Norbert Huecker

Does MPHS have photographs: Yes

Date of Interview: September 25, 1991

Interviewer: Jim Jirak

Oral History Text:

JIM JIRAK: I’m working on behalf of the oral history project for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the village of Mount Prospect. This evening I’m talking to Norbert C. Huecker at his home at 518 Noyes Street in Arlington Heights. Today is September 25-this is a Wednesday-1991. The time is about 7:00 in the evening. Norb, I want to thank you for agreeing to be interviewed and for signing the release forms. We appreciate your help in this project. Let me start out by asking you something simple, we hope-what is your full name?

NORBERT HUECKER: Norbert Heucker-H-U-E-C-K-E-R.

JIRAK: When were you born, and where?

HUECKER: 110 Northwest Highway; July 10, 1922. That’s right next to where the fire station and the police station was.

JIRAK: In Mount Prospect.

HUECKER: Yes.

JIRAK: And your parents were whom?

HUECKER: My dad’s name was Richard Huecker, and Amanda Huecker.

JIRAK: When did you move to Mount Prospect?

HUECKER: I was born there.

JIRAK: And so you have lived there all your life.

HUECKER: Yes.

JIRAK: What is your address now?

HUECKER: 518 East Noyes, Arlington Heights.

JIRAK: Have you ever lived at any other address in the village?

HUECKER: Ch, yes. In 1932 or something like that-or ’34-we moved over on 1 West Central Road in a home that my dad owned over there. That’s where the gas station is now. There was a home there before we torn that down and made a gas station there. When he moved there he had the garage next door, and we sold Plymouth and-first he sold Fords in 1932 there, and then he picked up a Ford in Detroit that time and it took nine quarts of oil to get back to Chicago. He said, “I’m not selling that car,” so then he sold Plymouth and DeSoto. But prior to that-this goes back to 110 North Northwest Highway-that’s where I was born-in the back there my dad had repair shops-a couple of repair bays back there; a pit to work on cars, too-and had the gas pump right out on Northwest Highway there where he sold gas. And then in the front of this building that they just tore down about three or four weeks go, he had one window in there and he would open up that window and he would put a car in there-because he was selling open pontiacs and stuff like that there-and he would put a car in there, and on the other side of the store he sold some of these radios. These were the first radios that came into Mount Prospect. They ran on a storage battery like they’ve got in a car, and that’s the only battery they really had. You know, you have to charge these batteries up. But he sold those, and then he fixed shoes and all that stuff in the same building there. Then it was in 1932 or something that he had moved over on Central Road and Main Street-there’s a home there-and he bought the garage and that stuff in the back. That’s when he went into Ford for ’32 and then he stopped on account of the oil burning and then went into Plymouth and DeSoto for two years, and then he sold Fords again until 1937. Then in 1937 we dug all the dirt out by that corner there where the house is at and started making a gas station out of that. But prior to that, you figure from that building on-where I was born-you had Busse’s Grocery Store and you had Burda’s.

JIRAK: Where were they located?

HUECKER: They were right on the corner of Northwest Highway and Emerson. Burda’s had the drugstore there. And then there were doctors-Dr. Jensen had offices in that same building upstairs, and Dr. [William] Granzig. And if you go down the street a little north, there was nothing but homes, like the Busses-there was Castrina Busse, Edwin Busse and all of them just had homes all along there. That was really the only business that was there. I can remember right there at 110 Northwest Highway-that building that they just tore down-that was a cornfield. Right after the cornfield they had a baseball diamond there. I remember all the guys in town used to play baseball there. Anyway, they made a baseball diamond. We lived in the lower apartment there, and I remember they would be breaking windows all the time. They were playing with a sixteen-inch ball. But they fixed all the windows. Nothing’s been said here around town; well, I remember the creamery over there where Schimming used to be, but I don’t remember anything about it. And then, like I say, there was Crofoot Co. that had factory over there, right next to where the old village hall was.

JIRAK: Do you remember what they made?

