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Share your Berwyn memories

Berwyn, IL

We’re calling on current and former Berwyn residents to share with us their stories, memories and photos of the city’s past 100 years.

We want to honor where Berwyn has been and how it became what it is today. As the people who have kept the city going and growing all of these years, we’re depending on you to help us tell the city’s story.

Have a memory of what Berwyn was like way-back-when that you would like to share with other residents? A story that represents what the city was like when you were growing up?

Share your memories of the Berwyn you remember and have come to love in the comment section below.

The following are some reader memories we have received through e-mail and snail mail.

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I have been a resident in Berwyn since 1963, and what changes I have seen.

Cermak Road has gone through many, many changes these past years.

On the corner of Cermak Road and Gunderson Avenue, there was Robert Hall, where all my clothes were bought while I was attending Morton West High School.

Next to Robert Hall was the Cabin Restaurant. What a place for good steaks, romantic dinners and spectacular bar area, run by Ms. Sherrie herself!

Troy Store was on the corner of Cermak Road and Ridgeland Avenue, where as a kid, I remember going on the day after Christmas for bargains, bargains, bargains.

The next block had a local drugstore, Jack Trent Personnel, where I got my first summer job. I have stayed friends with the women that hired me.

Next door to that was a donut shop where all my retired aunts and uncles spent their time socializing with other retirees.

Such a shame Cermak Road is no longer what it use to be — a place to shop, dine and enjoy American traditions.

I have so many memories of growing up there with all my family, who have now departed into heaven’s gate.

Bettyann Koblich, 49
Current Berwyn resident of 45 years

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My cousin, Rosemarie Krizek Vlcek, prepared an outline of the family history, which included a segment titled “things my dad remembers.” Included in that was information that prior to 1918, the Lawndale National Bank would raffle off one lot free every Sunday with the understanding that a home would be built on the property.

Vaclav Krizek, our grandfather, won one of the lots, but explained that he wouldn’t be able to build within a year. To show good faith, he offered to purchase two more lots; and the bank approved his terms. Vaclav, his wife Anastasia and their five children moved into the house at 6822 W. 30th Place in 1918. It was one of only three homes in the entire subdivision at that time.

When my parents, brother and I lived in Milwaukee, we’d come to Berwyn to visit. I can remember my uncle taking me for a walk to the train station to see the big, black steam locomotives chugging through. That was very exciting for a 5-year-old.

When our parents died in 1944 in Omaha, Neb., my brother and I came to Berwyn and made our home with our grandma, aunts and uncles, also at 6822 W. 30th Place. Our big move to another home in Berwyn came when my aunt and uncle built a home right next door — 6824 W. 30th Place — and grandma and I lived there with them. ...

I was 13 at the time and got to finish the 8th grade at Emerson School, which was like going a little backward. Our school in Omaha was a junior high, with lockers for all the students, and we went from class to class just like in high school. Emerson, on the other hand, had wooden floors and hooks in the hallway for our coats, and the teachers moved from class to class, not the students.

Four months later, I graduated and went to Morton East High School. I still remember Mrs. Baroody at Emerson. Some memories never fail. All told, I believe I lived in Berwyn for 18 years.

In 1962, I married a wonderful man from the Village of Stickney. We use the Berwyn post office, so I more or less still consider myself a Berwynite, especially since I’m active in the Cicero-Berwyn Emblem Club and attend Pav YMCA.

Marilyn Hons Chalabala, 76
Former Berwyn resident of 18 years
Current resident of Stickney

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I just remember how I always walked to the Cermak Plaza to go shopping. But every once in awhile, I would walk all the way past Triangle Park to Cermak Road.

I would go all the way down Cermak Road into the various stores, especially the old Troy Department Store! The store floors squeaked as you walked on them, and you could smell how old the store was!

The baby specialty store, Lil’ Debonair, had the most beautiful baby clothes for sale. I would walk further down to De Mars, a ladies’ apparel store and look in the window at all the latest fashions.

I would then cross the street and head home. I would stop by Mother’s Day restaurant to get some french fries, then stop in Neisers Dime Store, where I worked part time in my senior year at Morton West High School.

I would continue past the Berwyn Show, where I saw many double features for only 25 cents admission. Next door was the Karmel Candy store where they had the most delicious buttered popcorn!

In those days — the 1950s and 1960s —  Berwyn had so many little specialty mom-and-pop stores.

There was Vesecky’s Bakery with their famous kolackies and breads; Ridgeland Savings and Loan, where my parents banked for many years; Ray’s Dinette City for kitchen furniture; James and Williams jewelry store and Mario’s restaurant and pizza! And I can’t forget the great sundaes at Senecas restaurant!

