Edna Meier

Does MPHS have photographs: no

Date of Interview: October 8, 1993

Interviewer: Walter Hoffman

WALTER HOFFMAN: I am with Edna Meier, and I am interviewing her for the Mt. Prospect Historical Society oral history project. My name is Walter Hoffman. Today is October 8, 1993. It is 6:30 p.m., and we are at Mrs. Meier’s home at 1702 Myrtle in Mt. Prospect. Mrs. Meier, I’d first like to thank you for agreeing to this interview and for signing the consent form. Now I have some questions for you. We are in the house that you have lived in for how long? When did you move into this house here?

EDNA MEIER: January 6, 1926.

HOFFMAN: At that time how old were you?

MEIER: Eighteen.

HOFFMAN: I understand you told me that you were just married at the time you moved into this house. Is that correct?

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Where did you move from, prior to that?

MEIER: Bartlett.

HOFFMAN: Did you live there with your parents?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: And you moved in here when you married your husband, Edwin, is that correct?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: And you have lived here ever since, in this house.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Are there any events that stand out in your mind that took place in Mt. Prospect? Is there anyone or two things that stand out in your mind as having taken place in the town?

MEIER: Well, the most I can remember is when they started building houses right around here.

HOFFMAN: In the development.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Now, the house we’re in, it’s a farm style house, I take it.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: But we are surrounded by what appears to me to be development. Is that true?

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: When you moved into this house, if you looked out your windows what would you see?

MEIER: Well, nothing but cornfields and orchard.

HOFFMAN: Your husband was a farmer.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: So he farmed the area around the house.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Who was your closest neighbor?

MEIER: My sister and brother-in-law. They lived across the street.

HOFFMAN: Were the streets in at that time?

MEIER: Oh, no. Busse Road was the only road there.

HOFFMAN: So the closest paved road was –was Busse Road paved?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: So it was dirt or gravel?

MEIER: Well, gravel.

HOFFMAN: And that was the closest road to you.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: So you probably had a mud track sort of going from your house to Busse.

MEIER: Yes, it was gravel.

HOFFMAN: So you have gravel going out there. And as time went on, I take it, you saw development coming closer and closer.

MEIER: Oh, yes.

HOFFMAN: When did the streets around you get put in?

MEIER: Well, when we sold our farm.

HOFFMAN: When was that?

MEIER: I’d have to think about that.

HOFFMAN: About.

MEIER: Let’s see, my son was in first [grade] in 1952 — maybe 1956 or 1957 or something like that.

HOFFMAN: So until 1956 or 1957 there were no side streets in here?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: How big was the farm surrounding your house?

MEIER: We had only sixty acres.

HOFFMAN: What did you grow?

MEIER: When we were first married we had dairy, and when my son had to go into service we sold the cows and we started raising tomatoes for Campbell’s Soup, and that was our main crop.

HOFFMAN: Now, when you dairy-farmed, I take it you milked the cows and sent the milk to market, correct?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: How did you get that milk to market?

MEIER: First we had to put it in cans and load it on a truck and take it to town.

HOFFMAN: To downtown Mt. Prospect.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: And then what happened?

MEIER: Then it went to Chicago on the train.

HOFFMAN: So the train pulled in and the cans were loaded onto the train.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Do you know where those cans went when they got into Chicago?

MEIER: No, I don’t.

HOFFMAN: And then you ceased dairy farming and you started tomato farming for Campbell’s Soup.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: How did you get the tomatoes to market?

MEIER: With a truck.

HOFFMAN: Was it you who drove them?

MEIER: Well, my husband and my son.

HOFFMAN: Into Chicago?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: And you first moved in here in 1926, was that it?

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Describe what we now call downtown Mt. Prospect in 1926.

MEIER: Well, there wasn’t much there at all.

HOFFMAN: Can you remember anything that was there? The train station.

MEIER: Yes, the train station and Busse’s Grocery Store.

HOFFMAN: Okay, anything else?

MEIER: Gee, there wasn’t too much there. It’s so long ago I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff.

HOFFMAN: Okay, Busse’s Grocery Store. When you went in the front door, what did you see?

MEIER: Onion field.

HOFFMAN: I’m not asking you about that. What was it, a small store or a big store?

MEIER: It was pretty big.

HOFFMAN: Was it self-service, or did you have to ask for it?

MEIER: No, they had a counter and you asked for it.

HOFFMAN: Where did you buy clothes, other than Sears mail order.

MEIER: Chicago, mostly.

HOFFMAN: So you would go into Chicago.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: The same for shoes?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: The same for hardware?

MEIER: Well, they had a hardware store in Mt. Prospect.

HOFFMAN: In Mt. Prospect.

MEIER: Yes. It was Busse-Bierman.

HOFFMAN: Oh, that was the Busse-Bierman Hardware Store.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: What about farm equipment and supplies?

MEIER: They bought from –let’s see, what was it — tractors –whether they bought them, I’m not sure.

