Q. What were their names?
A. My father’s name was Thomas Aloysius, and my mother’s name was Mary Magdalene, née Lucas.
Q. Can you tell us something that maybe they had told you about when they lived here, some of the neighboring farms, the names and so forth?
A. Well, the farthest thing I can think of what I was told was originally how Palos got its name. That’s not Palos Heights, that’s Palos in itself which, when I grew up was known as Palos Township which now encompasses Hickory Hills, Palos Hills, Palos Park and Palos Heights west of Harlem. When my mother was a child at the turn of the century, Palos Park was a place where people used to take the Wabash to get off and go to the park, where they had their summer homes. They were people from Chicago much like people that now go to Grand Beach or Lake Geneva or places like that. Well anyhow, the story as I understand it, how Palos got its name was that my mother’s family, which was Lucas, were relatively prominent out here in land holdings. They thought it would be a good idea if they named the area Lucasville. They felt that they had enough of votes, but they thought they should make it more of a democratic type of an election. So they thought there could be no other or better name to put against it than the place where Columbus sailed from in Spain, so that’s where Palos came from, Palos being P-A-L-O-S. And when the election came, apparently something went afoul, and some hired men supposedly were influenced on the day of the election. They changed their vote and Lucasville lost by one vote. And so that’s how it became Palos.
Q. Do you know about what year this was?
A. No, I don’t really know, but I would imagine it would be well before the, I’m guessing, before the 1900 period, well before it.
Q. Will you tell us something about your childhood?
A. Well, I was raised on a farm here in Palos on 114th Street and Southwest Highway and I had twin sisters who were 2 ½ years younger than I was. My mother always tells me that the Southwest Highway was rerouted because of me. The area, Southwest Highway when it first came, which was Route 7, was supposed to follow the railroad tracks. It was supposed to go actually in front of our house, which still exists over there. She felt that, in view of the fact that they were married quite a few years before I was born, that something would happen to me on the highway being right so close to the house. So my grandfather went down to Springfield and had them reroute it and put it at the other end of the farm. So that’s why you got a bend in the Southwest Highway down at 109th St.
And I went to school at—well, we didn’t have kindergarten, but I went to school at St. Gerald’s in Oak Lawn. I think I still set the record for most days missed in school. I think in first grade, I went twenty nine days. Second grade, I went thirty two days. I remember vaguely that my mother was quite upset that the nun didn’t want to pass me there because I had missed so many days, but she went ahead. That was right in the heart of the Depression, which was 1932, 1933. She felt that if she gave them the money for my tuition, they should at least give me the examination. So as a result they did, and I did quite well. They wanted to put me in the third grade then, when I was in first, but she felt that I’d be too sick. An interesting point is that my mother, I think, is the youngest graduate ever out of 218 because at that time, a Miss McClaughry, who was a high school teacher, came out to Palos. She taught school in this one room school on 119th St. because she wanted to be close to her parents. My mother was extremely brilliant. She apparently graduated from, what Miss McClaughry said, was comparable to a high school degree at nine years of age. She was supposed to start at the University of Chicago at ten on a scholarship. My grandfather wouldn’t let her because he felt she would be a misfit. I believe they tried to force him to send her but the court ruled in his favor.
Q. Do you remember how you got to school?
A. Yes, thought I should just tell you that she stayed home on the farm with the other kids. She taught herself, oh, five languages that she could speak. There was no math problem that I ever had in college that she couldn’t solve. My mother took me to register for elementary school at St. James Church of the Sag. He didn’t want to like me since I looked so sickly but my mother insisted that I go since I was six years old.
