Rae Ann and Bob Cecrle - Transcript

Transcript of Rae Ann and Bob Cecrle
Interviewer: Dorothy Nygren
Date: 3/10/13
Place: the Cecrles home
Transcriber: Carly Faison
Total Time: 46:59

Copyright © 2013 Edgewater Historical Society

0:05 DN: Today is March 10, 2013 and I’m at the lovely home of Rae Ann and Bob Cecrle, conducting an oral interview for the Edgewater Historical Society. This is Dorothy Nygren. First of all, I’d like to thank you both for everything you’ve done for the Edgewater community. It’s been really a long time and very remarkable both in terms of your time and financial support and we’re very grateful for that. Secondly, I’d like to congratulate you on being chosen 2013 Living Treasures of Edgewater. We’d like to honor you and all you’ve done, so congratulations.

0:48 RC: Well thank you very much it’s really an honor.

BC: Thank you.

RC: It’s really exciting.

0:53 DN: So my first question to you is how did you come to Edgewater? Were you born here, did you move here, what was your journey to Edgewater?

RC: Why don’t you take that one [turning to Bob]?

BC: I don’t think so. You’re the one that’s, you know, one day, Rae Ann being in real estate, she likes to surprise me. And she said, “I think we outta go take a look at a building in Edgewater in Chicago.” And then one thing led to another, and that’s kind of how we got in here, but I’m not too sure exactly prompted you to have to pick out this particular location.

DN: And what year was that, Rae Ann?

1:26 RC: We came in here, we actually became invested in 1980, 1981 but we bought a building in Rogers Park. I thought well, we came through a nice era there and in 1976 was when we really first started investing more in the suburbs. I was from the suburbs, he was from the city so he knew more about the city and I don’t know, we just read some ads, talked to some realtors and they showed us a place over on Winthrop, which we had no idea of what we were getting into. It just had little places in Elgin. This was just a whole different education here. But it was very exciting. We took a seven-story building. We gutted it and we redid it. We were called the pioneers of Winthrop. We didn’t really know what we were doing but we found out very quick. The community was fantastic. I think that was one of the first things, because it wasn’t, we knew, we didn’t realize how hard it was going to be. There were fifty boarded up buildings on Winthrop and Kenmore from Foster to Devon at that time. Fifty boarded up buildings so it was really a very bad area.

2:46 We started working with the community. Jack Markowski from the Edgewater Community Council had us come over and talk to us. We talked with June Travles who was very active in the area. Marion Volini was the alderman and just kind of got involved with the, people were just so grateful to have people coming in and we really fell right in with the community. It was amazing and at first our idea was to be investors and to be these dynamo people that were going to invest and it wasn’t even about money after that. We did that unit. We nearly lost our shoot on that we really did but we stuck in there, we fought, and worked with all the community people, got to know them very very well. Then started buying other problem buildings in the area one by one. Every single one that we took was a problem building. We turned them around, brought in good tenants.

3:52 It was exciting. It was really exciting. It was creative. It was taking these horrible buildings that weren’t really horrible but were turning them into something that was a nice place to live. That’s what we have worked on for many many years. Finally, I was involved in real estate but my line was, I was a hairdresser for over twenty-five years. So that was my bread and butter. Bob had an ornamental ironwork business. The real estate is what we did for fun. [laughs]

4:24 DN: Fun to take a boarded up building, you know, and turn it around.

RC: Right. So we did probably about seven or eight of them. Not always totally gutting them, but turning them around. Got involved with the organizations when I finally, after twenty-five years I finally retired from my beauty shop business and we moved in here. I knew the owner who owned this plot of land that we bought this on. He was a terrible landlord, but I enjoyed him. He was a character. We decided to build these row houses. We were going to move into the city, and so that was a whole ’nother section of our lives. We already had about four or five buildings that we were running, and just kept renovating. This was really a challenge but this was a delight. Thom Greene, who’s with the historical society, was our architect and we had Marion Volini, who was our realtor at that time. We really had the right people on the right thing and it really gave us a wonderful project here.

