Muriel Collison

Muriel Collison is a fifth generation resident of Northbrook. She talks about her and her family have lived on the same street and at least three of the generations went to Greenbrier Elementary School. She discusses growing up around the village and working in local businesses as a kid as well as some changes she’s…

Recorded on March 11, 2016. Length: 31 Minutes.


DG: Good morning. Today is Friday, March 11 2016. My name is Donna Gully and this is the Northbrook voices, an oral history project sponsored by the Northbrook Historical Society and the Northbrook Public Library. I am pleased to welcome Muriel Collison, who has not only has she lived in Northbrook almost her entire life, but five generations of her family have lived here. So she has quite a story to tell us. I’m delighted to hear Muriel.

MC: Thank you.

DG: And let’s start by talking about how five generations end up living in Northbrook.

MC: Well, my parent my, my grandparents bought a house on Walnut Lane, which is you know, on Cherry across from Greenbrier school. And it was a small Cape Cod house and their parents. So my great grandparents ended up moving in with them. And they were older. And my father was born in that house. And I was raised in that house. And then my husband and I, five years ago, bought the house from my parents, and we’re raising our kids in that house. So there’s been five generations of Collison’s. in that Walnut Lane house, so it’s a pretty cool story.

DG: Absolutely. Absolutely. So where did your parents go? And are they going to come back and live with you the way? You’re great-

MC: I don’t think so. My parents actually, when, when my husband and I went when I was looking for houses, I wanted to move back on the street I grew up on. And so I put, starting in college, I put letters in everyone’s mailbox on my street, you know, do you want to sell your house because nobody ever moves from where I live? where I grew up, is it’s great. And when someone finally called us, my husband and I were already in a different house in Northbrook, and we had two small children. So the house that they called us about was too small. So my parents ended up buying a house across the street and down one and renovating that. So they live across the street from us. So I don’t think that they’ll be moving back in but my daughter already says she wants to buy the house from us. So perhaps there’s hope for generation six. We’ll see.

DG: What fun. Do you know what made your grandparents decide that Northbrook was where they wanted to move?

MC: Well, my grandfather worked for a construction company in the city. And I think that they thought Northbrook was a really nice suburb. And it was a good place to raise a family. And so that’s why they picked it the proximity and the safety.

DG: And do you know going back that far if the train was here yet? I don’t- I don’t know how far back. I’m going.

MC: I don’t know. I’m not sure about that. I know. My dad took it the whole time obviously as I grew up, but I’m not sure if it was there before that out.

DG: Well, okay, so, so the house has been here and seen so many changes. I think it’s the house I’d like to be interviewing.

MC: Yeah, the house has had a lot of new babies, first kisses, and proms and dances, and my parents 25th anniversary party was there and you know, just a lot of memories with grandparents and definitely had a lot of additions. So it’s not the little Cape Cod at once was but it’s- it’s a great place, and we all really love it. So…

DG: And one other fact I remember with the five generations being there is that at least three generations have gone to Greenbrier.

MC: Yes. So my father went to Greenbrier and my brother and I went to Greenbrier and my kids right now are at Greenbrier. So it’s pretty cool.

DG: Absolutely. But I’ll bet you’ve seen some changes in Greenbrier also some similarities, some changes?

MC: Yeah. So the-  they just did a great big addition, which is fantastic. My kids love the big gym over there. Certainly the park the playground. I spent a lot of time on that as a kid and it’s much different than it was when I was growing up. And so it I mean, we really are lucky because I went to St. Norberts as well. And so I can I experienced both- both the Catholic and public school here and they’re both fantastic and just got great schools in the area.

DG: So do you remember a diorama at Greenbrier?

MC: A diorama?

DG: A diorama that shows Northbrook?

MC: Yeah, I do actually.

DG: And- and I bring it up so that our readers or listeners are sure to know that it now is at the Northbrook Historical Society.

MC: Oh, cool. That’s very cool.

DG: So I didn’t know if you knew.

MC: Yeah, no, I remember that.

DG: Yeah, you’ll have to bring you’ll have to bring your kids over. We’re going to show them the diaroma for sure.

MC: That’s very cool.

DG: So the history museum is open on Sundays from two to four…

MC: Okay,

DG: … and on Thursdays from 10 to two.

