Narrator: Dodee Connelly
Date of Interview: March 4, 1987
Place of Interview: Narrator’s home, located at 5510 Warren Street, Morton Grove
Interviewer: Yvonne Ryden
Recorded For: Morton Grove Historical Society
Transcribed For: Morton Grove Public Library
Tape Running Time: 3 hours, 25 minutes
Dodee Connelly has given Morton Grove more than thirty-seven years of community service and continues to do so. In 1986, Dodee was honored by the Morton Grove Chamber of Commerce with the V. I. P. Award. She not only was the first spouse of a previous recipient, but, more importantly, the first woman ever to be honored. In addition to this, Mrs. Connelly was given the Citizen of the Year Award for 1987 by the Pulitzer-Lerner newspapers.
Dodee Connelly has had a career of service projects and is known for her enthusiastic ability for fund-raising. She was president of the Morton Grove Historical Society from 1983 to 1987 and is responsible for reinstating the oral history project after years of inactivity. Her main accomplishment as president was the moving of the Haupt-Yehl house from its original location on Lincoln Avenue to its present site at Harrer Park on Dempster Street. The house is now the historical museum for the Morton Grove Historical Society.
In this March 1987 interview, Dodee talks about her many affiliations in Morton Grove organizations, among them park commissioner, past president of the Garden Clubs and past president to the Morton Grove Woman’s Club, to name only a few. She is considered a “mover and a shaker” with countless volunteer hours and tireless enthusiasm. She has been an exemplary citizen for the town of Morton Grove and a significant influence in any endeavors she has chosen to undertake.
DC: Dodee Connelly
Q: Question asked by interviewer, Yvonne Ryden
TAPE ONE, SIDE A
Q: Let’s talk first, Dodee, about the Morton Grove Historical Society. How many years have you been president?
DC: I’ve been president for the past four years, from ’83 to 1987. But I also was vice president for two years prior to that. I’ve been a charter member of the Morton Grove Historical Society since it started.
Q: Do you recall what year that was?
DC: That was ten to eleven years ago. When the historical society first started, it was taken over by the Senior Club in Morton Grove. They had a liaison trustee on the village board and they worked together. They collected some artifacts, but they didn’t have a place to put them. Bill Haefke was from the Seniors, and after a while he became ill and said he could not continue with that job any longer. Consequently, Joan Stewart, the executive librarian was contacted…
Q: The executive librarian of the Morton Grove Public Library?
DC: Yes. She contacted Fred Huscher and some of the older families in town, and they decided to take over the historical society. They sent out letters then to people to become charter members, and we congregated and Frank McTier was the first president of the newly organized historical society and was for two years. After Frank McTier, then Bill Sonne was president for four years, and then I came in and have been president for the past four years and will be going out of office soon.
Q: I believe the by-laws limit to a four-year . . .
DC: Two terms.
Q: Two terms of two years each. Now I think the major accomplishment during your presidency was the moving of the Haupt-Yehl house and its establishment as the Morton Grove Historical Museum. So why don’t you talk about that?
DC: Okay. In December of 1983, I learned that this house was going to be demolished. This house was on two acres of land on Lincoln Avenue in Morton Grove, and the people who were living in it — one was Dorothy Yehl — they had been trying to sell the house for a number of years after the mother died. It was in the will that this house would be sold and the land would be sold, and it would be divided amongst her children, the mother’s children. At that time, the economy was such that the interest rates were so high that no developer and no builder wanted to be involved in building homes. They just were not selling. So it was held in abeyance for a while until the interest rates came down.
And then a developer was interested in the property, but he was not interested in this farmhouse. He was going to demolish it. So I heard about it, and according to our Morton Grove Historical by-laws, it stated in there that we should try to acquire a home so we would have a place to put our artifacts and turn it into a museum.
When I first presented it to the board of the Morton Grove Historical Society, all I got were negative responses. “Forget it. It’s too big of a project. We’ll never be able to do it.” Et cetera. Well, I’m full of determination and enthusiasm and I believe in by-laws, and if you can’t accomplish your goals in the by-laws, then take them out.
So I then proceeded to contact the mayor of Morton Grove, Dick Flickinger. I also contacted the newly hired administrative manager, Larry Arft. I got the architect, Mel Cey, of the village. I called in people from Springfield, Illinois, Conservation Department, and they sent out a crew of men to determine if the house was authentic, well worth saving. I called in the director of the Morton Grove Park District. The village planner — anybody I could think of to come over and look at the house.
It had been lived in all this time. It was in good shape. But they wanted to check out the beams and the square nails in the house. They checked out the hinges and the door knobs, which are quite decorative and they were authentic from the 1800s. And they said by all means it was well preserved and do save it. Then I called in a house mover, and he quoted a price of ten thousand dollars to move the house. But then we didn’t know where to move the house.
Q: Yes, finding a site was the big problem then.
DC: We do have a virgin prairie in back of the Prairie View Community Center, the park district. But it would mean going over railroad tracks. None of us realized the cost of moving a house over railroad tracks. There are many wires, cables, that have to be raised or lowered or cut. There are relays and that’s not just at the crossing. It could be a half a mile, a mile down the track that would have to be shut off. We finally got an estimate of forty thousand dollars to go across the railroad track. Well, in order to raise that kind of money, we didn’t think it was feasible.
So then I presented it to the park district. They said if we could assure them that the house would not be an eyesore, they would find a place on park property without going across a railroad track. So we had to get estimates on the restoration of the exterior plus making a basement, according to the new village codes. It was determined all told we needed fifty thousand dollars.
We then got petitions signed from the residents in Morton Grove to see if there was support. Many of them said yes. We got I don’t know how many thousands of signatures on the petitions. We presented them to the park district. They said, “Fine. There is community interest. Now go out and see if you can get pledges for these fifty thousand dollars.” We did.
We sent out letters to all of the houses in Morton Grove — eight thousand homes. We sent it to all businesses and industry, organizations. And within ten weeks we had cash in our hand plus pledges totalling fifty thousand dollars. When we called the pledges in, I’m proud to say every single penny — to the penny — came in, which is very unusual. Every single penny.
From then on, we got the movers in. We saved the brick on the — these were unusual brick. These were old brick made by hand.
Q: This is the brick of the foundation?
DC: Around the house, yes. We saved that, cleaned off those bricks. Then we had people come in and make the new basement and had that all set. Everything was ready for that house to be moved and placed on this new foundation. The basement had been poured, the concrete floors, everything was all set. Then on August 9, 1984, we were lucky enough to move the house.
Q: Many people talk about remembering the house being moved. Do you want to tell us the route?
DC: Yes, we moved the house onto Lincoln Avenue. This was at Lincoln Avenue near McVicker. We went east to Austin Avenue. Then we made a left-hand turn and went north on Austin Avenue to Dempster Street. We made another left-hand turn on Dempster Street, went west. The American Legion allowed us to move the house through their parking lot, then through the opening — part of the barriers were removed between the park district and the American Legion. Then we gradually got the house ready to go onto this foundation. It is now situated in Harrer Park on this foundation. The whole village, the park district, everybody is very proud to see what we have done with it.
But it was our promise that before the end of ’84, the exterior of the house would be restored and painted so that it would not be an eyesore to the community for any longer length of time. That first year we didn’t do much inside as far as by the end of ’84. But we were able to get extension cords and we did have Christmas decorations on the railings and on the doors and some lights on the trees — the exterior trees on the landscaping. Some of the trees were donated, so we put lights out there so people knew that we were well on our way. So then, starting in 1985, we started to restore the interior of the home. Larry Arft, our village manager, he did construction work while he was going through college.
Oh, let me interject here. Fred Huscher, whose grandfather had actually built this home, he had been in Florida for the winter while I was working on this project. But he came back at the end of April of ’84, and he was full of enthusiasm along with me, and he and I worked hard going to different industries asking for money — like Avon and Baxters and Crane and Cook Electric. All of them here in the village, and we would go and make personal appearances asking for donations. They were generous, we though. Plus individuals. Priscilla Godemann and her husband were the first ones to donate one thousand dollars toward this house. Most of us couldn’t afford that much, but they came forth right away.
Fred also worked along with the petitions. He was the driving force behind it as far as once we got the movers going. He was the supervisor over all of the construction work and the moving of the house. In that phase, I tagged along behind him. In the beginning he supported me, so we worked hand in hand with this project.
He is a great man to work with. He’s dedicated and he does a good job and he watches every single penny. His wife handled the financial records of all of these transactions when we were paying out the bills. She did an excellent job that everything balanced with the fifty thousand dollars — how it came in and from whom and how it went out until that was completely cleared.
So we had a lot of support. We established an advisory committee for the Haupt-Yehl house, particularly for the interior. It consisted of a representative from the park district; Nick Bonzos was the representative for that. We had Larry Arft and Dick Hohs from the village, Joan Stewart from the library, myself as president of the historical society and Jayne Barry as an alternate. We had Estelle Cooperman also from the Morton Grove Public Library, and we had at one time Ed Eckhardt from the school districts. After a while, we had a gal from the real estate office, from Century 21 who had some knowledge of how to go ahead with the inside of the house.
But I must say that many people came in and donated their labor. Carpenters, painters, plasterers, floor sanders, the sanders of the woodwork, painting, the wallpaper hanging — many of them just donated their labor. These were residents of Morton Grove. The wallpaper was donated through a distributor of wallpaper. We figured it out and it could have been fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars just for this wallpaper that was reproduced from that era. The committee made an excellent selection of all the wallpapers that went in.
We did have a lady come in and do the stenciling in the kitchen. We paid her; she was a commercial painter on that. She did have some help from Jayne Barry, but we did pay her a fee for doing it, and it turned out beautiful. Larry Arft and Fred Huscher, they put up the wainscoting in the kitchen and painted all of that. They worked like beavers. Paint all over them, the plaster dust all over, the sanding dust all over. We thought, “It’s never going to get there,” but it surely did.
As park commissioner, I encouraged the board of commissioners to select a site. They did come through with the help of the director, Dave Huber, and they selected the site of Harrer Park right on Dempster Street. They even gave up I think it was nine parking spaces to put the house. So if any tax body or any organization or anybody who has land who gives up parking spaces for something else, that is a good feeling that they are truly interested in having a museum on that property. It worked out well, because we were surprised that they were going to give up parking spaces.
Q: For the park and the pool in other words.
DC: That’s right.
Q: I’m sure there was probably a lot that had to be finished. Not interior finishing perhaps but furnishing. Where did the artifacts and furnishings come from?
DC: Before we actually got the house, when the new village hall was converted from the Grove School, they allowed us a large room on the lower level. When we did get that, we divided that into four rooms — a living room, bedroom, kitchen and a laundry and tool room. We had that for a couple of years where we had open houses there. We tried to do it once a month with a different décor or at least around the holidays with Christmas decorations or Thanksgiving decorations.
So we did have many things that could be transferred then into the museum. When the museum was ready to receive these artifacts we moved them. In the meantime, curtains were given that some older people had even crocheted ruffles around the — are they Priscilla curtains?
Q: They’re sort of Priscilla curtains.
DC: Then we had gotten some Austrian lace curtains for the living room. Things people saw that we needed — they scoured their attics, wherever they could find some things that they felt would be for 1900 to 1910, they donated or they loaned to us. The house is nicely furnished. We have purchased very few items. The park district did purchase a kitchen chandelier. We got it around Christmas time. That will always stay with the house, but the other artifacts belong to the historical society. Like I said, they’re either donated or on loan. And more things are coming in every single week. When people see that we have a space here or we’ll mention what we’re looking for, they’ll say, “Oh, for heaven sake. I’ve got one of those. You could have it.”
This is just a minor item — we had been looking for one of those old-fashioned ice cards. I had put a notice in our newsletters, in the Northeastern Illinois Historical Council newsletters, everywhere, and no response. This one day I was talking to a group and I said, “What we’re really looking for is one of those old ice cards, with 25, 50 pounds, 75 pounds.”
Q: It was put in the window to order ice.
DC: Correct. And Ellen DeFrancesco said, “I think I have one up in the attic in one of the old dresser drawers.” She ran upstairs, found it, brought it — “You can have it.” Out of the clear blue sky. You have to just keep talking about what you need, what you are looking for, and sooner or later you get it.
Q: I think all the rooms in the house are interesting, but the most interesting one, the one that draws the most comments, is the kitchen. Do you want to talk about where some of those big pieces came from?
DC: Well, I do know the large cooking stove came from Ron and Virginia Novotny — it’s a mother and son. It did come in rusty, but Fred Huscher took it home. He sanded it down and then cleaned off all the chrome and blackened it — painted what was supposed to be black. They brought that back in, and it is just gorgeous.
They have these warming places on the top doors. You open those up and you can warm your food after it has been cooked, keep it warm. They have also a side area in the stove where the hot water accumulated. Right next to the stove we had what they called a clothes dryer. They were slats of wood that could be raised to a horizontal position. You spread apart these slats and you can put on your underwear, the long johns that people used to wear, those long overalls that they wore — put them on these slats next to the stove at night and by morning they would be dry so that they could be worn the next day. When you tell even these little kids that this is a clothes dryer, they look in disbelief until you explain it to them.
There is also butter churns. We have a wonderful panty with old-fashioned mason jars in there, egg crates — how they used to ship the eggs. We have a rug beater. Then you tell the children how the rugs were taken out of the house and put on a clothes line and then they had to go out and beat the rugs. Then they could beat the dust out of them and then bring them back in on cleaning day and lay them down again.
Fred Huscher had an old wooden ironing board. You could still see the little holes where the thumbtacks had been, or the carpet tacks had been put in the padding and the covering on the ironing board. Well, it was cut in half. They made a shelf with a backdrop on it and the shelf on the horizontal level. The narrow part of the ironing board was also cut in half and they were the braces underneath. They were all put together and put on a wall. But the pegs — they had dowel pegs — and holes were drilled in there, glued, these pegs were glued in there plus screwed on the other side, so you cannot possibly ever get that dowel peg out loose. That’s where they hung their overalls or their aprons or their caps or whatever they wanted to hang when people came in from the field or from outdoors. I thought this was a clever idea — making this shelf out of an old wooden ironing board.
Q: What about the icebox? Where did it come from?
