Remembering the Fountains of My Youth
There is a magnetic attraction for children to fountains. At least there was for me. As a child, I recall going to a favorite park with my grandfather and him giving me a few shiny “make-a-wish” pennies to throw in the fountain. I also remember trying to informally calculate how much money lay in the bottom of the fountain, and what I could buy if all that money that other people didn’t seem to want somehow became mine. I knew without being told not to reach in and take any, but I wasn’t sure exactly why. After all, people had thrown it away, right?
I also vividly remember on summer nights, my parents periodically taking my brothers and me on special trips “downtown” just to see Buckingham Fountain in its full multi-colored grandeur. In my mind, it was more than worth the trip. I’ve been to Europe and many other places since and Buckingham remains the prettiest and most impressive fountain I’ve ever seen.
But growing up in the western suburbs not far from Oakbrook Center, the fountain for which I have the fondest memories is the one that used to be at the center of the mall. It was replaced a few years ago by another fountain which most folks would undoubtedly say is much classier. And I wouldn’t argue, since as you can see in our “Fonts of Fun” feature on page 46, the new “Vortex” fountain is indeed impressive.
It is not, however, as well suited for leaf, stick or cigarette butt racing, which is what we would do as kids pretty much every time we went to the mall. As longtime Oakbrook Center regulars will remember, the original main fountain had feeder fountains on all four sides. And the feeder fountains had two levels. My friends and I would scour the area for any tiny objects that would float, place them in the top tier of one of the feeder fountains, and watch them go over the falls to the lower tier. They would then make their way to a hidden drain that would send them under the sidewalk and out to a channel that led to the main fountain. Whoever’s leaf, stick, cigarette butt or other floating object emerged first into the channel was the winner. Yes, I know, we were pretty easy to entertain back in those days!
In any case, I hope you will check out the fountain feature — there are some really wonderful fountains in the area and a number of them have interesting backstories.
Be sure to also check out our cover feature, “Arboretum Transformation” on page 40, where writer Jay Copp provides an inside look at how the once staid tree museum in Lisle has become one of the most visited attractions in the Chicago area for people of all ages.
We hope you enjoy those stories and the many others in this issue and, as always, thanks for being a reader!Edit Module