Des Plaines


Late in April, 1922, shortly after my ninth birthday we moved to Des Plaines, Illinois, a town of about 3,000 people. Then as now the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad ran through the middle of town effectively cutting the town in half, and causing an inordinate number of accidents by the fact that contrary to every other railroad in the United States its trains run on the left-hand tracks. The Soo line track ran on the west side of town, and the Belt line ran west of town about a mile west of the Soo, and then turned north and cut the town off on the north side. Six major highways also cut up the city: U.S. 45, U.S. 12, U.S. 14, Illinois 58, Illinois 62, and Illinois 83. This was a matter of pride in 1922, and a constant headache by 1962.

On the east the town was bordered by the Des Plaines River and the newly formed Cook County Forest Preserve District, which ran from the south side of Chicago to the Lake County border. This forest preserve was a model of urban planning at the time and was to be a green belt around the west side of the city of Chicago to provide recreational facilities and access to park and country for the entire county. At this time in the 20s and 30s it did just that. It was by no means a forest primeval, having been cut over a number of times, but every effort was made to let it revive itself. The river itself is a major drainage basin for northwestern Illinois and carried a great deal of water in the rainy season but fell to a mere muddy trickle during the heat of the summer. The river above Dam #2 at 'Wheeling was still suitable for swimming and fishing, and the deep water above the dam had diving boards and was supervised by a forest preserve life guard.

The center of town was concentrated around Miner and Ellinwood Streets which ran one on each side of the Railroad tracks, with the Railroad station proudly in the dead center of town. A wide parkway bordered the railroad and big elms shaded the parkway and streets. Four crossings cut the track, Graceland Avenue, Lee Street, Pearson Street, and River Road. Such businesses as were not on Miner and Ellinwood were in the first block of Lee and Pearson north and south of the tracks, and on Center which ended abruptly at the parkway just at the Railroad station. East of the river, north of route 14, south of Thacker Street, and west of the Soo line tracks was farm land as far as the eye could see, and this being in the basin of Old Lake Michigan was land so flat that there was not even a hillock to break the line of vision. It was beautiful, fertile land, broken only by a few gravel roads and one or two narrow two lane highways running north-west and south-east.

Uptown Des Plaines (as distinguished from Downtown Chicago) boasted two banks, the First National on Miner, and the Des Plaines State Bank on Ellinwood. The City Hall stood on the corner of Lee and Ellinwood, and the Library stood on its own plot of ground at the corner of Miner and Graceland, complete with tennis courts and a band-stand where weekly band concerts were still held during the summer months. There was one small movie theatre on the west side of Lee Street, just south of the big lumber yard which abutted the railroad tracks and barred the way west to Ellinwood Street. There was a blacksmith and harness shop, two hardware stores, two butcher shops, two green-grocers, an ice-cream parlor, a variety store, and Ziehn's delicatessen just west of city hall on Lee Street. Two department stores, Brown's and Spiegler's had been established before the turn of the century and were still rivals. In the days before the motor car the farmers from the surrounding country-side came in to Des Plaines to do their trading and these two stores sold everything from groceries and yard goods to shoes and brooms. They were good-sized stores, but were not patronized by the elite of the town who went into Chicago to do their shopping.

Des Plaines also contained four churches, the largest of which was the Immanuel Lutheran Church with its large-parochial school. The Congregational Church stood at the corner of Prairie and Graceland, the small Catholic Church at the corner of Prairie and Pearson, and the small Methodist Church at Park and Jefferson. It had two grammar schools, appropriately enough called North Division and South Division schools -- one at the corner of Lee and Thacker, the other at the corner of Pearson and Park. It was also the site of Maine Township High School which stood on Thacker Street, about a block west of the river. This was a matter of great contention with Park Ridge whose students also attended this school. In 1929 this quarrel was supposedly settled when a new high school was built on Dempster Street, theoretically in unorganized Maine Township, outside of the jurisdiction of either town. Des Plaines was much upset when Park Ridge annexed the area after the site was purchased and the school half built, a neat piece of municipal one-upmanship.

In 1923 there were no streets paved north of Park Street, south of Ashland Avenue, or west of Graceland. When all of these streets were paved a few years later and new sidewalks laid Des Plaines youth had a hey-day on roller skates since the nice new pavement was as smooth as a rink floor -- and just as slippery when wet or slightly iced. The "big" houses were all grouped along Lee and Graceland, and Webb's new subdivision west of Graceland was just being opened up when the Tuckers bought two lots on Prairie Avenue, one of which was purchased by the Oppers.

There were two very distinct groups of citizens before the advent of a commuter population in the early 1920s. The English, largely from the New England states -- and a good many of them from Vermont -- considered themselves the aristocracy since they were the original settlers of the valley. The Talcotts, the Kennicotts, the Longleys, the Websters, Bennetts, Whitcombs and the Jeffersons were the town leaders and went to the Congregational Church. The Germans who followed them farmed the region all around the town until many of them moved into the town and became the rivals for economic power. They went to the Lutheran Church, where two or three of the Sunday services were still conducted in German. There was no actual enmity between the two groups, they just held themselves aloof. By the time the commuter population made itself felt the German faction, which far outnumbers the English,had insinuated itself into the life of the town, into the Congregational Church, and into town politics.

Des Plaines had two doctors, Dr. Earl and Dr. Purves. Both of them were dedicated men who naturally made housecalls day and night. Dr. Earl had been a real pioneer, making his rounds with horse and buggy, and he took a good deal of interest in the history of the town and was active in civic activities, being one of the founders and directors of the first library. He owned a big house on the river, just where the Miner Street bridge crossed the river. This land had belonged to Socrates Rand, the original settler, and the old Rand Grist Mill was used by him as a barn. It stood until 1979 when it was torn down in spite of the efforts of the historical society to save it. Dr. Purves's house was on the corner of Lee and Prairie. Both men, naturally, had their offices in their houses. Their only hospital affiliation was almost thirty miles away in the city of Chicago, so they were quite prepared to set bones, perform minor operations and general treatment in their offices, or in your home.

I do not know exactly why we moved to Des Plaines. My mother and father enjoyed living in Woodlawn, and most of their friends as well as my Uncle Dick who had married Ruth Irons had moved into a section of the south side very near the South Shore Country Club. The period just after the first world war was one of rising prices and high rentals, and they decided to get out of apartments and into a home of their own. They purchased the lot on Prairie Avenue from Anne and Harry Tucker, and had a small house built by Ed Novotny, who was Dick Grimm's brother-in-law. My mother complained bitterly in years to come that she had always hated the little house and maintained that she had never seen it until the time she moved in, but after I became a grown woman I took this with several grains of salt since it could not possibly have been my city bred father who chose Des Plaines, and nobody Can tell me that my mother was not consulted frequently over the months it took to build her new house. Be that as it may, it was certainly a very small house for five people, and extremely unimposing. All of his life my father referred to it as "the shanty."

It was small and white, built in a style which I later came to recognize as typically Chicago bungalow. It had 6 rooms: a small living room, small dining room,and small kitchen down one side of the house, with three small bedrooms and a small bathroom down the other. There was an open porch all across the rear, a fine dry English basement, and an unfinished attic. My father and mother shared the front bedroom, my sister and I shared the middle bedroom, and my Grandmother Grimm had the back bedroom for herself. We all just doubled up, when we had overnight guests, which was not infrequently. In the summer time the porch could be used as a sleeping porch since it was soon screened in. We,had a coal furnace which heated the house by hot air. In those days there were no storm windows, and in mid-winter the windows throughout the house were so covered with ice and frost patterns that you could not see out of them. The fire in the furnace naturally died down during the night, and until my father went down and shook it up and added-coal the house was bitter cold. One dressed for school by huddling over one of the hot-air registers as the warmth began to rise. At night the glass of water beside my bed often froze solid. In the summer the lack of insulation brought the temperature inside the house above that outside, except in our nice light basement where we spent much of our time during the hottest months. Our hot water heater had to be heated each time hot water was needed, which was on the days washing was to be done, or baths were to be taken. I never had a daily bath until years later when we moved to New York.

For me as an active nine year old there was absolutely nothing wrong with the house. I was more interested in the outside anyway. The trees on the parkway were little sticks of poplars, soon to be replaced by even smaller sticks of elms. The lot was not landscaped when we moved in and I had the pleasure of watching Mr. Schimka and his big horses plow and disk the front and back yards in order to put in a lawn. What a treasure trove of junk his plow turned up from the fill which had been put down in the back yard. That yard looked level when he was finished with his work, but it turned out that an old stream bed had been filled in at the rear of the lot, and for forty years to come the fill settled under the effects of the winters' snows and the spring rains and had to be refilled. When I was small we often had water standing in our yard so deep that little girls could put on their bathing suits and go swimming.

