Interview with Dr. Gerson Engelmann on August 7, 1980, by Judy Mathias.

 

Q. Dr. Engelmann, when did you come to Park Forest?

 

A. We came to Park Forest in November of 1951 from Cincinnati, Ohio where I had a church and where I also was a professor at the University of Cincinnati in the department of sociology.

 

Q. You were invited to come?

 

A. Yes. I was invited to take the newly formed United Protestant Church ‑the first minister of the Faith United Protestant Church. Later on, three others organized within the next three or four years after I came, but I was the senior minister of the first United Protestant church in Park Forest.

 

Q. When you say three others, you mean three other United Protestant churches?

 

A. Three other United Protestant churches, yes. The people of Park Forest, when they were interviewed by a chaplain who was placed here by the denominations of Chicago, said that they wanted to have United Protestant churches. This grew largely out of their college and GI Army experiences. They said in colleges they had often ignored their particular denominational church. They would go where they wanted to hear a certain minister, or where they sang in a certain choir, or where their friends went, and then when they were in the service they had chaplains and they didn't know whether they were Baptist or Methodist or Presbyterian, and they didn't much care; so when they were founding a new community they felt it would be a mistake to organize on the basis of denominations; and the people who moved here in those first days insisted on having a United Protestant approach to the religious community. Curiously enough, they voted about ninety‑six ‑

 


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ninety‑seven percent in favor of having this kind of churching. And even the groups like the Episcopalian and the Lutheran who, because of their more liturgical forms of government ‑‑ liturgical forms of ritual -- felt that they should be separate, voted over eight‑five percent to even go into the United Protestant group, but their denominations did not see fit to do so.

 

Q. Well, I take it because of such a large interest that the church, after it was started, had a large membership.

 

A. Yes, it had it almost immediately. In fact, in the twenty‑five years that I was the minister of this first United Protestant church, I took in eleven thousand members even though we never had more than two thousand people in the church at one time, since they were constantly coming and going in our very fluid community.

 

Q. What was the landscape like then?

 

A. Well, of course, Park Forest was built on a former golf course, some swamp lands, and some corn fields. In fact, you could still see on Western Avenue rows of trees ‑- which marked the fairways of the golf course, and when we came here the golf house which was the center and the pool ‑‑ the swimming pool ‑‑ were just about on the corner of Sauk Trail and Western Avenue. The rental units, of course, were built first ‑‑ three thousand and twelve of them [ed. note: 3,010], if I remember correctly. And right after we came they were starting to build the individual homes -‑ ­the small two‑bedroom home was the first one that was built . . . especially on the one side of the city, which was known as the Mohawk division, and the Westwood division was the next, and the Lincolnwood was the third division that was built.

 


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Did Faith Church have a building then?

 

A. No. We immediately were building an educational building along Lester Avenue and most of the activities of the village took place-‑the trustees met there, the women's clubs, various organizations met there ‑‑ but our church itself had their services in the Holiday Theatre which we rented each Sunday morning from 1951 on. Even at this time St. Irenaeus was meeting in the theater ‑‑ they would have their service at ten o'clock and we would have our service at eleven. When they finished their gymnasium along Indianwood ‑‑ the gymnasium building ‑‑ and moved out we took over the whole Sunday morning and had two services, one at nine‑thirty and the other at eleven o'clock. The building that we built along Leims Avenue was one that was just intended for educational purposes and for community purposes. One of the early Fortune pictures was made when the articles about Park Forest appeared in Fortune magazine in 1953 ‑‑ they had a night picture of this building which showed every room occupied by a different community group. And the high school, of course, Rich High School, which now has three buildings, started their first high school there in the fall of 1952 to 1953 because Rich High East was not completed until after that year and they started their freshman high school with a hundred and thirty‑six students in that building along Leims. So during the morning it was occupied by the high school ‑‑ after the high school was out the groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, other community groups met and then in the evening there were all sorts of community meetings ‑‑ even the two synagogues of this community were organized in that particular building along Leims Avenue.

 


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Q. And then when was the main sanctuary added?

 

A. The main sanctuary, which is the building along Indianwood, was built in 1957, and we dedicated that in November of 1957. The connecting building between the two buildings with the bell tower was built in 1962. We built the church in those three stages. But after 1957, November of 1957, we had a sanctuary in which to hold our services and we no longer had to rent the Holiday Theatre on Sunday mornings.

 

Q. Can you tell me something about the selection process when you were selected as the minister to this church. Now, I know that there were applicants ‑‑ many applicants.

 

A. They had ‑‑ of course because it was an interdenominational church they were free to canvas various denominations for their first minister.  They had about a hundred and twenty‑five men, and they told me I was selected from  that one hundred and twenty‑five. I came from a particular type of denomination that was very interdenominational‑minded. In fact, I myself have belonged to three denominations without ever changing my denomination. In 1930 I was ordained in the Reformed Church in the United States; in 1934 the Reformed Church in the United States and the Evangelical Synod of North America, which was also a German background type church, united to make the Evangelical and Reformed Church; and then in 1957‑58 the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Church, which was a New England background denomination united to make the United Church of Christ. And so, without ever changing the denomination, I was a member of three, and I suppose I partially was selected because of my university experience and my being in a denomination that was very interdenominational‑minded.

 


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Q. Were they looking for something specific?