5:42 BC: It seemed to be advantageous to have the people working the local area working with us, such as Thom Greene and Camillo Volini when he was alive, and Marion. It worked out well because we know them, we’re living right here, so it worked out very well.

5:58 DN: So your first entry into Edgewater was as a business investment. Through the business investment, you got to know the people in Edgewater and eventually came to Edgewater and move here as a place you wanted to live.

6:13 RC: Yes our first project was in 1982, and then we did another one in 1986. We also were helping the neighbors and we did some general contracting for some of the neighbors. We were building this up. We, I particularly, Bob had his own work, but I particularly joined a lot of the organizations. I got on the Safety Committee meetings, I got on Edgewater Beautiful, which was to help make Edgewater, and then throughout the years I worked really strong on those. I became president for six years of the Edgewater Uptown Builders Association. I networked with a lot of developers, property managers. Without that networking, I can’t imagine where we’d be at today. It was so important.

7:02 Then I joined the Community Council. I worked on that on committees. I was president there for three years and just kept working on the committees because they were all tied into making the community look better. One of the committees, one of the organizations that I really liked was I became commissioner on the SSA #26 [Special Service Area #26] and I just loved that. From what we saw of Broadway back in 1982 and the 1980s and to transform it as to what it is today, it was just really really exciting.

7:33 DN: What is the SSA?

RC: The SSA is the title of a Special Service Area and they have a number. So today most of the areas in Chicago have SSAs. Andersonville has SSA. It’s a program in the business areas where there’s a very small percent of tax money that goes to the SSA. The SSA commissioners decide where that’s going to be spent and how that’s going to be spent and then they can improve the areas. They did such things as they have, most of the areas all have this, trash pickup three times a week, which we never had before. You would see trash all over Broadway in the curbs. When you came in twenty years ago, twenty years ago was much much better than it had been at that time. We brought in the planters and we were power-washing the sidewalks. Just so many positive things for the area that was really fun to do.

8:33 DN: To make it a visually desirable area and safe area to want to shop.

RC: Actually yes. It turned out to be a passion of mine to make the area prettier. I mean I was very strong in safety but to make it prettier. While I was on the Edgewater Community Board I organized the community for the first time to paint the Thorndale “L” station. That was, I mean all the stations looked so bad. We had about fifty people out there helping paint that station and it was so fun because it was like wow. Then we ended up doing a lot of the other ones. I worked with Loyola. I worked with different ones because I already had some experience of what to do, so it was easy to help organize it knowing about the paints. I had Thom Greene give us colors for Granville. He gave us colors for the Glenlake one.

9:43 DN: She sounds like a dynamo, Bob.

RC: But it was really really fun. With the SSA we started planting Boston ivy. We put it by our property so it’s hard to grow because I can remember one time we spent two years growing the ivy and then they had some volunteers go clean up the alley and they pulled all my ivy out. [laughs] So we started over again. So it’s been a really really exciting time and the people. I was born and raised in Elgin and I found more people here feel more tied into the community than what I even know in Elgin anymore. It’s been a wonderful experience meeting so many really great people and as we know, it’s such a diverse area, I love that. Everybody, nobody is different because everybody is different and it’s just so fun to live with so many people and a lot of it was the passion for Edgewater that brought around those common denominators.

10:47 DN: I’d like to go back to when you were talking about the problems you encountered with the first building, your first entry into Edgewater. You said you encountered a lot of problems.

11:00 RC: We did.

DN: Could you talk about that a little bit more?

RC: Yes. We gutted that building and totally redid it. We underestimated the cost of what we were going to do and the length of time. In the first year, we took it down from sixty-two studio apartments to forty. Did a fun job on it. It really looked nice. It’s still there through a different owner now. Our problem was is that we didn’t really understand the rental market on Winthrop and Kenmore. Nobody wanted to live there and we didn’t want to keep bringing in the same people. We could have rented it up easily but through talking to the community, trying to get more new people in, that was the problem. I had a couple realtors that were working with me. Sherri Kranz, who is still around, and June Travlos and they helped me rent. But the first year, we only had the forty units, we only rented eight.

