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Candy Cane Lane Story

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Home Instead Client Put His Stamp on the Legendary Candy Cane Lane

The colorful, well-orchestrated Christmas magic with 10-foot lighted candy canes came alive
during December in the Schorsch Village neighborhood from 1955 to 1973. It became famously
known as “Candy Cane Lane,” a legendary slice of Americana tucked into Chicago’s northwest
side where 29 homeowners banded together to brighten both sides of North Nottingham Avenue between West Belmont and West Addison Avenues.

candy cane lane

On those frosty December nights, Candy Cane Lane drew huge crowds that included a steady
stream of tour buses and cars, and at least one newspaper reporter. Traffic cops were dispatched
to the neighborhood to try to keep the vehicles moving, albeit at a slow pace so the wide-eyed
populace could visually drink in the four-block-long spectacle. Longtime Candy Cane Lane fans
knew the best way to enjoy the lights at their own pace: They parked blocks away, bundled up
and walked along North Nottingham Avenue.

Among the three Candy Cane Lane originators was August Guarino, now 101 years old and a
Home Instead Senior Care client. Of course, August couldn’t help organize the feat without the
unwavering support of his late wife of 76 years, Lena. She passed away March 31, 2018, at age
99, after battling congestive heart failure for several years. Lena also was a beloved client of the
owner Kelly Hutchison’s award-winning Home Instead Senior Care franchise in Elk Grove
Village. Their scrapbooks have been a source of amazement for their CAREGivers.

“Everybody enjoyed it, and it was worth the time and effort,” August said. “Kids loved every
minute of it. Neighbors invited the children and their parents to see the houses. Candy Cane Lane
made a lot of lasting memories for many, many people. Over the years, people have called me
and wanted to talk about it, reminiscing long after it ended. They remembered Candy Cane Lane
as children,” he added.

The former master electrician and Lena moved to Schaumberg in 1995, leaving a middle-class
neighborhood lined with English Tudors, bungalows, and ranch-style homes. August and Lena

had lived at 3226 N. Nottingham Avenue for 45 years, moving there in 1950 after nine years of
marriage. Although they had no children of their own, August and Lena helped draw an
unimaginable number of children and their families to their neighborhood for 18 straight
Decembers.

Marian “Robbie” Bowers, the new client engagement director for Home Instead Senior Care of
Elk Grove Village, easily remembers the vivid images of Candy Cane Lane that she saw while
growing up near Harlem and Irving Streets. Her family home was just a short hike northeast of
the Schorsch Village neighborhood.

“As a child,” Robbie said, “we’d walk over and see Candy Cane Lane because it was close
enough. It was famous – everyone talked about it. We could not drive down those streets because
they were so congested. All in all, it was a simply stunning series of streets with themed
Christmas lights. The Chicago Tribune newspaper wrote about it. I was told that everyone in the
neighborhoods wanted to participate. But if someone couldn’t afford the Christmas decorations
for their yards, August would, quietly and without any fanfare, buy them.”

Before Candy Cane Lane evolved, August said a nearby Schorsch Village neighborhood on
School Street already had organized to put up Christmas lights. August and his neighbors wanted
to make it a competition on Nottingham, so they went house to house to ask other neighbors if
they’d participate in a Christmas light campaign. “I knew everyone who lived on my street,”
August recalled, “and a pair of brothers helped me organize it. Everybody came together and
decorated on their own. They each got similar-sized lighted posts that cost $20 each and became
the candy canes that were anchored at 60-degree angles by rods. There were spotlights.”

In addition to Candy Cane Lane and the School Street displays, August mentioned the themes
from other nearby Schorsch Village neighborhoods that later joined in with their own Christmas
light projects. August explained, “There were Reindeer Lane and Poinsettia Lane; there were
sheep figures in the yards and helicopters on the lawns. There was a ‘Merry Christmas’ theme on
one side of the street and a ‘Happy New Year’ on the other side.”

August also made a spectacular roof display that included a star with a rotating light on a
Christmas tree. In all, there were 75 lights on the star. August described the celestial production:
“It was a 100-light Christmas tree anchored on a crescent moon. There were 30 lights inside the
area that represented the moon,” he said.

The Nottingham Avenue lights began going up two to three weeks before Christmas, and the
lighted candy canes usually followed a week before Christmas. August sometimes kept his lights
on until 4 a.m. each day, but many homeowners turned out their lights at 2 a.m. “It wasn’t a lock-
step thing, and the neighbors individually took down their lights after Christmas when they
wanted,” August said.

As the years went on, people began to cut down because of the cost to run the electricity. But
August observed: “Electricity actually costs more nowadays. During the Candy Cane Lane days,
my bill was about $30 extra in December for the lighting. I did not budget for Christmas lighting;
in fact Lena and I never had a budget, period. I had money coming in all the time, but we were
careful spenders. The neighborhood had good people who had good jobs. Everyone worked at a
good trade.”

Candy Cane Lane ended after 1973. “A year earlier, Consolidated Edison told us to cut down on
the electricity because it felt there were too many decorations, and that caused problems. There
may have been too many spotlights,” August said. “The overhead transformers sometimes were
overloaded, overheated and blew up. At the start, in 1955, no one ever said if they struggled with
what we did. Everybody said, ‘Keep it up,’ but as time went on, some of the older neighbors
didn’t want to continue. The candy canes broke and had to be fixed or replaced. So the
neighborhood wasn’t decorating like it used to, even before Con-Ed said much. Some neighbors
also just got tired of it.”

Asked about drawbacks other than increased electricity use, August said, “Really, there were
very few. There was no crime, no vandalism or much theft, generally speaking. Someone
unscrewed 30 lights off my 75-light star. To me, it was nothing – if they needed them more than
I did, that’s OK. The lights were 15 cents each. Weather was never a factor, and snowfall didn’t

prevent us from putting them up. Some decorations stayed up for a whole month, coming down
maybe two weeks after Christmas.

August was asked if he missed it. “I wish I was younger. I would do it again,” he said with a
chuckle.All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about
employment, please call (847) 690-9825 or apply online at https://www.homeinstead.com/205/home-care-jobs. For further
information about Home Instead Senior Care, visit our website at https://www.homeinstead.com/205 .

To learn how Home Instead Senior Care’s CAREGivers impacted clients
August and Lena Guarino with their compassionate assistance, please click onto these
links: https://www.homeinstead.com/205/about-us/featured-stories/august-lena-love-story.

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