Recorded on February 10, 2012. Length: 30 Minutes.
JH: 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 Cliff Capp who has lived in Northbrook since 1957. Cliff taught at Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South High Schools. Cliff is active with the American Legion, the George W. Benjamin Post, here in Northbrook. Cliff, would you tell us why you came to Northbrook?
CC: I came to Northbrook because of a job change. Dr. Watson interviewed me for the potential second high school knowing that I would be employed for the first five years at Glenbrook North until Glenbrook South was completed. I was already on an administrative track at that time.
JH: You mentioned Dr. Watson – can you tell us who that is?
CC: Dr. Watson was the first superintendent of District 225, a very large man, a very far thinking person and a man that I admired very much.
JH: When you first came to Glenbrook, it wasn’t Glenbrook North, was it?
CC: No, it was just Glenbrook High School.
JH: When Glenbrook South opened, that’s when the boys and girls from Glenview went to Glenbrook South and those from Northbrook stayed at Glenbrook North. Do remember about what year that was?
CC: Yes, I came to District 225 in 1957 and I was at North for five years and we opened Glenbrook South in 1962 and I remained there as associate principal until I retired in 1983, which was 26 years with the district.
JH: That’s a good long time to participate in an outstanding district. I am sure you saw many changes during that time.
CC: Yes, yes, starting at the superintendent level and then the principalship level.
JH: Cliff, I first met you at the dedication of a memorial at Glenbrook North to those students from the district who had given their lives in service to our country. At that time you were introduced to me as General Capp – can you explain that to me?
CC: I had a little over three years on active duty during the Korean War. When I returned I was teaching at the Zion, Illinois, high school and I heard of openings in the Glenbrook district. I studied the system through people that I knew and applied for a position. I started teaching at Glenbrook in the summer of 1957, the first summer school driver education class, and I continued from that point on. My wife and I had relatives in Glenview. We were married at the Glenview Community Church and sort of felt that this was our second home. The Glenbrook District was always an outstanding district with more applications for teaching positions than other districts, at least comparable to New Trier. It was always our goal to be on an equal plane with New Trier.
JH: And all during that time you had some service in the Korean War, and then while you were teaching you stayed in the reserves?
CC: This was a commitment every Monday night. You trained at the Armory at any number of locations depending upon the assignment. For two weeks in the summertime, you went to camp for training. Totally, I had 37.5 years in the military. I retired from that also in 1983, the same year I retired from Glenbrook.
JH: What was your rank on retirement?
CC: Major General.
JH: That explains why the men at the Legion call you the General.
JH: Do you want to talk a little bit about the Legion Post?
CC: Yes, I would be happy to. It was a post that was really dying on its feet when it was located on Pfingsten because the young people coming out of the service were not enamored with it. In the last couple of years, we have been able to pump a little life into the post. I have secured a number of people to join and we are hoping the young people will be able to bring in some more members. It was just in the paper that over 700 WWII vets are dying every day. You can pick up the paper and see the flags alongside the obituary listings. We have a young commander now, John Goldcamp and he is following in the footsteps of Peter Stockslager who did a wonderful job in his 2-year term. He breathed life into the post. We have a meeting every Tuesday night and the last Tuesday of the month we go up to Great Lakes and play bingo with the hospitalized veterans and have some refreshments. That is really a wonderful service the post provides.
JH: I know that the memorial to the servicemen who had given their lives, the Legion was involved in that. Can you think of other involvement of the Legion in the community?
CC: Scholarship program – the Legion has always provided a few scholarships for outstanding students. With the current tuition rates, that comes in handy. In the last five years, they abandoned the general scholarships in order to support scholarships for relatives of post members. My granddaughter received one of those.
JH: The American Legion has always been supportive of baseball programs and there has been an American Legion team in town. Didn’t the Legion do something about one of the baseball diamonds?
