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†† J. RON McLEOD
Interviewed by Magne B. Olson and Jane Nicoll on
October 26, 2000 and November 1, 2000
Park Forest Historical Society
MBO:†††† Today is Thursday, October 26th, 2000.† Weíre here conducting and participating in an interview with J. Ron McLeod of Park Forest.† Iím Magne Olson.† Also present is Jane Nicoll from the Park Forest Public Library.† Now, Ron - good morning to you.
JRM: Good morning.
MBO: Why donít we begin at the beginning?
JRM:†††† Thatís a good place.
MBO: Itís a sensible thing to do.† Youíre Canadian, from the beginning, right?
JRM:†††† Well, I guess if you go back far enough, I was a Scotchman, way back when.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Page 2
MBO:†††† Thatís right.
JRM: My great-grandfather came out from the Isle of Skye, settled in Harrison in Ontario, Canada and my grandfather was born there and my father was one of ten children.† When each one of the boys became twenty-one, they were given a hundred dollars and sent out to western Canada to homestead.† They settled in a small town called Alterio, Alberta.† At that one point, about the turn of the century, everybody living there was either a McLeod or married to a McLeod.† I was born in a two-bedroom hospital in Kerrobert, Saskatchewan, on the June the 8th, 1921.† And my family moved to Winnipeg in 1922.
MBO:†††† Okay.† So, you grew up mostly, then, in Winnipeg and went to school there and so on.
JRM: That is correct.† And I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force there in February of 1941.
MBO: That was after the war had started in Europe, before the United States was in it, of course.
JRM:†††† Thatís it, exactly.
MBO: But, Canada, because of itís connection to Britain, was involved already?††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Page 3
JRM:†††† Britain declared war on Hitler one day and the next day Canada declared war on Hitler.
MBO: How old were you when you entered . . . when you entered the RCAF?
MBO: You were eighteen.† And what were your expectations?† What did you expect to do or . . . ?
JRM:†††† Well, let me summarize my Royal Canadian Air Force experience pretty promptly.† There were twenty-two of us in the Daniel McIntyre High School football team in 1938.† All twenty-two enlisted.
MBO: Oh, my!
JRM:†††† Eleven of them never came back.† So, theyíre the real heroes.† I simply did my duty.† I was not a hero.† I donít intend to discuss my service, other than to say that I will always remember those good friends . . .
MBO: Of course.
JRM: . . . who did their duty.
MBO: My!† But, you spent a good part, if not all, of your military life, then, in Europe?††††††††††† Page 4†††
JRM: I spent one year in Yorktown, Saskatchewan, helping to build an airport there out of a wheat field and spent four and a half years in the European theater.
MBO: Um hum.† And returning home, then.† And when the war ended, in Ď45?
JRM: I returned home . . . no, I didnít return home until August of 1946.† One of the reasons being, although I had enough credit, I had married in Europe and I was waiting for my wife to get moved up in the priority list so she could come home with me at about the same time.
MBO:†††† Yeah, that was a real . . . a number of confusing circumstances.
MBO: . . . right after the war.
MBO:†††† Yeah, you have some interesting memories, then, to reflect on.
MBO: You were married in England, then?
JRM: Yes, we were married in Ealing Broadway, which is a suburb of London.† And we moved to Toronto, Canada, after the war, in 1946, and lived there until 1950.† I wanted to work for Trans Canada Airlines and I was transferred down here in 1950.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Page 5
MBO: Was there a problem in Toronto with veteransí housing or that sort of thing . . .
JRM: Oh, absolutely.
MBO: . . . as we experienced in the United States?
JRM: We lived in two rooms in a house - I wouldnít even call it an apartment - just two rooms in a house.† We had a terrible, terrible time getting any place to live.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† All veterans suddenly were back.
MBO: And were you flying with Trans Canada then, or . . . ?
JRM: No, I was working at Malton Airport.† And it was kind of interesting, they had about eight flights a day and we would check the people in.† And now itís one of the busiest airports.
MBO: Oh, the Toronto Airport, yeah.
JRM:†††† Sure.† Of course.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: But, the good thing about working for the airline was they provided passes, so my wife could get home to visit her family back in England.
MBO: Oh, sure.† Yeah.† Yeah.†††††††††††††††††††† Page 6
JRM: You had to wait on a stand-by basis.† But, nevertheless, you got to travel.
MBO: And you . . . youíre about four years or so were spent right in Toronto, then?
JRM:†††† Right at Malton Airport, right.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Why did you become American?† Why did you move to . . . ?
JRM:†††† Well, first of all, I didnít have a choice.† Remember, I got transferred down here by Trans Canada Airlines.
MBO: Oh, that was it.† I see.
JRM: I was transferred down here.
MBO: To the Chicago . . .
MBO: . . . office.
JRM: I became the Office Manager for Trans Canada Airlines in Chicago.
MBO:†††† Where was that located?
JRM:†††† Well, there were two . . . I worked, part of it, but it was kind of a mixed bag.† I worked part of the time at Midway Airport at the old terminal and part of the time down at Monroe and Wabash, where American Airlines had an office.
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† And we had . . . we shared space with them.† So, I spent about two days downtown and about three days at the airport.
MBO: And that was in . . . in 1950 . . . ?
JRM: Ď46, Ď47.† No, pardon me, we didnít get down here until 1950.
MBO: Ď50, yeah.
MBO: And when you moved from Toronto to here for, again, as you say, job reasons . . .
MBO: . . . did you live in Chicago first, or . . . ?
JRM: No, I arrived here in 1946 . . . Ď50, excuse me.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† And you could not find a place to live in Chicago.† We didnít have any family, but we wanted to raise a family well.† Animals were not welcome, but children were definitely not welcome if you were lucky enough to find an apartment.
JRM: So, fortunately, Harry Cooper, who was an early Park Forest resident, was my boss.† He was a district sales manager.
MBO: He lived in Park Forest.
JRM: So, he lived in Park Forest - lived over on Bigelow and was a personal friend of Phil Klutznick.† So, we went to Phil
Klutznick and cried a little bit about my Vera and I being down here and [and having no place to live.]
JRM: And we waited six weeks and we got an apartment at 118A Hemlock Street - a one bedroom apartment there.
MBO:†††† Hemlock, sort of, behind the bank area there?
JRM:†††† Yeah, but beyond Faith Church.
MBO: Yes.† Yes.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† There was no Faith Church, of course, in those days.
MBO: Not yet, no, no, no.
MBO: That was . . . 118A Hemlock?
MBO: And thatís your first Park Forest residence, then.† That was a two-bedroom unit?
JRM: A one-bedroom.† You had to go up the stairs.
MBO: Oh, one of those one-bedroom units.
JRM: One-bedroom apartment.
MBO: Oh, sure.† Yeah.
JRM: That was all we could afford at that time.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Boy, that was a fortunate discovery.
JRM:†††† Right.† And another blessing we had, as I say, been
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striving for some time to raise a family.† And I donít know whether itís the water in Park Forest or not, but we were able to accomplish that mission, which made us very happy.
MBO: How did you get downtown, to your work, then?
JRM:†††† Well, you put rubber boots on and wore them over to the [station]on the bus, to the I.C., to the 211th Street Station.
MBO: You picked up the bus?
JRM: The bus was outside . . . the bus used to run down Hemlock Street.
MBO: Oh, it was right on Hemlock?
JRM: Oh, yes.
MBO: Oh.† Oh.
JRM: It wasnít really too bad.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Took you over to the 211th train station.
JRM: 211th Street, right.
JRM: And it was . . . I was there a year before they put seeding in, so it was pretty muddy the first year.† But, after that, the grass began to grow and it was a little better.
MBO: How long did it take you?† An hour to get - an hour and a half, probably.
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JRM:†††† About an hour and a half.† You had to allow enough time for the bus to get you down there and then you took the train down.† But, it was a whole different attitude.† Everybody was in the same boat.† Two things - we had lots of mud, we didnít have any money, there were lots of children, and some of us had cars and some of us didnít.† I did not have a car.† I lived in Park Forest for a long period of time without any transportation.† We used to have to go over to Chicago Heights to shop on the bus.
MBO:†††† Because the stores werenít available . . .
JRM: The stores were not available . . .
MBO: . . . in the village yet.
JRM: . . . in Ď50.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† And the bus took you over to the old downtown area of the Heights.
JRM:†††† Absolutely, to the Lincoln Theater and that whole complex of Sears and hardware stores, etc.
MBO: The stores are all . . .
JRM: All gone now.
MBO: . . . all gone now, I think, over there.
JRM: All long gone, right.
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MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† And . . . in 1950, then, what . . . how many people lived in Park Forest, then, about?
JRM: Well . . .
MBO: The townhouses were all constructed.
JRM: I would say, and Iím . . . and this is part of my problem, on this whole conversation, I do not . . . Iím not able, necessarily, to swear on a Bible that every date I give you is correct.
MBO: No.† No.† No.
JRM:†††† Because these are things happened fifty and sixty year ago.
MBO:†††† Sure.† Sure.
JRM: I would guess that there were about three thousand people.† Iím guessing.† In Bigelow, the B area was all built up.
JRM: And then, down Hemlock was built.
MBO: And Western Avenue was all built.
JRM: Now . . . yeah, there obviously was nothing but what we now refer to as the rentals, and all of those were complete.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Yeah.† And the . . . there werenít very many, if any, any single family homes yet.
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JRM:†††† There werenít any.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† When you went shopping, then, over to Chicago Heights, did the two of you go to carry back?
JRM:†††† Absolutely.† Absolutely.† It was a Saturday morning exercise.
MBO: Or your wife could go while you were out working or something, too, I suppose.† Because the buses ran all day from here.
JRM: Oh, yes, of course.
MBO: Back and forth.† Yeah.
JRM:†††† People were very dependent upon the bus.
MBO:†††† Yeah, interesting.† But, your . . . the area right around that Hemlock Street townhouse was pretty muddy then?† They hadnít gotten the . . .
MBO: . . . the landscaping done yet.† And that came, maybe, the second year or so?
JRM: The second year that we were there.† But, there was good spirit.† Everyone was friendly.† Saturday night was usually . . . weíd get a keg of beer and everybody would just sit around and talk about all the money they didnít have and how each one of them had won the war.
MBO:†††† Everybody was twenty-five or thirty years old, huh?
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MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: One of the great things about Park Forest, there was no rich side, poor side.† Everybody was the same.† Everybody was literally poor or struggling, with the same ambitions.
MBO: Now, I canít . . . I donít . . . I canít quite remember the location there.† Was it around a court, so thereís a . . .
JRM:†††† Yeah, Hemlock . . . the court where I lived, at 118 Hemlock, by the way, after a period of years, I moved to 116, next door.
MBO: Oh, oh!
JRM: To a larger unit, after we got the children.
MBO: Ah hah!
JRM: So, thatís . . . so, we spent a total of ten years in the two complexes.
MBO: Oh, in Hemlock . . . on Hemlock.
JRM: On Hemlock Street.
MBO: Oh, yeah.
JRM:†††† Hemlock is where the . . . where 118, 116, that was like the entrance to a court.† There was a court just beyond that . . . just further, just a little further in.† So, we would all join together and have a party Saturday night, quite often, just a . . . somebody would cook hot dogs . . .
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JRM: . . . and beer and there was a great spirit of friendship then.
MBO: Was the liquor store in Park Forest yet?
JRM: I think the first thing I can remember was the liquor store . . .
MBO: I think that was the first store.
JRM: . . . and the Bill Knoch service station.
JRM: He had two locations, one near St. Irenaeus Church, another one down near the corner here of Western Avenue.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† And this court that youíre describing, that was sort of a play lot for the children.
JRM:†††† Absolutely.† There was a play lot there for the children in one part of it, sure.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† So, you lived on Hemlock, then, from about Ď50 to Ď60 or so, for ten years.
JRM:†††† Exactly, and then moved.
MBO: And then . . .
JRM:†††† Moved here.
JRM: To 205 Kentucky Street.
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MBO:†††† Yeah, that would have been just recently constructed, and this was a new home, then.
JRM: This was a fairly new home.† We were not the original owner.† The original owner had bought this house, he was an airline pilot, and he got grounded and was moved to Denver to work on the . . . to work for United Airlines out there.† So, we . . . he owned the house for six months.† So, we bought it when it was about six months old.
MBO: Oh!† And was the . . . was Kentucky Street entirely built by that time, or . . . ?
JRM: Yes.† This had been, I think, one of the models, originally.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† See, my wife was working for Park Forest Realty at the time.† So, she kind of got a tip this was going on the market.† And we were able to pick it up.
MBO: How much of the rest of this North Lincolnwood neighborhood or this East Lincolnwood neighborhood was constructed?† Was it pretty well done?† I think . . .
JRM:†††† Well, as I remember, and of course, everything this side of Orchard was pretty well done.† The other side of Orchard was still . . .
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MBO: Was later.
JRM: . . . was still being considered.
JRM:†††† Yeah, right.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† By that time you had a car.
JRM: Oh, yes.† And I was so proud of my car.† I polished it so much, I rubbed the polish right off of it.
MBO: Was that a brand new car? [Chuckles]
JRM: It was a Studebaker, yeah.
MBO: Oh, yeah.† Yeah.† And you didnít drive that to the train station?† Or did you walk or there was a bus that took you?
JRM:†††† Well, we still took the bus to the train station, sure.
MBO: Who . . . you know, you were saying your wife was working at Park Forest Realty.† Was that down in the old plaza? [Park Forest Plaza]
JRM: In the old plaza - Bernie Fried was the manager and she worked for Bernie Fried.† And Peterman - Fred Peterman that still lives here in town, he worked for them, also.
MBO: Oh, did he?† Ah hah!
MBO: That must have been a pretty big office.
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JRM:†††† Well, it was a . . .
MBO:†††† There was a lot of stuff going on by that time.
JRM:†††† Herman Terry was another person that worked there.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Uh huh.† So, in the early Ď60s, then, you are in the Kentucky home, here - in the old Kentucky home or something.† And youíre still working for Trans Canada.
JRM:†††† Well, let me try to give you a quick summary of my job situation.
JRM: I left Trans Canada Airlines to work for Radio Free Europe, which was broadcasting, which was a program, a national program, to raise funds for them.† Why did I leave them?† Well, for two reasons, one, it was about double my salary because the airlines didnít pay any money.† And secondly, it was a rather interesting job.† I left them, I went to work for Multiple Sclerosis, as the Executive Director.† While I was with Multiple Sclerosis, I conducted the first Cook County door to door campaign that they had, which was rather interesting.† Then I moved on to Mental Health Association and did some fund raising for them.† And then I spent five years at Chicago Youth Centers.† That was a wonderful education.† A lot of people talk now about African-American.† My . . . it was very common for me to attend meetings there and be eighty percent African-
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†††† American and twenty percent white.† Which is the real way to really learn about how people are and how they really think or feel.
MBO: What were you doing there?† What was . . . ?
JRM:†††† Raising money.
MBO: That was something you had been going to?
