ORAL HISTORY

People of Palatine

Oral History

A great way to learn about history is to talk to elderly people and ask them what life used to be like in the old days. If they consent to have the conversation recorded, then everyone can learn about and enjoy the past.

We are fortunate to have interviewed to people who are part of Palatine’s history: Mary Csanadi & Stan Hapke

 

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.”

Stan Hapke

An Interview with Stan . . .

David: Hi, my name is David Hammer. I’m a volunteer with the Palatine Historical Society and today is Monday, February 18, 2013. And I’m here at the Clayson House with Stan Hapke. How are you Stan?
Stan: I’m fine thank you.
David: So, I understand you were born in Palatine?
Stan: Yes, I was born in Palatine. I was born at 237 North Plum Grove Avenue, which was up above my Grandma and Grandpa’s house on the second floor. That’s where I was born.
David: Oh, that’s that red brick at Colfax Street.
Stan: Yes.
David: And there’s a piece of wood between the first and second floor. What is the significance of that?
Stan: I don’t know. I really don’t know.
David: There is some thought that it was a creamery or something a long time ago.
Stan: I really couldn’t tell you. ‘Cause that’s been there as long as I’ve been here, and that’s a long time.
David: And you had brothers and sisters?
Stan: I had two brothers, Don and Dell. Donnie died at sixty years old. He died young. And Dell lives in Winterhaven, Florida. And he’s fourteen years younger than I am.
David: And your parents’ names were?
Stan: Ed and Emily.
David: And what did your dad do for a living?
Stan: He worked at Benjamin Electric in Des Plaines. He was there 33-34 years.
David: He was driving out there…to work.
Stan: Oh yeah. Unfortunately he got sick and he had his remaining years…he went into the Elgin State Hospital at 54 years old and he died at 68.
David: And your mom was a housewife.
Stan: Yes. Well, actually she was a nurse. She was what you would call a graduate nurse, a bedpan nurse. And she worked at Condell Memorial Hospital in Libertyville for awhile. And most of her time was spent up here in Palatine when the hospital was here. And there was like 21 beds up there I guess.
David: That many beds?
Stan: Yes.
David: Oh my gosh!
Stan: And she worked up there for Dr. Starck and Beth Sherman. The two of them…they owned the hospital.
David: You must have known Dr. Starck.
Stan: Oh yes. I never seen him though without a cigar in his mouth! I think he operated with a cigar in his mouth!
David: (laughter)
Stan: Because you never saw him without a cigar in his mouth. You’d go in and see him on a visit and he had that cigar in his mouth all the time.
David: And the partner was Sherman?
Stan: Beth Sherman.
David: Why did he have a partner?
Stan: Uh, she was a very nice, very sweet woman. And later on she owned a convalescent home on Meacham Road and they took care of older people.
David: And so you were born in what year?
Stan: 1928.
David: 1928. And so you went to Joel Wood School.
Stan: No, I went to Immanuel Lutheran.
David: And you graduated there from 8th grade. And then you went to Palatine High School.
Stan: Yes. My wife taught at Joel Wood School and then she taught over 25 years at Oak Street School here.
David: Very good. And so this home at 237 North Plum Grove Road was your first home. Where was your next home?
Stan: Oh golly. I’d have to mention half of Palatine. My father…every time they raised the rent two to five dollars…we moved. I think I’ve lived in a dozen different homes in this town. And he was not a buyer, he was a renter. I’ve lived on Wilson Street, I’ve lived on Brockway Street a couple times, I’ve lived on Greenwood Avenue, I lived where the American Legion is. There was a house there before they built the brick building. I lived there during my sophomore year of high school. And that’s when I left and went into the service. That was in December of 1945.
David: Wow, just at the end of World War II.
Stan: Um-hm.
David: And they sent you where?
Stan: My first ship was U.S.S. Saratoga which I caught in San Francisco and we sailed out to the Marshall Islands. I was there for the two atomic bomb tests. That was 1946.
David: Was this in the Army or the Navy?
Stan: The Navy.
David: I hope you didn’t get too close to those tests.
Stan: They put us aboard passenger carrier ships about ten miles from where the bomb actually went off.
David: And you felt the effects of it?
