Residents Share a Lifetime of Park District Memories

June 29, 2022

The Park District of Highland Park has provided generations of residents with cherished memories of first teams, first friends, and first jobs. The parks are places to gather with friends and family, spaces to celebrate life’s special moments, spots of respite and healing, sites that connect us with essential community services, and so much more.

For Parks and Recreation Month, we are reaching out to our residents to share their cherished memories and stories about what the Park District means to them. 

If you have a favorite Park Story you would like to share, please email [email protected].

Here are just a few of their stories…

“In the summer of 1975, I was working as a lifeguard at Rosewood Beach. I had to stop by my manager’s office, where I saw a very attractive college girl being interviewed. She was hired to work as a cashier at Rosewood.  It took me the entire summer to work up the courage to ask her out on a date. We have now been married for over 43 years.”

Todd Keil

“I was awarded part-time seasonal employee by the Park District on two occasions during my camp counselor years. It is one of the greatest honors to this day because I was SO happy in my youth there and was happy to give back to other kids. From ballet classes as a 4-5-year-old with Mrs. Ettlinger to working the Rec Center desk with Gilda and Marsha Schramm in college, I really never left but for a few tennis camp summers up at Ripon College. A delicious memory is the nature guy Marc Bard’s “Sunset Stew,” that we all made, ate and loved. I think the recipe is still in my mom’s tin holder in my cabinet.”

Barbara Meldman Rosenberg

“I attended Sunset Park Day Camp and played Little League and Pony League baseball at Sunset Park through the summers of 1964-1970. I worked for the Park District from 1974-1981. As a coach, the privilege and opportunity of sharing baseball knowledge and life lessons I had learned to young men between the ages of 10-13, all flavored with the spirit of having fun and embracing the enjoyment of the game, made the opportunity of coaching Park District Little League baseball rewarding and unforgettable. To Chuck Schramm, Bruno Sommenzi and Tommy Inman, I am forever grateful for life lessons learned.  Not to be forgotten are coaches Mike McKillip and Bruce Frichie for their unforgettable roles as well.”

Neal Swire

“I fondly remember those yellow and blue t-shirts from Sunset Day Camp.  I loved the Sloppy Joe’s that were served on special occasions. When I was a teenager, I taught tennis at Centennial Park and Red Oak school. I rode my bicycle with baskets filled with tennis balls. Nothing was as much fun as going downhill on Half Day Road. Going home was another story, but I didn’t care. I loved teaching tennis. As an adult, I volunteered clearing buckthorn and collecting seeds under the supervision of Rebecca Grill, director of Natural Areas. In 2012, she helped me get a summer job with the maintenance crew under the direction of Ted Baker. I loved driving old truck number 60 and its big water tank as I commuted from park to park taking care of the annual beds. I was between corporate jobs at the time and the work was very satisfying for so many reasons.”

Karen M. Finerman

“I played in the Park District Little Leagues ‘till I was 10.  Then it was the pool all the time. Lots of laps at Twin Pools. As a 19-year-old, I umpired the men’s’ 16” softball league every Tuesday and Thursday night at West Ridge Park. As you can imagine, I wasn’t very well received by the “men” who played. They didn’t like a 19-year-old making the decisions, I guess.”

Marty Zimmerman

“….Honestly, I figured I’d have a couple things to say, but as I thought more and more about how much time I spent at the Rec Center and Sunset Park, I realized how much the Park District did for me.  And at this moment, having already written over 1700 words, I am realizing that I haven’t even touched on the Twin Pools, the beaches, ice-skating lessons and free skate at Sunset Park.  WOW!”

Julie Neff Encinas