 

A. Yes. In fact, one of the humorous things of that particular time-‑they said that when they finally selected me they said I was the oldest candidate they looked at. I was forty‑five. They said they were trying to find a minister between the years of thirty‑five and forty‑five because the average age of the adult Park Forester at that time was about twenty‑eight, twenty‑nine. But they said they felt that they had been looking for a minister who was thirty‑five years of age and had twenty years experience in the ministry so they finally decided to settle for the twenty years experience instead of the age.

 

Q. And your university background they felt contributed a great deal because the residents of Park Forest were well‑educated at that time, also, weren't they?

 

A. Yes. If I remember correctly, I think the League of Women Voters at that time took a survey of the community and they came up with the conclusion that the average educational age of the Park Forest adult was junior in college which made this, of course, one of the highest educational groups that you could find any place in the country.

 

Q. Tell us about your educational background, and where you taught.

 

A. Yes. My own educational background ‑‑ my undergraduate work was done in Heidleberg in Tiffan, Ohio, which was a college of my own denomination. I specialized pretty largely in public speaking, having engaged in inter‑collegiate debating and things of that type. In fact, another fellow and I won the National Inter‑Collegiate Debating Championship of the United States in 1924‑1925, I believe. And on that basis I did teach at Heidleberg. Taught Public speaking there in the

 


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years 1926‑1927. But I decided that I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life, so I decided to go on for more graduate work. I went to New York, studied for a term in New York. One of my teachers happened to be the famous Margaret Sanger. Then the idea of marriage counseling was just starting up and I thought that that was no field to get in, so I came to the University of Chicago and did graduate work there from 1927 to 1929 largely in the fields of sociology and psychology -‑ ­taking graduate degrees  in those fields. Then I decided to finish up going into the ministry, and I also went to my own denominational seminary, which was in the Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. So I had graduate work in . . . and degrees . . . in ministry, in sociology, and in psychology. I took a church in  Freeport, Illinois in 1930. 1 was there from 1930 to 1936. went to Cincinnati and took a larger church there in 1936. Then from 1937 to 1951, while I was minister of this church I also taught six to nine hours in the field of sociology and social psychology at the University of Cincinnati. It was quite difficult in those days to get college professors, which sounds rather strange for this particular day and age when they seem to be almost a dime a dozen. (laughter)

 

 

Q. Had you always wanted to go into the ministry?

 

A. Well, I suppose it was in the background of my mind, because my father was a minister; but when I went to college I recall very strongly telling my father that he should get one thing out of his mind ‑‑ that the last thing in the world I'll ever be was a minister. And I ‑‑ in fact, in college, I really considered foreign service until I found that in the foreign service of the United States embassies ‑‑ one of my

 


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professors had (who was a history professor)  been the third officer in the Russian Embassy and he said you couldn't get anyplace in that kind of work unless you had a private fortune. So he discouraged me and I decided on other things then. Going from one idea to another.

 

Q. Tell us something about how Faith Church began to really take shape?

 

A. Well, when I came here first in May of 1951 they told me that they had in mind having about a thousand members by the time I got here in the fall. Actually, they only had about three hundred and ninety‑four, but the church seemed to attract ‑‑ even while we were in the theater -‑ it seemed to attract a tremendous group of these younger adults who were having small children and I think they wanted their children to have some religious education. We had to use any kind of school building that was available. One of the first things that we used was a school building of District #163 which was really a housing unit ‑‑ a rental housing unit -– that was along Victory Boulevard which is right across from where Sears is at the present time. It was used for public school during the week and we used it for Sunday school purposes on Sunday morning. We enlarged -‑ we also had to use the Lakewood School which was the first school that was built here. Then as the public schools expanded to Sauk Trail and Dogwood School, we also used these for Sunday school purposes ‑‑ renting from District #163 on Sunday mornings to use those buildings for Sunday school. In fact, in about 1953 already, we had seventeen hundred and fifty children in Sunday school. Largely, in fact over about half of them were only the ages of three to seven ‑‑ I think we had two hundred three‑year‑olds, two hundred four‑year‑olds, two hundred five‑year‑olds, two hundred six‑year‑olds, and about two

 


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hundred seven‑year‑olds. That was the parents' age, you see, was low and so they all had these small children. And I think that this had quite an influence on these younger people wanting a church. And, because it was a church of their own idea, because it was a new experiment, they took a very active interest in it as long as they were in Park Forest. Our problem, of course, was the tremendous turnover of the community. In fact, the board of directors of our church had twenty‑one members and in the first nine months that I was here we had to replace eleven of those twenty‑one because the others had moved out of the community.

 

Q. Were you acquainted with Philip Klutznick?

 

A. Yes. It was one of the fine experiences because when I was teaching at the University of Cincinnati I had a lot of contact with the Rabbinical School, which is in Cincinnati. Many of the students from there would take my sociology courses at the University and the professors and the president were good friends of mine. When they knew I was coming to Park Forest they said, "We want to make you acquainted with Philip Klutznick," who was chairman of the board of the Community Builders ‑‑ American Community Builders ‑‑ who built Park Forest, because they said, "We admire him and feel that he is one of the finest Jews in the world today," and so I had a very close introduction to Phil Klutznick right from the very start of my coming into this particular community, and I valued the relationship that I had with him because I regard him as a very intelligent, very capable person, probably the best cabinet member that the President has at the present time.