HUECKER: Well, Crofoot made staples-staples for stapling paper together. And then there was a cash register place in there, too. They made old cash registers-well, they weren’t old then; they were new cash registers-but they made those there. The man was Crofoot, and I think he made the Crofoot staples. But as you go down Busse, the florist over there was my uncle. When he got married my grandfather gave him a lot and a house right over there as a wedding present, and then he started the greenhouse over there. As you come along past the stores and you get down to the corner, [John C.] Moehling had that building on the corner over there. I think there is a chiropractor in there now.

JIRAK: Corner of …?

HUECKER: Of Main and Northwest Highway. There was a tavern in there, and I remember as a kid going in there with my dad. And then there were stores there-Meeske’s and some of those. They had a dry goods store. I remember the one fellow had a dry goods store-a nice man-and he would go downtown if people needed a spool of thread or something like that- the next day he would go downtown and pick up these ladies spools of thread. I can remember being in a gas station, pretty near a block away; he had a laugh like you wouldn’t believe. You could hear it a block away. But anyway, I don’t know how long he stayed there. Then right across the street, the First Bank building was on the corner of Busse and Main Street, and I remember when the bank moved out of there and they moved into the other quarters that was a little restaurant. I remember eating in that restaurant. Other than that, there was nothing but farms all around. Central Road and Northwest Highway and Rand Road and Foundry Road-nothing but farms just allover. I can remember, too, the farmers used to come into town with sugar beets. Sugar beets was a big thing in those days, and they would bring the sugar beets over by the railroad tracks. They had a method of lifting the trucks up and pouring the sugar beets in there, and then they would haul them away. But I can remember as a kid, playing on Northwest Highway, the first cement they had on it. They were adding lanes, but I can remember playing on Northwest Highway, sitting on the bales of straw. There are so many things [we did] as kids that I remember-I’m 69 years old-that kids [today] will never see, like seeing an ice man come, carry ice on his back and carry it up and put it in the icebox [after] they called you. I remember the mil~man, too, and how they would come down the street, and how in the wintertime that little cream would push out of the bottle and we’d try to get it. But so many things that kids would never realize or just can’t imagine. Just the same as I remember my dad when he sold cars, people would trade in bicycles, pianos, gold and everything else. When they bought a car they would trade all this stuff in. I can remember the gypsies that would come into town would buy old gold and that stuff, too. My dad would get a watch in trade on a car and I thought that one time that I could fix it. I tore it all apart. Well, I never got it together, but when the gypsies came to town I think I sold it, and maybe I got a dollar and a half for it. Like I say, Kruse’s on the other side of the railroad tracks-they were there. He was a beer distributor, plus he had the tavern and a restaurant there. People really liked it. In those days you would go in a tavern-well, I don’t visit them anyway-but they would have cheese and crackers there to eat and nibble on. But they put out wonderful meals. Prior to that, Herman Meyn was on the corner of Busse and Northwest Highway where the Carriage House is now. That’s where he started with his blacksmith shop. Then he moved over there on Emerson Street in back of P & Me, and that’s where he had his tractor place. I can remember horses in there, and I can remember shoeing the horses and how the horses would go to the bathroom. What a messy job-the horses going to the bathroom, and all that stuff, too. But he shoed horses in there, too. He was a hard-working guy. I remember on Pine Street the pickle factory they had there. I think it was Budlong pickle factory [Schillo Brothers Pickel Factory], and I remember the vats they had there. We got a kick as kids-and I know we’d throw things in the vats. And the birds, they’d be in there-Lord knows what they were putting in there-but I can remember we’d take pickles out of there and eat some of the pickles. They were good, but the sanitation wasn’t too good. They had onion houses there, too, where he would have onions all the time. Come Halloween, the biggest thing somebody would do on Halloween would be to tip over somebody’s outhouse. That was a big thing. Even like on the corner where I’m at-Central and Main, where I have my gas station now-across the street from that there was greenhouse there by the name of Homeyer-I think his name was Homeyer; Charlie Homeyer. He had that greenhouse there, and then later on in years a guy by the name of Bill McReynolds-they called it Hook’s Nursery-he was there. But I can remember as a kid, working across the street over there for 35 cents an hour, and there was no such thing as sticking your head up and looking around. You worked for that 35 cents an hour. Even for Heine Kruse-I worked for Heine Kruse; he was an uncle of mine-I worked on the beer truck from 5:00 in the morning until 7:00 at night for two dollars a day, and he said, “Don’t get hurt. I haven’t got any insurance on you.” But it was fun years. All along Central Road, it really was nothing but farms.