JRM: Now, all of this was raising funds for them.† And you will note that I seem to move around a lot.† A fund raiser generally lasts about three years in a particular job and then they wear out their welcome and move on somewhere else.† There are about three hundred and fifty fund raisers in the City of Chicago, or were.† And I would say that, on the average, they move around about every three years.† Itís just the nature of the job.
MBO: The nature of the business, yeah.
JRM: . . . of our business.† Thatís right.† But, I was fortunate, I wound up at Valparaiso University and spent the last sixteen years of my working career there.
MBO: So, you got over at Valpo in the Ď70s or whenever?
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JRM: And the fortunate thing there, we concluded by going for a fifty million dollar campaign.† We had five years to do it.† We were fortunate enough to do it in two and a half years.
MBO: Oh, my.
JRM: So, I decided it was time to retire.
MBO: How was it that you went over to Valpo?† Was that just a business . . . fortunate circumstance?
JRM: No, thatís an interesting story.† You know, of course, who Lowell Thomas is.† Well, he turned . . . he was a Valparaiso alum in 1909.
MBO: Ah hah!
JRM: And when I was working for Chicago Youth Centers, the Valpo representative for this area called on me.† And I said it was very logical, I said, ďWhy donít you have a fund raising affair for Lowell ThomasĒ?† Well, they thought I had suddenly discovered gold on the street.† They went back home, and the next day offered me a job.† So, one of the first things I did was get the Union League Club and have a fund raising recognition for Lowell Thomas.† We were able to get a fifty thousand dollar scholarship in his name.† So, thatís how . . .
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MBO: It was a nice start.† Yeah, yeah, yeah.† But all this time, before you got to Valpo, you were still commuting downtown and working?
JRM: Oh, oh, yes, all of this time.† And the other nice thing about Valparaiso was that most of my time I had an office here in the home.† And I went into the . . . went into Valpo about two days a week for correspondence and that.† But, the rest of the time I was either out calling on people.† And, of course, I covered ten or twelve states.
MBO: Itís no secret to an awful lot of people in Park Forest that youíre a very successful and accomplished fund raiser, Ron.† Whatís your secret?† What is the secret to success in that line of work?
JRM: Itís funny and the reason that Iím smiling - a few years ago they wrote an article in the Star newspaper, the Star, and asked me the same question.† I canít remember what I . . . I canít remember what I said then, so, if this is a different answer . . .† I think two or three things.† First of all, a fellow named Lowell Thomas, who was with the largest fund raising agency in the United States . . .
MBO: In the country, yeah.
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JRM: . . . was a member of our church.† He used to have an expression, ďSweat the current cards.Ē† Now, what he was meaning is really study what your prospects are and† what you really have.† What is the potential?† Make sure - so often, a church will say, ďWeíve got three hundred pledge cardsĒ.† The truth of the matter, theyíve got two hundred and fifty.† A lot of them were not good.† So, first of all, make sure you know what your base is.† Then, set a challenging but realistic goal.† And then, face to face, ask for the order, is the only successful way to do it.† Thereís no secret, itís just, anybody that tells you they like to raise money is not telling the truth.† Everybody hates to do it.† But, you feel good after youíve done it.
MBO:†††† Nicely put.† Nicely put.† Yeah.
JRM: I donít know if Iíve answered your question.
MBO: You have, indeed.† Yeah.
JRM: But, itís the best I can do.
MBO: Now, we have that article youíre talking about in the Star, too, so . . .
JRM:†††† Okay. [Chuckles]
MBO:†††† Weíll see how it all matches up.
JRM: See if Iíve told the truth.
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MBO:†††† Yeah, and you continued, I know, I think, from talking to you, youíve continued sort of an unofficial part-time relationship with Valpo after retiring?† Or not anymore?
JRM:†††† Well, fortunately, for the last half a dozen years that I worked there, I worked four months in the winter and four months in the summer.† And they still covered a lot of my territory.† It was like, I would go out to Dallas, Texas, put on a dinner there.† The nice thing was, my wife could travel with me because we were doing, kind of entertaining.† So, I did that for a long period, for quite period of time, and then, finally, gave that up.
MBO: Oh.† Now, your family is growing in Park Forest, first on Hemlock and then over on Kentucky.† What was their experience as pioneers in the village?† I mean, the children were starting in new schools, that is to say, schools that had just recently been established.
JRM:†††† Well, I think that another major thing that, of course, happened to me - I lost my first wife.
MBO: Oh, yes.
JRM: I lost her to cancer in 1980, which was very sad.† And I was blessed by Joanne coming on the scene.† And we now have
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†††† seventeen years.† I have two daughters of my own, Janet, who lives here in town.
MBO:†††† Janet, in Richton Park.
JRM:†††† Richton Park.† She is Doug Ulreichís wife.
MBO: Doug Ulreich.
JRM: And he, of course, is, as you know, the Music Director [retired choral director of Rich East High School and choir director of Faith United Protestant Church.]† And then Heather is in Crystal Lake.† Her husband is an attorney.† She has three children.† Mat is in his fourth year at Loyola.† Heís going on to law, I believe.† And she has two children - Julia, who is at Illinois-Wesleyan, and sheís a freshman.† Janet has two children.† Sarah is a senior at Drake and is trying, hoping to get into the medical school.† And Vera is a freshman at Indiana and hoping to go on there.† I also have three step-children.
MBO: So, you have . . .
JRM: I have Michael, Joanneís son and his wife and their two children, our grandchildren, Andrew and Rebecca living over here in South Chicago Heights.
MBO: Oh, near by, too!
JRM: We babysit them a lot a still have that joy.
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MBO: This is . . . so, itís very nice.† You get to not only see your children and step-children, but those children, as well.
MBO: The grandchildren, as well.
JRM: And then I have a step-daughter, Dawn, who is in Cleveland.† She works for NBC there, behind the scenes, running the machinery there.
JRM: She and her husband are childless.† And then Bobby and Jamie live in Hazelcrest.† And they donít have any children.
MBO: The . . . [Chuckles] the nice part about all of this, as I think youíre saying, is that theyíre close enough by.† Theyíre all close enough by so you see a great deal of them.
JRM:†††† Right.† Yeah.
MBO: You travel quite a bit.
JRM:†††† Sure.† And with my own two daughters, I donít think they ever thought of themselves as pioneers.† They thought everybody lived this way.
MBO:†††† Well, thatís . . . [Chuckles]
JRM: You know, they didnít see anything unusual about it.
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MBO: No.† And it was fun for them to grow up and fun for people in the neighborhood.
JRM:†††† Right.† Right.
MBO: And a nice, new place to live.
MBO: Now, then, one of the first things that anyone would ever say about you, Ron, is that you have given an awful lot to this village and this community, through a great variety of volunteer activities.† What got you started in that?† I noticed that you started in something in 1950, when you moved to Park Forest, whether it was Little League or Lions or what was it?
JRM:†††† Well, I guess I had a lot of energy to begin with.† And secondly, a beautiful thing about Park Forest - if you wanted to do something, you could do it.† You didnít have to go and ask permission from certain people or have a whole bunch of money.† If you had an idea and were willing to do it, I think that Park Forest would respond.† And Iíve always believed in public service and volunteering and being helpful.† So, it just was a natural inclination to me.† If I have any danger, itís sometimes getting too involved.
MBO: What led you to do work in Little League?
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JRM:†††† Well, thatís . . .
MBO: That was just for boys and not girls?
JRM: Oh!† In 1951, you would not have thought of girls playing, absolutely not.
MBO: No.† No.† No.† No.
JRM: But, in 1951, we had a baseball diamond where the Clock Tower was.† Thatís where your home plate was.† And where Goldblattís was was center field.† So, we played there.† We were going to put one team in the Chicago Heights League.† We decided weíd have four teams and have our own league, which we did.
MBO: Oh, okay.† So, a league right in the village.
JRM: We played right there.† By the way, Art Hodeís son, whoís retired as a colonel was one of our first players.
MBO: Oh!† Oh!
JRM: And the chairman of Amoco was another person that played with us.
JRM:†††† Larry Fuller.
MBO:†††† Fuller, yeah.
JRM:†††† Larry Fuller.† But, then, the second year, we couldnít play there because they were building Goldblattís.
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MBO: Oh, sure!† Yeah.
JRM: So, I went over and called on Phil Klutznick, whom I knew through the Lionís Club.† And I said, ďPhil, we donít have a place to play baseballĒ.
MBO: He was living on Western Avenue.
JRM:†††† Well, I went to his office, the ACB had an office in the shopping center.
MBO: Oh, yeah.†
JRM: And he said, ďJust a minute,Ē he said, ďIím going to make a phone call.† Wait thirty minutes and make . . . and call the village . . . call the high schoolĒ.† The long and short of it was, we were given the Lionís Field on Orchard there, through Philís generosity.† And a group of volunteers, Jack Dutton, Floyd Brime, Ralph Metcalf and others, we built a baseball field there, and theyíre still using that today.
MBO: On . . .
JRM:†††† Right where the tennis courts are, on the high school and behind there.
MBO:†††† Behind in there, yeah.† Interesting.
JRM: So, for a long . . . for about two years, I used to broadcast the games, you know, announce the players.
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MBO: Oh!† Oh!
JRM: Tom Smith is batting now.
JRM:†††† Something like that.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: But, I was . . . of course, I was doing this for my sons, who were going to play baseball.† And I announced to the world that that was my objective.† But I was shortchanged.† Now, in answer to your other question, it was a long time later, but, they eventually had women, as well.† And now itís changed, they are no longer affiliated with Park Forest Baseball . . . with the Little League Baseball.
MBO:†††† Yeah, now the girlsí teams are softball teams.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† But, they have around five thousand participants, I think.† So, itís kind of a nice start we got.
MBO: What did they . . . there were four teams of boys, then, in Park Forest?
JRM: Four teams in Park Forest.
MBO: Did they have major league baseball nicknames, or were they animal nicknames?
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JRM: Oh, no, they were like the Cubs and the Sox and . . .
MBO: Oh, theyíre . . . yeah.
JRM: And the shoemaker used to be there on the shopping center.† And he always gave them a popsicle after the game.
MBO: Did they have uniforms?
JRM: Just shirts.
JRM:†††† Which were bought by the . . . I think ACB bought one and Sears bought one.† Iíve forgotten who the other ones . . .
MBO: And then often did they play - like, every Saturday, or in the evening?
JRM: Oh, they played a fairly hectic schedule for about six or eight weeks.† And then at that time, they went into playoffs.
JRM:†††† Theyíd play against Harvey and so forth.† Lou Boudreauís cousin, Lou Boudreau of the Cleveland Indians, a baseball player, his cousin . . .
JRM: . . . played for . . .
MBO: For Art?
JRM: . . . played for Harvey.
MBO: Was there an Art Boudreau who lived right here someplace?
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JRM:†††† Could have been.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† You were . . . you, yeah, you headed up that Little League, then, for . . .
JRM: I was the president of the Little League, I was the first president, and I was active in it for about ten years.
MBO: Oh, that took a lot of time in the . . .
JRM: A lot of time.
MBO: . . . in the summer season.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† The Lionís Club, you got involved in that about the same time?
JRM:†††† Well, I went to the Lionís Club, went first.† First of all, Harvey Cooper, whom I mentioned earlier . . .
MBO: Yes.† Yes.
JRM: . . . was President of the Lionís Club.† So, if you wanted to work and live in peace, you joined the Lionís Club.† So, I became the president in 1954, but I was active for about . . . I became what they call a Deputy Governor, which is over about eight or ten clubs.
JRM: So, for about ten years, I was active in the various . .
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MBO: Was it a big, big club then?† Very . . .
JRM:†††† Well, itís fascinating because the year I was president, we went from fifty-four members to a hundred.
JRM: Phil Klutznick was a member.† Henry Dietch was a member.† Milton Plavsic, who was the police chief, was a member.† We had the people who were most active in the community as members, Bob Dinerstein.
MBO: You met weekly.
JRM:†††† Weekly at Mickleberryís, which is long gone.
MBO: Oh, that restaurant.
JRM:†††† Restaurant there, right.
MBO: Um hum.† In the evenings?
JRM: In the evenings, and I canít remember what day.† I think it was Monday, but Iím not positive, the meeting, which night of the week we met.
MBO: And you had speakers?
JRM: We always had a speaker.† And it was pretty easy to get speakers in those days because all . . . it was an active club and people liked to come and talk to us.† Of course, no women, strictly men.
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MBO: That changed, as we know from Joanneís activities now. [Chuckles.]
JRM: Oh, sure.† Absolutely.
MBO: So, when did . . . when were the first women members in Lionís in Park Forest?
JRM: I donít know.† It was after I had left.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† In the Ď80s, probably?
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Right.† Right.
JRM: And, of course, it was resisted by some.† There were a few . . .
MBO:†††† Well, yeah.
JRM: . . . there were a few men who just were foolish enough to resign when women came into the club.
MBO: And the same experience which was with Rotary and Kiwanis.
JRM:†††† Well, of course.† Of course.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† What particular projects did Lionsí have?
JRM:†††† Well, helping the retarded was one of their major problems.† And . . .
MBO:†††† Locally or national?
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JRM: No, no.† This was in the . . . no, within Chicago.† There was a retarded school in the City of Chicago that I can . . . and then the blind was their number one activity.
MBO: And they had the carnival in the summertime.
JRM: The carnival in the summer.
MBO: Or fall.
JRM:†††† Harry Cooper and I . . . and again, itís an interesting story, how we started that.
JRM: We did not start it as a carnival.† We started it as a . . . to keep people off the street - to keep the people off the roads during the traffic.† And we had pony rides for the children, three-legged races, just kind of a picnic rather than a formal carnival.† The carnival idea came later, when we ran out of energy to do the work.
MBO: Oh!† Where did you do this in?
JRM: In Central Park.
MBO: In . . . okay.
JRM:†††† Sure.† Um hum.
MBO: In the park, yeah.† Yeah.† That expanded to be a pretty big thing, as time went on.
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JRM: Oh, absolutely.
MBO: And the people came with the rides and the . . .
JRM: Oh, sure.
MBO: . . . and all that.† Yeah.
JRM: And, of course, we did a hundred and one local projects you know, we provided the . . . all the crossing guards with raincoats and things like that.
MBO: Oh, that was . . .
JRM: And we provided support for the seeing-eye dog that the police had.† And there were just numerous local projects that we supported, as well.
MBO: And this was an exclusive Park Forest one, not to Matteson or Richton Park or Chicago Heights.
JRM: No, this was strictly Park Forest.
MBO:†††† Yeah, each village . . .
JRM:†††† Chicago Heights had a Lionís Club of their own.
MBO: And Matteson, Richton Park . . .
JRM:†††† Matteson had, sure.
MBO: Each village tended to be separate and separately organized, yeah.
JRM: Each village tended to have their own.
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MBO:†††† Yeah.† Your Community Chest involvement was about the same time, too, then, was it?† But, before, listen . . . before we get to the Community Chest, which I wonít forget in a second, here, I was kind of intrigued by that whole carnival idea.† When did this really become more than just fun and become a kind of a fund raiser thing with the carnival?