 

Q. Did he have a plan for churches in the community? Or did that grow out of something else?

 


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A. It is a very interesting thing. Phil Klutznick told me that he went -‑ ­of course he started planning this community I think about as early as 1946, 1947, right after the Second World War. He had had the background in this field because he was housing administrator after Wilson Wyatt under Roosevelt. And that's where he acquired the experience that stood him in good stead when he built this community. When he wanted to plan the churching of the community, he said he went into the Council of Churches of Chicago, and he said, "I know what to do with Jews, I know what to do with Catholics, but in heaven's name tell me what you can do with two hundred and fifty‑seven varieties of Protestants when you are planning a new community and you know you don't dare leave two hundred and fifty‑seven lots vacant for every church group that might want to come on some time in the future." So the Council of Churches of Chicago said they would help. And they called the denominational leaders together ‑‑ nine different denominational leaders originally met together and it was decided to put a chaplain out in the community. Hugo Leinberger was the first chaplain in this community. He was never to be a minister of any of the churches, but he was to call on the people as they came in and determine what kind of church preference they had. And as he called on the people ‑‑ they gave their particular background ‑‑ nine out of ten of them were GI's. More than nine out of ten of them had gone to college and they said in the colleges they went to the churches where their friends went or where they wanted to hear a particular minister, where they wanted to sing in a choir. They often ignored denominational lines. They said the same thing happened when they were in the service. They had chaplains and

 


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they didn't care whether they were Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian or what have you; they all went together. So they were an unusual group in the sense that they were not strongly denominationally‑minded even though all of them had come out of certain denominations. They preferred to have ‑‑ they said that on Sunday morning we think it would be a mistake when we're planning a new community to go in so many different directions on Sunday morning when we're building up a new community. So the idea of interdenominational church really came out of the idea of the people who came here and came out of those two experiences that they had ‑‑ their college experience and their college and university experience (rather) their GI experience and their college and university experience.

 

Q. So they did, indeed, have someone to minister to them before you got here.

 

A. Well, they had ‑‑ the chaplain was here. The chaplain did have some services for them. There was a Catholic church, which is now the St. Irenaeus Church. It was along Sauk Trail ‑‑ had a little building there when I first came ‑‑ and that was the nucleus for the Catholic church. There were no Jewish synagogues nearby at all, but two synagogues were organized later on. The Protestant contingent, though, which eventuated in the four United Protestant churches really grew out of the chaplaincy of Hugo Leinberger. Then we continued, even after I came, Hugo Leinberger still the chaplain. He did serve as a sort of minister of Christian education assisting me in the organization of the church and then after he left a year later we had other chaplains. We had about four of five more until that idea was dropped.

 


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Q. Can you draw some relation between the Faith Church of that time and the Faith Church of today? I know it's still a very large, viable institution. In fact, I believe it is the largest of the United Protestant churches in Park Forest.

 

A. Yes. Faith Church of today, of course, is stronger than all three other United Protestant churches put together. It has a staff of about five ministers where the others just have one. The four United Protestant churches together do employ a minister ‑‑ a youth minister, like they used to employ a chaplain together; but in that union, Faith Church carried sixty percent of the cost  and the other three churches together carried just forty percent; and the same pertains to the youth minister -‑ ­Faith Church carries sixty percent of the cost and the other three together carry forty percent. But budget‑wise, membership‑wise the Faith Church itself, which is the downtown church, is stronger than the other three put together.

 

Q. Why is that?

 

A. Well, I don't know exactly. I think probably it had the original impetus. It had probably a stronger ministry. I know in the early days, as we organized the second, third, and fourth churches, we did tell the sponsoring denominations that they had to put their strongest ministers in or they wouldn't go and probably that may not have happened; I don't know whether that was the thing. Actually, the other three were organized within three, four years after the first church. But the first church continued strong all these years. I stayed with it for twenty‑five years until January 1, 1976, when I retired at seventy years of age and the church made me a minister emeritus.

 

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Q. There are many people in Park Forest who believe that you and your wife, of course, are the main people who are responsible for the phenomenal institution that Faith Church is.

 

A. Well, I'm very happy you said my wife, because I would say very frankly that if it had not been for her, we could not have built this strong church that we did. I think the problem ‑‑ there's this to it -‑ that we threw our lives completely into the church. We had just one daughter. She was already a teenager when we came and had her interests and so forth, and our interest was probably totally centered in the creation of the church. She [Mrs. Engelmann] had the strong religious background. In fact, she worked in the field of religious education even in the twenties, before we were married and before I met her. She had worked with the very famous Christian education woman, Blanche Carrier, and so she had the background and she did largely the personal work. We always had the feeling that she was better occupied if she didn't do any one specific thing, but she would see that everything else was going as well as possible and she was very effective in enlisting personnel on the telephone and getting people involved in various organizations of the church.