MC: Nice. I used to work there.

DG: Tell me about it.

MC: so when I was actually at Greenbrier maybe-  maybe at junior high. And I want to say it was through our Girl Scout troop. So it was probably in grade school, when they used to have, I don’t know if it was called Shermerfest? But they used to have this where they would open up the Historical Society and everyone would kind of dress in period clothing. And you could walk through the house and the kids would give sort of a narrative of you know… “I’m in the kitchen and I’m making food how they used to make it way back when.” So I loved that. I did that. I think for two years. That was really fun.

DG: Yeah, it was a great time. Has your daughter been over with her class to the history museum?

MC: Yeah, she’s been with her class, this museum and we like to go to Shermerfest. So we go pretty much every year.

DG: And I know you’re a great supporter. When you come to the silent auction, you bring the kids and…

MC:  Yeah, hey, anytime I get to bid on some stuff, I like the baskets. You know, all that. So. Yeah.

DG: So you grew up here, you went away to college, and your dad somehow twisted your arm to follow in his career footsteps?

MC: Well, actually, I always knew that I wanted to be a lawyer. From the time that I was a little kid. And when I had school off, I would go to court and watch my dad. When I got grounded, I used to go upstairs and put on his tie and plead my case to try to get out of being grounded. So I always knew that I wanted to be a lawyer and I wanted to work with my dad. So I went to college at DePauw University in Indiana, and I was the 20th person in my family to go there. We’re big in tradition in case you can’t tell us Collison’s. My brother went there. My husband went there. My brother’s wife went there. My father went there. My grandfather went there, uncle, so I could go on and on. But and then after college, I went to Catholic University for law school.

DG: And just-  just so that I’m sure our listeners heard that this is DePauw.

MC: Yeah, with a W in Indiana. Right, so then I went to Catholic University for law school. And when I got married and moved back here, my husband and I, we just lived in Lake Bluff for about a year until I could find a place to move to in Northbrook. And that was at the height of the housing market. So it was difficult. So then we moved into our first starter home on Walters Avenue, and then into my parents house. But there really was no twisting of an arm. It was more like, just when can I get back? You know, when-  when will I have saved enough money that I can live here and raise my kids here. It’s kind of always the goal. So…

DG: And I, I find it interesting that your parents were willing to give up the house and continue the tradition and let you move in that they- they moved someplace else?

MC: Well, I mean, they moved across the street. And we’re an extremely close family. It’s just my brother and I.

DG: And is he on on the street too?

MC: No, he lives in Wisconsin. He’s a doctor in Green Bay, but we, I think my parents love having their grandkids across the street. And it’s been great. You know, my kids can just go over there for a snack or go over there to do homework or go over there if mom and dad need a break. And I work with both of my parents. My mom does the bookkeeping at our law firm. So literally, we carpool to work, come home from work, we live across the street from each other. And everybody says “that must be hard at times.” But it’s really not. It’s been such a blessing. We’re really lucky. So I pretty much plan on moving. My husband jokes. He says I have our whole lives planned out, including like, where we’re going to be buried, but I pretty much plan on moving to their house. And when hopefully one of my kids buys our house. So it’s pretty much all set up. So it would be an easy move. It’s wonderful.

DG: So as a child, you have some memories about growing up in Northbrook?

MC: I loved growing up in Northbrook. I just it was a great place to grow up. I was a Y rat. So is that the why all the time. I was on the swim team, which at that time was run through the YMCA. My dad was a coach. My dad I think was on the board at the Y. My dad was a trustee in the village. So we were always very involved in village activities. And I love to just be outside all the time with my friends and ride our bikes to downtown where we spent all our money. And we’ve got a Little Louie’s when it was back in that green building and the fries were way greasier. And so we had a lot of fun and my brother and I actually when we went to St. Norberts, my dad had his law office above the Baskin Robbins. And it was really cool because you had a view of the Village Green. So we would come after school and he knew the owners of the Baskin Robbins, the Hubbard’s at the time. And they let my brother and I, when we were, you know, in grade school come in, you know, sweep the floors, like stamp the back of the ice cream coupons. And so we would work there for like, a couple hours, you know, once a week, and they would pay us by letting us pick out a double scoop of any ice cream we wanted or shake. So we thought that was really cool. We told all our friends we had a job. So that was kind of a fun thing. And when there were blizzards, you know, which we used to have a lot more of.

