Harry Cawley was a veteran train man, a conductor for the North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad, when the opportunity came along to try a different trade: the hardware business. He didn’t know much about it, recalls his son, Dan Cawley, co-owner of Harold’s True Value. But Harry was handy and industrious, and in 1951 he bought an existing store, Noyes Hardware and Paint, just west of the el station. He did well enough to take over two more hardware stores in Evanston. In 1977 the family opened at their current location, 2912 Central St., buying out the existing proprietor, Harold Moshen, who had been at the site since 1953. Later the other two stores were closed. The Central Street site expanded to its current 6,000-square-foot space when they took over a barber shop next door in the early ’80s. Harold’s sells both to businesses and individuals, and stocks an enormous inventory of more than 50,000 individual items. “It was a lot to learn,” Mr. Cawley concedes. “We [the family] kind of got thrown into the mix. But you’ve got to survive, so you figure it out.” Mr. Cawley, 82, still works most every day at the store, which is open … Continue reading →
Evanston RoundTable, Nov. 14, 2019 “When you come to the end of one time and the beginning of a new one, it’s a period of tremendous pain and turmoil.” – Joseph Campbell in “The Power of Myth” It seems we are living in such a time now. The rise and growing reach of the internet has radically altered the way we communicate, do business and manage our lives. Huge and increasing disparities of wealth challenge our idea of what a just and equitable society should be. The increasing power of China in the east and nativist populism in the United Kingdom, Europe and America are roiling national and global politics. Toxic social media and civic strife are on the rise. Normalcy? Say goodbye. Newspapers are no exception to the sweep of time and turmoil. When I started my journalism career in the early 1970s, in the warm afterglow of Watergate, the print press was still the dominant communications medium in terms of prestige and influence. Data from the Pew Research Center tell the story: newspaper circulation rose through the early part of the last century to peak in the late 1980s. It has been on a steady decline since then. … Continue reading →
Evanston RoundTable, Oct. 31, 2019 A high school classmate of mine, diagnosed with end-stage cancer, wrote that in his despair he went online searching for the best end-of-life joke. This is what he came up with. “Guy walks into his doctor’s office feeling a bit under the weather. The doc checks him out and says to him that he has cancer and has six months to live. The patient is understandably upset and says, Doc, what should I do? The Doc’s answer: Leave your wife, go to Kansas or some other God-forsaken place, find an ugly woman with seven kids who will yell at you all the time. But Doc, says the patient, how will that help? It won’t, says the Doc, but it will be the longest six months of your life.” Not the most PC joke, perhaps, but my classmate reported that it brought a smile to his face, and got him to thinking. “I laughed at this,” he wrote, “and it kept popping into my thoughts. Why was this funny? It seems to me it is amusing because it is the exact opposite of what we want from life. We do not want to prolong life in a way that is not satisfying. We … Continue reading →
Evanston RoundTable, Oct. 17, 2019
Steve Winwood is having a moment. His Grammy-winning “Higher Love,” a No. 1 hit in 1986, has gone to No. 1 again, this time in a recording by Whitney Houston from 1990 and recently rereleased. Another version, performed by the Ndlovu Youth Choir, was awarded Judge’s Choice on America’s Got Talent last month and has almost 3 million views on YouTube.
It’s a great song, especially the original Winwood version with his incredibly powerful high tenor voice, complex arrangements, joyful melodies and harmonies and the exuberant, ecstatic coda.
Is there is a more brilliant musician who enjoys less fanfare and recognition? Probably not. Few people appreciate the enormity of Mr. Winwood’s amazing talent or the scope of his career. He has sold 50 million records and won numerous awards, from Grammy and Jammy honors to BMI Icon for his “enduring contributions to the music industry.” In 2008 he received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music, where he told students that at the age of 15 he was kicked out of . . .Continue reading →
Evanston RoundTable, Oct. 3, 2019
For the first time since 2014, the Cubs will be missing the National League playoffs. In the end it wasn’t even close. They finished the season nine games behind the Nationals and five games behind the Brewers for the two Wild Card playoff spots.
Worse yet was the crushing way they were eliminated, losing their last four home games to the rival Cardinals. It was the Cards’ first four-game sweep at Wrigley since 1921.
More humiliation? The Cubs lost their last five games at Wrigley by one run. You’d have to go back to 1915 to replicate that sad streak.
All this when they had a 3½ game lead in the division as recently as Aug. 9. Despite having a fabulous lineup . . .Continue reading →
Evanston RoundTable, Sept. 19, 2019
Thirteen hundred miles straight west is that other Evanston, the one we occasionally get confused with, the one we sometimes think about, the one in the southwest corner of Wyoming.
What’s it like?
“It’s a really nice town with good people,” says Mayor Kent Williams.
