Recorded on April 11, 2014. Length: 29 Minutes.
DG: Today is Friday April 11, 2014. Good morning, 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 be welcoming Susan Carrington, who has lived and worked in Northbrook since 1984. She’s probably best known for her Jack & Susan Show on NCTV, and we’ll get to hear about that and many other wonderful stories about Susan’s time in Northbrook. I’m so glad that you’re here, Susan, and I welcome you.
SC: Yes, thank you. Thank you for letting me come and talk.
DG: I appreciate the opportunity to interview you, and where would you like to start your story?
SC: Well, I think it’s kind of interesting how my husband and I ended up in Northbrook. My father was a career naval officer so I moved all around, but he was born and raised in Highland Park, and he kept his residency in Illinois. My sister and I ended up going to University of Illinois. I met my husband there. Well, my husband was a Southsider from Bridgeport, and he knew that he was going to come back to Chicago. We actually married down in Champaign, and we moved up here to Chicago. We both got jobs on the Farnsworth side, pretty much on the Evanston border. We lived up there, and then my husband got a new job in Barrington. He one day came home after a two and a half hour commute and he said, “We’ve got to move closer.”
What we literally did was we drove up the Edens (I-94), we got off at Lake Cook, and we drove down to see if we could find any apartment buildings, because we were just thinking about renting. We didn’t really see anything. There were some over by Northbrook Court, but we weren’t really sure if they were condos. Then we came down Dundee, and we really, really couldn’t see anything. We went into a realtor. I think it was Rainer at the time. I don’t think they have Rainer anymore, but it was Rainer Realty. We talked to a real estate agent, and she said, “You know I have to tell you that for the prices of the rentals here, you probably could get a smaller house.” We said, “Well I guess we’re up for it. Let’s take a look.”
We ended up getting a 3-bedroom, 1-bath home on East Northbrook on Dell Road by Midway down there. It was probably the best decision we ever made. For many reasons. For the fact that we ended up raising our children here. Financially because at that time the housing prices were booming. That was probably one of the best decisions anyone’s ever steered us towards.
DG: Well, if you’ve stayed here since 1984 that’s proof right there.
SC: Yeah it is.
DG: Are you in the same home?
SC: No, we’re not. We moved over to three different homes. We stayed down there. We were in there for about three years, and we were both working. I don’t think I really took as much advantage of Northbrook as we probably could have. We belonged to the Y (YMCA), so we were working out. We did have a dog and we would walk in the forest reserves around that area. When I got pregnant, we decided we wanted a larger home. We ended up moving over to Sycamore Lane area, on Oak Avenue off of Church there. All of a sudden we became interested in schools and really interested in the Park District.
DG: Babies will do that.
SC: Yes! (laughs) My eyes just opened up. I think that’s when I fell in love with Northbrook. We really liked the Sycamore Lane area because the kids could walk to elementary school as well as to junior high, and it really wasn’t that far of a jog or so over to the high school either.
DG: At that time, kids could walk to school.
DG: That’s one of the changes that we’ve seen in our society.
SC: Yes. They still do have them walk to school there now.
DG: Do they?
SC: Yeah, we have crossing guards there.
DG: Very good.
SC: I was working part-time until I had my second child, and then I stayed home for about ten years. That’s when I really started getting involved in Northbrook.
DG: What was the first thing you did to involve yourself in Northbrook?
SC: Well the first thing I did was, I was home with the kids and I decided I needed a hobby. I was just kind of looking at different things. I saw in the monthly newsletter that we get, there was an advertisement that Cheryl Fein had put in there. They needed community producers for the NCTV, the local cable channel. I thought, “This sounds kind of interesting,” although I had no experience in it. I was a finance major. I had worked with computers. I decided to go ahead and give it a try. I went to the first meeting and I loved it. I got along with the people great. When I first started volunteering, I was mainly behind the camera, and I was doing a lot of editing in the editing room.
DG: Do you recall what year that was?
SC: That was in probably about ’93.
SC: About ’93, that was when I became involved. Then Jack Combe came up with the idea of having a talk show. He asked me to be the co-host, and I said, “Okay, I’ll give it a try.” (laughs) At that point, I really hadn’t done anything in front of the camera. That’s when our 20-year-
DG: 20 years!
