This is an interview with Judge Henry X. Dietch on September 6, 1980.
The interviewer is Chip Shields.
Q. All right, what I want to start out with is kind of an obligatory question, we ask it of all people who have lived in Park Forest for a long time. How did you happen to arrive here?
A. Well, when I came back from service, we were going to live in Chicago, but it was impossible to get any apartments there without paying some money under the table or buying some furniture: a couple of sticks of furniture for three or four thousand dollars, and I didn't have this kind of money, and I didn't want to do it. So we were staying with my in‑laws in the city when we heard about Park Forest in an article, that it was going to be a veteran's community. We went out to see it, and we were undecided. We came on a very rainy day, with the mud floating all around, but we decided to take the chance.
Q. Did you find that many people had a similar background to yours?
A. Yes, I would say I may have been a little older than the average Park Forester of that time, but generally they had pretty much the same background. Fairly good educational background, war veteran status, looking for a place to live, newly‑married, maybe with one child or a child on the way, something like that. We had one child at that time.
Q. Do you think that would account for the similarity in values and outlook, that a number of people have remarked on, that Park Foresters were in agreement on a great many things?
A. I think so. I think they were in a certain economic state at that
point. They had just come back from service or some other type of
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employment similar to that and they were beginning to raise their families, and it was a period in which we had hopes for the future. And I think that in that way we were similar.
Q. Well in those early years Park Forest was immediately distinguished
by the amount of civic participation that was in evidence.
A. That's true. That's right.
Q. People joined. Why?
A. I think they were young and vibrant. They also had certain problems to overcome: earning a living, wanting to keep themselves active in some community activity ‑‑ because they were active people, I should have said that also ‑‑ they were interested in building a town and seeing that their children had a good place to live, as well as themselves.
Q. What do you think they wanted from the village?
A. They wanted good government, good schools ‑‑ of course the schools were a separate entity; many of us from Chicago didn't realize that ‑and they were interested in serving on boards and commissions, they were interested in having a good library, and the other amenities which go with a rising standard of living.
Q. Do you think that Park Foresters saw themselves as pioneers?
A. I think they did, at least the first group did, because when we came out here this was pretty much farmland. In fact where we lived in our first location, there was a big silo across the way with some old barnyards that were being taken down at the time; so it gave you a rural feeling. And there was nothing actually south of this area, so that it was a great amount of open space, the town was being built, the new
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institutions were being born, and everything. probably resembled a pioneer town in the overall sense.
Q. Do you think the environment added to that spirit?
A. Yes, the environment did add to the spirit, because we were isolated out here. We had to go into Chicago Heights, for example, to do our shopping. We used of course the IC commuter railroad to get into the city of Chicago, so we felt we were out in the country in a rural atmosphere at that time.
Q. How was that spirit of breaking fresh ground in evidence at
A. I think that first of all everyone had something to say. We had many people who were Establishment, and there were many people who were anti‑Establishment from the standpoint of the old Establishment, not particularly Park Forest.
Q. By old establishment, you mean the urban areas that kind . . .
A. I meant in some of the urban areas. Some of them just wanted to get away from the cities, for example. I think that some of the people had a history of discussion, debate, and presentation of ideas. They were articulate. I think this was true of many people at that time.
Q. Were there any early conflicts between villagers and the developer? when the town was first going up things must have been in a state of flux, were there clashes?
A. There were clashes. First of all there was the problem of the basements, their flooding problem. I don't know if you recall them as a youngster, but this was an aggravating problem throughout the area. There were no sidewalks. There were early problems with respect to the
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water, which were solved fairly quickly. There were many promises which had been made by the developer, as to the condition of the apartments, which created some differences of opinion, and these were of course magnified by the fact that there was no shopping center. There were no amenities, which we had been led to believe would come in short order.
Q. How did ACB [American Community Builders] respond to people's criticisms?
A. I think that they were in a financial bind at that time, and I think because of that they were not able to respond quickly enough. Sometimes an individual representing ACB was not the proper individual to represent their interest; and many times there was no meeting of the minds, or no open meetings except for that one general meeting at the beginning. So that we had to go through a number of people who were not the best representatives in presenting the problems to the management.
Q. Okay, by that first meeting you meant the corporation meeting?
A. No. There was a meeting before we even moved in, a tent meeting. I
don't know if you know . . .
Q. Oh! where the name was chosen -- Park Forest?
A. Yes generally, there was a general consensus. That was a meeting that was initiated by the developer in which he indicated, or in which they indicated, that they were interested in getting a group together to form some kind of a local government, without indicating what that would be or . . .
Q. Oh so they ‑‑ that's interesting, no one has mentioned it. They were the initiators of the suggestion that there would be a village government started.
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A. Yes, I give them credit for that. There were a number of reasons why they did that, which later came out. The reasons were being that they would get sales tax revenue back to an incorporated area, gasoline taxes, and other methods, and also they would be able to convey to the municipality, the streets, the sewers, and the other utilities, so that they would not be responsible for them.
Q. I see.
A. I think this was a great consideration on their part, because of the
nature of Illinois government.
Q. But then, almost within several years after that, the village
government attempted to break away and be independent of the developer.
