Recorded on September 14, 2012. Length: 31 Minutes.
DG: Good morning. Today is Friday, September 14, 2013, and welcome to Northbrook Voices, 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 Pam Buchholz who has lived in Northbrook her entire life. Pam, you must have had a different name when you first lived here?
PB: I was born Pamela Rurie Eisenstein 51 years ago. I have lived here my entire life with the exception of three years after we got married and were saving money to buy a home. We were lucky enough to be able to move back here.
DG: How wonderful. So you have quite a perspective as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult, and as an adult raising your children. We’re going to try to touch on all of it. Where would you like to start?
PB: Well, I guess the beginning is a good place. It was 1961, the urban sprawl had begun and my mom and dad chose Northbrook to raise their family as did my aunt and uncle who lived a few blocks away from us and as did my mother’s first cousin who also lived a few blocks away from us. Everyone moved from Chicago out to Northbrook in the District 28 area and we all attended Oaklane School.
DG: Oaklane School?
PB: Oaklane School – it doesn’t exist anymore. It closed, I believe, in the late 70s. It was a beautiful school set back from Midway Drive in a very tight knit community. Everyone walked to school. It was very Mayberry over there. I can remember all of my teachers there. Mr. Nelson was the principal and Ms Garlic who was retired a few years ago was my first grade teacher. It was just an absolutely wonderful environment to grow up in. I am still very good friends with a lot of my grammar school friends. We all knew each other’s families and because of the urban sprawl the neighborhood became your family. We all looked out for each other. I think that is one of the reasons I moved back to Northbrook to raise my family here.
DG: Northbrook is quite a village.
PB: It is quite a village and I have seen it from several angles. I lived on Whitfield until my sophomore year in high school at which point my parents moved to the very west end of Northbrook. My husband and I bought on Kiest in the center of town and we now live on Oak, also near the center of town. So I have kind of seen Northbrook from houses on the east and west sides of town and two houses in the center area. I’ve seen the whole development of all those areas. When I was a kid there were no traffic lights on Dundee between Skokie Blvd. and Sanders. It has been interesting to see all those lights installed. My Dad was very influential in getting the light at Dundee/Midway when it became a very dangerous intersection. But when we are talking about Oaklane, I don’t want to forget to mention one of my fondest memories related to Oaklane backing up to the forest preserve. There are wonderful trails back there and as kids with parents we would go and walk down to the creek and into the woods. It was just a wonderful place to grow up and I feel sad that the school is no longer there as part of District 28 but progress and change happens.
DG: Pam, you are so involved in the community that I do want to put some of our emphasis this morning on your part in the community and how you see this wonderful community that we live in. I know Youth Services is a big part of your life. When did you first become aware of Youth Services?
PB: It wasn’t even Youth Services. Back in the 70s it was called NECOY – Northbrook Ecumenical Committee on Youth – and I hope some people who are listening to this, if they were part of the founding of NECOY, I want to say thank you to you as I am very grateful. It was founded by a group of churches, synagogues and community groups who realized that because of the urban sprawl, families needed support; kids and teenagers were struggling and families were struggling to deal with the issues of the times. NECOY started out very small. They had, if you know where the Quonset hut used to be in the building behind where Edward’s florist is, there was a fire stairway and that’s where we used to go for counseling. There was a drop-in center in a building that no longer exists that faced the Triangle where Walters and Shermer come together at the train station. I was in high school, a sophomore at Glenbrook, and I was struggling. I was getting great grades but I was starting to make some poor decisions as many teenagers do, out of insecurity or fear or wanting to be liked. I was lucky there was someone doing outreach who said if I wanted to talk they were there to listen. My parents were great. The problem was they were my parents and I didn’t feel comfortable talking to them. This person saw something in me and reached out and said if I ever needed to talk, they were there. And that’s how I got involved in going to youth services. I was not in crisis but I was not making good choices. I don’t know if I would have gone to college and then law school without that help in making better choices for myself. The drop in center was a great place. There was always a social worker there. Kids could just drop in. We played pool and played music as loud and we wished. We made it our own. During the late 70s that was a really good place for kids to hang out.
DG: Pam, I think you are brave to tell your story so openly. We are lucky as a community that you have stayed here in the community and been actively involved in Youth Services.
