Al Juhnke

Does MPHS have photographs: Yes

The following oral history text is from a collaborative project between the Mount Prospect Historical Society and the Mount Prospect Public Library. Interview took place on 5/18/88.

BECKER: This is May 18, 1988, Mount Prospect Historical Museum. Helen Becker for the Historical Society. This afternoon, I’m talking with Mr. Al Juhnke, who is a long-time resident of Mount Prospect and the area, and we’d like to ask him questions about his growing up and his life here. Mr. Juhnke, can we have some words from you?

JUHNKE: Sure. I’m AI Juhnke. I was born and raised right where the Huntington Commons buildings are sitting now. From there on, when my mother died, we moved over to where my grandparents lived, where the bowling alley is sitting now, which is Dominick’s. When I started school, the first year, we went over to a little public school on Golf and Linneman Road. For the first, second through seventh, I went to the Lutheran school. Through eighth, we had to go back to the public school to get our diploma.

BECKER: To the same little school?

JUHNKE: The same little school where we started with the first year, second through seventh we went to the Lutheran school. Eight, we had to go back to the public school to get our diploma.

BECKER: What comer was that on? You said Golf and. ..

JUHNKE: That would be on the southeast comer. They have a picture up here in the museum of that school, yes. Nobody knew what it was.

BECKER: It was a public school.

JUHNKE: Yes. It was a public school. Possibly eight or nine children were about tops at that time.

BECKER: One room.

JUHNKE: One room, sure. We had a potbellied stove. My job was to take a bushel of com cobs and get the fire going in the morning.

BECKER: Now, what years would that have been?

JUHNKE: I was born in 1906. It could have been 1912 when I started school. And from then on, I went to church over here.

BECKER: At St. John?

JUHNKE: St. John’s. Joined a choir. I belonged to St. John’s until I was about nineteen years old. Then I struck out on my own, went to St. Paul’s in Mount Prospect.

BECKER: All this time you lived down where Dominick’s is now?

JUHNKE: Yes, yes. All that while.

BECKER: Yes.

JUHNKE: Where was I?

BECKER: You went to St. Paul’s.

JUHNKE: Then I went to St. Paul’s church. Later on, I got married. In ’28, I got married. We moved to Des Plaines and when my children were ready to go, we had a little tough luck during the Depression. We lost our home. Then we went to Mount Prospect, and I rented an apartment from what is our secretary’s father and mother. We rented an apartment from them.

BECKER: And where was that?

JUHNKE: In Mount Prospect. In Mount Prospect.

BECKER: Yeah, but where?

JUHNKE: Over on Pine Street. I think it was Pine Street. I’m not too positive. It was on the south side. ..

BECKER: On the south side.

JUHNKE: South side of the tracks. Then I came back here in 1957. I joined St. John’s here again.

BECKER: I see. This was when they had the new church, or was it the little old white-framed church?

JUHNKE: No, no. It was the church that’s here now.

BECKER: The new one across the street.

JUHNKE: No, no. That’s a school.

BECKER: That’s right. That’s right.

JUHNKE: The church is over here.

BECKER: The church is right down here.

JUHNKE: And, been a member. ..

BECKER: Before the steeple burned or whenever that was.

JUHNKE: Well, the steeple blew down. That was. ..

BECKER: Yeah.

JUHNKE: …I’d say possibly six or seven years ago that the steeple blew down.

BECKER: It was longer ago than that, wasn’t it?

JUHNKE: Could it be? Possibly.

BECKER: Could be. I know. Time goes. ..

JUHNKE: Time goes. ..

BECKER: …in a hurry, I know.

JUHNKE: Anyway, but we needed a steeple back because we had people in this area that didn’t even belong to our church. They said, “You’ve got to build this steeple. That’s the first thing we see in the morning.”

BECKER: Right! Right.

JUHNKE: And build it. So we did. We did. And now we’ve really done a lot in our church in the last five or six years. We put new carpeting in and had our benches all redone. We just got through putting all new leaded glass in the front of the church. That was just completed last week. And it’s a beautiful church inside.

BECKER: When was it built and first opened?

