We are interviewing Anthony Scariano for the Park Forest Oral History Project.
The date is November 30, 1980.
Im Judy Mathias.
Q. I would like you to tell me how you first came to Park Forest?
A. I was working and going to law school in Washington. I was a returning G. I. and I was in my last year of law school when we read about the dream city for veterans in Colliers magazine. It must have been...late 1947 or early 1948, around about in there. My wife and I were intrigued with the article and the idea of Park Forest. It talked about the rolling countryside south of Chicago, and the fact that no child would have to cross any main thoroughfare in order to get to school, that it was going to be planned from scratch and it mentioned that Phil Klutznick was one of the partners in the venture and that the idea was that of Carrol Sweet, Sr., who thought it up for veterans. Id been out from the army for two years and as I say in my third year of law school, and I knew Phil Klutznicks law partner in Washington, Dave Krooth. . I called him up because I was working for United States Senator Scott W. Lucas, who was the minority whip at the time. He became majority leader after the 1948 election, on Trumans re-election, which nobody expected - thats only a chapter in the history books to you, but its a living reality to me (laughter). I was sweating it out in a job in the U.S. attorneys office, because after I got out of law school, I was destined to be an assistant United States attorney in Chicago, and Chicago is my home town, and I wanted to come back and practice law here. So I was working for U. S. Senator Scott Lucas, and Dave Krooth and Phil Klutznick in their law firm, since they had a Chicago office, did a lot of business with the senators office. I got to know Dave and I asked him about it and he said there wouldnt be any problem at all in getting us an apartment.
The rents sounded very, very steep and almost unattainable to us -- $87.50 a month - for a two-bedroom unit in the rentals. We worried how we were going to make it, because my salary in the U.S. Attorneys office was twenty-nine hundred dollars a year. To live in Park Forest even then you needed twice that much money. We had no car when we came here, and we were without a car for more than a year after that. At any rate thats how we became interested in Park Forest. I could have gone back to my old neighborhood except that the Congress Street Expressway was being planned, and the Dan do Ryan was being planned, and I could have gone to live in my Grandmothers house on
Grand and Peoria in Chicago if you know where the Como Inn is . . .
Q. I sure do.
A. thats a landmark, well our house was practically around the corner, just a block away. I could have gone back in that neighborhood and established myself, but the whole neighborhood was earmarked for destruction, because of the various public projects that were planned for the neighborhood. So Im like Thomas Wolfe - I cant go home again. I thought the best thing to do would be to settle in another neighborhood, and I hadnt given it too much thought; I was busy enough in law school and working full time. But when the article appeared in Colliers magazine, brought to my attention by a friend who lived in the Defense Homes Project, where we lived it was called Naylor Gardens in southeast Washington my first son was born. They brought that to our attention and immediately we made plans to move in a planned community, we liked the idea very much growing with it, growing up with the town, being part of it, and starting from scratch building a community by ourselves, the original residents, among others.
Q. Did you only know about it what you had read in Colliers magazine?
A. Thats all, and then talking with Dave Krooth about it later. I had no idea that Phil Klutznick was planning such a development. It was Nate Manilow, Sam Beber, and Loebl, Schlossman and Bennett were the architects, and it was a great idea.
It had been on the planning boards for a little while, because the first units were occupied in September [late August] of 1948, a little bit behind schedule. We move in well we were supposed to move in in September, when I got out of school. It was planned that the rentals would be well on their way by the summer of 1948, but the first families did not move in until September [late August] ; that was the first court on the southeast corner of Western and 26th Street.
Q. And thats when you moved in September -- of 1948?
A. We moved in October 1948. I was taking the bar in October, and I was through taking the bar, oh, about the middle of October and it just broke right. We thought we would have to move in September, if we wanted an apartment at all, but as it turned out they were late in getting the first families in. We were, I would say, about the thirty-fifth family, roughly give or take a few in Park Forest. Bob Dinerstein, who later became -- what? The third mayor, yeah. I think it was Dennis OHarrow, Henry Dietch and then Bob Dinerstein. Bob moved in the day before I did. He and Mary served us a hot lunch -- well not he, Mary did, she served us a hot lunch; she had her gas connected just that day. She moved in the day before.