There were only five houses on the curve of the bow which Prairie and Arlington make, with another four or five houses on the straight of the bow which is Laurel. The houses which had been built when the subdivision was first opened were far larger and more imposing than those built after 1922. To the west of us there were another three or four large houses on Arlington and Parsons, the most distinctive being the big Mannteufel house on the corner of Prairie and Arlington. Mannteufel owned half of the large block and had beautiful gardens, pools for goldfish, and an elegant two story chicken house-pigeon loft where Mr. Mannteufel raised fancy pigeons. All three of the Mannteufel children were within a few years of my age, and I spent a lot of time playing over there. Mrs. Mannteufel was an over- worked but kindly lady who let us rampage over the house and play marbles on the patterns of the living room rug, but Mr. Mannteufel, who was very deaf, yelled a lot, which frightened visiting children. He was friendly enough with grownups and played cards regularly with my parents, but with children he always managed to do the wrong things. He built an elaborate circus in their basement where everything worked -- clowns tumbled, horses galloped, trapeze artists swung from swings, but it was so fragile and intricate that children, for whom it was ostensibly built, were not allowed to touch it. When Brown's got their pony he bought one for his boys also, but it turned out to be an untrained, ungelded stallion, and after biting and kicking several people it became only a chore to be taken care of and quite unridable.

Back of us were the two big red brick houses belonging to the Graupners and the Browns. My parents were soon on friendly terms with both families, and my sister and I spent a lot of time in those houses. Bud Brown, who was just six months older than I, was suspected of having tuberculosis, a disease which spread chills down the backbones of parents in those days. He was supposed to spend an entire year out of school, resting and getting well. Since fresh air was part of the cure a special sleeping porch was built out above the back porch for him, and he spent most of his time there either in bed or playing quietly. Since boys were too rough and noisy for an invalid, Mrs. Brown was happy to see a little girl move in, and I spent a great deal of time playing with Bud -- time I did not begrudge since he had unlimited books, toys such as I had never seen before, and a house full of fascinating Indian trophies which they had brought back from Canada where Mrs. Brown's family lived near Winnipeg. During that quiescent year Bud and I taught ourselves the Morse code, and enlivened many an evening flashing messages back and forth between our respective sleeping porches.

Our neighbors on the north were the Richters, and there were two Richter girls, Doris and Ruth who were my particular friends. Ruth was three years older than I, and therefore much to be admired. I was also delighted to find that there were a great number of other children in the neighborhood. As in any commuting suburb just opening up they were all newcomers and no cliques had as yet been formed. Even great big boys -- all of 11 or 12 years old -- were willing, if not happy,to play with little kids only 9 or 10. Therefore in the first year I lived there I went to parties I would not have achieved for years had not everyone been new, and all of the mothers trying to make some sort of social life for their children.

I was given a great deal of liberty and roamed the streets, which were unpaved west of Graceland Avenue, with my younger sister Lois tagging along. We ventured out into the country west of the Soo line tracks where there were still many farms although a few streets had been laid out, and a few people had built their own homes with sizable plots of land around them. No one worried that we walked the railroad tracks for miles and talked freely to the tramps and railroad men we encountered. We simply didn't tell anyone of the time when an approaching train caught us on the middle of the trestle and we had to drag my screaming sister as we climbed down and sat on the stone steps supporting the trestle, hanging on for dear life while the train rumbled by overhead. The railroads as well as the forest preserves were not considered the dangerous places they had become by the time my children lived in Des Plaines. I often wonder whether they actually were less dangerous, or whether there was less media scare about the possible horrors. Certainly we never encountered anything but kindness from anyone we met.

In addition to learning my way around my new home a most exciting thing happened in the summer of 1922. My Aunt Anne and Uncle Harry came to visit us in Des Plaines, and decided to take me home for a visit with them to Des Moines, Iowa. I had never been away from home and mother longer than a single night at my Grandmother's, so the whole idea was very exciting. We travelled by car. I have no idea what model Harry's little Ford coupe was, but it was a tight squeeze for two adults and a child of nine when we set out from Des Plaines one bright sunny morning. We crossed the Mississippi just below Peoria late in the afternoon and I was duly told about the glories of crossing the mighty Mississippi, but the great slow-moving thing did not seem very exciting, even if it was the Father of Waters. What did seem exciting was the fact that shortly after crossing the Mississippi we encountered rain -- a good deal of rain -- which turned the dirt roads of Iowa into quagmires and almost bested the little car. Not only did we have mud, but we had flat tires. Poor Harry had to change the tires in the pouring rain, knee deep in mud. We had to have horses come to pull us out of the mud. It rained so hard we could not see out of the windshield which did not have automatic wipers, and I thought it was absolutely great. My Aunt tells me that for a while it was entertaining for two young adults to have an excited little girl in the car who thought it all great fun, but long before we reached Des Moines Harry was ready to drop me in the next really deep mud puddle at the next squeal of "Whee -- adventure."

I remember nothing about Des Moines, but I do remember that I was sent home by train and put into the care of a friendly conductor who came back to chat with me occasionally. Alas, there was also a "motherly" woman who sat near by and who finally came over to be "helpful." She engaged me in conversation in the course of which she found out where I had been, and found out that I was being met by my mother and father at the station in Chicago. Whereupon she dropped her bombshell. "Which station in Chicago?" she wanted to know. Horrors, I had no idea there were two stations in Chicago. But she was quite definite -- there were two stations at which this train would stop, and I must be quite sure to get off at the right one. I panicked. I do not think I actually burst into tears, but I certainly must have paled and become wide-eyed with shock. It was some time before the conductor who was busy with pre-Chicago stops came around again, and he attempted to reassure me that I and my parents would certainly get together, and that he was absolutely positive as to the station at which I was to get off. He also spoke some pungent words about "damned busy bodies" and ordered the nice lady back to her own seat. But my trip was ruined. I didn't relax until I was safe in the arms of my father at the down-town Illinois Central Station.

That fall I was enrolled at the South Division School. I had been taken out of the Chicago school when we moved to Des Plaines in late April and had never been enrolled in the Des Plaines school to finish out the year. Therefore, when school began in September and my mother took me over to be enrolled I had absolutely no school records from my Chicago schools, and since I was just 9 years old I was put into fourth grade. I do not remember being upset by this. In fact, at time it was quite a usual procedure to put a child who had moved back a grade just on general principles. I entered fourth grade with half a dozen girls whose acquaintance I had made during that first leisurely summer -- Mary Jordan, Doris Day, Maryalice Burchinal, and Nettie Wolfram. I was not at all unhappy in my new situation.

School had not been in session a month when my teacher, Mabel Longley, called me up to her, asked me a series of piercing questions, had me read, and then said, "You have done all of this before, haven't you, Phyllis?" and with that marched me off to the Principal's office. When I left his office it was to go to the fifth grade. In fifth grade, for the first time you had three or four different teachers who taught the different subjects. The children remained in their home class room, the teachers did the changing. Of the four teachers we must have had I remember only Miss Malcolm Moore, who endeared herself to us by her southern accent,.and her complete account of how she happened to have the male name of Malcolm, and Miss Johnson who scared the living daylights out of me. She had jet black hair, a ramrod straight backbone, and whanged on the desk with a pointer when she couldn't get order in any other way.

That fall I started to go to Sunday School at the First Congregational Church, which in addition to being nearly like the Presbyterian Church at which I had been enrolled, was the "in" church to go to in Des Plaines. I thoroughly enjoyed the little old Congregational Church at the corner of Prairie and Graceland. Mr. Art Webster was Sunday School Superintendent, and we sang stimulating and enthusiastic hymns under his direction. It was a small town church, and my mother became active in the Social Union, which was the women's organization, so that we participated fully in all church affairs. Never were there such bazaars and church suppers as we had there, and marvelous were the Christmas plays and entertainments we had. Even Daily Vacation Bible school became a high point in my life.

I vividly remember the first Halloween we lived in Des Plaines. Nobody had ever heard of tricks and treats in those days, and in addition to the usual bellringing and window soaping we did an especially daring thing. Hollatz's big brick house was being built at the corner of Laurel and Prairie, and the whole crowd of children -- none of us over 12, and a lot of us considerably younger -- moved the stacks of bricks which were piled on the parkway, and laid them in a wide wall across Prairie Avenue. I do not suppose that actually it was as wide and strong as the Great Wall of China, considering the work-force which built it, but it certainly was capable of stopping any vehicle coming up to it in the dark. Immediately upon moving to Des Plaines my mother joined the Social Union at church, became active in the Women's Club, and made a number of friends who remained friends until the end of her life. Within a few years she was President of the Woman's Club, active in starting up the first Girl Scout Troop and in general enjoyed her new life in Des Plaines. My father had a gruelling trip to make to his office which was on south State Street After getting up and stoking the furnace and dressing in a frigid (or torrid) house he walked five blocks to the Chicago and Northwestern station, took the train down town, walked across the loop and caught the State Street street car down to his office. At the end of his working day at five o'clock he repeated the long trip in reverse. He worked a six day week in the beginning, and a five and a half day week by 1928. As a result his acclimatization in Des Plaines was slower than my mothers', though they soon had a coterie of friends, the Clarkes, the Browns, the Ossowskis and the Hayes with whom they partied, went on sleigh rides in the winter and golfed and fished in the summer. They made the trip into Chicago by train in order to have dinner and go to the theatre and I remember them as being very busy, active people with the advantage of having a built-in baby sitter in the person of my Grandmother Grimm who, I think, suffered most from the move.

My Grandmother Grimm had lived from 1893 until 1922 on the south side of Chicago and had many friends, some of whom she had known since first coming to this country. She had worked to support herself and her family and had lived a very independent life. For a while she ran the apartment on 62nd street where she kept house for Dick and Anne. Dick paid the rent and Anne supplied the food money, and Grandma did the managing. Now, suddenly she was taken to Des Plaines where she lived in a small room at her daughter's, she was entirely dependent on her children for every cent of money she had to spend, whether on herself or for gifts for her grandchildren, and the trip back down to the south side was a long and arduous one. No wonder that sometime during that first year, when Anne was visiting, she had a case of hysterics, from which I was shooed away. I never heard her complain after that, and she was a woman of great dignity until her death.