Stan: We were guinea pigs.
David: You felt the winds blowing or shock wave?
Stan: We felt nothing. That day the ocean was as calm as you ever saw it. It was a beautiful day. And then boom! It was quite a boom.
David: And so that was quite an experience for a young man to go out on the water.
Stan: Yeah, I’d like to say I had just turned seventeen.
David: You hadn’t even graduated from high school.
Stan: No, I didn’t graduate from high school.
David: You never did.
Stan: No.
David: Wow!
Stan: When I came back from the service after a few years, I had a cab company in Palatine, Community Cabs. I had four cabs on the street from 1950 to 1955. Then I went and gave them to my mother. And my mother ran them for a year. And then she sold them to a man named George Mandel. And then there was another cab company here Palatine Cabs.
David: Owned by Bob Birks?
Stan: No. Jerry Dean and his brother. I drove cab for a short time here in Palatine for a guy by the name of Geisen in Des Plaines. He got very mad at me when I started my cab business.
David: Were you involved in any sports?
Stan: I ran track in high school. And of course I pitched from when I come out of the service and turned nineteen. I pitched fast-pitch softball here in town for the Palatine Theatre. Did you know about Palatine Theatre? His name was Foster, Marge and Don Foster that owned the theater.
David: “Moose” Foster was his nickname.
Stan: No, “Moose” was another guy. I also pitched for Fremd Brothers in Barrington. And I loved to play ball. I’d get mad if I saw a cloud in the sky afraid it was going to rain and I wasn’t going to be able to play ball that night.
David: (laughter)
Stan: Yeah, that’s how much I loved to play ball.
David: So you were in the Navy for how many years?
Stan: I enlisted for two years. I got out in 22 months. Because they were starting to get ready for the Korean War. And if you didn’t want to enlist…I got out two months early. Yeah, I was all over the Pacific. I was on different ships. I was on a AKA. I was on a APA [Liberty ships]. I spent one night in San Diego on a subtender. One night. And then the next morning they stuck me on a destroyer headin’ for China. And that made me a little disturbed. Because I had just gotten back from Bikini Atoll. So they put me on this damned destroyer, pardon my French, and that sort of aggravated me a little bit. But it was the best thing as far as I was concerned. It was the best thing that I ever done was going into the service. Because I wasn’t getting along with my father. I don’t know if he was sick then or not. We didn’t see eye to eye. So he was happy that I was leaving and I was happy that I was leaving.
David: Did you cross the equator?
Stan: Yes I did.
David: And they hazed you?
Stan: Well, they didn’t on our ship.
David: Now I understand that whenever these big ships would go into port, someone would have to stand guard. Because people would try and board the ship sometimes.
Stan: You always had a guard on the quarterdeck. That would stop them from leaving too.
David: (laughter)
Stan: You had guys that wanted to go ashore. And they snuck…I had a couple of friends of mine wound up in the brig because they went AWOL. One of them, they got bread and water. That’s what they got. Bread and water. Course, they were friends of mine and I would sneak them a candy bar.
David: So now when you got back to the States and finished your tour of duty and you headed back to Palatine. And you went into the cab business right away?
Stan: Yes, I was able to build the business up to where I had four cabs on the street. And I had my mother driving for me. My dad drove for me. I had a chief of police by the name of Bender. Bob Bender. He drove cab for me.
David: Were you ever held up?
Stan: My mother was. One night they took her out of town on Meacham Road. And that’s when Schaumburg was nothing but farmland. And they took her out there. They made her get out, took the money that she made for the day and she wound up scared to death. It was at night. It was a bunch of young kids. And they took the cab and they tore the transmission out of the cab.
David: And did they catch the kids?
Stan: No, they never caught them.
David: So then eventually you got out of the cab business?
Stan: Um-hmm. I hopped around, doing this job, that job. I was in the tile trade, ceramic tile for five years. That’s where I really should have stayed. I didn’t make as much money anywhere as I made in the tile trade.