JUHNKE: This church is celebrating its 145th anniversary this. ..

BECKER: A hundred forty-five.

JUHNKE: A hundred forty-five years.

BECKER: That’s about 1840 or something like that.

JUHNKE: Could be somewhere in there. Yes. Could be somewhere. ..

BECKER: Not many houses around here at that time, were there?

JUHNKE: There wasn’t hardly any! There wasn’t hardly any. Our teacher lived over, what the old little white house is now, behind the school. That’s where our teacher M~ lived –which was my teacher.

BECKER: I recognize the name, I think. Mist, mist. ..

JUHNKE: Masky. His son finally had a store in Mount Prospect.

BECKER: Yes. I see.

JUHNKE: Teacher Masky was here, would you believe it, forty-three years teaching –one-classroom school when I was here. He had between, I could possibly say, between fifty and sixty children. One teacher.

BECKER: No problems, either.

JUHNKE: No problem. We respected the man. And our pastor at that time was Pastor Garret. He was here forty-four years. He confronted me.

BECKER: Then you’re saying now that the first year of school you went down on Golf and Linneman. Then this school, where we are now, would have been built when? In 19- …

JUHNKE: 1901, I think. The cornerstone is out there. I think it’s 1901 that this building was built. Now this building was only –it’s been added to since it was a one-room school. Finally, it wound up to be a two-room school.

BECKER: Oh, is that right?

JUHNKE: Yes.

BECKER: With the wall down the middle that there is now?

JUHNKE: That’s right. That’s right. See, there was a two-room school. And when I belonged to the choir, we had our fun games down here. We had a one-lane bowling alley set in down on the west side of the wall in here.

BECKER: You did? Where?

JUHNKE: It’s out now. It’s out now. On the west wall.

BECKER: Oh. Over on that side.

JUHNKE: Right.

BECKER: I’ll be darned.

JUHNKE: It was quite a contraption. It had no pins, but it had flap flags with a little ball like that, with numbers on it. I think there were five numbers. So you threw your ball and maybe one number was twenty. All right. You got twenty points. So, when you were through bowling, you’d pull the lever and that would set those flaps back in –set those back up again.

BECKER: Well, how long is that? That would be about what? Twenty or thirty feet long? Is that about all?

JUHNKE: Well, now it was quite a bowling alley. I mean, it was. ..

BECKER: I mean from here, you know, from here.

JUHNKE: Yeah. We only had about that much room on the end of the bowling alley.

BECKER: I’ll be darned.

JUHNKE: Then we met down here, in the choir. We used to practice choir in here. And then we’d come down in the basement. At one time, we had, for about three years I would say, we had a little boxing team going on down here. We did some boxing. It started out as a point system. You know, nothing above the shoulders –the point system. Well, finally, it got to be a grudge fight and that was the end of it. I mean, we got told, well, we don’t want any bloodshed. And it would have amounted to that, I think, if we’d have kept it up.

BECKER: This is when you were going to school or when you were grown up in the choir?

JUHNKE: When I was in the choir. See, I couldn’t join the choir until. ..

BECKER: You were an adult.

JUHNKE: …we were adults. I think I joined the choir possibly when I was possibly sixteen or seventeen years old.

BECKER: I see.

JUHNKE: In the summertime, we had a great big school picnic here. We’d draw at least, I’d say, fifteen hundred people. And we’d put on a play–the choir would put on a play. We’d set a stage up outside. We’d put on a play, and people from all over would come. It was beautiful. We had all trees out there. And then we had what we call flag drills at that time. Teacher Mask~ was good at that. I mean, we had our flags, you know, like this –cross them. It was something all right.

BECKER: When you were growing up, what was your occupation?

JUHNKE: Well, I stayed on a farm until I struck out for my own. And then I learned the carpenter trade. I was a carpenter in mostly cabinet work. I finished up a cabinet maker. And then I worked for the Mount Prospect school district.

BECKER: Oh, did you?

JUHNKE: Fifty-seven -I worked for the school district for about possibly five and a half, six years, in their cabinet shop. I built…

BECKER: Is that right?