My Grandmother took me out into the country when she visited the Willes and I thoroughly enjoyed going out there at threshing and corn shucking time, riding out on the empty wagons, perching precariously on the full ones coming back in. The men laughed and pulled jokes on what they considered a little city girl. The women, including my grandmother, slaved in the boiling hot kitchen over the great wood stoves, preparing huge mounds of potatoes, vegetables, platters of fried chicken, bowls of gravy, platesful of bread and butter, not to mention half a dozen different kinds of pie. I decided right then and there that although I would like to be a farmer out in the fields, I did not want to be a farmer's wife.

My Grandmother also took me along as company on her long journey down to the meetings of the Hammond Schwestern so that I came to know a number of the big heavy old German women she had known for so long. Some of them were now quite prosperous, and some of them were definitely not, but they all had the bond of past poverty. We sometimes spent the night after such a trip at the Ludwig's, where I shared a feather bed with my Grandmother and enjoyed listening to their conversation. This was entirely in German, of course, and although it was quite deliberate that I was not taught German, because of the feeling during World War I when Dachshunds were kicked to death and sauerkraut was called liberty cabbage, it was used quite a bit at home, particularly when my sister and I were not supposed to know what the conversation was about. Consequently I understood German very well, although I never tried to speak it. Tante Lena Ludwig was a little round woman who trotted rather than walked, often had her false teeth out, and scolded more than she talked. She had an absolute thing about boys playing on her lawn and parkway, which they did if only to tease her, and like David Copperfield's Aunt Betsy Trotwood she was apt to jump up from the table to dash out after them. She had an absolutely charming laugh. Uncle Heinrich was a rather silent man with a pronounced stutter, but I liked him very much.

The Ludwig young people were all married and in homes of their own by this time. Gus and Ella had moved to Detroit so that I did not know them very well. Bill, the youngest was enough younger than my mother that I saw very little of him, but Bert and Agnes and their husbands were good friends of my family. Agnes was married to Ed Lubeck and was childless, Bert married John Castino, lived in River Forest not far from Des Plaines, and had one son, Jack, whom I therefore saw quite frequently.

We made frequent trips back to Chicago's South Side where my Grandmother Oppenheimer still lived, as did the Pesche's, and Dick Grimm and his wife Ruth. Amanda Schumacher, my mother's oldest friend,had married Leonard Brockhurst, lived at 7918 Aberdeen Street and had one daughter, Emmy. Amanda was a pretty, plump, brown-eyed, friendly person whose favorite words were "Land's Sakes." She loved to cook, adored her husband and little daughter, and I liked to go to visit them. Len was a large bluff heavy-set fellow with a slight English accent. He had been a poor lad whose father had brought him to this country and promptly left or died. He had been a forlorn boy in the neighborhood where the Schumacher's owned their tavern, had been befriended by the Schumachers, was a friend of my parent's group, married and adored Amanda. He knew very little about his background before coming to this country with his father. Suddenly lawyers and detectives from England appeared upon the scene, and it turned out that Leonard Brockhurst was the eldest son of a well-to-do family in England, who had been kidnapped by his own father. His grieving mother and the rest of the family had been unable to find him until the 1920s. It was a 7 days wonder to all of his friends, and I rather think to him. He and Amanda and Emmy went back to visit his mother -- as I originally heard it, in a palace, but as I realized after seeing pictures much later, it was just a very nice English country house -- and they were urged to come and live there. I do not think they ever seriously considered it. Len, who had been brought up in poverty and with little education felt he would no longer fit into his family's English life, and Amanda made a very funny story of telling just how well she would fit into upper-class English life. The only person who might have made the adjustment was Emmy, but her father and mother never considered sending her back to England to stay. From that time on there was communication between Len and his family. They sent over a good deal of heavy family silver, and Amanda complained about the constant job &,cleaning it until one day she suddenly noticed that some of it was missing, and a few days later it was back, beautifully shiny. Len had had it chrome-plated. Len's younger brother Gerald was an artist -- unknown (at least to us) at that time, and Len had a number of drawings his brother had done.

We visited the Brockhursts off and on as long as we lived in the Chicago area. Some time before the Second World War Gerald Brockhurst brought a number of his pictures to the United States and gave them to his brother Len. I can still see a beautiful, reclining nude which filled the entire area above their mantlepiece. The Chicago Art Institute was interested in getting Gerald's work but Len would not sell it. Gerald was by that time well known as a portrait painter and had painted a portrait of Wallis Simpson before she became the Duchess of Windsor.

In the spring of 1923 a very important thing happened. My father suddenly came home one evening with an adorable black and white puppy he had gotten from one of the truck- drivers down at the American Commercial Alcohol Corp, for whom he was now Sales Manager. My sister Lois and I were ecstatic about the cute little thing, which he informed us was a "boy dog." I promptly turned it over on its back and announced that it was not a boy dog, it was a girl dog -- see. My father uttered an imprecation and walked out of the room. I asked my mother what the matter was and she informed me that my father didn't like the fact that I knew it was a boy dog. This puzzled me since I had two boy cousins, and certainly knew the difference between a boy and a girl, and I thought my father was very silly. Years later I suddenly realized that he had not been shocked by my knowledge but that he had been extremely annoyed at himself for not having checked before he brought home a bitch --which in those days meant the constant danger of unwanted pups. The pup, which we named Pal, was a real delight. She was intelligent, gentle and devoted, and we enjoyed her company for fourteen years. She watched at the window for us when we came home from school, she accompanied us wherever we went. She was willing to pull me on a sled, in a wagon or on roller skates for long periods of time. According to Bud Brown, a dog's mouth was the ideal antiseptic, and accordingly she licked our wounds willingly. She was a black-and-white mongrel and I suspect that she had a good deal of Border Collie in her background.

Since there were no houses at the south end of the Laurel-Arlington block we could use the entire area for a baseball diamond, and there was hardly a time from early spring until late fall that a game of one-old-cat was not to be found there. Because of the limited number of available children complete democracy prevailed and small girls played right along with big boys. On hot summer evenings the entire neighborhood gathered at the little park where Prairie and Arlington came together and all kinds of games were played under the street- lights until mothers called us in for bed. We played Pom-pom pull away, forfeits, and a game we called Pepperfry because little Allan Mannteufel could not pronounce its proper name. We jumped rope all summers played jacks, marbles and mumbldy peg. Little girls played dolls and sewed doll clothes as well. I was an avid reader and read through all of the books in my home book cases, and then began on the neighbors'. Richters had the most enticing collection of all in a complete set of the Book of Knowledge and a good many bound volumes of an English children's magazine called Chatterbox, which I devoured. The little Carnegie Library up town had a reasonable collection of children's books, and I asked for and received books every birthday and Christmas. The high point of delight was the Christmas when I received 27 books.

My cousin Thelma came to visit us every summer after we lived in Des Plaines. I must have seen and known her in Chicago but I do not remember it. I certainly remember her older sister Evelyn, after whom I named most of my dolls, and I can vaguely remember her brother Bud, but I have no recollection of Thelma until she came to Des Plaines. She and I did a number of things which would turn my hair grey if I thought my own children did them. We spent a lot of time hanging around the railroad tracks. It was great sport to cross two pins on the track, or to stick a penny to the track with gum just before a train went by. The results were most interesting. Since in those days through trains on their way to Madison, Wisconsin, or Minneapolis, Minnesota, went flying through Des Plaines we tried to see how close we could get to the swishing roaring flyers without actually being sucked under the train. We would wrap our arms around a pole or signal near the tracks and hold on for dear life as the wind and the cinders and the pebbles flew around us.

In 1923 the poplar trees along Prairie Avenue were cut down, the street paved, and new Elm trees planted. Fussing around in the new cement was another attraction, as was playing in the foundations which were constantly being dug as new houses were built. Mr. Schimka dug these with his team and a large scoop which they pulled. Once he had brought the last load of clay up out of the newly dug basement the forms were put in for the basement walls, and then the only way into the foundation was to jump down from the wall, and the only way out was to scrabble back up them. I well remember that one time I jumped down into a foundation hole and landed on a nail, which ran into my foot. It hurt, but much worse, when Dr. Purves came he pulled out the nail, examined the little purple hole and felt he had to cauterize it, and my mother held me on her lap while he heated a small pointed instrument and burned the wound. Since there were no tetanus shots at that time, and the nail had lain on the ground where horses had been used such a precaution had to be taken. In later years I felt a great fellow-feeling for Clark Gable when Jean Harlow cauterized a wound in his side in "Red Dust."

During the summer of 1923 a very exciting thing happened. My Aunty Anne and my Uncle Harry took, me to Detroit, Buffalo and Niagara Falls We drove from Chicago to Detroit where we visited with Harry's mother and other relatives. I had never met them before, and having grown up in a staunchly republican, Protestant, germanic background I started out with a fine set of biases against the democratic, Catholic, Irish clan, but I found them genial and friendly, and would have been completely uncritical but for the fact that Harry's mother took me aside, and in rather mysterious terms asked me what I saw after we were all in bed, since while travelling we shared a bedroom. I knew very well what she was talking about, but, pretending I did not, told her I saw and heard nothing. When she persisted, I said I went to bed and to sleep long before they did. At ten I knew very well she had no business asking me any such questions, and looked down my nose at her for doing so.

