Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside

Demographic note: a lot more people reside in Mount Carmel Cemetery in west suburban Hillside, Ill., than in the village itself. The cemetery has about 226,000 permanent residents, while the village has only about 8,100 (living) people. But the advantage goes to the living, of course. For instance, they can vote in Cook County elections; most of the dead people can’t.

I’ve known about Mount Carmel for years, but only got around to visiting last week, on a cool and partly cloudy afternoon. The cemetery is thick with upright stones —

Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside ILMount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside IL… funerary art —

Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside ILMount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside… and mausoleums. In fact, there are a lot of family mausoleums there, about 400, including these three.
Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside ILAt Mount Carmel, one learns that the Lord is a Cubs fan.
Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside ILOn a hillock in the middle of the cemetery is the Bishops’ Chapel, or Bishops’ Mausoleum, but in full the Mausoleum and Chapel of the Archbishops of Chicago, complete with Gabriel blowing his horn.
Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside IL bishops' mausoleum and chapelInside are the remains of seven bishops, archbishops and auxiliary bishops of Chicago, mostly recently Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, who was entombed in 1996. I remember in the fall of ’96 seeing his funeral procession cross the Michigan Ave. Bridge from an office window in 35 E. Wacker, where I worked. Presumably they were headed for Mount Carmel.

The book Mount Carmel and Queen of Heaven Cemeteries by Jenny Floro-Khalaf and Cynthia Savaglio gives quite a lot of detail about the Bishops’ Mausoleum, which was completed in 1912. The cemetery itself was established with the new-born century in 1901, long before the Eisenhower Expressway ran to its north, and probably when Roosevelt Road to the south — not yet called that, but 12th St. in the city at least — was very rudimentary indeed.

“[The chapel] was the brainchild of Chicago’s second archbishop, James Quigley, who oversaw its construction,” Floro-Khalaf and Savaglio write. “He engaged a local architect, William J. Brickman, who came up with the simple, Romanesque style that embodies the building’s outline. However, in keeping with the aesthetic tastes of his predecessor, Patrick Feehan, Quigley engaged one of the most famous architects of the day, Aristide Leonori, who designed the building’s breathtaking interior… Leonari executed a design reminiscent of Rome in marble and mosaic.”

A locked door was as close as I got to the breathtaking interior, for which I blame wankers who would do harm to it. But over the door, you’re reminded that Quigley built the place.

Many Italian names dot the cemtery’s landscape. Benedetto, Bernardo, DeVito, DiGiovanni, Felicetti, Gazzolo, Genna, Mazzitelli, Salerno, Serritello, Truppa, Perazzo, Porcaro, Porzio, and Viviano were among those I saw, though there was a fair number of Irish names and others mixed in.

One name I didn’t see was Capone. If I’d done any research beforehand, I would have known where to look for Al Capone. The cemetery doesn’t guide visitors to his grave, unlike the signs posted to direct you to the Wright Bros. at the Woodland Cemetery in Dayton or the Hunley crews in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston. Maybe some other time.

Other mafioso are buried in Mount Carmel, though not as well known as Capone any more. But their stories are no less lurid. Such as Joseph “Hop Toad” Giunta, who ran afoul of Capone in a particularly bloody way, or so the story goes. I didn’t see his grave, either.

Find a Grave says, “He was a high ranking member of the Capone gang who formed a secret alliance with Al Capone enemy Joe Aiello. Giunta planned to kill Capone and take over his operations, and enlisted the help of Capone triggermen John Scalise and Albert Anselmi with the promise of higher positions when Giunta was in power.

“Capone found out about the plan and invited Giunta, Scalise and Anselmi to a dinner party. During dinner Capone brought out an Indian club he’d received as a gift and proceeded to beat the three men to near death. Capone then allegedly finished the job with gunshots…”

April 6, 1917

Been 100 years exactly since the United States entered the Great War. How could I forget to mention that?

Found this Pathé clip not long ago. Copyright is 1960, so a little late for this kind of newsreel-style March of Time-like bit of work. Can’t imagine anyone doing such a thing in 1970. Worth watching for the images especially, helpfully cataloged by the poster.

Interesting lines: “Never again would we see our entry into a major conflict excite so many to such heights of elation. Naive? Probably. But here was a generation of young men not yet saturated by the paralyzing variety of self-analysis and the mock sciences. They believed.”

Sestercentennial

As I was reading about the 250th anniversary of President Jackson’s birth today — reportedly Mr. Trump fancies himself like Mr. Jackson, but I doubt that the former has ever been in a single duel with actual pistols — it occurred to me that I didn’t know the term for 250th anniversary. Centennial, Sesquicentennial, Bicentennial, Tricentennial, those are well enough known. But 250?

