Recorded on May 11, 2012. Length: 30 Minutes.
DG: Today is Friday May 11 2012. Good morning and welcome to the voices of Northbrook, an oral history project sponsored by the Northbrook Historical Society and the Northbrook Public Library. My name is Donna Lee Gulley. And I am pleased to welcome Dr. Ernst Janzen, who has lived and worked in Northbrook since 1965. He is, I’m sure you all know, the premier orthodontist on the North Shore. And I’m delighted that he came to our community and that I have the opportunity to interview him this morning. Good morning Ernst.
EJ: Good morning, Donna. It’s really a pleasure and an honor to be interviewed. Thank you.
DG: Thank you and is it okay if I call you Ernst or do you prefer Dr. Janzen arranged
EJ: Ernst would be fantastic.
DG: Good. And we’re going to talk this morning about your time in Northbrook, your occupation, raising your family, the organization’s you’ve been involved in and special memories that you have. Where would you like to start?
EJ: Well, mostly. What I would like to say first is how I came to the United States. That takes about a minute or two. And then from there and then we’ll get closer to Northbrook.
EJ: Okay, it was in. My name is Dr. Ernst Janzen and I’m an orthodontist here in Northbrook and thirty years I have treated, so many Northbrook children and also adults that I feel very connected. And in this interview, I’ll do my very best to speak from the heart so that you know exactly what means most to me in Northbrook.
DG: I think we figured with paper and pencil the other day that your client list is over 10,000.
EJ: That is correct. It may be maybe closer to 15,000. And that, of course is, for me an enormous feeling of accomplishment. The trust of people who have put in me is just amazing. There are many wonderful Americans in America, and especially in Northbrook.
DG: And you came to the United States in what year?
EJ: In. 1965. I had one daughter. She was three months old. And she hang in a little basket from the rafters of a small plane. And this is how we came to the United States.
DG: And what is this daughter’s name?
EJ: Her name is Marita.
DG: And Is she the one who has taken over your practice?
EJ: That’s exactly correct Donna. Marita was a student of mine in dental school, and in the specialty program orthodontics and she was a very good student. And she graduated and immediately joined the practice. And now I have retired. And she has taken over the practice together with another student I was happy to have in my graduate class and gentlemen called Kyint Chwa,
DG: Thank you. So let’s go back to that plane and you coming to the United States?
EJ: Yes. Well, first, of course, in those days, there was no direct flight from Amsterdam to Chicago. So from Europe coming in, you always had to go through New York. So when I stepped first foot in America, it was an incredible feeling. Here I am, I crossed the Atlantic Ocean. And now I have to make my way on to Chicago. And I was able to get a plane to Chicago. I was all by myself. My family will follow later. And I found a small apartment in Chicago for $85 a month.
DG: Oh my.And why did you choose Chicago?
EJ: Well, I did choose Chicago. Very good question, Donna. Because Chicago, yes. But in Chicago is Northwestern University. And it had, at that time, one of the most famous dental schools in the world. And so I studied in the Netherlands, and I became a dentist later I was the Royal Dutch Army. And then after that, I went to Zurich, Switzerland to become a specialist in orthodontics. And I finished the program and my professor said, “Hey, try to go to Northwestern University in Chicago. Try if you can be accepted” And would you believe I was accepted? And that’s how I came to Chicago.
DG: Now will you tell our listeners something about why you why you went to Northwestern? Wasn’t there reciprocity?
EJ: Well, you went to Northwestern, I had done my DDS degree in the Netherlands and
When you come from another country to the United States, that generally either MD or a DDS degree is not immediately recognized. You have to go through courses and other courses at university in order to become at par with the American standards. And in the past that was very, very complex, it has become a little easier. But in any event, that was the big hurdle to get your state board, to have a dental degree per se, doesn’t tell you anything, you have to have your state board, you have to be licensed by the state in order to be able to practice and then of course, charge some money.
DG: I think there’s a message in here for some of our young people today, who are finding because of the economy, that it’s difficult to find a job to get work. And I think your story of having to repeat and roll up your sleeves and really get into it, again, is just a good message to our young people that they can make it no matter what the…
EJ: Donna Absolutely. You know what I really would like to encourage young people to never give up in his job search. I was fortunate at that time that I apparently was a very good student in Holland, and the Dean of the university in Holland, arranged for a job for me in America, because I was one of his, I don’t know, one of his top students, I suppose. But you, even you young people, many of you have super training. And that’s often requires more time to land a job. And my advice is, you know, no, no matter what, don’t give up, and don’t go and try to find a job in Europe, because the job, the jobs is to situation in Europe, or in German, and especially in Germany, or Holland is especially as bad as it is here. So my advice is to stay home.
DG: Very good. Thank you. All right. So you came to Chicago. You finished your work at Northwestern. And what how did you come to Northbrook?