Q. What did it look like, when you came?
A. Mud ... (laughter) and you probably heard that from everybody else, and you are going to hear it from everybody you talk with. The courts were all mud; they were not paved, had no sidewalks. We worked with duck boards, and you had no water you had to boil the water that came out of the tap because it wasnt safe to either cook with or . . . well, if you boiled it was alright. You could boil it and drink it, but Park Forest management, the American Community Builders, served bottled water. I think it was Hinckley and Schmidt or Blue Rock, one of those which wasnt so expensive in those days; now it would cost you about fifty cents a glass, more expensive than the beer. But we kept the big jug on the porch, on the stoop, it wasnt really a porch as you know it, and if I remember correctly the water came with a stand and you could tilt it to pour it out, you wouldnt have to lift it up. A great big ten gallons, the women could hardly cope with it, and I might say the men had a tough time with it, too.
Lets see. There was only one bus running in the morning, if you depended on public transportation to take you to the 211th street station on the IC. Then there was only one bus coming back. If you missed that bus you had to either arrange for your wife to pick you up we had no car though; almost everybody had a car except us, or you had to get a taxicab.
Q. Were you working in Chicago then?
A. Yes, I working in Chicago as an Assistant United States District Attorney for Otto Kerner, and wed have to be at work by 8:30 or 9:00 oclock, and quit about 5 or 5:30. But you have to arrange your schedule though, so that you would make the first bus in the morning andwell the first and only bus, and then the first and only bus in the evening. I was moonlighting in Chicago Heights as a lawyer, and Id have to wait for a bus that came from Chicago Heights to go into Chicago Heights, but they only had one to the station, do you see? There were some more regular buses in and out of Chicago Heights, because thats where everybody shopped.
Q. Well, I was going to ask you about that. Where was shopping and how did you do that?
A. We did it all on Illinois and Halsted Streets in Chicago Heights and now its desolate there; there is nothing left, but they were thriving, main thoroughfares of Chicago Heights. They had very conceivable kind of specialty shop, and the Rau store was a big department store; it later became Carsons and now its torn down. The Williams Press bought it and they are using it. You did almost all of your shopping there; you did your grocery shopping there, your meat markets were there and your clothing, your shoes, and your department store was there. Sears had a store; J. C. Penney had a store there...
Q. But there was no shopping in Park Forest at that time?
A. No shopping; there wasnt a single store in Park Forest. The closest you had stores was in Chicago Heights.
Q. How long after you were here did that come, then?
A. A shopping center opened, I would say, in 1949 [December 15, 1949]. The first store that opened.... have you heard?
A. Would you guess?
Q. A grocery store, I suppose. Right?
A. A liquor store.
Q. Oh, no. (laughter)
A. Irv and George Taradash, they opened the first store and it was a liquor store, appropriately, you might say (laughter) those were our priorities. About the time we were becoming a municipality we had a liquor store. Then the others opened. A grocery store we had a PickNSave they called it, [opened 3/19/52, Jewel opened 3/9/50] they called it, and then of course the other stores came one by one. Marshall Fields didnt come too soon, neither did Goldblatts or Sears; they were small specialty shops to begin with, but the shopping center was pretty well planned. We had a Karmelkorn Shop before we had anything else. We had a theater there -- the Holiday -, which has had a rather bumpy career in the last few years. Lets see. Yes, thats the history of the shopping center.
Q. Now your children werent in school yet when you first moved here.
A. No, my oldest son, he is 34 now and practicing law with me, was only two years old when we moved in. Weve been here thirty-two years; it was thirty-two years the 19th of October, just last month.
Q. By the time he started school, was there a public school available?
A. Oh, yes, but Mrs. Waldmann, -- Charlie Waldmanns wife, Elizabeth Waldmann -- was an early childhood education specialist, and ACB built a small, well it was a very small, frame building, which was an all-purpose community building; she used it in the daytime for a nursery school. Tony started in nursery school when ... Id say he was three or four, and there werent many of us then. She certainly had no overflow. By the time we became a municipality, we couldnt have been more than about six hundred families, if that many.