David: For kitchens and bathrooms.
Stan: Yeah. And that’s when we had to do them in sand and cement. Not mastic like they got nowadays.
David: You mean the adhesive behind the tile was sand and cement.
Stan: Yeah, you could throw a piece of dynamite in there…
David: And you need a lot of strength to remove the grout and do all that work. It’s very heavy work.
Stan: Oh yes it is. I remember a place in Winnetka, a very wealthy man, he had a three-story house. He had an elevator run from the basement to the third floor. And he wouldn’t allow us to use the elevator for the concrete. And that’s when we had to carry the concrete in buckets. And I had to carry the buckets of concrete up three floors. Up until then I got paid working in a factory like sixty cents and hour, while in the tile trade I got two dollars an hour. That was more than my dad was making after more than thirty years at Benjamin Electric.
David: So now when did you get your first car?
Stan: I was sixteen when I got a ’34 Chevy Coupe from a guy by the name of Elmer Rohde [at 108 N. Brockway St.]. He used to have a garage here in town. I paid something like two hundred dollars for it. All my friends…we had more fun with that ’34 Chevy Coupe. And it had a rumble seat. And we’d load that car up. I remember driving on tires. You could see the inner tubes! (laughter) ‘Cause we had no money. Then I went into the service and I gave that car to my mother. And she used it for a good while. And one night she went and lent it to a neighbor. And he had a few too many and backed out of a driveway and smashed my little ’34 Chevy Coupe to nothing. That was it. Never did get a nickel for that. Course I had accidents with my cabs here in town. I had one driver who ran a stop sign and hit a Cadillac. Of all cars to hit he has to hit a Cadillac. Demolishes my car. Not a scratch on the Cadillac.
David: Now what did you do for recreation. Did you go bowling?
Stan: Oh yeah. I bowled up until…well, how old was I when I quit bowling? 45, 50. Yeah, I used to bowl three nights a week. And I said to myself, if I ever got below 165 average I would quit. And I did. I bowled in Palatine, when they had the bowling alley, Red Helms and Hubie Meyer. I won the very first singles tournament that they ever had there. And that’s when Dick Weber and Don Carter, those guys were able to play in those. And I won that one.
David: Wow. Very good. What was your high score of all time?
Stan: 290.
David: Oh my God! Geez! (laughter)
Stan: I got the seven pin wigglin’ on the first ball and I struck out.
David: (laughter) Now you did some courting at some point? The fair sex?
Stan: Oh yeah. I was a pretty lively one when I was young.
David: Well, you’re certainly alive today! (laughter) So you must have been…
Stan: That’ll take too long. We won’t get into that.
David: (laughter) Well, tell me, who did you marry, if I may ask?
Stan: I married a woman…her maiden name was McGuffin. She was from Harriman, Tennessee. The way I met her was…I worked for eleven years for Twin Orchard Country Club. I managed the bars and the locker rooms in this big club in Long Grove. And she came there. They used to send out flyers for summer help. And they would send them to these different colleges. And so she came out here and worked the summer. And that’s where I met her. And the next summer she graduated. That was 1961 or ’62. She graduated and she got a job in Palatine. So she moved here and we went together for a few years. ‘Cause I was married before. And I was in no hurry. So we got married and we’ve been married 47 years.
David: Wonderful.
Stan: Yeah. I never could get past the first one. Four and a half years, that’s all I could make it.
David: What was her name?
Stan: One of them…I was married twice before. One of their names was Rosemary McFeeley. And before her was Prust. Norma Prust. They lived on Franklin Avenue and Route 14. And down at the end of Franklin Street was Talbot. Did you hear about David Talbot?
David: The mink farm?
Stan: The mink farm. Course the entrance to the mink farm now is the entrance to the golf course. ‘Cause I remember going over there fishing and it was good fishing over there when I was…
David: And there was the Stier family next to the golf course. The house still stands there at the north end of Auburn Woods.
Stan: Yeah.
David: So uh, did you play golf?
