During the recession starting in December of 2007, U.S. automakers were hit hard. The auto industry was fighting for its life as sales plummeted nationwide. In 2009, President Obama led the charge for a $80 billion bailout package that rescued General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler.

Six years later, about 17.5 million cars and trucks were sold. This was a record high, a remarkable recovery from the 10.4 million cars and trucks sold in 2009.

The sales record has been hailed as a victory for President Obama. A year ago, the president told workers at a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan that “betting on you was the right thing to do. . . And that bet has paid off for America because the American auto industry is back.”

Motivated by cheap gas and an improving housing market, contractors and drivers bought larger trucks and SUVs. According to the Washington Post, “The Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) sold more than two million full-size pickups last year, more than double their sales in 2009. The Ford F-150 was America’s best-selling vehicle for the 34th year in a row.”

Brandi Hoffine, a White House assistant press secretary, said, “The continued strength of the American auto industry would not have been possible without the grit of American workers who persevered through tough times and the bold steps the president took to rescue the auto industry from the brink. It’s clear the president’s strategy worked.”

Challenges still remain. At the time of the bailout, a separate agreement between administration and industry executives was made to increase passenger-vehicle fuel efficiency to an average of 54.5 miles a gallon by 2025. However, instead of buying fuel-efficient cars, customers bought more gas-guzzling trucks, pickups, SUVs, and vans. The average fuel efficiency of new vehicles sold declined in 2015 to 25 miles a gallon.

How can a manufacturer increase fuel efficiency when consumers prefer to buy larger and heavier vehicles? Can new technology solve that problem? Will consumers change their car buying preferences if gasoline goes to $4.00 a gallon again? Will the government need to extend the deadline for meeting the fuel-efficiency goal of an average of 54.5 miles a gallon by 2025? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, let’s celebrate the remarkable turnaround of the U.S. automobile industry.

To see a video of a 1936 car assembly line filmed at the Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan, go to Fascinating 1936 Footage of Car Assembly Line at

PLEASE NOTE: If you are unable to access a video by using the link, type the name of the video into your search engine.

—Karen Centowski

ABRAHAM LINCOLN – Proclamation 106—Thanksgiving Day, 1863

Abraham Lincoln


XVI President of the United States: 1861-1865

Proclamation 106—Thanksgiving Day, 1863
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.


By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Citation: Abraham Lincoln: “Proclamation 106—Thanksgiving Day, 1863,” October 3, 1863. Online by Gerhard Peters and
John T. Woolley.  American Presidency Project,




Do you remember the thrill of going into a record store and thumbing through the bins of vinyl records? Beginning in 1963, the Beatles released Please Please Me, A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, and many more albums. Simon and Garfunkle’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters was released in 1970. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was released in 1973. Between 1965 and 2013, the Rolling Stones released twenty-five studio albums. Bruce Springsteen, who released Born to Run in 1975 and Born in the U.S.A. in 1984, continues to perform. Add to that Country and Western music by performers such as George Strait, Garth Brooks, Reba McIntyre, and Wynonna Judd.

Part of the experience was looking at the album covers. The album jackets were works of art, designed to complement the music on the album. The records were protected by a sleeve, and each record had a label attached to it.

In 1982 compact discs (CDs) were introduced. According to, “By 1988 CD sales in the United States surpassed those of vinyl LPs, and by 1992 CD sales surpassed those of prerecorded music cassette tapes.”

There were always record collectors who preferred the vinyl records, but the market largely ignored them. Many LP pressing plants closed except for a few which pressed dance music records used by D.J.s.

Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in vinyl records. In a New York Times article entitled “Weaned on CDs, They’re Reaching for Vinyl,” Allan Kozinn summarizes the state of vinyl: “These days, every major record label and many smaller ones are releasing vinyl, and most major new releases have a vinyl version, leading to a spate of new pressing plants.”

Why would anyone want a vinyl record when a CD is available? Some owners speak of the warmth and depth of the sound. Others speak fondly of the popping sounds occasionally heard when the vinyl record is played. Many are attracted to the album covers. Just stepping into a record shop and thumbing through the albums is like a walk down memory lane.

How are LPs selling? Manufacturers report that about 25 million vinyl records were pressed in the United States last year. Sales of turntables and accessories are increasing as well. Record store customers now include 15-25 years old shoppers as well as the traditional 35-55 years old shoppers. A new generation has discovered vinyl.

