7/20 Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, Chicago
mrs. a-go-go has a lump of Lithuania in her genes. Grandma came from a Lithuanian community in Rockford Illinois. Part of the plan for the big trip was to see what cultural and/or genealogical information we could find while in Illinois. After a bit of research we located a Catholic church in Rockford offering family records of the community, but the jackpot seemed to be in Chicago at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture. Their web site noted a genealogy archive that was open by appointment for research and a collection of museum displays. When we arrived in Chicago we realized that we had neglected to bring the birth records for mrs. a-go-go's family, nuts! The web site was enticing none the less so we decide to go have a look. We figured we could enquire in person about the genealogy resources and maybe it would be worth a return visit in the future.
Hmm. We found the Museum in a not so swell part of town and began to wonder what we were in for. Inside we found a long poorly lit hallway filled with collections of photographs and some historical documents on display.
The hodgepodge was interesting but not well organised and we couldn't locate anyone to ask about the library. There seemed to be a gift shop with the lights off and there were stairs leading to unrelated offices on the second floor. We perused the displays of native dress on large dolls, Lithuanian Second World War veterans, and letters between recent immigrants and family in the old country. There was a suggested admission fee but nowhere to deposit it. Perplexed, we returned to the street. Oh well, we should have called ahead. Maybe if they knew we were coming there would have been someone to meet us and excitedly show us around. It was a large building and we can only dream of what was housed in the rest of that first floor.
The afternoon was saved by a shop just a few doors down selling paletas in every color and flavor and aguas frescas. It was another hot day and the cold fruit drinks called out to us. We chose a strawberry and a pineapple whip. Aguas frescas are a blend of cold water (sometimes ice), whole fruit (or sometimes a grain like rice in horchata), and sugar and maybe some other flavoring or spice like cinnamon. Good stuff on a hot day. The beverages made our visit to this far side of Chicago much more satisfying even if they were out of the tamarindo.