DC: Oh, that’s from the Fred Huscher family. Fred had restored that, refinished the whole thing, and it is in excellent condition, just as if it was brand new. This is where we placed the ice card, near the icebox and in the window so that the ice man — originally there was a hole placed in the wall, so the ice man could put the ice directly from outdoors into the icebox without ever coming into the house. Then he would close that outside small door.
Q: Did the museum house originally have such a hole or are you just talking in general? I know there’s a door in the back of the icebox where the ice chamber can be reached. But the Haupt-Yehl house proper?
DC: I don’t think they did.
Q: It is possible to see such a door, though, when you take the el downtown and you get into the old part like near Addison Street and beyond. You see on the back porches of many of the old apartment buildings such a door.
DC: But I can’t swear to it that the Haupt-Yehl house had that. I do know that they did have a trap door in the kitchen floor that went down into the cellar. The cellar was an earthen floor. That’s where they stored their vegetables during the winter — their potatoes and onions and apples and whatever they needed. They kept that downstairs. They did make some shelves for their canned items that they had . . .
Q: So they went down on the inside of the house?
DC: That’s correct.
Q: They could get from a trap floor into the basement without going to the cellar stairs that are on the outside of the house.
Q: Now the present stairway that goes down to the museum display part really, I understand, that door opening was the original door upstairs. Am I right? In the original house.
DC: Yes, that’s correct. Let’s go in to the front room now and some of the artifacts that are in there. An old organ was donated by Carl Eckhardt. It really looks nice in the living room. The house committee has gotten someone now to repair the organ, and it actually plays. Jayne Barry one Sunday gave a short recital. It was really, really nice. She said it does take a lot of effort and she’ll have to build up the strength in her legs to really play more for a longer length of time. But it was nicely done. In fact, Yvonne Ryden was one of the privileged people to hear this small concert and it was greatly appreciated.
Q: I was there, thank you, and it was very pleasant and a surprise to hear her play it.
DC: Then one of the lamp shades in the living room is a beautiful green one, glass. It has a fringe of beads around the bottom of the shade. Not original — but a while back it just had like a braid, but the original shade did have these glass beads hanging down in strings. Emil Eiser, who donated this shade, decided to restore it back to its original appearance, and he went out and purchased beards and the thread. He was very persistent even though those strings would break and those beads would go all over the floor. He would pick them up and restring them, until finally he got it the way he wanted it to look. It is lovely. Everybody admires that shade.
In fact, the base was donated for this lamp shade from, I think it was by Ceil Kluge, it was put together and it is truly an asset in the living room. We have old tables in there. We have a mandolin. There’s some other musical instruments; I think there is — is it a guitar?
DC: And in that living room is where we have the Christmas display with the beautiful Christmas tree with the candles on the tree. Due to the fire ordinance, we did have to buy an artificial balsam tree, but it certainly looked real with all the old-fashioned ornaments on it. We had the antique toys and sleds and dolls underneath the tree. People came in to view it just oohed and aahed. They appreciated all the work that was done. We have — don’t know what they call the piece — that long mirror.
Q: Like a pier stand or pier mirror, I believe it’s called.
DC: We have that by the front door now. That’s authentic. That was donated by a family in Morton Grove. I’m sorry I don’t have a list of the people who donated all of these things.
Q: Well, I think these things are all on record.
DC: They sure are. We have a nice committee now that is labeling all of these artifacts. They have a complete cross-referenced files on them — whether they are donated or on loan. We have a good filing system done by these women on this committee that have been working very hard for this.
Going into the dining room, there is also a chandelier in there from the Huscher family that is very nice looking. We have breakfronts in there. We have old sewing machines, old radios, a nice round dining room table that was donated and old chairs around the dining room table. Every Sunday there is a new floral arrangement on the dining table with the doilies around. We have small shelves up on the wall with old artifact dishes or bowls up there, candlesticks.
Then going up into the bedrooms, we have the original bed from the Yehl family. It is a high bed to get into. It’s been restored and the headboard is extremely high. It goes better than half-way up the wall. And complete dresser set. We think that it’s made out of some sort of celluloid, but it’s in its original case, with the mirror, the comb, the brush, nail file.
Q: Hair receiver.
DC: Hair receiver, is that right — where you collect the combings. We also have these chamber pots in the bedrooms, because at that time they had the outhouses. Dress forms and these trees where you hang clothes on. The one item there that I thought was unusual — there’s like a housecoat, and it’s made like a patchwork quilt. It’s all in little pieces and the design and different colors. I don’t know where that came from, but it’s cleverly done.
Q: It catches people’s eye and they ask about it.
DC: It sure does. To think how they utilized every scrap of material in some form, and it is lined. So they utilized everything that they had. We have a child’s room, and we even have a child mannequin in the bed.
Q: Now tell me why he’s asleep.
DC: (laughing) He’s asleep, truly I think because some of his arms and legs are missing, and we still wanted to use him. We covered him up then and that’s why he’s sleeping in the bed. That’s where we have many of the old-fashioned toys and the dolls. Ice skates. They had a little potty chair for children. That’s in there.
Q: However, that little potty chair is missing its chamber pot.
DC: That’s the next thing we’re looking for is a little chamber pot to put in the potty chair. Then there is a sewing room up there with another sewing machine and old-fashioned patterns for the making of clothes and other items.
Q: One thing in that sewing room that catches people’s eye is a small, round step that the ladies would stand on to have their skirts hemmed, to have it marked. There’s even a ring around to help make it even. Then there’s a tall handle that they could hold on to for support.
DC: I was intrigued with that.
Q: That is so unusual.
DC: I have never seen anything like that either.
Q: But when you think how hard it would have been to mark a hem that went almost to the floor, you had to have something where you could step up and the person doing the marking could see. Tell me about the bed in the big room — it’s a big bed that the Lochners gave.
DC: In the other bedroom?
Q: In the other bedroom, right. It’s a smaller bedroom.
DC: I do know what catches everybody’s eye in there is that hand-made crocheted bedspread or coverlet over the bedspread. It is very beautiful and I don’t think that has been donated. I think that is on loan. Then we have an old-fashioned wheel chair in there; it’s a wooden one. We have a mannequin in there that is dressed up in the early 1900 clothing. The bed in that particular room is black walnut and it is at least one hundred years old, and I believe it is on loan from the Lochner family here in Morton Grove. It’s a beautiful piece of work. Does the dresser also match that bed?
Q: I can’t answer that. I don’t know.
DC: Everybody admires that when they go into that bedroom. And they admire the curtains with these crocheted ruffles on the sheer curtains. Those are from Phyllis Rieck’s grandmother, so they are old also and they have held up very well.
Q: Why don’t you talk about the dedication now?
DC: All right. On June 22nd of 1986, we held open house and the dedication of the Morton Grove Historical Museum, the Haupt-Yehl house. We had a committee of women in authentic costumes and they baked home-baked cookies and served those and lemonade. For a back-up, we had donated bakery items from Sara Lee, Entemann Bakery and Pepperidge Farm and Mr. Donut, who donated several hundred donut holes. Then we also got a back-up of orange juice from McDonald’s.
After we had the dedication speeches and we recognized the people who worked on the house, I was pleased to be the guest speaker there that day and talked about how we acquired the house and the work that was involved in restoring it. I thanked like Fred Huscher and Larry Arft and the house mover and the developer who actually donated the house to us — Abby Builders.
After the ceremony of the flag raising, the Morton Grove American Legion donated our first American flag for the flagpole and they did the flag-raising ceremony for us. We had an invocation by Father Faucher. We had the national anthem sung by — I’m not sure her name, but she worked for the Morton Grove Park District. We did have a very nice dedication ceremony.
Directly after the ceremony, we distributed the program. We had a button for everybody who had worked on the Haupt-Yehl house that said, “I helped work on the Haupt-Yehl house to restore it,” and everyone who helped got this button to wear. Then we had authentically dressed guides in the house who took the people throughout the house and showed them what had been accomplished and explained where the artifacts came from and how they were acquired.
Q: Tell about Dorothy Yehl at the dedication.
DC: Oh, Dorothy Yehl. She is a sweetheart. She is the lady that lived in that house practically up to the night before. She slept there, and then the next day we moved that house. It was a traumatic time for her. It took her quite a while to adjust moving out of that house because she had lived there all of her life, and she is now in her eighties. In fact, after moving in with her sister, her health seemed to go downhill for a while. I think it was depression. Then when she started to see the house being restored, her spirits were lifted because it was turning out so beautiful that she said she would like to move back into the house now and be the hausfrau. I wish we could give her her wishes but to this date it cannot be done. Since the house has been put on park district land, the park district has the power to levy a tax museum fund so that this house will always be maintained with the utilities being paid. If we need a new roof, the roof will be put on.
Before the dedication, we did have a partial wrought-iron fence placed at the back of the house, because right off the back of the house is a soccer field. We felt that we needed a fence there to keep the soccer balls from going into the house and doing damage with the windows, etc. As the funds accumulate in this tax levy fund, we will continue it and put it on the south side. There is a south side gate, but it was shrubs. There isn’t a fence, and we’d like to have that fence all the way around the whole house eventually.
So many things will be added. The next thing that we do want to have placed on the house will be shutters. Originally the house did have shutters that were functional. At that time there were not storm windows and you closed these shutters against the elements — rain and snow and sleet. But we plan on putting shutters up now and just have them as decorative items on the house, and I think they will do a great deal for the house as far as the appearance is concerned. And when we do need a new roof and place a new roof on it, that, too, will add to the appearance.
Even though a house is not lived in, it does have to be maintained and it will be maintained through this tax levy. The park district men on the maintenance crew will help in the house whenever we call on them. They do shovel the snow; they will do the cutting of the grass. They will do the sprinkling if someone from the historical society does not do the sprinkling. We have some women who are taking care of the weeding and the planting of flowers at the Haupt-Yehl house. But as I said before, the utilities have to be paid for and any other things that may come up.
Now the furnace was donated and the air conditioner was donated by Tony Tittjung. He’s a resident of Morton Grove. But now to maintain if anything goes wrong, naturally we will be paying a fee. Same way with the security system in the house that is hooked up to the police department and to the fire department. That was donated by the Metropolitan Alarm System Company. But as things need to be repaired, we will have to be paying a fee for that. Then my son, Bob Connelly, donated all of this labor for the sewer work and the plumbing work. We may need a back-up sump pump or a back-up ejection pump or something like that may have to be installed, those will be additional items that will be paid for through this fund.
In the lower level of the museum, we have display cases that were donated to us from a jewelry outfit that was in the Drake Hotel, and we have many nice displays in there. We change these displays periodically. Over Christmas we had a beautiful display of bells. For Valentine’s Day, we had the old-fashioned Valentine cards. Christmas we had Christmas cards in there. Easter we have the Easter eggs. We have a display for the Volunteer Fire Department. Things from Harper’s, where they had an outlet and a factory there for the nut screws and bolts that were manufactured. People come in with different displays periodically. We have old cookbooks and recipes. We did have the Morton Grove flag displayed.
Also in the downstairs area, we have our memorial plaques, life membership plaques — the names of people who have life memberships. We have a plaque of the original board that was in office when the house was moved onto park district land. We also have a plaque in the names of people who donated money for the repair of the leaded glass windows. At first we were going to have a small plaque at each window — who donated the money for that particular window, but many of them wanted a living room rather than a bedroom window, so then we decided to put all of the names on one plaque.
END TAPE ONE, SIDE A
TAPE ONE, SIDE B
Q: There were lots of other things that were initiated or begun during your tenure of office. Let’s talk about some of them.
DC: One of the first things I wanted was a yearbook. The historical society never had one with a list of all the members and the by-laws, other things in the historical society book. Originally I got a negative response again. They said, “Well, it probably would cost too much money. We can’t afford it.” I said, “Well, we could sell ads to cover the cost of the printing.” And they said “Well, who’s going to get the ads.” I saw a negativism again, so I said, “Well, I guess Dodee will sell ads.”
Consequently I did and sold enough so that when the first yearbook was taken to the printer, it was completely paid for and no money was ever taken from the historical society budget. On the cover of the first yearbook was our little old red schoolhouse. After we got it back, there were several ladies and myself that collated the pages, stapled it and then we hand painted the cover with water colors. The schoolhouse was red; we also painted green trees. We had the school children in front in different colored clothing, and the yearbook turned out very nicely. The general membership has been pleased with it.
The second yearbook then was of our museum, the Haupt-Yehl House. We did not hand paint the cover, but we put the cover in a pale green because that is the color the house is painted. It worked out very well. I can say that the general membership uses the yearbooks now as their reference book for all of the members. It’s been put to good use. I hope it will be continued in the historical society.
And then from the yearbooks, we did hold three auctions as a fundraiser for three years straight with Art Loutsch as our auctioneer and Reinhardt Lange and Leo Provost helping them. Each time from this white elephant auction we raised at least two hundred dollars within an hour at the general meeting. During my term of office we also had three card parties. The profit from all three was over forty-six hundred dollars. We had a garage sale also in conjunction with the park district, particularly just for the museum and we raised a thousand dollars for that. That was held on a Saturday.
We then worked on cookbooks and these are special cookbooks with hand-me-down recipes from generation to generation. We did not allow a recipe to go in this book that had any kind of a Jell-O mix or a pudding mix or Cool Whip — nothing like this. These were from scratch recipes and they are delicious. We have been selling them and making a profit now off the cookbooks. In fact, if somebody bakes cookies and they’ll say, “Oh, is this good! Can I have the recipe?” We tell them, “Buy one of our cookbooks. It’s in there.” They are great gifts for the new brides and for collectors of cookbooks. We’re almost out of them so they have been going great guns.
We’ve had excellent programs also during the past four years. The credit goes to two of our program chairmen, Phyllis Olsen and Leo Provost. During one of the meetings I went back and reminisced about some of the programs that we have had, and the membership agreed on how well they all had been received. They were excellent programs.
We joined a society called NEIL. That stands for Northeastern Illinois Historical Council. We also joined the Illinois Archivists Association. We are listed in the national museum book. We have placed ads in the Morton Grove Chamber of Commerce community guides and have participated in every Chamber of Commerce expo and had beautiful exhibits and displays. We had a booth at the Chicagoland Historical Exposition. That was also through NEIL.