12:22 I had no idea that landlords could fight their taxes for the vacancy. Never ever even thought of that. Today I, for the last twenty years I fought my own taxes, but we were just so green. And trying to get good people in there and quite naïve about it. It was very hard, very hurtful, the debt load was indescribable and to this day I have a lot of empathy for people. When I know that they’re having troubles I want to help them because I know how painful it can be but if you hang in there it’ll turn out okay. So it did. We worked for fifteen years building properties and never took any money out except to go back in the properties and keep building it up. So that’s why both of us were working our other jobs and I say that what was building the properties was fun. [laughs]

13:18 DN: I see. I’d like to also have you clarify for the purposes of the interview what you mean about bad people and good people because from doing these interviews I know that you don’t mean bad people mean necessarily minority people or people of different political or gender affiliations but more the kind of people that are good or bad tenants so could you talk about that a little bit?

13:42 RC: Yes. It really, bad people has nothing to do with their culture or their, sometimes there were just people that, and at that time I call bad people were really not bad people. I mean today what I call bad people is gangs that are pretty severe. The people that were in the area at that time were just people who had a lot of bad luck. A lot of them, there were a lot of street people, people that came off the street. You wanted to try to build up and have good neighbors. You wanted to try to have stability and so there were more social problems at that time where people couldn’t cope. A lot of them couldn’t afford it. Many people in some of the buildings, there was not management techniques. They would just rent up to them and hope they paid. We were trying to create something that would be stable, good neighbors, and then somebody that anybody could move into the building and feel comfortable with.

15:00 I don’t deny that some of them really had strong problems but there were so many. Edgewater at that time was like a dumping ground for Chicago. Being the smallest community with the largest density, there were about thirty-three special services buildings that organizations that brought them all to Edgewater. Most of them were on Winthrop and Kenmore which I criticize today. They were bringing problem people into a problem area and it wasn’t getting better. And since that time there has been a lot of turnover in that way and helping the people, but I still criticize when organizations will bring a person that has problems and give them to a problem landlord. A problem landlord does not run his buildings right and I very strongly advocate against problem landlords.

16:02 But I’m not angry with them. What we try to do throughout the years is try to get them into management classes, give them positive feedback just like I received. I had such great networking that I’ve talked to landlords and say, “Look, this is what we can do. We’re working with you.” So it’s been a tremendous change and excitement having all that happen.

16:27 DN: So I’m getting the feeling from you that being a landlord means have certain social responsibility to the area and to the tenants so that you can have good management and also trying to help landlords through some kind of education and tenants through some kind of education for how to be good neighbors in a community. Not just a little one person living your own life, that it’s connected to larger.

16:53 RC: Absolutely. I was on seminars with other landlords who, like myself, through hard knocks of learning, we had boards and then we tried to get other landlords in. When the Edgewater Community Council we had a housing committee, and I was on the housing committee. I was on every committee, but through those housing committees we worked really hard to bring the landlords in. We also took a lot, I took a lot of classes through the Community Advancement Corporation, which gave housing techniques. Fair housing, fighting your taxes, how to improve your buildings. There were so many techniques. Most of the people who I use today who are the heart of our business is I’ve gotten accountants through networking with these people. I’ve had contractors, my architect. I mean, our realtor. I got all of those by networking. It was so beneficial to me that I wanted to share that. I wanted to share and say, “You know, this is okay.”

18:04 We did deal with some slum landlords. It was kind of funny dealing with but I could communicate, I could say what I wanted. “You know this is what you really need to be doing.” So it was kind of not just myself but working with other people and myself working to help them. Safety has always been a big issue. A big issue. I feel very responsible. Bob’s work in the ironwork we do a lot of safety. We have ironwork and safety items all over our buildings. The gates and windows, because we’ve rented to a lot of single women or anybody so we’ve always been on safety. I also believe 100% in curb appeal. We’ve done probably for our rental building we’ve probably put in more curb appeal than I know than the average person. We planted our flowers out in the parkway, our buildings all have flowers. We keep the tuck-pointing up, and I think the curb appeal makes a difference.

