Marcia Doniger

Marcia, a long time resident, spoke about moving to Northbrook, raising a family here and establishing the Northbrook Citizens for Drug & Alcohol Awareness to provide drug prevention programs and parenting programs in the schools and wider community.

Recorded on April 12, 2013. Length: 30 Minutes.


JH:  Good Morning.  Today is Friday, April 12, 2013.  Welcome to Northbrook Voices, an oral history project sponsored jointly by the Northbrook Public Library and the Northbrook Historical Society.  My name is Judy Hughes and I am pleased to welcome Marcia Doniger, who has lived in Northbrook for many years and has been a Northbrook volunteer.  Welcome, Marcia.

MD: Thank you for having me.

JH: What brought you to Northbrook?

MD: We were looking for a home and had had friends who lived here.  That was it.  We really didn’t look at any other place because we liked what we saw.  We heard there were very good schools and that was it.  It was really a very simple decision.

JH: What year was it that you came?

MD: 1969.

JH: Describe Northbrook in 1969.

MD: Well, it was vastly different than what it is today.  Where we live near Dundee and Sanders there was a stop sign.  Dundee was a two-lane highway.  There were grassy fields across Sanders and Dundee.  It was very barren and country-like.  That was one of the things we liked about the area.  It was not built up.  That sold us.

JH: You raised your children here.  How many children do you have?

MD: Yes, we have a son and daughter.  They both went to school at Hickory Point, Wood Oaks and Glenbrook North.

JH: Where did they play when they were little?

MD: Outside our front door, believe it or not.   We moved in with a lot of young families.  It was possible for the children to go outside and play.  I didn’t worry about them when they went to play with the neighbor down the street whether two doors down or three doors.  They played in our back yards and I didn’t worry.  It was a comfortable, safe feeling and very neighborly.  When we wanted to go beyond our neighborhood, there was always the Park District and the Y and downtown Northbrook where there was a playground with swings.  We always found places for the kids to play but I think they really enjoyed their neighborhood.  That was always a plus.

JH: Previously you told me about a field trip you liked to take your kids on down the street.

MD: Oh, that was unique.  Just down the street on Sanders Road where Caremark is located there were lamas and other animals.  I was amazed myself.  That used to be a field trip.  It was just so neat.  The kids always got excited when we were going in that direction.  It was a big field trip and not far from home.

JH: Has Northbrook changed?  Do you remember when your country road – when Dundee Road became a four-lane road?

MD: I could never forget that.  That was when I was about to give birth to our daughter in 1971.  They were making Dundee Road near Sanders, at least, into a four-lane highway and I was worried that would complicate getting to the hospital on time.  But it didn’t get in our way.

JH: What do you remember about some of the things along Dundee Road?

MD: I remember there was a home across from where we live, where Normandy Hills is now, and a house there was lifted and carried on a truck down Sanders Road.  I believe it went down to Maple and Sanders.  I got our kids in the car and we watched.  I myself couldn’t believe they just lifted the house and carried it on the truck.  For our children it was a real happening.  Then, of course, there was the old Grove School right next to Hallen’s Peony Garden.  Mr. Hallen came to our home to locate a place for some of his peonies and we still have those plants today.

JH: What color are those peonies?

MD: They are a beautiful fuchsia, just beautiful.

JH: You mentioned your children playing on the Village Green.  Did you come into downtown Northbrook – did you call it downtown or uptown?

MD: We called it downtown.  We would always get a hotdog at Little Louie’s and I would bring my shoes to the old shoe repair place.  No one ever knew how he knew because he never gave you a ticket but when you went to pick up your shoes, you always got the right shoes.  We also went to Friberg’s, Country Cobbler and Country Maid.  Those stores were wonderful little trips that we made to get all our errands done.  The treat was to go to the park.

JH: You have mentioned three stores that many of our listeners probably do not remember.  Can you tell us about them?

MD: Well, Friberg’s was a stationery store and you could get just about everything.  It was homespun and run by wonderful people.  It was located in downtown Northbrook near where LaDeDa is now. 

Country Cobbler was where the beauty shop is now on the post office side, near where the Book Bin is now.  Downtown Northbrook was a great place to run errands, get groceries and school supplies, shoes, etc., a great place to be.

JH: And you also mentioned Country Maid – please explain what that was?

MD: Well, that was the gathering place.  It was quite well known to many people even outside the community because my mother and her friend used to come out to Country Maid Cafeette for lunch and that was their big outing.  The tuna sandwich, as I recall was their landmark sandwich.  It was a place where you could take children and not have to worry if they got food on the floor – very comfortable and you would see many friends.

JH: When your children went to school you started volunteering in the community?

MD: Yes, I started volunteering with the local PTA and that’s where I began.  I was eventually at Wood Oaks and president of the PTA.  I was also involved with Northbrook Youth Services when it was only located in Northbrook.   I also was involved on the Cancer Board and United Way although I was not a primary but was supporting and a member and saw them through transitions in those organizations.