A. Oh! they did it right from the first month that they were incorporated. This was, I think, one of the great factors in the vitality of Park Forest.
Q. Do you think that adversarial relationship contributed to things getting done in village government?
A. Yes, I think it unified the people in the village and it became sort of a confrontation between the village government representing the people, and the developer. Not only with respect to governmental matters, but it came over in such matters as the Kelly lease situation, tenants' rights and amenities that were to be furnished to the renters. At that time we had only people who were renting, you know.
Q. Do you think that ACB would prefer to keep village government generally under its thumb?
A. I think that they had an idea ‑‑ it was not expressed in so many words ‑‑ that the village government would be compliant to their wishes,
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but it turned out otherwise. I remember several times the developers lamenting the fact that maybe they should not have had a village government in effect here.
Q. Do you think that ACB was attempting to engineer the village in a direction that they thought fit? I have heard rumors that ACB attempted to socially engineer the courts, bringing people together who on their applications said they were of this religious persuasion, or this political persuasion, and thereby avoid problems of the Catholic court, the Jewish court, that sort of thing. Do you think that ACB was that active in attempting to structure the . . .
A. I don't know, I think in the beginning they were anxious to get tenants, in other words they wanted to fill up the place. So I don't believe that they had the opportunity to do it; it could have been, but I have no evidence one way or the other in that respect. So I can't say anything about' that. Thinking of my own court, it was a very diverse group of people, different occupations, different religious groups, different family sizes; there were people with no children, people with children. There was a great variety, I would say.
Q. Who were some of the more outspoken people against ACB? Were some people known to have a bone to pick with the developer?
A. Yes, I think the village government, myself as village president, and a village trustee, originally; John Kelly, about whom we had that lease situation.
Q. Could you go into a little detail about that?
A. Yes. Now Kelly was a member of the school board, the original school board. The school board controversy was a great one, in other
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words the school board felt the developer was not doing its job in providing funds and facilities for the school district. They had no tax money to speak of to begin with. And Kelly became a very hard‑nosed board member as well as a hard‑nosed tenant, and when his lease came up for renewal ‑‑ I think he originally had a three year lease ‑‑ he was told that ACB would not renew his lease. I think his lease came up before mine did, and when we heard about it, this was the first lease we'd heard that they did not wish to renew.
Q. And they did not wish to renew it on the basis that he was a problem?
A. No, they never said that.
Q. Oh! but I mean . . .
A. They never went that far.
Q. Okay, but that was known among his immediate circle?
A. We assumed that but . . .
Q. He hadn't punched holes in the wall or anything, it was because . . .
A. No, as far as we know, and they never told us why he was an undesirable tenant. We didn't want to be in the spot where he was an undesirable tenant and we would look like a bunch of fools talking about a renewal. But ACB to my knowledge never gave a reason as to why they were refusing to renew his lease. They did say it was their prerogative, as a landlord, to have the right to refuse to renew a lease. And of course that created a furor in the community, and it lasted for two or three months, with marches, with signs being placed in those areas where new rentals were taking place, indicating that Kelly
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was being discriminated against, and that we felt that this was an abrogation of the rights of an individual to express himself. ACB refused to budge, and Kelly had no other place to go, and moved back to the city of Chicago.
Q. It seems to me that ACB in those years did a number of things which now would not hold up in court.
A. That is correct, of course who was going to litigate it? Very few of us had the wherewithal. We had a problem in that we knew it would take quite a while, and of course in those days, tenants' rights were not as great as they are at the present time. As you know, tenants' rights have grown tremendously in the last 25 years. So the legal basis was probably not as good as it would have been today, because in those days the landlord had a right to refuse to renew a lease. No ands, ifs, and buts, and that's the position they took.
Q. Have you ever heard the accusation that ACB made people pay up their leases who had been drafted into the Korean War?
A. No, I don't know that as a matter of my own knowledge, but it's possible. I think they had a security deposit of two months or one month, I forget exactly which, and I presume that they insisted upon notice, and they may have done that. where did you get that information?
Q. Ah who was it? It came out in one of our staff meetings of the Oral History project. Someone had spoken to an interviewee, who mentioned that.
A. No, I can't say for sure, but they were very hard‑nosed on people who were moving out, on trying to keep all the security deposit and
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charging them for the full amount of the rental. Many, many people were disturbed when they moved out and had to deal with them on a termination of their lease, and with what they did on the renewal of leases. This is what they did to me: they sent you a notice, "we are now considering renewal of your lease, will you come in and be interviewed?" I remember I was interviewed by Tom McDade.
Q. Hmm . . . that's interesting.
A. And I came in ‑‑ this was after the Kelly situation ‑‑ and I came in and I said, "You asked me to come in?" Here I was Village President at the time, it was an odd situation. I felt a little disturbed about it. And he said, "We're considering the renewal of your lease and we'd like to know if you wish to stay?" I said, "I certainly do wish to stay," or words to that effect, and I had no problem at that point.
Q. Did they quiz anybody to your knowledge, about their political outlooks? Could you be called into that interview and be accused of being a Socialist or something?
