If a Store Could Talk: The Spiegler Family Remembers-Regional Nonfiction:Midwest


The 14th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards (NIEA) recognize the Winners and Finalists from this year’s robust competition of entries originating from all across the United States of America.

A leader and veteran of publishing award contests, The National Indie Excellence® Awards are open to recent English language books in print from self and independent publishers. Judging is now completed for the 14th year of this competition and the results commend a wide range of truly exceptional titles.

The National Indie Excellence® Awards celebrate independent publishing as a strong and vital sector of our industry. Recognizing excellence in all aspects of the final presentation, NIEA champions self-publishers and the independent presses who produce the highest quality books across a spectrum of metrics. Established in 2005, NIEA’s entrants are meticulously judged by experts from various facets of the book industry profession including publishers, writers, editors, and designers.

Winners and Finalists are determined on the basis of superior written matter coupled with excellent presentation in every facet of the final published product. Jurors value the synergy of both content and form as they review entries spanning multiple genres. Sponsorship awards and monetary prize awards are selected from the overall group of Winners and Finalists.

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To view the 14th Annual NIEA Winners and Finalists click here: WinnersFinalist


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A Work of Love Completed


If A Store Could Talk...

My new book  “If a Store Could Talk… The Spiegler Family Remembers” came out at the end of September.  On the first weekend in October my wife Fran and I traveled to northern Illinois to attend my fiftieth high school reunion and conduct a book signing event at the Des Plaines History Center on Sunday afternoon.  It was good to see some old close friends at the reunion and my brother Glenn, who we stayed with the last night.

Glenn, Fran, and I traveled to the History Center for the book signing and it was truly a special  event.  About forty people attended, which was more than I expected, and the  crowd was composed of family members, former employees, old customers, family friends, and a few high school buddies.  After a brief introduction by me, family members, including  two cousins of my father, and former employee and friend Roy Hansen, read interesting passages from the book. It was a very warm moment.  We ended up selling all fifty of the books we had shipped there, with the History Center buying the last ten books to sell in their gift shop. I was not expecting to return to Tucson with no books.

We are selling quite a few books on the Internet right now, and people who are buying the books are spreading the word to others.  Hopefully we will have bit of a snow ball effect.  Two people named Spiegler who I have never met have also contacted me once they saw information about the book.

Ultimately I am glad I wrote the book not just for our children and grand-children, but for the many people who have been touched by the book.  This was not what I expected, but is very gratifying and has made it all worthwhile.

Book Launch!

If A Store Could Talk...

By Denise Fleischer, Des Plaines Journal & Topics, October 1, 2019

Allan Spiegler presents his non-fiction book “If a Store Could Talk…The Spiegler Family Remembers” from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6 at the Des Plaines History Center. Spiegler will discuss his family, Des Plaines history and the store’s evolution during a book signing event.

Spiegler Department Store was located on Ellinwood Street before it moved to become an anchor store of the Des Plaines Mall. It’s doors opened at the first location on June 6, 1900. It closed at the mall March 31, 1992.

“This is the legacy of a family on the frontier. Not the fictional frontier of cowboy movies, but the real frontier of American immigration, commerce, and suburban life as it progressed through the 19th and 20th centuries,” said Des Plaines History Center Director Philip Mohr.

“The book portrays an era when local towns were the business center for the community,” Spiegler explained. “It really has a lot of interesting insights into the past as well as great anecdotes. In a sense, because I talk about the history of the family, I also tie it to national events. Not only a story of who we were, but who we are today. How the inventions of cars, internet and technology, in general, have changed the way we shop and live. People no longer shop chiefly in their local community.”

The public is invited to attend. The History Center is located at 781 Pearson St.

The Changing Family Constellation

My apologies for not doing a blog in June, but we took our six year old granddaughter to the Grand Canyon the first week in June and then went back to Maryland for two weeks to see family and return her to her mother. She had been living with us for the past year. Unfortunately her mother was not ready for her due to a lack of a home and a stable job.

We are coming to understand that it is becoming more and more common for grandparents and other family members to take of children they did not create. When we enrolled our granddaughter La’Nyiah in kindergarten class last year we learned that three of the eight children in the class were living with grandparents.  When I saw my physician for a routine physical and mentioned our granddaughter was living with us, he said, “You would be surprised how often I hear about this kind of situation. How well are you holding up?”

Although it is true that some children have always been raised by extended family members due to death, disability, physical illness, and abandonment, the numbers have  been increasing in the past decades due to substance abuse and related mental illness.  The media has been giving the opioid epidemic a lot of attention lately. Substance abuse also takes parents out of the picture through incarceration and drug overdoses. Grandparents are willing to stand in the breach because they care for their grandchildren and want the best for them but it can create stress on physical health and financial resources.  Since the Recession of 2008, there are fewer government resources available like counselling to help the situation.

Looking at another dysfunctional family situation, the young male emu Ellis sat on the eggs which his mate Irma had laid in December for four months, but none of the eggs hatched.  Ellis had not sat on the eggs for all of January and the young embryos had died without his being aware of it.  I think because of his young age and the lack of a group of emus to show him the ropes, he didn’t know what he was doing at first.