SC: Yes, 1994 we started the Talk Around Town.
DG: I think you’re one of the longest running television shows, interview shows.
SC: Definitely on NCTV.
DG: Yes, yes.
SC: We’re actually retiring this year.
DG: Are you?
DG: Was that a difficult decision?
SC: I think that somewhat it was, but I think that Jack has some health issues. My kids are all grown now, and I think it was just time to have a change.
DG: Will someone else pick up the show?
SC: No. As far as I know, someone may eventually at some point maybe have some type of talk show, or a variation of a talk show, but there won’t be Talk Around Town with somebody.
DG: Big shoes to fill.
SC: Yeah, (laughs) yeah.
DG: This was a monthly show?
DG: How often would you tape?
SC: We would tape once a month, and then it would be shown usually within the next month, and the next month after that. It would be shown 3 times a day on the cable channel.
DG: Do you have some favorite shows that you remember?
SC: One of our main missions, because it was the NCTV show for the village, we got a lot of the trustees on commissions, the employees. It was really finding those people that did some really interesting things. We found a man that was very involved, nationally involved, in lawnmower racing. We actually had him bring in two lawnmowers, riding lawnmowers in, to the show. We had I think the ones with the animals. We had Heartland come out with their dogs. There’s a pet sanctuary in Northbrook that has a lot of ferrets, and he came in. We had Taekwondo come, and we had the kids come in and they actually demonstrated how they could break a block of wood.
SC: It was pretty cool. We had the Chrome Divas come in and they brought their motorcycles. A group of women who ride motorcycles and do volunteer work.
DG: These are Northbrook women?
SC: These are Northbrook women.
SC: This is all Northbrook people.
DG: Wow! Will you start doing reruns of some of your favorite shows?
SC: Yes, I think that one thing that we really tried to do, unless it was an employee or it had something to do with a timely issue, we tried to make it so that it wasn’t time sensitive. Whenever they would talk about their events, we would kind of encourage them to talk about annual events that were happening. Like, “Annually we do this, annually we do that,” so that they can be shown for years. I think Cheryl is going to keep running them for a while.
DG: Terrific, terrific.
SC: Our first show, we did the village president at the time. It was Mark Damisch. We decided that the last show that we did was going to be the village president. So it was Sandy Frum.
DG: Wow, that’s a nice start to finish.
SC: Yeah, it really is.
DG: Now you’ll have this void. What are you going to do with your time?
SC: I don’t know. I’m not really quite sure. My children are all out of high school, but my youngest is still living with us. I’m still doing things with my children, and my mother is not doing very well. She lives in Virginia, so I’m out taking care of her so I think I’ve picked up some other responsibilities.
DG: Can you tell us a little about schools in Northbrook?
SC: I can’t even begin to tell you how fantastic the schools are here. I was blessed to have my children. I have a variety of children. I call them my variety. They’re very different. Two of my children were kind of in the honors programs, and the schools just really kept them challenged, even through elementary school all the way up through the AP classes and the honors classes in high school. Then I have one child who has some learning disabilities and some speech difficulties. The schools have been absolutely fantastic. I’ve had both spectrums and they’ve addressed them wonderfully. I can’t even begin to tell you how much they helped my daughter that had learning disabilities and speech.
DG: How wonderful to have a school district that will do both ends.
SC: It’s absolutely wonderful. When she was three I took her to the doctor and the doctor said, “I’m a little concerned that she’s not speaking more than she is.” He said, “I’ll give you the name of a speech therapist.” I said, “I think my school district gives free assessments.” We went and made the appointment for the assessment and literally the next week she had her schedule for her speech therapy. She was in speech therapy all the way through high school.
DG: That’s wonderful.
SC: It is absolutely fantastic.
DG: All three of your kids were involved in activities as well?
SC: Yes, they were mainly involved in sports. My oldest was very much in volleyball, and track and field. She actually was, for 2006, was named the female athlete of the year for GBN. My son was very involved in volleyball too. My youngest was very involved in soccer, a little bit of volleyball and basketball, but I think soccer was really hers. They were very involved in that… Lot of school work. They involved in the band. My son took cello up until… He was involved with the band up until his junior year in high school.