The best attended public meeting ever in Park Forest was held in the basement of one of the stores in the shopping center. It was not yet completed; even the store in the basement of which we met was not completed. We were debating, shortly after we became a municipality, an ordinance restricting pets, requiring that they be on leashes, and whether or not they were going to be permitted in the rentals at all, and what to do about cats and dogs, because it was a problem with children. There were three hundred people at the meeting, now that comprised over fifty percent of the population (laugh) of Park Forest. I dont think you would ever get fifty percent of the population together in Park Forest on anything, even if you had World War Three burst out. But we had fifty percent of the population in that meeting, and it was a rather heated and emotional one, too. A lot of compromises were hammered out; it was a real town meeting.
Q. Now that was before the village became a municipality, right?
A. No, as I recall it, it was one of the first village board meetings. We had to have it there, because the little community shack wasnt big enough. As a matter of fact, if you got back to one of the very early editions of the Park Forest Reporter, that was the first newspaper here. The Star was a Chicago Heights paper, and only a Chicago Heights paper; now they publish in about eighteen communities and they have an edition for almost every community in which they publish. The Star only had a column devoted to Park Forest and about the only thing that was printed in there was the names of the families moving in. I think I still have a scrapbook where it put down the fact that Anthony and Leah Scariano from Washington where I had just finished school had moved into our court. I think our court was B2 yeah, it was B2 -- Phil Klutznicks was B-1 and B-2 and then the one that followed was...yeah going down one, two, three, four going down to Birch Street.[Ed. Note: The Scarianos lived in Court B-3. The courts were not constructed in numerical order.]
Q. Are many of the people still here that you knew then?
A. Well some of them are here; the DeLues are probably the oldest residents right now in terms of moving-in. They were the first court, the DeLues. The Dinersteins were here one day before we were; they are still here. Those are the very earliest residents that I can think of who are still here. Hardly anybody else besides the DeLues, are still here from that first group. A good many of them were highly transient, highly mobile people: FBI, Army, Navy, Air Force, corporation people just starting out. Young practicing lawyers; Henry Shames who was in the Arvey law firm, Gale Sidley Christopher and Tom OBoyle who were with Crowell and Liebmann, but now Sidley and Austin - the largest law firm in Chicago, over 250 lawyers in that firm. Lets see who else? Tom McKay, who was a candidate for the first mayoral race; he lost to Dennis OHarrow. He was a young practicing attorney; we were either in our late twenties or early thirties. I was thirty-one when I moved here. No, I was thirty and when I moved here, thirty-two years ago, yeah, that makes me young, still, doesnt it?
A. So they were highly mobile people, their corporations were moving them around or the government was moving them around, or they became upwardly mobile, the attorneys and the businessmen. Pappy Schechter, who became the first private owner of the Park Forest Reporter, was working for Goldblatts as a purchaser. You had Dennis OHarrow who was Executive Director of the American Society of Planning Officials, you had people with the University of Chicago in abundance, you had a good many people who were located with 1313 E. 60th street, the office where you work, the office building where you work. Public administration people, public personnel, Civil Service Assembly, which later became the Public Personnel Association. You had a good many people who were connected with IIT and some of the other institutions; Roosevelt University, a good many University of Chicago people -- a good many from the Argonne National Laboratory.
Q. Yes, Ive heard of that.
A. A whole slew of them, yeah. They formed car pools to go back and forth, they used to take turns driving and used to get as many as five or six in the car at one time. A good many scientists; Dave Saxe, one of the early village trustees, was the budget man over at Argonne,. You had some very prominent physicists, biochemists; Ray Meschke was a prominent biochemist with them. Vince Saitta was an expert in corrosion, chemistry. Sol Raboy, a nuclear physicist and radiation specialist; oh, I could go on and name them endlessly. Some of them are still here, Argonne people.
Q. Did you ever know of anybody to move out of the village because they just didnt like the village?
A. No, I cant remember a single person who moved out of here because he didnt like it. There were people who became more affluent as they improved their job situation, and either had to move out because their companies or their other organizations - the government - moved them out or because the rental units werent commodious enough and they wanted a home of their own. It was not until all the rental units were built over here, that you began to build homes, but then they were the very small, two-bedroom homes, see? I like to call them the pillboxes that were first built here. They werent big enough for the growing families, so they wanted something a lot more spacious, and with a little more green around them.
So they went to Homewood, or Flossmoor, Olympia Fields, or Lincolnshire and Crete, some of them. Crete has always been a quaint, charming place to live and a good many of them went out there. Some of them went out and bought themselves - they were wise -- they bought themselves a few acres and moved out in the country. Those few acres are worth a good buck today!