19:07 And then the thing is is that you have to service your tenants. They’re not tenants, they are really customers. I bring that back from my years as a hairdresser. I was used to servicing people. So you know they call me up and I’ll say, “Yeah, hi, what can I do for you today?” It’s that kind of thing. What can I do for you, not what are you doing for me. I’ve gained a pretty good reputation as a landlord, and I’m proud of it and I love my buildings with a passion. I love making Edgewater more beautiful. I love that now, today, we can really give people nice places to live at a reasonable price and it’s a place that I can live in. It’s enjoyable to sit back and say, “Wow, we were a part of that!” But not by ourselves.

19:58 BC: The first thing that we did is start putting up wrought iron fences, which is kind of a place where people can look at and feel safer. Perception is reality, especially when these young people are coming in there renting a building, young ladies, and they felt much safer being behind a wrought iron fence that was locked and had access to security. That helped a lot. I think we’ve in fact, after the first building we did we did another building on the corner of Hollywood and Winthrop.

20:35 DN: Bob, I’m going to ask you to stop, I have to cough.

BC: Go.

DN: What you’re saying is important and I don’t want my cough to be part of this transcript. I love what you said about putting up the wrought iron stuff too for safety and everything so when you’re talking again don’t forget to talk about that.

RC: It gets very exciting to talk about this.

DN: I can see and that’s wonderful. It’s a great, great interview. Sherri Kranz is also one of the Living Treasures. She has talked about those things. I mean it was a real education for me about how many buildings in Kenmore and Winthrop were in such bad shape. As I said I’ve lived in this area but really going to the train, you don’t drive down Kenmore and Winthrop for the most part so you don’t see it, you don’t know. So Bob if you’ll go back to what you were saying.

21:48 RC: Like I said, we started putting up wrought iron fences for security, because I say perception is reality. Some of the people were really enthusiastic about that because they felt safer. Whether or not they actually were, that’s a moot point. For example, in the corner building there was actually a crack house that a sixteen room building with twenty-five sleeping rooms in there. It was just a terrible place and they were dealing right out on the street. I took that over as the second building we took over, and we just completely gutted the whole thing and made it into a twelve flat, started putting up fences and getting people you know, this is a private area now. It worked out. I don’t know how many we put up, up and down not only our buildings, but everybody else started to say, “Well maybe I better do something too.”

22:41 RC: Well the block that we started was the 5700 block of Winthrop and it was desolate. It just, there was no grass, there was no nothing, so here we had this building that we tried to make a jewel, and everything looked bad around us. We organized through the other owners in the block. Bob put up wrought iron fencing for them. He almost gave it away, just to get them to do it and so they all put up fencing. And so then we organized and got the owners to let me landscape the front of their properties so we landscaped about five, six properties, we put flowers in plants, and kept it down at a cost of, I can’t remember, like three hundred dollars. I was getting plants out of place that this man told me. It was closed up and I’d go use plants. It was just incredible. And then we also started planting flowers around trees in the parkway and we organized a safety committee to at night we’d take turns driving around in cars from twelve o’clock to four o’clock in the morning. At that time, there were no cell phones. There were phones that people would be dealing in the phone booths at the gas stations. So, we worked on that, and that was just one thing after another. All the energy that we put there.

24:13 We learned so much that we went into another building that was just a horrible building. The woman’s husband passed away and she was young. They were a young couple. She was only forty-two years old and she asked us to manage it and I said I would never take this over, I said unless you want to be a partner with me. So she was a partner for twenty years. She was never at the building for ten years. I think maybe once in twenty years, but we turned it over. It’s a beautiful building. It’s a beautiful, beautiful building. It’s my pride and joy, I love that building. You know you get involved with it. It’s almost like you built something and it’s like it’s your possession. You just want to see it looking lovely all the time.

