'Forever young' original owner defies the odds

Posted on Sun, 02/01/2015 - 12:30pm

By Neil Warner

Adeline KalantMove-ins at Malibu East are typically a pretty straightforward affair: Arrange a date with your movers, reserve the service elevator, and then let your movers do their thing on move-in day, hoping that nothing breaks in the process.

When Adeline and George Kalant moved into Malibu East on Aug. 4, 1971, something happened that you likely wouldn’t see today. Among their possessions, the Kalants had a 125-inch-long sofa, which George had wanted to sell when they moved out of their South Side home. Yet, Adeline liked it and was determined to keep it, so the movers packed it up along with the other belongings. When they got the sofa to the Kalants’ unit on our 45th floor with its lower hallway ceilings, the movers realized they had a problem. They spent much of the day trying to figure out how they could get the sofa inside the unit, but the only solution they could come up with was to saw the sofa in half, which wouldn’t have pleased Adeline. Fortunately, a group of construction workers in a vacant unit across the hall came to the rescue, offering to take the sofa to the 44th-floor unit directly below and then to hoist it, using ropes, to the Kalants’ balcony on the top floor. Their plan was a success, although Adeline sure had some anxious moments when it was under way.

“Whenever that sofa has to be removed from my unit, someone will probably have to cut it in half,” Adeline says now.

Adeline was born and raised on the South Side, the oldest daughter of Greek parents who had immigrated to the United States separately in 1907 and 1909. Her father operated a wholesale produce business on the South Side. From the age of eight to 14, Adeline rode a streetcar and walked – including underneath a long, dark viaduct – to a parochial grammar school. “Nobody bothered us going to and from school,” she says. She then attended Parker High School (now named Robeson) along with her future husband, who lived just two blocks away from her family.

After Adeline graduated from high school, she attended Fox Secretarial College and worked for 1½ years as a secretary for a labor union. George became an aeronautical engineer and was granted a deferment from serving in the military during World War II to work on the B-24 bomber for its designer, Consolidated-Vultee, in San Diego. George flew back to Chicago and proposed to Adeline on March 13, 1942. On Aug. 23 he returned to Chicago for the wedding, and he and Adeline took the then 12-hour flight on TWA to San Diego to live. Not long after they settled on the West Coast, President Franklin Roosevelt needed fresh troops to turn the tide of the war; as a result, George was drafted into the Army field artillery as a staff sergeant. He served in Germany and was discharged after 22 months.

While in San Diego, Adeline had a secretarial job at Consolidated-Vultee, but she returned to Chicago when George was drafted. After the war they again lived on the South Side, where Adeline served as a den mother for a Cub Scout troop. In 1969 the Kalants decided to relocate to the North Side, as all of their relatives lived there. They saw a small newspaper advertisement for a new 45-story condominium development at the corner of Sheridan Road and Glenlake. Dunbar Builders had just completed a 39-story condo building, The Malibu, next door. A bungalow remained on the corner where Malibu East now stands, and Dunbar had only blueprints to show what the new condo units would look like.

George was an avid reader, and he felt condos were the wave of the future. (Condominium construction in Chicago had begun in the mid-1960s and was still quite new.) Meanwhile, Adeline “could not believe we were buying from a blueprint.”

They put down a deposit – only $10 – and settled on a two-bedroom unit on the 26th floor. “We felt that was high enough,” Adeline says. However, when they got home and told their son, Cary – then a student at Roosevelt University – that they had placed a deposit on a condo, he asked them, “On which floor?” When they said it was on the 26th floor of a 45-story building, he asked why they hadn’t purchased a unit on the top floor. The next day they went back to the sales agent and asked if he had an available unit on the 45th floor. He said no, they were all spoken for, but recalled that one buyer had placed a deposit on two top-floor units because he wasn’t sure which one he wanted. So, the sales agent talked to the prospective buyer and persuaded him to choose one of the two units, leaving the other one for the Kalants.