DG: Your kids ended up well prepared for college?
SC: Extremely. In fact, my two oldest ones ended up going to University of Illinois in the engineering school. My son actually got a whole semester of work for him because of all the AP classes he had taken. He actually had a whole semester of college before he went to college.
DG: What advice would you give to young parents about choosing Northbrook?
SC: Well I think that between… what the schools offer you and what the Park District offers you, I think you really have a tremendous amount of resources for you to help you raise your children.
SC: I really can’t say more about the Park District either because we were involved in everything. The kids to this day, you know, summer was always going to Meadowbrook to swim, you know the pool.
DG: We have quite a community.
SC: We do.
DG: Yes, yes. Are there some other volunteer things that you’ve been involved in in Northbrook?
SC: Around 1999 or so, I think Judy Hughes wanted to start the committee for celebrating the Centennial, which was going to be in 2001, the Centennial of Northbrook. I kind of saw that in the newspaper too, to go to that first meeting. I said “You know this could be kind of interesting,” because by that time I had really fallen in love with Northbrook. I went to the meeting and I was very very much involved in the Centennial work. I guess what I did a lot of was planning and working on the weekend celebration. I don’t know if you were able to attend it, but we had a weekend celebration at the Village Green and that’s where they had the big laser light show. It was a really fantastic. It was kind of like a big summer celebration for The Centennial.
DG: A laser light show? And did it do something special Centennial-wise?
SC: It kind of went to music and there were different themes in the music. I think the one that was really the most heart wrenching was they had a very patriotic theme. It was a lot of fun. I think that’s when I really starting meeting- I was meeting a lot of people through NCTV, but I think through the Historical Society I started meeting some more people and a lot of other people.
DG: Did that lead to you being involved with the Historical Society.
SC: Yes and I did stay involved with the Historical Society. I worked a lot on their raffle for the Shermer Fest, a lot of stuff for Shermer Fest. In 2000 I started working part-time and eventually went full-time. I kind of had to step back. At that time I also had joined the Northbrook Woman’s Club, and I had become involved in the Woman’s Club as well so I kind of had to step back. I decided that I was going to concentrate on NCTV, which was a lot, and just the Woman’s Club for now.
DG: Tell us a little bit about the goals and missions of the Women’s Club if there’s somebody listening who might think, “Oh maybe I’d be interested in the Women’s Club.”
SC: Sure. I think the goals and mission of the Women’s Club is basically to… There’s two missions. One is to develop a social structure, or a way for women in Northbrook to meet each other and to socialize among each other, but socializing with a goal to raise money. Each year we raise about twenty-five-thousand to thirty-thousand dollars that are split between scholarships that are given to GBN students, or former GBN students if they’re in college, as well as grants to local areas, to local organizations. We always give money to Grad Night, and different local organizations around that we give money.
DG: How do you decide who do give your money to, and how do you raise it?
SC: We raise it through many different ways. We have a… Our biggest fundraiser is our gala where we everybody comes. Last year we had a German Oktoberfest theme. I think this year we’re going to be going out on Lake Michigan on one of the Spirit cruises. We have a big gala that raises the money, and we just kind of raise it through other fundraising throughout the year.
DG: How do you choose who receives it?
SC: We have committees. With the scholarship we work with GBN, and GBN actually has their own form that the students submit and then they send it to us saying that these people are interested in getting your scholarships. We have a committee that goes through and reviews those. As far as the grants, we have a grant committee. What we do is we solicit grant applications and among those lists we decide who’s going to get it.
DG: Very good. Who would somebody contact if they’re interested in the Women’s Club?
SC: They probably could just look up, or they could contact the, probably the village might have the number or the commerce department. They should be able to have the number. We have a website. I think it’s just northbrookwomansclub.org.
DG: Just Google it.
SC: Yeah they could Google it and get the number. There’s information there on who to contact to join the Women’s Club.
DG: Does the Women’s Club span all the ages of women or is it a …?
SC: Oh definitely. We have women that have been there for forty year or so. I joined them in 2000 so it’s been almost fourteen, fifteen years here.
DG: I want to go back to the Centennial for a minute so listeners get a feel for what Northbrook was doing. Northbrook was a hundred years old or does this go back to Shermerville?