Q. How long did you live in the rentals?
A. Six years. We were there from 1948 to 1950; wait a minute it was over six years, -- we were there from October 1948 to February 1955, yeah.
Q. And then you moved to this house?
A. To this house, yes....
Q. On Rocket Circle.
A. Right, on Rocket Circle, weve remodeled it twice. We bought it for nineteen thousand, two hundred dollars, and fifteen hundred dollars down. (Laughter). Well, the pill-boxes were going for right around eleven thousand dollars, about $10,990 or something like that, eleven thousand dollars for the house and you needed very little down; they were largely government financed. Then they went into some of the smaller three-bedroom homes, along Sauk Trail and along the M streets, small three-bedrooms. Then they went into some Cape Cods, west of here, some of which were four- bedroom homes and most of the people in Park Forest who moved into homes west into in Park Forest, as the homes became larger, because...
Q. They just moved from smaller ones to larger ones, you mean?
A. Yes, they moved from rentals to larger homes, or from smaller homes to larger homes, yeah. A good many of them stayed in town.
Q. Now I know that before ... that when you came the village was not yet a municipality?
Q. And you were instrumental in helping it to become one, right?
A. Right, right.
Q. Can you tell us about that?
A. Yes. One of the first things we did - well of course we were encouraged by the developer -- in the developers own self-interest and our own self-interest, too. We wanted services provided by the municipality. We had only security guards provided by the American Community Builders, but they were looking out mostly, if not exclusively, for ACB property. ACB standing for American Community Builders, of course. And we had no fire department, only ACBs, if you can call it a fire department. We formed a volunteer department right off, very quickly, and ACB bought a couple of pieces of equipment. If Im not mistaken, I think we were in a fire protection district at the time, I cant remember too well now, I cant say for sure that we were. We probably were in a fire protection district. I think so, because I cant think of any other way that we could get fire protection except through the auspices of the developers. Well, we couldnt go for this ad hoc Keystone Cop situation and fire situation, we thought that wed better organize and get ourselves some services and we wanted to govern ourselves, too. We didnt want to be always at the mercy of the developer. So we formed the Committee on Municipal Incorporation with the blessing of the developer who certainly wanted to be relieved of a good many of the services, although the developer would be the only taxpayer in town for a good long time. But they would rather do it that way than do it privately by themselves.
So we did form the Committee on Municipal Incorporation: we had delegates from each rental court. I forget how many delegates we had from each court, anywhere from one to two or four ... I cant remember. We formed ourselves into committees, various committees, committees to set up the election, the committee on police protection, the committee on fire protection, the committee on library services, the committee on schools. And each committee working to establish governmental services at the local level. And I furnished most legal help; so did Tom McKay. I think we were the only two lawyers. Gale Christopher and Tom OBoyle werent involved at the time. Henry Shames moved in later, so Tom and I were donating our legal talent, such as it was, in helping to get the petitions signed and to see to it that they complied with all the legal requirements, and we set up an election.
And the people had to be sold on the idea, they had to be educated. They didnt know what it meant, but once it became evident what we could do as a municipality, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor. We held the election, I think, in February of 1949, somewhere around in there, and then in April of 1949 we elected our first officers. Dennis OHarrow was the first mayor, and Dave Saxe was a trustee, Fred Roop was a trustee, Frank Norris, I think Marc Wexman, George Wright, I think those were all in the first batch. I may be mixing some second batch of people in there. These are the ones I remember right now, right off the top of my shoulder.
Q. And who was the village attorney?
A. Wallace Wyatt was the village attorney. The job was offered to me, but I checked with the Department of Justice through Otto Kerner, I asked him if that was compatible with my duties and they said, No. I found out later they were all wrong, that since it was a nonpartisan government, and a nonpartisan election, that I would not be violating the Hatch Act by Ron Bean now -- no, no hes with the State of Illinois, but we have had federal people though. Federal employees on village government, elected and appointed, and it would not have been a violation of the Hatch Act. I was convinced that it wasnt, but I couldnt argue with the Department of Justice, my bosses, you know. So I missed out in being the first village attorney, and I think that I would have enjoyed that very much. But I think today I would have been a specialist in municipal law, instead Im a specialist in school law.