24:57 BC: It’s like having children. [laughs]

DN: I was just thinking that, Bob.

BC: But really, yeah.

25:03 RC: I’ll throw this in there. As I worked with a lot of the community groups and got to know them, that was really great. And then we finally decided that we were going to, we’ve got enough here, we don’t want any more, let’s just maintain. We’re retirement age, but we don’t want to retire. So we’ll just maintain. So I got involved with, and this was only in 2009, which has been my passion but as the economy dropped. I was also on the Edgewater Chamber [of Commerce], businesses were moving out. They were not renewing their leases. There were all these vacant storefronts and then we came up with the idea of getting art in the vacant storefronts. So I formed the Edgewater Artists in Motion so for the last four years I’ve been very very active in that. That, we’ve probably got three hundred and fifty people on our constant contact list now, over a hundred artists.

26:05 Now what I see happening there is, especially at the CTA stations, they were all vacant stores for all those years so we put art in there and lit them up and people loved it. So I formed committees and I’m not the best organizer in the world but I get other people who have a talent for that, so we’re working on that. That’s probably the next passion is to get, and I know the alderman wants to do this and I know of so many people want more art in the area and just enhance the area with the art. I think that it does that. I think it helps the businesses. We worked really hard to bring some good businesses in on Granville, which we did. We’ve worked, there’s been new businesses. A lot of windows that we did have new businesses in them, like Lickity Split was one of the ones and Henrietta’s had some of the artwork. So it’s been a new challenge and a new direction.

27:09 I’m still with my groups for management on the buildings because that’s always changing. I probably took on too much. This piece of art right here is by one of the artists in the area. And so it’s just incredible the amount of artists that I found that have come out of Edgewater that I never even remember we were talking about art then, but I think that’s the direction it’s going to go. It gives beauty to the area. It increases the people to come into the area and use the businesses, use the theaters, use the restaurants, and so that’s kind of where I think that we’re headed and I think it’s very exciting.

27:53 DN: I’m stopping this for just a minute. I had given you a whole bunch of questions but you’re covering them on your own time so I’m just going to ask you to continue talking about what you might like to talk about because I’ve asked you how you came to Edgewater, what the problems were, how you’ve addressed the problems, what future, what direction do you see Edgewater going in. So, please just continue talking about those areas.

28:22 RC: I think Edgewater looks so wonderful today and I have to credit through the series of aldermen we’ve had. I mean each one has done and built on and built on. Then there’s also people like myself and Bob who have been here and we’re still backing up but then the new people, the younger people that are coming in. I’ve been, I have not participated, and I know there’s a lot of efforts going into the schools. I haven’t participated in that mainly because I’ve been so busy on the other but I think that’s extremely important. I think the business district was really important and I think that through the Chamber and other organizations that is coming up much much better.

29:14 I love what has happened to CTA stations. I never thought that I would see that renovation in my lifetime. Now, I need to be able to rent out to good places. The restaurants that we have today. We used to say, “We want to have restaurants that we can walk to.” That are restaurants we can walk to. So it’s just really really very exciting and I think it will keep going. I think that people are just going to keep building on this. I don’t think we’ve stopped. [Kathy] Osterman beach, I mean, all these improvements are just so exciting. But there’s so many people coming in with more ideas. To me, it was really like pioneering, so we did that part. But there’s other people that keep building onto it. It’s going to be really exciting and I’m sure in my old age I’ll still be right here and I will be seeing these things and enjoying it.

30:09 DN: Bob, I’d like to turn the conversation to you a little bit. Sherri’s responded to, I’m sorry. Rae Ann’s responded to the real estate efforts that you’ve made here. Your investments and your participation in Edgewater. Would you like to add a little bit more about that. I’d also like to ask you to speak about the safety features that you put on the windows a little bit. The irons that were put.

30:40 BC: Yeah we found that the window guards that we put up on many of the buildings, that helped a lot. Again, perception is reality. That allowed the people to be more comfortable in their units and especially the ground floor where people were breaking into certain places. In the back of our buildings we put in these what they call expanded metal gates where you can’t climb on them and we had to put some of them as high as sixteen feet high to keep out the people that wanted to get in that didn’t belong there. It was tough and you know, it still is to this day. We’re doing the same things.

