If you have been paying attention, you know that during my working life I spent the summers in the Chicago area. I left there for good in 1992, but still have a soft spot in my heart for the city of broad shoulders.
Back then any young man possessed of some talent and a willingness to work could make a nice living there. After meeting my wife Lana in Ormond Beach in the fall of 1973, I asked her up to Illinois to be my bride. We were married in a civil ceremony in the big state building right downtown in the Chicago Loop.
The Loop consists of huge skyscrapers like the John Hancock, The Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) and many more. Very clean with great parks along the lake front and wonderful museums, it was magical to a Cajun kid from the swamps of Louisiana. Lana and I had great fun playing in the downtown Loop as often as we could. We went to Rush Street, the dazzling night life district and even managed to gain access to Mr. Kelly's, the famous club that had hosted all of the top entertainers of the period like Sinatra, Lenny Bruce and Dean Martin. Mr. Kelly's was so popular you had to know someone in order to get in.
When Lana was very pregnant with our son, along with our daughter Shayla, we watched the Fourth of July fireworks over Lake Michigan from a high rise Loop hotel. We enjoyed all sorts of ethnic foods in the Loop as well as the gritty shopping of Maxwell Street and the very toney Marshall Fields department store.
As much fun as we had in the Chicago Loop, our lives together actually began in another Loop 1,100 miles south. I had asked Lana to marry me at Cobb's Corner in the Ormond Beach Loop.
You certainly could not find two places with a common name that are more opposite in style. A nighttime drive around the Chicago Loop is ablaze with lights and music. Revelers stagger from club to club in the Old Town section that once was the center of the city's hippie movement.
A nighttime drive around the Ormond Beach Loop is dark -- very dark. Should you pull over and cut the car engine, the only sounds you will hear are the frogs, owls and crickets. Cobb's Corner is now vacant but preserved by Preston Root who harbors some of the same fond memories for the place as we do. In the pioneer days it had been a trading post, then a fish camp and finally the funky little seafood restaurant where Lana and I liked to go when dating.
Back in 2006, when I was involved with the Stanley Steam Car Centennial, I had suggested the drivers take their cars around the 23-mile Ormond Loop. The steam car people are a special group who don't care to show their cars in a park, but prefer to get them out for a drive. While most of them came to Ormond Beach to drive their cars on the famous beach, they would later tell me the Loop was their favorite part of the celebration. It is truly a special place with the narrow roadway canopied by oaks and Spanish moss. The Loop is certainly the prettiest drive in Volusia County and possibly the state.
Back in 2004, the Save The Loop group was formed with former Volusia County Councilman Joe Jaynes as director. Their purpose was to work to insure the quality of the Loop would not be disturbed by development. Now the group has morphed into The Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail Management Group with Mr. Jaynes still at the helm. They take on the tough job of trying to protect the natural beauty of the area.
The Chicago Loop is a marvelous monument to our country's building and industrial success. It will only continue to grow. If you have the opportunity to visit Chicago, you will marvel at the planning, the cleanliness and the sights along Lake Michigan. But first you must visit our own Loop, where Mother Nature has done some of her own finest work.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society and The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of two books, "The World's Greatest Beach" and "I Swear the Snook Drowned." Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (386) 441-7793.