JRM:†††† Well, again, this is where Iíve got a little trouble with dates.† But, let me just say a couple of things.† First of all, the Lionís, for several earlier years, brought a circus into town.† And then, we - I . . . as a matter of fact, I gave the historical society a picture of me in a clown costume with my daughter, who is now forty-nine, who was about five at that time, going door to door, selling tickets for the circus.† So, there was a period of time where we had a circus every year, as opposed to a carnival.† And then we went to a picnic.† And then to the carnival.
MBO: Oh, I see.
JRM: So, I would say - and forgive me, itís just a wild guess.
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JRM: I would say the Ď70s, probably, when they started the carnival.† Now, I understand that the Lionís Club has all of six members left and has given up the carnival.
MBO:†††† Thatís what I had heard, as well.
MBO: But, the . . . as youíre saying, I think, what started out as kind of a fun activity . . .
JRM: A community activity, absolutely.
MBO: . . . grew to become something.
JRM: It was strictly volunteer.
JRM: Some of us kind of resisted hiring a carnival and paying out money for that.
MBO: Oh, yeah.
JRM: We were proud of the idea that we did it as volunteers.† But, there comes a time when you canít do that anymore.
MBO: Did the Lionís get involved in Fourth of July parades and that sort of thing?
JRM: Oh, yes.† As a matter of fact, the first July 4th parade was organized by the Lionís Club, with cooperation from the American Legion.† And, again, that was part of the community involvement.
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JRM: They would go in the parade and then they would come over to Central Park and have the picnic.
MBO: You, of course, werenít in the American Legion because you were Canadian military service?
JRM: Well . . .
MBO: Or does it make a difference?
JRM:†††† Well, yes, but I was an American citizen by then.† See, somewhere in, when I went to work for Radio Free Europe, I had to be an American citizen.
MBO: Oh!† Ah hah!
JRM: So, I became an American citizen and Iím, again, approximate . . .
JRM: . . . about 1954.† My wife resisted much longer than that.† But, she eventually became an American citizen.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† That was an important step.† You didnít take that lightly.
JRM: Well . . . no, not at all, because my daughters had the option of being either Canadian or American.
MBO: When they became twenty-one.
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JRM: At twenty-one, they could . . . they had a choice of taking whichever they preferred to take.
MBO: Oh.† Were you at all involved with the other service clubs, Rotary or Kiwanis?
JRM:†††† Well, first of all, just let me say that I am a member of the American Legion.† Just a kind of a card-carrying member.
MBO:†††† Okay, yeah.
JRM: Iím also a card-carrying member of the VFW.
JRM: And the Kiwanis, my wife, bless her heart, is a very, very active Kiwanian.† She was what they call Lieutenant-Governor, which at one point she was responsible for ten or twelve clubs in this area.† Sheís a past president of the Kiwanis and was, again, chairman of the Pancake Day this year.† Her and I start out rather early and we go door to door, selling pancake tickets.† I would say, this last year we sold about two . . . pretty close to three thousand dollars worth of tickets.
MBO:†††† Thatís still a very . . .
JRM: At four dollars a whack.
MBO: A very successful enterprise, yeah.
JRM:†††† Well, that takes a long time.
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JRM: And, of course, as you know, the Kiwanis do many good things with their money.† I have not joined and I donít intend to join.† Itís my wifeís activity.
JRM: My role is simply to help her and be proud of what sheís done.
MBO: The Community Chest, then.
MBO: You got involved in that quite early, as well.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† In 1953, and that, Iím pretty definite on that, a fellow named Dave Peryam, who is long gone, deceased, he started what they call the Community Chest of Park Forest.
MBO:†††† Again, something in this village.
MBO: Itís a national group.
JRM: And then, gradually, we moved that into Richton Park and Matteson.
JRM: And provided services for twenty-two vital agencies.† And itís over forty-seven years it has given the . . . about three million dollars in contributions to the not-for-profit agencies.
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MBO: But, itís no longer the Community Chest now.
JRM: No, itís . . . See, there was struggle from the very beginning between Chicago and the suburbs.
MBO: In what sense?
JRM:†††† Well, people . . . you might have belonged but you lived here and you worked there.
MBO: Oh, yeah.
JRM: So, that Chicago solicited you, and we solicited you, and where were you going to give your money?
JRM: And then the local Chest said, ďHey, if they give the money downtown, it should still come to usĒ.† So, there was an on-going struggle between . . . and eventually, I had here, just to give you an illustration of what we did . . .
MBO:†††† While it was still the Community Chest?† Before the name changed?
MBO:†††† Because it eventually did become the United Way.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† See, I dug out, just so I would have it - the 1964 campaign plan.† And in that year we raised forty-two thousand dollars locally.† And this year, they got over three hundred and twenty thousand dollars from the United
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††† Way.† We used to, way back when, we would have a volunteers and weíd recruit eight hundred volunteers.† We would have training meetings for them at Rich High School.† And we would have six training meetings, and we would go door to door and knock on every door in Park Forest and ask for a contribution.† And we would receive between fourteen and sixteen thousand dollars.
MBO: You were . . .
JRM: And I used to run the training sessions.
MBO: . . . direct the training, yeah.
JRM: I was the Executive Director that ran this whole program.† And a fellow named Dave . . . Dr. Lesser - I donít know if his name is familiar to you at all.
JRM: He used to come in on Wednesday and make phone calls to all the doctors and dentists and get about three thousand dollars for us for that.† We had a . . . where the old village trustees used to sit up in the old, old building, there was a little office behind there, with just room to get a desk in and a chair and a file cabinet.† That was the office for the Community Chest.† So, a fellow named Stan Davis, whom you may or may not remember, another old timer,
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††† †he worked on trying to get people to give a hundred dollars to the United Way.† He worked very hard on trying to accomplish that.
MBO: But, now, letís make - Iím not sure that Iím fully getting this here.
MBO: The Community Chest became the United Way.
MBO: And was it about that same time that you stopped soliciting locally and people contributed to the United Way either downtown or here, or how did that work?
JRM:†††† Well, first of all, I know it gets complicated and Iíll try not to make it complicated.† It gets complicated even for me.† But, at one point in the Ď60s . . .
JRM: I left the United Way of Park Forest [Executive Director of the Park Forest Community Chest for eight years] and became the Executive Director of the United Way for all of the suburbs [Executive Director of the Suburban Community Chest Council.]
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JRM: And I officed in Berwyn.† And at that point, we were in negotiations over a two year period with Red Cross and with United Way of Chicago, to try and form a partnership.† And it was great opposition in a lot of the suburbs, to taking away their local autonomy.
JRM: And it was a real struggle.† After a series of meetings and going over about a two-year period, we finally did work out a merger so that the suburbs became part of the Chicago United Way.
JRM: And the Red Cross became part of it.† We still continued to do local solicitation.
JRM: But, we also got a grant from Chicago, a portion of the money that people from Park Forest had given in the city.† So, it . . .
MBO: And thatís how . . .
JRM: The reason that we did it, obviously, we got more money for our agencies.
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JRM: We gave up some of our local autonomy, but we did not give up solicitation.† We did gradually do away with the door to door and do it now by mail.† But, still, everyone is solicited locally.
MBO: It just occurred to me, the United Way, a question, itís been in the news currently with the Boy Scouts.† Is that a touchy one in this village?† Do you know?
JRM: Oh, well, let me say that for a variety of reasons, the top corporate leadership is very pro-Boy Scouts.
JRM: Very much in favor.† So, there will be some fallout on this thing about them refusing to have gays.
JRM: And I . . . itís a personal opinion I have.
MBO: Oh, certainly.
JRM: But, itís all settling and itís going to cause some problems.† I think the United Way will be forced not to support them because of the other agencies will climb on them.† On the other hand, the Boy Scouts will put extreme pressure on them to support something.
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MBO:†††† Yeah, it will be settled at a larger level, higher level than this.
JRM: Now, let me just mention one other thing about the United Way.† A fellow named Phil Merriman was an early . . . he was an early volunteer and helped a great deal.† When I went to work for the United Way of the South Suburbs [Executive Director of the Suburban Community Chest Council,] I hired Phil Merriman as my assistant.† When I left the United Way, Phil Merriman took over and just retired recently as the President of the United Way after some twenty years of service.† He no longer lives in Park Forest.
MBO: No, no.† No.
JRM: But, his son lives here.
MBO: Boy, this is quite a contribution, all by itself.† If that was the only volunteer work you had done.† But, thereís much more.† Of course, the Bicentennial Celebration that is unbelievably now a quarter century ago. [Laughs]
JRM:†††† [Laughs] Hard to believe it can be that long ago.
MBO: How did that get started, locally, Ron?† We all know the national significance of it.†† And in 1975, Ď76, Ď77, in there - how did it get started?
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JRM:†††† Well, Ralph Johnson was the Village President at that time, and he contacted me and asked me if I would serve as the director for the Bicentennial Campaign.† And there was kind of national material and every community was asked to do whatever they could do.
MBO: This would have been two or three years before.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† Right.† So, we actually formed the Park Forest Bicentennial Committee in 1975 and I was the Chairman.† A fascinating thing about that committee, it wound up with a hundred and twenty-five members.† And when we would have a meeting, we would get seventy and eighty people there, and weíd accomplish something.† I still look back and I wonder how we did it, but . . . But, there was a great, great spirit and attitude.† Everybody wanted to do something.† So, we took upon, as a major thing, raising a hundred and fifty thousand dollars to furnish Freedom Hall.† And we did that through a series of appeals, including a very nice brochure that was put together by Dick Tuttle, a local Park Forester.† They won a national award for the . . . for this particular thing.† We painted all the hydrants in town, a little, made little on them, made little things out of
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††† †them. [ed. Note:† I think Ron means they were painted as little soldiers.]
MBO: How was Freedom Hall itself erected or built?
JRM:†††† Well, they got some federal grant money to build it.
MBO: Um hum.† Um hum.
JRM: But, they didnít have any federal money for the furnishing.
JRM:†††† Thatís how we wound up with that.† And the African-Americans that lived in town at that time raised special money for the Martin Luther King Room.† So, thereís a Martin Luther King Room on the second floor.† The top, the other room there, is, of course, named for Ralph Johnson, who was the [village president.]†† Also, at one point, we had the Constitution there.† Ed Derwinski, who was our congressman, had the Constitution on display in Freedom Hall for a portion of that time.† We used to put on entertainment there.† Mrs. Kelly, who lives down the street here, was one of the . . . I think Mrs. Parish, they used to do dance routines and that.† I canít . . . Iím not sure of the name.† Mrs. DeLue, Ross DeLue, of course, she was very, very active.† Henry Dietch donated a . . . made a major donation and we had a plaque put up, commemorating
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††† †all of the veterans that left, including his brother.† And the American Legion donated a flag and the flagpole that stands out in front of Freedom Hall.† Mary Goodwin,† was a staff person, and she was the person that worked with me through, all through the bicentennial . . .
MBO: Mary Goodwin McCall, now.
JRM:†††† Yeah, sheís married to McCall.
MBO:†††† Sheís down in the city now, in Chicago.
JRM:†††† Pardon me?† Yeah.
MBO: She lives in Chicago.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† Right.
MBO: And I think there were theater seats that were sold, I think.
JRM: Iím glad you mentioned that.† For sixty-five dollars, you could have your name on the back of a theater seat and thereís . . . there are . . . and then, on the back of the theater, they put a plaque up, listing all the names.† Me and my wife are listed on one of those seats.
MBO: And then thereís the outdoor thing on the north side.
JRM:†††† Maros, who owned the McDonaldís stores in this area at the time, donated fifty thousand dollars to make that, have a theater outside. [ed. Note:† They are referring to a Greek-style outdoor amphitheatre.]† Itís never really taken off, and not a heck of a lot has happened.† Let me just mention a negative that I personally feel very strongly about.† I opposed the putting up of the second floor balcony the way it was built.
MBO: The stairway.
JRM: But, no one listened to me.† And now, a lot of the senior citizens will not come to anything at Freedom Hall because they canít make it to the second floor.† We must get an elevator in there.† Itís absolutely imperative. †And, of course, everybody acknowledges that, but nobody gets the elevator in there.† Now, theyíre talking about a second way of going around the back, where the amphitheater is, and making an entrance there - which is fine, if they work out something.† But, the . . . but, itís really sad, youíll have something and you see the seniors just stay home.† They wonít be embarrassed because they canít get up those stairs.
MBO: Itís a strikingly beautiful staircase.
JRM: Oh, yeah.† Yeah, Mr. Booth was the architect that did that.
MBO: But, itís difficult for many people to navigate it.
JRM:†††† Thatís right.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Thatís . . . that was a very impressive building.† What was there before it was built?† It was just . . .
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JRM: To nothing.
MBO: . . . open land, I think.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† Right.
MBO: It was part of the Central Park area.
JRM: Oh, another really important thing, as a result of the Bicentennial and a couple of other things, Park Forest was nominated to be an All-America City.† And I went to Williamsport as part of the delegation for that, and they were selected as an All-America City.
MBO: That would have been 1977.
JRM: Ď77, I think.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† I think, yeah.
JRM: So, the Bicentennial was a big part of that.
MBO:†††† Yeah, and there were programs that were put on.
[End Tape 1, Side A]
[Begin Tape 1, Side B]
MBO:†††† Well, I was describing my memory of the contributions of the Bicentennial Commission.
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MBO: The Freedom Hall, as we were talking about and the fire plugs around town.† The programs and so on.† I think there was a special showing of ď1776Ē the movie or something.
JRM:†††† Thatís right.
MBO: In the village.
JRM: In the village and then they made an extra donation . . .
MBO: All of that.
JRM: . . . double the price of the ticket.† We also got a proclamation from the President of the United States, which had Derwinski to come in . . . Congressman brought in.† We also had one from the governor.
MBO: It was a great time the village had for about two years.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† And then we got a donation of a Constitution, which sits on the second floor there, of the Freedom Hall.
MBO: Ah hah.
JRM: But, it was a great community spirit and I canít recall the number of donations, but they were in the hundreds.† It went everywhere from ten dollars to a hundred dollars.
MBO: What other . . . committees and organizations and activities have you led in town?† I think the list is still a long one.
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JRM:†††† Well, Iíll try . . . Iíve got a list of commissions.† Iíll see if thatís . . . any that I miss, you ask me.† Well, I still am Chairman of the Park Forest 911 Commission.† That, of course, meets once a year and sets the charges for the 911.
MBO: The operation of that emergency telephone . . .
JRM:†††† Right.† In other words, thatís the village committee.
MBO: Um hum.† Who is on that or how many people?
JRM:†††† Well, thereís a trustee.† I represent the village and thereís a Chief of Police and Fire Chief.
MBO: And the members are appointed by . . .
JRM:†††† Appointed by the village president.† And then in 1991 I was Chairman of the Park Forest Home Rule Committee and we organized a group of volunteers.† I think you were part of that.
JRM: And the purpose was to pass the home rule for Park Forest, which we did substantially.† Then I was President of the Park Forest Historical Society and I did one great thing.† I found Magne McNeal Olson and got him to be the president for life, or at least a volunteer for life.† Thatís the one thing I accomplished with the historical society.