JUHNKE: They didn’t buy a cabinet while I worked over there. I built them all.

BECKER: Now was this little school that you originally went to –was that District 57, or was there a District 57 at that time?

JUHNKE: I don’t really know what this little public school district. ..

JUHNKE: A lot of people don’t –it’s changed.

BECKER: Oh, course it has.

JUHNKE: Look at all the new people that we’ve got in here.

BECKER: Yeah. They move in and out. Now, when you were growing up, tell me something about the area –where you lived and what houses were there and the people that were there and what they did.

JUHNKE: Well, the only thing that I can really remember is the teacher Mask~’ s house, the pastor’s house. That was an old one. That was not the house that is sitting there now. That was a really old one that was sitting south of the church, which they finally tore down when we built the new parsonage. And the rest was all farm land. There were a couple of houses on Lenemen Road. Arthur Linneman had a farm. And the rest was all farm. I mean, Masky even had –I don’t know how many acres.

BECKER: That’s the teacher you’re talking about.

JUHNKE: That teacher, he raised onion sets. He had a cow. He got his own milk. He was a typical farmer in the summertime, during vacation time. But he was one heck of a teacher.

BECKER: He was.

JUHNKE: He was one heck of a teacher.

BECKER: Must have been.

JUHNKE: He was. He was a good man.

BECKER: Teach eight grades?

JUHNKE: Well, he had six grades.

BECKER: Six grades.

JUHNKE: From two to seven.

BECKER: Well, what happened before that? I mean, if he started at the second grade, who had first grade?

JUHNKE: Over at the public school.

BECKER: That was there at that time?

JUHNKE: Oh sure.

BECKER: That public school was there while you went to Lutheran school?

JUHNKE: Sure.

BECKER: I see.

JUHNKE: Then the rest –finally to come on in. Then they started building homes along Linneman Road here. Mr. E~ I think, built the first house –that little house that’s sitting just a little bit north of the school there. And then Mr. Witt come in, Mr. Oakum come in. And I think that’s the three houses –no, there’s another fellow come in there. Can’t remember his name right now –the first house. They come and then they started building more homes and more homes and more homes.

BECKER: Making more roads and so on.

JUHNKE: Making more roads and keeping them up. The roads were here, but they kept them up better. .

BECKER: Yes.

JUHNKE: In the wintertime, when we’d come to school over here, I mean, there was a farmer. He lived about, I’d say, four of five miles from here and he’d come with a team of horses and a sled. And he’d come down Elmhurst Road and he’d pick up all the kids there were off of Elmhurst Road and he’d take them up to school here. And at night he’d comeback.. .

BECKER: He would.

JUHNKE: …with the team of horses and –of course, we did most of the walking. We walked right through the field, you know, because it wasn’t too far from Huntington Commons to the school. Then we had little ball games going. I mean, we kind of amused ourselves a little different than they do today. If you don’t buy a child a toy today, he can’t amuse himself.

BECKER: Unless he watches TV.

JUHNKE: Yes.

BECKER: Well, you do more reading, you do more game playing, I think, without this. ..

JUHNKE: I do a lot of reading. I read two newspapers a day. I’m retired.

BECKER: And you were in carpentry.

JUHNKE: All my life, all my life. During the Depression when there was no carpenter work, I happened to know a fellow in Des Plaines that had a laundry. So I asked him if I could go to work for him. He said, “Yeah. I’ll put you on commission. Whatever you make is yours.” Okay. So I worked for him for possibly two or three years, and then it got to the point where he said, All the charge accounts are okay. He said, People haven’t got the money charging. I said okay. Then finally he came to me and said, “AI, you owe me so much dollars because I can’t collect from those people.” I said, “Wait a minute. You okayed them.” So what did I do? I went to my dad. I said, “Dad, I lost my job. I’m going to quit. What are you going to do now? Well, there was a store vacant in Mount Prospect. I said, “I’m going to buy me a little truck if you help me a little bit with the money. I haven’t got it.” So he said, “How much do you need?” I said, “Well, let me find out how much it is going to cost.” So he gave me the money and I started up a little, a dry cleaning store right in Mount Prospect that the village owns now –just the first store west of the village building, that old stucco building. There used to be an old stucco there, that the shoemaker was in.