In Detroit we put the car on the steamer which went across Lake Erie to Buffalo. It was an overnight trip that turned out to be dream-like. The boat was beautiful, the dinner was excellent, the throb of the motors and the motion of the boat in the water was enchanting. I was put to bed at 8:30, the hour my mother had decreed, but when Harry came down to the cabin to see whether I was all right he found me on my knees in the upper berth, my nosed pressed against the grill looking out into the hall. He bundled me up in a blanket and carried me up on deck, where, the moon on the water, the breeze and the motion of the boat, not to mention the music which was playing turned the whole evening into seventh heaven.

From Buffalo we took a street car to Niagara Falls, following the river. In Niagara Falls we did everything it was possible to do. We crossed over to the Canadian side the better to see the falls illuminated at night. We crossed the rapids in the swaying cable car. We went down into the tunnel below the Canadian falls and looked out at the roaring water. We rode on the Maid of the Mist and walked on the boardwalk along the rapids. The crowning moment was when we went down below the American falls. We put on boots and yellow raincoats, went down a tremendous flight of stairs, and then holding on carefully to the railings went along the rocks and in under the American falls which fell thunderously all around us. The spray which had looked so delightful from the Maid of the Mist hit us like water from a fire hose, and I was shivering with delight as I held on tightly to my brave Uncle Harry and Aunty Anne. I brought home souvenirs for myself and my little sister -- little barrels of a white glass which contained a little picture of the falls when peered into. It was a delightful trip.

In September 1923 my little sister Lois entered first grade at South School. I really do not know why my mother kept her out of school until after her seventh birthday, but that is what happened. I was in 5th grade and do not remember a thing about it. My dog, my friends, and my neighborhood filled my life completely. My mother took my sister and me to the Chicago Loop half a dozen times a year to the dentist and to shop for clothes. We went down on the Chicago Northwestern Railroad, drawn by a proper steam train which covered us with cinders when the windows were open in the summer time, and which hissed and panted and blew steam at us as we walked past it into the main station. We then walked down the stairs at the west end of the station, out onto Clinton Street where we climbed into Marshall Field and Company's own private bus. This was a horse-drawn vehicle, kept only for sentimental reasons, in which you rode free of charge to the Randolph Street entrance to Fields. In the summer the ride was delightful enough but in the winter the little wagon was heated by a small wood stove, and the combined smells of horse, stove, the straw on the floor, and wet woolen garments was absolutely delightful.

Our dentist had his office in the Marshall Field Annex. My mother, aunt and uncles had long gone to Dr. Louis Schultz, Sr. and now I was to go to his son who was following in his father's footsteps in dentistry, and at the same time going to school to become one of Chicago's finest oral surgeons. After each bout with the dentist -- and it was a bout because I had very poor teeth and was not in the least stoic about being worked on -- we went over to the 7th floor of Marshall Field's for lunch. We ate in the Narcissus Room where we invariably had chicken en casserole, rolls with sweet butter and butterscotch sundae. Never did food taste so good, and never were there such delightful surroundings as the damask clothed tables and the fountain with its gold-fish swimming round and round with Narcissus himself on top admiring his reflection in the water.

Occasionally I was allowed to accompany my father down to his office on a Saturday when he worked only half a day, and then we went out for lunch at one of the french restaurants he loved, where the waiters and owners came and made a fuss over Mr. Opper's daughter and tried to tempt me with fancy french food which I didn't care for at all. Kranz's Ice Cream parlor on the corner of State and Randolph was much more to my taste and the drug store on the main floor of the Chicago Northwestern Station had the world's most superior chocolate malted milk shakes.

We went frequently to the movies in Des Plaines which were shown in a little old run- down movie theatre with a narrow balcony in which naughty boys sat and drummed with their feet when the reels broke down. Mr. McGee often came out, turned on the lights and lectured the crowd to get enough quiet to continue the show. This was long before the talkies, and Bebe Daniels, Ramon Novarro, Richard Barthlemess, Richard Dix, Wesley Barry, Tom Mix, John Gilbert, Buck Jones and the rest of them thrilled us to the core. The year I was ten Mary Pickford appeared in Little Lord Fauntleroy, and I was suitably impressed when Mary, playing Cedric, Lord Fauntleroy, rushed down a flight of stairs and threw herself into the arms of Mary, playing Dearest, Lord F.'s mother, and gave herself a big kiss. To this day, I do not know just how it was done. We even went into Chicago to see a play or two, although the only one I remember was "Stepping Stones," with Fred and Dorothy Stone. What makes it memorable was the scene in which Fred was somehow involved with a bakery, and ate two or three dozen cream puffs just as fast as he could, pretended to be over-come, but reappeared as chipper as ever in the next scene. I couldn't understand how he could eat so much and survive to dance, but my father explained to me that he went back stage and vomited it all up -- which horrible solution impressed me deeply.

I do not know whether it was my mother, my father, or my grand-mother who decided that we should keep chickens, but for a few years from 1923 to 1925 we had a chicken house and a chicken run in the back yard at 1215 Prairie Avenue. This chicken house later became a play-house, and still later was sold to the Hasselmans who used it as a house for their dogs. The chickens were to provide eggs and Sunday dinner. The eggs were no problem, but it was my unfortunate Grandmother who had to kill and pluck the roosters we ate. I can remember the decapitated chicken rushing around the basement, spouting blood and flapping its wings for several minutes after the head was off, while the bodiless head lay on the floor opening and shutting its beak and eyes. Somehow, that never took the pleasure out of chicken dinner. We also had a garden, gooseberry bushes, currant bushes, a mulberry tree in the front yard, and an apple tree in the back yard. In later years that apple tree bore only too abundantly, and fascinatingly since it had been grafted, and it bore two or three completely different kinds of apples.

Meanwhile Des Plaines had been growing by leaps and bounds and except for a few empty lots the Laurel Avenue, Prairie Avenue, Webford, Parsons and Arlington were all full of new houses, and all of those houses had children since that is why most families had moved out into the suburbs. Des Plaines found itself forced to build a new school way out in the country at the corner of Thacker and Second, to be known as West Division School. When this school was completed sometime during the fall of 1924 it was announced that all children living west of Lee Street would henceforth go to West School.

Moans and screams of protest were heard from the students who were to go, and who maintained that they would lie down and die rather than leave their dear South School to go to that unknown building out where there were no paved streets or sidewalks. But we were all lined up with our books in our arms and marched down the street to the new school. In matter of fact, the interior of the new school was well lighted, the rooms were large, and there were lavatories on both floors so that you did not have to go down into the dark bowels of the basement as you had had to do at South School. But the outside was merely the piles of rubble left over after the builders were through. There not only had been no landscaping, but the piles of clay had not even been levelled so that there was no playground and not a blade of grass. All through the fall and winter we waded through sticky yellow clay to get in and out of the building.

As students we were a problem. Not only did we not want to be at West School, but more than half of us were children who had already been uprooted by a move from the city to the suburbs, and who came from many different schools with different academic levels. We were a difficult group to turn into a cohesive whole with some school spirit. No such thing happened that first fall. Our three female teachers, Hiss Collins, Miss Sherger and Miss McCoy were not unpopular but the unfortunate little man who was acting principal simply could not cope. Looking back, I can see that he tried to make arithmetic and geography, his two subjects, "interesting, " and tried to get student participation, but alas, it did not work that way. I do not know what went on in the 8th grade, but in the 7th grade we had some fine tough boys who caused him a great deal of trouble. He could not maintain discipline. We had walls between the 7th and 8th grade rooms which could be swung up like garage doors to make one large room to be used as an assembly room, and he could not swing those doors. The poor fellow taught in bedlam for a month or so, and then one fateful day he was conducting an arithmetic class,in our room when he put the numbers from 1-12 in a circle on the board, put another number in the center and challenged various students to vie with him in multiplying all of the numbers around the edge by the number in the middle. Alas, Hazel Larson succeeded in winning, which led to wild demonstrations by the boys in the back of the room. He threw an eraser at them, and one of them threw it back and hit him in the forehead. He put his chalk down, turned and walked out of the room, out of the building, and never came back. We were stunned. No one ever told us what became of him - - no one ever mentioned the incident. The Superintendent, Mr. Knarr came and conducted our classes in arithmetic and geography for a few days. Suddenly a muscular, grim-faced young man appeared on the scene to take over. His name was Henry Robson, and he conquered us almost at once. Mr. Robson had been on the football team at Knox College. Mr. Robson could lift the biggest boy in the room right off the ground by the scruff of his neck. Mr. Robson could throw those blackboards up to make one room just as though they were made of paper. Mr. Robson broke a ruler on the rear end of Clarence Senne, and spanked Donald Wendt with a geography book (at which Donald's mother appeared with a large ferocious collie but the only outcome was that Donald left West School and went to Lutheran School.) When spring came and the horrible condition of the school yard was made clear Mr. Robson made it a rule that the penalty for the slightest infraction of the rules meant so many minutes with a pick and a shovel on the clay piles around the school. By this time, since we absolutely adored Mr. Robson, if we did not have a demerit by the end of the day we deliberately broke some rule so that we could work on the yard.