EJ: Well, Donna, that is such a unique question. I came to Northbrook, because student of mine in the graduate program, grew up in Evanston. And then we were talking when graduation time came. And I said “Oh my Jim, I don’t know. Should I go back to Holland? Or am I going to try it here for a few years just to see how he feels like?” And he said, “Well, I know there’s a new suburb coming up. Northbrook and who knows that may be something for you.” I go back home to Evanston. But if you’re in the neighborhood, we can stay friends. So at one time I boarded the train got out in Northbrook stepped into Northbrook on the ground of our village. And the first thing I did is I walked over I want a cup of coffee and I found the Cypress Inn which is now called the Landmark Inn which is kind of famous right in the middle of town. And it was about 11 in the morning and it was a pot of coffee. I think it was put up 9am 11am I bought some brown stuff out of that pot. And I take took a sip and after that sip I know no more sips but enough to get started and do my exploring in Northbrook.
DG: And 1965 Northbrook was still considered a new village.
EJ: Absolutely, Donna, it was a new village. And the wonderful thing of that was the spirit of the village was let’s get together see if we can grow this village. And many college trained people who would have had job in the city or trying to get a job in the city wanted to leave live in a suburb and since Northbrook instead of the North Shore communities close to the lake which have been established forever. Northbrook was absolutely new, and I came here and got off the train. There were fields and fields and more fields. So there was a center in town but it wasn’t much I can assure you.
DG: You’ve seen a lot of changes in the 47 years that you’ve been here.
EJ: Oh, no, no, it’s unbelievable what happened to Northbrook. It really, really, really exploded. And one of the wonderful things that happened in Northbrook, There once was a village president who had truly some architectural background. So he made sure that certain sections of our village were developed in a very, you know, it’s I say more or less expensive fashion. So he was able to attract the big business people from Chicago who wanted to live in a suburb to Northbrook.
DG: Very good. Now you have you talked about one daughter, but you have some other children?
EJ: Yes. When we were here, I started a little practice. In a little cubby, in the middle of town on Shermer road, there was a physician and had one room over there. I rented that. And so I started with one charge chair, it was actually a barber chair. And it’s how I started my practice. It’s hilarious. And after, I think, 20 days or so I got my first patient. But the doctor, he was famous. He was the village doctor. His name is Dr. Ryan. Many of you may remember him, he was really something else. But he said to me, “Well, you know what? You can you should stay in Northbrook and really develop a practice and so on”. And then that’s how I came to Northbrook. But the funny thing was, I found that everybody, all the people you met are people who are starting up their career, or were just starting their career. So it was very, very unique. That Northbrook has a spirit of attracting absolutely college level and above people.
DG: So a wonderful place to raise your children.
EJ: Exactly. And even in those days, there was so much open space, but on every open space for goalposts or what have you, and they were playing soccer and of course, the famous, famous, famous…What is it named again, Donna, when you have a field and you cracked at baseball?
EJ: Of course, baseball fields everywhere, and even more important tennis courts at the high school and tennis courts in the center of town. And that was really unique for us. Because my wife and I are from Europe, to see tennis courts, you just can walk on and play. You don’t have to pay anybody.
DG: You became a tennis player?
EJ: And I became a tennis player after work. All the kids later on had to appear at a quarter past five on the tennis courts at Crestwood here, right in the center of our town, and they all became crack crackerjack tennis players, right through the under on the height courts here in the center of the village.
DG: So your oldest daughter was born in the Netherlands.
DG: And then how many children did you have that were born here?
EJ: Well, I can tell you this. Donna. Marita was born in Holland. She was three months old. She was of course a Dutch citizen, and just became an American citizen after 50 years. Okay, believe it. So I started my practice. And this doctor, who owned a little building came to me one evening, and I was always working nights, because I had to make money. And I worked for another orthodontist in Arlington Heights. But the most amazing thing in our life was that he came from Chicago and he says, “I just delivered the baby. I said, Oh, how about that?” Why do you tell me that done? He says, “Well, you know, there’s no father, no, no father to be found. And the mother is going to go her way. So the child has no parents.” And he knew that we had been trying for five years to have another baby, but didn’t work. So we went to the hospital that same night with the doctor. And we looked at a baby. Well, we looked at the baby, and the doctor just took the little blanket, or put a little blanket and said, “Can you believe this is the girl?” I said, “Yeah, let me see. And yeah, yeah, this is a girl.” Then he says, “well, is that good enough for you?” And I looked at my wife. I said, “Is it good enough for my wife, and good enough? is good enough for me. And if you say it’s a healthy baby, we’ll take it.” We never signed a paper. We took the baby at the only thing is the next day we had to go to the hospital and sign a release that we are taken to baby already. We have never seen anybody from Social Services. And this was our second child. And she was named after my sister who had died and her name is Annette.