BECKER: Yes. I remember that.

JUHNKE: Okay. I had the store east of the shoemaker’s shoe store.

BECKER: I see.

JUHNKE: And I ran that impossibly during the Depression, cleaner and laundry. I’d go out and I’d built up a laundry route. And then when times got to the point where they were putting in basements again, my brother happened to be out of work that time. I said, “Alfred, you want the business, you can have it. I’ll give it to you.” I gave him the truck. I gave him the whole works. I went back to carpentry. I went back and I stayed. It was good to me. Carpentry was good to me.

BECKER: Well, I think it’s kind of a rewarding occupation. My grandpa worked in that,too, kind of for recreation and so forth.

JUHNKE: It is. Take a piece of wood and make something. I’ve had a good life. I’ve had my tough times.

BECKER: How many children did you have?

JUHNKE: Two. A boy and a girl.

BECKER: That’s a good…

JUHNKE: Well, we wanted three. We had planned on three, but my wife developed a tumor and that was the end of childbearing. That was all.

BECKER: Well, you’ve had one of each.

JUHNKE: I was thankful.

BECKER: I tried three times, and I got three girls and then I gave up.

JUHNKE: The Lord had been good to me.

BECKER: Your children have each gone their own way, I assume.

JUHNKE: Yes, both live in Florida.

BECKER: They do!

JUHNKE: Not by choice. My son-in-law married my daughter, he had a quadruple bypass, and he was told to not stay here where it’s cold. You’ve got to go where it’s warm. And my son cracked himself up with a snowmobile and he put himself into limbo where he couldn’t work anymore. So they went to Florida. They were just in here. They just left yesterday. My son’s mother-in-law died so they came in for the funeral. They went back yesterday morning.

BECKER: Well,. that gives you a place to visit.

JUHNKE: Well, I’ve been there so many times. Believe me, I just don’t like Florida.

BECKER: I don’t know whether I would either.

JUHNKE: I like to go there, but I’m telling you, I don’t like the climate.It’s so humid there! I should get up in the morning and the dew is hanging on the cars outside. If the windows are open, the bedclothes are damp.

BECKER: Well, you’re a Midwesterner.

JUHNKE: Yes. I loved it up North. I went fishing up North, northern Minnesota, for thirty years and I loved it up there. I love the climate here. love that.

BECKER: Well, change of scene is …

JUHNKE: I love the seasons. Oh, sure. You’ve got something to look forward to. What do you have in Florida?

BECKER: Nothing but the same.

JUHNKE: Nothing but the same. My son brought us some grapefruit. He’s got a grapefruit tree on the front yard. There’s some big ones on there yet. He says the little ones are already this big. Now, he hasn’t seen change there. It’s just a continuation. They like it. It’s not their choice. It’s because they have to. I think they begin to like it there now that they’ve been there. My son has been there, I think, going on eleven years. And my daughter just moved there about three years ago. My son lives in the house, and my daughter and her husband, they bought a trailer. It’s a nice one, though. I mean, it’s got as much –we’ve got a three-bedroom home where we’re living, and I think they’ve got as much room in that trailer as we have in our house.

BECKER: Is that right? Do they have children?

JUHNKE: Yes. They have three sons and a daughter. Grandchildren.

BECKER: Well, are they fairly close together?

JUHNKE: Well, one of them lives here, one lives –no. My granddaughter lives in Woodstock, and one grandson lives in a trailer park over here on Elmhurst Road. And the other grandson lives in an apartment building, I venture, in that area. And one grandson lives in –he used to live in Fox Lake and he just moved. I can’t think of it.

BECKER: Well, anyway. They’re within driving distance.

JUHNKE: Oh, yes. And I talk to my kids about once every two weeks or so. We either call them or they call us.

BECKER: Now, suppose we go back to the early days of St. John’s school here. Can you tell me what it was kind of like on a typical day?

