Baranek: Oak Forest giving its historic athletic images a modern twist

SHARE Baranek: Oak Forest giving its historic athletic images a modern twist

There has been a running joke among Nora Hoguiesson-Fink and her family and friends about one of the photos of her that has been hanging on the cafeteria wall at Oak Forest High School since 1997.

“It was right above the water fountain,” she said. “It was pretty amusing. Everyone would always say, ‘Oh, every time we get a drink of water we see your face.’ ”

Fink, a decorated four-sport athlete at Oak Forest from 1992 to ’96, looked at the empty space above the water fountain Monday.

“Should I have a sad face or smile?” she said after I gave her the photo and asked her to hold it up while I took a snapshot.

A couple of days earlier, it definitely would have been a sad face. But we decided on a smile. The visit, which included Oak Forest athletic director Ron Towner, left her with a much better understanding of what’s going on and why.

Fink still is sad. But she’s OK with it.

That’s how I think it’s going to be with many of those who are upset that many of the faces and names of past Bengals that filled the walls have been taken down, scanned and fed into a digital kiosk.

More than 1,000 people signed an online petition initiated by Oak Forest student council president Jessy Sandoval to demand/implore/beg the school to reconsider. Only a few, though, appeared at the latest District 228 school board meeting to express their disapproval.

The project, similar to one completed at Hillcrest two years ago, is being headed by Towner, assistant football and wrestling coach and assistant athletic director Jason Thormeyer and assistant track coach Ricky Davis.

“The majority of the pictures (being removed) were in the cafeteria, Towner said. “There was no more space on any of the walls in the cafeteria and we had run out of space in the main hallways and in the some of the ancillary back hallways where they had started to put things.

“There were seven years of pictures that were in a box back in my storage area in the back of the school. There was no more space to put any more up.”

Many of the photos that were taken down, especially pre-1990, were not in very good shape. The color was faded. Some had mold on them.

Time, the avenger, really was wreaking havoc.

Through digital magic, Towner is hoping to bring those photos back to life.

“We’re cropping out some of the damaged areas,” Towner said. “A lot of the programs have color-enhancing buttons to click on that bring the color back.”

The computer screen, located on the wall just outside the cafeteria doors, will be touch-operational, Towner said. The database options will include being able to pull up photos by name, year or sport. There also will be an option to download the photos onto your phone.

Seriously, folks, there are some real reasons to like this system, even for an old-school creature of habit like me who graduated from Bremen in 1974. Give it a chance.

As for what remains, the wall that runs along the gym still will have shadow boxes holding team trophies and the professional baseball uniforms for the three ex-Bengals (Tim Byrdak, Jason Frasor and Rick Gorecki) who made it to the majors. The plaques honoring the state baseball and softball teams will stay up, as well as pictures of the All-State kids from the past and those of current student-athletes who earned all-conference status.

The old photos, Towner said, will be made available to those who want them.

I’m betting a lot of former Bengals will stand in line, among them Kristin Kwasny-Kunz.

“I started going to camps at Oak Forest when I was in grade school and I remember seeing those walls and thinking, ‘I want to be up there,’ ” the former three-sport athlete and 1998 grad said. “And when I became a student it was great motivation to be as successful as those who played before me. It was a matter of pride.”

The Latest
Agnieszka, 14, would disappoint her parents if she Americanized it.
They were detached at times, but fans showed they knew all the words to “LISA” and “Riri.”
Yet, the Sueños headliner filled Grant Park for the first night of Chicago’s biggest annual Latin music event.
Friday marked a self-imposed adjournment date for lawmakers — but neither the revenue, appropriations or budget implementation measures had been brought to the floor by either the House or Senate. Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch on Saturday said the House will adjourn for the holiday weekend and return next week to take up the budget.