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If the lion in this photo looks familiar, that is because it is a replica of one of the famous lions that stand guard to the entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago. The building here, though, no longer exists. Val's father, John (1926-2004), is posed next to the abandoned "Old Chicago" in Feb., 1986, just a couple of months before it was demolished. It was one of the first combined indoor amusement park/shopping centers and was a financial disaster, opening in 1975 and closing in 1980. Located in Bolingbrook, IL, not far from where Val's family lived in Lemont, Old Chicago received a lot of publicity when it opened, but the stores were never successfully rented out and the rides did not attract enough customers to be profitable. After the 1986 demolition of the building, the site became an automobile auction lot.

Val visited the enormous mall twice during her senior year in high school and the venue's first year of operation. Once was with the school marching band (after their performance, the band members got free passes to enjoy the rides). The other time was to perform with a polka band in a beer garden.

When the land was being acquired by the developer to build Old Chicago, Val's mother, Evelyn, was a real estate agent. She actually showed the land to the prospective buyer, but, to avoid paying commissions, he then went privately to the land owner and worked out a deal.