Hammers, nails, two-by-fours, sheets of plywood. And creativity.


The commentary below represents the ideas, observations and opinions of the author.

What could be better for a 10-year-old who wants to build things?

My son Emmett is a graduate of Hobo Jungle, a summer day camp program offered for many years by the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District. He participated in Hobo Jungle when he was 10 and 11 years old, nearly two decades ago. He’s never forgotten the experience.

This month, the H-F Chronicle is saluting the park district as it marks its 50th anniversary. This issue includes numerous important park district events since 1969, as well as memories of persons who have contributed to its success.

Hobo Jungle has provided my favorite park district memory. 

Let me explain. I am not a handy guy. I do not know how to hang drywall. I am no good at painting. Simple plumbing repairs befuddle me. Following directions can cause a minor mental meltdown. Electrical projects? Forget it.

  Emmett Houlihan at age 10.
  (Photo by Tom Houlihan)


Emmett, in some ways, is the exact opposite. From the time he was 6 or 7, he was constructing elaborate Lego structures. He has just about the best spatial sense I have ever seen. He likes to build things. He is great at following directions. 

As you might expect, Emmett was a perfect match for Hobo Jungle, which takes place on the far western end of Flossmoor Park. He was never known for getting out of bed early during the summer but never missed a morning session. He faithfully rode his bike to the Hobo Jungle construction site and got busy with all the available tools.

Please permit me to do a little bragging. Emmett graduated from college with a degree in architectural design. He now works for a company that helps design, engineer and fabricate systems for curved and complex surfaces on roofs, walls, ceilings and façades. It’s definitely a 21st century job but it’s got the same general idea as Hobo Jungle.

I asked Emmett to provide me with his memories of Hobo Jungle. Here’s what he wrote:

About 20 years ago, I constructed race cars, railroads, pirate ships, western towns and (very boxy) spaceships. I was a 10-year-old kid with the 10 or so years of life experience required to join the Hobo Jungle.

Hobo Jungle is the “cool uncle” of day camps—it gives hammers, nails, two-by-fours, plywood, gallons of paint and a little bit of freedom to kids, and then asks them to build something. For the two years I attended, my camp friends and I created beautiful wooden structures. Our technique was flawless (we nailed boards into the dirt to make footings) and our work ethic was unwavering (we fought with paint more than once).

The most memorable installation we built was The Grand Funk Railroad. It had everything you would expect including a two-story station and a train with Caboosey Collins pulling up the rear. When we finished it, one counselor tested the station by jumping up and down on the roof while we looked on in a mix of pride and shock: How did we build something so indestructible?

These days I try to give myself the space to be creative every chance I can because it brings me immeasurable joy. Finding creative and abstract answers is something I’ve learned to do over the course of my life. And it’s something that the Hobo Jungle is great at teaching.

I couldn’t say it any better. And I am so glad for his Hobo Jungle experience.

It’s the beginning of a new year and time to clear up any unfinished business. So I am here to correct an error.

  Flossmoor Police Chief
  Michael Pulec stands by
  three police officers who
  each received an award
  from the South Suburban
  Association Chiefs of Police.
  Left to right are: Pulec, Sgt.
  Tim Filkins, Officer Lisa
  Morris and Detective David
  Freeman. The officers
  received the Peace Officer
  Meritorious Award.

  (Photo by Mary Compton)

A couple of months ago I received information about three Flossmoor police officers receiving an award for helping arrest a suspect in an Orland Park bank robbery. In October, Sgt. Tim Filkins, Officer Lisa Morris and Detective David Freeman received the Peace Officer Meritorious Award from the South Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police. I got photographs from the award ceremony and all the necessary information from Flossmoor Police Chief Michael Pulec.

The Chronicle wrote about the arrest a year ago. On Nov. 9, 2017, Filkins saw a Ford Taurus traveling over the speed limit on Flossmoor Road and pulled the car over. Morris provided backup and during a pat-down, prevented the driver from reaching into his pocket, where he had a can of Mace.

As he searched the car, Filkins found a Halloween-style mask of an elderly man. The car’s trunk also contained several pairs of sunglasses, sport coats and two Illinois license plates, police said.

At the police station, Freeman recalled a bulletin from the Orland Park police concerning an Oct. 31 bank robbery at Fifth Third Bank in that community. The mask in the Ford Taurus was identical to the one worn in the Orland Park robbery. Also, the driver — Skye Perk, 30, of Orland Park — was wearing a jacket, scarf, pants and shoes matching what the offender wore during the robbery, police said. 

Perk was subsequently charged with bank robbery, a federal crime. He has been implicated in several other bank robberies around the Chicago area. Pulec says he is “absolutely sure” Perk was on his way to another robbery when he was stopped on Flossmoor Road.

Like I said, I had all the information about the award ceremony at my fingertips. And I did nothing with it. I have no excuse. I simply forgot about it.

I was reminded about it when police went to Flossmoor’s Meijer store for their annual shopping trip for Toys for Tots. I was there too and someone asked me about a story on the award. Busted for being a dope, I slapped the side of my head.

Filkins, Morris and Freeman were commended for their professional patrol techniques, teamwork, attention to duty in handling this incident and bringing a criminal to justice. They deserve our thanks.

All I can add is Happy New Year. I hope you all have the kind of 2019 where there’s a chance to make good on any mistakes in the next 12 months.

About Us

A great community deserves a great newspaper. The HF Chronicle was created in June 2014 as an online publication. In December 2015 we began monthly print publication, too. Our mission is to chronicle the life of our community — news by, for, and about the people of Homewood and Flossmoor, Illinois.


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