JIRAK: Norb, let me ask just for the record, can you tell us within an outline what considered the downtown area-what were the boundaries.

HUECKER: Well, the Busses on Emerson and Northwest Highway. That was about it. Later on in years it ran over where Main Street is over there-that was really about the biggest extent of it. Nobody realizes it, but that Elmhurst Road, as you see, it is an S-curve. But we had a commissioner in town, there, that was related-William Busse, the commissioner. I think he was mayor at the same time. His son had that garage there. It was Albert. When they made that road, Commissioner Busse said, “You’re going to bend that road, and you’re going to put that in front of my son’s garage,” and they did it. They bent it and put it in front of his son’s garage. In those days, they could have run it right straight through. There’s nothing there. But he said, “I want that road to go in front of my son’s garage,” and they put it in front of his son’s garage. But to me, it raised the value of my property, too, so I can’t complain. I can’t remember-on the other side of the railroad tracks-when those stores really started over there. That was later on. But the way I see and from what I hear, it’s just a shame that I don’t have my dad or I don’t have somebody really to inquire of why my dad even had the garage there. That was over there on Central Road. He sold gas, and that’s where he sold Fords until 1937. This was in ’34, and there was a lot of bootlegging. I can remember cars in there that they had confiscated or picked up. They had guns in them or liquor, and the police department was holding them. People don’t realize-I was driving through Arlington Heights the other day and I was telling a fellow right along Northwest Highway here in Arlington Heights-I think it was a gravel road or a two-lane road-I can remember they had a cigar store, Gander Cigars. Do you remember that?

JIRAK: Yes.

HUECKER: I can remember it was named after the guy’s geese, and the geese would be walking around there by the road. We went to church in Arlington Heights then, and I can remember my one uncle Mr. Deering, why, we’d be driving along, and he chewed tobacco. He spit out the front window and it would come in the back. We kids would dive on the floor. But between the sugar beets and things like that, there were peonies. Peonies were a big thing. Everybody was growing peonies. On Miller Road there were nothing but peonies. I remember my uncle across the street, Mr. Deering, had a lot there-a 50- or lOa-foot lot-they grew nothing but peonies. Between the peonies and the sugar beets, I think that was one of their biggest things. And as far as the automobiles, the only dealers at that time, really, was Busse and my dad.

JIRAK: Which Busse was that?

HUECKER: That was Albert.

JIRAK: Son of the commissioner, right?

HUECKER: His dad and his brother was the commissioner. But there was another fellow, Gilbert Busse, who was a wonderful man; the hardest working guy. You ought to see him working. He’d be there seven days a week working in that garage there for his brother Albert. Gilbert, he’s the grandfather to Wayne Busse. I can remember horses and buggies coming into town. On the corner of Central and Main, there, you’d see them. I can remember the one time, even Dr. Jensen had his horse, and he took the horse in co-Hopper’s Bowling Alley, and [in time] they got it thrown out. But he had the horse in the bowling alley. He was my dentist, but he was a nice guy.

JIRAK: Let me ask you, just to cover some of these point, where did your family shop for groceries?

HUECKER: Mainly right in town there.

JIRAK: Okay, with whom?

HUECKER: Busse’s store, and over at Meeske’s-you know, Meeskes had that place there. That would be the main ones.

JIRAK: Where were they located?

HUECKER: Busse’s was right on the highway-lOB Northwest Highway, or something like that; right next to where I was born.

JIRAK: And Meeske’s?

HUECKER: Meeske’s, they were on the corner of Busse by Elmhurst Road-right on the corner there.

JIRAK: That would be across from your station now.

HUECKER: Down on the next corner, right where the bakery is.

JIRAK: The Continental.

HUECKER: The Continental, yes-right there. That was Meeske’s building. The father had it, and then the sons. They ran it, but I don’t think they liked the business, or something.

JIRAK: Okay. How about clothes and shoes?

HUECKER: Well, this fellow right next to where the bakery is now, they had a dry goods place there, and they would sell stuff there, but I think the big thing in those days was Sears & Roebuck, you know-the catalog-because the catalogs were big and people would just order stuff from catalogs.