CC: Yes, they dedicated one diamond in the park near Anetsberger and it is called the American Legion diamond. They built dugouts, worked on landscaping of the field with the park district and have been the sole sponsors of the American Legion baseball program for young men.
JH: As I recall those teams are for 17-18 year old boys. Before we discuss the Legion more, tell me a little about your family.
CC: OK – when I moved to Northbrook in 1957, I had two girls, one born in 1957 and one was born while I was in the service in 1953. Of course I was concerned about the school they would attend and I confided in Dr. Watson who told me that District 28 was a wonderful district. I got to know Dr. Harvey very well and we did find that to be a wonderful district. At the same time, my wife taught at Northbrook Community Nursery School at the Village Church. She was a part time teacher there for 20 years. My girls attended Glenbrook North High School and graduated and then went off to college.
JH: And you have lived in Northbrook since 1957?
CC: Yes. We rented our first year and looked around to see where we wanted to live in District 28 and found a house not too far from the library. From there we moved to a home we built on Maple Avenue. After the girls were gone we moved, downsized, to a home on Western Avenue. Now we live at Covenant Village where we have been for 3 years.
JH: Covenant Village is the retirement community here in town. Are you in the new building?
CC: We are in the Town Center which is what they call the new building. They have plans right now for another new building and have nine applications for that new building. They need 33 applications before they can break ground. I have seen Covenant Village develop since I moved here and it is a very fine establishment.
JH: Am I correct that you have started working with the people at Covenant and getting them involved with the American Legion?
CC: Yes, they did not have any organization for veterans at Covenant which I thought was a mistake so I sent out a bulletin and had a couple of organizational meetings and ended up getting 55 veterans involved that were not in the assisted living or seriously ill areas. They were all able to come to meetings. Out of that 55, we have 52 now that are active. We participated in the Memorial Day parade which the Legion sponsors and in the 4th of July parade.
JH: The WWII veterans were Grand Marshals of last year’s 4th of July parade.
Since you have lived in Northbrook since 1957, what do you think of the town, the changes in the town, what has the Village meant to you?
CC: In 1957, I believe the population was around 5,800 and, of course, we have seen tremendous growth. That is really what precipitated the second high school – the growth in Glenview and Northbrook. I think the park district is one of the best in the state and I have a high school classmate that ran the park district in Zion, where I grew up. He often referred to the Northbrook district as a model program for other managers to follow. Ken Thiel was a very close friend of mine. He started the YMCA which we were all happy to see. Just everything we got involved with was excellent. We loved our church where we moved our membership, Village Presbyterian Church.
JH: What was the town like when you first moved here? I know you said that it had 5,800 residents. What was it like?
CC: It was a very quiet town. Very little activity like vandalism or crime. That intrigued us as it was a nice environment to raise a family. Many people used Northbrook as a bedroom community and transported themselves by the railroad to the city for their work and back at night. It was quite quiet.
JH: Are some of those attributes that drew you to Northbrook – are they still part of Northbrook?
CC: Yes, yes, very much so. I am a friend of the chief of police. He is a wonderful addition to our government here in Northbrook. I know a lot of the students who graduated from Glenbrook and became firemen and paramedics. I think one has retired now, Schinleber. I knew his father. Yes, there are many things you are reminded of when you think back over the years. We have seen the shopping center develop and I can’t think of anything that went wrong.
JH: I am going to go back to the American Legion and I know you talked about WWII veterans dying at such a rapid rate. The Legion did something to try to get a record of the veterans in the community. Do you want to tell a little about what you did?
CC: Yes, this was done in conjunction with the high school. They conducted interviews. Everyone that they contacted who wanted to be interviewed came to Glenbrook North to be interviewed. They then had a program and some of those that were interviewed were on the program. It turned out to be a wonderful activity both for the students in videotaping and conducting the interviews and the teacher/sponsor. Rob Holt was the commander at that time. It turned out to be a very fine project.
