Betty Barclay - Transcript

Transcript of Betty Barclay Oral History.
Interviewee: Betty Barclay
Interviewer: Dorothy Nygren
Date: January 15, 2013
Place: Chicago, Illinois
Transcriber: Arden Gallagher
Total time: 21:45 minutes

Copyright © 2013 Edgewater Historical Society

DN: Today is January 15, 2013. This is Dorothy Nygren of the Edgewater Historical Society interviewing Betty Barclay about her life experiences. Betty maybe we can start off a little bit by talking about how you first came to Edgewater. Were you born here or did you move here?

BB: No I was born in Detroit Michigan.

DN: So when did you come to Edgewater?

BB: Oh, I don’t know, about 50 years ago.

DN: And was that to work? Or to get married and live in a house?

BB: To live in a house.

DN: And was that this house? That we’re in right now?

BB: Yes

DN: So you’ve lived in this house for 50 years? And in this neighborhood for 50 years?


DN: Now, what made you feel that you needed to leave your personal house, raising a family, and get more involved in the community.

BB: Well, you know, we needed a house to raise my children, and we just came here.

DN: How many children do you have, Betty?

BB: Two girls and…

DN: And they were born in this house? They grew up in this house?

BB: They grew up in this house.

DN: And did they go to schools in this neighborhood?

BB Yes they did. They went to Hayt School and Senn High School.

DN: Hayt School and Senn High School. And when they went to hate school you got involved in the school activities I think . Could you tell us a little bit about that? I think you were on the PTA.

BB: Yes, that’s correct.

DN: And what made you decide that you wanted to do more on the PTA? Other than just go to meetings? You became more interested in leadership of the PTA. Involvement in the PTA.

BB: Involvement.I really didn’t intend to get into a leadership position. Things happened. But they needed someone…

DN: So you stepped up and got more involved.

BB: Right.

DN: What was the first role you took on at the PTA?

BB: First role in the PTA…

DN: I think you were involved in the PTA with books – book sales.

BB: That’s right.

DN: And you were chairman, chairperson of the book sale committee.

BB: For a while yes.

DN: Now why did that appeal to you?

BB: Well it was just something practical that I could do and that I could see accomplished.

DN Why was the books aspect of it important to you? As opposed to say sports or something…? (laughs) What is there about books?

BB: It’s always been an interest of mine.

DN: You’re an avid reader…

BB: Yeah.

DN: And do you feel that it’s important to encourage other people to read

BB: Sure.

DN: Why do you think that’s important?

BB: I don’t know. It just helps people learn more about themselves, about the world.

DN: Now at the time you became involved at Hayt, did they have a library at Hayt for the children? The students?

BB: Yeah. Um…..

DN: Do you think the book selection was adequate? That the students had enough reading material in the library? Or did you feel that it needed to be supplemented with more books?

BB: Well, more books were always needed.

DN: So that is how you got involved and became the chairperson of the annual books. Actually, you started the annual book sale at Hayt School. That didn’t exist before you started it.

BB: Well, we had all these books…and things….

DN: Did you feel good about doing that? What gave you a sense of accomplishment about doing that?

BB: Just that ….more people got to have books and stuff.

DN: So these book sales were popular for many many years. And who was the beneficiary of the books. Was it the teachers, the parents or the students? Who got the books?

BB: Who got the books? Oh, you know, the students just came and got books, bought the books, got more books….

DN: It sounds like a win-win situation. To me the students were the beneficiaries of it. Also you were a Cub Scout den mother.

BB: I forgot about that. Yeah, I was for a while.

DN: And what got you involved doing that?

BB: They needed someone and there wasn’t anyone else to do it.

DN: And besides that, you also were a Girl Scout leader.

BB: Yeah.

DN: And could you describe that experience a little bit? What you enjoyed about that?

BB: It was just being with the children.

DN: Going back to when you were a Cub Scout den mother I have in my notes here that you and your husband Bill monitored at Halloween party and a costume parade at Hayt.

