. It was a fun and safe place on Chicago’s far north side,  at 6301 McCormick Blvd,. (the Southeast corner of Devon and McCormick) and just across the street from Thillen’s Stadium. Lincoln Village Shopping center was just to the south.  The park was a small, but memorable assortment of rides, ponies, refreshments, an arcade and the train.

Continue reading “Hooray for HOLLYWOOD!”