Fran had not visited the emus for six months due to severe allergies and asthma, but she got down to their ranch in July.  She spoke to Irma in soft tones to re-establish the relationship.  Ellis stood a ways off.  But, the emus had not forgotten that Fran is their discriminative stimulus for their mating dance.  Irma walked of a few steps, being discrete as a female and then sat on the grass. Ellis noted this change in her behavior and quickly ran over, pounced on her back, and began wiggling and jiggling.  We will have to see if there is a new group of emu eggs this year, and whether Ellis will man up to his responsibilities from the beginning or just be another sperm donor.

A Preview of the Latest Project…

(from the Des Plaines Journal & Topics, May 1, 2019)

Family Member Chronicles Lives Of Spieglers, Local Store

How Through Love, Hard Work 4 Generations Kept Business Alive

For nearly a century, from the time in 1900 when Des Plaines’ population hovered around 1,600 to 1992 when more than 58,000 people called the Northwest suburban Chicago community home, the name Spiegler represented success, stability and family.

Many of the people of Des Plaines and of the region were European immigrants who came to America to escape persecution and to seek a better life for themselves and their families.

Chicago, having become one of the great cities of the world, especially after the fire of 1871, was the embarkation point where many immigrants spread their wings in search of land to farm and for business opportunities. Louis Spiegler, Sr. discovered such an opportunity in 1900 while traveling by train through the tiny hamlet of Des Plaines on a hunting trip. The birth of the idea of opening a general store in this charming little town with its own river was exciting to him.

Three generations later, Allan Spiegler, who was called Jay while growing up in Des Plaines, has authored a 140-page manuscript titled, “If A Store Could Talk…The Spiegler Family Remembers”. It’s the well-researched and clearly passionate story of how this family of Dutch and German heritage helped shape what eventually became one of the most important and largest early suburbs of Chicago. It’s also the tale of how an enterprising young man and his strong-willed wife labored long and hard to nurture and grow a business that over the decades became not only the place where future Spieglers and dozens of employees derived their livelihoods but also the psychological and social center of the family and community.

Louis and Minnie Spiegler, along with Louis’ brother Benjamin, opened and operated the general store on the south side of Ellinwood Street in downtown Des Plaines east of Lee Street. Across the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad tracks on the north side of Miner Street one of the town’s other popular retail stores, Brown’s, also operated.

In his book, Allan Spiegler takes readers on a journey that nowadays, with its Walmarts, Targets and other impersonal corporations, seems to some people remote and difficult to comprehend. Still, even today, small businesses in America provide most of the available jobs. The owners of these companies can relate all too well with the kind of trials and tribulations that Louis, Minnie and Benjamin grappled with day in and day out at the turn of the 19th century.

Clearly, the most fascinating part of the book is the author’s ability to emphasize the human relationships experienced by the Spieglers that helped make the family business work for such a long time. He describes how the personalities of each Spiegler, though they differed in many ways, were able to work in unison. Not only did family members work hard, but they respected and loved one another, and it showed. Apart from work where they labored side-by-side year-after-year, generations of Spieglers regularly socialized with each other. Fishing and conversing were important activities that bound the clan. The author also succeeds in weaving current events of the times describing how the family business continued on even during the dark days of the Great Depression and World Wars I and II.

Like most family businesses, Spiegler Department Store succumbed to time and change. In the 1980s, the store on Ellinwood moved a block away to the Des Plaines Mall, which was a new concept in retail development. The old building was demolished as local civic leaders tried to find a cure for the slow demise of downtown Des Plaines as a commercial center. For various reasons, the Mall experiment didn’t work. Third generation members David, Roger and Bob Spiegler were getting older and their children wanted to pursue interests other than running the store. In 1992, Spiegler’s closed.

“If A Store could Talk…The Spiegler Family Remembers” is a wonderful walk through a specific aspect of the history of a true American community that tells the story of one important family that managed to stick together through thick and thin. It’s a representation of love, respect and hard work that passed from generation to generation, which allowed them to succeed in experiencing the American dream.

(Ed. Note: Allan Spiegler’s book about his family will be published in late September).


To delight in petting a dog

To feel wonder at a bird in the nest

To dance to the music in your heart

To give a hug for no reason

To sing for the love of life

To be excited to see a friend

To be genuinely sad when one has done wrong

To be proud to learn something new

To forgive without remembrance and spite.

We have much to learn from these little ones.




A Good Spirit


My sister-in-law, Julie Travers Robinson, died at age 53 in November of 2018 after having to face some severe obstacles in life and coping with them well.  I wanted to talk about her life for a bit as I think there are some lessons to be learned for all of us.

When Julie was 26, she learned that she had developed a tumor on her brain stem.  The tumor was malignant and the doctors were able to remove it  but she still had to undergo radiation treatments and chemotherapy.  This left her with headaches, weakness, and loss of balance.  The doctors told her she probably had six months to three years to live.  A well-known sportscaster in the Washington, D.C. area, Glenn Brenner, was diagnosed with a similar tumor at about the same time, and he died two months after its discovery.  So, the prognosis was not good.