DG: These are the ice cream blizzards?

MC: No,snow blizzards. My parents would, you know put us in a slide and we would walk up to Cypress because it was the only place that would somehow always managed to be open no matter what was going on with the weather. So we were up there a lot and we used to escape all the time behind the library and they actually used to have a warming hut and Meadow Hill, they used to have this toboggan shoot. That was pretty hardcore. So it was really fun. Probably not the safest, but it was a blast. And we did a lot of stuff with the Velodrome. I mean, we were really just all over Northbrook. Spent a lot of summers at the pool. And just really, really enjoyed growing up here felt safe.

DG: And you did this on your bike?

MC: Yeah, I would ride my bike all over town.

DG: It’s one of the changes today between when you grew up and when kids are growing up to date.

MC: Yeah.

DG: Like they don’t have that freedom anymore.

MC: They don’t have that freedom. But I will say this, that the parents, I mean, especially, I mean, all over Northbrook, but I feel like the downtown areas sort of like its own little village, just because we’re all in such closer proximity to each other. That it feels, the parents like when I was growing up, the parents really looked out for each other’s kids, which sometimes worked to my brothers and my benefit, and sometimes did not. I know we got we got ratted out a few times by some parents for doing whatever we were doing. But, you know, even now, the parents are the same way. You know, I mean, I had a mom call me and say, “Hey, I saw you know, an older boy talking to your daughter when she was walking home from school.” So it’s a really nice community feeling just to know that we all sort of look out for each other. So there’s a lot of safety in that. And I just, I don’t think there’s a better place to raise kids and unless you really grew up here. I think it’s hard to understand, although my husband didn’t understand it first, because he’s from Indianapolis. So when we were looking at homes here, he was a little blown away by the prices. And now that he’s lived here, it’s almost like he grew up here. He loves it just as much as I do. So that’s really nice. And he allows me to be pretty involved.

DG: As you’re talking. I’m wondering if some of your classmates are back here living?

MC: Yes. Also. Yes. It’s so cool. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t run into someone I grew up with at Starbucks, at Marcellos, at the Village Green walking around. It’s really cool. There’s a ton of kids, now adults that went to school with me that are here, and our kids are in the same class. So you know, it’s kind of when I went to Glenbrook North. My freshman year, I had the same PE teacher as my dad. And I think it’s entirely possible that my kids are going to have that same experience. My swim coach is still at Glenbrook North, and my daughter’s approaching, you know, she’s nine. So, if he hangs on a little longer, and she’s a swimmer, then she might have the same you know, swim coach then. It’s, it’s really cool.

DG: And, Muriel. When, when you think about downtown Northbrook, you’ve, you’ve mentioned some places that aren’t here anymore. And you’ve mentioned some places that were here when you were growing up. So talk a little bit about the changes that you’ve seen in downtown Northbrook?

MC: Well, the one thing that hasn’t changed that I love is the Village Green and there’s been a great enhancement of that with the addition of a lot of festivals. We didn’t really have that and celebrations that take place in the Village Green which I think is awesome, whether it’s Earth Day or you know, some of the Art Fest things like that, that we did not have. We did have sidewalk sales, which by the way when I was growing up the used to have these horse drawn rides at sidewalk sales and also they would have those at Christmas. So just in the shopping center in downtown Northbrook, there was a couple of days and they would have a horse that would pull people around on a sled. And last year, a bunch of the moms in my neighborhood we actually paid to have Santa come out on a sled and take our kids throughout the entire Highlands at night. Santa’s on the sled with the singing the Christmas carols. It was awesome. There is been some, you know, changes in terms of stores, which have been great. You know, we didn’t have a boutique like Juniper boutique, we didn’t have a lot of the stuff that we have now, which I love.

DG: But your kids can’t go to the VNS anymore.

MC: No, but they go to the dollar store. So that’s even better. I mean, what’s better than a store where you can give your kid $1. And so you can pick out anything you want in the store. So they love that. And we just were really happy. I mean, I hope that some more businesses come in and fill in, you know, some of the, the spaces but I like having a smaller downtown and I like the bedroom community feel that it has

DG: The grocery stores changed.