Off to the lazy man’s fount of knowledge, Wikipedia, which lists “Sestercentennial” as the main answer, from the way the Romans said two and a half. Other suggestions include “semiquincentennial,” “bicenquinquagenry” (that’s not going to fly) and the unimaginative “quarter-millennial.”

Sestercentennial seems to have some currency, if you feed it into Google. At least two websites claim their purpose is to gear the nation up for its Sestercentennial on July 4, 2026. One seems faintly academic, the other a guy with a website and an odd dream.

Guess we’ll hear more about the 250th ca. 2024 and ’25. Entirely too much, if the Bicentennial is any guide. I’ll be 65 if I make it so long. On July 4, 1976, I was 15. It rained most of that day in San Antonio, so we didn’t go anywhere, not even for fireworks, which probably would have been at Fort Sam Houston. Or was that for Fiesta? Time muddles things.

Thursday Flotsam

I think I was in the 8th grade when I learned the difference between flotsam and jetsam. Mr. Allen’s English class. He was firm in his belief that you should learn things in school. I suppose most teachers feel that way, but he was particularly adamant. Once a wiseacre named Tim asked Mr. Allen why anyone had to learn what he was teaching. “Because if you don’t know it, you’ll be ignorant,” was his answer.

Saw La La Land recently. It was everything it needed to be. Namely, skillfully made and visually appealing light entertainment, with an especial fine use of the Griffith Observatory as a setting, and an ending a bit above the usual formula. A lot else has been written about it, of course. Endless commentary. As far as I’m concerned, that’s overthinking the matter.

My parents’ and grandparents’ generations weren’t right about everything, but I think they had a healthy take on song-and-dance movies. Mostly light entertainment, though there was the song that was just as powerful a weapon as any cannon or battleship in the First World War.

Speaking of war, after posting about the evacuation of Fort Moultrie on December 26, 1860, I found the digital version of The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies to see if Maj. Anderson’s telegram was indeed the first item in that sprawling compendium. It is.

I was amused by the second item, also a telegram, dated December 27.

Major Anderson, Fort Moultrie:
Intelligence has reached here this morning that you have abandoned Fort Moultrie, spiked your guns, burned the carriages, and gone to Fort Sumter. It is not believed, because there is no order for any such movement. Explain the meaning of this report.
— J.B. Floyd, Secretary of War

Or as Sec. Floyd might have said privately, “The deuced you say! He did what?” Three days later, Floyd resigned as Secretary of War, and is remembered — when he’s remembered at all — for suspicious behavior in that office, at least as far as the Union was concerned, and as an incompetent Confederate general.

General Floyd, the commanding officer, who was a man of talent enough for any civil position was no soldier, and possibly, did not possess the elements of one. He was further unfitted for command for the reason that his conscience must have troubled him and made him afraid. As Secretary of War, he had taken a solemn oath to maintain the Constitution of the United States and uphold the same against all enemies. He had betrayed that trust.
— Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

Recommended eatery in Charleston: Bluerose Cafe.

Bluerose Cafe

I started looking for dinner a bit late on a Friday night, and went to one place I’d found on Google maps. It was jammed, and more importantly, so was its parking lot. I went to my second choice. It too was full. Facing the possibility of fast food, which I didn’t really want, I headed back toward to hotel, when I noticed the Bluerose. Plenty of parking there.

The restaurant wasn’t packed either. In fact, at about a half hour before closing, only one table was occupied, with a fellow eating at a counter, and a hostess/waitress behind the counter. The place was simply decorated, but not drab, and the longer I looked around, the more I started noticing Irish touches, such as the sign that said, Céad Míle Fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes).

I sat at the counter as well, and the man eating there said, “I’ll get you something as soon as I’m finished. I haven’t had a chance to eat all day.”

He had a distinct Irish brogue. Turned out he was Denis O’Doherty, the proprietor. I told him not to hurry. We talked a bit, and he told me that he’d come to the United States a good many years ago, living in Boston quite a while, but in Charleston for the last 13 years or so, running the Bluerose. People get around.

I ordered the pan fried flounder before too long, and Mr. O’Doherty went back to the kitchen, which is visible from the counter, to prepare it. While he was at work on that, a woman came in and ordered some food to go, and talked a while with Denis as she sat at the counter. A regular customer. I got the feeling that the place had a lot of regular customers.

He didn’t let the talk distract him too much, because when I got my fish, it was superb. Which was the exact word I used when he asked how the fish was. Sometimes, when it comes to finding good food on the road — even in the age of Yelp and Tripadvisor and all that ya-ya — you just have to get lucky.