The newspaper stand on Cermak Road and Oak Park Avenue was where my father drove every night to buy the next day’s newspaper.

As I went down Cermak Road, the bungalows never changed.

The streets were so big, and the shortcuts through the alleys made getting around faster when you walked. That is what everyone did!

I moved away from Berwyn 30 some years ago. Once in a while, I go back to all the old haunts. It is like in “Gone With The Wind” when Scarlett says, “I need to go back to Tara!” Well, I need to go back to Berwyn to get things settled in my mind and to get recharged. They say you can’t go back home, but I find it is just the thing I need to do!

I was lucky to have my childhood in Berwyn!

Susan Fiedler Glen
Former Berwyn resident of 30 years
Current Lombard resident

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I have many fond memories of Berwyn while growing up, from my education at Charles E. Piper School and Morton West High School to all the wonderful places that I went.

Celba’s Notions and Variety Store at 26th Street and Euclid Avenue was a little variety store and soda fountain owned by Victoria and Dan Celba for many years. I remember having their ice cream cones and penny candy and buying comic books there. Mrs. Celba also sold handmade handkerchiefs, nail polish, magazines, knickknacks and anything you could think of! She gave accordion lessons, too, in the back of the store where they lived. It was the place to go after school and on Saturdays for a treat! She lived to be 99 years old, and she and Dan lived in Berwyn for more than 65 years.

Vesecky’s Bakery ... was out of this world. Their specialty was different flavors of kolackies and coffee cakes. Their rye and white breads were great, too. They even made custom birthday and wedding cakes. My mother would send me there to get bakery (goods), especially for a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Mario’s Restaurant at Cermak Road and Oak Park Avenue had a small storefront of grilled windows and an entrance. ... They served delicious Italian food, and after dinner, they would bring you a whole pineapple with different kinds of fruit served with it. I can remember walking there from home and meeting some girlfriends and staying hours eating and drinking Cokes or coffee. Later, they showed Mario Lanza movies on Tuesday nights, so you could eat and see a movie at the same time! It was such fun!

Cermak Plaza (had many) stores to remember, such as G.C. Murphy, a variety-type little department store. They sold everything and had a lunch bar where you could order a hamburger and a five-cent Coke. They also had a section where they sold candy and popcorn. It was the greatest popcorn, and it only cost 15 cents a bag. That and a five-cent Coke was a real treat. At Christmas time, they would have tons of decorations and little gifts you could afford to buy. I can remember “The Evening In Paris” cologne. They also had a downstairs shopping area with house items, the old oil tablecloths and furniture.

F.W. Woolworth was a five-and-dime store similar to Murphy’s, but not as big. They had a lunch bar and a counter where you could buy jewelry and have it engraved!

The Record Shop was located around the bend of the plaza, past Walgreens. I can remember picking out a few 45 rpm records, and they would play them for you. Then you could decide which ones you wanted to buy. It was fun to go there every week and see what songs were in the top 20!

Burny Brothers Bakery — all I can say about this store is about the wonderful graham cracker cakes they made for birthdays and a pink powdered sugar cookies that would melt in your mouth. There would always be lines of people in that store.

I could go on and on about all the wonderful places in Berwyn. They bring back such wonderful memories. It was such a peaceful and innocent time. As kids, you could stay out and play until the street lights went on. All the wonderful sites, flavors and stores of this great city will always have a soft spot in my heart and the heart of many other people who had the opportunity to be raised in Berwyn!

Carolyn Fiedler Mondragon
Former Berwyn resident of 24 years
Current Westchester resident

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Before I get into this, my name is William J. Hammett — I go by Bill — and I lived in Berwyn from 1948 to 1963. I joined the Navy in 1963, but Berwyn continued to be my home of record throughout most of my Navy career until my mother moved in 1977. From 1948-1961, I lived at 2114 Scoville Ave., and from 1961 to 1963 at 2230 Oak Park Ave. where my mother continued to live until 1977.

I am a member of Morton West’s first full graduating class of 1962. My family moved from Springfield to Berwyn as a result of my father taking a job with the Tucker Corporation (the Tucker automobile).

My father ran for alderman in the eighth precinct in 1967 as a Republican, but lost.

It took many years for me to realize this, but growing up in Berwyn during the time I lived there was a gift that to this day I benefit from and will forever be grateful for.

Bill Hammet
Former Berwyn resident of 15 years
Current resident of Poquoson, Va.

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My sister Patricia Wagner ... and I attended Pershing Elementary School, and both of us are Morton West graduates; 1985 (me) and 1983 (Patty). My mother, Maryann Wagner Rogers, was 62 when she passed away on Oct. 17, 2007.

