Terry Turgeon

Terry Turgeon has lived in Northbrook his whole life. He explains how small Northbrook was when he was younger, and shows how it has changed throughout his life so far. He also discusses education in Northbrook when he was in school, and what it was like heading to school every day. His father worked at…

Recorded on June 8, 2012. Length: 30 Minutes.


JH: Hello, today is June 8th, 2012. Good afternoon and welcome to Northbrook voices an oral history project of the Northbrook Historical Society and the Northbrook Public Library. My name is Judy Hughes, and I’m pleased to welcome Terry Turgeon, who has lived and worked in Northbrook for his entire life. Terry has some really interesting stories about growing up here, about Sky Harbor airport, and some things that maybe we’ve never heard before. So Terry, welcome. We’re so glad to have you here, and first, I’d like to just ask you to tell us a little bit about growing up — what you remember about growing up in Northbrook.

TT: Well, going way back, it was a much smaller town obviously than we’re living in today. So was much friendlier than it is today simply because of the lack of humanity. Overwhelming individual contacts but it was a much smaller, quieter tone. An example would be melters grocery store where you would go and sit at a u-shaped table as the front and tell the usually grandpa Melzer or Helen or Dorothy what you want, and they would go pick the order, and they would get it he would leave and kids would be told by grandpa Meltzer never stick your elbow up the window of a car and never put anything smaller than your elbow up your nose, and that was truly educational and someday we’ll tend to believe in.

JH: Absolutely, and where did you live when you first lived in Northbrook?

TT: First house in Northbrook was Walter avenue was 2335 about three houses east of Western, and that was before Western actually went further south and Walters — and I believe my folks bought that house about 1940, and then my dad liked to move so he built a house and wallet??? subdivision, and it was one of three houses there at the time of crash??? across the street from Martin Waller, who had been a friend of my dad and it was number that doesn’t exist anymore because there were no numbers in there, and the post office as my dad what’s your address and he said there is no address as well or like I said we’ll pick a number so it became 100.

JH: And then from there where did you live?

TT: We moved to Waukegan road. Actually a street that is our address that’s no longer there because it was about a two acre parcel and they built a street on the south boundary — the property called Shagbern??? lane and then access to the house was off of Shagbern??? lane so no more was there 1310 Waukegan road, and then we went — got to be patient.

JH: Okay.

TT: We went to Cedar lane 1001 Cedar lane.

JH: Now that address is still there?

TT: That address is still there but they tore the house down and built a new house, and then we move to Huckleberry lane, and that house is still there, and then by the time I got married, we started living by us — my wife and soon to be kids lived on — back to Cedar lane, but four houses from where we lived before, and then when my mother passed away, we moved into that house for about six months so we moved to Woodlawn, we moved to the southwest corner of Pfingsten and Walters, which is a unique house but that’s also another subdivision, and finally we moved to ??? which is just about 1300 feet to the west of the Walters last house.

JH: And you’ve been there a while.

TT: Only since 2006.

JH: Well, that’s a — that’s a few years. Waukegan road. What do you remember about living on Waukegan road?

TT: Many, many things. One if you go back we moved in to Waukegan road in 1952, and it obviously was kind of quiet and we’ll give you one very small tidbit that I found fascinating. When we lived on Waukegan road, I was going to the village and farm school on Sanders road, and what I was about nine I believe I had permission to ride my bicycle to school. Now that’s a long way, and among the strange things that happened it was before they built the tollway so Techny to go west toward Sanders, was a very large hill because they did a lot of fill??? to raise the level of the road so they could have an overpass over the tunnel way. So it was a place that you’d go on probably get up to 30-40 miles an hour and a bicycle and scare yourself to death, and after that intersection, you would go south to Willow road and Willow road was a two way set. You had to stop on Sanders because Willow road went through. Now that’s frightening to think that a 10 year old kid is going to go across this high speed road today. But that’s the way it was. I must have survived as I’m still here.

JH: What do you — do you remember? Reiland and Bree on Waukegan road?

TT: Sure. Absolutely. It was the southeast corner of Walters and Waukegon.

JH: And what do you remember about Reiland and Bree?

TT: The building basically. We didn’t really have any contact. It’s like, further on down the road I had to think for a second, there was a husband and wife — attorney, family, and they had kids that were older than I and their kids, they were divorce attorneys and they get divorced.

