Does MPHS have photographs: Unknown
Date of Interview: 1/21/1996
Interviewer: Henry and Vi Graef
Text of Oral History:
FRENCH: This is January 21,1996, and my name is James B. French, and I’m here with Vi and Henry Grave in their home on Berkshire in Mount Prospect, and they want to know a little bit about me. Well, I was born 1921 down very close to the Ohio River in a little town called Cynthiana, Indiana, where my father was the superintendent of schools. Total population of the town might have been 250. My father was a small-town schoolteacher all of his life, put in thirty-five years in Indiana and then another fifteen in Illinois. I lived in a few places in Indiana, and I originally came to Chicago area, and I was here for a short while in 1940. After going in the service in 1941 to ’45 I came back to Chicago, lived on the Southeast side of Chicago out near the steel mills until January of 1950, when we moved to 701 South Elmhurst in Mount Prospect.
VI GRAVE: Now, by “we”?
FRENCH: Now, my wife and I and our ten-month-old daughter, Alicia. A sign on the south end of town said the population of Mount Prospect was nineteen hundred. There was absolutely nothing except cabbage and tomato plants and patches south of Golf Road. There was only seven houses south of the Willard Creek on Elmhurst Road. It was a two-lane road, and it was a nice, quiet little village. That was our introduction into Mount Prospect. I opened an account in what was the old Mount Prospect State Bank shortly thereafter, and, believe it or not, one day about two years ago I met –I think it’s George Busse, or Bill, whichever is still around there as the president emeritus, or whatever it is since it’s become a part of the big conglomerate, and he looked at that account number and he says, “You know, that’s probably one of the oldest accounts in this bank other than my own,” which it probably is. I lived in four different places in Mount Prospect. I lived at 632 East Shawbanee Trail, a town house over there that I owned while we were building a house that’s 623 South George, and we moved to the South George Street address in, I think, November of 1958. We lived there for ten years and then moved up to northwest comer of Arlington Heights, up in the Berkeley Square area, and we lived there for almost five, went on up to Libertyville for a couple of years, moved back to Mount Prospect up in the Camelot section with its 1402 Westgate for two years while I was in the process of having two houses built out west of Harper College in north Hoffman Estates, north of Algonquin and south of Palatine Road, west of Ela, where my wife and I and for our daughter Sue and her family. We’ve been out there now just a little over eighteen years. By the time we moved out there, we were again at the end of civilization, nothing west of us except open fields, and now then you got to get another fifteen miles west of us before you find open fields out there on the other side of Randall Road west of Elgin. So we’ve seen this area grow, and I mean really seen it grow. We became very active in South Church really in about 1952. Midge was much more active in those days than I was. She started in with our oldest daughter and took her to Sunday school, became a Sunday school teacher, eventually became the Sunday school superintendent, worked for many years with several of the people, especially with Bud Strong, who was for years one of the leaders in the South Church, along with many other people, but he and Midge were constantly in the Sunday school area of South Church for a good number of years. Midge served on practically every board and committee in the church, headed up the American Baptist Women, or whatever they’re going to call it now. I don’t know exactly what it is now.
VI GRAVE: _______ now.
FRENCH: And was president of it for years, ran the kitchen on so many occasions that everybody says it’s Midge’s kitchen.
VI GRAVE: I believe it.
FRENCH: Me? I became active first with the nominating committee and then with the board of deacons, and for about eighteen years I was either on the board of trustees and/or moderator. I have not since 1992 been on any board or committee in South Church. I was here when Jack Skiles came in, and I believe I served for the first full calendar year after he came here as chairman of the board of trustees. I have since then taken a little sabbatical and have been known as the trustee emeritus on several occasions. ..
VI GRAVE: Right.
FRENCH: …because there are so many things around South Church that were never written down but that I was involved in, and on many, many an occasion they’ve called me and said, “I hope your memory is still pretty good because we need to know. ..”
VI GRAVE: Oh, yes, what about the –when they were doing the additions and you were able to tell them so many feet and –what was that again?