A group of children aged 12 to 14 can do a remarkable amount of work if properly motivated.and we were motivated. We cleared the lawns, we levelled the playground. We did such a good job that the school board bought us shrubs and trees which we planted around the school, and in June West Division School won the award for best looking school. We not only had a nice neat school yard, but we had a passionately loyal school population, and when in the fall of 1925 it was decided that those students who lived east of Graceland were to go back to South School the cries of protest that went up out rivalled those of the previous year. As the neighborhood grew in population the boys and girls grew also, and now the older children we had played with were in high school and only occasionally deigned to play Forfeits or Pom Pom Pull-away with those of us who were still in grammar school. Tom Jordan, or Summerfield Day (whom we with great cleverness called Wintermeadow Night) might come and spend a few hours playing baseball, but the new group of 7th and 8th graders had to lead Red Rover, Hide and Seek, or Statues. Buck Brown was by now out of his enforced bed rest and the Brown back yard was a good place to play. They owned two lots, and for a while had a proper tennis court on the empty lot. The had a very large strong swing set with swings, a bar and rings on which we all practiced. We were allowed to dig back around the swings and constructed a dug-out deep enough to be covered with boards and then dirt, into which we could creep and eat the potatoes we roasted in the coals of our bon-fires. Bud and I were aficionados of Ernest Thompson Seton's "Two Little Savages" and made every attempt to master his woods lore. During the summers Bud went to visit his mother's family in Canada and came back full of authoritative knowledge. To this day I think I could light a fire without matches. We looked with contempt upon the people who said you rubbed two sticks together. That is not what you did. You needed a flat piece of soft wood, a 10 or 12 inch stick of hard wood -- an arrow without a head was ideal -- and a smaller square of hard wood with a small depression in its center. Then you loosened the string of your bow, twisted the string around your pointless arrows, which you set into a small depression in your slab of soft wood, holding it upright by placing your small square of hard wood in your left on top of it. You then pulled your bow back and forth rapidly twirling that arrow with considerable speed in your soft wood slab. After enough twirling you would see a trace of smoke in the soft wood board, which you then carefully fed with tiny bits of dried bark (or if you cheated, shredded newspaper) and blew very softly on it until the little spark caught. If it did not catch, of course you went back to twirling until you had a more substantial charring and spark. To get to West Division School from our house on Prairie Avenue we had to cross the Soo line railroad tracks and the shortest way to do so was to cross the tracks in the middle of the block right behind Jordan's house. Since the Soo was a busy line this path was frequently blocked by a freight train standing there, and it was quite customary for us to crawl under the cars in order to reach the other side. A horrifying memory was of a day in early summer when a group of five or six children were playing on Prairie Avenue with Teddy Mannteufel, a friendly dog who had the bad habit of jumping up on people in greeting. A policeman was walking down the sidewalk when Teddie spied him and ran up and jumped on him. The policeman pulled out his revolver, and with all the children screaming "no, no" shot Teddie dead in the middle of the sidewalk!

A more pleasant, but equally exciting, event of the spring of 1925 took place when the Oppers bought their spring supply of baby chicks a little too early. It was too cold to put them out in the unheated chicken house, so for a time they lived in a box under the kitchen sink until they got big enough to hop out and roam around the house. Then they were put up in the attic, theoretically corralled by screens. One noon I came home to find the house empty. After looking all over I finally found my mother on her stomach up in the attic, her head under the eaves, trying to rescue two little chicks which had fallen down between the studs in the outside dining-room wall, and who were now cheeping pitifully deep down at floor level. By that evening she had not succeeded, and they cheeped mournfully all through dinner and the evening despite food which had been thrown down to them. The next morning she enlisted my help, and one of us held a flashlight on a string deep down into the wall and the other one let down a little tin Easter basket with a few grains of corn in it. A chick would get into the basket to get the corn, but then be frightened by the swaying and hop back out. It took us the entire day before by a miracle the last chick clung pluckily to the edge of the basket all the way up to the attic in spite of several bumps.

1925 was the spring that we got our first car, my parents took up golf seriously, and we joined Elmhurst Country Club, which was just a raw new club without even a club house. That summer a most wonderful thing happened. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Loesch had a country home on the Des Plaines river at the end of Hawthorne Lane. Mrs. Loesch was a peppy little red-headed English woman and she was much interested in starting a Girl Scout troop in Des Plaines. She was a friend of Juliette Lowe, the English founder of the scouts, and she herself had been active in scouting in England before the death of her daughter by a former marriage. She therefore called on the mothers of all of the girls of suitable age, and Girl Scout Troop #1 was begun, meeting at first in the basement of the Congregational Church. We were enthusiastic scouts from the first minute. Not only was Mrs. Loesch full of enthusiasm, but she had the resources and money to help us enormously in starting out as a successful troop. Much of the time she allowed us to meet for special occasions out at their beautiful home, and through her acquaintanceship with the upper echelons of Girl Scouting she arranged it so that we were all to be inducted en masse, in full uniform, by a representative from Washington, D. C! What Glory! None of us had ever participated in such a great occasion. We took it all very seriously. We learned all the things we should have learned. We drilled until we could drill circles around Des Plaines' only Boy Scout troop. We were to earn our own uniforms, which all of us accomplished. I do not think that any more hideous outfit for adolescent females was ever devised than those first girl scout uniforms. They were a terrible khaki color, and in those days girls our age didn't wear makeup so girl and uniform were olive drab. They had a round, flat hat with a droopy brim, the skirt came just below our knees, and we wore long black stockings and brown shoes. We also wore a heavy webbing belt which drooped under the weight of a hank of rope and a girl scout knife. We had to carry a pencil and notebook, and be prepared to rescue you at the drop of a hat from a well or a fire with our little six foot ropes which had to be properly whipped on each end, and hanked in the prescribed fashion. Our doting parents or relatives supplied us with a small hatchet and compass to add to the burden of our belts. Oh, we were a terrific sight when the lady from Washington came to inspect and induct us. This was also the summer that Brown's got their pony -- a truly wonderful beast named King. He was to be used with a carriage more than he was ridden, and Mr. Brown had a proper box-stall built for him in the corner of their big brick garage, with a nice run all across the back yard. I became a willing slave of Bud Brown in order to be given the opportunity to ride that pony. Many is the time I was the one to clean the stable and lug water but it was worth it.

When 8th grade opened its doors to me Mr. Robson still reigned at West Division School, and we may not have learned much arithmetic, but we certainly became athletes the girls as well as the boys. The girls' general attitude was that anything the boys could do we could do better. We challenged them at everything with Mr. R.'s encouragement. He helped us lay out our own base-ball diamond, and he gave us a great deal of coaching. I well remember one day when he was demonstrating a line drive. I was playing short-stop, and when he hit a real Jim-dandy my mettle was up and I was not going to let that ball go by. I tried to catch it, got the ball square in the chest, which knocked me flat on my back, knocking the wind out of me, and probably knocking me out for a second. The next thing I saw was Mr. R. wringing his hands -- he could not, after all, rub my chest -- far more worried than anyone else.

In those days we supplied most of our own athletic equipment. Those who had bats or balls brought them to school. One time, in a burst of generosity the school board bought soccer balls for each school. None of us, male or female, knew quite what you did with a soccer ball, and Mr. R. decreed that this was a boy's game, and it was to be the boys' ball, and he proceeded to teach them the rudiments of the game. The girls stood this injustice just so long, and then demanded the use of the ball part of the time. He held out against us for a while, and then decided that since we wanted it so badly we could use it -- but we were to use it on the days when it was our turn whatever the weather, or we would forfeit it. Accordingly, we played through Chicago's wet sloppy fall weather, drying our shoes on the school radiators, and making our mothers most irate.

Those were the days when recess was recess. You could be on your own for fifteen blissful minutes, and everyone walked home for lunch, another wonderful interval away from school. I pity the children of today who have directed play at recess and who must eat lunch at school. When do they have time to themselves? School is 7 hours of prison.

I might describe the clothes we wore in the winter. There were no galoshes for either boys or girls, and only real sissies wore rubbers. We wore high leather shoes and long stockings over long cotton underwear. All boys wore knee pants, and girls wore cotton or woolen skirts with cotton petticoats under them. Dy eighth grade we all wore jackets rather than long coats to school. None of these items of clothing were wind-breakers, and when we slid down the wooden slides which had been set up for sledding in each school yard all there was between you and the icy wind was several layer of cotton. I had frost-bitten buttocks one cold winter.

In the spring of 1926 our 8th grade class was startled by a sudden loud noise, and to our wandering eyes appeared an aeroplane which landed in the vacant lots just across Thacker street. I do not know whether we were dismissed, or whether we just got up and left, but at any rate the entire school dashed madly out to see the plane. In 1926 aeroplanes were infrequent and here was one almost in our school yard. The young pilot with his helmet, goggles, and scarf drew his pistol and marched up and down beside his plane. It was a mail plane, and he was guardian of the mail. It is hard to think of anything that would seem so marvelous today. We walked around and touched the plane in awe until someone called the proper authorities and the young man was rescued from his predicament, the plane was fixed and he took off down Thacker Street.