A. No, I don't think so, I don't know of any, anyway. Now there may have been individual instances, maybe on the biases of the individual interviewer, but I can't say that was so.
Q. And you never heard either that ACB didn't move on those applications of people that they didn't find particularly attractive.
A. Well, there were rumors to that effect, but I think what happened, in the early days, is I believe that they were not interested in getting minority groups in. It was obvious from the kinds of people that moved in, and we made an issue of that later when the Commission on Human Relations came into effect. But there was not the pressure at that
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time, because supposedly blacks and other minority groups weren't moving out to the rural areas, though there was a black community in Chicago Heights at that time. However, except for that Jesse Owens incident, which I think I referred to when we talked informally. Oh yes, there was another incident which occurred, and this was the village government, where supposedly some group of blacks who came here claimed they were harassed by the police department. We checked into it and found no basis for that.
Q. Could you refresh my memory about the Jesse Owens incident?
A. Yes, he had come here evidently to speak before some group. I had no advance knowledge of it. He had evidently ‑‑ we had found this out after the fact ‑‑ gone to Mickleberry's restaurant and evidently had been refused service in that restaurant. It's hard to imagine . . . .
Q. Did they know who he was?
A. I don't know. So we immediately put a halt to that practice by the restaurant, and got the word out to everyone that blacks were not to be discriminated against.
Q. Could you pass an ordinance? Did you have the power as the village government to prevent a restaurant doing that?
A. It's a state law, restaurants are covered by a state law, where they cannot discriminate by reason of race, color or creed. That's been in effect for a long time.
Q. So it was a decision of the management.
Q. I see, I see. Well how did you go about building a grass roots movement in those days. Let's say . . . well, for instance in
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connection with the Kelly incident, how did you get people into the streets?
A. Well, the village government was the focal point, and the village government would have its meetings, they were very frequent meetings, sometimes twice or three times a week, and we'd usually get newspaper coverage. We had both the Reporter which was the local newspaper, and the Star, which covered the area, and they both sent reporters to report. We used to get front page billing in the Star and the Reporter, and everything was reported in the greatest detail. So that if we wanted to have a meeting, that is a meeting of the general public, we merely at the meeting of the board would announce the fact that there would be a citizens' meeting, or that there would be a march, or that such and such an organization was sponsoring this particular thing. We had the League of Women Voter's, we had the National Council of Jewish Women, we had the various political organizations, and they all got together and were all interested in doing something.
Q. So in other words, if you had a feel for attracting the media, you could get the attention you needed to promote your cause promoted.
A. Yes, because we used to have, and they still have, a period at the board meetings for citizen's petitions, complaints, or remonstrances, and so on. And many people used that as a means to get publicity in the newspapers, and the newspapers would report those items.
Q. What were villagers' attitude generally toward experimentation, and change? When a new group would appear on the horizon advocating some particular cause, how would people respond in the village?
A. Well, I think, the village being the kind of village, was always
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open to new suggestions, to change. Speaking for the village government at that time, if somebody came in with a good idea we would send it to a committee immediately, we'd get busy on it, because we passed a huge number of ordinances in the first three or four years of the village government. The technique I used [was] if someone came in with a good suggestion or complaint and if we had no particular board or commission to take care of it, I would appoint a committee, put this individual on the committee or on a board or commission. And some of our most active people began their roles in that way.
Q. For instance Barney Cunningham coming to complain about Marquette Park not being completed . . .
A. Right, right.
Q. . . . who later became Village President?
A. Village President. There were so many people who followed that same route; they may not have become village presidents, but they would become a Plan Commission member, member of the Commission on Human Relations, Traffic Safety Commission, the Health Committee, and so on, because we had many boards and commissions at that time.
Q. There is a paradox about Park Forest though I've never understood. Here is a community that is mainly middle class, often went Republican in national elections, and yet it's also a community where people have encouraged such organizations as Aunt Martha's, Alcoholic Anonymous, and these progressive organizations for helping people. So how on one hand do we have what looks like from the air a conservative community, and from the ground is a community of progressives.
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A. Well, this is a good question. I suppose it was the fact that let's say the Republicans came from Republican backgrounds, and they got into the habit of maybe voting Republican, but when they saw the problems on a daily basis in a local setting, they came up with the right solutions, and many of these people changed. We had many people who came from the East, for example, who had certain fixed ideas about many things that you mentioned. They would see by the problems we faced, and the solutions that were proposed that this was the way to go. So they proceeded that way. Now there were many Democrats whose parents had been Democrats, and when they got out here, they said, "Well, maybe we ought to become Republicans," because the Republican organization was strong here, and they wanted to be active politically. The Democrats couldn't get anywhere ‑‑ it was basically a Republican community so some of them became Republicans. So it worked both ways. The Democrats, on the whole, were probably more attuned to these things that you've mentioned, but there were many Democrats that were not attuned to it. So I don't think you can generalize as a Democrat or Republican situation. It was the local experience, I think, that counted.
Q. So you think that people were probably, in general, more conservative about their national politics than their local politics.
A. I think so, though even in their national politics, they probably were not as conservative as some of the older communities in the suburban area.
Q. I was thinking in terms of Park Forest going for Goldwater in 1964, that was an indication, I think, of their conservatism.