HOFFMAN: Right. You probably weren’t concerned. Was there a doctor in town?

MEIER: Yes, in Arlington Heights.

HOFFMAN: That was the closest doctor?

MEIER: Yes –well, there was a doctor in Mt. Prospect, too, but I went to the one in Arlington Heights.

HOFFMAN: When you came here you were eighteen, so you were obviously out of school at that point. You came from Bartlett, correct?

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: When you went to, let’s say, grade school –did you go to grade school in Bartlett?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: And you recall grade school?

MEIER: Oh, yes.

HOFFMAN: Was that a one-room school?

MEIER: Yes, with a pot belly in the middle.

HOFFMAN: Coal or wood?

MEIER: Well, they had to start it with wood, and then they put…

HOFFMAN: Then it was a coal stove.

MEIER: The teacher had to start it in the morning, and when we got to school it was not very warm, either.

HOFFMAN: I was going to say, in the winter how cold was it? It was very cold?

MEIER: Plenty cold.

HOFFMAN: What time did school start for you?

MEIER: Oh, it was nine o’clock.

HOFFMAN: How far did you live from the school?

MEIER: About a mile.

HOFFMAN: So you walked.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Did you have any chores to do in the morning before you left for school?

MEIER: Not much, no.

HOFFMAN: Were you living on a farm then?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: So your father was a farmer.

MEIER: That’s right. He also had a dairy farm.

HOFFMAN: Did you eat breakfast before you went to school?

MEIER: Oh, yes.

HOFFMAN: Describe for me a typical breakfast. A farm breakfast –is it any different than today?

MEIER: Mostly eggs.

HOFFMAN: Did you bring a lunch with you to school, or how did you do lunch?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Was that a sack lunch?

MEIER: We had a lunchbox.

HOFFMAN: What would you take for lunch to school?

MEIER: Mostly sandwiches and an apple.

HOFFMAN: Was that store-bought bread or home-baked bread?

MEIER: Oh, mostly homemade.

HOFFMAN: Did you go home for lunch, or you ate it at school?

MEIER: No, you couldn’t go home for lunch. We had to eat it at school.

HOFFMAN: Did the school ever provide food? Was there a lunch you could buy at the schools?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: You were on your own.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: You went to a one-room school. How many grades were in that school?

MEIER: Eight.

HOFFMAN: In that one room, give or take, how many students were there, approximately?

MEIER: About thirty.

HOFFMAN: One teacher.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: I take it that teacher had to teach different subjects at different levels to the different grades.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: How could that teacher do that?

MEIER: I don’t know. She did it.

HOFFMAN: If you were, let’s say, in fourth grade, during many parts of the day the first graders were being taught something different, and the second graders and fifth graders, and it was all going on in the same room.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Would they give you an assignment to do and then go on with the other students?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Wasn’t it kind of hard to learn in that environment.

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: You were used to it, right? How far did you do in school?

MEIER: I graduated from eighth grade.

HOFFMAN: Which, I take it, at the time was probably very typical, especially in the farming communities.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: When you went to school was there any special song or prayers or Pledge of Allegiance at that time that you can remember?

MEIER: Yes, we had the Pledge of Allegiance, and a lot of the songs were patriotic songs.

HOFFMAN: What did you wear to school?

MEIER: Mostly dresses.

HOFFMAN: Dresses –not like today.

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: Now, when we’re talking about you in grade school, we’re talking 1916, approximately, I would take it –1918 to 1920. Is that about right?

MEIER: Yes, about.

HOFFMAN: Was there a dress code in that school?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: You could wear anything you wanted but it was just the custom for the girls to wear dresses –and boys to wear what?

MEIER: Pants.

HOFFMAN: Pants and a shirt.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: At that time was there anything that parents would not let you wear to school, or was that never an issue?

MEIER: No, it never came up.

HOFFMAN: Everybody conformed and followed the norm. Do you remember any of the things you did during play or recess?

MEIER: Mostly Ante Ante Over –ball over the school.

HOFFMAN: Okay, we should get an explanation. What is that?

MEIER: Two sides, one was on one side of the school, and then they’d throw the ball over and if we’d catch it we could run around and tag somebody on the other side.

HOFFMAN: That was a big game then.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: And that was called…

MEIER: Ante Ante Over.

HOFFMAN: Do you remember any specific or special songs that you were taught or you frequently sang? Does anything stick out in your mind?

MEIER: No, mostly like patriotic songs –“America.”

HOFFMAN: Did they have any arts and crafts projects at that school? Do you remember anything like that?

MEIER: We had to draw, and we had what they called penmanship. We had to go like this…

HOFFMAN: Yes, cursive writing practice.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: I think we all remember that. Do you remember any of the teachers you had? Was there a favorite teacher you had?

MEIER: Yes, one. Her name was Miss Player.

HOFFMAN: Do you remember what grade she taught?

MEIER: It must have been sixth and seventh.

HOFFMAN: Why was she special?

MEIER: I don’t know –she was just loving, like a mother.

