Mary Csanadi

Mary Csanadi reminisces about her days as a country school teacher:

“I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago and never heard of a place called Palatine. I attended Chicago Normal College for three years, but, unless I had a political connection, I was told I would have to wait about five years for a teaching assignment in Chicago.

Well, I had been reading some books about country school teaching and it intrigued me. One day I happened to be in the Cook County Supt. of Schools office to see what they had to offer. I was working at the telephone company at the time in the evening, so I did have a job. But Supt. Noble Puffer took down my name and address. About the middle of summer, about August, I got a phone call saying that they had a position for me in Palatine. Palatine? I thought it was Palestine, Arabia!

Well, we didn’t have toll roads in those days, remember? It was just open country. My Dad and my brother drove me out, and we rode, and we rode, and we rode. I lived at 63rd St. and Laflin St., so it was quite a ways. Well, after making several mistakes we finally got out to this farm on Quentin Rd. south of what is now Fremd High School. And the man that interviewed me was Mr. Henry Luerssen, God rest his soul. He and his wife Finney were an old pioneer family of Palatine. And I passed muster. I got the job [at Wente School]. It was a little crackerbox and I think I had 30 students.

And the following September just before Labor Day I came out and they took me to the Cook County Fair [where Mariano’s is now] and I got to meet some people. I was homesick, oh, I was so homesick. I’d never been away from home that length of time. I had this big bedroom with the Luerssen’s. And of course no electricity. We had lamps. This was 1929.

I had my own thundermug [chamber pot], which I had to take care of myself, because that was part of the deal. I paid five dollars a week board. My salary was a hundred dollars a month but I had a little problem: Their kids were in the bedroom next to me. So I often had to walk to the outhouse in the middle of the night, because I didn’t want to use my private thundermug.

Well anyway, they were the most wonderful family that I could ever live with. Finney was a very outgoing person and they had quite a social life in Palatine. They just put me and the kids in the old Model T Ford, and we made all the barn dances. I got to know quite a few people. My oldest pupil was the Luerssen’s son, an eighth grader. I found out he was only four years younger that I was. Well, he passed.

Then I was offered a job at Deer Grove School [now a home at 146 S. Ela Rd.]. That was a lovely school! It paid twenty-five dollars more than the other. It was granted the first “Superior” rating in the State of Illinois. That was a big “to do”. We had publicity. Reporters came out and we put on a big program. It was isolated however because the forest preserve was back of me and oftentimes I had to call the students in from recess because wild pack dogs would be roaming around near the playground.

I got married and at the height of the Depression I got a job at Kitty Korner School at Rand Rd. and Dundee Rd. That school was the highlight of my teaching career. Bill Fremd, after whom the high school is named, was the President of my Board. If ever there was a forward-thinking, visionary man, it was he. He was just a simple farmer, but very well read and very much for education. In that school which was just another crackerbox, we had free textbooks. I was allowed to have as many things as I needed, no questions asked.

The only drawback was I had to eat in one of the taverns on the corner. In my luncheon meetings I got to know the Mafia, that is, the slot machine men. We had very animated discussions on education. Their sons were going to be doctors and lawyers and I gave them advice when they wanted. When the parents rolled up their money, whatever was left over was given to me to buy library books for the school.

When the Palatine schools were consolidated in 1946, I brought in a thousand volume library! We brought in maps, we brought in globes, we brought in everything! The Supt. at the time, Marion Jordan, was simply amazed. I was very fortunate. I taught in several schools. I had some marvelous people to work with and over the years I made some fine friends.”

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