FRENCH: On several occasions the Christian education building has had the flood in the lower level. I’ve waded around over there in water halfway up your knees and finally found that the blueprints are not the way it was built. The drains are not where they’re supposed to be. There was no septic tank ever put out in the middle of the parking lot because by the time they got around to building it, the village had come along and put a sanitary sewer down through Shawbanee Trail, so we were able to bypass the septic system and change the setup and go direct to the sanitary, so there is no septic tank out there. We looked and looked and looked for it on the first occasion and finally realized that it wasn’t there, so about a year or so ago, maybe in the spring of ’94 –maybe it was ’95 –I don’t remember –it flooded again, and I get a phone call from Jack. He says, “I hope your memory is good. We’ve got a flood. Where is the drain in the Christian ed building, and how do we get to it? We can’t seem to find it.” So I was able to tell him that he wanted to go not to the east end of the building but to the west end of the building. Then it went out to Shaubanee Trail and that if you went out and measured nine and a half feet west of the west edge of the parking lot and fifteen feet south of the east-west parking lot along Shaubanee Trail, take that as a radius and start punching around there about eighteen inches at each _______and ________all around in a circle and you’d find a drain down there which had been covered over with about twelve to fourteen inches, and, sure enough, after about five punches they found it. Just one of those things that you remember because you go through these. Yes, I saw a lot of things around the South Church. Let’s go back a few years, back into the sixties when church was growing and we had two ministers, director of Christian education –you may be able to tell me, what was the woman’s name that we had?
HENRY GRAVE: That was _______.
FRENCH: No, no, no.
VI GRAVE: ________ The woman Wan-…
FRENCH: Wanda or …
VI GRAVE: Cramer.
FRENCH: Wanda Cramer, no Juanita Cramer.
VI GRAVE: Juanita, that’s it.
FRENCH: Juanita Cramer was the director of Christian education.
VI GRAVE: We did not know her. We came after that.
FRENCH: A young man was also –I can’t recall right now out of the top of my head I can’t recall– it was the second new assistant associate pastor under Pastor Steve, and then came John D’ Angi.
VI GRAVE: That’s when we came into the church.
FRENCH: In the meantime we had purchased the Frank Robinson property that was on Emerson Street, but it came all the way through to Maple Street, and we paid the enormous sum of $25,000 for all those lots south of the church all the way from Emerson all the way back to Maple Street. We subsequently built a new parsonage for John D’ Angi facing Maple Street right at the very north end of the street. I can’t right off at this moment tell you the exact year we built it. You could look that up.
HENRY GRAVE: It’s in the 1960s, I believe.
FRENCH: I’m sitting here trying to think. I’m thinking that it was in the early sixties.
HENRY GRAVE: Yes, early sixties. ________.
FRENCH: Because I believe John D’ Angi was here from about ’64 till ’68 or ’69, something like that.
HENRY GRAVE: A little earlier than ’64. He came around the time we joined the church. ..
VI GRAVE: He was already there.
HENRY GRAVE: …which was 1960.
FRENCH: Well, maybe he was ’60. The date’s slipped my mind right now, exact.
HENRY GRAVE: I know shortly after we came, or it was when they had the open house at that Maple Street. ..
FRENCH: Well, you see the Christian ed’s building, the Christian education building, the fund drive started in 1956, and when the finalization of the plans, it was started in ’57 and completed in ’58, so I was two years in making the plans.
HENRY GRAVE: It was finished when we came.
FRENCH: If I’m not mistaken, John D’ Angi was not here when that building was dedicated. ..
HENRY GRAVE: Probably not.
FRENCH: …but came shortly after, because by that time…
HENRY GRAVE: He came here about the time we came.
FRENCH: When did you come out here?
HENRY GRAVE: December of 1959.
FRENCH: He came here probably shortly after that.
HENRY GRAVE: Yes, and we joined the church in 1960s _______.
FRENCH: Midge and I were actually around here, but our official membership didn’t take place until 1957.
HENRY GRAVE: Oh.
FRENCH: Yes. There was a whole group of us. One in particular that I remember was Maude and Fred Feiffer…
HENRY GRAVE: Oh, yes.
FRENCH: …that came into the church the same day we did. A lot of people in the late fifties that were coming in when the growth of the church was just absolutely tremendous in those days, tremendous.
HENRY GRAVE: We had two and a half services –I said two and a half. The half was the early morning service. ..
FRENCH: I was chairman of the board of deacons. ..