Yes, I rode a bus. In the beginning the bus was driven by a Greek family. I don’t remember, I can’t remember the name. It was Sklom* or something like that, in Worth. It was about 109th and Harlem in the old Teasin (?) garage. I believe the foundation is still there. I was from Sacred Heart Parish. The bus used to pick me up at 111th and Southwest Highway. We wound around Palos. It took about an hour, an hour and a half, until we finally ended up at St. Gerald’s. I remember times, of course I was small at the time, the bigger kids would have to get out of the bus and push the bus over the hill at 95th and 88th Avenue because it didn’t have enough power to get over the hill. Now this was in the heart of the Depression. And after seven years at St. Gerald’s, the school began to become kind of crowded because Oak Lawn started to build up. During the seventh grade, 3 children came down with rheumatic fever and they felt it was the basement classrooms that they were in was the cause which we know isn’t so. So then Sacred Heart Parish kids, which amounted to one bus load, were transferred to St. Patrick’s in Lemont. And I graduated from St. Patrick’s in Lemont from eight grade.
*Transcriber note – Mike (?) Sklom was the first owner of the bus company which later became the Suburban Transit Company
Q. What year was that?
A. In 1940. Following that, there was a big discussion where to go to high school. I wanted to go to St. Mel’s on the west side because my cousin, Danny Lucas, my Aunt Kitty’s oldest son, he went to St. Mel’s. He was one of the top kids in the school. I thought I was just as sharp as he was. So I wanted to go there and get in the drum and bugle corps. I was going to stay at my aunt’s house on the north side next to Cub’s park. About three days before school was to start after I was registered at St. Mel’s, she came and told my mother that she was glad to have me, but she wanted to remind her that I would have to transfer on the streetcar at Ashland and Madison because St. Mel’s was west on Madison. She said the transfer was in the heart of skid row. Hearing this, my mother threw St. Mel’s out. My aunt had mentioned that there was another school that she passed when coming from 63rd to our house on the bus where she felt the boys were very well mannered, Leo High School, which was at 79th St. So I went there the day before school was to start. I was registered into Leo High School.
It was, I thought, really a tremendous thing for my future because I was lucky enough to be in the accelerated program. Many of the courses that I took at Leo High School carried my through the first two years of college. I graduated there in 1944. I didn’t really participate in too much sports because the bus I used to have to take home to get out to Worth at 111th and Harlem left at 3:15. If I remember correctly the next bus was either 6:15 or 7:15, so it would be a four hour wait if I participated in any of the sports. After the time of graduation from Leo I did fairly well there, I stood quite high in the class. I was accepted for some, I don’t remember exactly, some program from the service where they picked so many of the top kids. I felt bad because I was not taken into it because I was the only son of a farmer and at that time there was a food shortage. They told me to go back home on the farm where I was needed more.
We farmed about four or five hundred acres, all the while going through high school and grade school. Of course, I always helped my dad on the farm, being the only son. I guess that’s why I got paroled to the farm instead of going through college in A5-A12. I was lucky enough to take an exam in 1945 in which I tried to get off the farm. I felt that farming was fine, but I couldn’t stand the weather. You had something planned and then there’d be a big rain storm or flood coming, and all your plans would be thrown out the window. So I always wanted to be a doctor. I really don’t know why, except I know I had a twin sister that died from a tonsillectomy at seven, beld to death.
Q. What were your sister’s names?
A. Mary Ellen and Marcella Rose.
Q. You attended what college?
A. Then at that time, right after that time, the first time out after Marcella died, we were at a picnic at my grandmother’s about, oh, one or two months after Marcella’s death. I was told to watch so nothing happened to Mary Ellen. She fell in the gravel pit. I was lucky enough to get her out. They had made a pier in this gravel pit which is right off my grandmother’s farm. I of course, had strict instructions not to let anything happen to the other twin who was 2 ½ years younger than me. So the pier collapsed and as the rest of the cousins fell towards shore, she fell in the deep water. We of course didn’t know how deep it was, although there were cattle in there that had drowned and gotten in quicksand. All I remember at that time is that I ran as hard as I could and dove in the water and come right on top of her. I was lucky enough to get ahold of her dress and pull her out. She was being sucked in with the sand as I can remember. We both came up towards shore. We both got cut pretty good from the glass that was in it, but we both got out of it okay. And to this day, I can’t swim which is amazing but I have a phobia for water. As I grew up, I could climb any height. I put up the silo pipes of all the farmers in this particular area. I used to climb the outside of silos and be able to stand and walk around on top of the silos. But I couldn’t walk across the bridge at the far end of our farm. When you saw water underdeath the ties, I would just kind of freeze, which is really very interesting.