 

Q. I notice at that time you made home visits almost daily. Is that right?

 

 A. Yes. We did. In fact, in the early days I can remember days when we made nine to twelve visits a day on people, with this tremendous transiency of people. Just for example, one particular figure: for some fifteen, eighteen years, when I kept track of the transiency figure in the rental units, which are now of course the cooperative and also

 


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condominium units, the turnover varied from thirty, as high as forty percent within a single year. Now, that did not mean that all those people moved out of Park Forest. Many of them bought homes here; moved out of rentals and then moved into a home. Later on, they might move into a larger home. In fact, I know some families that had‑four or five different residences in Park Forest, going from one place to another. But there was a tremendous amount of transiency in and out of the church, which is figured by the fact that we took in eleven thousand members in twenty‑five years and never had over two thousand in the church at any one time.

 

Q. Were some of the village officers, that is, trustees and what not, members of Faith Church?

 

 

A. Oh, yes. Like one of the prominent village managers was a member of the church and his wife ‑‑ and very active. The school superintendent, Jim Warren, superintendent of Rich High, and his family are    members of the church at the present time. Actually, the church always was able to attract people of very high caliber. Of course, Park Forest was a village of very high‑caliber people all through the years. In fact, even in the early days, I can remember, we always had from ninety to one hundred PhD's in the church, which would probably scare some ministers, but it never frightened me too much (laughter) because I had had plenty of contact before I came here with this kind of person, in academic circles.

 

Q. Well you had a PhD of your own, too, didn't you?

 

A. No. I don't have a PhD.

 

Q. Oh, I beg your pardon.

 


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A. I have a Doctor of Divinity and then I have a couple of masters degrees and another divinity degree. I have four degrees all together, three graduate degrees and one undergraduate.

 

Q. Well, how does Park Forest look to you today, from that perspective? Let me clarify it a little bit. Do we have that same quality of people?

 

A. I think Park Forest has become a little more normal a community. I remember when Whyte, who wrote The Organization Man, was here. He and I had lunch one noon with several well‑known national sociologists and they tried to say that Park Forest would become the typical suburban community. Well, we argued very strongly against that idea, because the typical suburban community is where people are living in a large city and then they move out to the suburbs. Now, we had eleven to twelve thousand people in Park Forest before I recall the first family moving out of Chicago into Park Forest. The typical Park Forest family was a young family who came out of, let's say, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, a Midwest family. These young people had gone to high school in their own communities. They were bright young people and they went to college and then they were picked up by the war for awhile, but then they finished their college or their graduate work and then they were selected by a corporation and then shipped into Chicago. So the first families were not the typical suburban families that you find in a suburban community who have moved out from a central city into the suburbs.

 

Now, that first family, for example‑‑we used to have a meeting of all the newcomers once a month. It was held up in the first building that we built, on the second floor in the largest room‑‑we had in that building.

 


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And I can remember when this first family from Chicago were there. Each one had to get up and say where they were from. One man said his family was from California and another from Florida, another from Maine, and another had just come out of the service and another had come from here, one had come from Europe, and all at once this man got up and said, "We moved out from Chicago." And that brought the house down, because nobody from Chicago was out here. His was the first family. Seriously enough, two years ago, when my wife and I were out in Tucson in the winter, we were going through some mobile homes and we ran into this very family. They had left this community about fifteen years ago and we ran into them out in Tucson.

 

Q. They left to retire?

 

A. Yes. They left to retire. He took a rather early retirement. In fact, I think he regretted it, because he found out that eventually with this inflationary period that he was having a tougher time, having taken a rather early retirement.

 

Q. Why did people begin leaving Park Forest?

 

A. They would never leave because just that they wanted to. Now, of course, some people leave because of retirement, quite a few. I think the greatest number now probably are leaving because of retirement. But they were leaving, these young people were leaving, because they were upwardly mobile. And the corporation was going to move them to New York or to New Jersey or to Houston, Texas, Dallas, or someplace out on the coast. This is why: they were the caliber of people who were going to be moved; in fact, quite often, some of them would say to me, "I don't know what's the matter with me. I'm not being moved. I evidently am

 


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not being promoted." And the movement often meant promotion, even though they sometimes were sorry to go. Many of these people still contact us at Christmas time and so forth; we hear from them.

 

Q. Well, that leads us to William Whyte, I think. Because this is a description, in a sense, of The Organization Man that he talked about.

 

A. Yes.

 

Q. Tell me about your relationship with William Whyte.

 

A. Well, Whyte came here in January, February, March of 1953, that's the first he came, he and Selma Wolfe, who was his research editor. At this time he was an editor of Fortune magazine. And he was studying a group of people that he called "the transients." He really was studying them in four communities: one was Levittown, another was Garden City -‑ I think that was near Philadelphia ‑‑ no, that was out in California, and then there was another community near Philadelphia, and then Park Forest. But he kept coming back to Park Forest more and more. And I kidded him one day. I said, "What brings you back to Park Forest all the time? I thought you were studying four communities." He said, "Well, when you find what you're looking for in a test tube, like Park Forest, why run all over the country?" If, for example, you're acquainted with the book The Organization Man, you read the final four chapters, you will find that those final four chapters are the four magazine articles that were in Fortune magazine in 1953, 1 think‑‑April, may, June and July‑‑in those four months they appeared. And actually he uses all throughout there the term "transients." It was after he used the term "transients" and was studying this particular "breed of cats," we'd say, that he found here

 