JIRAK: Was it pretty popular to go to Des Plaines, as far as youcan recall?

HUECKER: Oh, I’d say yes. Later on people would go to Des Plaines, because I can remember going to Des Plaines and you would-how many years ago was that? Forty-five years ago. They would have a five and dime there, too. My wife really came from Des Plaines, but I can remember you would drive around the block maybe four, five, six times before you could find a parking place up in Des Plaines to go into these stores up in Des Plaines there.It’s hard to believe, but the story years ago as to why Mount Prospect never really had anything as far as stores, but they said if the Busses didn’t own the land, they just didn’t go into business, and it’s seemed kind of a proven fact. As far as even on the other side of Central Road where the drugstore is now-Duretti’s-that was Hook’s Nursery and prior to that it was Homeyer, but I remember my dad bought a lot on the opposite corner, which was a parking lot. He bought that as a business in 1922, and that was taken out of business in 1934 because they just didn’t want any business down in that thing. They just wanted it as far as Hook’s Nursery was and the drugstore is now.

JIRAK: Where did you shop for hardware?

HUECKER: Wille’s and Busse-Biermann. They were there then. Busse-Biermann-I can remember, too, [you needed] coal in those days; we had coal. I can remember on Central and Main Street, my gas station-now we live there. My mother, she had chickens-raised chickens there, too. On Saturday she maybe baked thirty, forty loaves of bread. I’m telling you, there’s nothing better than that homemade bread with butter and jelly. I remember Dr. Granzig would come over every Saturday morning and we would have bread. But she would make thirty, forty loaves of bread and I think sell them for 20 cents or something like that. But then raise chickens; I remember she had guinea hens there. It was a fun time. I remember no sidewalks. There were no sidewalks by the gas station there. Nothing. Just nothing but fields.

JIRAK: How about your drugstore; medicines and so forth?

HUECKER: Burda-they were there. See, Burda’s, they were on the corner of Northwest Highway and Emerson. I remember they had some kind of contest there I won, too, one time. I won the first balloon-tired bicycle that came into Mount Prospect-the first balloon-tired bicycle-and I had it a long time. You talk of going to school there-across the street from me over there; the gas station there-the public school there, and prior to that they had a little school-a regular church, like-and they used that as a school first. I can remember going eight years to that one over there-that public school over there.

JIRAK: Is that the one in the rear of St. John’s?

HUECKER: No, that’s the one where the library is now. I can remember even as a kid going to grammar school. I hung around with a kid on the south side, down by the creek there. I can remember on rainy days the water was over the handlebars of a bicycle in a real bad storm. I remember in the creek-hunting along the creek; a lot of pheasants, too-but there was a lot of things floating in the creek there that you don’t see floating in there anymore. They’ve got it cleaned up. But even on Emerson Street, there was a farm. The Krohn brothers or something-they ran it. It’s just hard to visualize. The place was nothing but farms, all around Mount Prospect, which I imagine was allover.

JIRAK: How did the stores advertise?

HUECKER: Mainly by the sign in the front of the building, that’s all. They had a sign in the front of the building like “Busse’s Groceries,” or things like that.

JIRAK: How about newspaper advertisements?

HUECKER: Well, I think there was somewhat, but you didn’t see much of it. I don’t remember seeing much of it.

JIRAK: Nothing like today.

HUECKER: No, nothing like today. Because I don’t even know, really, way back when whether they really had anything as far as printing locally. I can’t remember about papers and that stuff.

JIRAK: Do you remember what some of the earliest factories in Mount Prospect were?

HUECKER: Well, the earliest one I can remember is the creamery and Crofoot’s, and then later on you had Illinois Range that started up down there

JIRAK: On Central Road.

HUECKER: And there was Milburn Brothers; they were in the excavator-contractor business.

JIRAK: Well, you had the pickle factory.

HUECKER: They had the pickle factory, yes, and the onion factory over there.

JIRAK: Did they actually can pickles?

HUECKER: No, they didn’t do it. They just had th:m there, and they were just like-pickling there. They put them in vats and let them lay there, then they were taken some other place and they were canned.