Let me explain a little bit more about NEIL. You cannot join NEIL as an individual. You have to join as an organization, and the majority of organizations that do belong to it are historical societies. But we also have public libraries who join because most public libraries have a history room. They are interested in this. Villages join. Park districts join who have a virgin prairie. Anything pertaining to history. Neil encompasses an area of Northern Cook County and all of Lake County.
One month we have a board meeting and the alternate months we have a general meetings. Different museums will be the host for that particular meeting. We do meet on the second Saturday of the month at 9:00 in the morning. We have a social half-hour with coffee and goodies. At 10 o’clock we have a short meeting, then we have a program and a tour of the facility where we are at for that particular meeting.
Many of us have learned so much with what each one of us is doing and what our goals are. If they have made a mistake with something, they are willing to tell the other one so that they don’t make a similar mistake. If they have accomplished something great, they tell us how they did it so the rest of us can. We share with one another and we learn from one another and it is an excellent organization. I’m so happy that we became involved with NEIL.
Q: And that was due to your suggestion?
DC: They already had one meeting before I was informed about this group that was starting to organize.
Q: I see. So you were in almost at the beginning.
DC: At the beginning, right. Then we had election of officers, I became the corresponding secretary and do the newsletter, and right now I’m the chairman of the board for NEIL. I’m enthusiastic about this.
Q: Well, you’re enthusiastic about everything that you participate in. If it’s worth your attention, it’s worth your enthusiasm apparently.
DC: And what is so nice about it, more and more of our members in our Morton Grove Historical Society are starting to attend these meetings. Before, you do have to have a delegate and an alternate from each organization when anything comes up to be voted on. But all organizations are invited to attend. More and more of our members are starting to attend these meetings and they’re starting to get a lot out of it.
Q: Now is it NEIL that sponsored the Chicagoland Historical Fair at Northeastern Illinois University?
DC: They were a portion of it. I can truly say that Morton Grove was one of the sponsors and some of the other historical societies and we combine and we did the leg work and the groundwork for this Chicagoland Exposition.
Q: There were speakers upstairs, I know.
DC: Oh, yes, and they were excellent. They had morning workshops and then afternoon workshops. They were all well attended. They consisted of firemen talking about the Chicago fire to horse-drawn carriages and all the way to Deco art from the 1920s. We had genealogy from our own Barbara Garrison. Many programs were done. There were also displays with people there showing how to do old-time crafts with the quilting and with the spinning wheels and how to make the yarn. They had a display of the winners of the student’s art fair and they had their art exhibits on display so that everybody could see what their winning work consisted of. It was well received. From Morton Grove I did get the auxiliary from the Morton Grove American Legion and they presented the colors. We had patriotic songs sung outside on the patio.
Q: Now at the history fair, the Morton Grove exhibit was so interesting because there were unusual objects and the goal was to guess what they were.
DC: Yes. We also displayed Betsy Ross flags all around. We had pictures of the house moving so that people could see how we moved that house and if there was any information they wanted from us. We had boot jacks to remove boots that people did not know what they were. We had a leather — they call it a fly-catcher that they put over horses so that the . . .
Q: It was like a leather net?
DC: That’s right. As the horse would move along, like a fringe of leather would move and keep the flies off of the horse. There were other things that were brought in and we had signs in front of them, “Can you guess what this is?” with a question mark. People came up with some of the most outlandish names for these items. When we told them what they had actually been used for, they were astounded. But it was a good gimmick to get people to come over to our booth and visit with us, so we were pleased with that entry.
Q: That was very interesting. Tell me now about some of the other things that were accomplished while you were president of the historical society.
DC: We acquired a covered wagon. That was displayed in front of Gantner’s Furniture Store on Dempster Street. When Gantner’s went out of business, we asked to have that covered wagon donated to us even though it needed a great deal of restoration. He agreed and we did acquire it. But the wheels needed a great deal of work and so did the body itself. We took the wheels down to a Amish settlement in the southern part of Illinois. They took their time and did a good job in the restoration of the wheels. One of our donations was from Felpro. It’s a company here in Skokie, and they donated money to help us with the canvas top and those ribs that are over the covered wagon.
When the wagon was fully restored, we entered the wagon in the Fourth of July parade and out some of the old-fashioned things in there that people carried in a covered wagon as they crossed the country here in America. We had a couple of our ladies in costumes riding on the wagon. It was pulled down the street and everybody just thought it was the greatest thing.
Q: Now, it was on a float. Though. It didn’t really roll, did it?
DC: That’s right, because the wheels, we found out, when you go around corners, it is difficult to maneuver a covered wagon with the wheels because they kind of hit the base. So it was better to have it on a flatbed and a truck pulled it. In fact, it was my son’s truck tht pulled it. We did win first prize. We got a plaque for it.
At that time when we were in this parade, I got permission from Larry Arft, the village administrator, and asked if we could walk along the parade route with baskets asking for donations for the Haupt-Yehl house. He said, “Sure. Why not?” And I think the first time we did it, we collected four hundred dollars.
Q: How wonderful!
DC: And so this covered wagon now is housed in a garage and we only use it on special occasions.
Q: It would be to our advantage to keep it inside, wouldn’t it?
DC: Yes, it would, because it would deteriorate all over again and the canvas top and everything like that would go by the wayside. We may have it in this coming Fourth of July parade again. I think it would be nice.
We also purchased for oral histories the tape players and then we purchased a cassette transcriber because we will have women that will transcribe off the tapes and put it in printed form along with a picture of the person who gave the oral history. A copy will be made for the Morton Grove Public Library also. It’s been great work between the Morton Grove Public Library and the Morton Grove Historical Society working hand-in-hand with oral histories so that we both have a copy of each oral history.
Q: Yes, that’s a very good provision. I would like to say that this particular recorder that we’re using was donated by Roland Weigt and also later when we found we needed a microphone, he donated that, too. The pictures so far have been taken by Jim Sloan, who is in public relations work in Morton Grove. So those particular portions have been donated, just as many of the other things have been donated.
Q: Dodee, we’ve been talking about your work as president of the Morton Grove Historical Society. Let’s change now and talk about what you’ve accomplished and what you do as park district commissioner.
DC: When the park district was first formed between 1952 and 1953, I was a volunteer right from the beginning. I worked with the children particularly with craft work and some children’s sports as a volunteer. At that time, my one son was killed and my younger son really was not in the best of moods, so I felt it was time to take him to the parks and be with other children. That’s how I became involved with the park district. Then later on there wasn’t any money in the budget for any of these supplies, so I provided these supplies for all of the children out of my own pocket.
Q: In all the parks or in the park you were working?
DC: At the time when the park was started, there was only Harrer Park. There wasn’t anything else. That land had been donated. There weren’t even buildings on that land. We didn’t even have playground equipment. We hadn’t even really begun, but we did want the children to come to Harrer Park and participate. Crafts and children’s sports were the first things that were started. Then as time went — and it was a godsend for us because it helped me emotionally and it helped my son emotionally being with other people, helping other people. My husband became involved. And then as time went on, my husband was elected as a park commissioner for twelve years. After his death, I became and elected commissioner also for a six-year period.
It’s completely non-salaried. You put in many hours of volunteer work and it is on the administrative level. It fitted in with my background because I majored in business administration and in accounting so it worked out beautifully. A park commissioner makes decisions on the advice of the paid staff. Normally you are only required to meet once a month for two or three hours for the board meeting. That’s what the public sees and hears. They don’t realize that you are there two, three times a week for committee meetings or for special award nights or to help out as a volunteer for the Halloween program or the Fun Fair. Grandmother’s or Grandfather’s Day there with the children or making ice cream sundaes for the kids or with the health fair — all of the programs that the park district has.
Q: Commissioners help actually — attend and actually work.
DC: That’s right. We work in the kitchen when they have the runners in for a run of maybe eight miles and then are there starving. We’re cutting them fruit and serving cereal and everything after the run. We volunteer and work hard for all of these projects.
During the term of office for the past six years, we did put in a wonderful water slide at Harrer Park Pool and it brought in a lot more attendance and more revenue. We do have a second pool at Oriole Park on the west end of town. Harrer Park is about like the center of town and it’s right on Dempster Street.
We have a Prairie View Community Center that was built a little bit more than ten years ago. That started out with racquetball courts. At that time, that was the rage — racquetball. It covered its own expense with the revenue that was coming in. When we first built that building, electric power was a great deal cheaper than gas so that is the route that the park went and put in everything electrical. Unfortunately, in this day and age, gas is now cheaper than electric, so we may convert to gas if it is feasible soon price-wise.
We put in a beautiful fitness center now where they can come in and use all of the Nautilus equipment. We have a sauna. We have all of these pedaling machines, weight-lifting machines, everything that is being used. We have suntan beds, and when they were presented to us before we purchased them, we were told that they were guaranteed against burning anybody because certain rays were not in these machines and that they were safe. They have been used frequently and they have been paying for themselves. They are completely paid for through their own revenue,.
Q: Now people who use them, the income will actually be to the park district if the machine’s already paid for itself.
DC: Yes, right. We also have a masseur and a masseuse and anybody after their workout would like to have a massage that could be done. We have many innovative type of programs with crafts and with art. They teach watercolor and oil painting. There is something for everybody practically from the cradle to the grave. We have senior programs, and they come and play cards. They go on trips — they can be day trips or three-day trips, whatever. But most of them just prefer to come two, three days a week and play cards.
Q: I know when I’ve tried to schedule oral histories that I’ve been told, “No, no, no. I can’t because that’s when I go to the senior program.”
DC: Well, we have babysitters there for the little kids while their mothers maybe are in a class of aerobics or, like I say, in a painting class or calligraphy class. The mothers participate more during day and they have the babysitters for that.
Q: I know that the park district provide a van service.
DC: Right. We have a van and a bus. We never charge for any type of transportation, but now with the cost of gasoline for the last few years as it’s been going up, now it’s a quarter one way to be picked up and then a quarter to be taken back home. The bus is for more people to even go on a day trip somewhere. Before we had a bus, I drove the seniors who had no transportation to and from their meetings. That went on for many years until the park could afford to buy a bus.
Q: I’m amazed you found the time to get so involved.
DC: The park district has a nice relationship with the village and the Morton Grove Library and the school districts. We, with the schools, utilize their gymnasium and at times they utilize our gymnasium. Same way with different programs, and with the other park districts, our people will enroll in the indoor ice skating rink and, in turn, Skokie will come over and use some of our facilities. We also contribute money and are involved with the Maine-Niles Special Recreation Group for handicapped people. That has worked out beautifully. The public library works along with the park district constantly in one phase or another. The village will let us use some of their equipment. If we need their long ladders or their — I don’t know what they call that, it’s like a bucket that goes up in the air . . .
Q: Oh, a cherry picker.
DC: Okay, to trim the trees, they let us use that. In turn, we will help cut the grass along some of the parkways in the village for them. They will let us use maybe a jackhammer if we have to break some concrete. They help us with sewer lines in the park district, and, in turn, whatever we can do to reciprocate, we work hand-in-hand. It’s great because there is no duplication of services or purchasing of equipment. This is for the good of all the people in Morton Grove. It saves the tax dollars.
Q: Dodee, you have been president of many fine organizations here in Morton Grove. I know you’re a past president of the Garden Club. Let’s talk about the achievements while you were president.
DC: Well, it just seemed like when I became president we decided to beautify a triangle. It was on the west end of town — Shermer, Church and Harlem Avenues — and it was full of weeds. It was a mess. When people learned that there was a garden club in Morton Grove, we were approached and asked if we could beautify it. Sure enough, that’s when I was president, so (laughs) we became involved in that. We had that rototilled. My husband went out and rototilled it and leveled it off.
I then called up a lot of the landscapers in the area. I didn’t want to put a burden on any one of them, and I asked them if they would be willing to donate at least twenty yards of sod, I would come with my car, pick it up. By the triangle on all sides of the triangle there was like a little ditch for run-off of water. So we parked the car and I would then open up the trunk and take one yard of sod out, go down the ditch. I had several women with butcher knives and they would start laying the sod and cutting it in and pushing it together. Then I’d run to the next landscaper and he would load up the trunk of my car with another twenty rolls and that’s the way we continued to lay the sod.
We had a flagstone walk with a flagpole. We didn’t have a knob at the top, so my husband, who was a plumber, he got one of those ball-cocks from a toilet (laughter), painted it gold and put that on the top. For the dedication — we got flats of flowers from Platz, and we planted geraniums and everything around.
We did have a landscaper — a girl in the club, her husband donated some pfitzer shrubs and at the time we were pushing the sale of purple-leaf plum trees. We also bought a ginkgo tree, which is the oldest tree in the world. It’s from China and it is disease-free, so we did purchase one of those trees. It is a slow-growing tree, but you never have to worry about it. That is doing very well at the west side triangle.
Then we had the dedication of that. We ladies carried out long tables and tablecloths with refreshments on it. We invited the dignitaries from the village to come and speak, and we had a little Cub Scout troop who presented a flag to us and gave a flag ceremony for us. We worked like Trojans. I did, and another lady did. We watered and went to that triangle five times a day to keep that — it’s a big triangle . . .
Q: It’s still there?
DC: Yes, and we had to purchase a lot of length of hose to get water there to sprinkle and . . .
Q: Well, where did you fasten the hose?
DC: There is like a sunken cistern and the village Public Works Department hooked up a nozzle in there. So you had to lean down in this cistern hole and attach (laughs) your hoses to it, but we had to go out five times a day to move the sprinklers. When this sod was laid, it wasn’t long before the hot weather was coming and for that to take . . .
Q: You wanted to keep it . . .
DC: Right, so it was a lot of work. I noticed one night my husband went in the cistern to turn on the thing and he lost his brand-new eyeglasses in the bottom of that cistern. Fortunately, as a plumber and sewer man, he carried a large magnet and so he lowered that down into the hole and there was a little bit of metal on the side of the frames, so he was able to get them. Otherwise I would never have heard the end of it. (laughter)
Q: That your garden club . . . (laughter)
DC: Right, his new glasses. (laughter) It was very, very pretty. We put a sign up then stating that it was a Garden Club project. Well, we no sooner got finished with that project, then people from the east side of town and there was a triangle there. These triangles were with country, village and state authorities on each side, so it was not land that could be sold to anybody.
