Thursday, December 27, 2012

Viva La Vida

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012 From the Chicago Lampoon: Ain't That Somethin'?

(Ed Note: This is reprinted from The Chicago Schlager Music Review. It eloquently captures our sentiments with, as Rahm Emanuel would blurt, "laser-like precision").

As our Christmas Greetings from Chicago this year, we could have posted Bing Crosby's classic "White Christmas" or Karen Carpenter's "Home for the Holidays."

But their sentimentally buoyant optimism is of another time and another, kinder and gentler America.

Those American songs would have been oddly out of character with the coarsening of the culture and the psychic angst that has descended on America in this, the 4th discontented winter of the Obama misrule.

But an innovative rock/soft jazz ensemble from Pittsburgh, Busted Universe, has quite artfully captured the almost nihilistic, angry cynicism that grips America at Christmastide, 2012.

We could find no Christmas video that more faithfully captures the zeitgeist of this time and place.

Here is Busted Universe's brand new video release of the traditional Christmas carol,"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,":

Busted Universe is offering this song as a free download at their website:

If we're still walking the planet, we'll be back in 2013 with our usual coverage of whatever the hell it is we cover.

Till then, Merry Christmas, all, from the Chicago Lampoon (I guess.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chicago's North Suburban WWII POW Camp: German Soldiers Held in Des Plaines

The Des Plaines POW camp ruins are
hidden by 65 years of silvan growth

In the popular mind today, World War II Prisoner of War camps conjure up images of the clever Col. Hogan outsmarting the bumbling Col. Klink in Hogan's Heroes or perhaps of a leather jacketed Steve McQueen sitting in the "cooler" bouncing his baseball against the wall in The Great Escape.

But from the "strange but true" file, there actually was a POW camp for German Prisoners of War in the suburban Chicago, Cook County Forest Preserves in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Only crumbling vestiges of it can be found today amid 65 years of silvan growth, but they're present, nevertheless, about 1/2 mile South of Euclid Rd., just East of the Des Plaines River.

From 1943 to 1946, 251 Wehrmacht soldiers captured by US forces in the North Africa and Italian campaigns were held in a crude camp in what was then called "Camp Pine."

Moss covers the foundation of
one of the POW camp barracks

It was one of 46 satellite POW camps administered from Ft. Sheridan in Highwood, which could not itself accommodate the growing number of captured German and Italian combatants.

It was placed at the site of what had been a US Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp for unemployed men during the great depression.

Constructed in 1934, the CCC Camp Pine was one of FDR's make work projects to help revive the economy. Paying able bodied men to rake leaves in a forest, didn't do anything to end the depression, but the industrial demands of World War II did and FDR's New Deal CCC experimental camp was abandoned in 1941.

(It isn't generally known today, but the CCC program was actually managed by the U.S. Army. A mere 3 years before Hitler's invasion of Poland and 5 years before the Jap sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the left-wing Democrat New Dealers were intent on further cutting the US military budget. General Douglas MacArthur, then the Army Chief of Staff, arranged for the Army to handle the CCC as a way of avoiding the furlough and loss of trained Army officers. His foresight would prove vital in the coming war years. -- see Mark Perry's excellent 2014 biography of General MacArthur, The Most Dangerous Man in America.)

But due to the overflow of POWs at Ft. Sheridan, Camp Pine Woods was brought back into use in 1943, and became home to the 251 POWs and about 30 US guards.

The young German men there lived in five crude barrack-styled buildings on the high ground along the Des Plaines River. The huts were each heated by a single wood burning stove and there were 8 outdoor privies to accommodate the 280 or so prisoners and guards there.

Rusting hand pump that
serviced the POW camp prisoners

The POWs, many of whom were simple farm boys from places like Bavaria and Swabia, were put to work cutting flowers for Pesche's greenhouse (which still exists on River Road) or picking vegetables at nearby truck farms.

Years later, many of the surviving POWs had fond reminiscences of their humane treatment there at the hands of the Americans.

Ever on the lookout for weird things in and around Chicago, intrepid Chicago Lampoon reporters, with the help of a friendly man whose Golden Retrievers were romping in the woods, found the ruins to old Camp Pine and took the photos that illustrate this article.

They're well off the crushed limestone jogging path in the Cook County Forest Preserve known today as "Camp Pine Woods." But if you stumble around amidst the blackthorn and brush about 1/2 mile South of the Euclid Rd. entrance on the high ground along the river, sooner or later, you'll find them.

When you go, be sure to bring some Beck's Beer (no watery domestic brews, please!)for the ghosts of those long gone German POWs and pour it on the ground there for them.

And, the strictures of Gem├╝tlichkeit, being what they are, be sure to swill a good quantity of the stuff yourself. These thirsty German ghosts surely wouldn't want to drink alone.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Good Spellen' at Niles Public Library

Just in front of the main entrance to the library in suburban Niles, Illinois, there are 6 benches for patrons to sit on and sun themselves, read, smoke or whatever.

In a really nice little gesture, some years back, the local Niles Cub Scouts offered to dedicate each of the benches to the veterans of each of America's major wars.

The little fellas in blue, painted the name and years of the conflict on each bench in large letters and in smaller letters, listed the major battles of the particular war.

So there is a bench dedicated to Civil War veterans and it says "American Civil War - April 1861 - May 1865" in big letters. And on the side in smaller letters it says "Fort Sumter - Shiloh - Gettysburg - Appomattox".

But on the bench commemorating World War I, the Cubbies listed the following battles: St. Mihiel, The Marne, Belleau Wood and "Argone Forest" (sic).

Do you see what's wrong with this picture?

"Argone" is misspelled. The costliest battle in the history of American warfare, where 26,000 American men were killed and 91,000 were injured was, in fact, the battle of Argonne Forest.

Now it's one thing to misspell something like that on a middle school term paper, but this thing is  - if not exactly etched in stone - at least pretty solidly out there on public display.

And in front of a library - Niles' preeminent place of learning.

And it's been up there since 1990.

And none of the sagacious scholars at Niles' Public Library ever seemed to have caught it.

I hear there are a few job openings at the Niles Public Library. The pay is pretty good and they are an equal opportunity employer.

They do not discriminate against those afflicted with illiteracy.