JH: Then in 1983, what happened?

MD: Oh, my goodness, that was when there was a meeting called by the Human Relations Commission of Northbrook to seek out people who might be interested in hosting some nationally televised programs  put on by a group called “The Chemical People.”  I attended having gotten the notice as president of the PTA.  I and Helen Wolter, president of Youth Services, not knowing each other, volunteered to head up those meetings in the town and subsequently formed Northbrook Citizens for Drug and Alcohol Awareness.  Helen was about 12 years my senior and just on the brink of getting her realtors license.  She said she would be vice president if I would be president so she would mentor me in starting an organization.  So that is what happened.  We called various friends.  We got various sectors of the community together and the rest is history now in 2013.

JH: And your organization was called?

MD: NCDAA – Northbrook Citizens for Drug and Alcohol Awareness.  And we were not creative and unique.  Every community such as Highland Park, Deerfield, New Trier Township had similar organizations.  That was the coin name to make the communities aware that organizations were focusing on drug and alcohol prevention.

JH: How did your organization do that?

MD: Oh, we did it in many, many ways.  We recognized that #1 parent education was extremely important.  We recognized it was important to have a relationship with the schools so that we could reach the kids and community-wide relationships so we established ourselves with the park district, village, library, historical society so that they would be involved in ways that they could.  To do this we called on the titular heads of these organizations, got them on board so they would understand we were not a temperance organization, we were an education and awareness organization.  We weren’t telling people not to drink but were trying to instill in the community so there would be a culture of adults who would be excellent role models for the kids.  We had an impact on the school curriculum on drug education.  We had school committee meetings on a monthly basis with members from each school district to talk about drug prevention in the schools.  We provided speakers for the schools so that educators could be educated on the subject.  Drug use had not really been discussed in this community since about 1971.  I had spoken to the gentleman who was the head of it and there had been a real hiatus since that time.

The Chemical People started the whole program of parent education.  We continued that program with a newsletter which we prepared the old fashioned way on the mimeograph and got it out to all the parents with children in K-8 in 27, 28, 30, 31 and St. Norbert.  We had a youth group and worked very closely with the schools running drug awareness month since 1984 and continuing thereafter to provide school programs in every grade K-8 and in most years up through the 12th grade.  That meant the same message was being heard by all the children – about 4500 children.  We also provided parent education for all the children’s parents.  We had a great relationship with NCTV.  They videotaped our parent education programs and showed them on cable TV.  Every month for an hour and a half we have one hour of parent focused program and ½ hour of general focused program.  So that is another way of reaching out to parents.  We had a health fair at the high school just for kids.  Each year we have a “Just Say No” walk which is geared for K-5 kids.  All those moms who were the leaders continue to come out.  We make balloon arches and carry them outdoors and when the weather was nasty, we were welcomed at St. Norberts very graciously for our rally.  We formed parent peer groups.  We tried parent mentoring groups at the high school.  We have done bicultural parenting groups.  We did a parent education program on that – any way we could reach parents.  We think we have done it, reaching them in their homes through our mailings, through the newsletter, through programs they have to come out to, through NCTV that they can watch, through the library, having bibliographies on substance abuse and parenting.  We work very closely with the police counseling services.  Any of the kids who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and need to do community service, we are happy to help them.  We provide referrals which I think is really quite important.  We are anonymous, never had a caller id so parents called freely knowing we would make sure they remained anonymous and referred them to organizations or institutions that we knew provided quality care. 

We also had a 3on3 basketball tournament, a fun thing.  We raised money through an auction, we had a cookbook that we put together which is really the only  one “all Northbrook” in the contributors.  That is now available at the Northbrook Historical Society.  We always marched in the 4th of July parade with our signature balloon arches that everyone recognized.  We had wonderful youth and families.  We were at Northbrook Days.  I can remember spending five days at Northbrook Days when they had tables for organizations.  We were there so residents would know that we exist and perhaps the stigma that might have been attached to a drug prevention organization would sort of be alleviated and they would know that we were people just like them and willing to help.  We were at the sidewalk sales.

JH: Did you have the kids involved in contests?

MD: Yes, we had contests for t-shirt designs, posters and that was always a thrill.  It was so cute to see the designs from stick drawings to more artistic efforts by 3rd graders.  Their designs would appear on a button or t-shirt or community poster and they would be awarded recognition.  But we always wanted to make sure our mission was fulfilled and there was some fun along the way to make the serious subject palatable so that people would listen.

JH: So you are saying that NCDAA provided a resource for the schools, the parents and the youth and an opportunity for kids to have fun while learning a lesson?

MD: Yes, I think that describes it quite accurately.

JH: Parent University is part of NCDAA?

MD: Yes.  We started that in 2000.

JH: And that is held in November, Drug Awareness Month?