Q. Well, how about since then, were you interested in the job after that?
Q. At any time?
A. I was with the U. S. Attorney from 1950 ... Im sorry, from 1949 to 1954. Well, when I came out of the U. S. Attorneys office, I immediately became active in the Democratic party here, and I took over all of the precincts in the Bloom Township, part of Park Forest. There were five precincts, as I recall. They had no precinct captains there, there was no organization really going for it, the Democrats in the Bloom part of Park Forest. As I indicated to you previously, all that part of Park Forest on the east side of Western Avenue was in Bloom Township. So I took over those five precincts for the Democratic Party, became the precinct captain, and I didnt have any time to do any village work.
I was thinking for a while, as soon as I came out of the U. S. Attorneys office, of running for the village board as a trustee, but I decided that I would step aside in favor of Sid Spector, who was a very able candidate and trustee, because he was elected. He was with the Council of State Government; he was a professional state government man. I thought that he and I would be dividing the vote and we would probably neither one of us get elected, and if I stepped aside he had a good chance of being elected. Thats what I did, I stepped aside in favor of Sid, and helped him, and he got elected.
Then the next year, that was in 1955, the next year I ran for State Representative, as a Democrat, and I made it, because reapportionment occurred in the legislature in 1955 - every bit of 50 years too late and there was a big stink about rotten boroughs and this was before the one man -- one vote decision came out of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court wasnt touching these one man -- one vote cases then, they called them a political thicket and they stayed out, but then when the one man -- one vote case came up - I forget the name of that case now, but it was a very famous case - they reapportioned the Illinois legislature, before it became a problem with the Supreme Court. Where we used to have one representative district in all of suburban Cook County, we became eight districts, and this one became District Number One, the one we are living in now. Now its the ninth, but it was District Number One at the time, and I ran for the Democratic seat, and I won it and I was in the legislature sixteen years. So I could not become active in village government, since I had my hands full with the state government. It would have been legal for me to do so, because there are a good many state senators and representatives who also enjoy local political office either as mayors, or as trustees, councilman, village attorney or whatever.
Q. Did you feel that you had a lot of support from local people for the legislature?
A. Not to begin with, because I was totally unknown. Well, I shouldnt say totally unknown, I gained a little recognition in working with the Park Forest Community Council, but that was on a very limited basis. The district was very big. It comprised four townships, four full townships. It was Rich, Bloom, Calumet and Thornton. It was a little bit difficult getting the foothold, but once I became established in the legislature, then Park Forest was very supportive; but you; see its a highly Republican area. It still is. It was even more Republican then, about as Republican as any town could be, so it was very difficult for a Democrat to gain recognition. But eventually, once I began to make any kind of a record in Springfield, then it was easier, and local support was forthcoming, very strongly and easily.
Q. Do you think that Park Forest benefited by having a local resident in the
A. Well, I would like to think that it did, but it all depends in what areas. I was very active in education in the legislature and of course what I did would have benefited the state as a whole. But I dont think that anything particularly local came out of it, you know, there are such things as pork barrel bills, where for instance in the congress you can get a post office, or a hospital, a school, or a university or a jail or something -- no, we did not get anything like that in Park Forest. But I hope we gained a little bit through education and some good government measures that I was interested in.
Q. Tell me about school law and your involvement in that as relates, if you can, to Park Forest.
A. Sure. Well I very early became interested in the movement to detach ourselves from the Chicago Heights public school system, the elementary school; we were in 170 at the time and our kids had to be bussed in to Chicago Heights. They went to school there. Mine werent ready to go to school then, and they had to be bussed in to go to Bloom. Phil Klutznicks daughter, Mary Lou, whom I just saw at the Democratic convention in August, she and I were reminiscing about that. She reminded me in the conversation, I forget how it came up, that she did not graduate from Rich, she graduated from Bloom. I remembered that she was old enough not to be in the first classes at Rich. She was in the Bloom High School class of, but I forget what year it was, Rich is about 26 or 27 years old now, so she would have to be in before 1955, and she was. They moved here in September of 1948. She may have been in high school at the time, I dont remember she could have been. At any rate, we detached ourselves from the Bloom Township High School, too, because Rich Township was in the Bloom high school district. Those were my earliest efforts in public education here in Park Forest, but when I went into the legislature, then I was named to the Education Committee among others, and got to be quite active and made it a major field of endeavor.