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MBO:†††† [Laughs] _____ never mentioned that . . . were you involved with Henry in starting it?† Henry Dietch?
JRM: I guess so, to some degree.† He called me and said would I be . . . would I help him and I said yes.
JRM: And, of course, knowing Henry, I wound up doing most of the work.
MBO:†††† [Laughs] Because it began as a sort of committee of the . . .
JRM: Of just meet and talk about what you did.
MBO: . . . of the library . . .
MBO: . . . board and I think Henry was primarily responsible for getting it organized into a not for profit independent . . .
MBO: . . . group.
JRM: And then weíve already mentioned the Park Forest Freedom Hall Commission.† I was the Chairman for that for 1977, but I continued to 1985.† See, we had a whole series of setting the policy.† It was always a question whether we would charge a lot of money to use Freedom Hall or let people in
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†††† for next to nothing.† So we took the latter position and we charged the absolute minimum so it got the maximum use.
MBO: Do you think that was a wise thing to do?† Well, who decided to name it Freedom Hall?† Do you remember?
JRM:†††† Well, . . .
MBO: How was that . . .
JRM: . . . I was pretty much involved in that along with Ralph Johnson.† We sort of felt you couldnít name it to any one person and Freedom Hall seemed to say what we were trying to say.† So, I got . . . I would kind of presume Ralph Johnson and I did that.
MBO: It fit the . . .
JRM: But, now, we put it before the whole committee.
JRM: In other words, for officially, it was the Bicentennial† Commission that approved the name.
MBO: And, of course, it fit with the Bicentennial theme and all of that.
MBO: And it continues today as it was envisioned, pretty much.
JRM: I think so.
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MBO: Some things have changed and so on.
JRM: As far as I know, they seem to keep a number of activities there.
MBO:†††† Different groups meet there, different programs put on.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† Thereís a little bit of a tug of war so that Janetís trying to bring more things to Downtown Park Forest.† So, some of the things that were in Freedom Hall are no longer there.† But, I think thatís being resolved.† The next one was . . . I was also Chairman of the Park Forest Committee deciding if we should have districts for the trustees.† In other words, they would represent specific portions, specific geographic districts.
MBO: Why did that come up?† Why was that a . . .
JRM:†††† Well, somebody had suggested it was a good idea and that they would be serving the people more effectively if they . . . In other words, if a particular area had a lot of Hispanics in it, they might get represented.
MBO: By districts, youíre referring to . . .
JRM:†††† Geographic . . . geographically.
MBO: . . . like, precincts or wards or something.
JRM: Yes.† Exactly.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† As many other towns have, as Chicago itself has and so forth.
JRM: And as Chicago Heights has, right next door.
MBO: The . . . what Park Forest didnít have that, it elected all of its trustees at large.
JRM: At large.† The official position was that that was the right way to do it, and it passed, accordingly.
MBO: And itís still the position - it still is.
JRM: Yes, exactly.
JN:† Iím going to officially cost myself more money and put my two cents worth in.† But, just go back - do you remember hearing, when you were first here, why Park Forest had this system of government, that it does have?† Why they chose the Village Manager - Trustee system?
JRM:†††† Well, I have that under village government, I was going to bring that up later.
JN:†††† Okay.† I just - at this point, I just wanted to insert, from a witness to that day, that at the original tent meeting, they chose that form of government so they would not have . . .
JRM:†††† Yeah, they were very, very, very definitely, because itís the right form of government.
JN:† . . . so they would not have aldermen.
JN:† So they would not have that kind of . . .
MBO: The Chicago model, yeah.
JN:† . . . favoritism going on.
JRM:†††† Thatís right.
JN:† And so, thatís why when we were . . . defended that, we were very proud that that won and Iím . . .
JRM: I agree.† I agree.
JN:† . . . and Iím hoping that stays that way.
JRM:†††† Well, I donít want to get into that right at the moment, then Iíve got some comments on that, too.
JRM:†††† Well, let me just finish this list.† From 1998 to current, I was Chairman . . . I was on the Fiftieth Anniversary Committee and I was Chairman of the Memory Lane Bricks.† We have one thousand, eight hundred and thirty-one bricks in the ground, we have gifts from thirty-four states and this is probably a two-year program and itís been one of the most popular in Park Forest by a city block.
MBO: Are you still accepting. . . ?
JRM: No, we cut it off January 1, but weíre working frantically trying to put together a directory, which sounds easy, but itís a very difficult project.† One of the things that weíre rather proud about, we charged only twenty-five dollars for a brick.† A lot of other communities charged a hundred to five hundred dollars.† And we wanted to have an involvement and I think we did.† Bob Smart has been very active in that and Jerry Shnay have been the other very active person.† Weíre going to have some money left over when we get all through, and we plan to donate that to local organizations.† But, itís been just a terribly popular program.† A lot of hard work and it just . . . you canít believe all the things that can happen when youíre putting bricks in the ground.
MBO:†††† Thereís one of the things that just stands out about the center of the Downtown and will allow people to come and have memories revived every time they look at it.
MBO: The people do that now - they walk over every day . . .
JRM: Oh, sure.
MBO: . . . and look at names and memorize where those names . . .
JRM:†††† Thatís right.
MBO: . . . are and so on.
JRM: And somebody has to look it up for their brother thatís in Hong Kong or something, just to say they saw . . .
MBO: Itís a great idea.
JRM: . . . they saw the bricks, sure.† Yeah.† I was also, back in the 1979 to 1983, I was on the Illinois - this was a statewide savings and loan committee that I served on, out of Springfield.
JRM: I was one of the citizen representatives of that.† Way back in 1960 to Ď64, I was Chairman of the Recreation Board and we hired Greg Sloane.
JRM:†††† Which was a big achievement, that we did it on a part-time basis, even.† Working for the school, but he helped the village on a part-time basis - it was about twenty hours a week.
JN:† And that was Rich Township High School at the time.† He worked, originally, for Rich High School.
JRM:†††† Right.† And then he . . .
JN:† Rich Township High School.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† Right.† Exactly.
MBO: Were you involved with the schools yourself, otherwise?
MBO: Were you at all involved in the schools, locally, other than that?
JRM: Oh, yes.† I got . . . [Laughs] Iím trying . . .
MBO:†††† Something to that effect. [Laughs]
JRM: Iím trying to give you all of these as a . . .
JRM: Iím a volunteer at the Rich Township Pantry one day a month, we go there.† And then I am with the Crime Prevention Neighborhood Walk, where I deliver the stuff for the police department every time I come up.
MBO: When your children were going . . . growing up in the local schools, were you and your wife involved in the school, PTA-wise?
JRM:†††† Well, I was President of the Illinois PTA at one point.† I donít remember the year.† But, other - these are some other major events that I was going to refer to it.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Good.
JRM: I worked - in 1992, I was Chairman with . . . a couple of other people in the Library Gateway Information Campaign.† We raised seventy-five thousand dollars for new equipment in the library.
MBO: That was a splendidly successful activity.
JRM: That was very successful.† We set out, I think, to get fifty thousand and would up getting seventy-five.† Of course, there were some strong people.† You had the good doctors working at that.
MBO: The Rachers.
JN:† The Rachers.
JRM: The Rachers were, too.† She was marvelous.† Her and I were sort of the co-chairmen on it, so it was very, very successful.† Another thing that I have been involved in from 1999 to the current time, itís closed off now - we started a special fund for a new memorial for the veterans in Downtown Park Forest and we raised seventy-five hundred dollars to assist with the assistance of . . . Dick Sabey was head of that.† And thatís for the . . . that memorial is now at the end of - where the bricks are.† And so, itís made the . . . itís completed the thing there.
MBO: This is a memorial . . .
JRM: To all of the veterans.
MBO:†††† World War II veterans.
JRM: No, all veterans.
MBO:†††† Veterans totally.
JRM: All total veterans.† Very, very touchy about making it.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Youíre still involved, as you have been for ages, with the Republican Party.
JRM: Yes, but I wanted to mention - and I canít lay my fingers on it real quick - I was involved with the Rich High School [District 227] when they had their referendum about a year and half ago.
JRM: I was a chairman of that and we . . . that was a . . . I was . . . it was district-wide campaign.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: And we were able to pass the referendum with Park Forest, above all, voting fifty-three percent for it and the other communities just about staying fifty-fifty.† So, Park Forest carried that.† So, that was a very important . . .† And according to the superintendent, that referendum will cause them not to have to go back to the people for another ten years.† So, theyíre very pleased and very happy that that was done.† Yes, Iíve been active in the Republican Party for about thirty-five years.† But, I walk a thin line.† I believe wholeheartedly in the not for . . . the . . .
JRM: . . . the non-partisan idea.† That, I feel very strongly about that. [ed note:† The reference here is to the work in Park Forest of the Committee for Non-Partisan Local Government.]
MBO: For the village political . . .
JRM: And so that I keep that out.† I am a deputy committeeman for the Park . . . for the Rich Township Republicans and Iím also a member of the Rich Township Board - a trustee.† But, I think that when something is nice about the Rich Township Board, although the Democrats are the majority in this area now, they elect to go fifty percent Democrat and fifty percent Republican.† The supervisor is a Democrat.† The clerk is a Republican.† The trustees - two are Democrats, two are Republicans.† The assessor is a Republican.† So, it splits up.† And the highway commissioner is a Democrat.† So, the last time we ran, we ran unopposed.† And, hopefully, that may be the case again.† Iíve always tried to . . . I believe very strongly in the non-partisan idea and I think itís in great danger right now.† But, I think we need to . . .
MBO:†††† Continue with it.
JRM: . . . do whatever we can to get it back on track.
JRM: I think that . . . let me just say real quickly that one of the things that troubles me - there are a lot of honest politicians.† There are a lot of dedicated politicians.† And yet, politicians are made jokes out of and made fun of.† And I think thatís too bad because a lot of good people wonít get involved because they just are looked upon by their neighbors as kind of goofy doing it.† I . . . Iíve been directly involved in about nine campaigns.† Iíll just run through them.† I was my own campaign chairman when I was elected in Ď65.† I was, again, elected in 1988 and elected in 1999.† I was elected Assessor way back in 1960, but I only served for one year because . . .
MBO:†††† Township Assessor.
JRM: . . . assessor . . . because I had a personal property tax at that time which was a terribly painful thing, a very unfair tax.† And I had a full-time job, so, after a year I resigned and I just couldnít . . . couldnít ______.† I was campaign chairman for Bob Reagan when he was elected the State Representative in 1970.† I was the campaign chairman for Jerry Matthews when was he was elected President in 1992.† I lost an election for myself in 1991 and I lost an election for Pat Kelly in 2000, but I was involved in that, also.
MBO: In those campaigns - and not whether you were winning or losing each particular one - is there some particular method you used in Park Forest or the area?
JRM:†††† Politics is a lot like fund raising.† You have to be prepared to go door to door and knock on the door and say, ďIím John Doe.† I want your voteĒ.† A lot of people nod their heads, but they arenít prepared to do that.
JRM: And they only do . . . they only want to do part of it.† They want someone else to do it for them.† You have to go door to door in Park Forest in order to get elected, otherwise you havenít got a ghost of chance.† And also, the beauty of the non-partisan thing, you can run for candidate, probably spend just a couple of hundred dollars on a very inexpensive brochure.† So, if youíre prepared to go door to door, I think anyone can run.† And thatís a great thing.† There is no - contrary to peopleís - there is no hidden group of Democrats that you snap a finger and call Marge Freedman and they all vote for this, or you call Ron McLeod and the other.† Thereís none of that.† Itís just if youíre a good person, theyíll vote for you.† They donít even know whether youíre a Republican or a Democrat in the local elections.
MBO: But, itís hard work and foot work and . . .
JRM: Foot work, right.
MBO: . . . and actually meeting and talking to people.† Um hum.
MBO:†††† Other groups?† Other . . .
JRM:†††† Well, I think . . .
MBO:†††† Weíre pretty well . . .
JRM:†††† Well, the other major group is the Faith Church.
MBO: Oh, of course.
JRM: Iíve been extremely active in Faith Church . . .
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: . . . for about fifty years.
MBO: That church began shortly after you moved here.
JRM:†††† Right.† And they used to meet in the theater.
JRM: And it was a very nice arrangement there.† And then we . . . and then the first thing we did, we built a Christian Education building.† And the first thing in that Christian Education building was a Bar Mitzvah for Phil Klutznickís son.† So, it was truly a United Protestant church welcoming people from all denominations.† And, of course, it was interesting in the initial days the laymen were much more enthusiastic about it than the clergy.† The clergy kind of saw their . . . some of their power just kind of vanishing just a little bit.
MBO:†††† Well, it was a new venture, too.
JRM:†††† Right.† So, we were blessed by finding Gerson Engelmann, who was just about the greatest . . .
MBO:†††† Faith was the only one of the United Protestant Churches in town when it got it started.
JRM: Oh, absolutely.
MBO: And then the others came subsequently.
JRM: The others . . . the others . . . were Grace and then Good Shepherd and Calvary.
MBO: Good Shepherd and Calvary.† Um hum.
JRM:†††† Right.† And I was . . . Iíve been on the nominating - I am on the nominating committee, Iíve been on the endowment committee, Iíve been on the stewardship committee and Iíve been involved in about ten financial campaigns.
MBO: Oh, in the congregation?
JRM: In the church.
MBO: What are your memories of Gerson Engelmann?† What made him stand out as the leader in town that he was?
JRM:†††† Well, you asked me in the notes you gave me to list the top people in Park Forest.† He was number one on my list.† First of all, he was obviously a Christian gentleman and a wonderful, wonderful preacher.† He could read poetry like no one Iíve ever heard and you could just almost live the poetry.† But far beyond that, he promoted music in town, he tried to create the Philharmonic and was very active in that.† He was active in the Rotary Club.† He was active on the St. James Hospital board.† He made himself available Klutznick would pick up the phone and call Gerson and say, ďWhat do you think about this?† Is that something we should doĒ?† So . . . and he was very . . . when the little flurry about the first Blacks moving into town, Gerson was very much on the right side of that question, too.
MBO: He was a young man, too.
JRM:†††† Well, no, he was . . .
MBO: He was a little older than . . .
JRM: They didnít want to hire him because he was forty-five or something when he came here.† He was an old man.† They didnít want him.† Another true story - Tony Scariano would get a divorce case - he would not take the divorce case unless they met with Gerson Engelmann.† So, they had a wonderful relationship.
JRM:†††† Obviously, Iím a fan of his.
MBO:†††† Right.† And the parish grew under his leadership.
JRM:†††† Absolutely.† And John North and Earl Wade and . . . were some of the people that made it happen, as well.† But, Gerson was just a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful person.
MBO: So, he might . . . he must have . . . he was the first . . .
JRM:†††† First minister.
MBO: . . . the first minister there.† And I donít remember just when it was, when he retired, but, some years ago.† Yeah.† Other . . . ?† I know, Ron, that you have very justifiably been given a number of awards and honors and all that.
