Recorded on April 8, 2016. Length: 30 Minutes.
DG: Good morning. Today is Friday, April 8 2016, and welcome to Northbrook voices, an oral history project sponsored by the Northbrook Historical Society and the Northbrook Public Library. My name is Donna Gregory, and I am pleased to welcome Kathy Tschaen, who has lived and worked in Northbrook for 43 years. She has many stories to tell us about her life here, and especially about a current project that she’s involved in. That’s called the diaper project. So Kathy, I want to welcome you, and where would you like to begin your Northbrook story?
KT: Well, thank you very much, Donna for having me. Come here today. I appreciate this opportunity both to tell my story and also to talk about my diaper project. I grew up at — in Long Island, and I lived there until after college when I moved to the Chicago area, and when my husband and I were married, we looked all around for where we wanted to live where we wanted to raise our children, and it was it was really a pretty easy decision to make because when we came to Northbrook, we immediately fell in love with it. We found a home on Greenbriar street, and ??? Blackthorn in the highlands, and we — I had a sense that this was a place where I could raise my children, where they’d be surrounded by other children their age. Actually, when my daughter went to kindergarten, there were five kids from the block all going at the same time, and the other thing was that we wanted it to be close to the train station, to the library, to shopping, and just as importantly, to the village green, which was a second home. I think I have a path worn down Cherry Lane over by the library and into the park with my children.
DG: What — what would you and your kids do in the park when they were little?
KT: Well, one of the things that we did besides playing on the equipment, we loved the — the brook, and we spent a lot of time there. We would go down to the brook and I had been — when I grew up in New York, I also had a bill river was the name of it, and it was a couple bucks in my house, and it was a place for a child in a — in a suburb to have an adventure. We would go down to the water with my kids and I would tell them about all the things that I did when we grew up and when I grew up in New York, and — and — and I have the — the — the — a blessing in my life that I get to do this with my grandchildren, and I get to tell them about what I used to do with their parents, and so anyway, that is always a — a very — a must place to go. When we see —
DG: Your grandchildren live here in Northbrook also?
ET: You know they live in Chicago, and my husband and I take care of them two days a week. So that’s been for the last 13 years. So two days during the summer and during vacations, they’re in Northbrook, and — so we have explored all the places that you can go here, and I love to take them to Greenbriar where their parents went to school, and we have four of them. Each daughter has two children and we take all four together, and for — fortunately, my husband is equally as involved in this as I am because I could not do that alone, and we have a lot of fun telling them the stories about Greenbriar school, and about Northbrook junior high, and so they can see they can kind of make a comparison between their own experience growing up in Chicago and what their parents experienced growing up here in Northbrook —
DG: And talk a little bit about the changes that you’ve seen in Northbrook and at village green and how the experiences are similar and different for your kids and for your grandkids please.
ET: Okay. Well, some of the things are the same, and I have to say that when things change in Northbrook like the — like Cherry Lane, when — or it’s I’m not sure is that Shermer is there Shermer that — I actually start to forget what it ever looked like, but when I came here, I do remember of course, there was no street, there was no light at the corner of Walters and this train station and I I think it was meltzers??? was the — aplace where we went from meat, and sunset was here — sunset was here and jewel across the street, and as far as I remember, we always made 31 flavors a must stop every time that my kids are my children and now my grandchildren when we’re up at the park, one thing we love is the — is the waterfall that they put in. That is wonderful — wonderful addition and a real at the corner of the park at the corner of — what would it be there — be Shermer, and maybe it’s Meadow that — that waterfall. It’s very fun, and every time — every time it’s filled, you know usually maybe once every other year, somebody puts bubbles in there, and I explained to the kids how we never do anything like this. It gums up the works, and so anyway, that’s a big change the equipment we’ve seen change every — I don’t know, 10 or 15 years, we’ve seen a new set of equipment there ,and I love to spend time there I have — I’ve made friends with people who are mostly with — with well — some of them are with my friends who now have grandchildren who take them to the park, so we’re all together, and then also, I am a student of Spanish, and so often there is a babysitter there, and so I get to practice my Spanish, and we do a lot of bike riding around there too. We bike we ride our bikes up to the up to the village green. So yeah, I mean, it’s just really a center place in Northbrook for now it’s two generations.
DG: It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. Are you in the same home that you bought originally?