HOFFMAN: It was her personality, then.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Did you use McGuffey’s readers then?

MEIER: No, I don’t think so.

HOFFMAN: You know the term McGuffey reader at all?

MEIER: I don’t remember what. ..

HOFFMAN: Do you remember any of the books that you used? Was there any certain type of …?

MEIER: No. I just know we had a speller. I was not good at that.

HOFFMAN: You’re not alone. When you came here to Mt. Prospect –when were your children born?

MEIER: My son was born in 1927.

HOFFMAN: That means, say, about in the mid-thirties he was going to grade school.

MEIER: Yes, I imagine so.

HOFFMAN: What grade school did he attend?

MEIER: He attended St. John’s.

HOFFMAN: And then after that he went to high school?

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: What high school did he go to?

MEIER: Arlington Heights.

HOFFMAN: That’s a ways away –well, it’s not too far.

MEIER: He got the bus at the corner of Route 58 and Busse Road. He had to walk to the corner.

HOFFMAN: When he went to grade school at St. John’s, did he take his lunch to school?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: The same thing.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Were there meals available at that time?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: Still you were on your own as a kid. When you were going to school, what did you do after school?

MEIER: Studied.

HOFFMAN: If you played, who did you play with?

MEIER: I had two sisters.

HOFFMAN: Now, your son in the mid-thirties, when he came home from school, what did he do?

MEIER: He had to help his dad with the chores.

HOFFMAN: Who did he play with around here?

MEIER: He had cousins across the street.

HOFFMAN: In the mid-thirties, what did kids do to play after school or during the summer?

MEIER: Well, they had to work. They didn’t have much chance to play.

HOFFMAN: So there was actually not that much play time.

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: If you were on a farm, you did your schoolwork and then you did the chores.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Now, let me turn back to downtown Mt. Prospect. In 1926 there are maybe two stores and a train station in Mt. Prospect. How did you get your mail at that time?

MEIER: We had rural mail delivery down by Busse Road.

HOFFMAN: There was just a mailbox on Busse?

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: So that was only two blocks, about, from here, I suppose.

MEIER: Yes, about.

HOFFMAN: Was that daily mail delivery?

MEIER: Oh, yes.

HOFFMAN: Did they ever change that where you went into town to pick up your mail?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: Was it always rural delivery here?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: In the 1920s, how often would you get into downtown Mt. Prospect?

MEIER: Oh, once a week.

HOFFMAN: Any special purpose?

MEIER: Mostly to get groceries.

HOFFMAN: To go grocery shopping. How often would you get into other towns around here?

MEIER: Not very often.

HOFFMAN: In the 1920s, was Des Plaines a much bigger town than Mt. Prospect?

MEIER: Oh, yes. They had a few more stores and things in Des Plaines.

HOFFMAN: Was that bigger than Arlington Heights?

MEIER: I think so.

HOFFMAN: So if you needed something that the few stores in Mt. Prospect didn’t have and you didn’t want to go into Chicago, where would you go?

MEIER: Then we went to Des Plaines.

HOFFMAN: Into Des Plaines. Would you buy clothes in Des Plaines?

MEIER: No, not too much.

HOFFMAN: It was downtown Chicago.

MEIER: We mostly went there –they had a Prince Castle. That was ice cream.

HOFFMAN: Prince Castle. And what did Prince Castle sell?

MEIER: They had malteds.

HOFFMAN: Was that a hang-out for kids?

MEIER: Well, maybe. It could have been for people that lived in Des Plaines, but we went mostly –it was a treat for us.

HOFFMAN: How often would you go to Prince Castle?

MEIER: Oh, every other week or so.

HOFFMAN: Oh, really! That would be your social evening out or afternoon out?

MEIER: Yes. We took the family and that was a treat for us.

HOFFMAN: In the twenties and thirties, if you wanted to go out, what were your options? Were there movie houses?

MEIER: Yes, there was a movie in Des Plaines. I don’t remember if there was one in Mt. Prospect or not. I don’t remember that.

HOFFMAN: How often did you go to the movies?

MEIER: Not very often because we run into the Depression.

HOFFMAN: I’m coming to that. That’s probably my next question. I take it you were affected by the Depression.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: When did you first see the effects of the Depression? Officially, it is taking place in 1929, three years after you’ve moved here.

MEIER: Yes. We could fix up things to take to the market, and it wouldn’t sell and we brought it home again and we had to dump it.

HOFFMAN: To which market, Chicago?

MEIER: Chicago, yes.

HOFFMAN: So you’d take that by truck into the city…

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: …and they would return with some or all of it unsold.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: When did you first start seeing that happen, right when the Depression took place in 1929?

MEIER: Yes, right away.

HOFFMAN: Was 1929 the worst year of the Depression?

MEIER: I imagine so. We never went hungry. We always had plenty to eat because we had chickens and we had milk and hogs. But we had no money.

HOFFMAN: But no money.

MEIER: No money.

HOFFMAN: How did you get clothes?