JRM: Iíd like to walk through those very quickly.
MBO: That would be great.
JRM: And then, what Iíd to do is go back and talk a little more about the village trustees and some of that.
MBO:†††† Weíre going to get to that, yes.
JRM:†††† Okay.† These . . . first of all, I have an Honorary Alumni Award from Valparaiso University, which I got in 1989.
MBO: Even though you werenít an alumni.
JRM:†††† Thatís right.
MBO:†††† Alumnus . . . itís an honorary.
JRM: An honorary.
MBO:†††† Thatís a nice . . .
JRM: Now, Iím an alumni, I guess.
MBO:†††† Yeah, thatís a nice . . .
JRM: And then, I am, as you know, Iím a member of the Park Forest Hall of Fame in 1995.† In 1992, Ď93 and Ď95, I was selected as United Way Volunteer of the Year.† In 1995, I was Illinois Senate Volunteer of the Year.† In 1992, I was Citizen of the Year for the Jaycees.† In 1992, I was Grand Marshall for the July 4th Parade.† In 1993, I got a Certificate of Appreciation from the Park Forest Village Board.† In 1951 - Iíve already mentioned this - but, I was President and Deputy Governor for the Park Forest Lionís Club.† In 1995, I was County Chair Medal of Honor Winner and in 1999 I was the Honorary Chairman for the Republican Annual Barbecue.
MBO:†††† Thatís keeping busy. [Chuckles]
JRM:†††† Well, Iíve picked another . . . keep your phone ringing, anyway.
JRM:†††† Okay.† Talking a little more about the village government.
MBO:†††† Before we get to that, one other question of a personal nature, with regard to volunteering in Park Forest.† Now, there are few people that would be as immediately recognizable as giving a great deal to various volunteer activities as you.† That may well have been very much the case in the village, as I think you said, in the early days.† An awful lot of people got involved in an awful lot of things.† Has that continued over the fifty years of village history, or is it less so now?† Do you see any changes or differences there?
JRM: Very definitely changes, and not good changes.† See, whatís got to . . . first you have to look back and remember in 1950 and Ď51.† We were all young, we were all ambitious, we were in the height of our drive and push.† And there was no right side and wrong side.† Now, youíve got Thorn Creek down there with a little bigger homes - [whispers] thatís where the rich people live.† But, we never had a rich people thing.† We just had . . . everybody in Park Forest was the same.† And then you built the homes and they looked down on the rentals.† The rentals were second-class citizens.† So, the whole thing . . .† But, beyond that, the attitude of people has changed.† First of all, both people work now, which is a hundred percent change.† And secondly - this is just my personal opinion - they become much more selfish and self-centered and they only want to get involved in the things that are going help them.† And itís very hard to find dedicated . . . Now, you might find an insurance guy who will volunteer because maybe heíll sell some insurance.
MBO: Itís good for business, necessary.
JRM: Or a businessman.† But, the real volunteerism is on a decline, a very heavy, serious decline.
MBO: You certainly see that in the service organizations around town.
JRM:†††† Absolutely.† The Lionís Club we mentioned.
MBO: And other groups . . .
JRM: The Kiwanis are fighting for their life.† Their average age is over seventy.† So, theyíre working very hard to bring in young people and save their club.
JRM: So, itís a very, very serious problem.
MBO: Now, then, much of your time, too, over a half century here in town, has been spent with different areas of the village government or the village governance - the way the town runs itself - especially as a trustee, but not only as that.† When did you start getting involved, particularly with the village government?
JRM:†††† Well, first of all, I was involved with the Little League, which was the rub-off of that.†
JRM:†††† Secondly, I was on the Recreation Board, which was the rub-off of that.† And secondly, I was involved in some of the campaigns that people had.† So they said, ďIf you want to be involved, why donít you runĒ?† So, I ran and got seventy percent of the vote the first time I ran, so . . . [Chuckles]
MBO: And then you became a member of the Village Board.
JRM:†††† Right - in 1965, I believe.
MBO: In Ď65, uh huh.
JRM:†††† Right.† Things were different then.† I donít know if youíve picked up The Star today, but thereís just another criticism of the . . . of one of the trustees and calling a dog and pony show by some of the . . . you donít talk like that to people.†† And so, thereís a very real decline.† For example, Mayer Singerman and I served together.† Mayer Singerman is probably as liberal as I am conservative.† Yet, we were fast friends.† And Ike Baker, who ran the 163 School District, used to say, ďIf you want a social issue taken care of, go to Ron and MayerĒ.† We were together on many of the issues and we . . . but, we would go out and have a drink afterwards.† It wasnít this nastiness that is so prevalent now and itís so disappointing.† Another kind of amusing thing, we had Barney as the President a lot of the time and . . .
MBO:†††† Barney Cunningham.
JRM:†††† Barney Cunningham.† And Barney Cunningham was a strong leader and a good leader.† Now, Barney - people must remember that he understood the village manager type of government.† He didnít interfere.† He went to the village manager if there was a problem and the village manager took care of the staff.† There has been great violation of that regulation now and a feeling that maybe we should have wards and make each trustee in charge of a ward and then start patronage and all of that stuff, which would be the last thing that Park Forest needs or wants.
MBO: So, as you began this sort of activity, you say in the 1960s, the village board was constituted to be a policy making organization.
JRM:†††† Right, and donít get involved with the details.
MBO: And direct the village manager and various offices to run what needed to be run.
JRM:†††† Right.† Now, an amusing aside, we used to have people come up there, very sincere, and complain about all the traffic going to the shopping center.† They didnít want that.† They wanted us to remain a bedroom community and not have any traffic.† And here was . . . here, we had a great shopping center and getting all this extra money to do a lot of good things with - not the least of which was, we gave an amount of money to the Grande Prairie Center.† In those days it was known as Family Service.† We gave them ten thousand dollars to get started.† But, itís . . .it was . . . itís a whole different attitude then.
JN:† I wanted to say again, here, where weíre at that the whole idea, then, of making the wards is kind of a violation of the original premise.
JRM: Oh, of course!
JN:† Of what Park Forest was formed as and what their government was formed on, so . . .
JRM:†††† Right.† You see, if you . . .
JN:† It is something that long-timers want to defend, and rightfully so.
JRM: Bob Dinerstein would feel very strongly about this.† He would probably . . . and Henry Dietch would feel, I think, equally strongly about this.† And so would any of the old-timers that are still around.
MBO:†††† Well, it works.
JRM: It works and . . .
MBO: As the village has demonstrated for five decades.
JRM: And it forces the trustees to take the broad view.† If youíve got a . . . see, if you phone up and you say, ďHey, things are bad on Kentucky Street,Ē I can be concerned about that, but I want to know about all of the streets, not just Kentucky Street.† So, I think itsí very important to . . .† By the way, we did, at some point, and we need to mention it because it happened - when the first African-Americans moved in, there was a small group of white people who decided they wanted to move out and were going to get together and buy the houses.† We, the trustees, went door to door and said, ďHey, donít be foolish enough to do this.† Be understanding and patientĒ.† And we really took care of that in a very peaceful and effective manner.† And I think itís one of the great things about Park Forest.
MBO: You were on the board then?
JRM: I was on the board during it.† And I think we can be very proud of that.† And we did it without a lot of fanfare and without a lot of fuss, but we did it quietly.† I took the first African-American student to Illinois School.† I . . . Iím not, I mean, thatís what youíre supposed to do.† Itís not anything special.† Itís just what youíre supposed to do.† And I think the village government reacted marvelously on that, at that time, and handled it very well.† And I know one of the people involved was in our church, who was going to be buying up this property.† And he, advisedly, moved away - which I think was a good thing.† His name, it doesnít need to mentioned at all.
JN:† And also, weíd like to put in that John Scott was the Village Manager at the time and Robert Dinerstein was the President, wasnít he?† Or was Robert Dinerstein on here?
JRM:†††† Remember, you asked me to list my good people.† John Scott was one of them.† John Scott was the epitome of what a village manager should be.† He had an answer to everything.† He was a perfect gentleman.† He was an outstanding individual and did a great deal for this community.† He was a perfect village manager.† He . . . as youíve described it very well, that the board is over here, hereís John Scott doing everything down here, reporting to the board anything they needed to know.† He would be one of the five to ten - he and Gerson would be, too, in my top five.
MBO: That - a mistake that - I think a lot of what youíve identified is very, very true.† Itís a mistake that a lot of boards fall into, of every kind, trying to run things rather than set policy for things to be run.
JRM:†††† Thatís right.
MBO: Itís a big difference, and when boardís start running things, things donít get done.
JRM:†††† Well, and I donít want to keep harping on it, except that the current president and some of the current trustees seem to want to have the control and have the day-to-day operation.† Which is dead wrong!† Theyíre not - first of all, theyíre not trained to do it.† Secondly, they donít have the time to do it.† And third, thereís a negative reaction from the staff.† So, itís just bad news all the way around.† And yet, thatís one of the things I have.† By the way, let me go back . . .
JRM: . . . to the early days and trustees.
JRM: We went through a tremendous ordeal with apartments.† We were going to build apartments by 211th Street Station.† We were going to build apartments down in Will County.† We were going to build apartments - and these apartments would bring poor people in and ruin our whole community.† All of the time it was on the trustees, we went through this rigmarole about whether we wanted these apartments.† We had not one - we had three different times we voted on it.† Three people for it - three people against it, Barney vetoed it.† So, they never got the apartments is what happened.† Now - true story - I canít tell you the exact date, but a meeting was held in Mickleberryís a little later on, with Nate Manilow and Lew Manilow and Barney Cunningham and the village trustees.† And Nate Manilow proposed that he would bring in Carsonís and Pennyís and knock down the apartments beyond Faith Church.
MBO: The rentals.
JRM:†††† Wreck those, knock them down to make this shopping center twice the size.† We shook hands.† Barney shook hands with Mr. Nate Manilow and agreed to do that and then went back and voted to veto it.† And that is a story that, for some reason, I seem to be the only person in the world that remembers that story.† I was there.† I would take an oath on the Bible that what Iím telling you is the truth.† I canít tell you . . . I think Quentin Wood was a trustee then and Leo Jacobson and the thing had voted three to three and Barney vetoed it down.
MBO: The approximate year?† Ď60 - mid-Ď60s?
JRM:†††† Maybe a little later than that, maybe . . .
JRM:†††† Maybe the Ď70s.
JN:†††† Someone just told me . . .
JN:†††† Someone just mentioned this to me - Peggy Millar - because she had heard the rumor, it was Court F-6 that they were going to tear down.† And she lived in Court F-6.
JN:† And at that point, she went and bought her house.† So, she just gave me the date.
JN:† She knows for sure she got her house.
MBO: Oh, we have it.
JRM: But, it was always such a tragedy because had we . . . I think if weíd have done that, things would be so different than they are today.
MBO: It would have made a difference in what happened further west.
JRM: Oh, sure.† Lincoln Mall would never have been built.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Or someplace else.
JRM: Or someplace else, yes, one or the other.
JRM: But, those were a couple of the major, major issues.
MBO: And you served one term on the board?† Were you re-elected?
JRM: I served two terms.† They were two-year terms.
JRM: And then I was back for a three-year term later on.
MBO:†††† Subsequently . . .
JRM:†††† Thatís right.
MBO: . . . a decade or so later or something.
JRM:†††† Right.† Right.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Was service on the board different then, that second time?† Could you see the village operating differently, or was it much the same?† Issues changed, of course - Iím not talking about that.
JRM:†††† Well, I think all of the things weíve talked about, all of the negatives were starting to creep in then.† It wasnít as much fun - work fun, but fun - as it was at the beginning.
JRM: It was more scrappy and a more difficult thing.
MBO: And you werenít . . . and, of course, the board was not so involved with beginning things and building things, but now, managing some things . . .
MBO: . . . and facing certain problems.
JRM:†††† Thatís right.
MBO: They didnít have to face earlier.
JRM: A lot of that.† And struggling with trying to find a developer that would do something in the shopping center and not just . . . not just buy the shopping center and just, then . . . or not pay the taxes and eventually get us stuck with it again.
MBO:†††† Getting back to the board itself - would you say, in your experience, whether you were on the board or not, that one of the better presidents, then, was Cunningham?† Or is there . . . does he have some competition there?
JRM:†††† Well, I would make Bob Dinerstein the best.
JRM: And then I would probably say Barney.† Barney . . .
MBO: Um hum.† Quite different men, the two.
JRM:†††† Quite different men.† Now, Barney, when there was a snow storm, he would ride with the guy in the snow truck, which is kind of, you know, thatís Barney.† Now, that didnít do any harm, and it made him feel good and he got involved.† But, he would sometimes sneak over into the village managerís activity.† But, did his homework, had the answers, and knew the score and was a good leader - very, very capable.
MBO: I frequently have gotten the impression that if a board is not particularly strong, it can still be made to be a good board if it is well led.
MBO: And the president is so awfully important.
JN:†††† Also, Iíd like to insert, because Iím very familiar . . .
JRM:†††† Thatís okay.
JN:† . . . with his papers, that he was incredibly educated himself.
JRM: No question.† No question.† No question.
JN:† He was president, wasnít he, of the Illinois Municipal League?
JRM: I think he was at one point.
JRM:†††† Sure.† Yeah.
JN:† And he was definitely very active in it.
JRM: No question.
JN:† And I think, in fact, he died at a luncheon of that group(?).
JRM: And an interesting thing - and just an aside, but itís kind of fascinating - Barney was a registered Democrat for years, until he got the last job and then he suddenly became a Republican.
MBO: Oh! I didnít remember that.† Yeah. [Interruption in Tape.] Yeah, today is Wednesday, the 1st of November.† Magne Olson speaking again.† Weíre here interviewing Ron McLeod, a longtime resident of Park Forest.† Jane Nicoll is also here.† Weíre continuing the discussion that we began last week.† We covered a number of different interesting subjects last week.† And I think today what weíd like to concentrate a little bit more on is some of the issues, some of the circumstances, some of the characteristics of Park Forest as it was started out and as it developed and as it grew.† Change, of course, has been awfully much around for fifty years.† But, letís go back to the beginning and talk first about ACB, American Community Builders.† Were you at all involved with them in the early years that you were here?
JRM: Very much involved with them.† I became a reasonably good friend of Phil Klutznickís, on a first-name basis, and also became very close to a gentleman named Herb Nicholson, who sold insurance in the lobby of the ACB [building] and was a very close friend of Mr. Klutznickís, also.† And he was in the Lionís Club.† Both of them were active in the Lionís Club when I got to know them through [Lionís.]† I think one of the things that concerns me, in looking back, there was an anti-developer attitude.† I think that was a grave mistake.† I think Phil Klutznick was a marvelous individual, dedicated to helping people.† We forget the fact that he donated the land for the schools and for the churches.† And I thought any time you went to Phil with a reasonable request, he listened and tried to do something about it.† I think itís . . . looking back, now, thatís one of the things that makes me very sad, to see that we never really . . . you know, it was a ďwe and theyĒ.† And that should never have been that because we were all . . .
