Friday, June 18, 2010

Melrose Park by Fidencio Marbella and Margaret Flanagan

I wonder how many librarians have written Image of America series local history books? I remember that Barbara Paul was the co-author of two titles about Chicago Heights, Illinois. Now I have read Melrose Park by Fidencio Marbella and Margaret Flanagan with help from the reference staff at the Melrose Park Public Library. Heidi Beazley, who we just hired at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library, gets a special thanks in the Acknowledgements.

In some ways, Melrose Park mirrors the other suburban communities that formed in the late nineteenth century. The village rose around a station on the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. Established to help farmers get their crops to the city, the station soon sent workers into the city and later attracted industry to the area. The village had a period of rapid growth during which schools, churches, and governments were formed. Waves of immigrants changed the community character. Industry brought more jobs to the area. Sons and daughters went off to war. In the post-World War II era, developers built many houses.

Having made the statement about typical development, Fidencio and Margaret show how Melrose Park developed its own character. I was particularly struck by Chapter Five: Food, Fun, and Festivals, which shows among other things (1) Kiddieland Amusement Park, a small local amusement business that bucked economic and cultural trends to survive over many decades, and (2) the community's long-running Festa della Madonna with its Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel procession and the display of icons in yards. I also think Chapter Six about the Palm Sunday Twister, a highly destructive tornado in 1920, and Chapter Seven, showing 1907 and 2007 scenes, are particularly compelling.

My library is fortunate to have a special fund that helps us get local history publications. We have gotten quite a few of the Chicago and suburban Image of America titles which not only help history fair students but also resonate with our long time residents. The quality of editing of these titles sometimes varies. Maybe having reference librarians involved is an especially good thing, as Melrose Park is one of the best of the series that I have seen. What other titles are by librarians?

Marbella, Fidencio and Margaret Flanagan. Melrose Park. Arcadia Publishing, 2009. ISBN 9780738560939.

1 comment:

adgorn said...

I agree, these are great books. I have read many, most recently the one on Maywood. Alan