Now, Vic renilla was number of years older than I believe he’s an attorney, and he had no contact but it was just they had a large house, and so it was again that many things that were there. Things were working, again not the luck, you go across the street on the side of Waukegan, there were not the houses that there are today, and if you go south of Walters, on the west side of the street, there was nothing. It was just vacant, no schools because it’s as I had mentioned I had went to Crestwood and that was the junior high, the northbrook junior high. So that was all just vacant.

JH: You mentioned the village in farm school. So when you got on your bicycle you probably about five mile, but you’ve — just from Waukegan road to Sanders —

TT: Uniquely enough —

JH: and Willow —

TT: When your nine or 10 years old and you’re allowed to ride your bike to school for the first time, it seemed like about 80 feet, because it was exciting. But it was a long distance. But again, when you’re young distances become — we get — beyond comprehension. So you don’t think about it.

JH: So tell us about the village and farm school.

TT: Well, it was a — it was structured, as I’m led to believe, these many years after schools that were created to have half a day of academic or classroom study and then half a day of farm activity. Any one of things you might imagine we might be picking corn across the street where Allstate is today AC Nielsen. So a lot of that was cornfields it was all farm. So once a year, twice a year we go across and all the kids would be walking along next to a flatbed trailer picking up corn and throwing it on the back. Academically it was at the time, it just seemed like school. When I finished fifth grade went to Crestwood, which was the junior high I found out that it was pretty well advanced because I was placing rarely in seventh grade, mostly in eighth grade and every one of the tests that I took, so when I went into sixth grade it was — it was so ridiculously easy. It was embarrassing, which is not a good thing to have happened to need to be challenged. But in any event, it was a — it was a unique environment, really it was run by two ladies, Wanda Brandeis and Lenny Johnson, and it just they had a woodshop where you would work part of the day. I can —  I still have vivid memories of noon time where you had to take a nap when you were younger, and you would listen to WLS radio, they would tell stories for at least 15 minutes, somewhere around that time, and it was just a lot of fun. We take field trips, we actually if you walk out the back of the school and continue to going west you’d end up near dam number one. So this was a great adventure to go hiking through what was the woods and the trees and — those who have been at dam number one know they had a shelter, they’re just a real nice place to go, and again, if you’re young it becomes larger than life.

JH: Almost more an adventure than —

TT: Absolutely

JH: — than a school day.

TT: Absolutely.

JH: How large was the school?

TT: I would guess — that’s a toughy. I would guess. I’m going to give you a real, real accurate measurement between 50 and 100 kids.

JH: Okay.

TT: It had a fair number of people and they were drawn from Glenview, Northbrook Deerfield, Highland Park Glencoe, and probably a few other niche places and my recollections of just the structures that were there because they had all sorts of farm animals, and — so you would get an introduction to feeding chickens and less than exciting is watching them being killed because they kill chickens to show the evolution of a chicken from being hatched with eggs to as an egg to being used for human consumption, and we would say lambs because they wouldn’t have sheep that were shared, and so ???

JH: You said you’ve lived here your entire life and your dad like to move what drew your dad to Northbrook.

TT: Probably the airport. Since being an operator of an airport and wheeling Pewaukee airport, he and a an investor bought Sky Harbor in 1937. At the time he was living in Deerfield when they bought the airport. He had the opportunity to live closer to work, although it’s pretty close. So I moved to Northbrook.

JH: And tell us about the airport.

TT: The airport it was a unique place in many, many ways. Being a person who was born and raised with the airport, it was a life, and it was hard for me to understand how come people couldn’t understand why I had the reaction to it that I did well, I guess I just thought that didn’t everybody have an airport to grow up at, and I spent a great deal of my life there, and it probably took away some of my time from interacting with friends, but it was just an unreal experience. We had a super customer base of just tremendously friendly people. They were successful, so they could afford to either learn how to fly their own on an airplane, and so it gave me perspectives into unbelievably diverse businesses at the table, and it also allowed me — the airport allowed me the ability to get an understanding of structures, how they build things now because we have a complete shop for repairing airplanes, fixing airplanes, and the engine shop or propeller shop, electronic shop or radio shop as was called at that time, and in addition to the flight school and buying and selling airplanes, so it was a very diverse exposure to a lot of different things, which can be confusing, but you do learn some.

JH: Now there’s the the large hanger, the first — the hanger with the arch in the front.

TT: Are you are talking about the hanger that’s there today or the one that was there close to Dundee road?

JH: Well, that’s what I’m wanting to find out where things were and what they were.