And I stayed home on the farm. The farms in the area, which we had done and shared help with, was in the Mount St. Joseph farm here, which was 119th. It went from the canal north of 119th St., from 76th Ave. to 80th Ave. and up to about 123rd over to 80th avenue. That’s now the site of Palos Community Hospital and Palos Square (?). Of course, I had known these nuns for a—they had known me since I’d been a baby. Then across the thing there was a Russian farmer. I don’t know how to spell his name. They used to call him Gus Lazuka. He farmed that area just west of the Southwest Highway, where the intersection is at Southwest, 119th and 80th Ave. come in there, the northwest section there. Then further down the road there was the McClaughry farm. I mentioned McClaughry’s before. That now is subdivision. Then across the canal is where we had our farm. Our farms are scattered area. We lived at 114th and Southwest Highway, but we farmed Sullivan farm, which were the people that raised my father. His parents died when he was ten. He come out to Palos to live cause he liked it out there. He had an option of doing that or his uncles wanted to send him to the priesthood, which he didn’t want. And that’s where he met my mother because their farm was right north of the Lucas farm.
All along 111th St there was predominantly all relatives of the Lucas’. My grandfather, he had eleven children and eight of them were married. Everyone except one lived in the Palos area almost right next to each other right down the line. And the Sullivan farm is part of Moraine Valley College. That of course, is what we farmed. We also had 103rd and Roberts which was another section which we farmed. But I didn’t like farming because I couldn’t stand the weather. I couldn’t see, you’d have a good standing crop and then you’d have a flood come in and wipe it out and then if you could, you’d plant it again. I’ll never forget one time we had a field of beans. I used to do the hay baling in the area for the farmers. I chose that because I thought that that was something that I could do in the summertime. When I decided to go to school, I could go to school in the winter and it would be a good income for a short season, in the summer.
So, I’ll never forget this bean field because the farmer was going to combine. His wife was being operated on and he said we should get someone else. Or if we’d like, to wait because he could stand using the money that he was going to get for combining. Being the end of October, we didn’t think there was any problem. But on October 31st, he was supposed to start. He called me October 31st, and he said he’d be in there in the morning. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. When I woke up the next morning, we had something like five inches of snow on top of the thing. We didn’t get one bean out of this whole field. So that kind of convinced me that farming wasn’t really for me.
But at that time, they had—my agriculture deferment for a, draft deferment for agriculture. As I said, in 1945 I took an exam to a, which was given throughout the area, and I was lucky enough to be at the top of the exam. So they were going to take me off deferment in 1945 and send me to some special program. The thing I was always grateful for Leo High School was that being the top on the exam, I don’t know how many took it but the next two, three, four and five, two had Bachelor of Science in chemistry, two had Bachelor of Science in Physics, and I was the only one that had not one college course. So I really attribute it to my mother who always showed me how to take exams. There was a certain way you always worked from the answer to the question, not from the question to the answer. So I think that’s probably why I did so well. I was no genius.
Anyhow, I then found out that at DePaul they had night school. So I figured that if I ever went in the service, see, I couldn’t get the same position I was offered for the officer’s training and the education type thing they—if I went in the service, I’d go in for two, three, four years. I may not have the incentive to go back to school after being in the service. So I carried the same deferment on the farm, and I went to night school. I used to go to DePaul from oh, six or six-thirty at night they stared, until about twelve-thirty at night. And then, I was lucky enough to get my Bachelor of Science degree in pre-med in four years and still keep the same production up on the farm. Of course at that time, there was a lot of friction. Why I was doing this because no one could figure out how you could farm and go to school at the same time. But the only answer I had was that I was able to concentrate in class, and in my first two years of college, I never opened a book. The courses I had at Leo carried my through with straight A’s, I mean the courses I had there. The courses I didn’t have in high school, I got you know, less than A’s, a B or a C. It was high enough to get into medical school.