Fort Sumter National Monument

To reach Fort Sumter National Monument, you start at Liberty Square, on Charleston’s waterfront, at this building.
Fort Sumter National MonumentAt the other end of the building is a pier were the tourist boats dock, as is visible in the picture above. The view from there, toward Fort Sumter, looks like this on a clear day.
Fort Sumter National Monument - dockAlso included in the monument is Fort Moultrie, but I didn’t make it there. The Fort Sumter part of the national monument is a little hard to pick out, but it is visible on the horizon.

The ride is about 30 minutes. As you proceed, Fort Sumter gets closer.
Fort Sumter And closer.
Fort SumterPretty soon the boat docks at the former fort for about a hour and a quarter visit, which includes a look at the walls, cannons, the former parade ground, the monument’s large flagpole and flag, and Battery Isaac Huger, a sizable black-painted structure built inside the walls at the time of the Spanish-American War that now houses a small museum and gift shop. Some of the cannons were big. Can you imagine that thing going off near your ears in an age before ear protection?

Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter

A Park Service volunteer demonstrated the loading and firing of a Civil War-era rifle.

Fort Sumter volunteer rifleman

He didn’t load it with a real minié ball, put otherwise the demonstration was authentic. After he showed us all of the steps to load the rifle, and fired it once, he did it again as fast as he could a few times, which was very fast, firing in succession. A true enthusiast.

Behind the battery is a slope up to an open field.

Fort SumterHere are representations the four flags that flew over Sumter during the war: the 33-star U.S. flag like that which flew on April 12, 1861; the first and second Confederate flags; the 35-star U.S. flag after Federal re-occupation of the fort in 1865. Fort SumterThe flag that Major Anderson had lowered when he surrendered the fort, and the one that was raised again symbolically in 1865 — Anderson returned for the occasion — is on display in the national monument’s museum. So is the Palmetto Flag that the South Carolinians flew when the fort was first captured.

The current Stars and Stripes, visible from far away, is atop a large flagpole behind the battery.

Fort Sumter flag

Major Anderson is honored in relief at the base of the large flag pole.

Fort Sumter

From 1861 by Adam Goodheart: “It would be one thing if President Buchanan had simply announced that he was withdrawing the troops from Charleston Harbor and turning the forts over to South Carolina, a decision that Anderson would have certainly obeyed, perhaps even welcomed. But he would be damned if he was to surrender — even worse, perform a shabby pantomime of a surrender — before a rabble of whiskey-soaked militiamen and canting politicians.

“Like so much else about the beginning of the Civil War, Major Anderson’s move from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter is largely forgotten today. At the time, however, the little garrison’s mile-long journey was seen not just as a masterstroke of military cunning but as the opening scene of a great and terrible national drama… ‘Major Robert Anderson, thundered the Charleston Courier, ‘has achieved the unenviable distinction of opening civil war between American citizens by a gross breach of faith.’ Northerners, meanwhile, held enormous public banquets in Anderson’s honor; cannons fired salutes in New York, Chicago, Boston, and dozens of other cities and towns.

“And considered in retrospect, Anderson’s move seems freighted with even more symbolism. He lowered his flag on an old fortress, hallowed by the past, yet half ruined — and then raised it upon a new one, still unfinished, yet stronger, bedded in New England granite…

“Twenty years after the war, when officials at the War Department began preparing the Official History of the War of the Rebellion, a massive compilation of documents that would eventually grow to more than two hundred thousand pages, the first of all the uncountable documents that they included was Anderson’s brisk telegram announcing his arrival at Sumter. Nineteenth-century historians knew that without this event, the war might not have happened…”

More Charleston Scenes

The Nathaniel Russell House on Meeting St. in Charleston, SC, completed in 1808, was originally home of one of the wealthiest men in the city at the time, Nathaniel Russell. In our time, it’s an historic property open for tours.

I didn’t have time to take a tour. I did have time to wander around its picturesque garden, which is open to the public. More remarkably, in mid-February this year, the garden looked like spring already.

Nathaniel Russell House gardenNathaniel Russell House gardenLocal sources told me that the weather lately had been unusually warm, even for Charleston. Flowers and other plants responded to the warmth in the only way they know how.
Nathaniel Russell House gardenSignage sometimes has its charms in Charleston.
Tellis Pharmacy, Charleston SC 2017That’s what more drug stores need, mortar-and-pestle symbology. Alas, it’s only a relic now, since the drug store on this site apparently closed a few years ago. Looks like an antique shop occupies the building, which is on King St. At least the new owners decided to keep the sign; or maybe it’s protected.