Sometime that spring we took some strange and unknown tests, and after that the door of the eighth grade room opened and the Superintendent, the principal, and a couple of strange men came in, spoke to our teacher who pointed to where I sat. They all turned and looked at me, talked a bit to each other, nodded to the teacher and went out. I was humiliated and scared, but I finally got up enough nerve to ask what it was all about and learned that I had received the highest I. Q. score in Maine Township, and they had just wanted to see me. It was no wonder they were surprised -- I certainly didn't look the part, nor did my school record give any indication of it. This was the first time the Stanford Binet tests had been given in Maine Township, and I have no idea what they did with the scores. So far as I know my parents were never notified, and I certainly never told them that my score was 148. I was much more impressed by the fact that in the first (and I think last) inter-town track team I was a prominent member of the combined Des Plaines Grammar School Team. I ran in the 100 yard dash, was a member of the relay team and threw the discus and the javelin, and won a large football shaped badge with a large red D on it, which I still have.

In the spring of 1926 one of those ludicrous incidents which take place in everyone's life occurred. Mary, Maryalice, Alice, Doris and I were walking west on Thacker Street toward school, and just as we passed the Schimka house we saw one of the big Schimka boys standing beside a bush relieving himself. We took one quick look and ran for school. The remainder of the afternoon we did considerable snickering about it, but I for one would never have dreamed of "snitching." But someone did, and the next day the Chief of Police and the Superintendent had us all up to the teacher's lounge and we were questioned. All of us replied with perfect truth that we would be unable to identify the culprit, but we were dragged, angry and reluctant, to the Schimkas where we were confronted with three or four adolescent boys -- men to us -- all of them looking absolutely identical. I was annoyed at whichever one of us had told, and embarrassed at our situation, but I was entertained by what I could hear going on in the Schimka house. Mr. Schimka was out in the yard with us, but Mrs. Schimka was in the kitchen, and as each big lout came in after being questioned and released he was met by his five foot mother with a harangue, in Czech, and a barrage of blows around the head -- whack, whack. I knew she didn't know any more than I did which one it had been, and she laid into all of them on general principles --- not because what they had done was wicked, but because it was such a dumb thing to have done. It was certainly deliberate since there was a barn and set of farm buildings to have concealed himself behind if he had really been in need. I would like to say here that the whole tribe of Schimkas grew up to become respected business men and active citizens in Des Plaines.

In June 1926 we graduated from West Division School, and Mr. Robson who had done his duty and whipped our unruly bunch into shape announced that he was leaving Des Plaines. I remember only that the graduation took place in the new Masonic Temple auditorium on the corner of Lee and Miner, which must have meant that West, South and North had a combined graduation, and that the sobbing of the incoming 8th grade class, who were losing Mr. R., embarrassed their parents.

In August of 1926 Girl Scout Troop #1 was introduced to Girl Scout Camp Juniper Knoll. Mrs. Loesch, still taking an interest and responsible attitude toward her troop saw to it that we all went together on a bus on which she accompanied us. She then spent the entire two weeks at camp with us. Camp was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to most of us. Juniper Knoll was on Pleasant Lake, not far from Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and was one of the Chicago Council Girl Scout Camps. Camping cost us exactly $1.00 per day -- $14.00 for the entire two weeks, and our linens and blankets were furnished. My special group of friends were all put into Shining Waters the Indian Unit, sleeping three to a tent, 30 girls to the unit. We loved all of it, we loved being wakened by a bugle, we loved being inspected and marching to the flag raising ceremony, we loved eating and singing in the big dining hall, and we especially loved swimming. Our life-guard was that most thrilling of all thing, a University of Illinois BMOC, who was on the University swimming team and sang in the University choir, named Egbert Blackman. The all-camp campfire every evening high on a hill overlooking Pleasant Lake was the climax of the day, and Shining Waters girls, as Indians, were in charge of all camp fires. The campfire had to be laid by 1O:3O A.M. all ready for the evening's lighting. It had to be laid without using paper, using a fuzz stick or shredded pine bark. Then a tiny tepee was built, and a very small log cabin, then a larger tepee and a larger log cabin, then still another and another, balancing each twig and stick of wood most carefully. Then it sat, exposed to wind -- and horrible thought, possible rain -- until everyone was gathered around the campfire site in the evening when it would be lit most ceremoniously with only one match -- and oh, the horror of it if your campfire took more than one match. We were also in charge of the fires under the caldrons which heated the water for dishes. These were two large oil drums on a grill just outside the main lodge, and it was bad enough to light a fire there at noon and in the evening when there were still apt to be hot coals under them which could burn your fingers -- at least the fire was apt to start without too much trouble. In the morning when the ashes were cold, and likely wet from dew or rain and the wood you were to use (no paper, remember) was also damp, you squatted out in front of the caldrons, probably dripping tears and tried and tried to light that miserable fire, knowing full well that immediately after breakfast the dish-washers would be very angry if there was no hot water. More than once the poor fire-lighters went breakfastless, dishes went un-washed, and other chores went undone until mid-morning when the fire was finally lighted and the water heated. But no doubt it built character, we felt big, we felt responsible, we felt important with the whole life of the mess-hall depending upon us.

The first letters I have saved are those written to me at Girl Scout Camp by my mother and father:


Monday, August 9, 1926

My Dear Phyllis, We didn't get home last night until 9:30. We went home through Burlington, Wisconsin, where I stopped to see an old friend of mine. When we got down into Illinois again there were so many cars we just crawled home. So I am afraid that unless Mr. Ossowski or Mr. Clarke drives down next Sunday I will not come to see you because I would be afraid to drive home in all that traffic alone.

Well, Phyllis, we enjoyed our visit to your camp very much, and I think, dearie, all you girls are very lucky to have a chance to be up there. I am sending you today's Tribune funnies --- I had saved Friday and Saturday papers, but Grandma burned them up, but I will try to send you the funnies every day now.

Mrs. Clarke called me up this morning and Mr. Clarke and Charles got home late last night. How is Doris Day? I hope she is better today.

You had better write Daddie a letter or a cards try to reach him by next Saturday or Sunday, so if you write about Wednesday or Thursday he should get it. His address will be Mr. A. L. Opper; Iowa Hotel; Keokuk, Iowa

Lois is sewing and I just got through cleaning up the car -- it was terribly dusty.

Am going to clean up the house now. Will write again tomorrow. Love, Mother

Tuesday, August 10, 1926

Dear Phyllis,

Just came home from downtown. I took Lois in town today to get her birthday present. I bought her a dark blue taffeta dress and a pair of pink bloomers. I hope you will think about writing Lois a letter for her birthday. Grandma Opper came Monday morning for the birthday, and guess she will stay until Thursday. Am going to take the car out now and get some sweet corn for supper, wish you could have some. Well, dearie, I will send you the funnies again, hope you like them. Will let you know tomorrow what Lois got for her birthday.

Hope you are well and not lonesome -- don't forget to write Daddie. Did you get the feather today?

Love from us all,


Cedar Rapids


My Dear Phyllis,

Mother finally told me where I might write you, so here goes: I might tell you firstly that I sent you a box of candy from Des Moines. Addressed it to Girl Scout Camp; Elkhorn Wisconsin. Have someone chase it up. It's good candy.

You know, Punkie, that is just the kind of place I always wanted you to go to, and I am sure you are going to have the time of your young life. It is much more fun to be with a crowd of your own age who are known to you -- huh?

While you have been up there where it ought to be reasonably cool, your old man has been where it has been , nothing else but hot. And when I say hot, I mean over 90 . One of these days I'm going to drive over this territory and take you with me. Then you will see some of the so-called "middle-west." If we make it we will take in Omaha, Nebraska, and Lincoln, and Sioux City Iowa. This is a very pretty town, but you know, I never really get a chance to see the pretty parts of any of these "burgs," as I work where everybody else in town works, namely the factory districts. Got to make the money so I can send my daughters to camp, etc.

On form, you don't deserve this letter as you left me and never found time to drop me a note. If you get this Wednesday or Thursday and write at once you can reach me at the Iowa Hotel; Keokuk, Iowa. I will be there until Saturday night. Much love to you, big girl, and have a good time.


Wednesday, August 11, 1926

My Dear Phyllis,

This is Lois' birthday and she is certainly a happy little girl. Grandma Opper gave her a wrist watch. What do you think of that?

We are going to the church supper tonight,and maybe for a little ride this afternoon. I wish they had visiting during the week at Juniper Knoll, then we could come up there for the day. Pal looks real lonesome for you and we all miss you very much around here. I hope you are still enjoying it up there and are not getting homesick. Also hope you got the feather for your tent.

I had the films developed, and I am to get the pictures tonight. I hope they will be good. I will bring the camera next Sunday and leave it with you so that you can take some pictures. I think mr. Clarke will drive us up. I would be afraid to come alone on Sunday.

Well, dearie, I must bake the birthday cake now. Wish you could have some. Much love from us all,


Thursday, August 12, 1926

Dear Phyllis -- Haven't received a letter from you for two days -- you are not sick, are you?

We celebrated Lois' birthday yesterday by going to the church supper, and in the evening she had Jean Mayorga over for ice-cream and cake. I went for a ride with Clarkes last night and tomorrow Lois and I are going out to Westward Ho with Mrs. Ossowski. Grandma Opper is going home tomorrow, and Grandma Grimm is going to Chicago too, so Lois and I will be all alone.

Did you write Daddie? I have had quite a few letters from him and he says it is very hot in Iowa, but it is very cool here --wonder if it is cool at your camp.

I haven't much news today, so will say goodbye,

Love to you from us all,


Saturday, August 14, 1926

My dear Phyllis

I will see you before you get this letter, but I am writing it so you can have it for Monday morning. I hope you are still enjoying the camp. I understand some of the girls are homesick. I was talking to Mrs. Richter this morning and she is going up tomorrow. Daddie is not home yet, but guess he will get here by Tuesday or Wednesday. Lois and I went to Westward Ho yesterday and she tore her new birthday dress.