BB: I forgot about that. It was a terrible day it was rainy…..

DN: Did you dress in costume?

BB: No

DN: You just helped the children dress in costume. And they paraded around the schoolyard. In the rain?

BB: For a little while.

DN: And then afterwards was there some activity in the school? Candy or a party in the school?

BB: I guess there was a small party.

DN: And how did you feel looking at the kids in their costumes.

BB: Oh, it was fun.

DN: You think that would’ve happened without your efforts?

BB: Oh yeah.

DN: You think somebody else would’ve done it?nvo What makes you think that would’ve happened if you hadn’t done it?

BB: It’s just that the parents wanted it to happen. Some of them anyways.

DN: OK. But that person actually happened to be you that did it.

BB: I guess…

DN: And from what I see here you were not running this Halloween party but you also did Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and book sales and you were involved in the Senn High School PTA as well.

BB: Right.

DN: Now what made you get involved in the Senn High School PTA.

BB: (garbled)… They needed help and so….

DN: But besides help, you became an officer and eventually the president of the PTA.

BB: And so I did.

DN: What was rewarding about that experience?

BB: Oh, just the… working with the people there.

DN: How long did you do that? Can you recall?

BB: No.

DN: Then you are also not just involved at the high school level at Senn but you also became a leader in the city and state chapters of the PTA.

BB: Well, they needed me.

DN: I guess the keyword for getting you involved is need.

BB: I guess so. Yes if someone else would do it it was fine with me.

DN: If no one else was willing to do it you would step up.

BB: Yes.

DN: I think that for Edgewater one of the biggest legacies that you have made has been through the Friends of the Library. Friends of Edgewater library group. Can you talk a little bit about that experience? At that time was there a library in Edgewater?

BB: No we worked together to make sure that it happened. And it did happen (garbled)…

DN: Who worked with you to make sure that it happened? A number of people.

BB: Yeah.

DN: But you provided the seeds, the seed that got planted. And you were the one who watered the garden to make it grow. And how did you get people involved? Did you do flyers? Did you go out into the neighborhood? How did you get people involved in the Friends of Edgewater Library?

BB: I don’t know just through personal interaction I would say.

DN: Do you think it’s important when you’re involved out trying to build community, trying to get people together collectively to participate in a project, such as the friends of the library, you think it’s important that you have that personal interaction? Do you think it helps motivate people?

BB: Oh sure, yeah, sure…

DN: You think it would happen without you asking someone to participate?

BB: Well some are very interested in some need a little outreach.

DN: And your outreach took the form of actually walking from your house to Andersonville and placing flyers in every storefront.

BB: Oh I forgot about that I guess I did.

DN: And that required a great effort, but it seems that you got…

BB: It was good exercise.

DN: Were there other people that helped you?

BB: Oh sure.

DN: And how long did it take to get this going? Project going? I mean as I understand it initially Kathy Gemperle asked you to start this project. To get it off the ground because she knew you were a capable person. Because you were interested in books. So, there was you, who had the desire to do something,and how did you get folks to come along and help you?

BB: I don’t know. Personal interaction. You know you see somebody and get them involved in conversation.

DN: And after speaking with them they would step up and say okay, I’ll do it. I’ll help you out. And then would you get them on a committee or just start them out to pass out flyers?

BB: I get them to come to a meeting and then……

DN: And then when you follow up with more personal interaction?

BB: Yeah and if they didn’t show up I guess I would e-mail them.

DN: Personally I find this an interesting topic because I am involved in my own neighborhood organization and for me it’s a gap between people coming to a meeting and getting them to volunteer. How do you get people to feel that this is their community and their neighborhood and that they should become more involved. What advice would you give me about that? How do you get people to do more?

BB: Well, some people are never going to do anything you just got to recognize those people. You have to keep encouraging them to come and join….

DN: You just keep encouraging them and eventually…

BB: Eventually you’ll come across something that will interest them…

DN: Now after you got the library, how did you feel about that library being built?