HENRY GRAVE: …plus two regular services.
FRENCH: …and every Sunday morning I was at the church at eight o’clock, opened it up, and we had a church service from eight-thirty to nine-fifteen, another one from nine-fifteen till ten-thirty, and then one from eleven until twelve, and I –as I said, chairman of the board of deacons, and every Sunday morning I was out there in the narthex from eight o’clock until twelve. I had a lot of help, and there was no problem. I mean, get on the telephone and recruited, had ushers, but that was just one of the things that I was involved in constantly. At the same time Midge was in the Sunday school and…
VI GRAVE: Choir.
FRENCH: Ninety-nine Sundays out of a hundred she sang in the choir because the Sunday school did not hold forth at the eleven o’clock service, but we had people that filled the up rooms in the Christian ed building to take care of the youngsters’ nursery and the kindergarten and this and that when their parents were over in the church. It just kept on growing and growing and growing until I would say that in about 1970 we probably had a total membership, not all completely active, but a total membership of around a thousand. The records could be looked up to see exactly what it was.
HENRY GRAVE: Vi and I started the church school in the early sixties. We were in the seventh and eighth grade units. At that time they had sixty kids in just seventh and eighth grade.
VI GRAVE: Yes.
FRENCH: We filled up every room, every space available in the entire Christian ed building and still had classes and had curtains up over in the fellowship hall and used the library lounge and the chapel, as I recall it, for Sunday school classes.
HENRY GRAVE: Also the stage.
FRENCH: And the stage, especially at the one that went from nine-forty-five till ten-thirty. That was the most heavily attended service. With counting the children and those in the sanctuary, that was the most heavily attended service.
VI GRAVE: Jim, do you think you’d like to talk about the differences in the church now, how you see the changes. Perhaps we could even skip to some of the businesses and manufacturing in town and then go over to the Combined Appeal because I think that’s…
FRENCH: We got acquainted with you on Combined Appeal.
VI GRAVE: Yes, we certainly did.
FRENCH: I was just going to say, one of the things when I was talking about South Church, Pastor Steve really dropped the bombshell on the board of deacons in January of 1970 when he announced that he was sixty-five years of age. We all were taken aback, and it was his intent to retire at the end of 1972. We had two full years to plan his retirement, and it fell to my honor to be able to chair that entire planning of Steve’s retirement dinner and all the activities for that year. I was chairman of that particular deal. Four hundred and twenty-three people attended Pastor Steve’s dinner at the Casa el Royale over here in Des Plaines that evening that he retired. It was quite an event. Would you believe that I still have the tape of that evening?
VI GRAVE: Good. Do you know the library may even would like a copy of that.
FRENCH: I say I still have it. Come to think of it, maybe I don’t. I had it the other day. I’m wondering. I think I laid it back in there, because I got rid of a whole slew of tapes.
VI GRAVE: Oh, no.
FRENCH: I think it’s still up in the –see, it wasn’t with the rest of the tapes. It was up in the bureau, and I hope I didn’t. ..
HENRY GRAVE: That would be important to have.
VI GRAVE: Oh, that would be great.
FRENCH: Oh, boy. I don’t know. I’ll have to look now.
VI GRAVE: The listener is not able to know this, but Jim is speaking entirely without notes. This is all coming out, away it goes. He had no…
FRENCH: Extemporaneous, as you say.
VI GRAVE: That’s right and no notes in front of him. Okay, go ahead, Jim.
FRENCH: Well, that’s the way South Church, and then we saw the start as so many churches became predominant in Mount Prospect we saw the decline of the membership because up to the sixties there weren’t more than about three or four other churches in all of Mount Prospect, so we had people from various other Protestant denominations that came to South Church that when other churches came in that they were wanting to attend they –and then of course we were a highly transient community in those days, very highly transient community in those days –in and out, people here for a year or two and gone, many good people. So it declined, but Pastor Steve’s retirement and Reverend Paul Sandin’s resignation and moving away, we went through a period with an interim pastor, Earl Meadin, before the pulpit committee finally found Jack Clements, and Jack Clements was here for about sixteen years.
VI GRAVE: It’s hard to believe it.
FRENCH: Fifteen or sixteen years. Of course, with his retirement we had already started looking and had located and found Jack Skiles that’s now starting his sixth year and it doesn’t seem possible. ..