Q; And I suppose each organization, each body of government said, “It’s not our responsibility.”
DC: That’s right. And they didn’t even cut the grass; weeds were growing. If there were any trees, it was these cottonwood trees where it was like snow blowing all over the area. So on the east side it’s by Harms and Central.
Q: Oh, I know, it’s north of Dempster. Lake Street maybe comes in.
DC: That’s right. You’re correct. There we had to cut down the trees and get rid of that cotton.
Q: Who did that work?
DC: The village cut down those trees for us and got rid of them. Then we had a landscaper come out and help us design. That triangle is somewhat smaller, but we do have a nice tree there. It’s one of these lacy trees with soft leaves. We have a concrete bench that we put underneath the tree. We had sod put in, and originally had almost like a kidney-shaped center, where we just put in pretty colored stone in there. We had three concrete large pots that were donated to us from Korvette’s when Korvette’s was on Dempster and Waukegan. We planted those in the ground at different levels. We then planted flowers in there every spring in these pots. We have a sign put in there also for a Garden Club project, and then we have small little evergreens around the side.
Q: It sounds very pretty. I have noticed that one.
DC: But the Garden Club ladies are getting older. They don’t have the strength or the motivation to go out and weed these triangles like we did and prune like we used to do, so now the park district does cut the lawns there for us, and the village fertilizes there for us also. It has been working out. We have maybe two or three days during the growing season that we get out. We put lemonade in containers and we go out there and do the weeding, but we don’t do it as much. They’re almost self-maintained now, these triangles, and so it’s come to that point.
Q: I suppose the younger women are more inclined to be working, so the Garden Club probably doesn’t have the youthful members that they used to.
DC: That’s right.
Q; How many years do you think you’ve been a member of the Garden Club?
DC: Oh, 1954. I was going to be a charter member of the Garden Club in 1953 — well a founder and a charter member, but that was the year my son was killed and I said I couldn’t think of it at that time. I said, “As soon as I’m ready, I will join.”
Q: And so the next year you joined.
Q: Have you anything else you want to say about the Garden Club?
DC: No, except that we do put in an arrangement in the Morton Grove Public Library every week. At Christmas time we do the decorating for usually the children’s room and some other decorations that are put up.
Q: And the tree. There’s usually a tree in the adult section.
DC: Oh, yes.
Q: And I’m pretty sure it’s the Garden Club who hangs the big wreath outside the library, so the Garden Club does a lot for the library.
DC: That’s correct. We feel we are community minded. We don’t really have fund raisers per se. we do have an excellent Christmas program at our Christmas meeting, and then we do have a spring luncheon with raffles. That, with our dues, sustains u with our programming during the course of the year. It’s just to promote beautiful gardens in the area and to learn flower arranging.
Q: Now let’s talk about your tenure of office as president of the Morton Grove Woman’s Club.
DC: Well, one of the highlights during my term of office with that was organizing a disaster fund group. The Lions Club, the Woman’s Club and the American Legion — there were several organizations that went together in case anybody had a catastrophe in their home or if there were anything in the community that would happen that they could relief immediately for maybe housing or something quickly. I, for one, know how it is because our house on a Christmas Eve caught on fire, and when you wake up the next morning and you don’t have a toothbrush to brush your teeth, you don’t have anything left.
Q; That was a very poor awakening on a Christmas Day, wasn’t it?
DC: Yes, and so I know what can happen to families. All of us in organizations want to help, but there, too, could be duplications. People are reluctant to tell outsiders exactly what they could use or what their financial standing is. They don’t want to say how they can be helped, so we put it in the hands of the clergy. We had a priest from the Catholic organization; we had a minister, Reverend Ramseyer from Community Church; it was Father Faucher from St. Martha’s. And we had a rabbi, and from Lutheran Church, Jerusalem Lutheran Church. So we had the four clergy, and we figured that covered pretty well. If anybody had something happen to them, the clergy would visit them and people are more willing to . . .
Q: To be honest and up-front.
DC: That’s right, with the clergy. So this fund has been accruing interest. Fortunately it has not had to be used too often, but the funds continue to earn interest and additional money is always donated to this fund.
Q: Do you recall what year it was established?
DC: I think it was 1975.
Q: Were you president of the Woman’s club?
DC: Yes. Woman’s Club between 1975 and 1977.
Q: Is there anything more you want to say about the Woman’s Club?
DC: Yes, the Woman’s Club is a charitable and philanthropic organization. We do have fund raising and we have a philanthropy party. All of that money we make, and it can be anywhere from three to five seven thousand dollars per year, that money is spent that year for many donations. It can be for cancer or heart or scholarships. It can be for vocational scholarships, too. It can be for mechanics, because everybody is not going to college for academic degrees. We give nurses and teachers scholarship[s, everything along those lines.
So we feel that we do a lot in the community. We help the fire department if they need any special equipment. We have this nurse’s closet in the Village of Morton Grove, and we buy wheelchairs or canes or commodes — whatever they may need. But we seek out the people that are needing in the community, and we donate the money to that. We have many shut-ins that we keep track of and send them little gifts from time to time or if they need food. It’s unbelievable, but we do have needy people here in Morton Grove. So we provide food for them, sometimes on a weekly basis, monthly basis, remember them at all the holidays with hams and turkeys. Then some of these people who can no longer cook for themselves, we may allow them so much money for Meals on Wheels, so we do a great deal of good through the Woman’s Club in Morton Grove.
Q: Then you went on to other things in District 10.
DC: Yes, I held many chairmanships along those lines in District 10. One of the first ones I was involved with was movies and radio and tv. I became a member of the North Shore Better Films Council and also the Better Films Council of Chicagoland. This was around those same years — and at that time they were rating some of the pictures. I had a large badge that I was supposed to wear and I would go and sit or stand in the lobby of theaters, especially for X-rated movies.
I was supposed to stand there by the ticket counter and make sure that no children under-age there would be able to purchase a ticket. Then I was supposed to go in and rate these movies. At first I was quite embarrassed, because I wasn’t raised with any type of porno films at all. I would put a babushka on, and (laughs) more or less sneak into the theater and sit there and think, “Uuuh.” Then I’d have to put my rating and what I thought was proper. I admit I got an education (laughter) — and after a while, I became quite poised and aware of . . .
Q: Where were these films being shown?
DC: They were shown in here in Morton Grove Theater. You realize the clout you might have with this type of position that I held even with the movies. I know I got a good backing, and we did picket the Morton Grove Theater for some of their porno films that they were showing.
Q: They were that explicit?
DC: They were.
Q: Now this was when you were in the Tenth District?
DC: That’s right, but we concentrated here through the Woman’s Club. I got them interested in realizing what was being shown. So the village was behind it, too. It got to the point where they could not show those types of films here in Morton Grove. We were getting a lot of transients that came here from all over to see these films. And we considered some of them undesirable for our own community, so they were stopped.
From there I took many chairmanships all the way to being president of the Tenth District. When you are president of the Tenth District, you are over 40 to 45 clubs in the area, Cook County and Lake County. You visit them, you guide them. If they have any problems, you help them. Then you tell them what programs that they should try to follow. We don’t expect all of the clubs to do everything in every field of work in each department, because we have conservation, we have public affairs, the arts. We have many things that they can partake of. They pick what they would like to do for their own local club and for their own area. Then at the end of the year they write reports on what they have accomplished, and they get awards for the work that they have done. All of these reports are sent on to the state and from there to the national organization. Then you realize that the Federated Woman’s Clubs is the largest group of volunteer women in the world. When you get the total figures of how much money has been spent my women, how many hours that have been donated for volunteer service, it’s tremendous. You think one person can’t do much, but when you work as groups into a huge organization like that, many things are accomplished.
Being a president of a district, you are also on the state board and you represent the district on the state board. You also take additional jobs, so I also was on the state board for eight years and I traveled throughout the State of Illinois promoting citizenship and also all kinds of safety on the highway, in the home, et cetera. Then it also mushroomed into a past-presidents club. Only presidents of federated clubs can join this organization. I am a past president of that.
TAPE ONE, SIDE B ENDS
TAPE TWO, SIDE A
DC: With the past presidents’ club, we decided to organize a group for District 10 alumni. That’s really an elite group. The only ones who can join are presidents of the tenth district, so you had to serve your term as a tenth district president and represent the district membership on the state board. The past presidents who join this are the alumni who are really consultants to all of the local clubs, so if any of the clubs need help and you hear about it, you go out and visit them. If they are having any problems you tell how they probably could solve these problems.
Q: And are you asked for help?
DC: Oh, yes, in many things. A lot with by-laws. I realize a lot of it are personality conflicts between the members, but you work it out through their by-laws and courtesy and say how other people, other clubs have overcome some of these problems. Being a mediator there has helped to keep their clubs intact and to continue. It has always worked out nicely because we’re speaking from experience and they don’t have the experiences yet on how these things can be handled and it has worked out very well.
Q; Do you help organize new clubs in your tenth district?
DC: Yes, they are ongoing. In fact (laughs), we were thinking of one group for members who are having so many health problems and so many surgeries. We didn’t know what we would call it as a name, but there was such a big nucleus of people that either had hip replacements or they had broken bones or hysterectomies and we were going to call it some kind of a medical group in the tenth district, just to have fun with it, you know, and so they could all come and show their scars and tell about their operations. That hasn’t come to be yet, but it was a thought.
Q: Well, that makes me then ask, are there young women joining the women’s clubs?
DC: Yes, we do have a junior organization. At one time in Morton Grove we did have a Junior Federated Woman’s Club. On the state level, they are tremendous workers. Their dues are higher and they demand a lot more of their junior members. They spend thousands of dollars in donations. They have so much more strength to keep going. A lot of us that have been in club work for a long time, we have done a lot of it already and you don’t say you’re burned out, but it’s nice to see the younger ones take over. They have a lot of dances. In the older clubs now there’s many widows. The young ones have their husbands and they have other types of fund raisers that you really have a good time.
DC: Due to the work of all of this in Federated Clubs, there are other organizations that you join that are also Federated. Once you’ve been on the state board, there is an organization called Past State Board Members. Those are the only people that can join that organization who have participated and worked on the state level.
From there, I became involved with the Illinois Conference of Women Leaders for Traffic Safety and was their treasurer for years. We work under the jurisdiction of the secretary of state. It’s all types of safety — in the home, but mostly in traffic. It can be recreational vehicles or it could be snowmobiles. It can be all kinds of traffic — bicycle safety on the roads besides automobiles and trucks. We worked very hard for the passage of the D.U.I. law, driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs or a combination.
I’m also a court watcher for the secretary of state, Jim Edgar. I watch how the disposition of drunk drivers that have been arrested is handled. At their court appearances they are allowed so many continuances and you have to follow each particular case and keep a record of it until it is disposed of one way or the other. Whether they just have to listen and go in for prevention driving of some sort, a program of that, or if they are convicted and what type of a sentence they received or a fine. Then those reports are sent to the secretary of state. I enjoy that very much, and I must say that the judges in the courts are very good to the court watchers. They make sure that you hear everything. You can have a seat up toward by the judge so that you can see the people and listen.
Q: And this is all done under the sponsorship of the Federated Woman’s Club?
DC: Right. This is a phase of it. They have shortened their name now for the Illinois Conference of Women Leaders for Traffic Safety to now Illinois Traffic Safety Leaders, because more and more men have wanted to come into this organization, so we have changed that name. in conjunction with this particular group. We also are connected with the National Safety Council.
Q: Oh, I see so they work together.
DC: Right, and it’s funny how these things snowball. From one segment of work you go and follow into the next segment until you’re amazed that you’ve involved with so many, many things. And people can’t believe that you belong to so many organizations, but one just follows the other. So long as your enthusiasm is high, you just keep going from one to the other.
Q: So that your membership in the Morton Grove Woman’s Club has led to many different things.
DC: Right, and it’s been enjoyable all the way down the line. You learn so many things and it has helped me in my life all the way down the line. From what you learn, you can apply — if I’m out of Morton Grove and working with these other organizations, I always try to pull in what I have learned and bring it to the Morton Grove organization so they can benefit from it also.
Q: You told me that the Woman’s Club helped organize volunteers for different campaigns. Would you talk about that?
DC: One of the first ones that the Morton Grove Woman’s Club organized was years ago, if you remember, we called it the March of Dimes. Our club was behind that one hundred percent. The president at that time was Dee Davis. She got a map of Morton Grove and designated women to cover block-by-block that were members of the Morton Grove Woman’s Club. We advertised and got publicity about this campaign and told the people who wanted to donate to the March of Dimes to have their porch light on a certain evening when we were going to be going door-to-door.
In the meantime we contacted the Lions Club and asked them to come out with their cars with their lights on and follow us down the streets. This was usually held in the winter weather, January and February — and we felt if any of the women fell on the stairs or on the ice or the snow that they could be helped immediately by the men. It was also a safety precaution so that no one would be apprehended in any way. So it worked out beautifully. We women collected a great deal of money for the March of Dimes.
Q: Now, from the March of Dimes I know you have gone on to other solicitations for other campaigns. Would you like to name some of them?
DC: Cystic fibrosis. The reason we started that, there is a family in Morton Grove whose two sons have this disease. We didn’t know anything about the disease, but it does affect the lungs. The lungs fill up with fluid every day, and every morning those children have to lay on the bed with their head down and cough up and get out all this phlegm as much as they can out of the lungs before they can function for the day. There are many medications that are coming out on the market, but they try to one and before you know it, they become immune to it. Then they have to try another medication to help them get up this phlegm. They don’t live very long. I think when they start getting in their teens, it’s usually over with.
Q: It’s a hereditary disease?
DC: So that there would be more than one in a family?
DC: Right. But I can say these two boys in Morton Grove are in their twenties already and they are the longest living ones that we know of. So research is going on and as they develop more medications for this disease, there’s a longer life span for these people. And hopefully eventually all of this research will come to find a cure. And then another one, we always collect for the heart and for the Cancer Society. We have had a couple of the women in our Woman’s Club with multiple sclerosis, so that became a favorite. Muscular dystrophy the same way. So whenever we hear od anything — now we also donate to lupus. One of our member’s daughters has had this lupus.
Q: Well, so you still solicit door to door or do you just make a donation through the Woman’s Club?