ET: You know, we have our first home was on Blackthorn and we lived there for six years, and then when we were — we had a second baby, we decided to look for another house and the home we found on Walters, well as I said I did so much walking down Walters and down Cherry, and I used to go by this house and I just knew this was — this was the house I wanted to live in someday, and one day, our realtor said to us, you know that house is going to go on sale — it’s going to go on the market by owner — by owner, and so we just rushed in and made an immediate decision to — to buy a home that was built in 1920. I don’t think we asked a single question about the condition of it. But I was used to living in older homes where I — I pretty well knew that you need to put some — you need to make an investment in them. So we moved there in — let’s see, maybe was 78, 1978. We moved to Walters, and we’ve been there ever since.
DG: Wow. That house has quite a sense of history also.
ET: Yes, it really does. I walked in and I saw the cove moldings. I don’t think I looked any further. That’s my house.
DG: Do you know who built it originally?
ET: You know, I do. It was built by the Resingers???, and they were — our you know, we’re big builders. I don’t know if they’re still doing this, but that was the Resigner??? home, and he was a builder, and I believe he did a lot of what’s on Maple, and he also — and still the home next to us is owned by a relative of the Rex –Resingers???, so I get an opportunity to talk to that gentleman who has a wonderful history too of what Walters Avenue was like, and then one time many, many years ago and probably was around as soon after we moved in there in the late 70s. A — one of the Resigners??? who grew up in that house was in the neighborhood, and so I invited him to come in and to gave a little tour, and he told me about oh this — you room used to be like this, and oh my sisters used to fight so they put a wall up here. So it was really, really fun to hear that from somebody who had grown up there.
DG: Oh, that really makes the house have its own story.
ET: It does.
DG: That’s wonderful. Well, you talked about Greenbriar school, and I think you have some fond memories about your kids going to Greenbriar.
ET: Oh yes, I do, and just one other thing about the neighborhood. When we moved in there, there was a woman who lived in what’s now the Clavius??? home on Walters, and she was about 90 at the time, and so this is going back — this is going back many, many years, and she was one of the original owners and she was a delightful woman, as someone in the neighborhood had a lunch in and she was invited, and I got to ask her questions about growing — about you know, what her experience there was, and also a gentleman who lived across the street in at — the home that’s now owned by the Holgreins???. The — that name is escaping my mind right now. Holbern, something like that. Anyway, that — that gentleman he lived in — in — he lived in Glencoe, and this must have been about maybe about 1930. He lived in Glencoe and he told me he’d ride his bike over every day while they were building his home, and I love that story. Okay, now on to Greenbriar. I think probably one of the main reasons that we moved to where we are in Northbrook was because of Greenbriar school, and I just loved everything about it. It was very different from my school experience growing up, and also, you know — like — I like the small classrooms. I liked the welcomed feeling that I had, I could walk in there, I could volunteer. I remember when my daughter was in the fourth grade, I did — I love my computers was my — my field, my career, and I went in and taught the children how to take — take the apple c apart, and then also how to write a — a program, and so that was very fun, and I also I thought, this is so wonderful that I could contribute what I have to offer there, and I loved the teachers, my children did. That I love the fact that it was — they were very small classes, very small at that time, and with a teacher and an aide, I felt like it was practically like private tutoring. So and — and it’s — it’s interesting to me that my children, my grandchildren are in Chicago public schools, and they — have a very different experience of schools — of school, their — their classrooms, of course, they’re — the number of students are at least double what they were at Greenbriar and — and also, it well — the advantage is the diversity. Because it really is a wonderful preparation for life that you get in Chicago, and the challenges are also the diversity, and also the fact that it is a there’s these are, you know, class with class sizes of at least 35 with one teacher and no aid. So — you know, it’s just a very different experience. They also go to school, both — both sets of grandchildren are in different schools, and they both go to school with children from — from — from kindergarten through the eighth grade, and that’s very different. So —
DG: In one room, kindergarten through eight —
ET: No, no, it’s a — this would be a school. These are very large public schools that have all grade levels, And so they’re not — They’re not like segregated in their own little age group like they are at Greenbriar where you go up to fifth grade, and then go over to the junior high. So it’s just a different experience with its pluses, and with its challenges. We won’t say minuses will say challenges. Yeah.
DG: Very interesting. Well, at first — I thought — hearing your story that you were a stay at home mom, but then I heard you say your career field.
DG: So let’s talk about that aspect of Kathy.