JUHNKE: Well, the first thing we did, we had prayer in the morning. Then we had religion. Then we went into reading, writing, arithmetic and learning our lessons. Then, in the afternoon, we …

BECKER: Did you go home for lunch?

JUHNKE: No. I carried my lunch. I mean it was –in the summertime, it wasn’t bad, but we’d sooner eat our lunch quick and play out here instead of waltzing all the way home. So then in the afternoon, we’d get up in the -now. We had to recite some of the lessons that we learned. And we had to recite verses out of the Bible. We had to recite verses out of the psalm book. We were lined up in the back and it wasn’t “it’s your turn” or “it’s her turn.” “AI, do you know what that verse meant?” –that’s the way it went. He’d point at a thing, and you never knew what your piece was going to be. Most of it today is rehearsed, I think.

BECKER: Well, you’re kind of saying it was kind of like a catechism class?

JUHNKE: Catechism class. And then we had arithmetic. We had a blackboard. We had to get up and do problems on the board.

BECKER: Now, how would he distribute the classes, the different groups in the different grades?

JUHNKE: Well, the little ones sat in the front. And then the seventh grade sat in the back –the big ones.

BECKER: And how would he distribute the time?

JUHNKE: That is pretty farfetched. I mean, I don’t quite remember how he did that. I couldn’t really answer that, honestly.

BECKER: Would he give the little ones some attention first and then give them something to do and then move on to the …

JUHNKE: Oh sure. He did that to keep the little ones quiet because they get restless more than the bigger ones. The bigger ones, they knew if they got restless, they got reprimanded. But he kept the little ones busy. There weren’t ever second grade –I mean, there were no first graders here. The first graders were allover the school.

BECKER: And what were the school hours?

JUHNKE: I think we started at nine o’clock, end about three-thirty, an hour for lunch.

BECKER: And how many students would there have been?

JUHNKE: Oh, there must have been –I know at one time, it was over fifty-five kids in the room.

BECKER: And Mr. Masky didn’t have any assistants or anything like that?

JUHNKE: Finally, his daughter helped him out as a substitute teacher, as an assistant teacher. And then, when we were graduated from there, then we took -for the last year we went here, the seventh grade. Then we started taking our confirmation classes. Then we’d go over to the pastor’s house and we’d get our catechism instructions and then we had examination. On the day of Palm Sunday, we always got confirmed on Palm Sunday, they had an examination which was just like Maskey would do it here. There was nothing rehearsed. You better know what it was all about. And Pastor Garret would point at Albert –what does this mean? Gerhardt –that was his son –what does that mean? And finally, we got to the point where we kept growing up and growing up, and then we joined the choir and from that on, it was just —

BECKER: What about high school?

JUHNKE: I had no high school, no high school, but I had three and a half years of Metropolitan Business College. I went in the evenings. I couldn’t

BECKER: Now, where was it and how did you get there?

JUHNKE: I went in Chicago. I took a horse and buggy, parked it in Mount Prospect where Kruse’s tavern is now –they used to have a shed there. I tied a horse up there in the shed. We’d take the train in to Chicago. It was Fred Meeske, Johnny Busse and myself. The three of us –we went to, Metropolitan Business College. I was supposed to be a four-year term and I had three and a half years –not quite three and a half years. They called me in the office and they say, “You’re dong all right. I think we can get you a job. You’re far enough ahead. We can get you a job. I took general business and penmanship because I liked a good handwriting.

BECKER: Another thing they don’t have much of these days.

JUHNKE: Then I went to Chicago to the bank that they had recommended me to go to. And you know what they offered me? Ten dollars a week. And my train fare would have been more than that. So I came home. At that time, I had a car. And I was up in Des Plaines. I took my car to Des Plaines. When I got off the train in Des Plaines, I picked up a paper. Are there any jobs available? Okay, there was a job there that had something, to do with construction. So I went and talked to the man and he says, Yeah, I can use you. And that was the beginning.

BECKER: Was this twenties? You went to business school after eighth grade.