DG: Yes, and has Annette gone into dentistry?
EJ: No Annette is a different types. Yes, so she doesn’t want to exert herself cerebrally. She used to run who likes to work with her hands and she became an outstanding hairdresser but she can do his hair. I could never aspire to even beginning to do it.
DG: so wonderful and does she live here in Northbrook?
EJ: She lives in her husband is a car guy who works on cars on the highway. And he couldn’t stand the climate anymore. And they went to Florida. Yes.
DG: Okay. So these so two daughters make made up your family?
EJ: Yes. But now is the most amazing thing after we adopted a child, and we thought we could never have a natural child anymore. Now, guess what? After 11 months, all of a sudden there was another baby. So that is our youngest daughter Nicolette. And she is a MD. She’s a pediatric urologist.
DG: Oh, my. It’s so amazing how the adopting a child sometimes produces a natural one.
EJ: That is exactly it is a miracle. And we love her just as much and as a matter of fact, I must say I have a very amazing affinity to her and she to me. We had the best of friends. In this.
DG: She live in Northbrook?
EJ: She lives in Florida, Florida, because her husband wanted to go to Florida because he works along the roads. And he couldn’t stand to climate anymore.
DG: Oh no. This is your second daughter that moved to Florida. Your third daughter?
EJ: Yeah. The third daughter.
DG: Where does she live?
EJ: She lives in Houston, Houston. Yes. And that is the Ron who is a pediatric urologist. He did her MD at Northwestern and then he specialized in urology. It has six years and then two more years in pediatric urology sees to one with the brains in the family.
DG: So the oldest daughter is the one who is here in Northbrook with you.
DG: And do any of your children have children? Are you a grandpa,
EJ: I am grandpa. I am happy to say my oldest daughter who works with me has no children. Then our adopted child had three children. One of the boys was called named after me was of course, they’ll be special privileges for him. And then our youngest daughter who is the physician. She has two children.
DG: Very good. Very good. Okay. Let’s talk for a minute about the organizations and activities that you have become involved with in Northbrook.
EJ: Yes, of course, besides my relationship with dental organizations, you know, I have always tried to be active in Northbrook. And at one time the gentleman who was a physician in Northbrook said, wouldn’t you like to join Rotary? Which happens to be a service organization. And I want to Rotary meeting and it was brought by an optometrist who was famous in town. And he took me and he presented me to the board. If I could become a member, if I could make the scale, so to speak, and what you believe that was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Wonderful.
DG: And you’ve been a Rotarian for how many years?
EJ: I can tell you exactly. for 50 years, exactly. 50 years, and this year,
DG: For 50 years. Wow. Yes, amazing, amazing. And other organizations in town that you have been involved with.
EJ: I have been involved in my church, which is the Presbyterian Church in the village church, and I was a member of the Board of Trustees, which actually takes care of the material things in church, because I would not be so good being in the spiritual end of ministry, but I was always good with the numbers. And I was on the board for three successive sessions. So that was twelve years. And under that particular board, and also, yeah, under the guidance of the session, we were able to build this beautiful church in town and expand it, etc. And of course, also develop a plan almost for continuous maintenance, that was actually built into that plan. That was one of my ideas, to not only build an addition, but also already programming. What’s going to happen in town 15 or 16 or 20 years? Is it possible at that time if the church is fluent, or at least has enough money, or is able to drive money, but many, many churches do. So that is how we set that up or high was also involved. And to get this set up.
DG: Long Range Planning.
EJ: Long Range Planning, that’s the idea.
DG: I imagine you did that. There. And in your practice, and in your family.
EJ: Yes, Donna. Absolutely. there any my practice and in my family. To answer in my practice, I started with one little barber chair, and the first year I had six patients, and then my patients in my practice started to grow. All of a sudden, were the second you were 40 patient patients, and in the third year, all of a sudden, it was close to 100. And, you know, I’d hardly dare to say that after four or five years, it became I made, I think, one of the largest practices on the North Shore. And we treat it together with associates who were extremely brilliant students of mine. And we were able to start 600 patients a year. And I am so happy that those smiles. Are still around.
DG: How did you find time to be a teacher, an orthodontist, a husband, a father? How did you find time to do all that?
EJ: You know, Donna, if I think back, I don’t know how I did it. But one thing is this I really enjoyed as all of you may know, I am originally I’m an immigrant. And somehow immigrants are very much charged to do well, when you come from abroad, and you don’t want to fail. So that is the beginning spark. And then when you see that the things you do start to grow slowly but surely, you can do a lot of people for other people, all of a sudden, it becomes so easy. And so crystal clear that you can do more than one thing at a time and you can do them well.
DG: Very good. Very good. Do you have some special memories of Northbrook?