ET: Well, when I graduated from college, I had a degree in mathematics, and I pretty was –pretty well sure at that point I did not want to teach. So I looked around at what was available, and what was really the field that was really exploding was computer programming, and so I got my first job at Harris bank, and I worked there for free for a few years. I met my husband there, and then I was with benefit trust life insurance company for probably about 23-24 years, and during that time, I was after my children were born, I worked part time. So I’d go in three days a week, and I had Carolshower??? was my daycare and on First street and the children could walk to Greenbriar so it was a very nice arrangement, and I could still keep my hand in — in programming, and then sometime about 1990 I decided that I wanted to — to be a consultant, I wanted to work independently, and so I did that, and I also well — I worked three or four days a week, and went to take the train downtown I worked mostly in — in the brokerage business, and –and then I’m proud??? it was maybe — maybe around 1996, I decided I wanted to prepare for my — my next 50 years. So I went to school, and became a massage therapist, and I did both of them together for a number of years, and then — and then when I fully retired from — from the computer business, then I’ve been doing massage ever since, and so those are really two businesses that I was able to get started at my home — out of my home, and most of my clients come from Northbrook. I have a diverse group of clients, but quite a few of them are our older — my oldest client is 102. But I’ve had a client who was 104 when she died, so not exactly going to attribute massage to that maybe some genes involved but I just really enjoyed being a part of their wellness through all of those years of their life. So I’ve been very much involved at covenant village. Doing massages both at the — at the nursing home and also independent living. So it’s been a it’s just been a wonderful experience. Very satisfying. I enjoy it.
DG: That’s wonderful, and to — to decide to re invent yourself is — is a wonderful thing, and then you reinvented yourself again by the volunteer work that you — you do. I know you’ve always done volunteer work, but you’ve become the diaper lady.
ET: I think I’m — I am the diaper lady. Yes. You know, it’s a — it’s like — it’s a interesting — I got an interesting story in this. I — it was about seven years ago when my daughter found out that they were expecting twins, and somebody suggested to me that a wonderful baby gift is a year of disposable diapers, and so it turned into three years, but it was a — it was a really — turning point for me because I was absolutely shocked to find out how much disposable diapers cost. I looked — I looked up online the other day and it was a box of 170 Huggies Diapers was $42, and I was just — you know I knew that that was going to be something that would be a real stretch for twins for my daughter. So it was a it was — it was the right gift for me to give, and then at the same time, and I never believe these are coincidences I think there’s some divine inspiration here. I happen to pick up an article about the difficulties that homeless women shaped — faced in providing this real necessity to their babies. I mean, they don’t have access to — to washing machines, and so disposable diapers are really what their — their choices, and in this article it mentioned about babies being treated in emergency rooms for infections because of inadequate diaper changing, and it really — it you know — it just all came together at the same time, and it profoundly affected me, and then I decided, you know, I need to do something about this, and so it was about seven years ago that I started this diaper project, and I was able to — through — through a lot of telephone calls and letters and emails to — that there were — there were a group of churches, both in Northbrook and other communities on the North Shore, who were willing to — who were willing to do a diaper drive, and somewhere it’s interesting that through the experience of doing these diaper drives over these seven years, we found that the best results, or the time when people are really wanting to give diapers is Mother’s Day, and then some one church said to me, “Well, it’s gotta be Father’s Day too”. I said, “Oh, that’s fine”. Some do it for Lent, some do it for Advent. You know — so there’s some call it Oktoberfest. So they have different reasons, different times that it works for different churches, and so over the past seven years, these diapers have gone to both connections for the homeless in Evanston and Cornerstone community outreach in Chicago. It’s a — very, very large homeless shelter that my husband and I had been associated with for a number of years by serving Christmas dinner there, and then another was world relief Chicago, which is a refugee organization, and I got connected with them because my — my daughter teaches in a Chicago public school that is near Divine Avenue where there are a lot of refugees, and that school receives a lot of those — a lot of those refugee children come to that school, and for that reason, I got associated with this organization, and so they received diapers for a few years, and then more recently, it’s been Mary Lou’s place, which I’d like to tell you a little bit about. So this is a domestic violence shelter, and Mary Lou’s place is located in — in Evanston and it is run by the — it’s run by the Evanston YWCA. I had been invited to go to a fundraising dinner there, and the woman sitting next to me, you know, she just was captivating. She just got my attention. She was beautiful to look at and to listen to, and as it turned out, she then — they did– then had a — on the projector, they showed the stories of a group of women who had made very huge contributions to the Y women, the Evanston Y and to Mary Lou’s place, and it turned out that this woman, and her daughter, who was sitting next to her, had been refugees in that — not refugees — they had been victims of domestic violence, and they were helped by having a place to stay, and all the help that they received there and some of the things that they do, they provide a 24 seven hotline to offer victims immediate intervention, and the shelter supplies a family with a — mother and children boys up to age 12 with a room for her family bed linens and personal supplies. There is individual and group counseling. There’s counselors to help women with finding employ — employment and housing that’s in the community. They offer classes and financial literacy so women can become financially secure legal advocacy, that includes how to get an order of protection against the abuser, and anyway, this woman it turned out had been at that shelter years ago, and when I — you know — we talked about what she was doing today, and she had gone on to get a PhD, and she had her own business, and she was quite successful, and her daughter was sitting there who had gone to the shelter with her, and as that show, as — as that story of her experience was shown on the screen, I could see the tears coming down her daughter’s face, as she was remembering that experience of having to go to that shelter, and I was so touched by that, and I also, you know, sometimes you just — I had to find — I look for a good fit for me with diapers. I can’t supply a huge homeless shelter because that’s not something that I can do through church drives. But what the needs were at, at Mary Lou’s place, seemed to fit perfectly with what I could do, and then the practical aspects of I had a place to deliver the diapers, the Y that’s always that’s — you know, pretty much open most of the time during the day, and that also they had storage for them so some of the practical aspects have to match with what I’m able to do. So, for the past two years, the diapers that have been raised by the churches in Northbrook and other communities around us have supplied Mary Lou’s place with diapers.