DC: Now, with lupus and the cancer of some of these others, we make a donation. Proceeds from our large philanthropy party, which is our biggest fund raiser for the year. As I said before, this money has to be spent during that year — the money that we make, and then we donate this money.
Q: Well, are door-to-door solicitations used very much now?
DC: For our cancer crusade, yes. That still goes on every spring.
Q: But not the March of Dimes.
Q: That’s been sort of phased out.
DC: We have the United Way now, and most of the organizations and individuals donate privately to the United Way.
Q: I know I said that the March of Dimes has been phased out, but as a door-to-door solicitation it no longer exists. I think people got a request in the mail for funds. Now it’s said that the money to help people with birth defects. We were speaking of ways in which you have helped with physical problems. I notice, too, that you are a member on the board of the Orchard Mental Health Center. Would you talk about that?
DC: For the past four years, I have been a board member. It ‘s a stimulating board — there’s men and women. They are all truly interested in this line of work. There are psychiatrists, other type of doctors, people from the banks, insurance men — they try to get people for all phases of work, so that their knowledge can be extended to this board. Now, I know I was selected primarily for membership and also for fund raising. I feel I’ve been working along those lines the most, bringing in new members into this organization for support and then working with many organizations in encouraging them to make donations to the Orchard Mental Health Center.
It is a little difficult because people get the Orchard Mental Health Center confused with the Orchard Village. Orchard Village supports the retarded people and they have homes there that the retarded people can live with their families in these homes. They also have an apartment building. These people learn to live by themselves and to support themselves somewhat, but also maintain their living quarters, which is wonderful. But the Orchard Mental Health Center is not connected with the Village at all.
Orchard Mental Health Center starts with small children and they already have mental problems. Maybe it’s hereditary, maybe it is from the environment. Sometimes the parents don’t know how to cope with these children. They come in for consultation. Sometimes the parents need help by themselves. So they are supported health-wise practically from the cradle all the way to the grave, because people will have mental health problems all during their life. It can come to you at any time, any age. It is so interesting being on this board and hearing about some of the things that we work toward.
We have a turning point program now also. You can come there for advice. Many parents, they don’t know if they are handling certain situations properly. All they need sometimes is a little encouragement and saying, “Yes.” You get a pat on the back and they say, “Yes, you are handling the situation just great. Keep it up.” Or maybe they will get advice, “How about doing it this way. Maybe this way would be best.” But you still get encouragement and you come away feeling great that you’re learning as a parent but you are doing a good job as a parent. I think with family counseling like this, this is one of the nicest things that could be happening. And then there are patients that really need a lot of help, and if the center can’t help too much, they know where they can get help for these cases.
Under fund raising since I have been on the board, we have again started what they call canning. You have a can in your hand and you stand on the street corners or by the banks or grocery stores and you ask people to donate coins or currency, whatever they would like to do. It supplements the income for the Orchard Mental Health Center. We have been cut as far as the budget so much there. It’s been at least $125,000 that we were cut, so we are scrounging for additional funds.
Now the last two years we have had an additional fund raiser put on by the Bears football team. After the football season is over, we have had them, like I said, twice, and they come and play basketball and put on a terrific game. One time they played against a lady’s team. And the lady’s won!
Q: Well, they let them win, of course.
DC: Do you think so? (laughter) I don’t know. They put up a very good fight. But it’s all in fun, and it was so enjoyable. I will tell you that one of the Bears who is so big and tall and when he dunked the basketball, he pulled on the rim and the whole backdrop just shattered. But it was fun, because everybody was picking up a piece of that glass as a souvenir and they were taking that home, so we didn’t have much of a clean-up job to do on it, and the insurance covered replacement of it. The second one, we then sold our own refreshments — hot dogs and potato chips and everything — and I think we made better than five thousand dollars with the last one.
Q: Which is great help with the deficit that you have. Dodee, you and I have been talking about the way you’ve helped on the boards of many organizations that existed. Now let’s talk about some of the things that you helped found. Which one do you want to talk about first?
DC: Probably Lutheran General Hospital. My son was killed in 1953, and he was a young lad. There wasn’t a hospital in the Morton Grove area. The ambulance had to take him into Chicago to Swedish Covenant Hospital. I feel he would have had a better chance of living if there had been a hospital in this area. So after his death and a short time later, we learned that there were plans to start Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. We thought we would be willing to help get that in the working stage. At that time, there were no restaurants along Dempster Street at all. Can you believe that?
DC: With what’s there now? So there were a group of women picked from this area, we cooked the food and we naturally donated it. It was all outdoors and in the winter weather. We wore gloves and cold-weather clothing. We had extension cords that had been hooked up to electricity. We made tables and seats out of concrete blocks and we had these little warming stoves — I don’t know what you call them, but they were on the electricity also so that we could keep the food warm.
The construction men who would have had to just brown bag it with cold food, because, like I said, no other food places were around, they came and we charged a nominal fee for maybe soup or stew or whatever we were cooking for the day. They came, and we had hot coffee and sweet rolls beside. They were delighted with any homemade foods that they could get. We worked there for months as these construction men were constructing Lutheran General Hospital. We earned enough money so that we could have a gift shop in Lutheran General, and that gift shop is still earning a lot of money in sales as of now.
Q: Have you helped at the hospital in other ways?
DC: Yes, I’m a life member over there as a volunteer. I work on the pediatric floor and I put on special clothing to feed the babies. It’s really nice. Then I also work on a surgery floor with the patient contact. I like to be the one to bring in flowers and the mail. Those that cannot do their own writing, I will write letters, and if they need me to run errands, I will run errands for them. I like patient contact.
What developed from that, they stated to need blood. So we went from door to door here in Morton Grove asking for blood donations from people. It was set up in the beginning that if an individual donated blood, first of all their family would be covered with blood if they needed it. Later on, it was increased that their parents and grandparents would be covered for needed blood, regardless if they lived in Morton Grove or anywhere else in the United States.
Now we have an excellent blood program here in Morton Grove and once a month they draw blood. I think it’s somewhere north of Morton Grove now where our blood bank is held. It is sent to whatever hospital a patient needs it.
Q: In other words, it’s not limited to Morton Grove patients, then.
DC: No, no.
Q: It’s pooled with blood for other people on the North Shore.
Q: Another activity related to health would be the Cancer Society. Tell me your role in that.
DC: Originally, I was one of the surveyors. The survey is still ongoing. I think this started at least maybe four years ago. Each one of us on the survey contacted at least ten different families and had them fill out forms. The first one pertained to if they smoke cigarettes or what type of hair dye they used or cosmetics or anything that possibly could bring on cancer, something pertaining to foods. After that was all put in computers throughout the United States. Then, I think it’s on two- to three-year intervals, then we recheck with these families to see if they are still living and if they have developed cancer or if they are still healthy. Then there were other questions with the type of foods they ate — whether they ate junk food or whether they really ate good fruits and vegetables and a balanced diet. And that is now in the computer, and many things have been learned for the prevention of cancer.
The North Shore area of the American Cancer Society contacted me after we had moved the hundred-year-old Yehl house for the Morton Grove Historical Society. We had a lot of publicity on that, and when they heard that we had raised $50,000 in ten weeks, they thought, “Well, let’s contact Dodee Connelly. See if she can start a Morton Grove Unit of the American Cancer Society.” Well, (laughs) you feel a little burned out after you accomplish a large project like this museum, but I said give me a month or so to get on my feet and then we can discuss it. Because it was a community project and they knew that we had good contacts throughout the community.
So after about a month I had another meeting with them, and I said okay, I would see how many people I could collect to be on the board. I said, “How many can I have.” They thought around thirty, thirty-five. I said, “Great!” So, naturally I started with the village. I got the mayor and the village administrator. I got the chief from the fire department, the chief from the police department. I got medical doctors, dentists, nurses, schools involved. Big business, so that, like Crane Packing or Cook Electric, a lot of them have nurses in their buildings for their employees. So we felt that would be a good spot to bring in educational material for all of their employees.
It started to snowball. I also got representatives from the different organizations — the Woman’s Club and the Lions Club — the larger organizations to be on this board. We have the mortician from Simkins on the board. These people are familiar with cancer. The mortician naturally is.
The dentist is because he’s seeing more and more cancer of the mouth due to — what do they call that? — smokeless tobacco. That is with snuff and chewing tobacco that more and more kids are copying from the athletes. This causes serious cancer. Seventeen-year-old boys have died from this, and they put the snuff inside their lower lip or they chew that tobacco and it is very, very dangerous. Our dentists are now writing to some of the athletes to please don’t chew tobacco and set this kind of an example for our young people.
Naturally the doctors and dentists, and so we have a good professional committee with the doctors and dentists, and all new material, educational material, is mailed through our committee to all of the doctors and dentists in this area. We have the health department from the village hall; they are on our board, and any material that comes in to them, they then distribute it to the businesses here and cafeterias in different places here in our village. Our restaurants are also notified of some of this information.
We are involved on a yearly basis in a large health fair between the village, the Cancer Society and the park district. We have many free tests that are given once a year. The only test that is paid for is this blood test where they can screen many things with the blood sample.
Q: Those are expensive tests.
DC: That’s right, and that’s at a reduced price of only $20. You pay a lot more for that in a hospital. We’ve had fund raisers.
Q: Tell about that.
DC: But first of all, I am amazed at the donations that come in to our village from memorial gifts. I never realized, and we have put in many of these envelopes now in the funeral homes. It’s unfortunate; a lot of people are dying of cancer and the families now say, “Give it to the Cancer Society for research,” because they know a great many things have been done and people have been alerted to foods that they should eat for prevention of cancer, things they should do as far as no smoking, no tobacco. They are finding out.
I mentioned that we do collect door-to-door in the spring. Our prime objective was to encourage all of the women, at least over thirty-five years old to have a mammogram taken. When cancer of the breast is detected with a minute little, maybe a pinpoint in the breast, and a mammogram can detect that a lot sooner before a doctor or the patient can find the lump in her breast, almost one hundred percent cure. The patient probably wont lose her breast and she can still live a long life. So we have been pushing these mammograms.
But our big fund raiser for the American Cancer Society was a jail and bail. Now many people don’t know what this is all about. One day I was driving in the car, and I heard from the radio that there was a jail and bail going on in Wisconsin, and the more I listened to it, I felt, “What a great project here in Morton Grove!” so we got it passed at the board that we would like to try it.
We got the community involved in this project again. The Woman’s Club, they made the costumes. They got black-and-white striped material and the costume was made like a poncho so it would fit over the heads of either a man or a woman. Then we had them tied with a rope. We got painters’ caps at a hardware store; they were donated. We cut off the brims and used this black-and-white striped
Material and made like a pillbox hat for the jailee. We had purchased large rubber handcuffs. You could even call them shackles, they were so huge. The jailees enjoyed wearing those. We decided to jail the best-known people in Morton Grove, the so-called dignitaries. We did jail the administrative manager here for the village. I must say, he came up with over a thousand dollars of donations for his bail.
We rented a jail cell. There’s not top on the jail cell, but there is a jail door. We had a table in there, and we had five phones hooked up and we had five chairs, so that we could jail five people at the same time. We had telephone books in there so they could call their friends or relatives. If they didn’t come over and bring cash immediately toward this person’s bail, they could have a pledge card made out and they could mail in their money during the week.
Some of the people didn’t mind if we had officers come and arrest them at their place of work, but some of them like Chuck Langfeld at the First National Bank of Morton Grove, he said, “No, no. I’ll come over, and you can jail me, but,” he said, “I don’t want a run on this banks!” he said, “People will think this might be real!” he said, “ill come quietly and you can arrest me over there.” (laughter)
The same way with Father Faucher from St. Martha’s Church. “No, no, I’ll come quietly. I don’t want anybody to think I’m truly being arrested.” What Father Faucher did for his bail — after one of the Masses he told the people, he says “I have something I want to mention.” And he says, “I want you to know that I am going to be arrested and jailed!” (laughter) well, you can imagine what the people thought. He said, “No, and I know my bail will be at least $200, so,” he said, “anybody who would like to help me out, I’ve got a pad and a paper at the end of the pews as you walk out. If you would like to donate any money or pledge to donate for my bail,” he said, “I would appreciate it.” Father Faucher got more than enough for his bail that was set for him to come in and be jailed.
Everybody was a good sport. If they were jailed or helped in any way, they did get a T-shirt, and it said “jail and bail” and it showed a jail cell on it. It was white and the jail cell and everything was black, so they were delighted with that. Then they also received a certificate on the money that had raised and the amount was on there so they could frame that and put it on their wall if they so desired.
We had matrons who served bread and water to our jailees. We had a classy jail. We had filled croissants donated by a French bakery. And then we had Perrier water that was donated, even in flavors, from Cellar Masters and a couple of other restaurants. So the jailees were not in a hurry to go home. They really enjoyed being incarcerated.
The policemen — they were really policemen — but they were on their day off. We had purchased the Keystone Cop hats, and they had the old-fashioned billy clubs and then, like I say, they had the rubber handcuffs, and I know they went to a couple of restaurants and pulled out people that were having lunch there (laughs) and came and said, “Come on. You are arrested!”
What people could also do, they could make a donation and say, “I will make $25 donation to the American Cancer Society, Morton Grove Unit, if you go and arrest so and so.” So we had these men go out in cars and arrest people. Jimmy Dahm, who is in charge of Public Works, we found out he was working in a street at a sewer job and his men wanted him arrested and paid $25. Our men went out and picked him up. But it was so much fun. We had the postmaster arrested. His postal men paid $25 that he would be arrested. (laughs)
Q: It was done in fun.
DC: Oh, it was just great, and they can’t wait until we do it again. Well, we were open from 10:00 until 4:00 on a Thursday and 10:00 until 4:00 on a Saturday, because the businesses and everything were open. These jailees could reach people. If you have it on a weekend, many people are away for the weekend or their businesses are closed so you can’t reach everybody. So it’s best to have it during the course of the week.
I know with myself, somebody paid to have me arrested. (laughter) So, first of all they set my bail for two hundred. Well, it didn’t take long, and I had that two hundred. Then they made up another charge against me, so it had to be another $200. So it ended up that I had to make quite a few phone calls. Then there was a third charge, and before you know it, I was able to raise about $700.