While living in Berwyn, my mother raised me and my sister while running her art studio in our basement (where she) taught many local children how to draw.

My mother also did “Fun-Time,” a weekly children’s section for the Berwyn Life Newspaper from 1979 to 1982.

She had a weekly cable show on Metro vision called "Talent Hunt," (where) she would have on local artists, singers and bands.

She started the Berwyn Fine Arts Council and was president.

She then, in 1983, ran one of the stages at Summerfaire. This really interested her, and the next year, she was the president and ran Summerfaire.

She also was the campaign manager for Mayor Joseph Lanzalotti (when) he won.

My mother always had great pride in Berwyn and tried in every way to add what she could to make it an area for local artists to showcase their talents.

There are so many more things I could say about my 15 years in Berwyn, but there are too many to mention. The memories I have will last me forever.

Lori Wagner Mcvicar, 40
Former Berwyn resident of 15 years
Current resident of Westmont

___________________________

In 1927, I attended St. Mary of Celle, first grade. We lived on 21st Street and East Avenue, so this was a great distance.

When St. Odilo School and Church were being built the next year, my mother transferred me to that school. The buildings were not completed by the start of the school year, so a store was rented on Cermak Road at the northwest corner of Clarence Avenue and Cermak Road. This would later become Havranek Drugs.

There were folding chairs and wooden kneelers, which were used for mass on Sundays. Mondays through Fridays were school days, so we sat on the kneelers and used the chairs as our desks. School hours were 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily. We kept up that routine for about half of the school year and then moved to the finished building at 23rd Street and Clarence Avenue.

I was not much of a scholar, and I didn’t like school, so the short hours and the novelty of the school room made my time there fun.

I like to say now, looking back on my elementary years, that I majored in looking out the windows. This was my best subject.

C.J. Hybl
Current Berwyn resident of 86 years

___________________________

I grew up on 26th Street and Harvey Avenue in the 1950s in a big bungalow where we lived with my Czech grandparents. My Berwyn memories can be divided into three stages.

As a 6-year-old girl, my world was close to home, but it was a rich and interesting universe. My grandfather had a good-sized garden in our tiny backyard. He had his vegetables growing all around the garage with the cucumber vines trellising up the south side of the garage. He had tomatoes, yellow beans, green beans, the aforementioned towering cukes, onions, kohlrabi and radishes that were unbelievably hot. Gramma, not to be outdone, had all her flowers surrounding the vegetable plots. The yard was a riot of colors and smells all summer long.

But all the yards were like that, and so we children had to play in the alley. We played hopscotch, keep away, kickball and even softball, until someone would hit the ball into Mrs. L’s backyard. She had a big white dog that didn’t like us a whole lot, but it sure did have fun with the ball.

Early evenings in summer we’d play in the alley and then make our way to Frejlach’s Ice Cream Parlor on the corner for a cool cone or float. They made their own ice cream, and the butter pecan was the best I ever tasted. The street lights would come on, and we’d head home.

By the age of 10, Berwyn got bigger. We had 26th Street and all its stores to consider. It was not unusual to be sent on errands to the bakery, butcher, hardware store, pharmacy or our tiny Jewel Food Store.

On our two-block walk to Komensky School (it was a one-story building at that time), we would stop at Janda’s candy store and load up on all those penny-candy wonders — wonders because now we wonder what the big draw was about sucking dots off of paper or eating overly sweet cigarettes.

At Christmas, my dad and I would go to the Savings and Loan on the corner of 26th Street and Highland Avenue, and I would ceremoniously withdraw my $50 of Christmas Club savings.

We’d go next door to Joachim’s Hardware, and I’d find a special dish or kitchen gadget to carefully wrap and present to Gramma on Christmas Eve. Joachim’s had wood floors and nails in big barrels and an elderly man behind the counter who knew how to fix everything.

Kaucky’s Pharmacy on 26th Street and Ridgeland Avenue had an equivalent person behind the counter who, if you weren’t feeling well or had an itch, had a fix for that.

By 13, Berwyn was the base for almost all of our social endeavors as teenagers. We walked everywhere, from Frejlach’s to 22nd Street to the interesting and fairly new Cermak Plaza on Harlem Avenue.

Saturday afternoons brought the debate among us as to which show to go to. We  had the Olympic and the Berwyn. Who had the scarier movie? Did we want to get our cheeseburger from Neisner’s 5 and 10 diner counter or the corner restaurant where we could burn a quarter in the jukebox?

The last day of school was always a short one, so the ladies in my family would head to Cermak after lunch to purchase our new bathing suits for the summer ahead. There was Troy Store and Lerner’s and the Sisters (still can’t remember if there were two or three sisters). On the way home, we would sometimes stop and purchase a bag of fresh-made doughnuts from the Donut Pantry. That didn’t help fitting into the new suits very much.