MEIER: Well, we didn’t get much, either. We had to make do with what we had.

HOFFMAN: How long did that last, until World War II?

MEIER: A couple of years.

HOFFMAN: Did you see throughout the 1930s, then, a change in the Depression? It got better for you?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Because you were selling more of your goods, is that why?

MEIER: Well, and things started going up.

HOFFMAN: Prices started going up.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Was that the big problem for you, as a farmer in the Depression, that the prices were depressed?

MEIER: Yes, they were down and you couldn’t sell things. We had one milk check that was sixty dollars, and that had to last us a full month.

HOFFMAN: Okay, a milk check. Let’s say we’re talking 1930, a milk check would be for the milk you sold that month.

MEIER: For the whole month.

HOFFMAN: You’d get sixty dollars.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Now, what did that sixty dollars have to go for?

MEIER: We had to see that we got the children to school and paid for our groceries.

HOFFMAN: Okay. What other expenses did you have?

MEIER: Not really too much.

HOFFMAN: Fuel for the house?

MEIER: Oh, yes, coal.

HOFFMAN: You had a coal furnace at that time?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: And the coal was delivered to your house.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: And sixty dollars didn’t always make it?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: How far short would you be some months?

MEIER: Well, we always had to see that we got along.

HOFFMAN: You always made it somehow.

MEIER: Somehow we made it, yes.

HOFFMAN: And then as the 1930s went on, the prices that you got for your milk started increasing.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: And that made the difference. Were you aware of any problems that the Depression caused other people in Mt. Prospect who may not have been farmers?

MEIER: No, not really.

HOFFMAN: In 1930-1931 how many people lived in Mt. Prospect?

MEIER: That’s a good question.

HOFFMAN: Not many –a hundred, or is that off?

MEIER: Oh, maybe it was more than that.

HOFFMAN: Two hundred?

MEIER: I really couldn’t say.

HOFFMAN: Were you able to see the effects of the Depression on other people?

MEIER: No, we were all in the same boat.

HOFFMAN: That was significant, though, wasn’t it?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Did the Depression in Mt. Prospect –this may sound corny –bring people closer together?

MEIER: I think so.

HOFFMAN: Could you feel that change?

MEIER: Yes. You visited more with your neighbors.

HOFFMAN: Was it a social stigma to be real poor at that time? Were people embarrassed by being out of work and poor?

MEIER: No, because we were all in the same boat.

HOFFMAN: Now, there was relief created by the federal government in the early 1930s. Did you ever receive any relief?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: Is that because you were a farmer? Would that have been the difference?

MEIER: Well, like I say, we always had plenty to eat, so that was one thing we didn’t have to worry about.

HOFFMAN: Were you ever aware of any government efforts in the town with respect to other people? Were there ever any efforts to distribute food to poor people, or any government intervention in Mt. Prospect because of the Depression?

MEIER: Not that I know of.

HOFFMAN: Did the town itself take any action to help people?

MEIER: I don’t think so.

HOFFMAN: You were pretty much on your own, then.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Then comes World War II. Now, your son was born in 1927 so he was too young. He was only thirteen or fourteen years old at the time of World War II. Did the war have any effect on you here?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: Did it do anything for your prices? At that time were you growing tomatoes or did you have a milk farm?

MEIER: We must have been still milking then because we sold the cows when my son had to go, and that was the Korean War where he went. That was in 1952.

HOFFMAN: So at the time of the outbreak of World War II you were still. ..

MEIER: Milking.

HOFFMAN: …selling milk. Did the outbreak of the war have any effect on your business here, the farm?

MEIER: No, just that my son had to go into service and we were sort of short-handed.

HOFFMAN: Oh, yes, I suppose. And then came the 1950s and Korea and the threat of nuclear war and all that went with that –the whole McCarthy era. Did you ever have a sense of fear during the 1950s of the Cold War, of nuclear war? Was that a topic?

MEIER: Well, it was just always a worry that my son would have to go in service.

HOFFMAN: Into the Army.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: And he did.

MEIER: Oh, yes.

HOFFMAN: Where did he serve?

MEIER: In Korea.

HOFFMAN: Did he see combat?

MEIER: No, he was a quartermaster.

HOFFMAN: So he moved the supplies to everybody. During the 1950s was there any fear locally, expressed by people, of the whole Cold War and the threat of nuclear war?

MEIER: No, I don’t think so.

HOFFMAN: Did the town of Mt. Prospect do anything during the fifties or the 1960s regarding civil defense that you’re aware of?

MEIER: Well, they might have but I was not too interested because I had to help at home.

HOFFMAN: Because, actually, you were more isolated out on the farm, I take it.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Really, you were not a downtown resident.

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: By the 1960s you saw development around you.

MEIER: Oh, yes. That’s when Mt. Prospect started to develop. They built where the bakery is now, that corner.

HOFFMAN: Oh, the Continental Bakery?

MEIER: Yes. That was all built in those years, I think — if I’m not mistaken. They might have been built a little sooner.