I really didn’t know when I went into medical school what field I wanted to go into. We always have our feelings as to, you know, medicine which you might like and things like that and I always though I wanted to go into geriatrics. I went to Loyola Medical School and prior to that I was thinking of possibly just doing research in medicine. I was interested in being Ph.D. and an M.D. And then I got this feeling here in medical school about this geriatric business. So I was assigned to, as a specialty part of my medical training, a home, Sacred Heart Home, on Ogden and California. I went in there and set up a study which kind of revolutionized the home, because after a short time there I could tell that the main topics of conversation in the home were mainly arthritis, cancer, who’s going to die next and how come our kids don’t visit us. The 5th being the main thing, was that these elderly were basically very lonesome.
So, I knew I couldn’t get their kids to visit them, I knew I couldn’t do anything about cancer or who was going to die next. I could try to give them the best care to increase their longevity. So I figured I’d work in arthritis. So, this was never published through the nuns offered to make me head of the department when we go t the results. I told them we had a new drug. I was quite convinced that all the people that were on drugs over at this old people’s home were not in the need of them, they were just basically lonesome old people. So anyhow, I went ahead and I started a study over there. There was an old fellow over there, and I’ll never forget his name, Mr. Wilkerson. He was over there about fifteen years. He and his wife lived over there and she had just died. He was a diabetic and he used to interview the first—he’d be the first patient every young doctor got when he’d come in there. We used to be in there for about three months, during our tour.
So I got the approval of the director and the nuns over there and told them we had a new miracle drug out, which was AC601 which was a placebo. This placebo was basically hypertonic saline solution and when you give an injection of it you get a sting. I told them we had gotten good results. There was only a small amount we could get and the results of it kind of revolutionized the treatment of arthritis and only a few could get in the study. So these old people were fighting and trying to get on this study so their arthritis could be helped. And about, I would say if I remember correctly, it was like 70 percent of them showed a marked improvement. There was about 15-20 percent of them that showed no improvement and those were the true arthritics. Some said they had some improvement. But the big problem the nuns had over there is they had people who were there for a number of years who never walked more than a block away. A lot of them threw their crutches away and their canes away and a couple old codgers when they walked I know five miles to the police station, they didn’t know where they were. They just kept on walking and walking.
So while I was over there, I decided that geriatrics really wasn’t for me because you had to be a tremendous listener, you know. There wasn’t really too much you could do. This is all I could do was fool them. So I thought that probably the greatest challenge I could think of was pediatrics. The little child or baby couldn’t tell you what’s wrong with him. But pediatrics was not my best subject in school. My best subject in school was psychiatry. But in psychiatry, I got to be too much of a listener. I got too attached to the patient. I couldn’t break the tie. And I could see that I wouldn’t do too well in that because I’d be too attached. And you don’t give the objective opinion you give your subject even though I was top in my class in psychiatry. So I went into pediatrics. I interned at St. Bernard’s, I took my residency training at Loyola University, which was Mercy Hospital Residency program which we taught students as we went through. Then after I finished there, I then went into the service. I felt—I didn’t have to, but I felt that I should go into service because of my earlier experience. So I was pediatric consultant in the Fourth Army for 27 months.
Now when I was in second year medical school I went over to St. Bernard’s to Sister St. Joseph and told her I wanted a job over there. Well we had taken these clinical courses in 2nd year, you think you know everything when you’re a sophomore in school. So she said, “Well I can get you a job as an orderly.” I said I just didn’t want a job as an orderly. She said, “Well you know, I can’t do it because you’re going to veterinary school.” Of course I told her I wasn’t; I was going to medical school. So she made us a special category in the hospital. We were called Externs, in which we covered all the emergency room patients. From the beginning of my junior year she asked me to pick out seven other boys and we just rotated nights in the Emergency Room. Besides going to school, we covered the emergency coverage at night, which was a tremendous experience. But I was surprised Sister St. Joseph thought all that time that I was going to veterinary school when I was going to medical school.