In the evenings, my girlfriends and I would head to the ballpark at 28th Street and East Avenue to watch the guys play softball. Some of the guys were already in high school and seemed so grown up and self assured.

The kids we knew from Komensky still rode their bikes with the “mojo” handlebars, but that was OK. They were our friends and would give us rides home on the handlebars.

Many times we’d stop at Frejlach’s for ice cream before they’d drop us off. I guess you could say Frejlach’s was always a part of my world there on Harvey Avenue and 26th Street.

I guess you could also say that Berwyn will always be a part of my world, though I left there in 1972. It was there as part of my family, my friends and my home. It has a place in my heart.

Sandra J. Cervak, 59
Former Berwyn resident of 18 years
Current resident of Brookfield

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I was a year old in 1927 when my father opened a custom tailoring business at 2144 South Clarence Ave. We lived in Berwyn from 1927 until 1948, when my parents decided to move to Los Angeles for the milder climate.

... My husband Jerry was born in Los Angeles, and we have attended several Morton High School class reunions. I am still in touch with several longtime friends in the suburbs. Our house at 2122 South Clarence, built in 1939, looks great, and I have a photo of it on our fridge. Talk about nostalgia.

Elinor Schoback Lynch, 82
Former Berwyn resident of 21 years
Current resident of Palm Desert, Calif.

___________________________

I lived in Berwyn in the 1940s and 1950s. I lived on East Avenue and 27th Street.

I can remember that there was a Baptist Church on 27th Street closer to Ridgeland Avenue and a dairy on the south side of 27th Street closer to Ridgeland Avenue. It was called Berwyn Dairy.

On the southwest corner of Ridgeland Avenue and 27th Street was a live poultry store. You could pick out your chicken or duck or goose and they would kill it for you right there, and you had supper.

On the corner of 26th Street and Ridgeland Avenue was a drug store named Kaucky’s, and going south was a butcher, tailor, fruit store and barber.

Going east on 26th Street and Ridgeland Avenue was a photographer, tavern and another butcher.

There was a small Jewel Food Store on the northeast block of Ridgeland Avenue, and the corner was a parking lot for Jewel. Next to Jewel was a bakery and then an open lot.

On 22nd Street, what is now North Riverside Plaza was a TB Sanitarium. It had beautiful green trees, lawns and benches and was like a park.

The building on the northwest corner of Harlem Avenue and 22nd Street was a streetcar barn later used as a bus barn.

There was nothing past the Woodlawn Cemetery as far as buildings or stores. There was a tavern across the street on 22nd Street and Des Plaines Avenue, and they had a caged live black bear on display for a long time until we heard it bit some child’s hand.

The Berwyn Theater was on Ridgeland Avenue and 22nd Street, and on the northeast corner from the show was a Walgreens that had a lunch counter and soda fountain.

Next to Walgreens was a little store called Neumode Hosiery. They sold and repaired nylon stockings during WWII. Ladies couldn’t buy stockings, and when the ones they had got a run in them, they could take them to be repaired.

There was also a Singer sewing machine shop there, and next to that was Neisner’s 5- and 10-cent store. They sold everything for a dime and nickel, and you could get 78 rpm records, jewelry, a lunch counter and anything else you wanted.

On the southwest corner of 22nd Street and Ridgeland Avenue was Troy Department Store. It was a dry goods store with everything in it. It had wooden floors and sold all kinds of dresses, underwear, shoes, hats, gloves, etc.

Berwyn was a clean, wholesome town when I lived there. Houses were always neat and clean. They were always painted, the front walks were always swept, and grass was kept cut.

I remember as a child that the garbage was picked up in the alley with a horse-drawn wagon. The horses used to stop on the side of our house to have a feed bag put on, and the garbage men ate lunch on our lawn. They always picked up after themselves, and after they left, all the women used to go in the alley and sweep it so it was clean from the horses and anything else that was left on the ground, which was very little.

Once a month, a scrap metal man would go through the alley and shout “Rags and Old Iron.” If you had anything to give him, he would pay you 10 cents or a quarter depending on what you had. A quarter was like a million dollars.

There was also a Midwest grocery store on the southeast corner of 27th Street and East Avenue,  and a block farther north was another one on the corner, across from Hiawatha School. There also was an iceman that sold ice from a garage near the alley on East Avenue, near 26th Street.

I lived all of my childhood there and moved out in 1960 when I got married.

Lenore Caprata, 72
Former Berwyn resident of 25 years
Current resident of La Grange Park

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