VI GRAVE: It doesn’t.
FRENCH: …that he is starting his sixth year up here in Mount Prospect. And since Jack Skiles came in, the church has taken on an entirely new format. As a church it is directed to the youth. We oldsters are perfectly welcome, but it is strictly a youth-oriented church. Up to this point Jack Clements, Pastor Steve, Earl Meedin were all of the sixty-plus group, the grandparents such as I’m sitting here with you two right now, so the focus was more on the older people, but with Jack coming in and his wife, Reverend Lynn James now, the church has taken on an entirely new approach, and the young people –I go over there and half the people I don’t even know, when there was a time when I knew everybody. One little thing that I should put it on here, when Randy Bateman was in charge of the search for a new pastor, I was either moderator or chairman of the board of trustees –I don’t remember which now –I made a remark to him. I said, “Well, do you want to find an individual somewhere between the age of thirty and forty-two that has either got one or two children or is looking for one and has a wife that is interested in the Christian education and is not interested in going out and working as a schoolteacher or a salesclerk or an administrative office but is really active in the church.” Randy Bateman turned to me and said, “Well, you’ll never get two for the price of one.” Well, it has worked out that we got two of the best people that we could possibly come up with Reverend Dr. Jack Skiles and the Reverend Lynn James.
VI GRAVE: Right, right.
FRENCH: My prediction to that extent has come true.
VI GRAVE: I remember when you said that too.
FRENCH: You remember you heard me say that.
VI GRAVE: Oh, you bet, you bet.
FRENCH: But it’s going in the right way. There’ve been many, many changes made. There’s been a lot of improvements at the present time, a new heating system that’s been sorely needed for several years. I spent many a time over there on a Sunday morning getting that heating plant to work and calling up Brent Barr and Allied Heating and we’d go in and have to do things to get it working. Yes, a lot of us put in a lot of time in maintenance, and now then fortunately there’s been some endowments left to the church that have enabled them to do a lot of things that have been needed over the years. You want to ask me any questions about South Church _______ try to jog my memory, I’ll sit here and talk about it but I think I’ve pretty well covered the forty years I’ve been around South Church.
VI GRAVE: Just you might say something that during this time too about the founding of the Yomarcos group, which you ________.
FRENCH: The founding of the Yomarcos group actually was Pastor Steve’s doing in 1947 after returning from World War II and the beginning of a little bit of growth within Mount Prospect. Pastor Steve went out and walked around to all the youngsters and said, “What can we do that would make life better for everyone here in the community, especially those that are in their twenties?” A group of them got together and formed and said, “We should get together, leave the kids at home. We have a pitch-in potluck dinner on the second Friday of every month, and on the fourth Friday of every month we have some kind of a party a little later, but we’re away from our kids. It’ll get us away from that.” It finally became known, and somebody wrote down, “What do we name it?” The name came out Young Married Couples, which abbreviated means, as -said, Yomarcos. That’s how it was formed, and it had nothing to do with anything as far officially as South Church was concerned. It was open to anybody and everybody that was a young couple that wanted to come into it, and probably over the years there’s probably been a thousand members in and out of Yomarcos, some only for a year or so when they were here and some for a long, long time. Midge and I joined it in 1956 and have been active with it ever since, almost for thirty-nine years.
VI GRAVE: Yes, and you were presidents four times.
FRENCH: Four or five.
VI GRAVE: Oh, _______.
FRENCH: Well, when nobody else would take it, they’d ask us and we’d take it.
VI GRAVE: That’s right, that’s right.
FRENCH: I know four. I thought maybe it was five. I’m not exactly sure which…
VI GRAVE: It could be.
FRENCH: …but it’s in the book. But it’s a very easy job to do as far as that’s concerned, but of course most people are scared to death to take on a job like that because they’re afraid to ever get up and say anything to anybody, and me, you can’t shut me up. That’s the whole problem.
VI GRAVE: Jim was always able to talk, and of course Midge was the original one with the one-liners before even it was given the name of one- liner. She would just come up with something from Indiana from the farm, and there it was.
FRENCH: Yes, that was it. Yes, and it survived, and what would you say right now? Active members are probably thirty, thirty-two or thirty-three. It’s down, it’s down.