MC: Not for me.

DG: Not for you now.

MC: Well, actually, when I was growing up, I think there was a Jewel, in addition to a Sunset.

DG: The Jewel was something.

MC: Yeah, the Sunset was where it was, it was across the way over by where Starbucks is now. And then the Jewel was where the Sunset is now. So my grandmother used to walk us up when, when she would watch us, you know, overnight, because my parents would go out or whatever. And she’s the biggest treat ever was that she would walk us up to Sunset Foods. And we can pick out any TV dinner we wanted. So that was kind of fun. But I mean, I’ve always been a Sunset shopper. I mean, I’ll go to Mariano’s occasionally, but there’s nothing better than the- the close proximity and they’ve got they’ve always had the best, the best deli stuff and you know, the best people so I tried to go there, in addition to Mariano’s so kind of stayed the same for me. And I went to the Village Church, so we used to I still do. So be easy to just go there as kind of a routine, go to church, go to Sunset, pick up something for dinner can walk there from my house. Really nice.

DG: Wonderful, wonderful. Let’s go back to your career.

MC: Okay.

DG: What kind of law do you practice?

MC: So we do personal injury and worker’s compensation. Pretty much anybody that’s been injured and any type of accidents we do, you know, like, I’ve done plane crash, truck crash, regular car accidents, dog bites, all everything. And people who’ve been hurt on the job. And my father and I started our own firm we branched off three years ago. So we have several attorneys that work for us. And we have an office downtown, and an office on Lake cook and Pfingsten.

DG: So the name of the office?

MC: It’s Collison Law Offices.

DG: Not Collison & Collison?

MC: Nope, Collison Law Offices. And we say our motto is kind of we’re family and we treat our clients like family. Like I said, my mom does the books, and my husband helps out a lot. So we really enjoy, enjoy working together. And it’s been really great.

DG: So you’re very successful. I read about an award.

MC: Oh, yes. Well, thank you. I did get an award, I got an award for being one of the top 40 attorneys under 40. In Illinois in 2015. I want to say I think they had 1800 nominations. And it’s a really great award because it’s all sorts of different types of law, all sorts of different lawyers all over the state. And it’s not an award you can really buy you are nominated by your judges, the judges in the area and your peers,

DG: So you didn’t put yourself in it.

MC: No, no, your peers and your judges and arbitrators everyone you appear in front of and so it was a really, really fantastic honor. And it was definitely a highlight of my career so far. And I just barely made it a 38 when I got it so I only have two more years. Right.

DG: I hardly want to offer my congratulations.

MC: Thank you.

DG: And I know others have been congratulating you because you are very involved in the community.

MC: I am I love Northbrook. So when I moved back here I wanted to get involved in so I looked at some of the service organizations. And I decided to join Rotary. I’ve been in Rotary for over 10 years now.

DG: You’re one of the younger members.

MC: When I joined I was 28. And I think I was the youngest member at that time by a very big margin. But since then, we’ve gotten some more younger members in but I love it. It’s been it’s a great group of people and I really like the service and and what rotary does for the community in the world. And it’s a nice break for me during my my day. It’s sometimes it’s hard to make it I try my best but it’s fun. I really enjoy it and I’ve really enjoyed all the people

DG: And what aspects of rotary do you personally get involved with?

MC: And I served on the board of directors for two years. And that was a really fun experience. I did the PR and I helped organize it concert for the benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, which was awesome. That was around Veterans Day. And then we have a lot of veterans in the Rotary Club. So that was really cool. And my dad’s event. And then I, this year, I’m doing the grants committee. So it’s really fun to get all the applications in and do a lot of research and figure out how we can give away all this money we earned to local charities who really need it. So that’s exciting.

DG: How does rotary earn their money.

MC: And so a couple of ways, but mainly through fundraising and the Rotary 800, which is our big fundraiser every year that we just had.

DG: would you tell our audience a little bit about the Rotary 800, so that maybe some of the listeners will call you, or me up.