MD: Yes, we purposely set it up for November as a kick off to Drug Awareness Month in the schools and the parent education programs we could provide for drug awareness education in the community.  That would be a morning program with a keynote speaker followed by three tracks of education.   Parents could select three different workshops of their choice out of the 10-12 workshops available.   They would hear a keynote and three professionals addressing various parenting issues.  That was something we always got rave reviews about.  Attendees always got something out of it.  You did not have to have a problem to attend.  Parents sometimes needed a refresher or affirmation.  That is what we were able to provide.

JH: Perhaps they were wondering what the next step might be as their children are growing?

MD: Sure.  They could learn of the foreshadowing of what was to come. 

JH: You said that you and Helen Wolter started NCDAA and you mentioned that Helen had started Northbrook Youth Services (NECOY)

MD: That is right.  Now it is the youth services for Glenview and Northbrook but Helen started it in Northbrook.  She had so much experience in knowing how to facilitate; she was of great assistance and a great friend.

JH: This was in 1983 and now it is 2013 and you have remained president the entire time?

MD: That is correct.

JH: I know you are wonder woman – but you must have had a very supportive Board?  Talk a little bit about your board over the years.

MD: I am not wonder woman.  The board really has been wonderful.  They have been understanding of the issue which is first and foremost – always understood what our mission is.  Always willing to pitch in wherever needed; attended meetings.  We were always a working board, not an “in name only” board.  I think that speaks of the volunteerism and the commitment to volunteerism in this community.  We received volunteers through PTAs or our Just Say No committee.  We never asked anyone about the reasons for their commitment or their personal life.  As long as you came with a desire to help and put in some time and had an understanding of what we were about and did not have another agenda, we gladly took them.  We became family.  There is a core group that is still family.  When I see board members on the street we greet each other warmly.   I don’t think anyone left the board because of anything negative.  Sometimes you just have to change your focus because of changes in your life.  I really can’t speak more highly of the people I have had the honor to work with. 

JH: You were also a part of the Centennial Commission?

MD: Yes, I loved that.  I still have the t-shirts and the plaques.

JH: It was a fun time in our community when we got together to celebrate our centennial.  So now in 2013, one of those changes and phases has come about.  Do you want to talk a little bit NCDAA and where you are at today?

MD: Well, I think like many organizations we are finding a decline in the number of volunteers so NCDAA is not going to be able to provide the programs that we used to.  It is certainly very sad for all of us who have been deeply involved but we have been around, the core group almost 30 years, and we all have a passion and an interest.  I personally will always have this passion but I think it is time to move on and to see what happens in the community.  I hope that we have left our mark and left an impression upon what is really needed in the community – the importance of parenting and parents.  Although there are wonderful programs in the community for families and parents, just because we are leaving doesn’t mean the job is done.  Perhaps I am dating myself, but I always say that if Dr. Spock would write a book on parenting today, there would definitely be a chapter on parenting and drug prevention in the book.  Today this is just part of raising children.  Unfortunately with the digital world taking such a prominent role in our life, it is even more of a challenge.  So things will be changing.

JH: Just because NCDAA is closing its doors, that doesn’t mean you are leaving.

MD: No, I do not want to leave the community.  My heart is still in Northbrook.  I love it.  My husband loves it.  My kids have fond memories of it.  I would certainly like to become involved in something else.  I have a new little granddaughter in California.  This will free up my time, give my husband and I time to travel.  Our other child is also in California.  It will give me time to travel without feeling guilty about leaving my responsibilities here with NCDAA.

JH: Now your friend talked to you about Northbrook and convinced you this was the town to live in.  How would you talk to someone who was considering making Northbrook their home today?

MD: Oh, I think it would be easy.  I think Northbrook has everything one would need to live through the various passages of one’s life.  From a very young family – we have nursery schools, preschools at the Y and park district.  There are places of worship to satisfy people’s needs.  As one gets older there are senior centers.  There is theater through the park district.  There is the YMCA and the park district with a myriad of programs for every age group.  There is even shopping in Northbrook and surrounding us.  Why would anyone want to leave Northbrook, when your get older there are the medical services both in our community and nearby.  You don’t have to go very far for anything.  To me Northbrook is a home town.  It is still a small community.  It is becoming regentrified but it hasn’t lost, for me anyway, the friendliness and warmth I experienced when I moved in and still appreciate as I am getting older and distancing myself from certain things.  Some of my old friends have moved away but I still feel a connection and enjoy the Art in the Park, the concerts in the park, the fresh fruits and vegetables – we just have everything that you would want – a symphony.  You don’t have to go far for all you need.  To learn about the community you can visit the Historical Society – I love seeing the little bits of history in the newsletter.  People even from outside the community comment to me about the wonderful library we have.  So, I may have missed something but I hope I didn’t.  Every pavement in the street leads to something that is really wonderful.  You just have to get out and you will find that it is all there.

JH: Marcia, we have been talking for 30 minutes.

MD: Oh, my gosh!

JH: So this is the end of our interview.  Thank you so much for participating in Northbrook Voices.  Your memories of life in Northbrook will add a unique and personal perspective about the history of our village.  Thank you so much you’re your service to our town.

MD: Thank you.  It was my pleasure.