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in Park Forest, that he came up with the idea, I think, of the "organization man." And the first part of the book ‑‑ I got to read most of the book in manuscript ‑‑ the first part of the book was really the conclusions that he drew from his studies and then he added on the final four chapters. In fact, possibly my strongest disagreement with him came at this point, because in those final [chapters] he says, "Now what does the organization man do when he moves to a village where he is" ‑‑ and I think that I'm quoting him fairly exactly ‑‑ where, he says, "he is the trustee of the village and the elder of the church?" He said, "Why then, he builds this organization like the organization of which he is a part." And I insisted that that was exactly what he did not do. That the man who worked for Life, Time, Fortune, and so forth, while he had to follow the party line in everything that he wrote all day long, when he came home to the village he could really let loose all the frustrations that he felt when he was confined by the ideas of the organization, and that it was in this community that he expressed his individualism. In fact, I told him, I said, "I wish my board of directors of the church once in awhile would act like organization men." When we bring up a new question, we have too many different opinions, where I'm sure they don't dare express that many different opinions in the organizations of which they are a part, that a community like this gives a lot of freedom.

 

In fact, I think probably, sometimes, it is somewhat of a handicap here that in the beginning we had so many different opinions. I remember one incident in the early days when we had a newspaper, which is now extinct, but it was a newspaper which was given to local news. And they

 


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asked me to judge a certain contest they were having ‑‑ I had just been here several months. After I had judged the contest they said, "What do you think of the paper that we have?" And I said, "You really want my opinion?" They said, "Yes." I said, "Well, you sound like I did twenty‑five years ago when I was editor of the college paper. Only at the time, everything that was wrong was wrong with the President of the college and here it's everything is wrong with Phil Klutznick." I said, "The only thing that bothers me is that Phil Klutznick, according to your paper, is wrong all the time and yet I find him very successful in doing what he is doing." (laughter)

 

Q. Phil Klutznick lived here in the community during the time it developed, did he not?

 

A. Yes. Actually, when I came here, Phil Klutznick lived in a rental unit, a double rental unit, which was up on Western Avenue and 26th [Street], right by those high tension wires on the east side of Western Avenue. And he had ‑‑ because he had a family of five children ‑‑ he put the two units together, broke the wall between the two units and he used that first, until he built a very large house for himself down on Monee Road. And as long as he was connected with the American Community Builders, he was here. But then, of course, he sold out his interest here and went on to build other like‑minded communities like Oak Brook and River Oaks and, of course, there was Old Orchard up there, and then finally the Tower.

 

Q. You are mentioned often in Whyte's book and with some prominence, because he felt that you. played an important part here. I get that

 


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feeling, that he felt that. If he were going to rewrite that book, or to add on to it, after these number of years, what do you think the perspective would be? From yours and his together?

 

A. Well, I think that Whyte ‑‑ in fact, he was back for the twenty‑fifth anniversary and he spent quite a few hours with my wife and I, in discussing old times ‑‑ I think he would recognize that there have been some changes; that, in a sense, Park Forest is somewhat a more normal suburban community than it was in those days, because the age distribution has changed. See, the average age of the adult in the early days was twenty‑eight or twenty‑nine. My wife and I, at that time, were fifteen, sixteen years above the average age; very few people who were older than we were in the community and we were forty‑five when we first came here. Now, today, you'd find many people of our age here now. But we're getting a tremendous influx, I noticed recently, of young people who are maybe a great deal like the young people who came here the first time, that it's sort of a cycle; a new cycle has started of younger people. There were quite a few people; parents often would visit their children here and like the community and they would move here and they've retired here. So in that sense, we do have more of a cross‑section of population. For example, the school population in the grades like [District] #163, which is the larger district here, I'm sure is less than half of what it was at one particular time. At one time it was well over five thousand and I'm sure that it doesn't go more than about twenty‑five hundred, which creates quite a problem, because they had to build schools in the terms of that larger number, and then that larger number moved on into high school and the bulk of it now is high

 


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school age. And so the bigger home, too, is more in demand than the smaller home.  The smaller home was purchased by the persons who just were out of the rental community.  These smaller homes, again, are being purchased by young people who come out here today, move in for the first time, and they come into the smaller home, and they come into the condominium or they come into the co‑ops. They find the co‑ops are very desirable, because the people themselves are controlling this situation and they can create just about what they want.

 

Q. You lived in the rental units for many years, didn't you?

 

A. Yes, my wife and I lived in a rental unit for twenty three and a half years. We lived there by choice, actually; I felt that we had so much to do in building a church building‑‑we had a very large plant that needed to be built‑‑that I'd just as soon live in a rental unit. Today I'm very glad we're living in a very small home where we have things the way we want them, but at that time, we felt no need of a home for ourselves.

 

Q. Well it is customary, usually, for the church to provide a home for the minister, isn't that right?

 

A. Yes. Quite often. Yes. And the other churches, which were in the home area, did immediately provide homes. I always felt that was an added expense to them and that it was a little more reasonable for me to stay in a rental and concentrate on getting the church building built, but as we faced retirement people urged us to get into a home, and by that time we were ready to.