Unlike St. Philip’s graveyards, which were locked away behind imposing iron fences (though I could see the stone of Vice President Calhoun in the distance), the Circular Congregational Church’s graveyard is open to all during the day.

 Circular Congregational ChurchThe cemetery included some stones, pre-Revolution in vintage, that reminded me very much of the old stones in Boston’s downtown graveyards.
 Circular Congregational Church cemeteryPlus plenty of later 18th- and 19th-century stones.
 Circular Congregational Church cemeteryAnd some nice views of the back of Circular Church.
 Circular Congregational Church cemeteryOne of the best known tourist attractions in Charleston is City Market, which has been the site of a public market for more than two centuries. I’ve never been one to eschew tourist destinations just because they’re popular among tourists, so I popped it for a look. Not bad, but not nearly as interesting as the Pike Place Market in Seattle.
City Market, Charleston 2017One more structure: Charleston City Hall.
Charleston City HallDiscover South Carolina says: “On the site of a Colonial marketplace, this handsomely proportioned 1801 building first housed the Bank of the United States and then became Charleston’s City Hall in 1818. The design is attributed to Charlestonian Gabriel Manigault, a gentleman architect credited with introducing the Adamesque style to the city after studying in Europe.”

Also worth knowing: the building has some of the few public restrooms in downtown Charleston that are open on the weekend.

Charleston Walkabout

Here’s something I learned about the oldest part of Charleston, SC, when I visited recently: good to walk through, not so much to drive through. I could have guessed that anyway. Small streets, many cars, extremely restricted parking.

But early Saturday morning, when the cars roaming the streets were still few, wasn’t a bad time to come to town by car. I arrived and found a parking garage as soon as I could. On foot from there, on Cumberland St., I encountered traces of historic Charleston almost immediately in the form of the city’s most obscure plaque (maybe), fixed to the ground just north of the sidewalk on the north side of that street, between Meeting St. and Church St.

This Oak Was Planted In Celebration Of

ARBOR DAY 1984

It stands above a portion of the fortification wall that once protected the early Charleston settlement. The wall has been destroyed through time as the city spread beyond it’s [sic] original boundaries. The only visibly [sic] portion of the original fortification is the half moon battery, located in the basement of the Exchange Building.

Dedicated by the City of Charleston
Joseph B. Riley Jr., Mayor

Mr. Mayor, you could have ponied up a bit for a proofreader, considering that the text is in bronze. Anyway, the tree isn’t in the most picturesque part of Charleston.

Soon I moved on to better-looking urban core scenes. The city even has aesthetic water meter covers.
Charleston SC water meterThe palmetto is easy enough to figure out, but the cannons? According to one source (which says it’s “probably true”), the cannons refer to Col. William Moultrie’s victory over the British attack on Sullivan’s Island in 1776. Palmetto logs, which had some ability to absorb cannon fire, were used to reinforce the earthenwork defense.

St. Philip’s, an Episcopal church, stands fittingly on Church St. between Cumberland St. and Queen St.
St Philip's Episcopal Church, Charleston SCThe church, the third for this congregation and the second on this site, dates from 1838. The early history of the church, and Charles Towne for that matter, was one damn thing after another. From a short history of St. Philip’s on its web site:

1728-40: Fires, hurricane, epidemics of smallpox, yellow fever, slave uprisings, Indian attacks, threats of war from the Spanish occurred.

Ah, but Charleston flourished. Slave-cultivated rice, indigo and then cotton from the Carolinas did the trick (part of the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil). Highly skilled slaves, I understand, were involved in the wrought iron gates around St. Philip’s, which are a marvel by themselves.
St Philip's Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC iron gateNearby is the light pink Huguenot Church, dating from 1844, at the corner of Church and Queen. It was the first independent Huguenot congregation in America (more-or-less Calvinist, starting in the 1680s) and now the last one.
Huguenot Church, Charleston SCRainbow Row, the nickname for a stretch of East Bay St., features colorful row houses, 13 in all, mostly dating from the late 18th century.
Rainbow Row, Charleston SC 2017They’re in a tightly controlled historic preservation district, except for one thing: the owners get to choose the colors. The pastels were originally put on in the 1920s and occasionally change.
Rainbow Row Charleston SC 2017There are plenty of other handsome houses in that part of Charleston as well. Reminded me a bit of the East End of Galveston.

Charleston, SC 2017Charleston, SCCharleston, SC 2017All in all, a good place to see on foot, provided it isn’t summer.

Char-Tex ’17

Recently, before I went to Texas for a week, I had a day to spend in Charleston, SC, a city I’ve wanted to visit for many years. Just a day, so I packed in the sights. It wasn’t an example of slow travel. Sometimes, you’ve got to hit the ground and go.