END OF SIDE ONE
While I was an Extern there, I met my wife at St. Bernard’s, who was a pediatric nurse named Kathleen Curtin. Basically that’s why I interned over there because it was between St. Bernard’s and Little Company of Mary. So she was over at St. Bernard’s, so I felt it was better to stay. I interned at St. Bernard’s and I went to, as I mentioned before, to the residency program at Loyola. I went into the service and I was stationed in the Fourth Army and I should say that during the internship we were out here. It was the night before Father’s Day and we went out to the farm to get the meat for (writing unintelligible). And we got in a tremendous auto accident. I went out on the Southwest Highway and we got hit. That’s at the far end of my dad’s farm pasture.
We were married—Kathleen was five months pregnant at that time. She was thrown out of the car 150 feet. She was comatose a couple months, face and skull fractures, fractured spine in three places, pelvis in four places and clavicle. We never thought we’d get a live baby. But about four months later, Rita was born. Right now she’s in her junior year at Marquette. She’s really a senior cause she was able to do four years in three at Marquette. And she’s in pre-med, pre-law up there. Last Saturday, she just took her pre-medical exam. It’s an exam you take before you enter medical school and you see how you do. But we never thought we’d get a live baby. Now the rest of our children are all adopted. She taught at DePaul with a research (unintelligible) Scholar grant for 2 years.
Q. And what are their names?
A. Well we got—we were in the Army down in Oklahoma. We were looking for a foster child for Rita Marie and they suggested that we apply to adopt when we were eligible down there. So about four months before I was supposed to get out of the service, they call us for an interview. We wrote them a month afterwards. They said, “Well it will be six months to three years before we give you one.” I said you know it’s kind of foolish, waiting nine months—we were just looking for a foster kid, we didn’t care. Rita wrote them a letter and they wrote a letter and told us we were accepted. Three days later, they called and said they had a little boy. And it’s John Thomas. He’s a junior at Leo and now is a senior at Columbus School of Art. Now we adopted Jim from St. Vincent’s and Mary from St. Vincent’s. Jim is a freshman at Leo, Mary is at Alexian Learning Center now in La Grange, and she will be in Nazareth Academy there next year. So that’s about it insofar as the, you know, kids.
When we came out of the service we moved into Palos Heights. We’ve lived here ever – up until a year ago when we moved to Orland when our house was getting a little too small. So we moved out to our present address here.
Q. What was your address in Palos Heights?
A. Well, it was 6917 Linden Drive, which is in the Westgate section. It’s right off, the corner house off of 70th Ave. about 128th and 70th.
Q. Can you give us some of your observations from your childhood and then when you lived here?
A. Well, Palos, as I remember Palos Heights when I was really small, was nothing but two or three farmhouses around here. And there were little, along 76th Ave, there were a few more houses there, but they were small. I remember one family name of Jacobs that was over there because she used to raise the biggest gourds. These were kind of, a gourd is kind of a squash – it comes off of a flower, you know what a gourd is. You know, somebody can decorate them up for like to hang on your door and things like that. I remember going over there and she had just a tremendous yard full of flowers. She was near Mount St. Joseph farm over on 76th Ave and then there was the Powers’ farm over there. It was just a little too far, but that was the one which is now Ishnala. Across from that was the Crawford farm which later became the gravel pit for the Tri-State and is now Palos Pines.
Palos Park in itself has really not changed too much. Some of the original homes are still there. When I was a kid, I played basketball for Palos Park in the Palos Park Hall over there. In Palos Heights here, there was the golf course where Navajo is. I’ll never forget, even when I was in the early fifties, I played over there in some hospital tournaments when I was a student and when I was an Extern. And they used to have two creeks over there. I don’t think all the times I played over there, which was several times, I think every time we hit over those creeks it went in the water. I have set a record now. Part of that area now is Trinity College and the rest is Navajo.
I’m not too familiar with the first farmers who farmed east of Harlem Avenue because we just never went that far. They weren’t in our group. Now when I was a kid growing up the closest family we had to us was the Kats and Benedicts. They used to be truck gardeners. In the summertime, oh when I was about six, seven, eight years old, I wanted to go caddying. Being very small and thin at that time, my mother thought something would happen. She told me to go in business for myself. So I used to sell vegetables right outside our farmyard on the Southwest Highway about 114th Street, from the time I was about seven until I was about sixteen or seventeen. And I grew up from—I started off with two milk cans and a board, a door across it to a regular little stand out there. And of course, Kats were my best friends but they were my competitors during the vegetable season. Jake Kats went into the house moving business and they’ve done very well.