 

Q. What were the rental units like at that time, when you lived there?

 


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A. Well, there was a very close relationship on the part of the people who lived in those rental units. It was almost ‑‑ there wasn't a keeping up with the Joneses ‑there was a sort of keeping down with the Joneses. If you got something new, you sort of apologized to your neighbors; you didn't want your neighbors to think you were trying to outdo them. I've always had a penchant for new cars. My wife says that I rationalize this, and after a year or two I feel the need for another car, because . . . and then I would say I needed new tires, new battery, and so forth . . . it was really cheaper for me to get a new car. Then I would find myself apologizing to my neighbors and saying that the reason I did it was I thought it was more economical to do it. I didn't want them to think that I was trying to outdo them in any way. And the people who lived there, they thought nothing of exchanging children's clothes, or giving something that you had that somebody else needed, give it to somebody else who lived in the court. There was a very close relationship of the people who were in the courts in those days. And, in fact, you formed friendships; we still have friendships with people who lived in the court where we did, who weren't even members of our church ‑‑ maybe Jewish or Catholic ‑‑ had a close relationship with all these people. It formed a very ‑‑ it was a back‑door relationship. It was a back‑door relationship. This is one of the things that Whyte discovered when he made a study of the homes as they were growing, that the home situation, the small streets, was a front‑door relationship. You got, to know the people who were on the other side of your driveway and you got to know the two families across the street. That was a kind of different

 


Dr. Gerson Engelmann                                                  22

 

relationship, or the street had a little relationship together, while in the courts the relationship was a back‑door. Everybody's back door was close to everybody else's. Some of the courts even found that they had to make certain rules and regulations to keep people from running in and out too much, so if you wanted company, you'd put your curtains up. If you wanted to be alone, you put your curtains down. And people would respect your privacy then, in the courts, of course. A lot of interesting things like that.

 

Q. There were many children in the courts in those days weren't there?

 

A. Yes. The courts were just loaded with small children. We came here in November when it was cold and it was already snowing on the ground and so forth, and I can remember the first warm days ‑‑ the children swarmed out of the homes like bees out of the hive. You didn't know there were that many children all about you in those days.

 

Q. Have many of those children grown up and stayed in the church?

 

A. Yes. Curiously enough, we have quite a few now who have gone away to college and have come back and have settled in the community. Many of our school teachers in the community are people that we knew when they were very small children. Not so long ago I had a baptism of a young doctor's son; he's going to put two years' residency in at Harvard now. He's already a doctor and he's going to have a two‑year residency, and I was asked to baptize his child before he left, just about a month ago. And at the baptism his mother told me, "You baptized Jack when you were only here two months and you baptized him in the Holiday Theatre." In fact, in the Holiday Theatre, one Sunday morning, I baptized twenty‑nine children in one service. We had a whole row of children to be baptized across the whole front of the Holiday Theatre.

 


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Q. Times have definitely changed, haven't they?

 

A. That was quite an interesting experience, in fact, because as we would leave the church, our ushers would have to take down the cross and they would have to take down the electric organ that we had up in front and the pulpit that I used and the chair where I sat. They would have to take all that down and, as the children went out of the church, they were already getting ready for the theater and you'd hear the children say, "Mommy, I want some popcorn." (laughs)

 

Q. Right after church this was, right?

 

A. Right after church., (laughs) see?

 

Q. The Holiday Theatre was used for a number of things. I mean, organizational meetings for the community as well, wasn't it?

 

A. Not too much. Some. The oldest Klutznick boy, Tommy Klutznick, who now is president of that company, had his bar mitzvah in the Holiday Theatre on a Saturday morning, his bar mitzvah. And Phil Klutznick, several weeks before, called me up and asked if our building ‑‑ this was in April of 1952 ‑‑ asked if our building would be completed. He was looking for a place where he could have a luncheon for the hundred and fifty guests that he had invited out here. He said he could get a caterer, but there was no restaurant in which he could feed a hundred and fifty people.

 

Q. The Christian education building?

 

A. The Christian education building, the building along Leims [Road]. And I said, "Yes, it has to be" ‑‑ I think it was April 17 of 1952 -‑ because I said, "I think the next day on the eighteenth or nineteenth, on a Sunday, we're dedicating that building in the afternoon." So I

 


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said, "It has to be completed." And the first thing that occurred in our Christian education building along Leims there was the bar mitzvah luncheon of the oldest Klutznick boy.

 

Q. Quite a rich heritage.

 

A. Yes. It was. It was very, very interesting. It was those things that made this a very fine, very interesting community.

 

Q. Does that spirit of working together and crossing these lines that in the past were pretty well observed, does that spirit still seem to exist?

 

A. Yes. I think so. I think so. I think if there's a little diminution of it, it would only be because of the physical situation. See, the physical situation, it forced the situation, see. If the Jews wanted to organize a congregation, where else could they do it except in our building? It was the only building that was available. At the time when Klutznick wanted his bar mitzvah luncheon for his guests, there was no place else he could hold the luncheon. There wasn't any other restaurant or anything nearby, but here was a building that was just being completed, that had several big rooms in it, and if he had a caterer, why, he could bring the food in. So you had things like that that happened because of the kind of situation. And the same thing ‑like the women's clubs or groups like that, who wanted a place to meet. They still use Faith Church, which has a tremendously big basement; they use it for large banquets; you can seat five, six hundred people or something like that. So the situation itself brings this kind of thing about.

 

Q. Is there cooperation among denominations, different churches in Park Forest?

 


Dr. Gerson Engelmann                                                  25

 

A. Yes. The four United Protestant churches, of course, function together through what they call the Council of Cooperating Denominations, and then there is a Council of Churches and Synagogues which also includes the priests and rabbis and all the Protestant ministers of the community.