BB: Delighted.

DN: And did you just say okay I saw that we’re going to get a library now so I’m going to just sit back and let everybody do their work there and I don’t have to worry about it anymore or were you more involved in checking to see to make sure the library was getting built and the plans are going along?

BB: Well you know… I kept checking on it and eventually it was there.

DN: And once it was there I believe you received an award from the library. From the Chicago Public Library.

BB: Oh that’s right. And let’s see… (unintelligible)… it was an honor…

DN: Now how do you feel about that honor? Was that I’m sure it made you feel great. Feel good getting that that honor was important or do you feel building the library was important thing?

BB: Oh, building the library was important…

DN: Now why is that? Some people would say oh I got this honor and that’s great and I’m going to put it on my living room mantel and everybody who comes over I’m going to show show it to them. Other people say I don’t care about that what’s important for me is what I did. What do you think about that?

BB: Oh I think….I feel very gratified that the library is there… that it was it was torn down… and it’s going to be rebuilt.

DN: It’s in the process of being rebuilt. How do you feel about that. It’s going to be a bigger library. Is there is sadness to see that everything that you built kind of get torn down?

BB: No,

DN: As long as the new library is better it’ll be fine.

BB: It will… (unintelligible)

DN: Besides the library, you were also involved at the Edgewater Community Council. You remember that word you want to talk about it?

BB: Oh you know I would just go to meetings and sat quietly in the back the whole time until it made me indignant and I’d raise my hand and spoke up…

DN: And what about the Edgewater Glen Association? How did you get involved in that?

BB: Oh, you know I just live here in this area and I felt it needed support and…

DN: There are many people who live in an area but they don’t feel bound to give it support. What would you think is the difference between your feelings about jumping in when you see a need because you had a family to raise at the time. But you still saw the need for the community to do something. What do you think might be the difference between you and somebody else who doesn’t get involved.

BB: Well, for some people their daily life problems and family problems take all of their energy. And they just…

DN: And what about your energy? Because you have that situation too. How did you find the extra energy to do all the things that you did. …

BB: Oh I don’t know..

DN: You saw a need.

BB: I guess.

DN: Have any of your children followed in your path? Are they involved in community.

BB: Oh to the extent that they live so far away… in Minneapolis…

DN: Besides involvement in community activities that you have, do you have any other activities or hobbies that you really enjoy?

BB: Well if I could have more cats but that’s not this point in my life.

DN: Now, when the children were little you were young mother were there other activities that you like to do with them… skating, swimming, dancing, reading books I imagine was one?

BB: Yeah, we used to like to walk over to the beach and put our toes in the water, go swimming, or something.

DN: Once the new library was built, the Edgewater Library was built, did you go there often?

BB: Yeah, sure.

DN: What would you do there? Check out books. I imagine. Did you participate in any of the other activities there?

BB: Oh I don’t think so.

DN:Are there any other experiences you would like to share with me. Things that make you good and happy about what you’ve done? Looking back, what do you think your biggest accomplishment was? How you impacted on the community? What you’re most proud of – the Cub Scouts. The PTA, the library…?

BB: I guess the library…

DN: And why was that?

BB: Well, it reaches out to a lot of people. It’s a wonderful resource. When you go over there, you see children enjoying themselves…

DN: I’m sure it makes you feel wonderful in your heart to see that happen and know that you are personally instrumental in making that happen as well as all your other gifts to the community: the Cub Scouts, the PTA, the Edgewater Community Council, all those aspects of community life that you supported and encouraged. And again, on the behalf of the Edgewater Historical Society. Thank you so much for those efforts. And I like to congratulate you on being a Edgewater Living Treasure. I know I have one more question: what advice would you give the younger generation?

BB: Well, … don’t just isolate yourself and just your family. Be a part of the community and you will benefit from a better community .

DN: That’s a wonderful insight and one well worth listening to. Betty congratulations on being chosen as one of Edgewater’s Living Treasures and we look forward to having you in the exhibit.