SC: No this was actually the incorporation. Northbrook, it was called Shermerville when it was incorporated, and then I think it was in 1923 it got changed to Northbrook. It was for the incorporation in ’01.
DG: What else happened besides the laser show?
SC: We had several events because they wanted to span the whole year. The fall before that summer they had the concert, who they had… Choirs of different groups of like alumni groups came back to sing. They had a show that kind of gave the history, the different decades, of Northbrook.
DG: Oh that sounds delightful!
SC: It was really a great, great, great presentation. Then we had the summer festival. The actual Centennial was in November which was actually the incorporation. There was something at I think the Village, as well as at the Historical Society to celebrate it. We wanted to kind of have a big celebration in the summer when the weather was better because we knew November was going to be cold and people might be gone for the holidays.
DG: It seems to me this is the kind of thing that can go on in a village like Northbrook that maybe a bigger town, a less connected town, wouldn’t be able to do.
SC: Well I think a bigger town would probably have some type of committee or it would be more geared from the government, but this was all volunteer work and I think that’s really what’s nice about Northbrook. There’s a huge volunteer group of people that are willing to come in and volunteer their time.
DG: I’m wondering how somebody listening who thinks, “Gee I’d like to volunteer,” would figure out where to roll up their sleeves?
SC: One thing is that they’ll want to probably read the newsletter that comes out. There’s sections in Northbrook Star, so any of the local areas can tell you. I do believe each year the village has a night where they ask organizations to come in and they kind of set up their little table so people can come around and they can see what’s available for them. They would definitely want to call the village and say, “I’m interested in volunteering. Can you steer me in the way?” I think the village would definitely do that.
DG: Super, super. Well if you’ve lived here since 1984, that’s ’84, ’94, about thirty years. You’ve seen some changes.
SC: I’ve seen some changes. When I first came here at Willow and Waukegan where
Kraft is at now, that used to be a farm. You would drive by and you would see cows. It was really quite something. Of course Techny wasn’t developed yet at that point. I think that’s probably the biggest change that I’ve really seen.
DG: Is that farm owned by The Divine Word, or was that…?
SC: I don’t think the one at Kraft was. It may have been. I really don’t know. I remember friends from the city would be driving up and they’d be like, “There’s a farm down the street from you,” and they were so shocked. I was like “Yeah.” When that went that was kind of sad. To me I think the biggest change has been the development. Actually, we moved to our third house which is at Walters and Waukegan, around that area, so we’re in east Northbrook. It’s been all that development south of Walters on Waukegan. The Park Place was developed, all the Techny, and then Kraft came, and then everything south of Willow. When I first was here, we had the jets taking off from Glenview Air Station. We were living over in Sycamore Lane area and we would hear the take off. I think all the babies in the world were born… That was the sound that they heard. There were helicopters on Wednesday night, and there were jets taking off on Saturday, Sunday. They would sleep through them, which was great I guess. That all was developed. I think, to me, it was all that development. That was the biggest change.
DG: How about changes in shopping?
SC: Changes in shopping I think we’ve seen downtown Northbrook change a bit, but to me it’s not too significant. I’ve always gone to Northbrook Court. That’s pretty much been the same. I do believe Deerbrook mall was more developed. There was more things in there at the time. I miss my service merchandise. That mall needs to be redeveloped because there’s not much there. I like the fact though that downtown Northbrook is being redeveloped and kind of getting a little bit of remodeling makeover.
DG: Could you talk a little bit about Village Green?
SC: The Village Green I think… You know when my husband and I first moved here we would come down to the Village Green because we always would go to Northbrook Days. That was one place that we would like to come. We would go to Baskin and Robbins of course, and we would take our ice cream and go sit over in the Village Green. With my children, that’s when we really spent a lot of time in the Village Green. We go to all the different events there, especially the Park District. The egg hunts, all the different things. One of my daughters had her prom pictures taken there.
DG: It’s quite the gathering place.
SC: It is really the gathering place. Of course everyone goes to Northbrook Days. They have the Art in the Park there now.
DG: Tell our listeners a little bit about Northbrook Days and Art in the Park.