JH: It is something the post is very proud of. This is just a small portion of the post activities since you have been with the post for a very long time. Probably some who were interviewed were not post members. Are there any stories you can relate about any members of the post who were interviewed?
CC: One person was Jack Christensen who was on the program but has since passed away. He did a wonderful job in his interview relating his experiences in the air force. We had a Japanese-American, Sammy, a close friend of mine who has since passed away, but Sammy was in a famous 442 Battalion that had a tremendous record in WWII. I met most of his family who came for his memorial service. These were military experiences. It is vital to capture them on video for young people to learn from them.
JH: The post itself is named for a veteran. Do you know anything about George Benjamin?
CC: He was in WWI as I recall, but I do not know all the particulars about where he was or why the post was named for him.
JH: Benjamin was the first serviceman from Northbrook (then Shermerville) to give his life in combat. Another young man died from the flu at about that time so was also a victim of the war effort.
Are there any other people whose stories come to mind that may have passed before this program was done?
CC: Not personally. I just knew of some interviewed at that time. A number of past commanders of the post are primarily the active members of the post right now. Our chaplain, ________________________, Rob Holt, Chris Birren and Peter Stockslager. Any number of them are still active and we lean on them for their experience.
JH: Is there anything you would like the people of Northbrook to know about the Legion post, or the Village itself?
CC: Well, we would certainly, if anyone was half way interested, be happy for them to attend one of our meetings. I think it would just take attendance at one meeting for them to join. Unfortunately we could not continue with our fish fries this year. We did have a nice arrangement with Sportsman’s Country Club. Hopefully next year we can resume. I would urge residents to view our parade for Memorial Day and join us on the 4th of July.
JH: You welcome people to attend the ceremony following the Memorial Day parade?
CC: Yes. That ceremony is on the Village Green.
JH: Is there anything you would like people to know about Northbrook that we haven’t touched on?
CC: I really endorse Northbrook as a fine place to live. Even though it has grown, I still think it is a nice place to live with a fine educational system, both elementary and high school. I can’t emphasize that enough. I think the industry we have here certainly supports our community. Our Village President, Sandy Frum, is doing a fine job.
JH: We do have a good Village. You gave all those years to the high schools in District 225, your wife taught at the Northbrook Community Nursery School and then you taught them when they became teens. Are many of those kids returning to town?
CC: Yes, I enjoy going to those reunions. We just had the 50th for Glenbrook South and the 60th reunion of the first class I worked with at Glenbrook North. The high school district under the leadership of Dr. Riggle is in fine shape. I think he is doing a great job.
JH: So, what is it like to go to a class reunion?
CC: I have to be reminded of some of their names. I enjoy it. They all introduce themselves. I always ask them: Did you feel that you were well prepared when you left the Glenbrooks? They all answer that they did. We used to tell them – don’t be spoiled if you go to a small college that doesn’t have the facilities you enjoyed at the Glenbrooks. They always remind me of that.
JH: That must be rewarding for you since you were a part of that system for so long and to hear the graduates say that you did a good job – that must be rewarding.
CC: I worked with some of the coaches of boys’ athletics. I worked with Coach Helfrich both in basketball and tennis. He is a fine gentleman who was president of the park board for several years. He is still involved with the community although he doesn’t live here. He is on the Northbrook Symphony Board.
JH: Were there other coaches you worked with?
CC: Yes, Coach Samorian, Coach Leese, Coach Albright and Coach Sherman.
JH: We are nearly at the end of our interview. Is there anything you would like to say to close the interview?
CC: I would thank you the opportunity to express my feelings about Northbrook. I would be willing to talk to anyone who might have an interest in moving to Northbrook. I knew our early president, Bert Pollak. I am a friend of one of his sons and had another one in class. I think Northbrook has a great deal to offer to families.
JH: Thank you so much for participating in Northbrook Voices. Your memories of life in Northbrook will add a unique perspective about life in our community. Thank you.