MC: Plug plug plug, right? So the Rotary had hundreds of fundraiser we have over a year and we sell 800 tickets. That’s why it’s called Rotary 800. We try to sell 800 tickets, that’s the goal. And you can buy a whole ticket or half ticket share a ticket, and the prizes vary. It’s been all over the board since I joined rotary, but always really great prizes. And it’s a fun event and really all the money. It’s one of those things where, where there’s no you know, some places you don’t know what percent really goes to the community. Other than just the actual expense of the event, every single penny goes someplace really great. So there’s no, there’s no hidden anything. So that’s the best part. And that’s why I love Rotary, because it’s directly going to people, and you know where your money is going. And so that’s why it’s super important, because that’s how we can help.

DG: There’s about 20 – 25 charities locally.

MC: Yeah. And vocational scholarships come from there as well, which is fantastic, which is I really want to get involved in that. That’s something I in the future would like to get more involved in. I think it’s fantastic.

DG: Yes, it is a plug toward listeners. Yeah, I think it’s a worthwhile one. Other things you do in the community.

MC: And so I ran the Village of Northbrook caucus two years ago, I volunteered on it two years before theen and then I ran it two years ago, which was a great experience.

DG: And a big job.

MC: It was a big job. I definitely certainly tried my best. And it was an interesting election year election cycle. There was, you know, that was interesting when there’s competition and I think that produces the best candidates. And I really believe in the caucus process. But I made a lot of changes and tried to be very transparent. And you have to work with a lot of different personalities. So that was a really, really fun experience for me.

DG: Conflict going on that you’re that you’ve had to manage.

MC: Yeah, there, you know, there was and it was good. I mean, it really caused me to and I use the Rotary four way test, honestly, a lot. And a lot of what I did with the caucus.

DG: It turned out to be a very successful caucus.

MC: Yeah, it was it was fun. It was my husband was like “ is this over?” Because it was it was quite It was quite a project, but an undertaking, but I really enjoyed it. And I’m also sitting Plan Commissioner right now. And I was appointed approximately a week before the Walmart hearings. So that was a big, a big a big time in my life. And I really enjoy that. That’s kind of… the Village is kind of my hobby. I really love. That’s my fun thing. I love the Village of Northbrook and I really like being involved.

DG: And we’re growing so much.

MC: Yes. Planning Commission. We’re very busy. Yes, a lot of public hearings, a lot of development that wants to come in a lot of, you know, citizens concerns. And I really love it. It’s  something that I get a lot of joy out of.

DG: And we appreciate your service.

MC: Thank you. Thank you.

DG: You know, I heard several years ago that Northbrook has a larger daytime population than a nighttime population.

MC: That’s probably true. We do have a lot of office buildings in that Skokie corridor. And you know, in the Huel area, we probably have a ton of people with between Crate & Barrel and all the industry we have here. We have a great tax base between Northbrook Court and all the industry we have here so I definitely would, would believe that to be true.

DG: I think that does help our community economically.

MC: Oh, for sure We’re really, the villages doing really well. So that’s great.

DG: So Muriel, you have three children.

MC: I do

DG: Their names is?

MC: My daughter Sophia is nine. And she was born in Kazakhstan. So my husband and I traveled there and we met her which was one of the best experiences of our lives. My son Jack is seven and my little guy Charlie, or as we call him “Char Char.” He is three. So they keep us busy Sophie’s in swimming, Jack’s in golf and tennis and Charlie’s just into being a terror. So we’re pretty busy with the three of them.

DG: So if I were either interviewing Sophie, what would she say to me about Northbrook?

MC: And she would tell you that she can spell it. And she would probably get into the great debate that she has pretty much every weekend over, which is our favorite ice cream store. Since there’s three in downtown Northbrook right now, and she gets pretty in depth into why she likes each one. We like Yogen Früz and fruit is because of the toppings. And then she’ll talk to you about Baskin Robbins because of the milkshakes. And Graeters because their ice cream actually has chunks of stuff in it like chocolate. So she’d probably have that whole discussion with you. And then she’d probably talk to you about how much she likes her school and friends and swimming.

DG: Did she choose swimming? Or did you twist her arm?