 

I attended a seder a couple of years ago. It was really organized just before the Passover season for Christians. And I thought that was quite remarkable, because having lived in the city, that would probably not occur in large cities.

 

A. Not as easily -‑ in the large city, no. No. I remember those kind of instances, too.

 

Q. The idea was to teach and to help people understand.

 

A. Yes. Understand what the others do.

 

Q. Yes. I thought that was rather . . .

 

A. . . . what the other religious groups do.

 

Q. Do you see William Whyte today? Or talk to him, or communicate with him?

 

A. No. I haven't very often. In the early days, once in awhile when I was back after he did the interviewing here, when I'd be in New York I would look him up. But the last that I have seen him was when he came for the twenty‑fifth anniversary and then as I said, he spent almost a day with my wife and I.

 

Q. When you mentioned studying with Margaret Sanger you mentioned that marriage counseling was a very new field at that time. Now, of course, it's a very important field, it seems. Why didn't you concentrate more on that, or study it more?

 


Dr. Gerson Engelmann                                                   26

 

A. Well, this was the summer of 1927, just when I was out of college. I had already taught, of course, one year of public speaking at Heidelberg College at Tiffin, Ohio. But I went here with the idea that probably I would go into this field of marriage counseling, but because it was such a new field I thought that probably that was a rather risky thing, that it might be better for me to go into college teaching. So I came to the University of Chicago and started my education there in the fields of sociology and psychology and took graduate degrees in those fields. But then while I was there I eventually decided that I did want to go into the ministry and then I went and, finished there.  I suppose all the time that I was sort of running away from something that I really wanted to do; that I really wanted to be a minister. I had some contact with, of course, probably the most famous minister in America, who was Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick. His father was my high school principal in the early twenties. Before I went to college, after the First World War, and in the early twenties, Harry Emerson Fosdick's father was the principal of the biggest high school in Buffalo, New York, where we lived at that time, where my father had a church. And he [Harry Emerson Fosdick] would come once or twice a year and speak to the high school group and Fosdick, the principal, who knew me quite well even though it was a big high school, would see that I would have an interview with his son. His son was already a very famous minister in New York. And I think Harry Emerson Fosdick had quite a bit of influence on me and in the back of my mind I probably had the idea of going into the ministry, even though I was rebelling against my father at that particular time and that's why when I went to college I said,

 


Dr. Gerson Engelmann                                                   27

 

"You get this straight! the last thing in the world I'll ever be is a minister." And that's why I went in so many different areas, like in public speaking and then thinking of counseling, and then coming to the University of Chicago doing graduate work in sociology and psychology, intending to teach in those fields in college. But probably the influence of the church and especially the influence of a very fine person, like Harry Emerson Fosdick and his father, was having an influence on me all the time in that I saw the ministry in a different way than I thought I saw it as far as my father was concerned.

 

Q. But as it turned out, you did do counseling, didn't you?

 

A. Yes. In fact. Yes. I did it very heavily, especially here. In fact, that was one of the reasons they said they called me, because these were young married couples who needed the kind of background that I had had in my university teaching.

 

You see, at Cincinnati I taught courses for counseling. At one time I had a hundred would‑be counselors in my class, a graduate class at night. This was thirty‑five years ago, when counselors could get into the business with only a bachelor's degree, but they had to keep on studying to get their master's degree if they wanted to retain their jobs‑‑in five, six years, they had to get their master's degree. So I had one hundred people in this class several times who were working for a master's degree and who were the probate people and the social service people in the various agencies of Cincinnati. So I had a lot of contact with that field. I had contact already, while I was teaching there, in 1937; I had contact with AA groups ‑‑ Alcoholics Anonymous ‑- groups, and I did a lot of counseling of alcoholics in Park Forest. Probably

 


Dr. Gerson Enqelmann                                                  28

 

seeing as many as a hundred different ones every year, the twenty‑five years that I was here. And I still see certain people who have problems like that, though, I try to avoid doing too much. I try to remember that I'm retired. (laughter)

 

A.  Well, were you counseling as much in your later years in the church as you were in the beginning?

 

A. Yes. In the later years, in fact, I was doing probably more than in the beginning. Though in the beginning, it came right away because of the age of the people. They didn't have their uncles and aunts, their parents, their grandparents around, and because we were somewhat older they would come and bring their problems to us, you see. And there were not‑‑ very few ‑‑ psychiatrists anyplace near, or very few psychologists.  There weren't people who were trained in these particular fields in those early days of Park Forest. And then later on, as I had a larger staff, my assistant ministers would carry on the program of the church; I would do the preaching on Sunday morning and the counseling, practically confining myself to those two areas. In fact, the preaching was so important that I felt that I had to go out of town every weekend. On Sunday afternoon I would go to some nearby city where they would have a very adequate library and stay in a hotel like one or two nights and study in the library. I suppose in the last fifteen, twenty years I did most of my sermons in Milwaukee.

 

Q. So in order to get anything done, really, as far as your obligation to the pulpit on Sunday morning, it was necessary to actually leave the town?