Now, dearie, I must say your letters are not very long and newsy. I thought you were going to be sure and write every day, and I think you have only written one letter this week. I hope you will write a little more news about yourself and the camp in your next letter.

We are going to bring enough lunch again so you girls can eat with us. I suppose you will be ready to eat with us this Sunday.

Grandma Opper is gone home, so there is just Lois Grandma Grimm and me here, and of course, Pal. Pal has been sick this week. She doesn't care to eat. Maybe she is lone-some for you.

Had a letter from Aunty Anne this week and she and Uncle Harry are on a camping trip. They have a new Dodge coupe and Aunt Anne says it is lots more comfortable than the Ford.

Will close now -- hugs and kisses,


I came home from two weeks of Girl Scout camp and lived on the memories until the summer of 1927.

In the fall of 1926 I entered Maine Township High School. Maine was at that time a brick building on Thacker Street, built in 1904. It was already overcrowded, and since both Park Ridge and Des Plaines shared a common High School the Park Ridge students all had to come by bus. Maine's chief claim to fame at that time was that it had a swimming pool, which was unusual in a little town with a little high school. I think that the population of the school in 1926 was just about 400, with each class being just a little larger than the one before it, until ours, which was quite a bit larger. We had a large playing field, complete with track, and a separate field for the girls. You must remember that when I entered high school only my father and my Aunt Anne had ever entered high school, and neither of them had finished, so that I felt the full weight of the importance of this new opportunity, but the advice and guidance I got from home was mixed, and largely ignorant of the facts of school life of the present day. I got no guidance at all from the school. For some reason my father was determined I should take Latin, the school decreed Algebra, General Science and English. My mother felt that I should take sewing, and assorted uncles and friends felt that every girl should know typing and short-hand, so that my freshman courses were a fine muddle of college preparatory and work-day preparatory. Absolutely the only course that made a lasting impression on me was Algebra, and that struck terror to my soul. My Algebra teacher was Percy Earle, son of the town's leading Doctor, and actually a brilliant and kindly man. An Annapolis graduate and a naval officer he had been struck by sleeping sickness while in the service and invalided out. He was teaching math at the local high school, I rather imagine, to keep himself from going crazy with inactivity. He had some trouble with his speech and was impatient with our stupidity. I was very poorly grounded in arithmetic, and the Algebra book with all of those Xs and Ys was simply Greek to me. Unfortunately, early in the year he went to the office and looked up our I. Q. scores, and fixing me with a piercing gaze told me I had no business to be doing so poorly -- which absolutely froze me to the core, and class for the remainder of the year was a nightmare.

For me the outstanding feature of the high school was the athletic program. We had not one but three female instructors, all of them University of Illinois graduates only a few years older then ourselves -- Jay Purves, Eunice Webster, and Virginia Supple. The girls had plenty of room, plenty of equipment, our fair share of the pool, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Fall was given over to field hockey, and we played a rough game. Swimming went on all year since it was inside, basketball occupied the winter and baseball and track the spring. We had very little indoor gymnastic equipment but we had a locker room and showers and wore tank suits and felt contempt for those who did not like to undress in front of their peers.

My parents were great friends of the Clarkes, and we saw a good deal of the Clarke children, Beth and Charles. Charles was about three years younger than I and had been a victim of the polio epidemic which had crippled so many children in 1917. He had braces on both legs, but was a cheerful, active little boy, who insisted on trying to do everything everyone else did and threw many a temper tantrum when he couldn't manage to do so. Some of the older ladies in town thought his mother was cruel for either forcing, or letting, Charles do the things he did, but he grew up to be a self-respecting independent man who made a fine life for himself, mainly because he did not feel sorry -- had never been taught to feel sorry -- for himself.

Just after New Year's Day of 1927 everyone in town was out ice-skating on the river. We skated all the way down to Oakton Street from the Dempster Street bridges spent more hours playing crack-the-whip, and went home to our house for a big dinner. That night I was deathly ill, and for years I could not eat pineapple salad. I vomited, had a stomach ache, felt awful, and woke my mother at a very early hour to tell her I had appendicitis. She, of course, pooh-poohed the idea and told me to go back to bed. I was not able to go to school the next day, and lay in bed feeling worse and worse. Knowing the huge dinner I had eaten my mother walked up town and bought some citrate of magnesia which she insisted I take, although I informed her that she would kill me by giving me a laxative when I had appendicitis. Naturally enough this only annoyed her, but by about four P.M. when I was hobbling into the bathroom and she told me to straighten up and I said I couldn't, she began to worry, called Dr. Purves who came in, examined me thoroughly, and told her to call my father at work and have him meet us at St. Mary's Hospital. I had appendicitis, all right. Dr. Purves drove my mother and me, still in pajamas, wrapped in a blanket, straight down to the hospital where I was whisked up to the operating rooms. A kindly nun anaesthetist (complete with black habit) instructed me to take little breaths and blow out as hard as I could as she placed the little gauze cone over my nose and began to drip ether. I did as instructed, and as a result can remember the Dr. coming to the door and asking "not out yet." I came to in a hospital room, sick as a dog, with a splitting headache, and an even worse pain in my tummy. I was terribly thirsty, and I was told I could not have water, and that furthermore the ice-bag on my head was full of poison ice. When my brain began to function again a day or so later I realized that no hospital made poisoned ice -- that was merely a tale to keep me from eating it. When I lifted the covers and got a whiff of the sickly sweetish odor emanating from my abdomen, I, who had been avidly reading A. Guy Empy's books on the World War I battlefront, said "Aha, I have gangrene." And indeed I did. My appendix had burst before they could get me open, and I had a large rubber tube protruding from the bottom of my incision, kept from retracting itself into my insides by a large safety-pin. I was fascinated by the daily change of dressing with its mass of yellow-green pus, but the result of that drain is a rather hideous appendicitis scar on my tummy.

Those being "the good old days," I was not allowed out of bed for the entire two or more weeks that I was in the hospital. In fact, I was not even allowed to sit up for most of that time. Since I was only 13, and was in good spirits after the first few days a good many nurses and interns gathered in my room and used it as a lounge. My little nurse did 24 hour private duty. She slept on a cot in my room, and was on call the entire 24 hours. I imagine she was paid something like $6.00 per day. Naturally enough I menstruated shortly after my operation and my nurse and I had some heated arguments. She was of the school that not only did not bathe, but did not wash her hair during her menstrual period. She did not go quite as far as a friend of mine whose mother had warned her against eating strawberries during such a delicate period. My more liberal ideas on the subject worried her so much that we finally consulted some of the interns, who I am glad to say were advanced enough to agree with my mother's dictum: you could do anything you felt able to do -- with the proviso, in those pre-kotex, pre-tampon days, that you could do so without creating a mess.

The interns came to my room for another reason. Not only did my mother bring in constant stream of goodies to tempt my non-existent appetite, but Gaston Alciator of L'Aiglon, and Teddy, the owner of Chez Paree both sent up elaborate trays of french goodies to tempt Mr. Opper's poor sick daughter. I did not like elaborate French cooking even when I was well, so that I turned up my nose at the beautiful frog legs, shrimp, potatoes like little balloons, vegetables in rich sauces, etc. But the hungry interns reported in every day to see what was new on the menu.

What I did get that I liked was books, and I went home with an enormous load of new books, to spend another two or three weeks on the couch in the living room before I went back to school and back into athletic activities. My true sorrow was that I had been out of the running all through our first encounter with basketball, and I never felt that I recovered from that set-back. Another set-back which never bothered me, in fact, which never entered my mind, was the fact that I missed some six or seven weeks of classes. Neither I or my parents gave a second thought to the fact that I should make all this up, and the school certainly never forced it on my attention. As a result I suffered a severe loss in the knowledge of Latin grammar and the Algebra which had been my bete noire previously was now a complete mystery as far as I was concerned.

In the winter of 1927 my Aunty Anne and Uncle Harry Tucker came back into the Chicago area and moved into one of the new apartments built by Browns on Thacker street. They were accompanied by their nice new son Harry, who became the idol of Girl Scout Troop #1, and on whom several of us earned our baby-caring badges. That spring the streets on the west side of Des Plaines were paved, and Gene Tunney, who for some reason was my idol, took the long count, an event which I heard on Tucker's battery-powered radio.

For my 14th birthday in March my father provided tickets for my Grandmother Opper and me to go to see Dennis King in "The Vagabond King." We sat in row K, right in the middle, and I fell madly in love with Mr. King. Not alone -- all Chicago had fallen under his spell, and he came out after the first or second act to tumultuous applause, and after bowing half a dozen times swept off his black wig, and holding it aloft bowed to us with his own blonde hair exposed. I can feel the thrill now. I learned the words to every song in the show -- got the victrola records -- clipped every reference to him out could find, and there were a great many, out of the Chicago papers, and indulged in idol worship. Never was there such a successful birthday present.

I have said very little about my Grandmothers during all of this Des Plaines saga. My Grandmother Grimm lived with us and did the chicken tending, was gardener, chief laundress, bottle-washer, and most important, built-in baby sitter. Of course, we were not babies, so children's companion is more like it. She played cards with us, chatted with us while she knitted or crocheted, shared her bed with us when we had overnight guests, and ate with us when there was company.

