Vicarious vacations 07: Chicago lakeshore, 1988

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THEN: The Williamson sisters pose in 1988 at Fullerton Beach on Chicago’s lakeshore: (from left) Jeanine, 3; Elancia (Lancie), 5; Kipondria, 12; and DeGale, 7. In the background is the 3,300-foot-long Navy Pier tourist marketplace on Chicago’s Near North Side. (Robbie Fletcher)
NOW: On a late summer afternoon, new friends Lex Birts (left) of Chicago and Sid Nettles of the Grayslake suburb enjoy a lunch at Fullerton Beach on Lake Michigan, some 500 feet north of where the 1988 “Then” photo was taken. (Art Curtis)
Chicago lakeshore, 1988
‘To explore without having to go on an expedition’
Elancia (Lancie) Williamson
By Clay Eals

Growing up with four siblings on the inner-city westside of Chicago, Elancia (Lancie) Williamson had no experience of taking a multi-day trip.

Childhood life was a sheltered routine of activities at home and school. But a few special times each year, her parents took the troupe on a one-day journey four miles east to the wonderland of Chicago’s lakeshore.

“It was like taking a vacation,” says a beaming Lancie. “It was being able to explore without having to go on an expedition.”

In a weathered print from 1988, the 5-year-old wears a colorful sun dress while posing with her sisters during a badminton match. Off camera, their mom holds their baby brother and their dad captures the image.

She recalls the Windy City breezes streaming through her hair. “We would always lose our barrettes,” she says. “You’d get in trouble if you did that, so you couldn’t play around too much and made sure that you kept yourself together.”

Besides the lakeshore, beckoning were a nearby nature museum and Lincoln Park Zoo. “Every time we had to go home,” she says, “some of us were crying. We really wanted to stay out there.”

Today a Belltown resident and an elementary library paraeducator in Auburn, Lancie attributes her adventuresome curiosity to those precious early family outings.

Some may take for granted the freedom to visit a park or zoo, but not Lancie. “It still feels like a little bit of a vacation because I can daydream and imagine a world where I can do that every day.”

WEB EXTRAS

Here is a video interview of Elancie (Lancie) Williamson.

VIDEO (12:38):Click the photo to see Elancia (Lancie) Williamson talk of her yearly childhood trips to the Chicago lakeshore. (Clay Eals)

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