VI GRAVE: It’s down.
FRENCH: Most of us now then are at least grandparents, and some of us are great-grandparents.
VI GRAVE: Yes.
FRENCH: And they’re hoping that it will survive for another two years so they can celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of it.
VI GRAVE: Correct.
HENRY GRAVE: How about the outreach at South Church? You want to talk about that. Pastor Steve, I think, was great for getting people involved in community affairs. That’s one thing you became involved in.
VI GRAVE: Oh, yes, which is heading toward…
FRENCH: Pastor Steve was probably one of the best-known and best-liked individuals in all of Mount Prospect. There were a few other people around, but I don’t think there was anybody in the late thirties, all through the forties and the fifties and even up to the sixties that didn’t know Pastor Steve. He was an institution, and South Church was an institution. He got me very much back into the church after I decided that it was too expensive and too dangerous to continue to fly around in an airplane on weekends. So I gave that up. He got me involved in the church and got me involved in several things, along with a few other people. One of the things that came about that really was talked about in about 1956, ’57 or ’58, along in there, was the fact that Lloyd Johnson and I both lived in the 700 block of South Elmhurst, and every month we went out to collect for the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, the Campfire Girls, the Heart Association, the cancer drive, cerebral palsy, blah, blah, blah. We counted up thirteen different organizations that we were called on because we were the suckers to go knock on the doors. It got to be a little bit annoying to all of us that we’re doing the same thing at least once a month, and somebody came along with the idea, and I’m not exactly sure whose idea it was, but I was approached by Guy Courtney about forming a united fund drive and getting all of these organizations to go in. In October we would go out and knock on everybody’s door and say, “Look, this is a united drive for all these charities. We’re asking you to give one donation for a year, and that’s it. We won’t bother you anymore.” Mitzi Vaver and her husband, Helen Becker, Malcolm James, Kathy Walters, Carl Hameril. Busse from the bank –those four were our financial people, eventually all Mount Prospect State Bank executives and officers –the pastor of the old Lutheran church –what was his name? Father Mueller, was that it? Was here for years.
VI GRAVE: Yes, that was Mueller.
FRENCH: Father Mueller –the first priest at St. Raymond’s, was there for so many years –and Pastor Steve. They became involved in the united fund drive, and I got involved in it. Lloyd Johnson, who lived down the street from me, got involved –Bud Strong, Leon Jerose, various other people that I knew. I recruited probably fifteen or twenty people from South Church. So we formulated a plan. We decided that Mount Prospect geographically is four areas. East and west of 83 is two, but north of the tracks and south of the tracks is the fourth. So we divided Mount Prospect into those four zones. Then we took and found that actually the population was pretty even in all four of those, so we decided that if break it down to where that we ask no one person to make more than ten calls, preferably on the block or within a couple of blocks of where they live, it’s no great burden on anybody to do it. Now, this is what the executive group, or whatever you want to call us, that met and kind of planned to do, planned it, and we had no idea exactly at that time how many houses we’d be calling on. So on a couple of evenings Midge and I bundled up our two kids, at the time –no, our three kids. Penny was also –we had Penny Vance –and we got into the station wagon and drove over every street in Mount Prospect, counted every house on both sides of the street, plotted it on a map that I had made up to where that we knew at that time –and I think this was 1960s –we knew when we got all done, there were just over four thousand houses in Mount Prospect. We were able to chart it out, so we took the thousand in each one, broke that down into ten areas, which meant a hundred houses and then broke that down to ten people. So we had ten people, ten captains, ten zone chairmen, and Wendell and Dorothy, Christine and Midge and I became the kind of co-chairmens of the united fund drive, and we still at that time hadn’t named it, united fund drive collection campaign, the solicitation campaign. At other meetings we finally came upon the name and called it the Combined Appeal. We hoped at one of our meetings just prior to the final drive to get it done was that we could raise from 4,500 homes somewhere around $50,000, which was not an unrealistic goal, even though in those days, you know, most people didn’t want to hand you but two bucks, but a lot of them realized that, well, we’re only going to do this once, and there’s thirteen charities in it. Maybe we can afford to give ten or twenty.