TT: Logistically, if you started Dundee road, there was a small building, which was the headquarters for the Midway airlines when it was there in the late 40s, early 50s. It became the flight office which was the kind of the headquarters for flight training, and it also evolved into — they get sales ops is there for selling airplanes now that all of these different departments move from different places in the airport. So at any given time, some things could be one place or another. The next building to the north is a large storage hangar, which had the the reference as the 29 hanger because the war surplus right after World War Two, and it was large enough to house two Boeing B 29. bombers. Which, most famously were known for bombing Tokyo, or actually Japan not Tokyo, and as you go further north, there were a series of about 12 individual hangars that were larger than the next batch in the house twin engine aircraft, and then you have two rows of single engine storage hangars, individual storage hangars, and then you finally get to the hangar that’s there today, which was referred to as the North hanger, and that was basically storage and offices for the operation airport. Although there was the flight office in that building for a while, and then lastly, if you go north, there’s actually two hangars, hangar that’s a little bit larger, is originally — was originally a shop hangar and then the little smaller one that’s closer — closer to Anthony trail, was originally a paint shop, and the back of it was the parts department that became totally a parts department than a radio shop was behind a — so it had a multitude of us over the years and Lord knows what it’s used for now.

JH: I don’t know, and what kind of planes flew out of sky harbor during your memory, your time

TT: Well. Basically, if you go back as far back as I can remember, they were small what is referred to as general aviation aircraft. Essentially Cessna aircraft because happened to be assessment, airplane distributorship, located there, but Piper’s and Beechcraft and all propeller airplanes was referred to as reciprocating engine airplanes. I can think of only two turbine airplanes that ever landed up there, and that was probably the late — late 60s early 70s. Yeah and  it was a busy place, up to about 140 airplanes. They’re –very active flight school, and —

JH: You mentioned midway Air Lines. Can you tell us a little bit about midway airlines.

TT: [Midway] Airlines was created and I’m speculating a bit pn when but it was probably the late 40s and it had three or four single engine Cessna 195 aircraft they actually carried they are capable of carrying five people in one of which made the pilot and they would operate between skyharbour, midway, and makes field and a regular schedule, and they then ended up buying a twin engine Locky ten A which fit in the fleet and then they ended up getting financed and oraclized by the bankers life and casualty company. Bankers life and casualty company, for some reason, had repossessed some British twin engine airplanes so they had them on ??? and they fit that into the program, because it would help them out and they thought it would help the airline out and promptly put them out of business. So that was the end of it. They were located in the original — this was the southern most building on the field which again, I’ve referred to as flight office, but it was also the terminal building for midway.

JH: And did you ever have helicopters flying out of —

TT: Yup. Briefly in the early 60s we took a bell 47 helicopter in trade from one of our customers another aircraft that they wanted, and actually the son of my dad’s partner in the airport, Donn Madis, had gotten his helicopter ??? very big 50 so he was flying that for the airport for a while so they have lasted probably optimistically year and a half more like a year and it ceased to happen anymore because simply it takes approximately 20 hours of maintenance to fly the airplane one hour. So it doesn’t have become cost effective. That being the case, we have??? really found a customer for the helicopter and stuck to the airplanes — were more productive.

JH: Now, did you work — did you work at the airport?

TT: Yup. When I was growing up, I had — odd jobs. One of my earlier memories was when I was in my early teens, I was probably at substantial pain in the neck to most people there because I love the place and curiosity is — does not make for a quiet and patient person. So I would either be asking questions or getting involved. So they finally figured out that they would put me at a Ford tractor with a big rotary mower and I could cut grass, and so that would be my first job, and on the west side of the north south runway, from Dundee road going north, probably a quarter mile, it was a hedgerow lilacs that were absolutely — they were probably 15 feet tall and very, very thick, and I learned to love lilacs, because the first row that you’d cut, you’d have to get real close to get all the grass and couldn’t help it. Got a lot.

JH: Do you have any memory at all of the peony farm that was next door?

TT: Absolutely, that was owned by my Madison’s father — actually girl Madison, and it was a little over four acres. The airport is 126 acres and mini farms was four, so it actually in total when it was put up for sale 129.6 acres, and it was enhanced some ???. But in a house, it was basically just a resonance with that abundance of land, and there were some deities there, but I don’t have any recollection of anything more significant. You know, it wasn’t like there was ??? of ??? it —

JH: It closed in 45. So it would be — would be very young.