Then as you go west, then there was the Peters family. He farmed there, but he used to do the, pretty much the interior decorating for the people in this area. As you go further west there, there was Johnny Busch had a piece of farmland. He also, he lived at, but he didn’t farm, he always worked for Holy Sepulchre or with the state department. They used to live across from the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Palos. The house is now torn down. And then there’s the Forschner farm which was where Stagg High School is, and where Riviera Apartments are, that was all theirs. It was interesting with Mrs. Forschner because her granddaughter was one of the ones that, the headlines in the newspaper, where somebody tried to kidnap her on 48th and Ellis in Chicago, that’s why she moved out to Palos.
And then on the other side of the street, there were the Ludwigs who lived over there and the Days on 111th St. and the Michaelsons lived off 107th St. Mr. Michaelson was in politics here. He was related to the O’Connells, which are an off-shoot now, the Kuechers are an off-shoot of them. They had a farm over there off of 86th Avenue. In fact, Florence O’Connell just died. She used to be a school teacher and for my last year in high school, she used to take myself, my sister and four other kids into school in her car. And she used to say, I guess, her greatest pleasure was to take kids to school in Chicago, so she always had a carload. When I got to be a senior, there was an opening in the car and so instead of taking the bus I used to ride with her to school and then take the bus home.
Then as you go down 111th St., as I grew up, now this is in the forties and fifties, there was the Wojciechowski’s who had a small farm. He worked in the steel mills and farmed part time. And then the rest of them down, they were all my relatives, Mortons, McMahons, my Aunt Kitty and Uncle Ed, Uncle Pete. They’re all Lucas’. And Busch, the Busch’s over in that area were married into the Lucas’. Two Busch boys married to two Lucas girls who were actually twins. Then as you go further west on 111th St., there was the Sullivan farm. That was my grandmother’s farm off there. And the Sacred Heart Church was on her farm.
Originally Sacred Heart Church, this is interesting, was at 101st and Kean Avenue where the cemetery is. That was—somebody was looking, I guess, the story is, I don’t know, somebody was looking to smoke out a rabbit under the church. They shot after the rabbit and burned the church down. I don’t know how they got the sparks, but then they built the church down there. Always when I was a little kid, I used to—when I was going, particularly like to high school, I used to serve mass at St. Michael’s. I used to get up and Mrs. Forschner used to pick me up at five thirty, I’d go and serve mass, 6 o’clock week day masses over there. Then I used to leave there about six-twenty, six-thirty and then get back home and eat fast and then get the bus into Leo.
Then at 111th and Route 45 were the Doogans which was a large family. Melvin has been mayor of Orland for many years and the others went into the trucking business. Now the toboggan slides, where they are over on Route 83, they were originally owned by my grandfather. They used to grow sugar beets there. My mother always told me about that. They used to take their cattle into a pasture along the canal when she went to school. They used to take their cattle from the 111th and Kean farm and drive them on the way to where the 119th St. school, where the Central School is now. They used to put them in there in a pasture. They would pick them up and drive them home on the way home from school. They used to walk four to five miles to school every day.
Q. And this, would you figure about what year this would be?
A. Well my mother was born in 1896, so you know, this would have to be the early 1900’s.
Q. What would you say was the most common crop grown in this area?
A. Actually, most of the farms around here were dairy and hog farms. Probably the most, well, as the area got more built up, you went from the dairy farm to the vegetable grower who doesn’t require as many acres to produce his product. And then eventually, it goes to your homes and subdivisions. Well corn probably was one of the big crops you had here.