 


Dr. Gerson Engelmann                                                  29

 

A. Leave the community. Because I always felt that I should put at least twenty‑five to thirty hours; in fact, my objection to my own profession is that I don't think ministers put enough time in on sermons, and yet that is the one thing by which they're judged every Sunday by their congregation.   And I had a public speaking approach to it; I would write ‑‑ mine were completely written and printed ‑‑ but I would use no notes in the pulpit. And because I had a facile, almost photographic, type of memory I could get by and not use any notes in the pulpit, and I thought that made a much more effective presentation. But I believed in very, very thorough preparation. I never believed in putting in less than twenty‑five hours.

 

Q. Was it difficult to organize your time at that point?

 

A. Well, it wasn't so hard if I could just leave town. Then I couldn't be contacted. Then the secretaries at the church office would say, "Well, there's two other ministers here. Or Doctor Engelmann will be back on Tuesday afternoon and we can make an appointment for you from there, between Tuesday afternoon and Sunday morning." So I would have forty‑five to fifty people to see between Tuesday morning ‑‑ and then, of course, I had the ability to stay up late. In those days I never went to bed before three o'clock and didn't have to sleep more than until about eight o'clock or a quarter to eight, and then go to the office. And you can get quite a bit done then . . .

 

Q. Yes. Did you have any time to yourself?

 

A. . . . if you have that much time. On vacations, on holidays. Actually, we would take a month in the summer‑‑August. We would usually go to Europe. We've gone to Europe about twenty‑five times, at least, I

 


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think. Before that time we went a lot to Mexico. In fact, we probably made a Spanish teacher out of our daughter by starting in Mexico when she was only eight years of age and she became very proficient in the Spanish language.

 

Q. Well, I know your daughter is teaching Spanish literature.

 

A. She's teaching Spanish at Indiana University and she's writing her doctoral thesis now; it's almost completed.

 

Q. And she is, of course, a product of Rich school. She was one of the first graduates, wasn't she?

 

A. In 1957. That was the second year. The first year was 1956, graduating. And she was in the second class in 1957. She was valedictorian and then she went to Radcliffe and got a very nice scholarship there.

 

Q. I take it you were pleased then, with Rich schools? Or was this just her ability?

 

A. No, I think that we have always had good schools in the community, I think largely because of the kind of people that we've had in the community, and they attract strong teachers and in our grade schools a lot of the young people who graduated from our schools went away to college, are now coming back as teachers. So we've had good schools; we've had good teachers in the community.

 

Q. Rumor has it that a person with political aspirations in this community who happens to belong to Faith Church has a far greater chance of achieving those aspirations because of his membership at Faith Church. Are you aware of that, and if so, could you comment on it?

 


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A. Well, I would say that probably the person that joins Faith Church is getting acquainted with a larger segment of the community than any other group that he could possibly join, because we happen to be the largest, and probably the most active church. Actually, we have not had too many people who are trustees of the village. In fact, there have been more Jewish trustees, I'm sure, than there have been non‑Jewish trustees in this particular village. I think that's largely because the people here are very open‑minded and they don't care what particular religious background a person has. I think the same thing holds true for other minority groups. It happens: that, say, the black people represent maybe eight to ten percent of the community and yet there are two Black trustees out of seven in the village. Both of those happen to belong to Faith Church, but of the seven trustees, they are the only two who do belong to Faith Church. I don't think we've had a disproportionate share of them. If anybody would, the synagogues could claim to have a disproportionate share of the trustees, not our Protestant church at all.

 

Q. I think I heard this in connection, really, with influencing village politics, that if you had some program or something that you were promoting, that if you were a member of Faith Church and could work through that group, your program was a shoo‑in.

 

A. I think it probably would be more due to the fact that Faith Church has always been the most active church, and it has attracted, probably, people who want a very active program in church, rather than for any other reason. I myself, for example, have been the kind of a person who has felt that the church should be active in the community through its

 


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members and not through the influence that it has on people, rather than try to take any public position. I do not like to see specific organizations get mixed up in a particular political idea. I think this has the tendency to create what is called today so much one‑issue politics. People often, who are members of one or another religious group, or one or another particular organization, might be inclined to go for one particular issue. I would rather have a person in the political situation who is a very broad‑minded person, who judges each issue as an individual issue and not as an issue that relates to his particular type of parochial thinking.

 

Q. How can new communities that are starting now achieve what Park Forest has apparently achieved in becoming a success?

 

A. I think it's rather a difficult proposition. I think in a sense Park Forest came at a particular time when the situation was ripe for what happened in Park Forest. I think a good illustration is the contrast between Park Forest and Park Forest South. Park Forest was created right after the Second World War when there was a large group of young, capable people who had both army experience, G.I. experience, and college experience, and when they were sent to Chicago, which of course has a representative group of industries, almost every great industry in the country is represented here, and these type of industries are the ones that go to colleges and pick out their future junior and senior executives from the graduating classes. I think Park Forest came along just at that one particular time that this was bound to happen. Park Forest South, which came some years later, came at a time when there was a downward trend in housing and so forth and so it didn't have

 


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the favorable situation that Park Forest did. I've sometimes said that people have commented about the tremendous church that I was able to create here. I commented, "Well, often the growth of the church is more due to the real estate dealer than it is to what the church itself does." I think you have to have the right kind of a church for a community, but I do think that the whole situation here was right for what happened. And whether or not it happens again may be very questionable.

 

Q. Thank you.

 

(end of interview with Dr. Engelmann.)