PB: That’s lovely for you to say but I have gotten so much more from Youth Services than I could ever imagine. When we came back to the community and had our daughter Elizabeth, the first thing I did within two months of having her, was to ask to go on the Board. I have now been on the Board for 19 years and I have watched YS go from this little agency. Let me back up – NECOY evolved into Northbrook Youth Services which 17 years ago merged with Glenview Youth Services and became Glenview/Northbrook Youth Services to serve the needs of youth in the area. It has been an honor to watch it grow and serve the kids of both communities. Unfortunately, this isn’t my story, but my daughter’s, she struggled and went into crisis and we were fortunate to have the agency there to help us help her. It always leads me back to something Homer O. Harvey said which is that “a wonderful community is good schools, a great hospital, a library and support services for children and youth.” I think that’s what makes this a wonderful community.
DG: I agree and I know that you have seen lots of good things in our community and also some of the tragedies that have given the community a chance to do some healing and coming together.
PB: Growth too. It has made a lot of change. When we were growing up here, I remember the stories. My name was Eisenstein and growing up on the east side of Northbrook. There were not many Jews here then and I remember feeling a little out of sorts because it would come to the Jewish holidays and I would be the only kid missing school. The Jewish holidays were not school holidays. I would have to explain to the other kids. Not just that change in the breadth of the religious diversity but the cultural diversity that has happened and the community has supported the change. The diversity in our community is amazing; the different languages that are spoken; the different stores catering to the different populations.
But getting back to some of the tragedies, when I was in school, similar to 2012, we faced too a situation of numerous suicides by junior and senior year, plus a teacher committed suicide my senior year. The community came together and healed. That was a tough one. At that time the North Shore of Chicago was deemed the suicide belt of the entire country. I hope that isn’t true any longer. I would have to go look at statistics but at that time we were the suicide belt of the country and people tried to figure out why that was. That is a discussion for another time. NECOY or Youth Services played a big part of that healing and I saw a lot of lives touched in a positive way to help youth realize your life can make a difference and there is a brighter day to look forward to.
But one of the other tragedies I have seen us heal from was in junior high and high school I had a fabulous homeroom and science teacher, Richard Lindwall who befriended me and was a wonderful teacher. Then in my senior year, Dean Bergman called me to her office, knowing I had been close to him, to tell me he had been arrested on charges of involuntary manslaughter and for kidnapping of young boys and torturing these young boys. It turned out Mr. Lindwall had serious mental and emotional problems. I saw the community turn on him and then come to grips with the idea that there could be many sides to one person. I had to deal with the fact that you think you know someone very well but then find that you may not know what they are capable of. That is hard to learn at 17 but I was grateful to the counselors from NECOY who were able to talk that through with me. That was a tough one for the school but we healed from that. I saw the hazing crisis years later and had forgotten about Lindwall and the healing. I raised that with the kids who thought they were going to be forever marked with the hazing incident and assured them that this would heal too and it has. Glenbrook is now considered a #1 high school in the state. You move on.
DG: Youth Services was involved at the time of the hazing.
PB: Yes, I was so proud of YS. YS provides over 36 programs currently. We also do crisis work. When the hazing happened, YS jumped in and within two days had put a program together for Principal Riggle, now the superintendent of 225, for counseling and community service for these kids. That was no easy task to organize community service pieces and get counseling in place related to anger management and time management. YS had to then fill out the forms and get everything done so that these kids could be given their diplomas and use this documentation of counseling on college applications. Plus dealing with the parents. A lot of what YS does is prevention work but we do a lot of crisis work as we have this summer helping to put together the symposium for the community healing and helping support the St. Norberts staff and Y staff during this grief counseling. We’ve made ourselves available for whatever is necessary going forward.
DG: Could you say a bit about some of the significant people that have been around the community and YS?
PB: Well, this is a little off but it will get there. I was fortunate when we moved to our second home on Oak to live next door to Betty Lou and Frances Kinnett. Their mother had built their house in the early 50s, their father had passed away and they ended up living there also. Their mother was very active in the Village Church and so was Betty Lou and very involved in the community as a whole. I was lucky enough to meet them. Frannie was head of Midwest Girl Scouts for many years, then became a teacher at Crestwood and then was hand-picked to be the first special education teacher in Northbrook. It was an honor to know her and hear about how she dealt with those beginning years in special education. When she died a foundation was set up to support people going into special education or special education students through NSSED. But Betty Lou was the first female chemist hired by Baxter and one of the first female chemists to graduate from Purdue University. She thought that nothing was more important than supporting the community. She never had children and decided that the community was her child. Upon her death, she left significant sums of money to both the Methodist Church, her sister belonged to; to the Village Church; to the Northbrook Historical Society and to Youth Services and the Senior Center. She recognized how her gifts could strengthen the community after she was gone. This helped me to realize that I, into my 80s, can have a positive effect on this community. I will never let the memory of Betty Lou die as long as I am around.