Q. Bring us to your early memories of Palos Heights.
A. Well, as I mentioned Palos Heights—well the first piece of property I believe, that was bought from my mother’s uncle, Charlie Busch. That was by, if I remember, it’s Robert Bartlett. And he, if I remember correctly, I’m not sure of the date, but I would think it probably was in the thirties and he, originally when he set up Palos Heights itself, he tried to set up the lots on half acres. I think he figured it would give the people a little more room and add a little more of a selling point. The early families out here, kids I knew, were Weibel, Ken Weibel moved out here when I was a freshman at Leo. Ken lives over here in right on the entrance of St. Alexander’s on 70th Ave. He was a year ahead of me in school when he came out here. And his sister was married. Now it’s McKeen and they had a lot of girls. She used to teach school, I believe it was in Orland, but she’s a few years older than Ken.
And I remember the drug store, Mr. Rini’s drug store and the grocery store which was across the street. And then the gas station, was a Shell gas station. I was trying to think of the name of the man who was there but… Aunt Kitty will tell you, if you ever talk to her, because, no no… this is 123rd. Then there was a restaurant and a tavern at 127th and Harlem, which was Corsi’s. I really didn’t know the Corsi’s very well because my dad never indulged in anything. I always kind of idolized him so I never did either. But I think I’d gone, was in there several times with my uncles if I was riding with them. But I remember Whitey Van Henkelum used to play on our baseball team. If I remember correctly he married the Walsh girl from 99th and Throop, Walsh Undertakers. He was the left-handed pitcher. We used to play for the American Legion team in Worth.
Bob Dahlmatch, whose father was a lawyer, Bob went to Leo. He was about three, four years younger than I was. He got injured playing football at Notre Dame. I don’t know where he is right now. There was another, Freeman, that lived here for a number of years up until maybe ten, fifteen years ago, this kid by the name of Mark Garritson. These are all kids from the Heights that I know. I think the only two that are really still here of the kids (now as I said I was kind of away from them cause I was from a farm, I wasn’t from in the Heights) is Whitey Van Henkelum. They used to live off of 76th Avenue there in a large white frame house, and Kenny Weibel and myself. I don’t know if there are any other ones from our time. There probably are, but those are the ones that I know of that are still around here.
Q. As it grew, your observations of that.
A. Well you know, as Palos Heights then became a city, and then there got to be kind of a little war between—see at the time I grew up the only village around was, well, there was Palos Park and there was Worth, and it was just there. Then all of a sudden something happened and everybody started to think that everybody else was going to try to annex them. And then Palos Heights would go on and try to annex some, make it a bigger war, try to annex them. Palos Hills come into existence because they were afraid that Worth was going to dictate to the ones over there. Within a short period of time all these towns and cities or villages and cities, just developed in a short period of time.
But I remember coming over here at seventeen as a challenger for one of the political parties. This area predominantly belonged to one party. I was the challenger for the other party. It was interesting you know, insofar as the people would like to have gotten me out of there. In 1944 my dad was road commissioner; he replaced Dan Sullivan who were the people who raised him after his parents died. And of course, he never believed in spending any money nor did he believe in charging the town for much, for any work he did for them on his own time. It was kind of an honor type thing. So if I remember correctly, there were only about 400 votes in that election. I think he lot by—my dad lost that election by two votes (Defeated by Elmer Haas). Aunt Kitty won by, I think about five votes. It was pretty close.
But then I was gone. When I was at school and then Palos Heights really started blooming up. And until right now, I don’t think there’s very many lots left in Palos Heights available to put additional housing unless he goes to golf courses or something like that. But the, what was the local store here? I’m more familiar with Worth because Worth is an older community. There used to be just one store there, which was Bishop’s. Then the IGA came into being. This is before there was a Palos Heights. And then there was the post office, the blacksmith shop where you had the horses shoed and then the hardware store, that was basically Worth. Then there were a couple garages there. But Palos Heights never had a blacksmith shop, but they had their local store. As I say, Mr. Rini had one, he was probably one of the first big buildings they had out hthere, you know. It was his drug store.