A. Of course we had a lot of people employed by large corporations.
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Q. And some of them government organizations like Argonne.
A. Yes, some. Now, I presume in the larger corporations, let's say a fellow was an assistant vice‑president. He would probably take his political coloration from his superiors. It's natural that he would be in a certain setting and he'd get into the habit of discussing politics from the standpoint of the corporation. So I think that may have accounted for many of these people, at least being brain‑washed for Republicanism, even though they may have felt differently on the local level when they came home.
Q. In those days of organizational meetings, living room meetings, general citizen activism that peaked, probably in the late 1950's through the 1960's, was there a handful of people who kept showing up on the same boards, panels, organizations?
A. I think as time went on and the village grew in population, and people didn't know everyone in the village, that the original group ‑if you want to call it a clique, you may call it so ‑‑ we used to have a term "the voting thousand" or "the voting two thousand" ‑‑ were turning up more often on those committees, boards, and commissions. But I think at all times, and even today, the village government was always open to new faces, and encouraged, in fact asked for people to come and volunteer.
Q. For instance, through the League of Women Voters, when they would arrange a coffee for people?
A. Uh huh. Uh huh.
Q. What about accusations?
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A. Then of course the Non‑partisan Committee, too, was a good leavening influence because there, anyone could become a member of the Non‑partisan Committee, and there was a turnover, and of course they offered a vehicle for candidates to be able to present their views to the village.
Q. Do you think in a community of transients, like Park Forest was to a greater degree earlier in its history, do you think that in a community like that, non‑partisanship got people involved quickly? Someone called up those people who became interested right away?
A. I think it had that effect, in other words if there were an individual who moved in who wanted to become active, this was a fine vehicle for him to start. And also it was due to organizations like the League of Women Voters, whom you mentioned, and to other organizations which encouraged people to become active.
Q. To what reasons would you ascribe the fact that so many Jewish people have been involved in community life. They make up perhaps one of the smallest percentages, in terms of religious preference, in the community and yet I think that Al Glassner said that six village presidents have been Jewish, a number of organizations were headed by Jewish people. Why were they out there in the forefront so many times?
A. Well, I think there are probably a number of reasons. I think that Jews have been active generally throughout our nation in what you would call "good works," and I think the Jewish religion talks about charity, about being active, that present life is important, that you don't always think in terms of the hereafter. So I think that it creates a certain amount of activism. Plus, I think, as you know, that in the old
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country, our parents were prohibited from owning land for example. My father came from the Ukraine, my mother came from Austria. They were prohibited from owning land, they couldn't be land owners. They were prohibited from going beyond a certain place in education, except if they went to other areas; for example, if they went to Germany, where they could get an education. They were prohibited from certain areas within the country. So that they grew up with the feeling that liberty and freedom were very precious things. And I think when the Jewish people came to the United States, and after they got used to the United States, the they were the freedom loving. This is not true of only the Jewish people ‑but it's true of many immigrants.
Q. Irish, particularly
A. The Irish became so active politically, for example. They felt this was an opportunity to create freedom for themselves. To take part in it, to really believe in the terms of the Declaration of Independence, and I think that this is a sort of a general overall reason. I think also that it so happened that the Jewish people who came here ‑‑ Argonne was sort of a scientific set‑up, and I think there were a great number of Jews in the sciences. We also had a number of lawyers, like myself, who happened to be Jewish. We had a number of physicians, so that when we came here, we had the feeling that here is an opportunity to express ourselves, through becoming active in the village government, and it just occurred. Now, he said six village presidents were Jewish. Now Dennis O'Harrow was the first and he was not. I was the second, Dinnerstein was Jewish, Cunningham was not Jewish and Singerman. So half were. . . .
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Q. Half, yes I've got that down, yes.
Q. Yes, well besides being politically active, were Park Foresters a particular litigious group?
A. Well, do you mean as individuals?
Q. I mean as a group. In your experience with the village board, were the trustees I mean the type of people to involve themselves in lawsuits?
A. Yes, we had quite a few lawsuits in those days, because first of all our relationships with the developer, so far as annexations were concerned, planning, and zoning. Then later we had a great deal of litigation with Park Forest South, resulting from the annexation and from the boundary lines, and matters of that kind.
Q. When did you first hear of Park Forest South?
A. I beg your pardon?
Q. when did you first hear of the idea for Park Forest South?
A. Well there was a group of people who started out there called . . . I can't recall the name right now. Did anyone mention the name?
A. It was called Woodhill or something like that, and there were developers there who went down the drain before Manilow and his group took over. When he took over, he said he would call it Park Forest South, and of course we became upset about it, because we thought it would be misidentification. It was not adjacent to or abutting our village, because the forest preserves were in between. We felt that he was trying to trade on the name of Park Forest, and in not providing the
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amenities that we have. He wanted to sort of latch on to us, and we felt that we were going to have to pay the piper for this.
Q. Would this have been in the early sixties?
A. This was in the early sixties, yes, so we objected. First of all we objected to the name, we had all kinds of litigation about land annexations, boundaries, and we had litigation with the developer here with respect to certain areas, that were going to be rezoned, and we had a long period of litigation there.