DG: It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful, and I am so — I’m just amazed that out of your family need for diapers for your grandbabies has come this incredible project?
ET: Yes. Yeah. I think that’s really where you know, things come for me and and maybe for most people. I am moved, touched and inspired by personal experience.
ET: Not just reading a book, not just listening to you know, listening to people, but mostly it’s my personal experience that then moves me to have the energy to take on something —
ET: That requires a certain amount of persistence.
DG: How many diapers a year do you raise?
ET: My gosh, you know, it –it really depends, and I have — I go by the car loads. We have a van and my husband is the driver, and so we go to the church, fill up the van and take it down there. So maybe there might be 10 trips during — after Mother’s Day, and maybe, you know, it just really depends, and also they’re kind of dispersed through the years. So number of diapers, I don’t know, mainly car loads.
DG: How many car loads?
ET: Oh I’m gonna say probably 15 carloads at least 15 a year.
ET: And right now —
DG: Mary Lou’s place through the Y is the place that —
DG: Putting the diapers.
ET: That’s right.
DG: Wonderful, wonderful, and if someone wanted to someone listening wanted to find out how to get a hold of you, or how to get their church involved. Okay, what to give any public information.
ET: Oh, I do for sure, I’d like to give you that my phone number, my email address, and I can leave you with some business cards, and — and so anybody who might call here to want to find out if you want to do a diaper drive for your church, or you want to make a personal donation of diapers, you can do either one of those if you would like to have help with — we’ll say an announcement in your church bulletin and not to exclude synagogues and mosques, any group — any — any — and community groups — any group that wants to do a diaper drive, I’d be very happy to give all that information on how to get a hold of me, and I would help you with whatever it is that you need help with to get this often off the ground.
DG: And I wonder if — if your information ever appears in the Northbrook newsletter that comes out?
ET: You know, it has not, and that’s probably a really good idea. That is not something that I have done. But that’s that’s something that thank you for that suggestion. I will do that. Yeah.
DG: So if you want to give a phone number or email address publicly now would be the time —
DG: — to do it.
ET: So my phone number is 847-498-0306, and my email address is Ktschaen2335@Comcast.net. I welcome not only your interest in doing a diaper drive, but any questions that you have either about — any questions you have about that I haven’t covered here, or questions you might have about who it is — who — you know like Mary Lou’s place the receipt — the — the recipient of the diapers, I would be happy to give you that.
DG: Wonderful, and in the few minutes that we have left. I really enjoyed hearing you talk about the sense of community in Northbrook, and I wonder if you would say a little more about that and whether you would encourage young people to move to Northbrook and how you see our community.
ET: I see — I see Northbrook as this wonderful — just a wonderful place with resources that anybody could ever want. I have lifelong friends who I met when our children were going to nursery school. I — I would just I would just say that this sense of community here and the places where it really comes together the library, the schools, the village green, I’ve met a lot of people that way, and I think that I would imagine that as my experience in Northbrook has been nothing but positive that I would imagine that any young couple looking for a place to live would find it wonderful to be here. I said to my husband as — as sometimes we talk about, you know, if we — you know our next move, if we move to a — a –a smaller place, less — less lawn to mow — that — you know I we are looking in Northbrook to continue that relationship that’s built over all these years, and I have a group of friends and we’ve said well, you know, maybe we’ll all move to covenant village together to keep that sense of community that we’ve come to love here.
DG: How wonderful. Our community is so much the better because of you Kathy, and your involvement with Northbrook and I want to thank you on behalf of Northbrook and tell you how much we appreciate you.
ET: Thank you. Thank you for having me and giving me this opportunity.
DG: Absolutely. That’ll conclude our interview and have a great day.
ET: Thank you. You too.