EJ: The one thing, I came off the train. I don’t know if I mentioned that. Yeah, I mentioned that about the burnt coffee at the little in there. But I have had the most unusual experiences in Northbrook. Because when we started we were a member of so called newcomers group. And a long time that was a treasure hunt. And somehow an other one of the treasure hunt guys had hidden the treasure. But he had hidden it very close to where a dog and most likely a very big dog had. It’s hard to believe. But I it was you could see it. And as you well know you can smell it and it is amazing. And he had the price the price of the thing. Just close to that little excrement. I still remember that. Later we all came together. And then I had to tell the story. And it was just absolutely hilarious. So yeah.
DG: And since you’ve been here, tell us about some of the changes that you’ve seen. We don’t have all the fields that you saw when you first got here.
EJ: Yeah. We live in the center of town in the same home. We’ve always lived a little house close to the library. And that’s Chestnut Street and I would say to walk to Western Avenue from the center of Northbrook is possibly only at best, Western Avenue, a four and a half minute walk. After that. There was nothing fields, fields, fields, and more fields, it’s hard to believe. And it is done at that time when we came into it slowly but surely, the development of the western part of Northbrook started to occur. And that’s of course logical because we are locked between Deerfield and Grandview so you couldn’t expand into Deerfield. Now you couldn’t expand into Glenview you know, into Glencoe or into the lake. So the only way you could expand is go west go west. And that is what all the Northbrookians did and to build us went west and produced
unusually nice housing, the housing the eastern part of Holland was mostly present there. Some new. Yeah, some new building went on there, but many of that housing was already established.
DG: Very good. Very good. And how about stores? Have you seen a lot of changes with stores? You know, they’re talking about a plan for revitalizing downtown Northbrook. And what would you say about all that?
EJ: Wow, that’s really hilarious. Donna, just get me right when we came here, there was a drugstore, there was a Walgreens. But that was pretty much it. There was a very small little library as a little building, which is now still present on the corner of Cherry lane. And the main drag in town, Shermer. And there is a foot doctor in there. We call them footsy. And so and some other people also shoe dentist because it was super small building, there was just a little library building small, small small is a there’s a bunch of books. And when the new library went up, I must say that I could not believe that the village of Northbrook saw fit to build this beautiful building, and slowly but surely rarely expand the content of the library to world class. It’s fantastic. And I think our last or present president of the library is Chad.
DG: Chad Raymond. Executive Director.
EJ: Exactly Chad Raymond also has contributed in a soft way, a tremendous amount to the operation of the library, everybody he has to the neck to make all workers work together and have a big smile.
DG: So what makes Northbrook such a special community?
EJ: What Donna…I have lived here for 41 years and I wish I could live another 41 years here. No, you are close enough to the lake. It’s brought possibly a four or five minute ride. Okay. And you are at Glencoe beach. So you have access to swimming in in free water every summer day.
We what makes it special is especially the Park District. the Park District for some reason has had presidents and functioning board members who somehow not or were able to maintain the green spaces in Northbrook that is not a single child who has to walk further than say five or eight best 10 minutes to a playground. And that is special. Furthermore, you know, all the services public services in village hall and that by itself is a miracle. I remember when we had to village hall. There were a few rooms and there were a few guys doing something. But then all of a sudden, the idea came up to build a new village hall. And that is the village hall in Northbrook is more than unique.
DG: I remember you telling me one time about how important it is to get the cooperation of your patients.
DG: And you have a special way to do this.
EJ: Well, I’m so happy you mentioned that Donna, you know, I am an orthodontist. So I put in children’s mouth metal are sometimes appliances which can be removed. So if they are removable, the kids have to work 24 hours a day but to just clean but then they forget to put it in. So sometimes you really have to see to get these kids under control. Somehow fixed appliances, braces to kids still have to either rubber bands is all you have, you know, rubber bands all over the room, all over the house. And I think one of the things which I always put first is the children. They are my lifeline. And they make it possible for me to fulfill my job and create a beautiful smile. No matter how complex the case is. Every patient needs a pat on the shoulder every single time they come to the office. And all my personnel is trained to consider the children brothers and sisters and absolutely call them by name. It is so important that when a child sit in the reception room that the girl comes up and says hey, you know, children are so sensitive and have a right that support that they are wanted and somehow or another if you do that, they will start to work for you. And I have often said that to the children, you have to work for me. Would you please do that flat out say it. That is, you know how it works, you can not just leave him in the dark every time I explain every move.
DG: And the way you developed relationships with children and with their parents, in addition to your fine skill has led to your success as our premier orthodontist. And I thank you so much for being here today. Ernst. It’s been wonderful to interview you.
EJ: Thank you, Donna. It was a real pleasure. Thank you. Okay. Good work.