JIRAK: Oh, okay, they didn’t can them there.

HUECKER: No. They had no facilities for canning. I can even remember as a kid, when my dad was over there I used to raise pigeons. In those days, kids would come around and let my pigeons out. I remember digging big holes by the pigeon coops, then laying dirt and cardboard on top. Then they’d fall into it-you know, to keep them away from my pigeons. But there was no such thing as anybody suing one another in those days.

JIRAK: Right. Do you remember any particular interesting stories? You’ve told a little bit about some of the places-particularly the pickle factory-but do you remember anything special about the creamery or the other places?

HUECKER: No, I really can’t remember; just that it was a creamery and then it went into an oil company-Schimming Oil, or something, was in later years. I remember, too, even with the fire department, in those days-this is right where the police station and the fire station is right now-they used to have water fights with the hose and that stuff. The fire department used to fight against other towns. They would have barrels up on a wire and they would have water fights to see who could drive the barrel down to the other end.

JIRAK: There is mention here of the night the power plant burned down. Do you remember anything about that?

HUECKER: I don’t remember that. I don’t know a thing about it. I don’t know what year that was.

JIRAK: Other than the stores and businesses, which buildings were downtown? You’ve got the library, the hospital. ..

HUECKER: the hospital-like Busse’s store and then Busse-Biermann and Wille’s-that was about the extent of the businesses that I can remember, and the dry goods stores and some of the grocery stores.

JIRAK: Did they have a library at that time, in the early ’30s?

HUECKER: I don’t remember a library, no.

JIRAK: How about the hospital?

HUECKER: Hospital, yes. They had that one on the south side of the tracks. Woolfarth-he was the fellow that ran that.

JIRAK: I presume that was for people that had to be temporarily

HUECKER: Either that or I think for people that wanted to have babies or things like that. My daughter was born at home, but she turned out to be a good gal.

JIRAK: Wille Hall-do you remember anything about Wille Hall?

HUECKER: I remember the name, but I just can’t place it. I remember talk of it. It’s like where the water tower is there, too-that was the main business in town; police station, fire station. They had the jail there, you know. They had everything there. At that time a fellow by the name of William Mawsaw, I think he was the chief and he was the deputy and a judge and everything else in town-William Mawsaw.

JIRAK: Where did children hang out, and was there a lovers’ lane worthy of the name?

HUECKER: No, I don’t remember a lovers’ lane. I just remember years ago that I would see cars going down Emerson Street and parking down there because there were dead-end roads that didn’t go anywhere. That’s where a lot of cars would sit. I don’t’ know-they must have been doing some hugging and kissing or something in there.

JIRAK: Okay. Was there anyplace special that businessmen got together to talk?

HUECKER: Not really.

JIRAK: Perhaps the taverns?

HUECKER: I imagine, to sit in the tavern. You see, in those days, too a big thing was like I can remember him and Mr. Kleinswick and my dad, too-most guys, too-a shot and a beer. That was a big thing. Or Wille’s Tavern-that was a big meeting place for businessmen and for guys that hunted and fished and that stuff, too. They would meet in there and talk about fishing and hunting and all that stuff. But they had like a regular hunting club that originated out of Wille’s Tavern.

JIRAK: Do you remember anything about parades downtown, or other special events like picnics or fairs or town events?

HUECKER: I don’t remember too much about parades, but I remember years ago they did have some. A Mr. Schuette, who was a German man in town-he came from Germany and he had a son Frank and they lost him in the service. But I can remember they got some kind of a race together like they have now. That really is big time, you know-a bicycle race-and I remember he was entered in it. I don’t think that lasted-only a year or two and that was the end of that. It kind of fell away.

JIRAK: Were the special Fourth of July or Memorial Day celebrations? Can you recall some of those?

HUECKER: I think just later on. Not the early years-they didn’t have anything. They didn’t have, really, any business to do anything or participate in it.

JIRAK: One of the questions, did the town decorate for holidays? If so, how?