Okay, the question was asked whether I remember anything about the fire department here. I remember when it was first started; it was volunteer-based although I was not a member of the fire department. But an interesting thing with the fire department was we moved into our house on Linden Drive in Palos Heights here and I had just come out of the service. So we had all the boxes there. My wife was cleaning in the kitchen, the windows. She turned around and the whole back of her, the whole kitchen was on fire. We hadn’t even moved in. So she ran to the phone but she didn’t call the police or the fire department but she called my mother. And my mother’s kind of excitable. But anyhow she says, “The place is on fire here.” My mother would call up the fire department, and told them the house—that there was a fire over at the house but she didn’t know what the address was. So they finally found the place after she told them it was on Linden Drive. I think it was kind of ironic because we really don’t know what caused the fire. But had we not been there, I’m sure the fire would have still happened. Probably our house would have been burned down before we moved into it.
Well the fire department in Palos was always relatively active. For those who were members of it, they were extremely, very devoted and loyal people. They were all volunteers and some would be on call like three to eleven, eleven to seven and seven to three. When the bell rang, no matter what they would be doing they would immediately run to the fire station, get on the fire truck and go to the fire. But Palos Heights, before it was incorporated, was pretty much covered by the county and the state police. And then when Palos Heights come into existence of course, that’s when your regular police department came in. And I was in school, so I’m not really familiar with who the first chief was and that. But I’m sure that Mr. Smith was the mayor at that time. He did a tremendous amount of organization and work in Palos Heights. He could give you all those fine details.
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE 2
TAPE 2, SIDE 1
Q. Can you tell me about the development of the roads and transportation into Palos Heights?
A. Palos Heights, since it became a subdivision, it was basically gravel roads, but before Palos Heights existed Harlem Avenue was always hard, you know, hard top road, concrete. The 76th Avenue was not. Now I remember as a little kid maybe about thirteen, fourteen, driving our tractor up. It was a township road at that time, up 76th Avenue to about 131st Street. We had a farm tractor and behind it was one of these manual hand operated graders. There’d be a man in the back who would be turning the wheels to try to get the right grade in the road. You’d be going up the road about two miles an hour and you kept on going the—I remember that’s how they used to grade and get the road in. It was all cobblestone. But I remember that it used to be an awful hot job in the summertime.
Within Palos Heights here the roads were gravel and they used to have to grade them. They’d be put in by the subdivider and then the follow up would be by the township, there were township roads. And the drainage, the ditches, I mean there were no sewers. There were just open ditches which went right along the road. There was always a couple spots that were notorious for flooding. When a big rain would come it would flood out part of the road. They’d have to go and fix it. But this basically is how the road repairs went. I remember when I used to cut the weeds along the road but that was with a team of horses. You’d hit certain obstructive things along the road and you’d end up breaking a section in the sickle, you’d have to take and fix it and keep on going. But before I was a kid, the horses made roads before tractors. The horses used to go along the road and you’d just drive them and then you’d cut the weeds and keep them down. It was very, very interesting. It has progressed over the years.
Q. You mentioned some rare plants around the Moraine Valley area?
A. Part of the farm on some of the farms which we farmed, we had the area that was south of 107th St., and there was just a little block south of 107th St. that went from Kean Avenue east to 88th Ave. There was a natural spring in there and people from all over used to come and get spring water. There were also plants in there which they used to come out and view because it was supposed to be plants that were just—that was one of the few places that they knew where they existed. And we always kept that area in pasture to try to preserve the plants.
Now that Moraine Valley took it over it’s been pretty well cut down. I know that since I went through that one section that we had always kept in pasture for that particular purpose although it was kind of wet land. But the piece just north of it, which is, I think they call the Palos Fen now, had some natural plants to the area in there too. Now I don’t know what the name of these plants are because I never got into botany. But I know there used to be quite a few people come out from the colleges and universities and look at them and take samples, they used to always come up for permission. So I know that they existed.
Q. Is there something you’d like to add to this?
A. Yes, in conclusion my whole life actually I’ve lived in Palos except for the 2 ½ years I was in the service, in the Southwestern United States. But I can honestly say that if I was going to have a choice to do it all over, I would still choose this particular area because I really enjoyed being a part of Palos and I hope I had something to do with its growth. I know very, very little except the part that I grew up with.