Q. Was the village board careful about zoning?
A. Yes, you remember I mentioned Walter Blucher to you? He was the Chairman of the first Plan Commission, and he worked very closely with the Board. We had originally wanted 70‑foot lots. The developer came in with a plan of 45‑foot lots.
Q. About half of the size you were asking.
A. Right. We finally settled on sixty‑foot a lot. But you can imagine how the village would look with 40‑ or 45‑foot lots. That was one of the big controversies that never ended up in the courts, it was decided by the Plan Commission on a compromise.
Q. Have you ever heard that Manilow planned to put a hotel where Juniper Towers was?
A. I think that they had some plans in progress for a motel, but I don't think they were ever able to get a commitment from any motel chain or motel operators. I don't recall whether it ever was filed before the Plan Commission. I don't believe it was.
Q. Do you think the Village Board would have resisted that kind of thing? It seems to me that the Village Board wanted to contain
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businesses to the Plaza. There has never been a Tastee Freeze on the corner of Indianwood or anything like that. Is that the result of zoning?
A. I think it was a combination of factors. I think it was what businesses could a developer bring into the village. Now there may have been some mistakes made by the village government, too, at various times. For example, at one point there was a suggestion made by the developer to tear down all of the area north of Victory Boulevard ‑‑ you know where I'm referring to ‑‑ and have J. C. Penney come in. And the village did proceed, it took a long time though because there were a lot of objections.
Q. Then this would have been on the east side of Western?
A. No, on the west side of Western.
Q. Well, where Sear's parking lot is now? A. North of Sears.
Q. North, okay.
A. Across into where the rental area is. All the way up to about the ‑what street is that ‑‑ Fir Street. And this was going to be an addition to the shopping center with a tremendous store coming in from J. C. Penney.
Q. It would take on then a more citified look. It would become more like a downtown area.
A. Right, and the village was willing to rezone that into commercial. But it never got off the ground because, I guess, Penneys may have backed out, or maybe they couldn't get the financing. But it took a long time, and the developer might have had a gripe with the village
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government. I was at that time out of the village government and they might have had a gripe with them for taking so long. Now at times the village government would act too slowly with respect to these zoning matters. Now we've got to indicate that. But you had a lot of people here who were so set against the developer, that many of them became adversary to the point where they wanted to do something dirty to the developer and that wasn't right. We had a group like that also, of course. Anything ACB wanted was bad without analyzing the aspects of it. I tried to be very precise about my objections, if any. Sometimes they were good, but the village board at many times was in the position where if they were going for an ACB idea, [they] were being accused of being pro‑ACB. So it put many of the trustees and the village president on the spot, but that didn't develop until later. I don't think that was true during the time that I was village president.
Q. You talk about some mistakes in zoning. What ever happened to Industrial Park?
A. Now Industrial Park was probably not viable to begin with, because the developers set too high of a price on the land there, and once the Village Board realized that it was not going to be viable, they began to look for alternatives, but the developer did not want to budge on that.
Q. How expensive was the land up there per acre. About?
A. Ah . . . I think they wanted something like, a dollar a square foot when industrial at that time was 60 cents a square foot, they wanted something like a dollar a square foot, and it just scared people away. We had several nibbles, the village government brought people to the developer and they just didn't work out any deals. Also, I must say
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this, that in the shopping center, many good businesses wouldn't come in because they found that the percentage leases were so bad that they could not make a decent profit, and would not go in on the leasing proposition.
Q. Would that account for the turnover rate of stores in the plaza? Stores come and go.
A. I think that for the small business people, yes. Oh, I don't know what the policies are now, but I believe that they were trying to overcharge at that time, and get as great a profit as they possibly could, which in the long run undid them.
Q. Hollymatic was one of the few industries that located in Industrial Park, and the architecture of that place is pretty distinctive. It sits up on a promontory which you can see from orchard as you pass by, it has an airy look to it. Is that the type of industry that the village was hoping to get?
A. Yes. We wanted to get industry that was fairly clean, that was noiseless, or very little noise, and that would employ a number of people. We didn't want something that was automatic that could operate on ten people, when you could have the same size plant and have a hundred people working. We tried to think about that.
Q. Were you hoping to create jobs for village people?
A. Yes, that was one of the reasons that we were interested in developing the industrial park. But that's been a disaster, as you know.
A. It's been absolutely disaster.
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Q. Is that land still in the hands of ACB?
A. I think ACB is probably out of the picture. Whoever the successors are. It may be the individuals, it may be the Manilow group, because I believe the Klutznick group sold out to the Manilow group. But I'm not entirely certain of that.
Q. Well going back to ACB one more time, why did they stand in the way of integration?
A. Why did they stand in the way of in . . . ? I think basically that they were concerned in the beginning, if they permitted blacks and other minority groups to come in, that they would then have difficulty in filling up and selling the homes that later were developed and they were interested of course in preserving their investments, so‑called. I think that was their reasoning.
Q. Did ACB ever attempt to make the Village Board an extension of their policies about black integration? In other words did they try to influence you to go along with them?