FRENCH: …most of them training organizations and most of them were held over at the YMCA. Just as much as I outlined, we introduced all of those that had volunteered to be the four zone chairmen. Each one of the four zones had about ten area chairmen, and the balance of them were the “streetwalkers.”
VI GRAVE: What a nice name.
FRENCH: That’s what I told them at one of the meetings, and of course, just like you, everybody got a laugh out of it. “You’re the streetwalkers. You’re out soliciting. Just don’t get caught.” We did have some fun.
VI GRAVE: I don’t know what I was. You were good at handing out, any time anyone said they’d volunteer, they didn’t get away from you _____.
FRENCH: I think that Weber Printing. ..
VI GRAVE: I could have been an area _______.
HENRY GRAVE: I know I was from house to house.
FRENCH: You had house to house.
VI GRAVE: I wasn’t, no, no. I did the work over the phone. I did the…
FRENCH: You probably solicited workers, phone work. If I recall, practically everything that we had in the first year with the Combined Appeal was donated, such as Weber Printing. I think they printed everything for us and charged us nothing for it. One of the largest contributors in those days at that time was Bruning. Charles Bruning and Company was one of the largest contributors out here. Heinz Printing was another big one. Was it Illinois Tool Works?
VI GRAVE: Illinois Range.
HENRY GRAVE: Illinois Range.
FRENCH: Illinois Range. Another one that was right up here on Prospect, what was it? I can’t remember it now. It’s been a long time ago. But anyway, everything went very well as planned, and we solicited only, I think it was, on a Friday night, Saturday and Sunday and cut it off at dusk on Sunday. All the workers reported to their area captains, turned in all of their moneys, everything. The area captains turned it in to the zone captains unless the zone captains asked them to take it direct to myself and Wendell Christine. When we got all done that night, we had a stack of money on my dining room table at 623 South George like you wouldn’t believe. We didn’t have all the business pledges down there, but we had over $20,000 in cash and checks laying on the dining room table that we were running the accounting on and putting together. Fortunately, I had made arrangements with the bank, put it all in a bag and had a key to the drop box. Wendell was terribly nervous and upset about transporting up to the bank, says, “Okay, we’ll call the squad and have them come down and escort us up there with it,” which they did. I don’t remember the exact figure but it was a very successful drive, and that first year we came up not with our full 50,000, and I don’t remember the exact figure –you wouldn’t by chance have it? Somebody would have it, but it was well over $40,000. That was the beginning of the Combined Appeal in Mount Prospect.
VI GRAVE: What is now called the United Fund.
FRENCH: It is now called the United Fund Drive. We were among the very first, here in Mount Prospect, to put together a United Fund drive, and it worked so successful that Des Plaines contacted those of us that were on the board and asked us if we could come down and give them help in forming one in Des Plaines, the same thing in Arlington Heights, Prospect Heights, Elmhurst, even as far out as Elgin and Carpentersville. There were two or three of us that were very busy over the next two years in the community chair helping put it together. Eventually we formed the Northwest Suburban Community Fund Drive with those of us that were in this and working together so that we would have it all together and work it out. On one occasion when Chicago got into the whole idea and decided that they were also going to run a united fund drive, Hanson — was that ______?
VI GRAVE: Carl.
FRENCH: No, the wife.
VI GRAVE: Oh.
FRENCH: Can’t remember her last name right now, Martha, Mildred. Anyway, they lived right up here, and Ira contacted and asked if we could attend a kickoff dinner at McCormick Place. And, of course, we were more than delighted to go, and there I find myself seated with such people as the chairman of the board of directors of Standard Oil Company, Sears and Roebuck, Marshall Fields, Ward. Any of the big names that you can possibly think of are seated at this, and we were finally introduced to the whole bunch there at McCormick Place. I wish I could remember Hanson’s first name. _____ name out there and I can’t recall it. As one of those that were among the very original people, the founders that came up with idea of the United Fund Drive, and I think that was in 1970, as I recall, 1970.