MBO: The villagers and the companies.
JRM: Yes, thatís right.
JRM: So, though, this is not going to be a developerís town - weíre going to run this town.† Itís too bad.
MBO:†††† Where was he living then, when you first were involved?
JRM:†††† Well, originally, he was living over on . . . I believe on Western Avenue in just a complex there.† They tell a story about, one day there was a parade going down the street.† And Tommy came into his dad and he says, ďI think theyíre coming to lynch youĒ.† That was kind of the attitude of the . . . of a lot of the people. [ed. Note:† See the Philip Klutznick transcript for his version of this story.]
MBO:†††† [Chuckles] The children knew it, yeah.
MBO: And you didnít work with the company at all or with . . .
JRM: Oh, no, none of that, no.
MBO: It was just a . . .
JRM: As a matter of fact, a couple of times Herb Nicholson wanted me to sell insurance for him, but I never did get involved at all in that regard.
MBO:†††† Nicholsonís company was part of ACB?
JRM: Not a direct affiliation, just good friends helping one another.
MBO: And did you get involved, equally, with anybody else in the developers - ACB?
JRM:†††† Well, there was Ed Wishon, who was an assistant of Herb Nicholsonís and lived over on Hemlock Street.† I just got to know him fairly well because at one point we were involved in the Masonic Lodge together, which I since have discontinued.
JRM: But, Tom McDade was, of course, very . . . See, what both Phil Klutznick and later Manilow did, they . . . like, Jack Rashkin was Manilowís person who took care of all of the details.† If you could get beyond McDade and beyond Rashkin, you probably got a lot better results.† Tom McDade was a very nice person, very pleasant, a lot . . . everybody loved him, but nothing much happened if you talked to Tom.
MBO: Um hum.† Um hum.† He was in charge, as I recall, of the rental properties, or what was it?
JRM:†††† Well, I donít know what title he carried.
JRM: But, he was the person that Phil Klutnick called into his office and said, ďWhat should I do about thisĒ?† Titles didnít mean very much.
MBO: No.† No, that was . . . I . . . Iím sure that was the situation in a developing developerís company.
MBO: That it was looking . . .
MBO: . . . for new ways of doing things.
JRM: And ACBís office was right there in the entrance to the shopping center, across from the drug store, which were the two original things.† A little further down, the Jewel store came where that restaurant is now or [the building which has] tried to be a restaurant several times.† There were a couple of childrenís ready-to-wear stores in there at different times.† And then there was Shelleyís Delicatessen was there, it used to be.† So that we did have - in the early days, we had a handful of people and shop owners and businessmen.† But, again, if I may, I felt there was a - and not consciously, so much, but, I think just the nature of the people - anti-business.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM:†††† Weíll spend their money.† And it . . . itís just a . . . today, we still, I think thatís evident today.† I just picked up the paper two days ago and weíre gonna sue Sears for $650,000.† Well, we seem to have forgotten, they gave us a million, a million and a quarter dollars to take care of this.† And it just seems that . . .
MBO:†††† Unquestionably, Phil Klutznick and his partners were in the business to make money.
JRM: No question.
MBO: But, also, they had a vision and an idea and a commitment and so on.
JRM:†††† Well, you know, history indicates that this was one of the most planned communities that there ever was.† And they did it differently.† They built the shopping center first, then the rentals around it, and then the houses.† It was a whole new concept, an absolute change . . . it changed.† There was only one place in the East that they did a similar kind of thing.† And they had some funny little rules.† They didnít want you to hang clothes outside.
JRM: And that got a lot . . . that got everybody outraged.† And then you couldnít have pets.† Initially, you couldnít have pets, there was a real big . . . talking about that.† And then they wanted, somebody wanted to put ropes or something on cats, so they couldnít run loose.† So, we went through some really strange things.
MBO: And it was always easy for the residents to see the enemy as the developer.
JRM:†††† Absolutely.† Absolutely.
MBO: In a sense, it would kind of unite the village, then. [Chuckles]
JRM:†††† Well, thatís absolutely true.† And I think, you know, everybody, and I, too, admire all of the things Barney Cunningham did.† But, he was the leader in all of this.† He always had a we/they attitude.† Looking right, like, today, I think - and I donít speak with harshness to anyone - but I think we missed the opportunity for Phil Klutznick to build a historical society room here , off the library.† And itís our fault, not Phil Klutznickís.
MBO: When you came, in 1950 . . .
MBO: . . . Ď50, was the shopping plaza open yet?
JRM:†††† Again . . .
MBO: Or did you have to go to Chicago Heights?
JRM:†††† Thatís fifty years ago, so you have to give me a little latitude.
MBO: Oh, yeah.
JRM: I canít remember precisely.† I think, to the best of my knowledge - Jane can probably check the records to confirm some of this - but, I donít think there was too much in the shopping center when we initially moved in.† I think ACB Building was there and this drug store, which also served coffee and was kind of a hang-out for those people who wanted some. †I think that was all that was there, initially. [ed. Note:† Park Forest Liquors was the first store, opened December 15, 1949, followed by the Park Forest Drugstore, opened January 28, 1950.]
JRM: So, you got on a bus, went over to Chicago Heights, where you could go to the Sears store, where you could go to the big hardware store there.† The movie house - we went to the movie house, where that was our form of entertainment.
MBO: As the months went on, the next year or two, then the things opened up and developed.
JRM:†††† Lyttonís . . . Lyttonís, who owned the store, dress store there [Lyttonís came later, but there was a clothing store by December 1950.]† There was - I canít remember the name - but, there was a childrenís store there, for childrenís clothes [Youngsters of Park Forest.]† And then, Shelley was there.† And then you had the Fieldís [Marshall Fieldís opened 3/28/55] and you had this Jewel [opened 3/9/50].† An interesting thing that we lost track of somewhere along the line, in those days, the Field mana-, pardon me, the Jewel manager, was a member of the Lionís Club.† The manager of the meat department was a member of the Lionís Club.† And they were active and they were encouraged by their company to be involved.† Now, itís a complete change.
MBO: I think that the . . .
JRM: A hundred and eighty degree turn.
JRM: They say everything is done downtown.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† And the managers are here for just a short time and then they . . .
JRM:†††† Exactly, move on and have no real authority.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† The village center, then, was the downtown, the plaza, whatever the name got to be, that was where the village government was, as well.
MBO: Was that in a separate building from ACB?
JRM: To the best of my knowledge, yes.
JRM: I canít remember precisely, but I think there was a . . . I think there was - like, it was sort of next door to ACB.
JRM: But, again, Iím not sure.
MBO:†††† Yeah, so there were two separate entities.
MBO: But, Mr. Klutznick would always come to the village board meetings, or one of his company . . .
JRM:†††† Well, he did initially and then . . .
MBO: . . . representing . . .
JRM: . . . then he got tired of being beat up and he sent his underlings to hear about how terrible he was.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† And the issues you were talking about just a few minutes ago, those took up much of the time and effort of the village board, I should imagine.
JRM: Yes.† There was a couple of other things and I think they were a little later.† But, one of the other things that I was clearly interested in, building a golf course in the Central Park.
MBO: Ah hah.
JRM: And that was put to a referendum of the people.† They voted it down.† Initially, the board approved the idea, then as the referendum got closer and closer, they kind of changed their mind and they were opposed to it.
MBO: It cost too much, people thought?
JRM:†††† Well, I think it was an environmental . . .
[End Tape 1, Side B]
[Begin Tape 2, Side A]
MBO: Now, we were talking about the shopping center and the village government and so on.† That was always owned by the developers, the shopping center, or . . .
JRM:†††† Well, up until a period of years.† And then, at some point, Phil Klutznick decided to develop other places in the area - Oak Brook being one and up north, a shopping center up there.† So, his interest kind of waned and things.† He sold it to various developers.† I donít know whether it was our fault or their fault, but we just seemed to pick the very worst developers in the world.† They were people who twisted the truth quite often, failed to pay their taxes, and it was just a nightmare.† There just seemed a whole series of developers, one after another, who just were trying to squeeze money out of the shopping center rather than do anything to really improve the shopping center.
MBO: They werenít really developing it at all, anymore . . .
JRM: No, they werenít.
MBO: . . . and were just investing into it.
JRM: It was just terrible.† And I donít understand it, but, apparently, if you waited long enough, the taxes diminished and you could buy it fairly inexpensively for the . . . by paying the back taxes.† Now, Iím not sure that I explained it.
MBO: It did go through several owners.
JRM:†††† Several owners, just one after another.† And it just - everyone came in with great promise, and it . . .
MBO: And it went down.
JRM: Now, I think, by then, the reputation of being anti-business was pretty well established in the mind of the businesspeople.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: So, probably the ones that came in were going to be con artists.
MBO: And it - up until a few years ago, that trend was continuing.† And then the village itself decided to . . .
JRM:†††† Right.† Right.
MBO: . . . invest in it and purchase it and manage it and thatís where we are now.
JRM:†††† Right.† Thatís right.† Yeah.
MBO: What do you remember of the schools . . . your two daughters attended the . . . which schools did they go to?
JRM:†††† Well, they went to Indiana School.
JRM:†††† Yeah, 162 School District.† Mr. Huth was still living in those days.
MBO: Oh, yes.† Yeah.
JRM: And it was kind of a 1900-vintage.† But, we had good schools and we were very pleased with 162.† 163 - a fellow named, I think it was Robert Anderson, played baseball with me, the Superintendent.† And it originally, 163 was a very promising school.† Theyíve gone through a lot of difficulty.† Not being in their school district, I donít know all of the details, but there seems to have been a lot of strife and a lot of problems.† I think the high school, by and large, has done a good job and has tried very hard to take care of the ever-increasing African-American population . . .
JRM: . . . and decreasing in grades.† But, Iím . . . I have no criticism of them.
JRM: Now, [Robert Anderson] advocated and, again, Iím not familiar with it entirely, he advocated something about doing away with grades and putting the first three years in a single package or something.† It was very controversial and they didnít adopt it.
MBO:†††† Yeah, and there are number of educational ideas like that floating around.
JRM: And I think thatís one of the reasons Bob left.† He was a very wonderful, nice person, but very liberal in his approach.
MBO: And Rich - what became Rich East High School, then, was in the early Ď50s sometime . . .
JRM: Dr. Andre.
MBO:†††† Yeah, the Ď53 or something like that.
MBO: And your daughters attended there?† Or did they go to Central?
JRM: They went to Central.
MBO:†††† Central was open by that time.† Yeah.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† Exactly.
MBO: And since then, there was a third one, Rich South.
MBO: As the population increased.
JRM:†††† Thatís right.
MBO: But, Park Forest . . . Park Forest students had the confusing experience of going to many different schools.
JRM: We did a lot of things that, where we thought were great at the time, but were very, very, very harmful to Park Forest.† We voted Beacon Hill into the school district.
JRM:†††† Weíre just gonna save the world and wound up getting a real nightmare there.† At one time, everything on the Bloom side of Western Avenue, was in the 170 School District.† We brought them into the 163 School District.† All very well, but, we didnít bring in the funds to come with it.† So, they were short of . . . have always been short of funds in 163 - and high taxes.
MBO: In 163?
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† 162 has always been a little better situation.
JRM: A little better because theyíve had the MattesonÖ[Lincoln Mall shopping center.]
MBO:†††† Lincoln Highway.
JRM:†††† Exactly.† And more . . .
MBO:†††† Yeah, and of course, as the shopping center declined in well-being, then that, we created a school tax problem.
JRM: Yes.† See, thatís why I keep harping on this business - this anti-business.† We created a lot of our own problems and then now weíre trying to bail ourselves out.† But, itís very difficult when you get in a situation weíre in now.
MBO: The 163 School Board - you werenít ever on the school board, were you?† Or were you?
JRM: No, I donít think so.† I was . . .
MBO:†††† Involved in various things.
JRM:†††† Involved in the school.† When I lived over on Hemlock Street I was involved in the PTA in the school on Lakewood there.† But, then I really - when we got involved here, I . . .
MBO: That would be 162.
JRM: . . . the children were going to school here.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† The school board actions are always controversial actions.
JRM:†††† Well, we had all that.† We had a very, very, very controversial discussion about the bussing.
MBO: Oh, yes.
JRM: That was a real hot issue.† And it was everybody was phoning everybody and there were real fussing.† And I think, if memory serves me right, they voted for bussing, like, four to two or something like that.† It was not a happy . . . in other words, it wasnít a unanimous decision.
JRM: And I donít know that it made any difference to really, as much difference as people thought it was going to make.
MBO:†††† Yeah, it has had a questionable experience over the years.
JRM: I understand Mrs. Martin Luther King has raised some questions about it.
MBO: Oh.† You have been, as you said some time ago, very active in Faith Church over the decades.† Is that something you think that is or was kind of representative of people in Park Forest?† Were they more active at one time in their churches than they seem to be now?† Or do you think thatís a kind of a constant thing?
JRM:†††† Well, I think Faith Church, in the early days, a combination of Faith Church and the leadership of Gerson Engelmann, a combination of the two, I think they represented exactly what Park Forest needed.† People from all of the various denominations - and I remember my early experience.† I said, ďWhy build a church on every corner?† Why not have one church where we were . . . where all Protestants can attendĒ?† So that was basing and that became very attractive to a lot of the early settlers, some of the people out of the service and so forth.† And so, that . . . so, I think there was a real feeling of getting something that they wanted.† And as you may or may not know, the United Chicago Church Council was not enthusiastic about that.† The ministers did not particularly like the idea because we preached that it was a laymanís church.† And as you know, they met initially in the . . .
JRM: . . . in the [Holiday] theater.† Now, they . . . are not as powerful or as efficient as they were.† As a matter of fact, theyíre struggling now with a deficit budget.
MBO: The Faith congregation?
JRM:†††† Faith Church.† And itís a very serious problem for them.† Theyíve got a reserve of about sixty thousand dollars and theyíve spent about thirty-five thousand of it.
MBO: Is the membership gone down considerably?
JRM: The membership has gone down.† The membership is about, now, is about equal to when the church started - itís around four hundred families.
MBO: And at the highest?
JRM: At one time it was up at seven or eight hundred families.
MBO: Oh, yeah, double.
JRM:†††† Right.† And, again, we, I think, have crossed a bridge of bringing in African-Americans.† Most of the leadership of the church is African-American now.† So, that problem is solved.† But, theyíve got a serious financial problem.† I think it will be resolved and I think - you know, Iím not saying that theyíre going to close the doors or anything like that.† But, theyíve got to do some heavy thinking.† You canít spend money you donít have. [Chuckles] Whether youíre a church or a household.
MBO: As an active member at Faith, were you at all involved in the other three UP churches, too, then?† Was there a council?
JRM:†††† There is a United Protestant Council made up of the four churches.
JRM: I served as chairman of that for about a six-year period.† I canít recall it precisely when it was.† I think it was back in the Ď70s.† But, again, Faith Church was always the one that had the most freedom from the denominations.
JRM: The other church, Calvary , followed pretty close to the Presbyterian outline because of the minister.
MBO: In the background.