A. No I don't think they did. I don't think they could have. So I don't think they tried.
Q. How did you try and defuse any problems that might have arisen in the neighborhood from black people moving in? I think you told me about going around knocking from door to door.
A. Yes, that was later when the first black family moved in. We had been alerted through the Commission on Human Relations and other organizations. We decided to adopt a policy of calling upon the people in the neighborhood where the family was to move in, and to tell them basically that the village government would brook no disturbances of any
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kind, would use the police power to its maximum, and to have no difficulties, and if there were any difficulties, the village would proceed with prosecution. And of course the church groups came along, the Commission on Human Relations, and many other civic‑minded people. So we had teams that would go out before each move‑in. Now that went on for maybe a year or two, until everything simmered down.
Q. How did most people react to seeing you on their doorstep, telling them that they were going to have a black neighbor soon?
A. I would say that generally you would find verbal reactions such as "Well, I moved out from the city because I wanted to get away from our neighborhood being taken over by blacks," although that was not a large problem. "Well, I don't like it, but I'm not going to do anything about it." Then there were many people who said, "Perfectly all right with me, no problems, we'll do everything we can." So you had a diversity of opinions. I don't know what the percentages would have been. I imagine that most people shrugged their shoulders and said, "Well, it's got to be, it's got to be, period." You know that sort of thing. We had a few people who were very indignant, I think I mentioned one incident to you when we were talking about when I was out with Reverend Nick Brewer, do you remember? And he came to this door, the door opens ‑‑ Nick Brewer was from the south, I guess from Alabama, and this man comes out, looks at Nick and says, "Nick what are you doing here?" They had evidently not known that they were both living in Park Forest. And he says, "I'm here to discuss a matter with you." I think he stiffened up [the man who answered the door], he says, "I think I know why you're here; I don't like it." But anyway we sat down and Nick Brewer gave him a good
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lecture, and he was very upset about it. He was going to do something about it, he didn't know what, but Nick Brewer calmed him down. So there were many incidents of that kind.
Q. How much or how little was the success of the village government related to the type of people who got involved in the early days, people like O'Harrow and Chief Whiteside, people like that?
A. Well Whiteside did not live in the village, let me point that out. He was merely a consultant to the village government ‑‑ he was Chief of Police in Wilmette ‑‑ for the process of picking our police chief and our police department.
Q. I guess I want to say, then, how important was expertise related to the success of the government?
A. I think it was most important. That goes on by itself, let me just pull it. . . . (a radio just came on)
A. Are you ready?
A. I think the expertise that we received was most important to the high‑grade government I think we developed. In other words, if we had a problem, we would go to the International City Managers Association, or to the Civil Service Assembly, or to experts in the field. We'd have them come in. we tried of course to get this advice free of charge. Then we had a number of people, like Walter Blucher, in our own community, who were experts in their field. We had Ken Warner, who was probably the leading civil service expert in the nation. He was Executive Director of the (then‑called) Civil Service Assembly. I think
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later it was called the Municipal Administration Service. Then we had the facilities over at the University of Chicago of the Public Administration Clearing House, which gave us a tremendous amount of help.
Q. Well, were you ever conscious then of being a social experiment, of this being a laboratory for people to try out theories?
A. I think we had some inkling. I don't think we thought of it all the time. But . . .
Q. I mean . . .
A. . because we were doing our thing on a day to day basis.
Q. A number of national magazines ran articles about this unusual place.
Q. Life Magazine had a photograph of how the village would look when it was finished, with everything in place.
A. Right. The periodicals and the news magazines, and a . . .
Q. Fortune, I think.
A. Fortune, was very interested in what our community was all about. Though of course if you read some of the articles and you were living here, you'd realize that there were many over‑statements and many understatements depending on your point of view, but we did receive a lot of attention, and of course that led us to believe that we were a social experiment.
Q. Speaking of that, how right or wrong do you think William H. Whyte was in accusing Park Foresters of being think‑alike conformists?
A. I think he was basically wrong. I think on the contrary he came
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here with a viewpoint of "the Organization Man," the corporate man; and here was a group of young executives ‑‑ of course women weren't working to the same extent ‑‑ so we have to speak in terms of young executive men, who were on their way up, who were conforming, he thought, to the corporate pattern. And because of the arrangements of the houses, if you recall The Organization Man, he had diagrams in there, which I thought were full of bunk, and I told him so when I had lunch with him, but he had his idea all set.
Q. When did you have lunch with him, while he was here then?
A. Oh, yes.
Q. While he was interviewing people?
A. Oh, yes, he interviewed people then, too.
Q. How did he defend himself when you said, "you are forcing something down our throats?"
A. Well, I didn't know what he was going to write at that time.
Q. Oh I see.
A. He had a theory. He said, "Now, don't you think this is true, and so and so and so and so," and these items appeared later in the book, and I would say, "No, because so and so and so and so." But his viewpoint, his theory was so a part of him at that time that I think he brushed aside many contrary views. Now I think he had many good points ‑‑ don't misunderstand me, there is a great deal of validity to his book. But I think that he overdid it with respect to these diagrams of how people would socialize. Well that's true in every neighborhood. Just because you're a neighbor you will socialize with your neighbors. It was no different here than in any other place, that you had people
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stay within their court because that was a natural neighborhood. So there was nothing new about that. But he tried to show the circulation and how you were inhibited about going into another court, which I don't think was entirely so. And he talked about a great deal of conformity and I didn't see that in Park Forest at all. I thought there was a great deal of diversity. Now it is true that conformity arose by reason of the thoughts of the individuals, it's merely a physical fact that they were at a certain stage of life and they had children, but that didn't make them think all alike about the raising of children, even. Everyone had their own ideas.