Fortunately she had some very competent and supportive doctors at Georgetown University Hospital, and she appeared to be relatively healthy for ten years.  At age 36, however, the doctors discovered she had developed cancer in the thyroid gland located in her neck, probably due to the earlier radiation treatments.  This cancer gradually involved her lungs as well and thus began a long and difficult medical journey through many clinical trials of medications and treatments to control the cancer.  Some of these medicines, which were often trials of new experimental drugs, left horrible side effects such as pitholes in her tongue and partial blindness in her left eye. There were frequent periods of nausea and headaches, and she had difficulty breathing due to the cancer in her lungs.

Throughout this whole ordeal, Julie continued to work full-time as a personnel specialist at Indian Head Naval Ordinance Station (NOS), a facility located south of Washington.  Due to the limited vision in her left eye, Julie had a devise a route to go to work in her car which just involved making right-hand turns.  Just imagine if you could only get to work making right-hand turns. Her doctors at Georgetown were amazed that she continued to stay alive and would refer her to new clinical trial studies as they learned about them to control or kill the cancer.  No cure was ever found.

What I and many others found remarkable throughout this whole experience was Julie’s calm and positive attitude.  Many people easily would have become bitter, cynical, angry, or depressed.  Some would turn to alcohol or drugs to deal with the illness.  Yet, I never detected any negative periods of irritation or complaining from Julie. She did not want to get caught up in a downward spiral of negativity and despair or burden others with her problems. The strong support of her Roman Catholic faith and church members, as well as family, fellow employees at NOS, and the Georgetown doctors seemed to help her in this.

Julie not only did not succumb to the many negative attitudes that others develop in such situations, but she used her experience of the illness to give more to others.  She wrote a short light-hearted monograph entitled “What’s So Funny About Cancer?” where she describes many humorous events which occurred to her when dealing with the illness and the treatments. She felt this would help others also dealing with cancer.  She organized family and friends to form a group known as “Team Smiley” which raised money for the American Cancer Society for further research and treatment of cancer.  The group of thirty or more people would participate in the annual Walk For Life sponsored by ACS and Julie had special red T-shirts made up for the group with a large smiley face on the front.  For a number of years the group plus added family and friends would gather at a local restaurant for a “Celebration of Life” event, giving thanks for Julie’s continued life as well as others.  She also offered her home and financial support to several family members who were struggling to get their life together at times.  Knowing all of this,  the NOS newsletter featured an article about her entitled “Making A Difference.”

A wise person once said,” It’s not the hand which Life deals you that is important.  It’s how you play the hand.”   Julie had learned to play her hand well and be a source of strength and support for others rather than to withdraw into a life of bitterness and despair.  I have always felt a great deal of respect as well as love for her, and I think there is a lesson from her life which is important for all of us to understand.  She now has passed the torch to us, and now it is our turn to make a difference for the world and touch the lives of others.

The Tale of the Emus


I take a walk for exercise most days and as I walk I pass a small cattle ranch which no longer has cattle.  The owner has replaced the cattle with two emus in his fenced-in front yard.  The emus are named Irma and Ellis and, and we have developed a relationship with them, as they like to hang out at the fence that fronts the road.   My wife in particular has developed a friendship with Irma, and Irma will eat chopped kale or lettuce out of her hand.

The emu is a native of Australia and standing about six feet tall is the second largest bird on the planet, after the ostrich.  It has long, spindly legs with big clawed feet, a body about the size of a small barrel covered with long grey feathers, and a long neck covered with downy grey feathers.  It is quite a runner, and this is its main defense.  The large eggs are dark green.  It is used by man for meat, eggs, and the healing oil which is found in its body.

An interesting sequence of behaviors began occurring a few months ago.  Fran would go up to the fence and talk to Irma and stroke her long neck.  Irma would shut her eyes in pleasure.   Ellis was not interested in being stroked or fed at all but Irma looked forward to Fran’s visits and when stroked would go down on her knees on the ground.  Ellis began observing this behavior by Irma and, seizing the opportunity, would pounce on Irma’s back and begin the mating jiggle in the act of copulation.

This behavior repeated its itself for a few weeks and then my wife discovered that if she simply went up to Irma and talked to her in a soothing voice, with no petting, Irma would kneel down on the ground and the mating act would begin.  Ellis began to look forward to Fran’s visit as much as Irma, but for a different reason.  Just the sight of her and her voice had become the signal, the discriminative stimulus, for the mating behavior to begin.

I was a psychology major at the University of Illinois and the department had a strong Behaviorist orientation.  White Norwegian rats and pigeons were commonly put in “Skinner boxes” and taught to press a lever to get the desired food pellets.  Once they had learned how to use the lever to get food, a red light was introduced into the box and only when the red light was on could pressing the lever produce the food pellet.  Soon the animals would learn that the red light was the signal for pressing the lever, and that was the only time they would press it.  Fran had unwittingly become the discriminative stimulus for the emu fun to begin.

Now there is a straw nest with twelve large eggs sitting in it.  Interestingly, Irma rarely sits on the nest and Ellis has this job full-time.  Whether he likes this task is unclear, but he has learned that life is not all fun and no work.