My Grandmother Oppenheimer came out occasionally to spend a few days at birthdays and holidays. She and my Grandmother Grimm had a good time laughing and talking German together, laughing over words they could no longer remember in German. She also enjoyed playing cards, and since she was usually there over Christmas and New Years the two old ladies and the two little girls had their own 'New Year's celebration with a bit of hot wine and a game of cards.

My Grandmother Oppenheimer ate salt and butter on her oatmeal, which I considered outlandish. My Grandmother Grimm made cookie sandwiches -- a thin slice of rye bread buttered, a thin slice of white bread buttered, with cookies between the slices. I thought that pretty outlandish also. My Grandmother Grimm made jelly or jam out of every kind of fruit, and she made cottage cheese which I can still see dripping into the kitchen sink from a cheesecloth bag hung from the faucet. She made wonderful bread and rolls, which we all particularly liked hot from the oven.

All of the women in the Social were good cooks, and cooked rich foods. Church suppers were a wonder to taste and to behold. My mother was famous for her angel food cakes, and in those days you used 13 egg whites and beat them by hand on a great big platter with a fork. I miss the Jello girl and her little stories which came in the Jello packages. Jack Benny did not adequately replace her.

During the summer of 1927 I learned to drive a car. There was no nonsense about taking a test and getting a license in Illinois in those days. When you were fourteen you simply learned to drive a car, and then drove it. I imagine my father or mother taught me the rudiments of driving, but the way I remember really learning was asking my grandmother to accompany me, and then going out and driving all around the streets of the subdivision which had been laid out on the west side of town called Homerican Villas. This was laid out at just the wrong time. Things were not going so well in the real-estate business by 1927, and only three or four houses were built along the streets which had been laid out and platted. It was not until after the second world war that the subdivision again came to life as the Manilow development.

On the 4th of July, 1927, in addition to the many fire-works which each child had to set off at home, Des Plaines had a big fire-works display in Northwestern Park, on the east bank of the Des Plaines River, just across from the down town section. The American Legion and the Fire Department, who were largely the same men since our fire department was almost entirely volunteer, bought and set off the fire-works. Literally every child in Des Plaines went, including a bus load of orphans from St. Mary's Orphanage. That particular 4th of July a defective rocket, instead of mounting high into the sky, sailed into the pile of remaining fireworks and set off the whole mass. Never have I heard or seen such a sight, nor such panic and screaming. The orphans had choice seats down in front, and several of them were badly injured. That was the day of really big fire-works display, and the booming of the shells, and the wild display of color and smoke was terrific. The crowd was largely composed of women and children, all of whom were terrified and screaming. Men who had stayed at home could hear the terrible noise, and as we streamed from the park over the only bridge toward town there was a mad rush of men streaming the other way, from town to park, either to rescue their own families, or to see if they could be of help. It was many a year before Des Plaines had another public fire-works display. When I was young it was possible to buy fireworks almost anywhere, and for those who remained uninjured it was great fun and excitement to set off the different sizes of fire-crackers, hold the roman candles in your hand to shoot them up into the air, tack pin wheels and other displays to the trees in your back yard, and almost best of all throw down the little bombs which went off with such a ferocious bang if you hit the ground just right, to scratch the side-walks with son-of-a- guns, or light snakes which came piling out of an innocuous looking little pill.

In August 1927 our Girl Scout troop again went to Juniper Knoll by bus. By this time we were feeling our oats and were beginning to make ourselves felt at camp, especially as we were such a cohesive mass for the camp to digest. My group of friends was again in Shining Waters again and had become expert fire-lighter.

The town was growing by leaps and bounds. The area west of the Soo line tracks was becoming built up, and the streets out there were now paved. Since Park Ridge was also growing it was apparent that a new High School was needed. All during the school years of 1927-28 and 1928-29 we worked to gain support for a new high school -- with a swimming pool. We had a new movie theatre uptown, on the corner of Lee and Miner, a very Byzantine palace, built by Balaban and Katz. In Chicago Marshall Field no longer ran its little horse-drawn busses from the station, we had to take prosaic motor busses. The Des Plaines State Bank was building a big new white marble building on the corner of Lee and Ellinwood where the old lumber yard had been. More stores were built along Lee Street -- clear down to the corner of Prairie Avenue. But basically, the town was much the same -- single family dwellings, each on its own lot. Brown's apartments on Thacker Street were almost the only apartments in town. The Congregational Church was also feeling expansive and began a drive to build a new church on Graceland, down at the corner of Marion Street.

I was now a sophomore in High School, and I regret to say that again school made little impression on me. In addition to athletics I was an active member of the Glee Club, which under Mr. Rollins Seabury put on a number of musical comedies, and a complete Operetta. Musical comedies and operettas were put on in the Masonic Temple and in the new Theatre by other Civic organizations and were immensely popular. In one of these shows, called "Buddies," the two Imig brothers, Ray and Dewey, played the male leads with great effect. In another, which was a variety show, my little sister Lois astonished everyone by completely losing her inhibition and dancing a riotous Charleston.

It was about this time in High School that I first encountered a question that I still do not know how to answer. It was, "Are you a Jew?" Nobody asks that question unless they think they are sure of the answer, and are pretty sure you are trying to hide something. I wasn't trying to hide anything -- was I a Jew? By the time World War II and Mr. Hitler came along I discovered that since I had a Jewish Grandfather I was indeed a Jew in some peoples' eyes. But I had none of the advantages and strengths of knowing my Jewish relatives, or knowing the first thing about the Jewish religion. If you answer that question in the affirmative you are admitting that your single Jewish relative marks you more than the other three combined. If you answer it in the negative you can always be accused of being ashamed of being Jewish. In fact, you cannot win.

My studies not only made very little impression on me again this year, but I did very poorly in them. Maine Township had adopted a weird system of grading by which the average grade of the class was considered to be 100, and if you did better than the average of even a very mediocre class you were apt to receive a grade of 105, or 110, and if you did worse than the average of a class you received a grade under 100 -- but it was still apt to be 85 or 90, which looked pretty good to parents who simply could not comprehend the weird system. I still have the little handbook issued to all students which attempted to explain the system. I struggled through 2nd year Latin with Miss Lewerenz, loved Geometry in spite of having hated Algebra, enjoyed English under Miss Morony, and hated shorthand. I was a whiz on the hockey field, in the swimming pool, and in the gymnasium, and was an avid Girl Scout, and that was what counted.

In the spring of 1928 Charles A. Lindberg flew the Atlantic ocean and landed in Paris!

In the summer of 1928 we again went by bus to Juniper Knoll, but this year my group had advanced to Lone Cedar, which was much duller than Shining Waters, perhaps because we no longer were responsible for all camp fires. This year was to be our final year at Juniper Knoll, and we were the biggest disturbers at camp. We won every contest and every costume affair arranged, and almost all of us got our Junior Red Cross Life Saving badges. That summer the new club-house had been built at Elmhurst Country Club, and my parents were spending every week-end and days in the middle of the week out there. Although I took golf lessons and became a fair golfer, I decided long before my 16th birthday that country club life was the dullest thing I could imagine and that it was never going to be for me.

This same summer my mother, sister, both Grandmothers and I drove to Akron, Ohio, to visit my Uncle Charlie, who was now Administrative Superintendent of the Springfield Lake Sanatorium. He had rented an apartment in Akron for us, and we much enjoyed our visit. Tuberculosis was a real scourge in those days, and the workers in the great tire factories in Akron were particularly prone to it, as were their children. Springfield Lake Sanatorium was a county sanatorium, but the Schiberlings, Firestones and Goodriches took a great interest in it, and it was considered one of the outstanding sanatoriums in the country. We were particularly intrigued by the beautiful children's building which had just been built. Since at that time outdoor air was supposed to help in curing T. B. there were wide porches on which the children slept most of the time. The interior walls of the wards had been decorated by famous artists, and at each end was a great room filled with arc lamps where the children got their daily sun when the sun was not actually shining in Akron. We were all especially intrigued by the bathrooms with their rows of little toilets and low wash stands. The dining room was a charming place with murals of nursery tales all around the walls, and the dishes, which had been a gift of one of the tire families were Royal Doulton china, with Beatrix Potter pictures on them. There was a school house, separate from the main building, where the children studied out of doors all year long. These children wore what would now be called sweat suits while studying, but when they played out of doors they wore nothing but G-Strings. In the winter time they played in the Snow in G-strings, boots, mittens and caps, nothing else. Someone had donated ponies for their use, and someone else had donated a swimming pool so that the children who were ambulatory led a very active life. Those who were bed-ridden lay out in the sun all day. At that time T. B. of the bone was a special children's problem, and many of them were strapped to boards in an attempt to straighten out already deformed spines and legs. All the children were as brown as leather -- except for the negro children, whose skins looked like black velvet. Sunshine and out-door living were also the prescribed treatment for the older patients, although they also had their lungs collapsed and drained and various other treatments. There were hundreds of patients of all ages.

By the fall of 1928, my Junior year in high school a vote had been taken, and we were delighted with the fact that a new high school was to be built midway between the towns of Des Plaines and Park Ridge, at the corner of Dempster and Potter roads, and it was to have a swimming pool. My class of 1930 was to be the first class to graduate from the new school. Meanwhile I suffered through third year Latin, gave up on mathematics, enjoyed English