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  • Writer's pictureGena Martine Santoni

News From The Windy City

As usual, the summer has flown by and suddenly school is starting and the whirlwind of activity begins again. I hope you enjoyed the summer, but then, living in southern California, it’s not difficult to do. My husband and I left our local cool ocean breezes for a different kind in July, venturing down the lakeside avenues of the Windy City.

Fortunately, mother nature was unusually kind, and we enjoyed cool weather and bright blue skies dotted with puffy clouds. Standing atop the Hancock Tower the shadows cast island mirages on the startling azure blue water of the lake. There were many such surprises on our first trip to Chicago. This is the city where the Martine Cotillions began exactly 150 years ago, in 1857, before the Civil War, before the famous fire that decimated most of the city. That was my great-great grandfather’s Chicago, and it is long-gone - and not just because of the fire. A quest to find the old stomping grounds of one’s ancestors can be a challenging, if not impossible, task in such a place. Chicago bears almost no resemblance to the faded portraits capturing her early history. The grand old homes and halls of Professor J. E. Martine, the founding father of our Cotillions, have been replaced by immense apartment buildings and glassy modern skyscrapers.

The only relic left from Cotillion’s glittering past is the wonderful old Drake Hotel. The professor’s daughter, Edwina, my great-grandmother, directed there in the 1920’s and ‘30’s. The Grand Ballroom hasn’t changed much since then. It still has the suspended dance floor floating on hundreds of automobile springs, it’s gilt trim, it’s crystal chandeliers. How surreal to stand right upon the spot where she stood eighty years ago, doing what I still do today.

But we had another reason to visit Chicago in July. Our own co-director, Rebekah Keller Negrete, competed with 52 other ladies for the title of Mrs. International - and won! Of course, we weren’t surprised. This success will give Rebekah many opportunities to further people's awareness of opportunities in Foster and Adoption all over the country - when she’s not at Cotillion, that is. Our congratulations, Rebekah!

And now that all the festivities are over, we look forward to another fun-filled and successful season of Cotillion. For five generations our family has nurtured the self-confidence of children as they learn and practice the manners and high personal standards that are perennially important for a lasting society. We intend that the poise and ease of manner they develop over the course of many seasons of Cotillion will become a natural part of who they are and smooth the way for personal excellence. •GMS

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