VI GRAVE: You see, we didn’t know about…
FRENCH: It was either 1965 or 1970, and something tells me it was 1970, but maybe it was 1965. It had to be one of those two years, and I can’t tell you now which it was, because I know where I was working at the time. Anyways, I was working for Lattoff Chevrolet. It came out in the paper, and the write-up was in there. Nick Lanoff with his Lithuanian accent came out and says, “Mr. French, why didn’t you tell me that you were so active in the community fund?” I’ll never forget it, so I say it had to be either ’65 or ’70 because that’s when I was with him up there two different occasions. But that was one of the things that grew and has kept on and I guess is still ________.
HENRY GRAVE: It’s still growing. Now it’s by mail.
FRENCH: Yes. Most of it is. I was with it as long as I was here. I was with the United Fund Drive up until I moved away in 1968, when I moved to Arlington Heights, then was no longer involved with it here. Yes, I was because I was involved up in Berkeley Square, put it together up there for Arlington Heights, but not in the Mount Prospect one but in Arlington Heights. But, yes, there’s been a lot of things _______.We worked with those that put together the YMCA, all the work that was done with that. Gil Lebenow was always pounding on my door to have me help him with the library.
VI GRAVE: Library, oh, yes.
FRENCH: It was another one of the things. I think you were involved in that too, weren’t you? Library, YMCA.
HENRY GRAVE: ________ involved with United Fund.
FRENCH: How about the YMCA drive and all that? Were you involved with it too?
HENRY GRAVE: No.
FRENCH: You weren’t.
VI GRAVE: We were busy at South Church, I think, at that time.
HENRY GRAVE: We were superintendents.
FRENCH: You were superintendents of the Sunday school. You came, what, after Midge or before? You were. ..
VI GRAVE: After.
FRENCH: …after. You were after her. Some of these things…
HENRY GRAVE: We took over McNabb’s position. He had the. ..
FRENCH: Oh, yes. Now, Bud Strong was superintendent there for so many years ________.Midge was assistant or…
HENRY GRAVE: That was before McNabb.
FRENCH: That was before that.
HENRY GRAVE: Yes.
FRENCH: There’ve been a lot of superintendents who was in all that.
VI GRAVE: Oh, yes.
FRENCH: But, anyway, those were some of the things that we had then when this area around here was first being built and started in about 1956, started the building in here. As it grew, we finally got around and formed a Southeast Civic Organization. I served as president. ..
VI GRAVE: Is that still in existence, the Southeast. ..
FRENCH: No, I don’t think so. It was formed in about 1961 or ’62 with a few problems that we had one way or another. A lot of us that were involved with that Southeast Civic Organization lived over in George Street, and I was president of it until I left here in ’68.
HENRY GRAVE: What were some of their major projects?
FRENCH: Oh, the flooding of Weller Creek, sewers, that big sewer that went through. Garbage pickup wasn’t what it should have been over here, and some various stop signs that were sorely needed. I’m trying to think what all was involved in it. Just the usual things that you run into in any new subdivision that –right off the top of my head, I just can’t recall it because I hadn’t thought about it for so long. But when I left, there was just a few dollars left in the treasury, and Mr. Seelich was the treasurer, and he asked me what to do with it. I said, “Well, those of you that are living over there, you can decide what you want to do with that. Turn it over to somebody or whatever.” It wasn’t that much. But that was one of the things that I was involved in. I never was involved very much in the PTA here. That was. ..
HENRY GRAVE: Midge.
FRENCH: That was Midge that was in PTA.
VI GRAVE: Of course, Midge was the one that nominated Henry, and then he was in for two years at Alliance Park School and then two years in the coordinating council, but then he returned the favor. He nominated Midge for president at Alliance Park School.
FRENCH: For another two years. I know what you mean.
VI GRAVE: So we always do for others, you know, unto them. ..
HENRY GRAVE: Others do for us.
VI GRAVE: …that they would do to you.
FRENCH: No, in those days when I was here, I was leaving the house at seven o’clock in the morning and getting home at seven o’clock at night. On most occasions I was working on Saturdays at least a half a half a day on Saturday, so I didn’t have quite as much time as some people would have had. What time I did have, a lot of it was just telephone and planning work that I could get done such as putting together the United Fund Drive and all that. You could get that done with telephone. Finally decided that I had so many phone calls that that’s when I decided I had to have two lines.
VI GRAVE: But, all in all, living in Mount Prospect was not bad at all, was it?