JRM: Mr. Anderson at Grace Church, Reverend Anderson, was also similar.
MBO: Um hum.† And the fourth one was the . . .
JRM: Good Shepherd.
MBO: . . . Good Shepherd.† Yeah.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Were you at all involved in the village - I donít know what to call it now - the association of churches in Park Forest?
JRM:†††† Yeah, sometimes.† When I was a member of this United Protestant Church . . .
JRM: . . . I attended this as a representative.
MBO: Ah.† Yeah.† I donít know if thatís still an active organization.
JRM: I think it is.† It is active, but Iím not sure how active.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† And did you have, as a leader in Faith Congregation, did you have a lot of dealings with other church leaders in town?
JRM:†††† Well, we, at this council that I mentioned to you, it was like two representatives and the minister.† So, there were three representatives from each of the four churches that would meet.† And weíd meet once a month and weíd . . . and we occasionally shared, exchanged posts with one another.
MBO: Oh, yeah.† But, with St. Irenaeus or the Lutheran churches or any of the other - was there any involvement?
JRM: No, not in my group at all.
JRM: I think - I donít know precisely what the development was, but Gerson Engelmann and the - what Iím struggling for the name of the Father - Father . . .
JRM: . . . were very close friends and worked very closely together.† And they, you know, picked the phone up and solved a lot of problems behind the scene.† So, Gerson - and again, this was another one of his strengths - he just worked well with everyone.
MBO: When you attended, as you did then, to begin with at the theater . . .
MBO: . . . what were those services like?† Did it feel a little odd to be there, or did it . . .
JRM:†††† Well, not really, because a lot of us were servicemen and, for example, I mean, I recall on VE-Day, going to a service for the church that was just an outline of the bricks.† The church had been bombed and we just went to the service there.† So, I think many servicemen were not uncomfortable at all.
MBO: Were accustomed to that.
JRM:†††† Accustomed to that.† You know, we have the Jewish service now and then weíll move a couple of things and weíll have the Roman Catholic service.
MBO: And thatís how it was in the theater, as well.
JRM:†††† Sure.† Sure.
MBO: And what time did the Faith people meet?† Sunday morning they had to . . .
JRM: Iím guessing, but I think it was eleven oíclock.
MBO: . . . make sure they didnít run over because somebody was coming in. [This refers to the fact that more than one church used the Holiday Theatre for services on Sunday morning.]
JRM:†††† Right.† And, of course . . .
MBO:†††† Interesting, yeah.
JRM: It was interesting times.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† And then, when the new church was built, there was a march or something from the . . .
JRM: They marched from the theater over there and dedicated the Christian Education Building.† See, they built the Christian Education Building first.
MBO: Oh, yeah.
JRM:†††† Because we had lots of children.
MBO:†††† Reasons to.
JRM: Not much money, but lots of children.
MBO:†††† [Chuckles] Yeah.† How was that sight selected?† Was that . . .
JRM:†††† Well, I . . . Iím not sure, but I suspect Gerson selected it and went to Klutznick and got it.
MBO:†††† Worked it out, yeah.
MBO:†††† Yeah, because it was closest . . . itís the closest one to the center.
JRM: See, it was a perfect location at the time.† Iím not sure itís a perfect location now.
JRM: As a matter of fact, some of us, dreaming, just wondered if we should sell the church and build another church somewhere else.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: A smaller church.
MBO:†††† Yeah, those are the kinds of questions that always come up. . .
JRM:†††† Yeah, right.
MBO: . . . in congregational life, yeah.† Yeah.† Have you been pleased or at all concerned over the years with the operation of politics in town?† Itís a difficult question just to pop on you.
JRM: No, no, no.† Thereís many, many parts to it.† First of all, in the real early days . . .
JRM: . . . I was probably known to my face and behind my back as the odd Republican in this Democratic crew.† And that was kind of fun.
MBO:†††† [Chuckles] Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: So, you kind of stood out so you could make . . .
MBO:†††† Every - again, everybody is about the same age - thirty years old or so.
JRM:†††† Sure.† Exactly.† Right.
MBO: And they mostly seem to be Democrats, if anything.
JRM:†††† Right.† Democrats and a much more liberal outlook than I had, so.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: But, I happened to believe, very deeply, in the non-partisan idea.† I think itís marvelous.† Anyone that got twenty-five dollars to print a brochure can run for politics and has an equal chance.† And itís really a better opportunity of selecting people on their ability and on what they stand for.
MBO:†††† Especially at the village level.
JRM:†††† Right.† So, I am one thousand percent for the non-partisan.
MBO: And you were like most other people in that feeling?† Or was there some . . .
JRM: Oh, no, that was . . . oh, no.† As a matter of fact, when I ran, I went out of my way not to mention the fact that I was a Republican.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM:†††† Because they didnít want party politics involved.† Henry Dietch might ask me quietly, ďAre the new people moving in Democrats or RepublicansĒ?† But, he never talked about it publicly.
MBO: And it was a sentiment, then, that everybody kind of shared pretty much?
JRM:†††† Sure, exactly.† Now, in the early days, on the party point of view, Park Forest was very prominent and voted Republican in the presidential elections.
MBO:†††† National elections.
JRM:†††† Sure.† Now, that has changed over the years.
JRM: And now they vote Democratic.
MBO:†††† Those things come and go.
JRM:†††† Right.† Exactly.
MBO: But you can trace some trends if you wanted to, Iím sure.
JRM: Now, I mean, just to go a little bit . . .
JRM: . . . and say that Iím very disappointed with the present government at the Park Forest.† I think theyíve destroyed the non-partisan idea.† And weíre getting to the stage that a lot of these other communities are, where they have the hot-shot party and the hot-shot party.† And they just - itís a political party, all supporting one another.
MBO: The terms Republican or Democrat arenít always used.
JRM:†††† Arenít used . . .
MBO: But, thereís another name.
JRM: But, itís the same principle.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† The Advance Party, the Progressive Party, this party.
JRM: And I think thereís a definite movement afoot to develop a - the opposite of what we have now.† We have, now, a strong village manager government and quote, ďa weak presidentĒ.† Thatís the . . . a movement is afoot to change that, make a strong village president and a weak village manager who does exactly what the village president asks or tells him or her to do.
MBO:†††† Along with the suggestion of wards or precincts.
JRM:†††† Exactly.† And each trustee, one takes the police department, one takes the fire department . . .
JRM: . . . one takes the recreation . . .
MBO:†††† Yeah, thatís . . .
JRM: And that, now, youíll get some denials, because people are not admitting this.† But, I . . . Iím just watching.
MBO: You can kind of sense some movement, yeah.
JRM: Itís happening all the time.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† If you were going to describe Park Forest to somebody from wherever, who doesnít know anything about it - and not right now, but put yourself back in the Ď50s or the Ď60s, how would you say this . . . what would you say this town was like then?
JRM: I was a walking salesperson for Park Forest.† I loved it and I was proud of it and I wanted to tell everybody we were different.† And one of the reasons we were different - there was no rich people and no poor people.† We were all just servicemen.† And it was the one place where they welcomed children.† They thought that made a great - that was very important to me.† Secondly, I think we handled the African-Americans moving in beautifully, to our great credit.† We didnít panic.† We didnít . . . we just simply welcomed them, went up and down the street and said, ďDonít move.† Everythingís going to be alrightĒ.† And outside of Hyde Park, I think we were the only community that I know of where we did this.† So, Iím very proud of that.† I donít think Park Forest today is any different than any other community - it was years ago - itís not now, unfortunately.
MBO: It certainly had a different origin.
JRM:†††† Exactly.† Right.
MBO: It started out as unusual in every respect.
MBO: And it has, with fifty years of time, become more usual.
JRM: You . . . well stated, Magne, well stated.
MBO:†††† Yeah, it, ah . . . There are some who say, now, that one of the salvations for villages like this, wherever and anywhere, is the acceptance of some kind of regional government idea.† Do you think that makes any sense?
JRM:†††† Well, it makes sense but it will never happen - too much local pride.† You see, thatís the same problem the United Way ran into.
MBO:†††† Thatís right.† Thatís right.† Thatís right.
JRM:†††† Exactly the same problem.† And if you think there was strong feeling about that, just imagine the strong feeling theyíll be about - ďHow dare you have Matteson tell us what to do or Chicago HeightsĒ.† Chicago Heights is always the big boogie man, everybody blames things on them.
MBO:†††† Yeah, thatís the old town.
JRM:†††† Yeah, thatís the old town.† Theyíre the bad guys.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: We donít want to be like them.
MBO:†††† Theyíve got a different past and all that sort of thing.
JRM:†††† Right.† Um hum.
MBO: But, you see that so much in areas like this, and indeed the state, with all of the little school districts, where they probably should be combined.† And just as youíre saying . . .
JRM: No question, itís right, but it isnít going happen.
MBO:†††† Political turf reasons. Thereís a good deal of talk about this and Iíve always been kind of wondering about the reactions to it.
JRM:†††† Right.† And would we be better off to build one high school rather than three?
JRM: I donít know.
MBO: And that question was . . . had to have an answer at a time when there were so many, many children.
MBO: And as that number has decreased . . .
JRM:†††† Right.† Do we need three high schools?
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Now, so, change is something that is probably a bigger element in the experience of Park Forest than one would have thought just looking at it to begin with.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Do you think there is a sense, over the half-century of the villageís life, that things have gone well or that, on the other hand, the village has not quite been able to handle its problems as it should have, and that is now increasing?† So, maybe itís an optimist or a pessimist way of looking at things, but . . .
JRM:†††† Well, as I said, Park Forest was an exciting, wonderful place to live in in the Ď50s and the Ď60s and maybe even in the Ď70s.† But, I think if you were charting it, itís been downhill since then.† Now, I own this house that Iím living in and I . . . Iím seventy-nine years old, so Iím anticipating spending the rest of my life here.† Iím not one of the people thatís going to move away.† But, I . . . Iím not sure that Iím comfortable or happy with the way Park Forest is operating today.† Now, two things that make me feel a little more secure - we have an honest, wonderful police department and an honest, wonderful fire department.† So, Iím relatively safe in the things that mean anything.† I donít think Iím in any danger here.† But, I donít see any . . . visionary leadership.
MBO: Good point.
JRM: I see more petty . . . more petty . . . and more petty and more petty and more petty.
JRM: And I just dread reading it in The Star.
MBO: And again, this comes back to this question of change.† Obviously, some changes have not happened suddenly, but maybe developed over the years or whatever.† Have these been changes that have come as a result of circumstances and people within the community, or has this sort of unpleasantness, if we use that word, come from external circumstances that Park Forest couldnít control?
JRM: Oh, I think Park Forest could have controlled some of them, some of them they couldnít.† I think that youíve got an awful lot of ambition.† I want to be the head man and I want to call the shots and I want to control everything - whether it was best for the village or whether itís just best for me.† I think that it was a selfish motive.† I think the village - and, again, I keep coming back to this anti-business - I think if we could have, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago, really, in our minds, mentally, turned that around so we really were pro-business, I think a lot of these things that are happening today would never have happened.† Iíve talked to some of these businessmen that have moved out, Iíve talked to one of the developers.† He said, ďItís just painful to deal with your board - just painfulĒ.† Well, thatís . . . now, I donít know that Iím answering your question, and because itís a difficult question.
MBO: It is.† I donít know if thereís an answer to it, but . . .
JRM: But, itís not the great, different community it was twenty, thirty years ago.† And anybody that says it is is kidding himself.
MBO: And certainly, the external circumstances within which Park Forest was created . . .† I mean, it was out here on the edge of the world.
JRM: Of course.
MBO: And it had the recently discharged war veterans and their families.
MBO:†††† Those kinds of things, of course, didnít repeat themselves.
MBO: And Park Forest became, as the word had it, became grey as time went on.
MBO:†††† Rather than - itís not a young village anymore.
JRM: No.† And one of the things that might have happened and didnít - it would have been very exciting - but, if the Lionís International Headquarters had been built there, down by the train station.† And that was a real possibility.
MBO: Oh, really?
JRM:†††† Melvin Jones was the founder of Lionism.† He lived in Flossmoor.† And Harry Cooper and I used to pick him up and bring him to the Lionís meeting.† And he would take and show us - he owned all that land there.† And, actually, in - Iím not sure of the date, but about 1950-something . . .
MBO:†††† Thatís just north of Route 30?
JRM:†††† Right.† They had, when the convention was in Chicago, they were bringing people out to look at the new site.† So, had that happened, it was just one of the things.† Had the apartments been built by the . . . where the parking lot is, would that have made a difference?† If weíd have agreed with Manilow and doubled the size of the shopping center, would that have been different?† These are all . . .
JRM: . . . opportunities that we kind of missed.† Not always our fault.
MBO: No.† And I was thinking, too, of the development of these interstate highways that are not right where Park Forest is and the shopping centers, then, that got located where those highways were, not where Park Forest is.
JRM: You see, it took us, probably, twenty years to understand, we couldnít have a regional shopping center.
JRM:†††† Weíre just not in the right location.
JRM: We fought that and tried to kid ourselves that that wasnít the fact of life.
JRM: But, it was.† We just . . . Lincoln Highwayís where you want to build your shopping center.
MBO:†††† Where there was . . . we had a nice intersection.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Well, ah, letís get to this point we touched on a little bit last time, as well.† Your assessment of the leaders in this village.† If you had to go down a short list, you know, of people who - to you or to anybody or everybody in the village - would be the most important folks, who would they be?† Who would you . . .
JRM:†††† Barney Cunningham would jump right out.
MBO:†††† Barney.† Okay.
JRM: I . . . my opinion of him is not as high as everyone elseís.† But, the people in town - see, I saw Barney make some foolish mistakes because of his pride and wanting to be the guy in charge.† Another interesting aside, Barney was invited by the Democratic Party to run for county commissioner.† He took . . . he asked Quinton Wood and I to meet with him and discuss it.† We met with him and advised him not to run because he couldnít win.† At that time, the Democrats didnít have a chance at it, so he didnít run.† I think Barney deserves an awful lot of credit.† But, if youíre keeping score, he also deserves some black marks for things, mistakes that he made.
MBO: What would he be, essentially, credited for?† What . . . ?
JRM:†††† Well, I think he was a strong leader and he was dedicated to the village and he worked very hard.† And I think he got a lot of things . . . he got . . . he was a ďdoerĒ.† Heíd always say, ďYou do, I do,Ē when he ended a meeting.
MBO:†††† After him, then, or along with him - some others?
JRM:†††† Well, as I say, Gerson Engelmann was very key, I think.
MBO:†††† Gerson Engelmann, you mentioned.
JRM: I think Gerson Engelmann and Phil Klutznick made this village.
MBO: And whatís interesting, donít you think, about both men is that they were not important only because they were on the one hand, a clergyman, and the other hand, a developer.† There was something within them, as well.
JRM:†††† Well, they both cared.† They both, pardon the expression, corny as it sounds, they loved people and they wanted to help people.
JRM: And thatís the thing that the village missed with Klutznick.† They didnít give him an opportunity to show them that.† And it was there.† Now, we mentioned other - John Scott is a man I think we need to remember in the real early days.