HOFFMAN: The houses around your house, when were they built?

MEIER: Well, when we sold the farm, and I can’t remember just –when my son came home he farmed with his dad for four years, and that must have been –he went in in 1952 and he came home in 1954 –1958 –it must have been around 1959 or 1960 or something like that. Then they started building around here.

HOFFMAN: Was there one certain developer that put a lot of these houses in?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Who was that?

MEIER: Well, first we sold to a fellow by the name of Hatlett, but he went broke.

HOFFMAN: Oh, like Hatlett Road here.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: He went broke? Did you get your money, though?

MEIER: We had only sixty acres here, and we bought 200 in Crystal Lake so were were plenty worried we’d never make it.

HOFFMAN: When did you buy the 200 acres in Crystal Lake?

MEIER: When we sold here.

HOFFMAN: Oh, when you sold the sixty acres here.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Were you going to farm in Crystal Lake?

MEIER: Yes, my son wanted to farm, so he moved to Crystal Lake.

HOFFMAN: Did Hatlett pay you for the land?

MEIER: Well, some of it.

HOFFMAN: But not all of it.

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: So what happened then?

MEIER: We got a different buyer.

HOFFMAN: Do you remember who that was?

MEIER: Oh, I know his name but I can’t think of it right now.

HOFFMAN: And how much did he develop it? Did he put in many of these houses around here?

MEIER: Yes, all of these houses.

HOFFMAN: All of these around here.

MEIER: Hatlett just built a few along Busse Road.

HOFFMAN: And the rest were the next developer in.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: This must have been quite a construction site at one time. Were they putting up one house at a time or many house at a time?

MEIER: Oh, they were working on two or three at one time.

HOFFMAN: So there was all this building and noise and activity around here.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Let me take you back to when you first moved in here. Was this house the same size it is now?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: So there were no additions. We’re sitting in your kitchen, and it’s obviously a modern kitchen.

MEIER: But it wasn’t modern when I got here.

HOFFMAN: It wasn’t! How was it different?

MEIER: Well, like I said, we had no running water, we had no electric. We had to pay for the electric, to bring the line in from Busse Road. We had to pay for that.

HOFFMAN: Oh, you had to pay for that.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: What year did that come in, about?

MEIER: I think it was about two or three years after we were married.

HOFFMAN: In the late twenties?

MEIER: It must have been after the Depression.

HOFFMAN: Who put that line in?

MEIER: The public service.

HOFFMAN: Public service was whom? It wasn’t Commonwealth Edison as we know it now, was it?

MEIER: It must have been.

HOFFMAN: Was that electricity generated here in Mt. Prospect or did that come from a transmission line? You don’t know.

MEIER: No, I don’t know.

HOFFMAN: It was a wire that came in.

MEIER: I was only glad we had electricity.

HOFFMAN: Exactly. Okay, prior to electricity –we’re sitting at your kitchen table now and there is a nice electric light over us –prior to electricity –and it’s after seven o’clock –how would we have lit this room prior to electricity?

MEIER: A kerosene light.

HOFFMAN: Kerosene lamps where you’re trimming the wick, and everything.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: We have probably three light bulbs lighting this room. How many kerosene lamps would you have in a room? One per room, or what?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Would you have kerosene lamps burning in unoccupied rooms?

MEIER: Well, in the living room we had what they called at that time a Coleman, and that was with a wick, and that was also gasoline.

HOFFMAN: Gasoline.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: And you didn’t blow yourself up.

MEIER: I’m surprised myself.

HOFFMAN: Did that stay lit all evening until you went to bed?

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: What about a light in the kitchen?

HOFFMAN: At dark would you maintain a kerosene lamp in the living room and a kerosene lamp in the kitchen –just two lamps?

MEIER: Well, we mostly sat in the living room.

HOFFMAN: Would you keep the one in the kitchen on in case you needed to go into the kitchen?

MEIER: Oh, yes.

HOFFMAN: Would there be any other lights burning in the house in unoccupied rooms?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: Now, when you decided to go to bed, would you carry those lamps with you?

MEIER: No, we just went to bed in the dark.

HOFFMAN: The bedrooms are upstairs, I take it.

MEIER: Well, we have a bedroom downstairs, too.

HOFFMAN: Okay, but the kids were upstairs.

MEIER: The kids had to go upstairs.

HOFFMAN: And everybody went in the dark.

MEIER: Well, they had flashlights.

HOFFMAN: Flashlights. But, now, when they went into their room they didn’t turn a light on, did they?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: They just went under the covers to bed.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: And pretty much the same for you.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: You weren’t going to light a lamp for just a minute to see your way.

MEIER: No, that’s right.

HOFFMAN: At that time, how were you heating the house? With coal?

MEIER: Coal.

HOFFMAN: And then electricity comes. At that time there was also no running water.

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: How did you get your water?

MEIER: We had to haul it in from our milk house.

HOFFMAN: Where was the milk house located?

