Monday, October 20, 2014


I saw FURY yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. However, it woke up a childhood memory in me that I'd completely forgotten about. Let me tell you about it.

When I was a kid, my grandparents would take me and my cousin, and sometimes my brothers, out to Cantigny Park in Wheaton. I loved the shit out of that place. Every time they said they were going to take us, I got really excited.

Many of you familiar with the area are probably thinking about the beautiful gardens there, and yeah, those are pretty cool. Or maybe you're thinking of the museums, which are also pretty cool. But I'm thinking of my two favorite exhibits there, and I'm pretty sure any kid would agree with me.

My second favorite part was the trench exhibit. It's an exact replica of the kind of trench you'd be in if you were a soldier in WWI, complete with sound effects and light shows. You can climb the side, you can hold guns, all of that wonderful shit. It's a great deal of fun, because you can play war without actually being in a war.

But my absolute favorite part was Tank Park. Here they kept actual tanks that saw action on display. I'm told that before my time, you could actually climb inside of them and check out the interiors, but by the time I showed up, the tanks had been sealed and completely deactivated. Still, you could climb all over them and pretend to be playing GI Joe for real. It's one thing to be playing with toys, but it's something completely different to actually be on a tank, where they still had weapons mounted on them.

They also have heavy duty guns on display in Tank Park, and I seem to recall that they had deactivated bombs on display. I could have sworn one of them was an a-bomb, but my research has turned nothing up on that one. Maybe it was just the fancy of a child.

My grandfather stopped taking us after they upped the prices back before I got into junior high. I heard they took the tanks away shortly after that, but it must have been for a remodeling project, because according to the website, they're clearly back.

Now, as an adult, I have the strong urge to go back, to see what it's like now. To see if I would still feel the childhood glee of seeing tools of war, or if I would feel the very mature fear of war. I think I would appreciate the gardens more, now. And while I liked the WWI displays, I think I would have a greater love of them now.

Maybe I'll go back someday. For now? I think I'll stick with the memories.

PS: If you don't check out the website, it's worth knowing that the original owner of Cantigny was Robert McCormick, who served in WWI and was at the real Cantigny battlefield. For my fellow Chicagoans, you'll recognize his name from McCormick Place, home of C2E2, which was named after him. The guy was so impressive that while he might be buried at Cantigny Park, he has relatives in Graceland, one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever been in.

I recommend Cantigny to anyone who is interested in history. If nothing else, it will help you appreciate movies like FURY even more.

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