HUECKER: I don’t think in the early years they did, but later on I think they did. But another thing that people don’t know, where the Fanny May candy is now, right on the corner there, they had what they called a sunken garden. It was really pretty. They had a little pond in there with water running all the time, and then they had little benches in there where you could sit. It was really beautiful. What happened to it, I really don’t know. They just took it out of there. But it really was nice. You’d think something like that would be interesting to see, even in this day. You can’t now. All you do it sit over there and eat candy at Fanny May.

JIRAK: How did people come downtown when you first came to Mount Prospect, as you were growing up there?

HUECKER: Well, they had automobiles, but you would see horse and buggies coming to town and tie up there.

JIRAK: The trains then were steam trains, I take it.

HUECKER: Steam trains then, yes. Young guys liked gals, too, and sometimes they’d give a little toot on the old steam when they passed the gals, not that it would get a , you see, but just to scare them a little bit.

JIRAK: Do you remember riding on the train yourself?

HUECKER: Yes, I did a few times. Until this day I don’t think I’ve been on a train fifteen times.

JIRAK: Where did you go? Did you go downtown?

HUECKER: Yes.

JIRAK: We’ve talked about the sugar beets being shipped to and from Mount Prospect. Do you recall at all the milk pails and that sort of thing?

HUECKER: Ch, I remember milk pails standing all around, even on farms. If you went to farms, you would see milk cans sitting around to be picked up. Another thing about the Haberkamps-I don’t know if their name was mentioned yet or not-but you know they had the florist over there on Emerson Street on the other side. They were old-timers in town.

JIRAK: Yes. They were the other florist in town, weren’t they.

HUECKER: Yes.

JIRAK: The Busses and the Haberkamps.

HUECKER: In those days, though, it wasn’t like now. They had greenhouses-where my uncle, he was Fred Busse-but they had greenhouses where they would raise all their flowers and that stuff. Most of them would raise that stuff to sell, but now I think it’s pretty near all shipped in due to airplanes.

JIRAK: We can probably sum it up, Norb, but what would you say is your fondest memory of early downtown Mount Prospect?

HUECKER: Oh, I think just the way it was. You figure with the horses coming into town and, like I say, where I’m at now look across the street and there was nothing but horses and cows. You’d see the cars on Rand Road over there, see. It was just nice, you know, seeing that stuff. It was a nice, little town. It’s a shame that even all these young kids just couldn’t start off in a little, old town like that and then grow up. I remember when the population was about 900 in Mount Prospect. Even with Mr. [George] Whittenberg, the chief, I remember he came into town. He was an unemployed carpenter. At that time my dad was on the Chamber of Commerce, or something they had there like that, you see, and they were having a meeting over there by the water tower in the village hall. My dad said [to George], “Get over there. They’re having a meeting tonight, and they’re looking for a policeman.” And George said, “God, I don’t know how to ride a motorcycle or anything else like that.” But anyway, he went over and he got the job. I remember one time he was chasing somebody, or what, and a dog flew out in front of the motorcycle. He hit that dog, and the only thing that saved him was he slid on his side along the gun, you know-slid on the holster and wore that all through. That’s the only thing that saved him, otherwise it would have skinned him all to pieces.

JIRAK: Maybe this seems like an obvious question, but how has downtown Mount Prospect changed over the years? Do you like the changes, or was it better the way it was?

HUECKER: Well, I don’t think there was ever enough changes, see. Nothing was just done. It isn’t like Des Plaines or Arlington Heights where they had more stores, more things to shop. Mount Prospect was limited to the amount of stores they had, so you’re going to lose people by not having everything so handy. Des Plaines was only three miles away; Arlington Heights three miles away-people could go there and have a better selection of shopping and getting stuff

JIRAK: That should about wind it up, Norb. You’ve talked about if there was anyone thing that you would want the children to remember about the history of their hometown, what would it be? Can you sum that up?

HUECKER: Like I say, you go places now and it’s nothing but a little town with farmers around it. That’s all I can say, you know.

JIRAK: You liked that rural atmosphere.

HUECKER: I think so. If you’ve lived in it and you’ve seen it, you really kind of miss it. Not that I’d go to Wisconsin or places like that-you see these places, and I know I couldn’t stand to live there now, when you’ve seen all the excitement that goes on in Mount Prospect.

JIRAK: Well, that should do it. We thank you very much for consenting to be interviewed. You now will have a place in history.

 

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