Q: Wonderful! How much did the whole thing clear for the Cancer Society?
DC: Almost seven thousand for those two days with short hours from 10:00 until 4:00 in the afternoon. I thought that was a tremendous amount of money.
Q: Wonderful! And to have fun doing it and to give the publicity to the American Cancer Society.
DC: We also rented a canopy. We weren’t sure if it was going to rain or not. Lucky for us that we did rent that canopy, because it did rain on the Thursday. Luckily the jail was covered. Oh, we had judges. Those were the ones — well, when the officers brought in the jailees, we had a card where they read the jailee their rights. It’s called the Miranda Rights, but it pertains to health. And nicely worded. It’s really cute. Then we had some of the judges, and their outfit I ran to the churches for the long black robes.
Q: They were like choir robes?
DC: Yes, and they loaned those to me for the judges. One of our ladies in the Woman’s Club, with cotton batting, made the judge’s wig with curls and a little pony tail with a little ribbon on it. The matrons, they had white blouses on and black skirts and belts. The arresting officers, they also had great big cardboard stars that were covered in tin foil . . .
Q: So they really looked like Keystone Cops.
DC: They did! Everybody looked great! It was well worth the effort and the fun. People who came to work, they didn’t even want to go home. They enjoyed it so much they stayed the full six hours each day. They just enjoyed it! My daughter-in-law, who is an accountant, she was one of the bailiffs. Every penny of the money came in, so we did well.
Q: That’s wonderful. I know that the Lioness Club helps people with health problems, and I know that you helped form that club. Would you tell me about that?
DC: The Lioness Club of Morton Grove, actually we started to organize that at the end of 1982. The International Organization of Lions started to sanction Lioness Clubs I think it’s about ten years ago. Prior to that, the women were just an auxiliary for their particular Lions group. Now, since they have been sanctioned, what you do to form a Lioness Club is to get a Lions Club to sponsor you. Once they do that, then you can start getting your members and show that there are enough women interested in it. In our Lioness Club you do not have to be a wife or a daughter or a relative of a Lion. You can just be a woman who would like to join a Lioness group.
We support the blind and the hearing impaired, deaf, which is also the same. And like juvenile diabetes that many times ends in blindness for the patient. We have fund raisers along that line. We meet for dinner meetings at the different restaurants here in Morton Grove — one meeting can be a serious one where we are educated along these lines with the different institutes that handle the blind or the deaf. Then the alternate meeting will be something more social. Maybe it will be a fund raiser where we play bingo and the proceeds will go into our activity fund. Then the next month again we may have a man who is blind and he brings in his leader dog to show how the dog follows his commands, which is terribly interesting. Then another time we will have maybe a white elephant auction which will be a fund raiser again. The next meeting could be a person who is not blind, but is deaf and she’s got one of these little mutts — these dogs that are very sensitive to noise, and these are trained to pull on her skirt or her trousers to tell them when the doorbell is ringing or the phone is ringing or the baby is crying. We have been learning more about the help that is provided for these people that we never knew anything about.
One of my service projects as president of the Lions Club was to get decals placed on every public place here in Morton Grove, stating that leader dogs are invited into this public place. We also have the owner of maybe the restaurant or this public place the rights of these people along with their dogs that they are allowed to come into this place. This is on record with the laws pertaining to this, and they were given that so that if any of their other clients question it, “How come that dog is in there?”, they can show why they are allowed. It educated the public. Not only the proprietors, but it educated the public.
The first two places that put them in their windows were the Morton Grove Public Library — they got them on their doorways — and also the village hall put them on all of their doorways into the police department and everything else. From there we went to the restaurants and the park district and wherever we knew it was open to the public. Everybody cooperated along those lines, so that was, I thought, a nice service project we did.
Q: That’s what you’ve been doing as service projects, but you, yourself, are a past president of the Lioness Club. How did you help from it?
DC: Okay, originally we invited all of the wives of the Lions to see if they were interested in becoming a separate entity as a Lioness group. A lot of the wives were interested, and others, well they had other commitments and they said no, they’d just like to work along with their husbands, but they didn’t want to be involved on their own. But we had so many other women that were truly interested in this. Maybe there was blindness somewhere along in their family or hearing-impaired people in their family, and they wanted to get involved.
We do collect eyeglasses that are no longer being used. There is a large box to collect them at the First National Bank of Morton Grove. Also the mortician at Simkins Funeral Home has a large box so that families can bring in glasses that are no longer being used.
One of our big, big fund raisers for the Lioness Club is our dirt and manure sale. Well, when people first heard about this — this was an idea of my daughter-in-law, Gwen Connelly. She thought that would be good to be doing in spring and have people come and purchase their top soil and manure and plants — flats of plants — and also lawn ornaments. So we bought these things wholesale, and the profit that is made — we usually make about fifteen hundred dollars every spring, and so we’ve got many nice places to donate that money,
Q: What happens to the used eyeglasses?
DC: Those are sent down to one of the institutes, and if there is no need for these lenses or the frames immediately, a lot of them are sent overseas, maybe to Africa. Many of these people have a lot of eye problems. We also support the doctors who will work for a couple of weeks during their vacation or maybe sometimes give a month of their tome. They go and do cataract surgery, other kinds of surgery . . .
Q: You mean they’re financed by the Lioness?
DC: Yes, and the Lions Clubs through the foundations. We have an Illinois foundation and we have a national foundation, and through these foundations, these other things are supported.
TAPE TWO, SIDE A ENDS
TAPE TWO, SIDE B
DC: Also one of our donations is to send a nurse, paramedic or it could be a mortician to the enucleator school, where they learn how to remove the eyes. Then they are encased in ice and kept cold, and they are shipped to St. Louis. That’s where the eye bank is.
Now our goal is when people need an eye, the recipient of the eye gets it free of charge. If you go through a hospital unit, you can pay six, seven hundred dollars for that eye. That is not the intent of the Lions or Lionesses. Through our program, we want that recipient to get it free of charge. And these are the steps that we take that can be accomplished.
Q: Now I see, Dodee, that you’ve been involved with many service activities, and these last topics have been related to health. Let’s talk about safety. I know you were involved in a bike patrol. Tell me about it.
DC: That’s true. This was in the 1970s. The mayor of Morton Grove, Richard Flickinger, called me one day and asked if I would like to be doing something at the village hall. I said, “Well, like what?” And he said, “We really need a safety officer.” And I said, “Okay, what does that all involve?” He said, “Well, we’re looking for someone to organize a bicycle patrol and hire the college students during the summer to ride these bikes and give out warnings. And if it involves more than one warning, then they have to be ticketed and the parents have to come with the children to be educated.” And I said, “Okay, that sounds all right.” But he said, “But then it also involves going to the ten schools in Morton Grove and teach.” And I said, “Oh, man I’ve been with kids all my life. I don’t know (laughs) if I want to do that.” He said, “Well, why don’t you come and try it. Let’s talk it over.”
So we did, and I talked to a couple of the other officers who were Mr. Friendly in the schools, and they said, “You will work with an overhead projector. You can make up your own cartoon figures in order to bring out your points of interest and rules of the road for the bicycles.” So I did get involved, and I enjoyed it. I truly did, because as I became more knowledgeable about the rules of the road, I could put in my own little phrases of what I wanted to say to the kids to start their enthusiasm so that they would ride their bike properly.
We called it a vehicle; they were driving that vehicle and they were on this vehicle, so they got the feel of actually being in the street with their bicycle and to learn how to protect their vehicle and themselves. I did use a lot of cartoon figures with the overhead projector to get my points across, and they sat very quietly, their eyes big and round when I told about what accidents could occur. And after all, their bodies were vulnerable compared to a car or a truck smashing into them. And the correct way with the hand signals like we used to have to learn before we had directional on the automobiles, so they had to also learn their hand signals with the bicycle vehicle. Before I decided on what bicycles to purchase, there were funds — is it CETA?
Q: Yes. CETA handled government funding for a little while.
DC: CETA funds that we were getting for the purchase of the bicycles and also uniforms for the college students. Well, being summer, we did order shorts and they had to be fitted with special shirts, mostly short-sleeved, and then special emblems. And they had the walkie-talkie radios. They would go out in twos.
It was my job to hire them and it’s a little difficult being with personnel and these enthusiastic young people wanting these jobs to ride bikes all summer. It’s hard to pick and choose and then say no to some that you have to pass by. It was well done, and these kids were really great on the bicycles. During the summer, they got as brown as berries, you know, being out in the sun.
So in order to decide what type of bicycle to purchase, I wanted something that wasn’t really foreign made because of any repair work that might have to be done. So I did go to Schwinn warehouse and I took training courses to learn how to pull the bikes apart and to put them back together, even putting in the spokes in the wheels. I was graded on it. I went to school with these people who had bicycle shops. Periodically, if they are a franchise for Schwinn, they have to go at least every six months to learn the newest way of repairing bicycles. So I was in with this group. I had asked permission if I could come, and they said yes.
From what I learned down there, I decided that the Schwinn ten-speed bikes were the best and that if there was any repair work that had to be done, there was a spot here in Skokie. There was another one in Niles or, if I had to, I could take it all the way into Schwinn. They did prove to be excellent bicycles. They have them still to this day.
Then on Saturdays I held these training courses up in the chambers for the parents to come with these children who were not riding their bicycles correctly. They could either hurt themselves or they could hurt someone else who was riding on their handlebars which is against the law to begin with. Now, a lot of these parents didn’t know the new rules. They had ridden a bike years ago and there were no rules of the road for bicycles.
So they went away with a great deal of knowledge, and with the fitness craze now going around this country, many of these parents were buying new bicycles for themselves and they were pleased to know that there were definite rules that they had to follow. They wanted their kids to follow the same way. If it happened more than once, there were fines that the parents or the children had to pay. I think it has done a lot of good here in Morton Grove, because we have had very few accidents concerning bicycles since this safety program has been going on.
Q: How long did you work with this bicycle patrol?
DC: Three years, and then the funding was stopped. The village, if they wanted to continue, would have to pay the full amount for the entire program. So that involved new uniforms every year for the six people who were being hired. It had to be put in the budget and also any additional repair to the bicycles. Since I left, I think some of the officers are talking it over even in the schools. Besides going in there as Mr. Friendly, they are also teaching some bicycle safety along with it.
Q: I found that very interesting. Tell me about the virgin prairie and how that came to be.
DC: When the Prairie View Community Center was going to be built by the park district on the corner of Dempster and Waukegan Road, which is the northeast corner, we were looking over the property and through the efforts of John Slater, who is a Legionnaire and is very familiar with prairie flowers, we realized that there was a virgin prairie in the back that had never been plowed.
The Garden Club got behind that immediately when we learned about it so that could be preserved. We went to park district meetings stating that we had this virgin prairie and we want that dedicated as a nature preserve, because that’s the heritage of the people here in Morton Grove. This is something that we can be very proud of. There are not that many virgin prairies in the country any more. So we have a little bit over an acre that has finally been preserved.
We had people come from the Conservation Department from Springfield and other prairie professionals, and they said, “Oh, my goodness. Have you got some unusual plants in here.” You don’t realize the tiny, tiny wildlife that’s in there that you would never see anywhere else. There is a wet section of the prairie and then there is the dry section. Different plants flourish in there.
So Dr. Tom Conway, who is a professor at the Oakton Community College, said he would oversee the use of the prairie, and we, the park district, fenced in a good half of it, but they thought they would keep the other half open so that the prairie flowers would develop better and keep growing a little bit better,
But we found out that some people who didn’t know any better thought it was a bunch of weeds. Some of the houses that bordered along the street would throw garbage in there. Fortunately you can see where the wheelbarrows had gone from the prairie to a house, so our police from the park had to go over there and say, “This is a virgin prairie” — we had to put up signs — “and you get that debris out of there or you will be taken to court, because this is a nature preserve of Illinois.”
Once they realized what this was all about, they themselves now watch out for the prairie. It’s all through education. They just didn’t know any better, but now they are protecting it themselves and are proud of it. Even the kids that are playing baseball. If a baseball goes in there over the fence, they are very careful on how they walk in that prairie to retrieve the ball. Through Dr. Tom Conway, we have many teachers come in with school children. They identify these plants and say, “You will never find these in any other areas.” Most prairie lands, you will see the European weeds in there that have come into this country, but not our own prairie flowers that have been here since time began in the United States. So we think this is one of our nicest assets, including our museum now in Morton Grove. We have some heritage here for our people.
Q: Speaking of heritage, I know that we have two happy clubs with the grandparents who are doing something about heritage in Morton Grove. Tell me about that.
DC; I was able to get the Happy Grandmothers Club started a little over five years ago. The reason I decide to start the Grandmothers Club is because I am a grandmother myself. I have two granddaughters, who are now eight and ten years old. When they were smaller I kept getting pictures from my son and daughter-in-law. They even gave me a grandmother’s brag book to put the pictures in so I could show them to everybody. But I never did show the pictures, so they thought that I was not happy to be a grandmother,
So this one night laying in bed I decided how could I prove to them that I was happy to be a grandmother. So I decide to find out if there are any grandmother clubs organized. I did find out it was a national organization and that headquarters were in Chicago, Illinois. So I called them up and asked them if there was a grandmother’s organization in Morton Grove or in this area. They said no, there wasn’t. I said, “Well, I would like to start one.” They said “Great! We’ll need to send out an organizer to help you.”
So I made some telephone calls and had a meeting at the Prairie View Community Center and said — we had a little blurb in the newspaper; anybody interested in wanting to become a member of the grandmother’s club to come to this meeting. Well, we started out with six members and within the first year we were up to sixty. They are a happy group of women.
So we can show each other our grandchildren’s pictures, but we are also a serious group and we do have fund raisers, too, like a card party or if we go to a theater, the proceeds from the theater tickets can go toward the fund raiser. We’ve had also these special meals where they come in and serve us and we make a certain amount of profit on that. What we do with that money is donate it to research for childhood diseases. We play cards or bingo or bunco, but we have serious speakers that come in, too. We have fun with the Happy Grandmothers group.