JUHNKE: Oh yeah. After I got confirmed. So I could have been possibly fifteen when I started Metropolitan. And then I didn’t take that job. But then the job that I picked up in construction was thirty dollars a week. I’d go home and I said, “Dad, I got me a real good job. He says, Al, you know, school didn’t really payoff.” I said, “Dad, I’ve got a surprise for you.”

 

[Side 2]

 

BECKER: This is side 2 of the interview with Mr. Al Juhnke at the Mount Prospect Historical Society museum on May 18, 1988.

JUHNKE: Then I finally struck out on my own. I built about eight or nine houses.

BECKER: Working out of your home?

JUHNKE: Out of my home, yes. I was building a home that my competition was getting the best of me. I was putting the best that I could buy into the homes, and these other people were putting in dry wall and plywood for the floor and carpeting. over it. I was putting in oak floor and plastered walls, and I figured, well, that wasn’t paying off. I had a hard time selling my last house. This little yellow house that’s sitting over there, just a little bit west of the shopping center, what is now the family counseling home, have you noticed? I built that home. I built. ..

BECKER: Where were some of these other houses that you built?

JUHNKE: Well, I built one for Ralph Mensching over here on Golf Road, and I built a couple of them in Palatine. I built a couple of them in Barrington.

BECKER: Now these are frame houses?

JUHNKE: Frame and brick. Whatever people wanted. In Elk Grove Village, I built the biggest house that I built for a fellow that had a rich grandma. And grandma helped, you know.

BECKER: Now these would have been built in 1930s and ’40s?

JUHNKE: Well, I quit community builders in ’46, so it was after that. Just what the years were, I don’t quite remember. Then I opened up my own shop when I quit that. And I built cupolas. And I built cupolas that, if I told you that I built them by the truckload for contractors, it’s pretty hard to believe. I built fifty to sixty cupolas for one outfit. And I built big ones. The one that’s sitting in Des Plaines, just a little bit northeast of the theater, I built that one for a railroad man. And he had a bell from the railroad, and he had a little mechanism that he put on the outside of the cupola that sounded like a bell. And, at twelve o’clock, at noon, this thing would sound that –sounded like the bell in the cupola was ringing but it wasn’t. So then I kept that up, and then I had a little problem. My wife took sick. I had to put her in a nursing home. And five and a half years, and she finally passed on. And while she was in there, the doc said to me, Al, if you don’t get out of that job that you’ve got all by yourself, you’re going to go crazy. Get yourself a job where you can get up in the morning, go say hello to somebody and work with somebody.” So that’s when I took the job at the Mount Prospect school. And I stayed there about six years. I worked for the –which was a good job.

BECKER: Well, it got you to meet a lot of people that way.

JUHNKE: At least I had something to look forward to. Neat people. Because I was living alone, I was working alone. 1’d get up in the morning, 1’d go in my shop and work, 1’d go in and make my lunch, and I’d go back out and work. And it got me down. It got me down.

BECKER: I understand.

JUHNKE: But I lost her. But I married a beautiful woman.

BECKER: Did you really? Aren’t you lucky. I’ve been a widow for quite a while now. Maybe the men are a little bit more fortunate than the widows are.

JUHNKE: I don’t know. I married a gal that. ..

BECKER: You found a good woman.

JUHNKE: A good woman. I’d known her before she was ever married. She lost her husband about two years before I lost my wife. She lived right across the street from me. And we were friends. And she was alone, I was alone. And I did a lot of bowling in my days. I still bowl every week. And I had a bowling banquet to go to and I didn’t care to go alone, so I called Alice. I said, “Alice, would you like to go a bowling banquet?” She said yes, so one thing led to another. ..

BECKER: That’s nice.

JUHNKE: Yes.

BECKER: When did you marry her?

JUHNKE: We’ll be married nineteen years in August.

BECKER: You’re very fortunate.

JUHNKE: I’m very fortunate. I’m very, very fortunate.

BECKER: It’s been a great pleasure talking with you, AI. And I think we’ve learned a lot about the early days of this area. I hope that you will come back often and visit the museum. And, of course, anything that you would like to pass along would be very much appreciated and we’ll see that it gets a good home.

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