"Just throw in a Mastodon."
"Just throw a mastodon in the background," the art director told me.
I was thrilled. I don't know about you, but I have waited my entire life to hear those words - without realizing I had been waiting.
I was under contract as a freelancer doing graphics, research and writing. The client was the Glen Ellyn Park District in the western suburbs of Chicago, Il. We were researching, writing and telling the stories of Lake Ellyn. The project was funded by an anonymous donor - some who lived very near the lake and could, in fact, see the beautiful man-made lake every day out their window.
The story was sweeping. Most stories in and around Chicago begin by acknowledging that white settlers came in and basically drove out the Native Americans, which should make every American today feel ashamed, squeamish and drive us all to learn the truth. Beyond driving out the Native Americans the birth story of Lake Ellyn involved a bordello, a devastating fire induced by a lightening strike, a mastodon, and a natural mineral spring believed to have healing powers.
The true birth story of Glen Elly and Lake Ellyn were equally as squirm-inducing. It mostly involved the relocation of a bordello in the late 1900s after Chicago worked to drive bordellos, madams and their clients out of the 2nd Ward on the south side of Chicago. Madame Reick and her husband had, with great foresight, purchased property a train's ride away from downtown Chicago.
When thrown out of the city limits by the mayor Madame Reick, her husband and small children moved themselves to the town that would later become to be called Glen Ellyn. She set about building a fabulous new bordello towards the back of her family home.
To be continued...
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