FRENCH: No, no, no. Living in Mount Prospect was not anything in the way of an unpleasant experience except with the flood of ’60 –or was it ’67, the summer? And the snow was ’67.
HENRY GRAVE: Sixty-seven was the snow. The flood…
FRENCH: And the same thing in June, wasn’t it –or was it before –oh, it was before. ..
HENRY GRAVE: Either before or after the big snow.
FRENCH: It was before that. It was in ’58. The big flood was in ’58.
HENRY GRAVE: There was one in ’58, but there was another one in ’67.
HENRY GRAVE: Yes, either ’66, ’67, somewheres in there.
FRENCH: Yes, because we were living on George Street, and the water was clear up on our front yard.
HENRY GRAVE: Weller Creek flooded.
FRENCH: But ’58 was another big one that hit because that’s when I was in the town house up here. While we were building between selling on Elmhurst and building over here, we were in the town houses that we had up here. Oh, yes, we’ve seen floods, we’ve seen snowstorms, and we’ve seen it hot weather. We’ve seen Mount Prospect grow from 1,900 to what, 70,000 now?
HENRY GRAVE: Well, 55.
FRENCH: Officially, 50-55.
HENRY GRAVE: Probably well over 55, but that’s with the ______.
FRENCH: Fifty-five. Well, that’s pretty good growth. Of course, I’ve never forgiven our good mayor that sat up here at a town meeting back in the fifties and said, “No way will I ever allow us to annex any land south of Golf Road.” So as a result, that area that’s south of Golf Road and east of Elmhurst is Des Plaines, and it never should have been Des Plaines. Eventually, of course, we annexed everything all the way down to the toll road, but that was one of the biggest mistakes that the town council and the mayor ever made was not annexing that all the way over to where we should have to Mount Prospect Road years and years ago. Of course, I sat on the school board caucus back in the early fifties, and the fact that the students from Mount Prospect were the stars of the Arlington Heights basketball team caused a group of parents between Arlington and Mount Prospect to defeat a referendum to build Prospect High, and that was the sole reason, because they wanted those three or four youngsters that were excellent basketball players, that were in Arlington that would have been transferred to Mount Prospect had the school had been built. As a result, it cost us $3 million more money to build it when we built it if we had gone ahead and built it to start with.
VI GRAVE: Oh, my goodness.
FRENCH: Oh, yes. And I was one of them that was very vocal for building it and very much against them. When I found out that they had hired professionals to, fund raisers to take the negative end of it and defeat it, I became very upset, almost at the point at where they are ready to throw me out of the town. That was in the early days of –it just was so evident that you were going to have to have it, and the longer you delayed it the more it was going to cost. But that was a meeting that was held up at the old Central School, which no longer is there. The library is there now?
VI GRAVE: Yes, yes.
FRENCH: Yes, when I first came to this town, the bank was on the northwest corner of Busse and 83, on that little bit of a corner, red brick building. That’s where it was. The whole thing didn’t have room in it for more than about ten people at anyone time.
HENRY GRAVE: That was what year?
HENRY GRAVE: ______.
FRENCH: January 1950 we moved here, January of ’50. What a day that was, cold and snow up –fortunately, we moved out of a little town house on the Southeast side of Chicago, and we had a couch and a radio and in fact we didn’t even bring our dining room table with us because the house we were moving into had a combination living room-dining room, and you didn’t need it, so we sold it to a friend of ours. We had two beds, maybe one or two chests, so it didn’t take much to move it.
VI GRAVE: It probably didn’t. Well, Jim, we’ve taken up a lot of your time here and there were probably a lot of other things we could have covered here, but I wanted to mainly get the South Church history and the…
FRENCH: Combined Appeal.
VI GRAVE: …Combined Appeal, right. This other information’s been pretty good too, so we’ll say goodnight and goodbye to our listeners right now, and we certainly thank you. You know, we go back kind of far, right?
FRENCH: A long ways back.
VI GRAVE: A long ways back. So thank you much, Jim.
FRENCH: You’re welcome.
VI GRAVE: Monday, January 22, the following day. The Combined Appeal worker’s name that Jim was searching for was Sue Hanson, wife of Harrison Hanson, an early board president of School District 57. And, yes, Midge and Jim French were presidents of the Yomarcos five times, not four. Goodbye again. Vi Grave.