There are so many people who have been instrumental as to why I love this community. Donna, you are one of them, Ron Bernardi obviously, Lucinda Kasperson, Nancy Bloom who has been executive director of YS for 22 years and who has helped YS change as the community has changed. I don’t know how to pinpoint, there are just so many.
DG: It takes a village.
PB: It does. I had to speak about YS at Northbrook Junior High years ago. At the time the vice-principal was Mr. Lorenz who had been my science teacher. I got into the room and stood up but couldn’t speak. I just had to say, there is an elephant in this room and it is Mr. Lorenz. You can take the kid out of 6th grade but you can’t take 6th grade out of the kid. It was really interesting. It still just jettisons you back to where you were. I have been grateful to live in this community and the community has given my kids a great education and given our family great support through major crises. I hope that I can give back just a piece of that those services are here for other families.
DG: You certainly do give back. We are sitting in the library – was this the library when you were growing up?
PB: Well, it was when I used it the most. When I was a small child the library was in the small building at Shermer and Cherry. This was built and I remember at time it was built, it seemed like such a modern building. It was a completely different color. I remember when I first walked in here it was so much different, all the windows. My fondest memories – we didn’t have Northbrook Court or a drop-in center for hanging out – the kids came here to the library. We did study some but a lot of us came because they had the best headphones and best music. I remember listening to my first Beatles albums and first Neil Young albums here at the library. It was wonderful.
DG: That’s a wonderful story. I never thought about the library as a hangout.
PB: But it was. I wanted to comment about what downtown Northbrook was like when I was a kid. Little Louie’s was here – different French fries, part of the reason I gained so much weight which I needed to lose in junior high was Little Louie’s and Country Maid with their Swedish pastries and cookies. Little Louie’s was just a hole in the wall. We used to bike up here all the time and get a double cheeseburger and fries. We loved going into Huerbingers with a huge candy counter which was about neck high to a 6th grader. Ben Franklin was next door, then it moved across the street and became V&S Variety. The old Jewel. The downtown was a fun place to come into as a kid. The old snow hill by Northbrook Junior High was great for tobogganing and the skating we enjoyed at the ice rinks. It was a lot of fun.
DG: You have seen a lot of changes and have fond memories of the downtown area and as we read about and hear about the changes coming in the future, what is it that you hope Northbrook will retain?
PB: I hope it retains some of its Mayberry feel to it. I hope that as I look out for my neighbors that people remember not to just close their doors because there is air conditioning inside but to go out and get to know their neighbors and be there for each other. I hope they continue to embrace the cultural diversity. As we face economic changes, I hope we continue to support our seniors. Crestwood Place is such a wonderful piece of our community. I hope that we continue to support agencies like Youth Services and the Park District. I hope it retains its Mayberryesque feel.
DG: Mayberryesque but with diversity.
PB: Oh, yes, the diversity, but I mean the “know your neighbors.” It does take a village. Even if both parents are working, you can still be part of that. YS has a constant need for volunteers, whether it is for a day thing or an ongoing project. There is always opportunity. I am sure there is also opportunity at the library too for giving back to the community.
DG: This week we have been thinking about 9/11 and I think you had a classmate?
PB: I am glad you brought that up. It reminds me of a couple of things. Growing up at Oaklane we were a very tight knit group. Many of us still live in the community. I can think of 20 of us from my grammar school who still live in the community which is a lot. One, Robert Talhami, who was actually from Pakistan, and grew up here in Northbrook but moved mid-high school with his family. He was working for Cantor Fitzgerald and had just moved back to New York from London. He was killed in the Tower on 9/11. A group of us got together and purchased a bench in honor of Robert which is in Village Green Park facing the baseball field. Robert loved baseball. Often there are flowers by the bench in remembrance of Robert. His brother lives on the north side of Chicago.
Also when I was a senior in high school and was driving down Techny with Ben Tasitano one afternoon and a plane was coming in to the airbase. Just as we were watching it, the plane smashed into the side of the dump. We pulled to the side as did many others and just cried. I remember us healing from that and I know we will heal again from the bridge collapse tragedy of this July.
DG: The community will heal because of people like you, Pam. I want to thank you so much for being with me this morning for this interview for Northbrook Voices. It has been a privilege to speak with you.
PB: I am honored to have been asked. Thank you, Donna, for taking the time to talk with me.
DG: Thank you.