To see a video about the return to vinyl, go to Drop The Needle Again (A Documentary on Record Store Culture) at

PLEASE NOTE: If you are unable to access a video by using the link, type the name of the video into your search engine.

Karen Centowski


Leaning Tower

If you’ve lived in the Chicago area for a while, you have probably gone to the most famous sites in the city. You’ve taken the elevator to the top of the John Hancock Building and looked out over the city. You have gone to Millennium Park and peered at the Cloud Gate Sculpture (the “bean”). You’ve gone shopping on the Magnificent Mile. You’ve gone to the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium. Maybe you’ve even gone to a Bulls game or a Cubs game or a Sox game.

Here’s one thing you probably have not done. Drive to 6300 W. Touhy Avenue in Niles. There, just off the main road in a 22-acre park, is a replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. Why would this be in Niles, Illinois?

The park, Ilgair Park, was built in the 1920’s by Robert Ilg, a successful businessman. The park had two large outdoor pools which required a constant source of water. Ilg built this half size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to conceal a water tower.

The Leaning Tower of Niles is 94 feet tall and 28 feet in diameter. Built of reinforced concrete, it leans 7.4 feet to mimic the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy. Construction began in 1931 and was completed in 1934.

Cracks soon began developing in the reinforced concrete due to the freeze-thaw cycles of Illinois. In 1995, the Village of Niles undertook a $1.2 million renovation project. Concrete was repaired. New lights were added to each of the eight floors. A plaza with four fountains was developed around the Leaning Tower. A thirty-foot reflecting pool was built. A “telefono” booth was installed. Landscaping was improved. Formal dedication of The Leaning Tower Plaza occurred June 26, 1997.

If you have the opportunity to go to Pisa, Italy, you will be able to see the original Leaning Tower of Pisa. According to, construction of the tower occurred in three stages over 199 years. Work on the ground floor began in 1173. After construction had progressed to the second floor in 1178, the tower began to sink. Construction was halted for almost a century because of battles with Genoa, Lucca, and Florence.

In 1272, construction resumed. To compensate for the tilt, the upper floors were built with one side taller than the other. In 1284, construction was halted again by war. The seventh floor was completed in 1319, and in 1372 the bell-chamber was added.

Scientists have determined that the tower was built on weak, unstable subsoil. Through the years, numerous attempts have been made to correct the posture of the tower.

To see a video about these efforts to find a solution, go to Worst Engineering Disaster of All Times Documentary—The Leaning Tower of Pisa—Films at

PLEASE NOTE: If you are unable to access a video by using the link, type the name of the video into your search engine.

—By Karen Centowski



Ever since Henry Ford mass produced the Model T Ford in 1908, Americans have had a love affair with cars. You can probably name and describe every car your family has ever owned. Maybe it all started with a 1946 Ford or a 1957 Chevrolet or a 1966 Ford Mustang or a 1974 Chevrolet Caprice. All these years later, you can still vividly remember them. You can remember driving with the windows down and the wind blowing your hair. You can hear the sound of raindrops on the roof during a sudden summer thunderstorm. You can smell the gasoline as you filled up the tank.

In 1967, Chevrolet introduced the Chevrolet Camaro. According to New Roads, the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) lists five things you might not have known about the Camaro:

  1. The 1967 Camaro was a closely held secret. Few car fans knew anything about it before it was shown to the public in September of 1966.
  2. Camaro almost wasn’t the car’s name. Rival names included Panther, Commander, and Wildcat.
  3. Camaro was an instant hit. Chevy sold over 450,000 in the first two years, creating a passionate group of enthusiasts.
  4. According to collector vehicle insurer Hagerty, Camaro is the third most popular collector car in North America.
  5. The first pilot production Camaro still exists and was displayed at the Woodward Dream Cruise last August.

Fifty years later, Chevrolet is celebrating the anniversary by presenting a new model to its loyal fans. This 50th Anniversary Edition Camaro has a Nightfall Gray Metallic finish accented by satin graphite and orange stripes on the hood and trunk. The unique grill has satin chrome finish embellishments. The 50th Anniversary Edition cars will have special “FIFTY” badges on the fenders.

Chevrolet is offering tours of Lansing Grand River Assembly plant, a rally for owners, and festivities at the Woodward Dream Cruise. Chevrolet dealer showrooms will also feature a special 50th Anniversary Edition Camaro.

To see a video, go to 2017 Chevrolet Camaro—Review and Road Test at

PLEASE NOTE: If you are unable to access a video by using the link, type the name of the video into your search engine.

—By Karen Centowski