I saw the oldest part of Charleston — the site of Charles Towne — on foot for a few hours, took the boat out to Fort Sumter, which took a few more hours, visited Magnolia Cemetery, and saw the H.L. Hunley later in the afternoon.

The old part of Charleston is very handsome, replete with structures surviving from the Antebellum period squeezed into tight city blocks along such streets as Calhoun, Cumberland, Meeting, and at the intersection of King St. and Queen St. A fine thing to do on a February morning that’s warmer than it should be, even in the South: wander past the elegant or curious buildings, admire the churches, take in the details of the streetscapes and sidewalks.

The War Between the States and Reconstruction crushed the local economy. Bad for the people who lived then, good for historic preservation in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, when considerable prosperity has returned to Charleston. Had prosperity continued in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the city might sport handsome Victorian architecture, or might have been Eisenhowered into something less pleasing.

Fort Sumter National Monument is about a 30-minute boat ride away from the city. The fort is as historic as can be, but apparently doesn’t look much like it did in 1861. The war flattened it, the post-war U.S. Army rebuilt and redesigned it until the place was turned over to the Park Service after WWII.

The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, whose insufficient design killed more men than the vessel did as a weapon of war, now rests in a tank of water at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, an industrial structure north of the good-looking parts of town, near other industrial facilities. Eventually, the Hunley will be the star of its own museum, but for now conservation efforts are ongoing.

The Magnolia Cemetery is also north of the old part of town. An old cemetery, it’s rich with old stones, funerary art, monuments to the Lost Cause, and trees festooned with Spanish moss. Also, a warning about not violating South Carolina law.

Magnolia Cemetery, CharlestonWho sees an alligator and thinks, I want to feed it.

The Flight 191 Memorial, Des Plaines

After lunch on Friday, I realized I was fairly close to the Flight 191 Memorial, so I went to take a look. It might be February, and it definitely was cold, but the sky was sunny and the ground without any ice or slush to wade through.

I remember hearing about the crash, which happened the week before I graduated from high school. Probably most people old enough to understand what had happened remember hearing about it, so terrible was the accident. Almost 38 years later, it’s still the worst U.S. aviation accident in terms of fatalities, 273, unless you count all the crashes on Sept. 11, 2001 together, but those were no accidents.

The memorial is tucked away in a park in the large suburb of Des Plaines. From a distance, the site is unassuming, between the road and a jogging path.

Flight 191 Memorial, Lake Park, Des Plaines 2017

I imagine that most people driving by on Touhy Ave. just to the south of the site don’t know it’s there. Closer up, the memorial reveals itself. It’s a low wall with names of the victims inscribed, one to each brick.

Flight 191 Memorial, Des Plaines ILFlight 191 Memorial, Des Plaines ILFor a long time, more than 30 years, there was no memorial to AA 191 anywhere. In 2011, the Chicago Tribune reported that the effort to build a memorial “started with [Kim] Jockl, an assistant principal at Decatur Classical School in Chicago’s West Rogers Park neighborhood whose former students learned she had lost her parents on the Los Angeles-bound flight.

“The group pushed for two years to build the memorial. Finally, American Airlines agreed to foot the $21,500 cost, according to officials at the ceremony, and a location for the memorial was found inside Lake Park in Des Plaines.”

A plaque mounted on a short pole behind the wall says:

WE REMEMBER FLIGHT 191

Let us not forget the victims of May 25, 1979, who helped assure the safety of all who have boarded an airliner since that tragic event.

“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.” — Author Unknown

A special thanks to all who helped make this memorial possible, especially: Decatur Classical School, Chicago Public Schools; US Representative Jan Schakowsky; IL State Sentator Dan Kotowski; the Des Plaines Park District; American Airlines; Project Citizen; Thomas A.Demetrio; Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago; Center for Civic Education; and Nilco, Inc.

Captain Canuck & President Polk for Christmas

My last Christmas present came via UPS today. Lilly ordered it not long ago, some time after I assured her that a little while after Christmas is close enough. It’s an attitude that makes the holidays less stressful; more people should consider it.

I’d suggested the item almost off-handedly. In our time, such whims are easily gratified online. It’s alarmingly easy. Here’s a closeup.

Captain Canuck!

It’s a Captain Canuck t-shirt, 100 percent cotton, made in Nicaragua. Accept no less.

Also for Christmas this year, but some time earlier, Jay got me a t-shirt with another larger-than-life figure, though from the annals of U.S. history.

James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

None other than James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump. Also all cotton, but made in Haiti. On the back it says POLK 11.