Photo by Joe Boyle
Longtime Evergreen Park residents Jackie and John King look over one of many boards of photos and information about the village’s 125th year during the opening of the exhibit Monday at the Evergreen Park Senior Center.
By Joe Boyle
After months of hard work and research, the Evergreen Park Historical Commission Exhibit opened to the public Monday morning, marking the 125thanniversary of the village.
Members of the Historical Commission, local dignitaries, and former and present residents were in attendance for the grand opening. George Peso, chairman of the Historical Commission, said the reaction to the exhibit was met with delight and some surprise. The exhibit will continue over two weeks in the second-floor auditorium of the Evergreen Park Senior Center, 9547 S. Homan Ave.
“Everyone was surprised at what we have done,” said Peso, who has been a resident of Evergreen Park since 1955. “The mayor (Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton) was completely in awe at what he saw. He was thrilled and nearly speechless.”
Sexton said he agreed during a phone conversation on Tuesday.
“I was in awe, to tell you the truth,” Sexton said. “It’s just incredible what they have done. I have been here 43 years and my mouth just dropped at some of the things they were showing me. I thought I knew a lot and now I found out I don’t know that much. They have really worked hard on this. They are just great people.”
Peso, a retired contractor, said it took 18 months to compile information, collect photos, and display artifacts dating back 125 years of the village’s history. Visitors who arrive at the Senior Center can peruse through a variety of boards that are set up that contain photos of the village’s past and recent history.
One board has images and writings about people of note who were either born or have lived in Evergreen Park. Another board focuses on the history of churches and schools dating back to the 1920s and beyond. Old photos of students and members of church congregations can be viewed that in many cases include names. Old photos of the Evergreen Park Golf Course were displayed.
The display board also contains information on Little Company of Mary Hospital that dates back to its origins. Information on local VFW and American Legion posts were included on one board with references to the U.S. involvement in previous conflicts and wars. Uniforms of military personnel were featured on one table, including one once worn by Peso, a Vietnam Army veteran.
Another table featured sports or gym uniforms that were once worn by Evergreen Park Community High School students or youths who participated in local athletic activities.
One section that was located on the stage area included photos and documents of the beginning and history of the old Evergreen Plaza shopping center. Visitors are first greeted to that section by a sign in large letters that spell out “the Plaza” that was once in the iconic shopping center. Photos of early construction on the Plaza dating back to 1951 can be viewed, along with news articles about developer Arthur Rubloff’s plans for a unique shopping experience for residents of Evergreen Park and other communities. Photos dating back to the 1960s during its bustling era and pictures from as late as 2012 when the number of shoppers dwindled can be seen at the event.
Photos of stores and eateries that were found in the Plaza brought smiles to the visitors who strolled by the exhibit.
“It was kind of funny that many people saw a listing of Prince Castle’s, which was near 95th and Western. They talked about how they used to go there,” said board member Karen Buikema about the food chain that was visited by youths back in the late 1960s that was just outside the Plaza.
“it was a lot of work but it has turned out pretty well,” Buikema added. “We wanted to put the boards in a certain order. Sometimes that was a little difficult because of room. Everyone asks me about the photos. Well, we have a lot more that we did not have room for.”
John and Jackie King have been residents of Evergreen Park for 34 years. They were also looking over the old photos and some of the artifacts, which even included pins from the old Bleeker’s Bowling alley. They were interested in looking over programs from the old Martinique, that featured entertainers and was utilized for wedding receptions and parties. A copy of the program for the old Aqua swimming pool caught John King’s attention.
“I really miss the old Aqua pool,” John King said. “I knew about the Aqua before I came to Evergreen Park. People came to swim here from all over. It was such a great place”
Peso made himself available to answer questions anyone may have regarding the exhibit.
“Anything you want to know, I can answer your questions,” said Peso, with a laugh. “And yes, we have a lot more photos that we didn’t use.”
Buikema also mentioned that the original bell at Central Middle School is now located inside the Evergreen Park Senior Center. Stories like that were common during the opening day of the exhibit.
“What we will do in the future is focus on certain subjects and themes and make specific exhibits on that,” Buikema said. “But for right now, with the 125thanniversary, were showing a lot of history of Evergreen Park and a lot of old things that people may remember.”
The display will be open from noon to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The exhibit is also open from noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays. The Historical Commission is also selling its book “Arriving and Thriving at 125” in the auditorium as well.
The final day of the exhibit will be Saturday, Aug. 18.