A year or two later, before he finalized the purchase of the condo, George wanted to see the view from the 45th floor. At that stage in the construction, the only way he could get to the top floor was to take an express elevator to the 21st floor and then climb the stairs to the 45th. The unscheduled workout didn’t take away from the fabulous view he saw when he reached his destination, and the purchase was sealed.

With only three other families initially living on their floor, the Kalants faced a number of challenges in their first few months at Malibu East. Even before they moved in, the builders had installed blue fixtures in the bathrooms, although the Kalants had requested green ones, so the fixtures had to be replaced. Rainstorms would typically result in water leaking into their unit, getting the furniture wet, until the builders discovered a solution. Also, there was no carpeting in the main corridors during the early months after owners began moving in. And, the commercial mall that would become the Captain’s Walk was still under construction.

On the first windy day, our chandelier was swinging back and forth,” Adeline recalls.

She shared several of the original issues of the building newsletter, initially named Breezes from the Malibu East as published by Dunbar Builders. The old issues showed various social events, residential units and recreation rooms, plus identifying a number of original residents, some of whom still live here. The original issues also addressed some of the growing pains that owners were coping with, such as balcony screens that had yet to be installed and the absence of parking rules in the garage.

Adeline also shared Issue No. 1 of the renamed The Conversation Piece, a double-sided sheet of paper that reported the election results for the very first Malibu East Board of Directors, in July 1973, after the turnover of the building by Dunbar. More than 40 candidates – can you believe it! – volunteered to run for the Board, and 400 out of 498 eligible units cast ballots. Ray Blackstone was elected as the first Board president, and six committees were established. Adeline would later become a member of the Social and Recreation Committee under chairman Esther Klopfer. (Editor’s note: If you have any pre-2000 issues of the Malibu East newsletter that you intend to discard or wish to donate, please contact the Dialogue editor or the Management Office.)

The people here have always been friendly,” Adeline says when asked whether the Malibu East community has changed over the years. “The building is getting better. The doormen and other employees are nice.”

George passed away in 1995, but Adeline has remained active. After having taken piano lessons for eight years as a child, she took lessons again at Berger Park in her 70s. She participated in two piano recitals with her much younger fellow students, and she still likes to play the piano at home.

Adeline worked as a Democratic judge for the primary and general elections for an amazing 62 years, usually taking a leading role because of her experience as a judge. With the 22nd Precinct polling place located in our Lobby for years, it was convenient for her, even though an election judge’s workday can be 14-16 hours long.

I enjoyed (serving as an election judge),” Adeline says, “meeting all the people in the building.”

When asked if she had any particularly memorable experiences as an election judge, Adeline recounted the time she asked a prospective female voter a question to verify her identity. The woman took offense and threw a book at her … and fortunately missed.

After she moved to Malibu East, Adeline began attending St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church at Sheridan and Hollywood. She joined the women’s club there, serving as president for two years. She still does volunteer work in the church office.

Although a couple of falls during the past two years have set her back physically and cut back on her walks in the neighborhood, she still goes out when she can and participates in Malibu East’s Thursday afternoon discussion group once a month.

This month Adeline will turn 94. When asked how she has managed to stay so fit physically and mentally, Adeline shrugs. “I don’t know. I grew up on a Mediterranean diet. No fast food.”

Her son, who worked in real estate, and her daughter-in-law, a former school principal, are both retired now and living in the northwest suburbs. She has two grandsons – George, 34, a former engineer who now works at the Mercantile Exchange, and Dean, 30, an attorney who was married in June.

When visiting his grandparents here as a toddler, George learned about numbers by being allowed to press the appropriate elevator button, Adeline remembers.

Her son would like her to move to the suburbs, near her family, but she is reluctant to give up the independence she has here. “It’s so convenient living here,” Adeline says. “I’m now using all of the stores in the mall downstairs, and the dentist, too.”

Those of us who have had the pleasure of talking with Adeline and experiencing her positive attitude hope she stays at Malibu East a long, long time so we can all help celebrate her 100th birthday!