Stan: Oh yeah. I played everything from horse shoes to fishin’ to golf. I played golf until I was 78. I had to quit at 78 years old because I had a heart attack. And then about four or five years ago, it was shortly after the heart attack, I fell. I was putting some eyedrops in my wife’s eye and all of a sudden it was like I lost everything. I was just numb. I fell backwards. I didn’t even realize I was falling. I hit my head on a TV cabinet. And I was bleeding like you wouldn’t believe. And, so, they put nine stitches, nine staples in my head. Then we had made arrangements to go to Tucson, ’cause we lived in Tucson for ten years, my wife and I. So we were going to go there and visit. So we went to Tucson and after about two weeks I lost my legs. I couldn’t walk. I was paralyzed. So the doctor told me to get back home and see my regular doctor here. Well, I get back here and went to a neurologist and he said, “I want you in the hospital tomorrow morning.” And so I went in there. And you wouldn’t believe…what a day I had there. They were so full that I laid in the hallway all day from eight in the morning ’til six at night. But anyway, I had to have a brain operation. I was bleeding in the inside of my brain from the fall. And they took the CAT scan and everything before I left for Tucson and they said I was all right. And all of a sudden I wasn’t all right. So now I walk with a cane. It’s not that I can’t walk, it’s a matter of balance.
David: But I would say you’re a man in good shape for your age.
Stan: …for my age. Even my doctors tell me, “Stan, for 84 years old, you look terrific. You’re in good shape.” He tells me, “Don’t worry about a thing. You’re going to live to be over 90.” I said, “Well, my grandfather Herman Linnemann, he died at 97.” Yeah, my mother’s dead. He was 97. He worked for the Cook County Highway Department. He must have worked for them for fifty years. You know he was a door knocker. He had to go around during election years pounding on doors. And, of course, Palatine was all Republican. And he was 76 when they forced his retirement. They told him to get out and let some young man in. So they gave him his pension, which was nothing compared to what it is now. So then he worked for two years for the Lutheran church as a janitor here in town. Then he worked another two years in landscape for Jack Denzer who owned Radio Club Farm. And then he finally retired.
David: So you’ve seen donkey baseball.
Stan: I’ve seen donkey baseball. Of course you know the Donkey Inn. There used to be a barn back there which had Saturday dances. My parents and my grandparents used to go around to all those dances. In Wheeling there was a hotel there, the Wheeling Hotel. You could go to dances there. You could go to one in Bensenville. I was just a little kid. I was a devil. I was about seven years old. And at the Wheeling Hotel they had a railing going down made of brick going down from the front door down to the sidewalk. And during the intermissions us kids would run down there and crawl underneath the bushes. And when these people would come out and have their smokes they’d throw their cigarette…
David: Oh no… (laughter) You’d finish smokin’ the cigarette!
Stan: Yeah, they’d throw their cigarette butts and we’d be puffin’ away like crazy. We couldn’t inhale. We didn’t know nothing about it. Like I said, I was a devil when I was a kid.
David: Uh, you had children yourself?
Stan: I had two daughters. One is like 55 and the other one is like 53. One lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan and the other one lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.
David: And their names are…
Stan: One of them is Dana Ray and the other one is Cheryl. And Cheryl had three girls. Course one of her girls has graduated from the University of Tennessee. And then she went to work for the National Dairy Association. And then after that she went to work for the National Crop Dusters Association. Now she’s living and working in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She works for the city.
David: You live in a house in Palatine now?
Stan: No, I live at Willow Creek.
David: You’re renting or own a condo?
Stan: No, I own a condo. Well, like me and the bank. We own the condo. And then, of course, my other daughter, she has two sons, Luke and Jake.
David: Well, I appreciate your coming over to talk to me.
Stan: I was more than happy to. Really.
David: Quite an interesting life you’ve led.
Stan: Yes.
David: Well, thank you very much.
Stan: Well, thank you for asking. Thank you for calling me. I appreciate it, really.