Q. So you think Whyte was going on the architecture of the rentals, the similarities of the homes, the fact that people were mainly middle‑class people who shopped at Sears, and therefore ended up wearing polo shirts and Bermuda shorts. You think in other words that he was relying too much on surface appearances and didn't deal with people's outlooks enough?
A. I think that's right.
Q. Okay, how about the village manager concept as a new thing in village government?
A. The manager‑council form of local government had been in existence for about thirty or forty years, but had made very little progress until about the early thirties or early forties. I had read about it for some time and I had been interested in the village manager form of government. Winnetka, for example, was a village manager type of government ‑‑ they were mostly in the North Shore areas. We decided that we would want to have a village manager form of government, since
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we'd be able to delegate specific authority to the manager, who would handle it on a day‑to‑day basis, and the Village Board would become merely a policy‑making organization. So it was adopted on that basis. I think it's a wonderful way in which a village can operate. Instead of having a mayor who has to do the day‑to‑day work and thus gets embroiled with the police department, the fire department, becomes engaged in a personal tug of war. Whereas in our village, the Village Board, is above and beyond that. They merely are the legislative body, which they should be, and not the executive body.
Q. Now there is something related to that, that I wanted to ask you ‑just flashed through my mind. Gee I forgot ‑‑ something related to the village presidency. I've forgotten now . . . Oh! I know what it was, how would Park Forest have been different had you had home rule in 1960 instead of 1970?
A. I think we would have been more innovative in meeting some of our problems. For example, we were only permitted to license and to regulate those businesses that were enumerated in the state statutes, and therefore we didn't have control on many of the businesses, which operated in a general way, without any license or regulation. We, for example, wanted to license cats as well as dogs, but the statute said only dogs, and we couldn't do that with cats, who incidentally are also a carrier of rabies. We had problems with respect to our tax rates, because we were limited by the state statutes to a certain fixed rate for various purposes. In
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order to increase it, we had to go to referendum. We spent a lot of money on referenda, which to my mind was just throwing it out of the window. We had powers that we would have liked to exercise with respect to sanitation, with respect to housekeeping matters, with respect to the Commission on Human Relations, on which we didn't have any authority statutorily, even though we went ahead and proceeded with the Commission on Human Relations, without much authority, except on our village ordinance.
Q. Do you think that Park Foresters were able to pretty much control the destiny of their village? Do you think that the village turned out to be what you envisaged it as becoming, when you were village president?
A. Well, I think that it is somewhat different now than it was then.
Q. In what way?
A. First of all it's larger, and has lost a lot of its a . . . what shall we say . . . its . . .Sense of community. . . its closeness and its ability to be able to have all people, or almost all people, interested in the village government.
I think the village government is not as responsive as I see it, because you have so many more people, and I think we have a great deal of people who are no longer active. We have people who don't know anything about the village government, or about the school system. We've lost that personal relationship which was so important in the early days, and then we have also had a change in the character of the people. We have a, I think, people who don't have as high an educational level.
We have people who
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are blue collar workers, who take no interest at all in the village government, who don't understand what went on here before. That's true of white collar people also, but I think there has been a great transition. I think, however there is a good nucleus of people who are still interested in such things as Freedom Hall, the public library, the village government, and that nucleus seems to be functioning quite well.
Q. What were some of the major issues that came up while you were village president? Are there any things that stick out in your mind as important events in the development of the village?
A. Well, I think the matter of the lot size of the homes‑for‑sale area; I think I referred to that. That if we had let the village developer insist upon 45‑foot lots, the physical aspects of the village would have been all together different, crammed and certainly not as attractive. Secondly, we made a definite commitment to beautification of the village; that was one of the early decisions. Trees ‑‑ trees to be planted were, and as you can see we have plenty of trees now. We insisted upon a high caliber police department and a high caliber fire department. Good employees, well paid at least under the standards of that time. We gave them freedom from any political influence. The nonpartisan government principle was one that I espoused. There was no Democratic way of cleaning the streets and there was no Republican way of cleaning the streets: You just had to clean the streets. And so we avoided political dissension. We also encouraged people to become members of various boards and commissions. We tried to run a good
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government, free from prejudice, free from discrimination, regardless of whose feelings might have been hurt, and I think we succeeded in that respect.
Q. Are there any other areas about the Park Forest development, or your roll in it, that you think we should have down for the record?
A. Well I think that speaking for myself, I think my greatest contribution was that I stood up to ACB and preventing this from becoming a company town. It could have been a company town, and I think that was probably my personal contribution to the picture, and I think that had a great deal of influence in the way the village developed.
