Dist. 207 artwork hails historic war bond drive
The achievements of Maine Township high school students 70 years ago selling war bonds live on today through new artwork created by students and teachers at the three district schools.
"It's a sense of pride. It's a really cool thing," said Superintendent Ken Wallace, who asked each school to create art pieces honoring the story of the war bond drive and the plane named "Maine Flyer" in the students' honor. "They brought a historical thing back to life. Students years from now can see the story of the Maine Flyer and not lose that piece of history."
More than 1,600 students went door to door in the winter of the 1944-45 school year to solicit donations for the war effort, selling $551,000 worth of bonds in only two weeks. That's equivalent to more than $7 million in today's dollars.
For their effort, a C-54 Skymaster warplane, assembled at the nearby Douglas Aircraft Co. factory, was named Maine Flyer.
Students at Maine East and Maine South produced and released a 12-minute documentary this summer about the story of the Maine Flyer, but Wallace and school district officials wanted a permanent, physical reminder of it in the hallways of all District 207 schools.
So they assigned the art department chairs at each school to come up with art projects about the Flyer.
At Maine East, the original Maine Township school where the war bond drive took place, students created a 4-foot by 5-foot mosaic of the warplane. Above the multicolored tiles is the slogan "Faster and Higher -- That's Maine's Flyer," which was originally emblazoned on the plane's nose when it went into service in 1945 as a naval hospital aircraft to evacuate wounded sailors in the Pacific Theater.
Art teacher Magdalene Eisenberg worked with 16 students on the mosaic between May and July, cutting and gluing thousands of three-quarter-inch blue, green and white glass pieces. It was installed last month in a hallway near the Park Ridge school's auditorium.
The students, all juniors and seniors, watched the trailer to the documentary their classmates produced about the Maine Flyer and war bond drive, which premiered in May at a Park Ridge viewing event and is available on the Park Ridge Historical Society's website.
"We sat and talked about the significance and sacrifice, and honestly while working on it, I felt we were paying homage to (those) kids," Eisenberg said. "I think they were humbled."
Maine West art teacher Richard Cammarata created a 3½-foot by 6½-foot acrylic painting in the shape of a giant $25 war bond, with imagery of the plane, the school and a 48-star American flag inside.
"I figured the important fact is the war bond itself," said Cammarata, who has taught at Maine West for 17 years. "The students sold (the bonds) in two weeks' time frame. I wanted to feature that."
Maine West officials also considered creating a mosaic, but they decided against it since one was put together two years ago at the Des Plaines school's entrance. Cammarata worked on the painting over the summer and put the finishing touches on it at the start of the school year. It was installed recently in the school's second-floor rotunda.
His boss, Maine West art department chairman Pat Barnett, learned of the history and significance of the Maine Flyer while teaching at Maine East.
"The thing I like, having been a Maine East teacher a long time, is it captures a lot of the history of our district," Barnett said.
Maine South's artwork is a photo display in the Park Ridge school's library featuring images of the warplane's dedication at the Douglas factory and of students posed near a fundraising goal thermometer. Art teacher MaryLee Moore coordinated the project with five students.
The schools are planning commemoration ceremonies to formally dedicate each piece of artwork.