It wasnt long after that, that I began to represent school districts, as a lawyer. I thought it might be a legal conflict of interest at first, to be a member of the legislature and an attorney for a school district, but in a case that was decided in about 1960 or so, the States Attorney here in Cook County brought suit against some three dozen public office holders, who were also of the legislature. They were either mayors, councilmen, trustees or village attorneys, side walk inspectors, country workers; the thought that this was an illegal conflict of interest and a double-dipping situation, but the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois held against it, and said that it was not an illegal conflict of interest, that they could hold office simultaneously and that they were compatible. So when that ruling came down, then I began to take school districts as clients, and we must represent about forty school districts, now, not only in the suburban area, but we go down state quite a bit, too.
Q. Now when your children went to school, they did then go to school in Park Forest
A.. Yes, they did. Tony was in the first nursery school. Well, I dont think he was in the first class, he must have started when he was three or four, in Mrs. Waldmanns class, and then we sent him to St. Irenaeus, the parochial school. He went there six years, and then went to the junior high school Westwood Junior High and then he went to Rich Township High School. John went to all the public schools here, he went to Lakewood; he went to Westwood and to Rich. So they are all graduates of the public school system here.
Q. And you felt very satisfied with that?
A. Oh, yes, good, excellent school system.
Q. Very good.
A. I think one of the finest.
Q. Ive heard that too.
A. Well, weve always been blessed with good administrations. One of our administrators left here and went to Harvard to teach in education -- Rob Anderson. Weve had one who went on to teach at the University of Texas in education administration. Bob Andrea, who was at Rich, went on to teach at S. I. U. in school administration. Weve had some good administrators and good school boards, and the community has always been supportive of public education. Our last referendum here on November 8th, we had three tax increases on the ballot and we had a bond issue. Every increase won except one, and that was the smallest one, the one for transportation. Somehow, for some strange reason that didnt win, but that is the only tax increase that has lost by way of a referendum in the elementary system since the system was founded some thirty years ago. Rich has lost some referenda, but only for such things as swimming pools or because they were mixed up with swimming pools; but on the whole Park Forest has been extremely supportive of public education. I consider the referenda that lost at Rich have been largely because of the outlying areas, people whose kids have grown up and dont go to school anymore, the farmers, the people who send their kids to parochial school and then some people who, although they might have kids in school, live in some of the areas in Rich Township that have not really supported tax increases. Somehow in those areas, they feel - I suppose - that we can manage without some of the things that are going on in schools, but I dont think Park Forest has felt that way at all.
Q. So in general you would say that the people here were very supportive?
A. Oh yes . . .
Q. And have been satisfied as a result of that?
Q. There hasnt been a problem with children getting into colleges or that kind of thing?
A. No, no and the school boards have been great, too. I cant remember ever a school board or a school board member being turned out for some reason that you find common these days, where organizations are built upon an ad hoc basis, a single issue campaign; Ive never seen that in Park Forest with respect to schools. Most recently you had practically a single-issue campaign in the last village election, where unfortunately, good people like Mary Lubertozzi and Mr. Goodrich were turned away, only because of some untoward publicity reflecting on a single member of the board of trustees.
Q. Lets stop here. (Tape turned off and on again.)
Q. What changes have you seen in the village?
A. Oh, well, some of the more obvious ones are, of course, that we are getting older. I realized that when the funeral director came to town. (Laughter) I realized that we werent such a young community. I hoped no funeral director would come in, because we were too young, we werent dying. We werent getting old - - well we were getting older by the day, but not that old. Then, too, Im pleased with the number of young people who either come back or remain in town or in the area. Ive seen a lot of small towns die or become arteriole-sclerotic, because the young people leave. They dont want to stay in town, or if they leave to go to school, they dont come back. This town, I think, has got a good percent of the young people who stay or at least stay in the nearby area - unless of course theyre moved by the requirements of their jobs - a number of young people who make good, do very well. People have gone on to medicine and law and accounting, and teaching, and business, chemistry and other professions. Remarkable, really remarkable. I think we have a good school system here that turns out a good product. But were talking about changes. Well, the buildings dont seem to deteriorate; everybody keeps his house up rather nicely. I just walked by some of the rental units this afternoon, and Im pleased to see that they are standing up quite well. I dont know that the best materials went into their construction because it was shortly after the postwar -- the early post war era, and materials were still hard to come by and we werent getting the very best. But those buildings are standing up. The changes, of course, are those that occur everywhere: high price of housing and living. This house, as I say, cost nineteen thousand and two hundred back in 1955 and you could get it for fifteen hundred dollars down. Young people had a chance, but young people today dont have much of a chance at all, they either have to go into the co-ops of they have to rent someplace else and that tends to keep our young people out of town, to the extent that the low cost housing isnt available. Of course, the big change is that it has become an integrated town, and I had quite a bit to do with that, I dont mind telling you.