MEIER: It was right at the corner of Myrtle and Hatlett.

HOFFMAN: Right at the corner there.

MEIER: Right in the corner there.

HOFFMAN: Now, what’s a milk house?

MEIER: That was where we kept our milk, and that’s where we got our drinking water.

HOFFMAN: Now, this house is set back from the corner of Hatlett and Myrtle. You had a milk house right at the corner. What other buildings were on the farm?

MEIER: Well, we had sheds over here for our machinery, and a barn.

HOFFMAN: Near where Myrtle is now, the street?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: You had sheds. I take it you had a barn for the cows. Where was the barn?

MEIER: I’ve got a picture I can show you, but that won’t help you on the tape.

HOFFMAN: No, but I will look at that picture.

MEIER: About where the house across the street is.

HOFFMAN: Across Hatlett is about where you’re –and how many cows did you have?

MEIER: We started out with around twenty-five.

HOFFMAN: And by the end how many did you have?

MEIER: We kept about the same.

HOFFMAN: To get water, then, you had to walk thirty feet, thirty-five feet, to the shed –to the milk house.

MEIER: To the milk house, yes.

HOFFMAN: And how did you draw the water up from the ground?

MEIER: We pumped.

HOFFMAN: A hand pump.

MEIER: Yes, or they had a gasoline engine to pump water for the cows, but if I just wanted a bucket….

HOFFMAN: But not for you.

MEIER: No –just a bucket, I had to pump it.

HOFFMAN: And you did that yourself.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: The one who wanted the water pumped the pump.

MEIER: Yes. We had a sink over there, and there we had a bucket of water. We had a pump for rain water. That’s for washing hands.

HOFFMAN: Oh, you had a bucket of rain water there just to wash your hands.

MEIER: Yes, well, we had to pump it.

HOFFMAN: Where did that pump water from, rain barrels?

MEIER: A cistern.

HOFFMAN: Okay, from the cistern. Now, we’re doing this interview in October, and it’s not too cold out, but I imagine in January and February when it was very cold out, if you needed to do the dishes, or whatever, with the water, you’d put on your coat and you walked thirty-five feet to the milk house and you pumped the water?

MEIER: No. That’s what I used the pump for, for the rain water.

HOFFMAN: Oh, so you used that for about everything here.

MEIER: And we had a cookstove here, and there we had a reservoir, and that’s where I got the hot water from.

HOFFMAN: Oh, you heated the water in the reservoir on the stove. Was that a wood stove or a coal stove?

MEIER: Well, mostly I burned coal because that kept the heat overnight better.

HOFFMAN: You had to keep that burning all night, didn’t you.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: And if it went out, you had a problem.

MEIER: Yes. You had to light it again in the morning.

HOFFMAN: Was that a pain in the neck to light it?

MEIER: Oh, yes.

HOFFMAN: To get coal burning?

MEIER: Yes. We started with paper and kindling.

HOFFMAN: And keep the temperature getting higher and higher and higher. And all of a sudden you get electricity. When you got the electricity, what appliances did you first get? What was the first thing you bought?

MEIER: A light.

HOFFMAN: A light that stood on a shelf or on the wall or in the ceiling or what?

MEIER: No, like this.

HOFFMAN: Oh, like the chandelier hanging down. Do you remember where you got that light –where you bought it?

MEIER: No, I don’t.

HOFFMAN: When you first got electricity, where did it come into the house? Were there outlets in the walls all of a sudden, or just one wire or what?

MEIER: We didn’t put any more outlets than we absolutely needed, because every outlet would cost us so much.

HOFFMAN: Per month?

MEIER: No, to put in.

HOFFMAN: Oh, I see, so you minimized your…

MEIER: An electrician, you know, to wire the house.

HOFFMAN: So when you finally got that wire run from the electric company to your house, you hired an electrician.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Were electricians hard to come by?

MEIER: I don’t think so. I think he came from Park Ridge.

HOFFMAN: And you told him where you wanted the outlets, and he ran the wires to the outlets and also put in some fixtures.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: How much of an impact did electricity make in your life?

MEIER: Oh, a whole lot.

HOFFMAN: Easier? What did it change?

MEIER: Well, first of all, washing.

HOFFMAN: Okay, what did it do about washing?

MEIER: Well, I’d have to get water from the milk house, haul it down in the basement and use it for rinsing water because our cistern was not very big. When I got an electric washing machine I could just throw the clothes in and press a button and that was it.

HOFFMAN: That must have been astounding.

MEIER: I know it.

HOFFMAN: Just in a matter of time, how much time did that save you?

MEIER: Well, I didn’t consider my time.

HOFFMAN: But the effort, if nothing else, it saves. What else did electricity do for you?

MEIER: Ironing. I used to heat the iron on the cookstove, then I got an electric iron and it was wonderful.

HOFFMAN: Does anything else right off the bat strike you as a big difference?

MEIER: Well, then, in a couple of years we put in inside toilets.

HOFFMAN: Another landmark event. Again, I suppose that made a major difference in the operation of the house.