MBO: John Scott.† The village manager . . .
JRM: Bob Dinerstein was the best village president we ever had, by far.
MBO: And what were his greatest characteristics . . .
JRM:†††† Well, he was . . .
MBO: . . . that made that?
JRM: . . . low key and making sure things got done.† You know, he could calm everybody down and say, ďYou do this, you do this, you do this, Iíll do thatĒ.† He was a good leader.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Able to get the best out of people.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† Exactly.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM:†††† Harold Brown was another person thatís done a lot around town.† And you know, one of the real wonderful, wonderful people in Park Forest that is not . . . never recognized for what heís done, is Bob Smart.† There hasnít been a good thing happen in this town that Bob Smart wasnít involved in.† And heís just . . . like, he was the number two guy on the bricks.† He would work as long as you didnít put him in the spotlight.
JRM: So, donít tell anybody about him.
MBO: And what you just said, you wouldnít immediately understand unless you knew him and knew . . .
JRM:†††† Thatís right - exactly.
JRM: And Henry Dietch talks too much, but heís done an awful lot for the village . . . an awful lot for the village after.
JRM: And heís been dedicated and has continued to maintain the interest, which other people havenít.
MBO: I remember a comment of his some years ago.† He said when he first came here, he was . . . he felt a little bit on the outside because he was older than everybody else by about three or four years. [Chuckles]
JRM:†††† [Laughs] Yeah, thatís right.
JN:†††† Could you elaborate a little bit on John Scott?
JRM: John Scott . . .
MBO: The manager.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† Well, I mentioned that the last time I talked to John, he was writing a history of World War II, which I think† would be very interesting.† John Scott was the perfect professional.† He always was dressed up, had a suit on, most of the time.† Of course, back in those days, that wasnít as unusual as it is now.
JRM: He made sure that the village board understood that he reported to them and donít you dare go and talk to any of my staff.† You talk to me and then weíll go and see the staff together.† He gave full reports at each meeting and gave details on everything that was happening.† He was very well organized, very much low key.† Heíd sit behind the president, but he was the man they turned to for the answers.† Too . . . this sounds dreadful to say, but, he was probably too capable for Park Forest.† He would . . . he needed a bigger fish to fry.
MBO: Um hum.† Now, then, and . . .
JN:† But, he gave us a good start, because of that.
JRM:†††† Exactly.† This would look good on his resume.
JN:† Um hum.
JN:† But, it was a good start for us, that he came and got . . .
JRM: Oh, absolutely.† It was a blessing we had.
JN:† He got us on the right track . . .
JN:† . . . as to what a village manager should do.
MBO: Have you got more?
JRM: What Iím doing, whatever you ask me, Iíll try and respond.
MBO: More - other people.
JRM: No, those are about the ones I had.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: Oh, two - two people that I think did an awful lot in the early days and still do - Len Robinson and his family, an African-American.† And he was, again, behind the scenes.† And Bob Brooks is another person who, earlier, who has done some things to just keep everything calm and . . .
JRM: Iíve run out of . . . [Interruption in tape.]
MBO:†††† Yeah, you were mentioning Bob Brooks.† I didnít know him - can you go further with identifying him?
JRM: Bob and his wife worked for Lyttonís, the clothing store in the shopping center years ago, when they had a starter?
MBO: Oh, yeah.
JRM: But, Bob is an accountant.† His home is over on Early.† Heís very active in Faith Church.† Heís been very active in a number of African-American activities and his . . . he does maintain an office in downtown Chicago.
MBO: In the center.† And did you work with him on committees or in Faith . . . ?
JRM:†††† Well, see, I ran about nine fund raising campaigns at Faith Church.† Iíve been on just about every committee at Faith Church.† And so, one way or another, Iíve worked with these people five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago.
MBO: In different ways at different times, yeah.
JRM: Or ten minutes ago.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Well, letís get to some specifics on your work with the village board, then, as a trustee.† You sat as a trustee from 1965 to Ď68 and then again from 1988 to 1993.† In that first period, in the mid-Ď60s, mid to late Ď60s, what was the biggest issues on . . . coming to the board?
JRM:†††† Well, if you recall, I mentioned earlier that the big issue was the apartments.† That was the issue.† You never had a board meeting that somebody wasnít saying for something good about having the apartments or something bad about having the apart-
MBO: And these apartments were proposed for . . .
JRM: For three different locations - one by 211th Street Station, one adjacent to the downtown shopping center, and third for land in Will County, part of which has now become the Marzuki land down there.† And we had not one, but three votes, three to three.† And then Barney broke the tie and voted against the apartments in each case.
MBO: What were the advocates of the apartments maintaining?
JRM: The people in favor of it?
MBO: Um hum.
JRM:†††† Well, they maintained that it would increase our tax base and reduce the taxes, which, of course, the citizens are always interested in.† And they were kind of aggravated that some people thought it would lessen the stature of the people when most of them had come out of apartments in Park Forest initially.† It was kind of like being critical of their own people a few years later.
JN:† They were happy to have them.
MBO: But, in each of these three locations, it was approximately the same size of apartment, same number of apartments.
JRM:†††† Ralph Johnson became active in the village opposing the apartments.
JRM: He led the charge here in Lincolnwood against the apartments.
MBO: And the people who were for it, were for what seemed to be sensible reasons to many at the time and the people who didnít like it were just as strong in their . . .
JRM:†††† Jerry Kettleman, who advocated one of the apartments up there - he would come to the meetings and time and time again explain.† He would meet with the trustees individually, would get a commitment from a couple on the other side - they were going to vote for him.† And then when it came to a vote, they didnít.† It was very, very heavy, heavy politics, no matter what you call it.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† A lot of times, regardless of the issue that happens, when people say or promise that they will say or do something and then donít, when it comes down to it.
JRM:†††† Right.† And, well, it was later, it was the second time around, when they had this meeting at Mickleberryís that I mentioned earlier . . .
JRM: Same thing, where hands were shaken and promises were made and then they were broken.† So, you know, I became a little disenchanted at that point.
MBO: So, there were several votes or several procedures . . . procedural events that were taken and finally it was . . .
JRM:†††† Well, at that dinner, Nathan Manilow came himself.† It wasnít Lew - Nathan Manilow.† And he stood up to Barney Cunningham and he said, ďDo we have an agreementĒ?† ďYesĒ.† And they shook hands, but it was voted down three to . . . four to three.
MBO: At a subsequent board meeting.
JN:† With Barney being the killing vote.
JRM:†††† Barney being the vote - the key vote.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† And this . . . these . . .
JRM: Now, he would - and I donít want to argue about a dead man - but, he would probably have a good rationale for his vote.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† And these were apartments that were to be constructed under the auspices of the Manilow organization?
JRM:†††† Well, one of the . . . there were several different.† One group, Kluznick was going to do.
JRM: One that Jerry Kettleman was going to do, who was a relative of one of the Manilowís.† Heís mixed in there somewhere, Iím just not quite sure what heís . . . And then one, then the big one - when Nate . . . Nate got personally involved was when he was trying to double the size of this, of the shopping center.
MBO: And it wasnít the proposal or an idea that really got revived, then, a few years later or a decade later?
JRM: Oh, no.† It was out of the clear blue sky.
JRM: He said, ďIíve got Carsonís and Pennyís.† I want to double the size of the shopping center.† Will you help meĒ?
JRM:†††† Well, Iím phrasing a little bit, but thatís how it is.
JN:† Do you think he knew at that time?† Did that coincide with when River Oaks was going to be opening?† Do you think he knew this?
JRM: I think that was part of it.† I . . . you see . . .
JN:† He wanted it ______
JRM: . . . Manilow and Klutznick had a falling out, too.
MBO: In that period?
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.
JN:† How well known was that?
JRM: I think pretty well known.
MBO: That his people in the village government were aware of it.
JRM: In the government.† And they took advantage of - tried to play one against the other a little bit.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† And those apartments, the idea of those kinds of apartments has never been proposed again in the same way.
JRM:†††† Well, after the . . . you know, after they finally built the parking lot there and moved on to other things.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.
JN:† Oh, so that preceded the parking lot going in?
JRM: Oh, sure.
JN:† That was the land you were talking about?
JRM:†††† Thatís right, exactly.
JN:† That was being talked about.
JRM: But the thing, youíve got to come back again and remember, that the village citizensí majority were unhappy with all the traffic going to the shopping center.† They wanted this to be a bedroom community and they didnít want any of those nasty businesses in there.† Believe it or not, they wanted - they couldnít get it through their minds that the taxes would go way up if they didnít have this.† And it was . . . people would come to the village hall and sincerely suggest that we discourage the traffic on Western Avenue.
MBO: This bedroom community should remain . . .
JRM:†††† Should remain a bedroom community, absolutely.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: And social issues like Baker would come to Mayer Singerman and talk to me and we would try to get those in.† As I mentioned before, we had the Grand Prairie Center.
JRM:†††† Which is not the name today - it was the Family Service.† We gave them ten thousand dollars to get them started many, many years ago and now theyíre . . . almost all of the southern suburbs are a part of that organization.
JN:† And Mayer was quite involved in that.
JRM: Oh, very much.† Mayer was, I guess, the leader, if there was a leader, and I was supporting his position.
MBO: On the board in the Ď60s, then, youíre saying the apartment issue was a focal point . . .
JRM: Oh, yeah.
MBO: . . . of argument and so on.† Was the board similarly split on many issues, or was it mainly only on that apartment issue?
JRM:†††† Mainly on the apartment issue, yeah.
JRM: Most other issues would be five to two or . . .
MBO:†††† Pretty routine.
JRM:†††† Yeah, pretty routine stuff, sure.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Yeah.† Yeah.
JRM: And, you know, Barney was very energetic and we let him do it.
JN:†††† Excuse me.† Who else was on the board with you?
JRM:†††† Quentin Wood and Leo Jacobson, Mayer Singerman.† The lady - Iíll think of her name in a moment - sheís . . . I canít think of her name.† She lived over here on . . .
MBO: In Lincolnwood here?
JRM:†††† Yeah, Lincolnwood.† Peg something.
JRM: Yes, Peg Blazer was on the board.
MBO:†††† Blazer, yeah.† Now, as soon as we mentioned the name, then you can remember seeing her, yeah.
JRM:†††† Sure.† Exactly.
MBO: Then in the . . . your second stretch of duty, about fifteen years later, were there issues that were as immediately argumentative as when you . . .
JRM:†††† Well, the main one, the first . . . thatís when that thing, that Mickleberry thing occurred.† You know, the meeting with Manilow that fell down.
JN:† But, that was on the shopping center.
JN:† That was agreeing on the shopping center, not on the apartments.
JRM: No, the apartments were two separate issues.
JN:†††† Yeah, the apartments were . . .
JRM: The apartments were earlier.
JRM: And then, this is the later issue.
MBO:†††† Yeah.† Right.
JRM: And I think that was the main thing there.† Now, the other main . . . there was quite a lot of feeling about this golf course.† That was . . . I believe that was in the second issue.† I was the only one that came out strongly for it.† But, Barney initially liked it and then he decided against it and the majority went along with him.† And I canít think, but the referendum was defeated quite substantially.
JN:† Was that referendum by itself?
JRM: Yes.† What do you mean, by itself?
JN:† It wasnít in the 1957 referendum, where they went for the junior high and the library edition?
JRM: No.† No.† No.
JN:†††† Okay, it was not part of that.
JRM: No, it was separate.† Separate.
JN:† The swimming pool was part of that.
JN:†††† Yeah.† Okay.† Because I knew there was a Recreation and Parks thing in there.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† And, of course, you know the swimming pool started with volunteers and then went to the YMCA.† And Bob Navid was the guy that really got that started.
MBO: Ah hah.
JN:† Um hum.† Could you elaborate on Ralph Johnson?
JRM:†††† Educator.† Locked in the academic world.† Wonderful person, but limited view.
JN:†††† Where did he educate?
MBO: The University of Chicago.† Geography.
JRM:†††† Yeah.† Hard worker.† But, I wish he had worked for a paying organization sometime, so he would have understood the difference.
JRM:†††† Ralph Johnson was the one that enlisted me for the Bicentennial.
JN:† Um hum.
JN:†††† Okay.† And then Ralph - did he leave office early?† Or did he finish his . . . ?
JRM: He finished but then became ill almost immediately.
JN:† He knew he couldnít run again?
JRM: I think that . . .
MBO: I think that was . . .
JRM: . . . he probably did, although we didnít know that.
MBO:†††† Yeah, he was relatively young.
JRM: Yes.† His wife is still active in Faith Church.
MBO:†††† Well, you say youíre going to continue to live in this house in this town and all of that.† And you have mentioned some concerns over the last . . . [Interruption in tape.] Yeah, you were talking earlier about some concerns you have had over the last period of time in the village and so on.† But, youíre going to stay here.† Whatís the prospects for the future?† Are you pretty optimistic or are you less than you used to be?
JRM: Oh, Iím less than I used to be.
JRM: For sure.† Iím still - Iím an optimistic person, I think.
JRM: I think . . .
MBO: What does Park Forest need to do?
JRM:†††† Well, I guess I have been looking at it selfishly.† If Iím seventy-nine, going on eighty, is it about time I stepped out and got less involved, and not trying to be the conscience of the village.
JRM: But, I think thatís the think Iíve got to ask myself.† Just, Iíve got to learn to say no.† The future of the village - thereís some real serious dangers right now and I donít want to keep . . . and Iím very concerned about the current board and their attitude and their approach.† And it could cause things.† And Iím concerned that when any volunteer thing turns up, itís the over-fifty group, the handful that are still left from the early days - you donít see the young people getting involved.† Now, I know youíve got all answers - they both work and they donít have time and theyíre short of money and all of these things.† But, this does not bode well for the village.
MBO: No.† So, one of the things - and I think I would agree with you - one of the things that would be just outstanding for the experience of the village, would be to somehow have the thirty, thirty-five year old people have the same amount of enthusiasm and excitement and concern and involvement . . .
MBO: . . . as you saw years ago.
JRM:†††† Exactly.† Exactly.
JN:† The one saving grace here, though, is the Family League, which is that age group which is really pitching in.
JRM:†††† Yeah, but I . . .
JN:† But, theyíre hitting the other organizations because they are an organization.
JRM:†††† Well, two things . . . two things that made me nervous about that.† They couldnít find a president.† They had a lot of trouble finding a president.† Now, if you canít find a leader, what kind of an organization are you going to have?† Secondly, Iím not sure - ask me about two years from now - if it isnít just fluff, that whole organization.† I donít see . . . I donít see much depth there.
JN:†††† Alright.† They have been there for a long time, though.† Theyíre . . . and their main premise is really just to try to make it a nice place.
JRM: Itís commendable.† I like what theyíre doing.
JN:† But, they do a lot of family-oriented things, so . . .
JRM: But, Iím not sure how successful theyíll be.† I hope they are.
[End of Interview.]
††††††††† ††††††††† ††††††††† †††††††††
Patricia Kazimir of Tapescripts+