TimeOut Kids Chicago didn’t exist in 2006, when I started this blog. These days, I’m rarely looking for fun things to do on the weekend, but when I am, I’m so glad that TimeOut Kids has already compiled a happenings list for me.
This morning, The Girl woke up in a mood. I tell you, some days I am not sure that both of us are going to make it to the angsty tween/teen years. Which everyone seems to think are summarily awful. As I wrote another day, I think The Girl has been caught in friendship flux this year. And, unfortunately, with her personality, this means that she is fine at school or elsewhere, but bubbles into a seething cauldron of rage when at home, or with her family. I’m trying my best to soothe her emotions, but it’s mentally exhausting. In fact, I’m relaxing with a glass of white wine right now.
Part of The Girl’s mood was that she wanted to do something with the day. My initial suggestions (neighborhood garage sales, Wells Street Art Fair) were met with thumbs pointed down. Enter the TimeOut Chicago list!
Among the contenders were the Scandinavian Jam at the Swedish American Museum, the Chicago: You Are Here exhibit at the CAF, and my top pick: the BH&G Chill & Grill Fest with Stephanie Izard at Waveland Bowl. The winner, however, fit in with our “Saturday Sweets tradition” (gakked from our Norwegian friends): the Elmhurst Historical Museum’s Sweet Home Chicago: History of America’s Candy Capital.
The museum, free to the public, is in the Glos House near the center of Elmhurst. It’s open on weekends from 1-5 p.m.
I grew up in the south suburbs, so I can’t recall ever having been to Elmhurst before. I seriously cannot say the word Elmhurst without repeating the Celozzi-Ettleson Chevrolet dealers’ tag line: where you always save more money! None of my children understand commercials, so the joke was lost on them. (Did anyone else watch copious amounts of bad non-cable TV in he 1980s in Chicagoland? When I queried The Dad as to his association with Elmhurst, his response was the word “tree.”)
I even looked for mention of the slogan in the museum’s other exhibit, a history of the town from the 1800s to the present. Sadly, there was no mention of it. I did learn, however, that Elmhurst started the second ever Boy Scout Troop in the early 20th century, and had GSA and Camp Fire Girls troops as well.
But back to the candy exhibit.
It was nicely done. We stopped in the gift shop/welcome desk on the way in to get a brief intro and a “treasure hunt” worksheet of sorts for The Boy and The Girl to fill out as we went. The Boy is a solid reader and could read the exhibit placards himself, but I found myself orating to a crowd as I read a brief history of the candy business in Chicago, as well as individual business histories–Cracker Jack, Williamson’s Oh Henry! bar, Mars’ Snickers, Ferrara-Pan (did you know the pan is the type of kettle used to make the candy?), Fannie May, Brach’s, Tootsie Roll, Wrigley, Blommer’s (so that’s the wonderful chocolate smell drifting over River North most days!), Willy Wonka, Frango Mints, DeMet’s, Bunte, and lots of others. They covered Keeler’s, an Elmhurst fixture that has since shuttered. The Boy and The Girl might remember Mitchell’s, the candy store and fountain that was popular in my hometown. The Boy completed his worksheet. The Girl was more interested in finding out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop (“three!”) to fill out the sheet, which is just as well. Going through the museum was an hour of relative peace and air-conditioned comfort for us all.
Upstairs, the exhibit continued with a hands-on “candy twisting” timed test exhibit (I was rotten!), a guess-that-bar station, and a couple of shorts of Lucille Ball on the candy line.
We drive through what I’d guess is the main drag of Elmhurst on our way back to the highway, stopping at a cute, yet esoteric, store called “Fit for a King” or something like that, which sold chess sets, army men, and doll clothes. We rounded off the afternoon with a pair of size-gigantic iced teas from Starbucks.