By Monica Carey
Beverly Area Planning Association (BAPA) held its 75th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, January 21st at The Vineyards on 95th Street. I attended with a group of my long time Beverly friends and joined about 250-300 other neighbors to celebrate this incredible milestone.
Of course, the party was a blast. The music from the Outcast Jazz Band and the DJ drew many to the dance floor. I always love it when they play songs like “ABC”, by the Jackson Five. Suddenly, women my age rush the floor like they are at a sock hop at Brother Rice’s gym. In true Southside fashion, they dance with each other, watusiing and twisting their way around the floor, while the men shrink to the wall, praying they won’t be forced to join in.
It also was so wonderful to see so many people that I had not seen in a while. Like many BAPA events, the crowd was multigenerational, ranging from people in their 30’s to people in their 80’s. At least a dozen times I said to myself, “Wow, they still live here!” I don’t know about you, but two years of pandemic made me lose touch with so many in our neighborhood. The gala was a terrific way to catch up with longtime friends and neighbors and it gave me a much-needed mid-winter boost.
But if, like me, you’ve been around the neighborhood almost as long as BAPA, you can’t help but observe how this party was a little different from BAPA Galas in the past.
The Snowflake Ball was BAPA’s winter event for over 30 years, a fundraiser held in the center of the Evergreen Plaza Shopping Mall. Like the Ridge Run and the Home Tour, this event also was designed to build a sense of community. At one point, it would not be unusual for 2500 people to attend the Ball, with local businesses providing food and drink. People came from every part of our neighborhood and from every age group.
My first ball was in 1986. I was 7 months pregnant and my husband and I had just bought our first house at 110th and Campbell. We organized a group from our block and we all went together. The stage was set up on the first floor in the center square right across from the up and down escalators. While I was dressed in sensible maternity clothes and shoes, others wore much fancier attire. One group sported tuxes and ball gowns; others wore cocktail dresses and suits. Imagine women in heels and fancy dresses going up and down the escalators with a cocktail in their hand. It was frightening and spectacular at the same time!
The Ball always had a live band, and there were many good ones whose popularity rose after performing at it. The first time I heard Gentlemen of Leisure was at the Snowflake Ball. They are still one of my favorite local groups.
Yet the best part of the Ball was being with people. Like a silver ball in an arcade game, you bounced around both levels of the mall catching up with old friends and making some new ones. For one night, you left the confines of your family, your block, and your parish, and became part of a much larger community, the historical community of the East and West Beverlys, Morgan Park, and Mt Greenwood.
I miss that party, but that feeling of belonging to a larger community still is in my heart and one of the reasons I still live here and support BAPA. I know others feel it too, especially my friends and neighbors who for one reason or another, have moved somewhere else. When I ask how they are doing, they say, “Well, you know, it’s not the same. I miss the community.”
It’s really important for those of us who know the value of BAPA and its mission to share our experiences with the new generation of young people moving into the neighborhood. We need them to experience what we experienced. We can’t recreate the past, but together we can plan and support all of the new programs and events that build a sense of community.
It can be as simple as dropping off a BAPA Welcome Bag of goodies to a new neighbor. On our block, we have a couple volunteers who do that. Or perhaps you gather up your family and a few neighbors and attend a porch concert or line up on the curb to watch the Ridge Run. I’m not a runner, but I did my part by cheering them on as I ate coffeecake with friends and neighbors along Seeley Avenue! Whatever way you choose to participate, I guarantee that your involvement will make you love this community as much as those of us who have been here for years.
Finally, BAPA needs a new generation of residents to support them financially. A large part of their budget is dependent on donations from you. A membership for residents 35 and under is fifty dollars; a membership over 35 is 100 dollars. At most, that’s twenty-seven cents a day for the year. This is well worth it when you think of all that BAPA does for the community.
At the end of the day, I’m shocked at how quickly I have become a senior member of this neighborhood. It seems like a minute ago, the neighborhood was filled with my parents’ generation, World War II vets and their large families. Sometimes I feel like I’m too old and tired to stay involved. But I feel so strongly about helping BAPA preserve and create community for the next generation that I’m going to hang in there. Please join me. We need you.
And one day in the next ten or twenty years, I hope you’ll be walking into a BAPA event, see me in the room and say, “Wow, she’s still here!”