Over the years that I’ve based this column on taped oral history interviews. I’ve observed that there are two kinds of interviewees.
Some people — I think of Ronald Bradley and Henry Leark — were natural born storytellers.
Then there were those others who had one story to tell — and wouldn’t tell it. How many times did a woman ask me to turn off the tape recorder (so she could tell me some juicy tale) and hear her husband mutter, “For God’s sake, why make her turn it off? That’s the only good story you’ve got?”
I always turned off the recorder when asked and I never raced home and wrote down the privileged information. I don’t know if that’s to my credit or not. History is the loser.
But for every interviewee who held back, there was another who had plenty to offer. Like the Woman’s Club member who said, when asked about a club leader, “Well, she dressed fashionably,” while under her breath, barely audibly, you can hear her hiss on the tape, “she was a pain in the (…).”
Men tended to be forthright.
Henry Leark had two livestock stories he often repeated. He lived on the bend of Walnut Avenue north of the Christian Liberty football field. He loved telling how the Lutheran Home horse was responsible for creating that bend in the road because he took the easiest route for him when going to the Lutheran farm on Oakton.
His other story was more sad than droll. When the hoof-and-mouth disease threatened all the area dairy cows, they were herded into a big hole in the middle of what is now the football field. There they were all shot — to the consternation of the owners.
There were bad feelings for years, but there was nothing else to be done.
Ronald Bradley surveyed the passing scene with a kindly if ironic eye. His family had a long history in town; his grandfather was a great friend to William Dunton, and Dunton originally wanted to name his new town Bradley. And would have, except there was another town named Bradley in the state.
Gertrude Adam came to Arlington Heights from the city and continued to identify with the metropolis to the southeast. She called her new hometown simply “Heights.” When she lived on Euclid, the former James Dunton house on Arlington Heights Road just north of Euclid was a kind of sanitarium. A Dr. Janet Gunn oversaw the lives of a number of women from Lake Forest in what Gertrude characterized as a home in a “beautiful park.”
Presumably they were patients, but Gertrude and her neighbors “couldn’t find anything wrong” with the nice ladies who strolled past each pleasant afternoon in their lacy white gloves and parasols. The locals assumed the relatives in Lake Forest “just wanted to get them out of the house.”
Gertrude admired the former Dunton home: “Lovely, with parquet floors and beautiful staircases;” a pretty carpenter-Gothic home a few blocks away, not so much. “Attractive on the outside, but a terrible little staircase going to the second floor.”
Whether forthcoming and outspoken or shy and reluctant, everyone I interviewed contributed to the picture of Arlington Heights as it grew to its present eminence. What would we be without their stories?Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.