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Looking back on a great year

December brings us to the end of another year, with all of life’s beginnings and endings, accomplishments, realizations, and small steps in a big world. Interestingly, we spend our early lives looking to take giant leaps and, as we get older, we are more than happy to settle for small steps. At least we’re looking down at the daisies instead of up at them!

This year has been special for my home community of Pullman in many ways. Pullman has been given a positive vote by the National Parks Committee, which means that all that is required is President Obama’s signature. Due to the economy, we all know it is not that simple. However, in the next few years, it is a very real possibility that Pullman will gain status as a National Park.

In early September, Pullman Park’s first tenant opened their doors. Pullman’s very own Walmart superstore opened to a rousing reception with the parking lot being full every day. Pullman Park is the new shopping development on Doty Avenue just north of the US Bank building. The park also houses a Planet Fitness and a Ross clothing store. There are plans for other retailers and restaurants that may have already opened their doors by the time you are reading this article.

In October, Pullman hosted the 40th Annual Pullman House Tour. The tour was well publicized via TV, radio, newspaper and social media, resulting in the best-attended Pullman tour ever. The Pullman community pulled together with hundreds of residents volunteering to guarantee the success of this annual event. I was very fortunate to have my house included in the seven houses that were open for the tour. The way I see it, I had 1,700 guests visit me over that second weekend in October. My reward for taking part in the tour is that my house is more beautiful than ever and it is completely decorated to my liking. I was very lucky when I purchased my home because all of the walls were freshly painted white. As the previous owner, Annette Pyzik, who visited my house on the tour, stated, “I left you a blank palette!” She certainly did and I certainly made use of that blank palette.

Among the many people who visited my house were the grandchildren of the founder of Torino Bakery on Kensington, the forerunner of Gonnella. As they were looking through my Roseland memorabilia they picked up my friend Peter Pero’s “Chicago Italians at Work” and found a photo of their grandfather and his Torino Bakery delivery wagon. Torino’s actually began as Piemonte Bakery and became a branch of Piemonte Bakery in Rockford until it was sold off during the Depression. If you’ve followed this column for a few years, you know that Piemonte Bakery is the only place that still bakes a version of ciopette and makes it available on request.

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At the end of September, the Veneti bel Mondo took a group to Italy and among those travelers were Giovanni and Marie Aver. Johnny was on the ball enough to remember to bring back a ciopa from Venice Bakery, which he presented to me after Mass one Sunday. Johnny asked if I’d let him know how the taste differed from the Rockford ciopa. I told him, “I’m sorry, but I may never get another real ciopa from Italy.” So, as my visitors strolled through my house on the Pullman House Tour, they all wondered what that varnished bread on my coffee table was. I repeated the story of Giovanni Aver’s generous consideration many times that day.

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One of the unfortunate aspects of having my house on the Pullman House Tour was that I remained at my house throughout the entire weekend. This allowed me to be present when members and friends from the numerous organizations I belong to stopped by. I’ll have to wait until next year so that I can join all of you in enjoying all of the other offerings that are available yearly in Pullman on the second weekend in October.

This year, the festivities included a classic car show that had an abundance of cars. There were more than 70 cars, and a great number of them were owned by Pullmanites. At the factory site there was an arts and crafts show and sale. There were crowds viewing works by Pullman artists, and there were also numerous Pullman authors who displayed books they’d written and read from their works.

With the ongoing recession and foreclosure situation, Pullman was severely affected due to the flurry of investment dollars that had been spent in the previous decade. Now, the market has begun to stabilize and many of the foreclosed homes have been purchased, not by investors, but by those who plan on making Pullman their home.

With the opening of the Pullman Park retail center, the potential National Park status, the coming of the Art Space work/live building, the possibility of a coffee shop within Pullman, and the arrival of new residents who are purchasing and moving into foreclosed properties, this is definitely the time to be a Pullman resident.

For those of you who wish to contact me or make a donation of Roseland memorabilia for display, I am including my new information: 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, IL 60628. You can call me and leave a message at 773-71-6756 and I will get back to you, or you can email me at cjfranoi@yahoo.com. Or visit Roseland Roundtable on Facebook.

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.