SC: Okay well Northbrook Days is put on by the civic association and it’s oh about… I think they go from Wednesday to Sunday, usually towards the end of July. It’s a way for the civic association to raise their money. It’s their big fundraiser. They also give out all that money as grants which is fantastic. It offers rides, different types of games. Now they’ve actually changed the way it’s set up because so many people were coming for the concerts. Now the concerts are really in the baseball field. The concerts have become very very big and they’ve got some pretty big names in there, so a big part of it is going to the concerts in the evening too.
DG: There isn’t a change for the concerts?
SC: No, there’s no charge.
DG: That’s not a fundraiser part?
SC: No, but I think it’s everybody buying tickets for the food and going on the rides afterwards and things like that. It’s crowded. Everybody in Northbrook goes down there, to Northbrook Days. Of course the Historical Society has Shermer Fest. That’s in September. That’s where the antique auto and truck show has actually gotten very, very popular throughout the whole Chicagoland area. That’s where you can go and you can see some of the old time of Northbrook. It’s nice at that point you can go visit the museum because the museum is quite wonderful to see some of the old pictures of Northbrook.
DG: Right. This community, as far as I’m concerned, is just such a wonderful place to live and such a wonderful place to volunteer and get to know people.
SC: It has been.
DG: When my grandson visited one time, he said, “Boy you know a lot of people.”
DG: Don’t you get the feeling here?
SC: Yes, definitely. You do. You know a lot of people even though there’s almost thirty-six thousand. I don’t think we quite made the census. It’s really more of a small town feel. You really know people that you’re talking to. The people here are really interested in making a better community, in making the community that people want to live in. There isn’t any second agenda behind what people are doing.
DG: Do you think your children will come back and buy homes in Northbrook?
SC: I think my son definitely will. I think his girlfriend is from Northbrook and I think they probably will end up being in Northbrook. I don’t know about my oldest one. I think my youngest one is probably going to end up living with me for a long time. She’ll probably be in Northbrook. I think they’re going to definitely be around. Maybe not necessarily in Northbrook, but in the North Shore area. Maybe that’s one thing that Northbrook does kind of need to look at is maybe providing something for young people to come in and live.
DG: What would you suggest?
SC: I don’t really know. I mean I think that unfortunately, I think now maybe we had that opportunity to buy a smaller house but I’m not really sure that’s available now.
DG: You think prices have…?
SC: Prices have gone way up, and I’m just not sure that someone could come in after two years out of school and be able to buy a house here in Northbrook.
DG: So affordable housing might be an issue.
SC: Yeah, affordable housing might be an issue. I think so.
DG: What do you think about some of the developments that are being proposed. You know we had that Walmart question and…?
SC: I’m not opposed to change at all. I just think that it needs to be thought out and made sure that traffic is taken care of. That’s the big thing. That is one thing I’ve really noticed has been a huge difference. Sometimes during the rush hour, or maybe even on a Saturday or so, it may take you twenty minutes to get across town, which was never that way in the beginning. Traffic can be really bad now and that was one thing I think really needs to be thought out as they do these new things, and provide parking. Some places I think their development or some shopping centers have been set up, but I don’t think the parking has really been sufficient enough for it.
DG: Do you remember how many people were in Northbrook in the mid-eighties?
SC: Actually I don’t think it was much less than it is now.
SC: I don’t think it was significantly less.
DG: The traffic patterns just have changed.
SC: Traffic patterns I think are… I don’t know. I think sometimes it’s not really anyone’s fault. They’ll do construction on Willow, so Dundee will get twice as much, or they’ll do construction on Lake Cook and Dundee gets twice as much. Sometimes it’s not anyone’s fault.
DG: We just have a couple of minutes left so is there something that we haven’t covered that you would like to say?
SC: No not really. I think that I’ve truly enjoyed living here in Northbrook. When I was little I don’t think I ever lived anywhere longer that two and a half years. It was very strange for me to live in one place, but I can see how living in one place and growing up in one place for my children has made a tremendous difference. This was the best place to have actually accidentally popped in on. We’re glad we did.
DG: We are so glad in Northbrook that you got so involved with the community.
SC: Oh thank you.
DG: That your twenty year show with Jack, your work with the Women’s Club, with the Centennial committee. We are the benefactors of you rolling up your sleeves and we thank you very much.
SC: Well thank you. Thank you for having me.