TT: Right. So it was to — get really — if you were to see it in, say 50, 1950 to any period thereafter, it was you would think it was just a house that had been rounded up ??? bought it just to gather the total acreage of the airport.

JH: Okay, and when you you’ve expressed your love of the airport and your love of airplanes, when you grew up, what did you do?

TT: Well, I actually got involved flying airplanes, and so for last, how many years would have been…  50–55 years I’ve been doing airplanes stuff, I spent the last 30 plus flying a jet airplane for a company in Chicago. So fortunately, or unfortunately, as the case may be, forced me to fly all over the Western Hemisphere, and the company actually made shoe leather, and it was a tannery in Chicago, and so they were selling shoe leather to companies all over the place, and the man who owned the company loved to fish. So we get a lodge in Canada, and we have to drop them off every Friday afternoon, come home every Sunday afternoon, and in the wintertime, we would go to by any place you can think of down south, I started going to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in 1975, and we went there at least two, three times a year for the next 25-28 years, and we also went to Central America, number places in Mexico — the Caribbean, pretty well covered. So it was it was very enjoyable experience.

JH: Going back to skyharbour. When you mentioned the property being sold and how many acres was the one that was sold?

TT: 129.6 acres

JH: 129 —

TT: It was sold in November of 1966 to a company called fidelity investment, who had a gentleman was a in the jewelry business in Chicago, but he had a side business that was leasing airplanes. So it was a company that became known as Lisa Blaine, and itexisted there from — it probably and didn’t get — go along too well until the early part of 67, and it cease to function in the early 70s actually airport close to march of 1973.

JH: And — it — did you have I’ve heard you tell me about the last plane that flew out of the airport.

TT: Will you make that my day? That was the early part of march of 73. There may have been some other airplanes that flew in and out of there afterwards when the airport was closed, but memory as to the specifics.

JH: Okay. Tell us a little bit about your family. You’ve mentioned your wife and your eventual children.

TT: Right. I have a wife Diana, who discovered me and to her probably ???, ??? and married me. It was in 1981, and we have still lived in Northbrook and we have two kids, son Chris, and his son Josh, and they are as enthusiastic about Glen– Northbrook as — as it was kind of fun, my wife grew up in Arlington Heights and her family moved around somewhat so she hadn’t ever really spent a very long period of time anywhere, and she’s now been in Northbrook for 33, 30-40 years, and she actually is extremely pleased about it, and happy that we didn’t move around. It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve done some of the smaller things I’ve had fun with the village church and been a member of the village church since I was confirmed. If I was 13, which I believe is a great age and those born in 42, that would be since about 1955, and it’s been fun to watch it grow including watching its original location, which was Church Street at Chapel court. I have an aunt that got married there so.

JH: Okay. And what is it that makes Northbrook so special to you?

TT: Well. Probably the strongest feelings I have for Northbrook, and what makes the most special is they’ve been here for a very long time. Because human beings have a characteristic which is remembering the good and not remembering the not so good, and so that — that’s the strongest thing. I have very, very strong beliefs about — though I didn’t realize that at the time how a really neat it was to have a few people in town with a population was microscopic by comparison when we had one policeman in town. Though I do remember when we got the second policeman who had the nickname three fingered jack, but it’s — it’s a place that you tend to compare where you live to places close by confessedly comparing to Glenview and to Deerfield, and as time goes on, happier and happier a little bit Northbrook and Glenview, and I’m happy that I live in Deerfield again. It’s almost impossible to describe why it’s more of feeling than a — that something you can kind of concretely  with specificity saying okay, it’s because of this with that everything else it just, it’s — it’s a warm place. I sadly miss the people that used to be here, I sadly miss Meltzers grocery store and miss a lot of the small things. Zach’s hardware and a gift bags. Lord knows what else, but there have been tons and tons of really great people that have moved in tons and tons of stores that have come and been here. Obviously, sunset. Where would we be without Robert Arnie? Store has been dynamite in every location.

JH: Absolutely. Well, it’s already almost 30 minutes in our conversation, and I think I need to talk to you for about another six or seven hours. So —

TT: I’m at your disposal

JH: Well thank you. This — this interview is just about over. Is there anything that we missed that you’d like to make sure we cover?

TT: Not that’s popping to mind right now and I’m sure in five minutes it will. So we’ll save that for another occasion.

JH: Okay. Well, thank you so very much for participating in Northbrook — Northbrook voices. Your memories of life in Northbrook will add a unique and personal perspective due to the history of our village, thank you for your work.