Then some grandfathers came to me and they said, “You are discriminating.” I said, “In what way?” “Well,” they said, “You founded the grandmothers club. Now start a grandfathers club.” And I said, “Well, I’m sure that some of the grandfathers can get it going.” “No, we want you to found it.” So we started out with four grandfathers and in no time at all, we have around twenty, twenty-five. At first when they came, they did not know one another. It’s funny when married couples get older, once they are retired, the men seem to hover around their wives a great deal. Their independence is a little bit deprecated somewhat. They don’t want to go out and do things on their own that much. But once they got into the grandfathers club and got acquainted with the different backgrounds and which ones had been in Service, the military, they started to compare notes. We have engineers in there. We have meat cutters, lawyers. We have a wonderful background of these grandfather’s lives there, and now they can kid around. They go to ballgames, they go to luncheons and to plays. We visit museums, railroads.
They do many things, and anything that they get money for they like to donate for anything with the children. Or even Fourth of July so that the families can enjoy the fireworks as a family unit with the pancake breakfast and everything that the park district does. We have entertainment there, and the grandfathers support all of these things. They just made a donation to the park district for new safety playground equipment for the children in this area,
They are a truly interesting group. Some of our grandfathers travel a great deal. They are excellent photographers. They come back and show the film from China or Australia or New Zealand, and they have wonderful programs from that. These grandfathers are enjoying one another and they are looking forward to these meetings every single month.
Q: Dodee, in talking to you and in listening about all the volunteer work, I see many, many years of volunteer work. Where in your life did all of this begin? Were you interested in things like this as a child?
DC: Yes. The first club I ever organized was a little bunco club. My girlfriend, who I went to grammar school with, had a sister that had a heart defect. At that time, no surgery was invented yet to cure this type of defect. At that time, they called them blue babies. As a rule, they didn’t live much beyond when they started their menstrual periods. She had to be carried around. The joints were always so swollen. She couldn’t go to school; she couldn’t manage. They didn’t have classes for these type of children to attend, not like they do now. There weren’t wheelchairs even then. Not that this is that many years ago, but this family couldn’t afford a wheelchair, so the father had to carry this child all over — to the bathroom and whatnot. She never got out to be with other kids.
Well, I lived across the street and my mom and dad — I had three brothers — and our house was always open to everybody. This was the central meeting place. Mom always had milk and cookies or fruit or something. Many of these kids didn’t have food to eat. Not that we were wealthy, but they didn’t even have as much as we did, so we always learned to share and these foods were available if anybody came over. So we thought, well, if we could get her sister to come over on a Saturday, we had four — she and her sister, myself and there was one other girl. We formed a bunco club. We had a nickel prize for first place and then I think our booby prize was like two cents, whether it was a couple of gum balls or whatever, but we always had prizes. I started out as the president and I also had the position (laughs) or secretary.
Q: It was your house!
DC: (laughing) It just seemed like nobody else in that situation wanted to do it, so I’m writing the minutes all the time, you know, and keeping the treasury. We paid, I think, two-cent dues every week. I don’t know what we ever did with that money. Except I think we used that money for our prizes. That was the first club I formed and I was so grateful that she had a couple of good years that she could look forward to Saturdays to be with some friends, because she didn’t live beyond a couple of years after that.
Q: That part is very sad. That’s too bad. But suppose you tell us what bunco is.
DC: Oh, bunco you throw three dice and maybe you start out with number one. When you throw the three dice, if you get a one, that counts. If you get a couple of dice with the number one up, you’ve got a couple of points, and you strive to reach 23 points. If you don’t get a number one, then you give the dice to the next person to throw. Then the next game after somebody has reached 23 on number one, then you go to twosies. Then you have to strive to throw the dice and get number two.
Q: So it was a very simple game. Just a matter of throwing the dice and getting a certain number.
DC: Right. If you can count up to 23, you’re in business. (laughter)
Q: Tell me about your home. You mentioned your mother and dad. Tell me about the name Dodee.
DC: Yes, from little on they always called me Dodee. But if my mother became provoked or angry with me, my full name was said out loud and very firmly and she’d say, “Doris Lorraine Cristl.” And when she said that full name, I knew I had to jump to and do whatever she wanted me to do.
Q: Those are three pretty names. Were you named after anybody?
DC: I think at that time my mother had been reading a book or maybe a movie magazine. I know there was some sort of a movie actress by the name of — I thought it was
Doris Kenyon, and that’s where she got the name Doris. Originally, she was going to name me Dorothea, but my dad was born in Austria, and with the German language, they don’t pronounce their T-Hs very clearly and it was Dortea. My mother says, “Forget that.” So then she thought Dorothy. Well, “Dorty” wasn’t the greatest either (laughter), so then she decided it’s going to be Doris, because that could be pronounced. But I never was called Doris. It was always Dodee.
Q: And what was your maiden name?
DC: Cristl. It’s spelled like Christ with an “l” on it. Christl.
Q: Now you say you had three brothers. Were you in the middle or the baby?
DC: They felt I was the baby of the family, but . . .
Q: Were you the baby?
DC: No, I was not. They were on both sides of me. But because I was the only girl, and naturally the father always seems to favor one, if there’s a girl, you know, over and above the boys. You become somewhat spoiled.
I loved my childhood. I had a great childhood. I was truly a tomboy, because being raised with three brothers. Fortunately for me, there were not a lot of girls in the neighborhood. They were all boys, and so we played baseball and we played tennis, but it was more or less like our racquetball. We made our racquets out of the ends of a fruit crate and then we hammered on a handle piece, and we would play in the streets with tennis balls.
Q: But there was no strings. You’re talking about a solid piece of board.
DC: That’s right. They were really heavy paddles. Then ice skating — we went out to the park districts and did ice skating. We were in the playgrounds all the time with the jumping jacks and the bell boys and all kinds of equipment that you could do tricks on.
Q: Where in Chicago did you live?
DC: On the North Side of Chicago. I was born in Ravenswood Hospital. My children were born in Ravenswood Hospital also. My dad and mom lived where my grandfather — in those days they called it a saloon. That was on Lincoln Avenue and Wilson. He also had a beer garden
Q: This is your grandfather?
DC: Grandfather, yes. At that time, even for people who came in and had a beer, my grandmother made hard-cooked eggs and they had all kinds of sausage and goodies that you provided free of charge. They could practically come in for a meal for a glass of beer.
Q: That’s where they got that expression “free lunch.” (laughs)
DC: That’s it, yes, exactly. My grandmother worked hard providing all of this food and preparing it early in the morning, because the refrigerators weren’t like they are now. You had iceboxes, so you had to purchase and prepare that early in the morning so that when the taverns opened up . . .. They called them saloons in those days. Then with the summer garden, which was lovely. The summer garden was nice for the people to come through the garden and have their beer in the evening and have the snacks.
Q: Did your father then work for his father?
DC: No, no. That was my mother’s father. But she did not work in the saloon either. My grandfather would now allow it. He would now allow his daughters to be in the tavern. It was all right for his wife, (laughs) but then, my grandfather was very fastidious. His shirts had to be starched just so, and he wore these, like a garter on his arms, you know, and his shirts had to be just perfect. The aprons that they wore had to be perfectly white and starched and neat and clean. My grandmother (laughs) worked so hard for all of the things that her husband wanted just right down in that saloon.
Q: That’s on your mother’s side of the family.
DC: My dad came to America. He was fifteen or sixteen years old when he came from Austria. He came from a small little farming community called Galietzia [?]. It was under German rule when he was born in Austria. When I think back, when my son reached fifteen or sixteen years old, how heartbreaking that must be for a parent to have a child that age go overseas to another country and start out in life. I can imagine what his mother and father felt like when he left home. But there wasn’t anything more over in Europe where he would advance. He thought, and the family thought, he could do better here. And he did. He became a buyer for Wieboldt’s for men’s clothing. He did very, very well, so we had a good life once my dad became established. He went to night school and my mother briefed him on the language and in writing and in speaking and everything. He worked hard to become an American citizen and to do well.
Q: Dodee, you told me you had three brothers. Tell me a little bit more about them.
DC: During World War II, all three went in to different branches of the Service. One was a sailor, and he was on aircraft carriers. He was a mechanic for the airplanes. The other one was in the Marines, and he was on the islands and usually the first wave of Marines that landed there and took charge. My one brother went into the European theater of war and . . .
Q: Now he was in the Army?
DC: Army, correct. He got the worst end of the whole deal. (laughing) He was the one that was actually drafted. He didn’t want to go. The other two actually volunteered. I know this one time he wrote a letter home, and he requested a certain strudel, a poppy seed strudel, that he just loved that my mother made. He wanted one to be shipped to him.
My mother wrote back, “It’ll be moldy.” He said, “Mom, you don’t know what I’m eating.” He says, “we’re eating wormy cabbage with the worms in it that we find in the field.” He said, “You don’t even know what we’re eating.” So what my mom did, she got a loaf of bread; she hollowed that out. She put one of the strudels inside and covered, wrapped up that bread and put like cheesecloth around it, shellacked it and, by golly, it got up there and he said it tasted delicious (laughter) It really didn’t according to our taste, but to him it was great, you know.
My dad was so concerned about my three brothers as other parents were with their sons and daughters in the war. He just prayed to God that they all come home, even if God took him. At that time my grandfather was deceased and my grandmother sold the property to my dad. There was no need for a saloon in that area any longer. There were many others that sprung up. So he tore down the building and he built a gas station.
He remembered the stories from World War I, how the veterans came home and had to sell pencils or apples on a corner to get even a few pennies to live off of. He decided if his three sons came home, they would come home to a job. My dad knew nothing about the gas station business, but he worked a month free of charge for another proprietor who had a gas station and he learned how to service the cars. Not only just pumping gas, to grease and do some of the mechanical work, oil change, tire changes and how to really run the gas station. When my three brothers came home, they did have a job and then my dad died.
Q: But your father saw them home and happy?
DC: He sure did. He sure did. So he got his wish.
Q: Did your brothers then run the gas station?
DC: Yes, they did, and then gradually as things progressed one of them became a photo-engraver. He went into the printing field. That’s the one that had been in the Army. My other two brothers handled the gas station until one of them branched off and bought another gas station, so they all had good livelihoods after they came out of the war, but due to the work of my dad.
Q: Well, that’s wonderful. Tell me a little bit about how you met your husband to be. His name was Paul?
DC: Yes. I always loved to roller skate in the rinks in Chicago. My grandmother bought a summer home out in Diamond Lake. There was a roller rink out in Diamond Lake and this young man was in charge of the roller rink. It turned out to be Paul. He had never roller skated, but he wanted me to start noticing him so this one time he put on a pair of roller skates. He went out on the rink, fell down, broke his arm, and I did notice him. (laughter)
We became acquainted and we started to date. He was very persistent. He was on my doorstep almost every single night, even when I went back to Chicago after the summer. His persistence paid off, because I could tell that he really loved me. One of the ways I could tell, I had to go in for nose surgery. I had been hit — being a tomboy — with a baseball bat, and it had hit me in the nose.
Q: Like the bridge of the nose?
DC: Right. After it cracked it grew crooked, with the result that I couldn’t breathe properly. I was lucky to even breathe out of one nostril. I got to be a mouth breather more than anything. So when I went in for a check-up, the doctor says, “That bone will have to be removed.” He says, “Eventually you’re going to get more infections.”
At that time, I was going with Paul when they told me to come in for the surgery. I went in there with all my make-up on, all my hair just so, curly and everything like you are as a teenager, you know. At that time they put your head in a corner, and you sat on a stool. Then they put in a local anesthetic and they kept putting it in and they’d reach up. I’d find myself with my head down between my legs when you would pass out from this until they got it anesthetized locally enough that you could finally sit up. Literally what they took was something like a screwdriver with a hammer — they raised this tip up way high and they got it there and they chiseled out that bone. I don’t know what they do now, but at that time that’s what they did.
Then they would put packing in there and you were supposed to lay down. It turned out to be like an outpatient thing. I laid down on the bed and then after a while they came in and looked at it to make sure that I wasn’t hemorrhaging in any way, and then they said that my dad could take me home.
By that time, Paul, who I was going with, came to see me. (laughter) No longer did I have curls or make–up on , and here this packing and bleeding and everything. He was so compassionate and so concerned, and the way I looked! I looked in the mirror and thought, “If this man (laughter) can tolerate the way I look now, I know he loves me and he’ll be a perfect husband.” And he was.
Q: When were you married?
DC: On June 1st . . .
Q: Oh, you were a June bride.
DC: Yes, a June bride. My husband worked for Ernst Sonne and he had a sewer business, but my husband also was an engineer of the B & O Railroad. During the war, eh was an engineer for the freight trains. They would not allow him to go into Service because he was needed.
Q: To keep the trains running. That’s right. War material had to move.
DC: When the war was over, then he worked part-time for Ernst Sonne in the sewer business. Ernie had an idea of building a house next to his house and if Paul would help him build it, then we could have so many months free of rent or an option to buy it at a later date or whatever we wanted to do. So that’s how we became involved in the Morton Grove area. We moved to Morton Grove in 1949. So I came here as a young wife and a young mother.
Q: Where had you been living before? In Chicago somewhere?
DC: Yes, on the North Side.
Q: In an apartment or in a house?
DC: In an apartment around Cicero and right north of Belmont Avenue, a very nice neighborhood. It was nice to get out of an apartment, and when we moved to Morton Grove there were no houses around us. It was all open land like country. Actually from the back bedroom window, my husband could shoot pheasants if he wanted to. That’s how the fields were.
Q: Now is that the house you’re in?
DC: No. It’s our Cleveland Avenue, Cleveland Avenue and Marmora. We stayed there for about seven years and we decided not to buy it, because within seven years then we, I purchased property. I did the investigative work. I knew a block away there was a corner of property that I liked. It had so many big trees and always a nice breeze, yet it was close by.
So I went down to Cook County Building to see who paid the taxes on these parcels of land. I called these people and she couldn’t talk because at that time her husband had just died. But I said to the son would he take my name and address and call me if they were ever interested in selling that property. I’d say it was a few weeks later that yes, they were interested in selling it. So we came to a price and we purchased several lots in the area and we started to build our own home. It worked out beautifully for us, and in 1957 we moved into that house.
Q: It’s a lovely big home. Let’s see it’s on the east . . .
DC: Southeast corner of Marmora and Reba.
Q: 1957 you moved.
DC: Yes. So it’s always been a happy home. I mean we’ve had many things go on that were not happy, but I mean it was always a happy family.