Q. I wanted to ask you about that, I know about that.
A. I represented the first white family that sold to the first Black family here in town and a home was put up for sale; it was put up for sale for anybody that wanted it. But the owner was having a difficult time selling it. Finally, and I represented the owner, finally he came to me and I was already in the state legislature. I was in the legislature for two years, almost two years, when this happened. He came to me in the fall, he had put up the house for sale a couple of months before and he wasnt selling it. Hed been transferred to Kalamazoo by his company, and he said, Ive got a Black buyer. Are you still interested in representing me? And I said: Why wouldnt I be interested in representing you? (Laugh). He said, Well, you are in politics; it might hurt you. I said, Well, if it hurts me, fine. If people want a bigot in the legislature theyll have got to go and get themselves one.
Q. Did he know the buyer personally?
A. Not . . . No, he got to know him through friends, he met him through friends who were interested in seeing to it that Park Forest was an integrated community.
Q. Was he selling his house through a realtor by himself?
A. No, he was doing it on his own. He was offering it himself. No, no realtor then would have anything to do with anybody who wanted to sell his house to a minority person and he wanted to make sure that he kept control of the situation, and he didnt particularly relish cutting in the realtor for a commission, because housing wasnt moving that well in 1959. As a matter of fact, you could have bought a lot of housing very cheaply here in Park Forest at the time, and he met this family through people who were interested in integrating Park Forest, and they were all friends of mine, too. And thought that perhaps I should not because I would get hurt politically, and he didnt want to see that happen. I told him I wasnt concerned about this at all and he said, Well, let some one else in our office handle it, dont handle it yourself, and I said, If I cant handle it, nobody handles it in my office, okay? and he suggested maybe going to some other attorney friend of mine. I said, No, Ive just not run away from anything like this before, and I dont believe in it. So it was arranged to sell it to this Wilson family and Chuck at the time held a job .
I cant remember, it was one of the universities. Oh! He was teaching economics, I think, at Roosevelt, Im pretty sure, yes, he was teaching economics there. [Dr. Charles Z. Wilson taught economics at DePaul University]. Chuck was intensely interested in breaking the racial barrier in Park Forest; he wanted to be a guinea pig, and he was willing to take all the brickbats. So we thought that this had better be well executed with as little trauma as possible, so we alerted the village government. We alerted all of the clergymen, and we told them and we arranged that it would be done right around Christmas time. I think it was the week between Christmas and New Years, if Im not mistaken. Everybody began to talk to everybody at least - especially the people in the near vicinity of the house which was right here in the W area. The ministers talked to their flock; one or two of them werent very happy about it. The village through the Park Forest Human Relations Commission went around talking to everybody, alerting them, briefing them, and he moved in without incident. Oh, there was a lot of noise about it, you know, but no violence, and Park Forest came of age and that is the biggest single and most important change thats come about in the town. And I took my share of brickbats, too; it became an election campaign issue the next year, you can be sure, but I came out with more votes than ever before.
Q. Are there changes that havent been made that you would like to see done?
A. Well, thats a little bit difficult to say. I frankly think its an ideal community. Weve had our opportunities to move to Flossmoor, Olympia Fields, Kenilworth, for that matter, but we dont look upon it as a matter of being able to afford it, we look upon it as a matter of, I would rather improve my house here, over-improve it, than move out of it. We are in a good location, we like the town, we like the people, we like the good clean government, and we like everything it has to offer. I wouldnt trade it for any town anywhere that I know anything about.
(End of interview.)