MC: No, she, um, from the time that she was little, she always loved to be in the water. And so she really enjoyed swimming. And so we just kind of put her in lessons just really sort of laid back about it. And then, you know, we didn’t push her she didn’t actually even joined the team until she was eight. So she’s really enjoyed it. And my son, he likes to swim too, but he at this time doesn’t want to be on the team. So he really is into golf. And he spent a lot of time over at Sportsman’s. You know, taking golf lessons and he’s going to do the golf camp this summer and hitting balls with his grandpa at the range, which is something my brother did with my dad. So everything is actually my first my very first job in Northbrook. I worked at Reds Garden Center. So I mean, aside from being a babysitter, but I worked at Reds Garden Center. And aside from the Baskin Robbins gig can’t forget that my first real job.

DG: Where you got paid in ice cream

MC: Yes, where I got paid in real money. I worked at Reds Garden Center for several years, which was an awesome experience. It’s a fabulous family that runs that business still today. I learned a lot. And it was great. And I’m really hoping that my kids, you know, because I still adore the family. I’m hoping my kids will have a chance to maybe work there. It’s nice to have some physical labor for my boys and some. I used to organize the store and help with the displays and learn about some of the plants and deal with the customers which was really nice. And I really enjoyed it. So I work there all through high school.

DG: Wonderful. And I don’t want to leave your boys out. So if I was interviewing Jack, what would he tell me about Northbrook?

MC: Jack, huh? Well, jack would let you know that he likes to go and do many golf at Sportsman’s because we count down until that place is open for the season. And he is really into riding his scooter up and down the underpass. Which scares me, It scares the living daylights out of me because he loves to go up and down the hills and underpass and pick up speed. He really is into riding his bike all around. And we have a tot lot near our house in addition to Greenbrier Park. So he spends a lot of time at both of those. And he’s very, very much into Legos right now. So…

DG: And maybe Charlie wouldn’t be quite as verbal. But what would he at least show me?

MC: Well. He’s very excited because he just started preschool and he rides the bus to preschool. So he would probably tell you take the bus and talk to you about Thomas the Train at this point. He likes to swim too, so that’s good. So and they’re all into cooking. We like to cook as a family and my husband and I like to take cooking classes. We love to go to Sur La Table in Northbrook Court, which was not here when I was growing up, obviously. It’s such a fun experience. We’ve really enjoyed doing that. And we’re trying to become chefs. You know, we watch the cooking shows and we try different things. I actually have a crockpot blog and has a huge following in Germany for some reason? I had this Italian chicken recipe, I made this goal that I was going to cook one because I’m a working mom, I was going to cook one crockpot meal a week for 52 weeks. And I was going to blog about it and my kids are going be the judge of if it was good or bad. Well, 52 weeks turned into like two years. And one of my recipes for Italian chicken was pinned on to Pinterest.

DG: Wow.

MC: And then all of a sudden my blog was getting like a million hits.

DG: Wow.

MC: And then I was getting questions. You know, “do you use fresh or frozen chicken?” “But what is Italian seasoning” and what is it was like, oh my gosh. So it’s still there. It’s called and it has some great recipes and I have my own little online cookbook for myself for crockpot, which is really fun.

DG: Oh, that’s great.

MC: Yeah.

DG: Yeah. So I know you’re going to be positive. But what would you say to somebody trying to decide Should I move to Northbrook and spend the money? Or should I move someplace else?

MC: And to me, and I’ve had this conversation a lot of times with my friends who live in the city and start to have kids, to me at Northbrook is just, there’s, it’s first of all, it’s the best location. You can take an express train and be downtown in 40 minutes. Yet you don’t feel like you’re downtown. You know, it’s one of the it’s the only village I can think of around that has such a beautiful park in the middle of town. And there’s just a very close knit community feel we have the best schools I mean, hands down. I can’t say enough about the schools and the community. And I just would say, honestly, come and spend a weekend and come to my neighborhood in the summertime. And the kids are all back and forth. The parents are you know, in someone’s lawn, hanging out and chatting. There’s a lot of impromptu… you know, barbecues. We have a Christmas party on our block where we have a wagon with the drinks, and we go progressive from one person’s house to the next and it’s just a really that street next door to me has this huge block party and they invite us and there’s a band and you know, there’s a community block party. I mean, there’s just such a sense of community that…

DG: I really I think that’s the key to Northbrook.

MC: It is the key. it’s a it’s a big village but yet it doesn’t feel that way.

DG: So Muriel, I want to thank you for telling your story  and for your contributions to Northbrook.

MC:  Thank you and thank you for having me.

DG: Absolutely.