MEIER: Oh, yes.

HOFFMAN: Now, at some point you stopped heating the house with a coal furnace and went to, what, oil?

MEIER: Then we had an oil.

HOFFMAN: And then oil was delivered. Do you know about when that you made that change from coal to oil?

MEIER: No, I don’t know that. I just know we had two oil tanks in the basement, and whenever we could notice it was getting low we had to call the oil man to fill it. And then finally we converted to gas.

HOFFMAN: When did that take place?

MEIER: I think that must have taken place when we sold the farm.

HOFFMAN: Oh, in the fifties? And, again, that was probably another improvement on everything. When was Busse Road paved?

MEIER: I couldn’t tell you.

HOFFMAN: Was it before the war or after the war?

MEIER: Oh, it must have been before the war, I think.

HOFFMAN: Prior to the war in the thirties, at that time was

Mt. Prospect growing?

MEIER: Oh, yes, little by little.

HOFFMAN: Who was moving out here then?

MEIER: No, there was nothing here, not until we sold our farm.

HOFFMAN: In the fifties.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: When you sold the farm and people started moving in, what kind of people bought here? People who worked downtown and took the train, or who was it who was buying these houses?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Now, until the mid-fifties and late fifties, I suppose, the Chicago & Northwestern was operated by steam engines and all that. I imagine you have a pretty good recollection of that. How often did the commuter trains, the passenger trains, run out of Mt. Prospect? Do you have any idea?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: That was all non-farm stuff.

MEIER: That’s right. It didn’t bother me then.

HOFFMAN: Exactly. Let me see if there is anything else.

Now, prior to electricity how did you keep food?

MEIER: We put it in the basement, on the cement floor, to keep it cool.

HOFFMAN: In the winter I imagine you had no problem.

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: What about the summer? How would you keep perishables –milk, dairy products, meat –how would you keep that?

MEIER: Usually I canned a lot of meat. When we’d butcher hogs in the winter I’d can it.

HOFFMAN: So that’s where your meat came from, is your own farm.

MEIER: That’s right. We butchered a hog.

HOFFMAN: Did you ever, say, prior to 1940, did you ever go into town for meat? Did you shop for meat in Mt. Prospect?

MEIER: Not too much.

HOFFMAN: You were on the farm.

MEIER: Mostly we ate a lot of chicken.

HOFFMAN: Did you raise chickens?

MEIER: Oh, yes.

HOFFMAN: So you raised chickens, hogs and cows.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: What other things would you buy at Busse’s Grocery Store? Cereals and grains and things?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Was that all in bulk? What was packaged and what was in bulk?

MEIER: That’s a good question. I know a bakery from Arlington Heights would come around once a week, and we could get cookies and rolls from there.

HOFFMAN: Came around to your house?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Almost like a peddler.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: So a fellow would pull up and ask you if you wanted any baked goods.

MEIER: I think it was a woman at that time.

HOFFMAN: And you would buy off the truck.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Isn’t that interesting! Where did you get material? Did you sew?

MEIER: Quite a bit –mostly from the Sears catalog.

HOFFMAN: Material to sew with or ready-made clothes?

MEIER: No, material to sew with.

HOFFMAN: The Sears catalog must have had a real impact on your life.

MEIER: Oh, yes –like for the men, overalls. That was all bought from Sears.

HOFFMAN: What else did you buy from Sears?

MEIER: Well, that was about it.

HOFFMAN: Overalls and rough clothes like that.

MEIER: Stockings.

HOFFMAN: And cloth that you would then sew into various things.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: So, certainly the 1920s and into the 1930s you had little need for Mt. Prospect.

MEIER: No, that’s right.

HOFFMAN: You were pretty much self-sufficient on this farm.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: And probably all that much hasn’t changed, I suppose. I think that’s probably all the questions I have for you, unless there is anything you would like to add that you can recollect. Are there any events, as long as you’ve lived here, that stand out in your mind? Any monumental events that took place here –fires or floods or hurricanes or tornadoes?

MEIER: The flood when that reservoir. …

HOFFMAN: Oh, the reservoir over here.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: When did that flood?

MEIER: Now, that I don’t know, but I know that it ran over and it came almost all the way up to the corner here of …

HOFFMAN: Close. Was that a number of years ago?

MEIER: Well, let’s see, how long ago was that –I really don’t know when it was, but it’s not that long ago.

HOFFMAN: Was that reservoir here required of the developer?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: So that was some foresight somebody had, but even that did flood and spillover.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Okay, I think that’s probably all the questions I have. Again, I want to thank you very much for granting me this interview and for signing the consent form. I have one more question though, or an opportunity I’d like to give — I’m an optimist and I’d like to think that fifty or a hundred or a hundred and fifty years from now school children or historians may be listening to this tape or reading the transcript of this tape. Is there anything you would have to say to them?

MEIER: Well, the only thing I can think, I’ve seen so many changes in my lifetime that I don’t know if the next generation could –I saw horse-and-buggy days with putting somebody on the moon.