The mayor should know. He has lived there 35 years and raised a family of four, with two grandchildren and two more on the way—all of whom live nearby.
In many ways the two Evanston cities are dissimilar. Our western namesake is 90% white, with few people of color. (We’re 66% white, 17% black and 10% Asian.) The western Evanston lies at an elevation of 6,750 feet, in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. (We’re 585 feet, with no foothills in sight, unless you count Mount Trashmore.) Their closest metropolis is Salt Lake City, 90 miles west. (We are across the street from the nation’s third-largest city.) Hunting is popular, so as with the rest of Wyoming, guns are widespread. “We like our Second Amendment rights,” says Mayor Williams. And the western Evanston is a lot more sparsely populated: 1,200 people per square mile vs. almost 10,000 here.
Still, there are some similarities, . . .Continue reading →
Evanston RoundTable, Sept. 5, 2019
Once every hundred years the village of Brigadoon, nestled deep in the Scottish Highlands, emerges from the mists of obscurity to restore and enrapture the villagers, who laugh and fuss, fall in and out of love, and celebrate the wonder and beauty of life during its brief flicker of time.
That at least is the premise of Lerner and Loewe’s great musical of the same name, which premiered on Broadway in 1947.
So it is here in Evanston, where one day every year, cars are magically banned and people emerge to renew old friendships and frolic on their lawns, sidewalks, parkways and pavements. Time for the annual block party! So far this summer, there have been more than 150 in Evanston.
We held ours, our 41st, two Saturdays ago and as always it was delightful. We have a long block, with 37 homes, plus we invite households around the corner and on the next block. With additional friends and family members the turnout can easily exceed a hundred people.
My 10-year-old grandson Ben, an avid block partygoer, and I started out as we do every year . . .Continue reading →
Evanston RoundTable, Aug. 22, 2019
Just back from a trip to Toronto with Neil, my best friend from high school, way back when.
First: Toronto. Go! It’s a terrific city—clean, colorful and vibrant. We hung out at the waterfront and took the ferry to Centre Island where we rode bikes and tossed a frisbee. We also visited the Hockey Hall of Fame and Niagara Falls. Only 100 minutes from O’Hare by plane.
But the best part of being with Neil, as always—and despite the fact that he lives 800 miles away in New York (where we grew up)—was the warm and hilarious time we always have together, like two big kids let loose on the world.
What is it about old friends? The most important factor may be that they still see you as the kid you were then—and that makes you more kid-like to be with them now.
Because despite our advancing years, we still love to act like kids. As we grow older people increasingly miss the joy and freedom of childhood. Adulthood brings burdens of responsibility . . .Continue reading →
Evanston RoundTable, Aug. 8, 2019
A 2013 exhibit at the Field Museum about the ancient paintings at Lascaux devoted a wing to recreating part of the original caves. Greeting museum visitors as they entered were two full-size fiberglass models of Neolithic people, a man and a woman, dressed in their finest animal furs and jewelry. There they stood, peering out incredulous at the passing museum crowd, doubtless thinking: what slobs!
Sad but true. “Dressing down” has become our national passion. We’ve regressed from “casual Friday” to “constantly scraggly.” Anywhere one goes in public, there they are: the scruffy and unkempt, flaunting their torn jeans, pajama bottoms, baggy pants, cut-off shorts, flip-flops and rumpled and ripped T-shirts.
This is a new stage in our sartorial evolution. Sumptuary laws going back thousands of years dictated how people should look. The great American panjandrums of a century ago—Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Warren Harding—went camping together in their suits and ties. Old photos show Chicagoans of a century ago thronging the Loop or Wrigley Field in their best clothing.
And recall the iconic Robert Young in the midcentury TV series “Father Knows Best,” sitting down to dinner with Mom, Princess and Bud in his gray suit, dark tie and white shirt and carefully folded pocket square. . . .Continue reading →
Evanston RoundTable, July 25, 2019
Tuesday nights my grandson Ben sleeps over. He is 10, a rising fifth grader (as they say) in the Chicago Public Schools, and therefore capable of profound observations. Last night as we were getting ready for bed he told me that sleep is the time when you “bypass time,” when an hour goes by like a minute, both statements which pretty much knocked me out.
Good kid, adorably cute, STEM nerd, though he likes social studies too, he told me.
“Pops, what should I be when I grow up,” he asked amidst this conversational romp. I told him a physicist. An Einstein in the family would be nice. I asked him what he wanted to be, and he said “animator,” by which he meant painter of Japanese anime drawings. He loves all things Japanese, especially sushi. But I thought he said “innovator.”
“Yeah, that would be good too,” he agreed. Inventors and scientists are like guiding spirits . . .Continue reading →