Q: You told me once that you could watch your husband come home over Edens?
DC: Yes, before Edens actually was built and before the other houses were built in the area. There wasn’t even railings over the bridge yet for the Edens highway. I could see the truck come over that bridge on Oakton Street and right away I could turn on the gas stove and get my supper started. My husband started out in the sewer and plumbing work as a serviceman, and so he had to always finish whatever job he was on before he could come home for dinner at night.
Q: So he didn’t come home at a regular time.
DC: No, and so when I watched and saw that truck come over, I could get my . . .. and sometimes id fudge. Maybe id been out all day, but I learned from other people if you start the frying pan with onions in there, (laughter) cooking and the odor of it, or have the table set whether your item was frozen for dinner and you were first thawing it out, he thought supper was ready. Well, by the time my husband took a shower and was cleaned up, supper was usually on the table, so he never really caught my fudging that much.
Q: Well, that’s nice. Now you had two boys. One boy, you’ve mentioned, had died in an accident. Now you have your son, Bob.
DC: Yes, when my husband became ill, my son was working for Delta Airlines. He was in charge of all the fueling for Delta Airlines O’Hare. It was great, because before my husband got truly sick where he was more incapacitated, we traveled for six years all over the world.
Q: How wonderful.
DC: It really was. Then, later on, he became sick. He had some symptoms of Parkinson’s. he was not a true patient of Parkinson’s. It affected his voice first, then it affected his muscles in the legs. He had some symptoms; the writing became smaller and smaller.
He was so active in the community also. President of the park board, commissioner for twelve years. He was in the Lions Club. He was president of Morton Grove Days. He worked for that for ten years as a volunteer. He did everything. As a businessman, he conversed with people constantly, and then when it affected his voice it took him quite a while to adjust to a different type of life. But then after a while, he did adjust because by that time Bob had his first little girl — and my first little grandchild. My husband started to enjoy that and he was content with his tv and his newspapers.
I took him out at least five days a week. If I went bowling, he went to the bowling alley with me. If I went shopping, that was fine. Wherever we went — a fish fry on Friday night; wed eat out maybe Saturday and Sunday. But two days a week he had to stay home. I said, “You’ve got to relax and rest.” It worked out great. He enjoyed his life. At the same time I had my mother, who was an invalid, in bed.
Q: Was she living with you?
Q: So you had both your mother and your husband ill at the same time.
DC: Right, and I had the two wheelchairs in the house. Paul could walk, but it was better if he walked in back of the wheelchair and rolled ahead. It worked out very well, and yet I needed the wheelchair for my mom in her room, so if I took her to the bathroom or wherever. She had a commode in her room, but if I wanted to bathe her or take her in to the bathroom or do other things for her, then I took her in the wheelchair. Or if we had company and it was a larger group that wouldn’t fit in the bedroom that well, then she wanted to come out into the regular part of the house. So I needed the two wheelchairs. It worked out well. If I was going out, I got their trays ready for breakfast. If I was out for a while, then I’d make sure I was home in time to get their trays ready for lunch.
Q: Well, in a way they had each other.
DC: Somewhat, but my mother enjoyed her programs; she had her own TV in her bedroom…
Q: But I meant in case of an emergency.
DC: Oh, right. Paul or my mother could still speak on the telephone if they had to call for help. They knew where I was at all times if I ran out for anything. At that time, I was still doing work for the police department. The police department was terrific. If I was doing any rounds or overseeing anything with the bicycle patrol and going on the streets, I could make my own time.
Q: Yes, make your own hours, which is better, in a way, for the kids not to know.
DC: That’s right.
Q: You mentioned that Paul was very active in Morton Grove Days. Did you continue with his interest after he passed away?
DC: Yes, but we worked for that as a family unit. There were many things with Morton Grove Days at the beginning that you had to do physically. After while, when he became a park commissioner, some of that equipment could be used, but originally after every night at the carnival, those grounds had to be cleaned. We had to pick up all of the garbage. People didn’t use those containers that much. There was always a lot of litter from the booths. There was always these little chances that are opened and dropped on the ground. During the course of the night if it rained or from the dew, you couldn’t get that up unless you really used rakes. We all worked like dogs getting that big grounds area all cleaned up for the next day’s opening. All of that debris had to be picked up. At that time we could burn some of it.
TAPE TWO, SIDE B ENDS
TAPE THREE, SIDE A
DC: . . . (remarks joined in progress) . . . The garbage we had to take to the dump. That had to be done every single day. When the carnival closed completely for that year, we had to then get those grounds as spick and span as we possibly could. Otherwise the forest preserve would not give us a permit for it for the following year.
A lot of hard work was done. Since my husband had employees in the sewer business, his employees came over and helped, too, but my husband paid them their regular salary for it. They were not volunteers like we were. My husband was truly dedicated with whatever job he took as a volunteer.
That money from Morton Grove Days went to many things, and it stayed within our community. We were able to buy the first ambulance in Morton Grove with the funds. At that time we had the volunteer fire department. We supported the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. We also donated monies to the park district to build the field houses at Austin Park, Mansfield Park, National Park. This is where these funds were used. We bought special equipment that they also needed for the volunteer fire department. The police department was pretty well organized, but the volunteer fire department needed many things. Many good things were done with this money made from the carnivals once a year, and every single penny stayed within our village area.
Q: Was there any special time of the year that they had Morton Grove Days?
DC: Usually it was in July. If the Legion wanted to have their carnival in July, then we would have ours in August. To this day, now, the only carnival that is run here in the village is still by the American Legion. Oh, and then we also had a huge parade for the Morton Grove Days. All of the organizations were involved. We have very nice plaques and sometimes cash donations to the ones who won for their entry, their floats. Many of these homeowners groups, they got together and they constructed their own homemade float depending on the theme that was chosen for the year. They came up with outstanding things.
I remember one year, too — I don’t know if you’re familiar with Jack Schaul who had the bowling alley here in Morton Grove. He had quite a few children. This one year it was adorable. They built a great big shoe up on the flatbed, and the mother sat up there like the mother in the shoe with all these kids hanging out and on the float. (laughs) it was just great. They won top prize. It was nicely done. But this is the kind of community interest that we had for Morton Grove Days, because they knew that every penny stayed here.
Q: Why did it die out then?
DC: Morton Grove started to grow. If some of the volunteers even said they would come and help for an hour or two, they really expected free pop, free beer or free sandwiches. Well, there would go the profits down the drain. After a while, it was getting harder and harder to get true volunteers to come and handle these booths. So it just got to the point that it wasn’t as profitable. The enthusiasm wasn’t there from the newcomers like it had been when we had been working in with it. It just started to go down the drain.
Q: Do you remember what year it stopped?
DC: No, I’d say it must be at least fifteen years ago. All I can remember are the good things that were accomplished.
Q: Well, maybe the time had come.
DC: That’s right. And who knows when something might be reorganized along those lines again? Who knows?
Q: Yes, that’s right.
DC: Like everything else, it comes and goes. I know at the park district, the big thing ten years ago was racquetball. Now it’s the fitness craze as far as weight lifting and all these exercise machines. At one time it was tennis. Golf is still good. That will keep going, I think, for quite a while. But, from year to year . . .
Q: Yes, well, ten years ago the big fitness thing was aerobic dancing.
Q: It’s hard now to find any place where they even teach aerobic dancing.
DC: We have a couple of classes of that. We also have aerobic dancing or exercise for men and women in the same class. Before it was strictly all women or so, but now we have mixed groups in there and it’s working out very well.
Q: Is there anything else you wanted to add about your personal life?
DC: All I can say is that when I had mentioned about my husband and he had resigned himself to the type of life he had to lead with his problems, he was content. But this one night he was going to his Lions meeting and my son was taking him. I didn’t go that night. It was a lady’s night, and so that my son and daughter-in-law could get out — she was pregnant — I babysat with the little one. So I stayed home. Well, that was the night that my husband choked on a piece of meat at the Morton House and he died.
Q: Oh. That’s sad.
DC: And the paramedics came from Morton Grove. They came immediately from Skokie. They worked on him. They said that there was a pulse, and I could tell when I got there that they were getting air through, because I took a number of courses on CPR and I could see the air moving the chest as they were working on him. They took him to the hospital, but I really believe that there was life there when they took him to the hospital. Then he went into such severe shock that he didn’t respond from the shock.
Q: What hospital did they take him to?
DC: They took him to Skokie Valley. I know when it happened it was very traumatic for my son and my daughter-in-law. My son immediately put his hand in his dad’s mouth and he got out a portion of the meat. When he put his hand in again, my husband from shock clamped the jaws. My son couldn’t get his hand back out again. They had to try to force it, and the teeth marks were all around.
Q: Like stripes all the way down.
DC: All the way down. So it took a long time before my son and daughter-in-law could go back into the Morton House.
Q: Of course, with such a sad memory. But your husband, though he had resigned himself to a long life, it was sad.
DC: Yes, he was only 59 when this happened.
Q: Had your mother passed away by then?
DC: No, no. I think that was also a godsend for me, because I still had somebody else to take care of and I had somebody else to think about that needed me a great deal. That helped me somewhat in the loss of my husband. Then I was an administrator for an estate in between time, and I lost a dear friend. It just seemed like I was picking out caskets constantly for quite a while. Then later on when my mother did die, I had a nephew live with me for a while. Then he moved because he went to another state. Then I got a dog. Since then, I’ve been very happy with her greeting me when I come in the front door whenever I’m out. At least the house is not empty.
Q: You don’t go home to an empty home now.
DC: No, right.
Q: Well, I have saved the best till the last. I really think I have. You’ve been named for two big honors. One of them was that you were honored as the V.I.P. by the Chamber of Commerce last year and you had a very nice citation for that. I wish you would just talk about that.
DC: Okay. I found out that I had been nominated for this honor, but a number of other people were also nominated. The executive director was out of town. This one day she called me from out of town, and it didn’t really sound like her. She said, “Dodee, I just wanted to let you know that you have been selected as the V.I.P. of Morton Grove, Very Important Person for distinguished volunteer service to the community.” I said, “Wonderful!” and I’m all excited, and then I thought, “Is this a prank? Is this really her?” You know, then the doubts creep in. I said, “Okay, thank you.”
I immediately got back on the phone and called the president of the Chamber of Commerce, and I said, “Do you know who has been selected?” He said, “It was you, Dodee. It is true.” I wanted to find out for sure before I started to get excited and tell people all about it.
They had a very nice evening affair with dinner and cocktails at the Fireside in Morton Grove on Waukegan Road. One part I have to talk about. My sister-in-law, Wanda Cristl, gave the invocation. She is strictly a great gal. She started out very serious with her prayer and her invocation, and then she ended up by saying, “But dear Lord, don’t let Dodee start any more clubs. We don’t need any more in Morton Grove.” (laughter) I can’t say it word-for-word like she did, and, “Dear Lord, don’t let Dodee sell so many raffle chances. We just don’t have any more money for more.” (laughing) it was humorous.
Q: It was cute the way she did it.
DC: It was, the way she did it. I don’t have the exact words. Unfortunately nobody taped it. I wish that we had had a tape on it. But it just made the perfect tone for the whole evening. It was just a nice, humorous evening and everything went so smoothly.
For me it was great, because being president of so many organizations, you’re always watching the time, you’re watching how your agenda’s running, when you should introduce the speaker. You’re in charge of it constantly up to the adjournment. Here I sat back; I was not in control of anything. Everybody else was doing the presiding and looking at all these things, and I could sit back and enjoy the whole evening.
And I got truly so many nice awards. First of all from the Chamber of Commerce; then I got a nice award from the Lerner-Life newspaper. They had the big articles that they had published and they were all framed and given to me. And then many organizations that I had worked for, they came forth with the new presidents presenting me with maybe some jewelry, maybe it was a plaque, maybe it was a framed poem. But in my recreation room now downstairs in my home, I’ve got a whole wall that is just filled with all of these nice remembrances.
Q: It was unusual and unique because you were the first woman to be so honored.
DC: Right. Oh, it was a double honor. (laughter) And it was nice following in my husband’s footsteps. I think he was the second or the third recipient of this award as a V.I.P., so I was the first spouse of a previous recipient and, like you said, being the first woman so honored. It was just thrilling. I said I was so happy for my husband when he received the award, but when I got it for myself, I was happy, but the excitement was just — I was like on Cloud Nine all the way through the whole thing. It was just marvelous!
Q: Also now you have been named as Citizen of the Year by the Pulitzer-Lerner paper and next month there’s going to be a luncheon.
Q: Of course, we can’t tell what it’s going to be like, but tell me what you think it’s going to be like.
DC: What the newspaper does, they have a citizen of the month for the whole year for every single month. At the end of the year, they review all of the ones — I had been the recipient of July as the Citizen of the Month. So then they review all of the ones who had been selected, and then they decide who will be the Citizen of the Year. This is the way I understand it is handled. They have a panel of judges who do make these decisions,
So this luncheon that will be held will be at the Marriott-O’Hare on Higgins Road. It will be held on Thursday, May 7. The guest speaker, besides the publisher of Lerner-Life — he’s going to be the master of ceremonies. The guest speaker will be Bob Collins, a personality from WGN Radio. He handles the morning program and has taken the place of Wally Phillips. I understand he will be a guest speaker. So many men and women will be at this affair. Particularly for businessmen and career people who will take an extended lunch hour and will be able to enjoy this whole thing. I’m looking forward to it.
Q: Yes, well you deserve both honors. We in Morton Grove are very proud of you.
DC: Thank you.
Q: I really want to say that you’ve given 37 years of service to Morton Grove, and it’s unique because you’re not just a joiner. You’re a mover and a doer. (laughter)
DC: I think many of us want to get involved and do what we can. I’ve lived my life that way. I’ve had a good life, I feel, if I can help anybody that is less fortunate than me. I look forward to every morning when I get up and I thank the Lord that I’ve got a little bit more time and try to see what I can do. I don’t want to waste the time by just being apathetic and not care what’s going on. I do care. Wherever I can do something, I want to be out there doing it.
Q: that’s very apparent in all your years of service, because they have been basically service projects that you’ve been involved in. Thank you very much for sharing all this with us.
DC: You’re welcome. Thank you.
TAPE THREE, SIDE A ENDS