HOFFMAN: That’s right. You went from the horse to the microwave to the space travel and the space shuttle.

MEIER: That’s right, because my father had horses. Well, we had horses when we were first married, too, but we didn’t use them for transportation. But my father did, because I knew we’d take a sleigh and visit my grandfather and grandmother.

HOFFMAN: Where did they live?

MEIER: They lived in Schaumburg.

HOFFMAN: They were farming in Schaumburg.

MEIER: No, he was retired.

HOFFMAN: And you went by sleigh.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: And comparing that…

MEIER: I can still see myself. They’d put the blanket way over my head to keep warm.

HOFFMAN: How old were you then?

MEIER: I must have been about six or seven.

HOFFMAN: And then just packed you real tight in the sled.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: How far did they go?

MEIER: Oh, let’s see, from Bartlett to Schaumburg….

HOFFMAN: That’s a good, long distance. Was that on a road?

MEIER: Oh, yes. There were roads there.

HOFFMAN: But they were unpaved roads, and the snow would just…

MEIER: Yes, mostly gravel.

HOFFMAN: It’s hard to imagine that anyone in their lifetime could see any more changes than you’ve seen.

MEIER: That’s what my son told me, too.

HOFFMAN: And how have you adapted to that change? Has it been hard at all? Have you had difficulty?

MEIER: No, it’s come so gradually that. …

HOFFMAN: Does anything bother you about that change? Has it ever bothered you?

MEIER: No, but when they say “the good old days,” I always say, “My good old days are right now.”

HOFFMAN: I was going to ask, was it better then or is it better now?

MEIER: For me it’s better right now.

HOFFMAN: Why is it better?

MEIER: Because I have nothing to worry about anymore.

HOFFMAN: Well, your house is paid off and you’re –in a financial sense.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Is life harder on people now, or was it harder then?

MEIER: Well, for me it was harder then.

HOFFMAN: Because of the physical labors.

MEIER: Yes, much harder.

HOFFMAN: Has modernization, though, made it, do you think, more difficult for people to cope psychologically or mentally? Have you seen that in your life?

MEIER: No, I think it’s much better now.

HOFFMAN: You do!

MEIER: Yes, so much easier. Even with the farm machinery, it’s much more advanced than when we started in.

HOFFMAN: So your point is, really, that physical labor was the worst.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: On everybody.

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Now, the pace is quicker today, is it not?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: Is that better or worse than it was then?

MEIER: Well, no. I think it was much friendlier then. We could take the car and go visiting. We didn’t have to call up first or make a date. If they were home, okay; if not, we’d try somewhere else. We didn’t call up first.

HOFFMAN: And clear the way.

MEIER: Now you don’t go nowhere unless you’re invited.

HOFFMAN: That is a difference –that really is a difference.

MEIER: I think that was much better years ago. It seemed to be much more friendly.

HOFFMAN: It was just an accepted way of doing things.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Does the crime rate now bother you, looking back on maybe the way it wasn’t?

MEIER: Oh, yes. It’s getting too awful.

HOFFMAN: But in the 1920s there was crime, wasn’t there?

MEIER: But not so much.

HOFFMAN: Was there ever local crime?

MEIER: No, we were always pretty well protected.

HOFFMAN: Did you lock your door in the twenties and thirties?

MEIER: Oh, yes. We did that.

HOFFMAN: Was there ever any theft on your property?

MEIER: No, I can’t say that we ever had any trouble here.

HOFFMAN: When you sent your son to school –I take it he walked to grade school.

MEIER: Well, sometimes. We had car pools. We took the neighbors. We’d go one week and they’d drive another week.

HOFFMAN: Did you drive all the time, or were there times when he walked?

MEIER: They mostly were taken in the car.

HOFFMAN: Was that because of the distance or was that because of fear?

MEIER: No, I think it was the distance.

HOFFMAN: Did you have any fear at that time that your kid might be harmed?

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: It never entered your mind.

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: It never entered, really, anybody’s mind at that time.

MEIER: No.

HOFFMAN: But today that’s different.

MEIER: You could never walk today.

HOFFMAN: I guess that is one of the big differences. Is that a fair trade-off for the conveniences of today?

MEIER: I don’t know either.

HOFFMAN: Is that a hard question to answer?

MEIER: Yes.

HOFFMAN: I mean, today it’s physically much easier, but mentally it can be much tougher.

MEIER: Yes, much more danger, I think.

HOFFMAN: If you had to pick one of those two ways –if I gave you a choice, one way or the other, 1928 attitude or 1993 attitude, which…?

MEIER: Well, there was not so much danger then as there is now.

HOFFMAN: And you think that’s important?

MEIER: I think so.

HOFFMAN: Yes, although you didn’t have microwave popcorn then.

MEIER: That’s right.

HOFFMAN: Okay, listen, I really appreciate your time. I thank you very much.

MEIER: Now, can I have a tape of that, too?

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