Q. Do you remember any showdowns in particular? Other than the lot problem which you have already mentioned, were there any other moments that stick out in your mind where you were at odds with the ACB?
A. Yeah, on the location of the Village Hall, for example, they wanted to give us some bad land, where there was peat, further down where some of those lots are open now. They had promised us some financial aid, which they failed to give us, and we fought them tooth and nail and we did get some financial aid in the early days. We stood up to them so far as the kind of zoning, besides lot size. we insisted upon a very high degree of zoning ‑‑ good zoning ‑‑ we used the latest standards. We insisted upon a certain type of sewer to go in there which would last for a long time; they had suggested a different type of sewer. We insisted upon pavements, they wanted incidentally [to] have a pavement that would not have lasted as long as this. We got advice on it and we insisted upon certain grade standards. And on a daily housekeeping basis, we insisted that the fire regulations be met, that they be
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subject to all the ordinances. Sometimes they felt that they were above the ordinances, and we insisted that they as any other citizen of Park Forest were subject to the ordinances of the village, and there were innumerable instances of that.
Q. It sounds to me like the crux of the matter was that ACB was trying to cut corners and you were trying to stop them.
A. Exactly. Now I think what their intentions were in the beginning, was to present a good plan, and then to start nibbling away at it. It looked attractive. Because when they began building some of the other homes for sale, they did not make them as attractive as the first group, and I think that was their whole plan.
Q. Didn't they originally also try to sell pre‑fab homes to people?
A. Yes, there are a number of them along Sauk Trail. There was an Inland Steel group, there was a ‑‑ I think National Homes put up some model homes. We put our foot down, and we insisted upon quality ‑‑ if you look at these two bedroom homes, the original ones, you will notice how well‑built they are, and they stood up well.
Q. Which houses along Sauk Trail are pre‑fab?
A. There is one on the corner of Osage and Sauk Trail on this side, the west corner ‑‑ that's an Inland Steel home. Then I think there is one next to it that was a pre‑fab home. There are about five of them. I don't recall all of them, but they were stuck in certain places.
Q. I see.
A. And they were supposed to be experimental homes.
Q. I see. You just mentioned something in connection with ACB about the "nibbling away." What do you think Phil Klutznick had in mind for
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the community? He claims to have had an idea of a village where people would feel comfortable, where they could be themselves ‑‑ that kind of thing; did he have a vision of the future or was this just a terrific economic opportunity?
A. I think it was a mixture of both, so far as he was concerned. I think with Manilow it was purely a promotional operation. I think Sam Beber, who was Phil Klutznick's brother‑in‑law, was also purely a businessman. I think Klutznick probably was a little cut above those two, and that he did have . . . he liked to have the idea that he was doing some good for humanity. So I do give him credit for having some ideas along those lines.
Q. Phil Klutznick always had strong ties with the Democrats nationally, too, didn't he?
Q. Is it true that the Kennedys were here at a party in the 1960's?
A. I don't recall; I think that it was in Chicago, I don't believe it was in Park Forest. No, as far as I know.
Q. Were you ‑‑ I'm sure you were ‑‑ you must have been at the 21st birthday at the Rich East gym.
Q. This is fresh in my mind because I just talked to Jim Garretson about the same night. He got the impression from Phil Klutznick's speech that Klutznick was apologizing or justifying in a way his role in Park Forest.
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A. I had a number of conversations with him, and I think that probably was true that night, that . . . I don't know whether it was an apology or merely . . .
Q. Or justification?
A. . . . a justification indicating that there were some things that they did wrong. There is no question that he's indicated that if he had to do it over again, he might not have done it this way.
Q. Did he come off, though, at all like an injured party? Did he feel that Park Foresters had given him a rough go?
A. Yes, he felt that many times that we had been too hard on him. No question about it, that he felt that way. But I think he's mellowed over the years and now can see it in a better light, because after all when he came here his money was invested here, and he probably had some thoughts about his financial security which rose to the surface. I'm sure that that was a factor.
Q. one final thing. What kind of people do you think they turn about to be, having grown up in an environment like this one? What kind of values did they pick up?
A. Well, I think that from the educational standpoint, that they received an excellent education. I think that they were motivated by their parents, because their parents were interested in moving upward, and I think that some of those values have been instilled in some of the children; but I think that some of them rebelled against that mobility, upward mobility, materialism and so on. So that we have really two sets of children ‑‑ those who are succeeding quite well, right from the beginning, and the others who are not succeeding so well from the
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beginning, but eventually will, in my opinion. As the Abbie Hoffman type (laughs) shall I say?
Q. Or Jerry Rubin selling what is it? Stock on Wall Street.
A. Stock on Wall Street, yes. So after they reach thirty or forty maybe their values have changed somewhat, by the hard knock of experience. But I think on the whole that it was a good environment for our children. Looking at my own three children, I think it was an excellent environment and I think they are good people, and I think they will make their mark in the world. When I say making their mark, I'm not thinking in the old way, they are not going to be like us, they are going to have different views on religion, different views on marriage, they are going to have different views on children, which I suppose is patterned after the times. But I think that their basic values, that man is here for the purpose of maybe doing a little good in addition to helping himself, I think shines through.
(End of interview)