31:19 RC: The courtyards and the intercom.

BC: Not only there, but around the whole city. That’s an ongoing process. The gates also have, as Rae Ann mentioned, the intercom systems, whereby you have to identify somebody before you let them in to the courtyard. All our buildings are courtyard buildings. When we first did it, it was really quite an innovate thing because there weren’t fences to speak of. A few. And remember even the church over on [unintelligible] was broken into any number of times. We put a fence around the place and it stopped the whole thing, right there, which was good. So we felt good about that. But even decorative. Across the street we put in parkway fencing. This parkway fencing, or parkways they seem to be the forgotten child so to speak. They turned out to be dumping grounds for garbage, for whatever have you. We put these up and landscaped them, changed the whole complexion of the building. It’s worked out very well. Security is a big thing, and I’m glad we were able to participate in doing that.

32:31 DN: And also Bob, what I think is very interesting is how you brought your business expertise to solving problems in Edgewater but in a way that also beautifies the community because you’ve blended the ironwork with the landscaping to make it not only secure but beautiful at the same time.

32:52 RC: Well Bob was very generous to the community. We really wanted to help out so he really helped–

33:01 DN: Sherri. I don’t know why I keep doing this Rae Ann. Could you start your part over because the camera wasn’t on you and I think this is something good to have in there.

33:07 RC: Okay. Bob was very generous to the community as he was doing this. He really really wanted to be able to help. He really did very low cost jobs and but it was such a benefit. For instance, just to make sure that properties, especially along Winthrop and Kenmore, that there was no way people could come in through the back and front or the back and go through, so we encouraged gating. We also encouraged lighting. We also provided contractors to that we knew of that would do things reasonable. I mean money was an issue. It was hard to rent here. So we understood that the dollar factor. But putting lights, we have a couple of buildings that are on the corner so we have lights all down on the corners. A lot of the other buildings have that now.

33:56 The alderman, and that’s through a lot of community groups, helped put more lighting on Winthrop and Kenmore. It’s been very difficult to rid Winthrop and Kenmore of that stigma but I think it is going. You know now we have the condominiums that have come in there. We were struggling to just make it financially feasible even to do what we were doing, have enough from our own other businesses to live on and then he was really trying so hard to get other people to do this. He was almost giving his work away for a long time. He’s gotten, people know him very well, its all worked out in the end. It was very lean years there for a while.

34:41 DN: I was reading an article in the paper today about Uptown. Uptown has similar problems to Edgewater, but not solved them in the same way at all. The housing stock, large apartment buildings, dumping grounds for less able people and so on. What do you see the difference between Edgewater and other neighborhoods being as far as how they solve their problems?

35:10 RC: Well, we do have a different concept there. The board that I’m on, part of those are Uptown and also I’m very familiar with Rogers Park. Rented a lot in Rogers Park meetings. And of course Edgewater was part of Uptown at one time. We were just coming in when they were separating, but I think ours is more condensed where our problem, we are one-third Sheridan Road, one-third west of Broadway, and one-third Winthrop and Kenmore so we could work on those areas. It’s only a ten-block area but strong. Uptown is much more spread out. How can I say this? I don’t think that they’ve had the cooperation with their alderman all the time as we’ve had. It’s been a big difference to have such good aldermen in Edgewater that we could work with and rely on. I think that Rogers Park has been fine. But they’re spread out so it’s just different area, it’s got some really terrific areas in there but it’s a larger area, so that’s where it’s the difference.

36:22 Edgewater is I think really, they’re all diverse, but I think we’re more diverse, and I’m probably very prejudice on Edgewater, but I think this community is one of the strongest working communities that I have ever heard of. Even as I talk to people in Lakeview and Lincoln Park I just think this has been a dynamic, I think it’s just. I don’t know how it happened, but it did happen, so it’s been just terrific. We do need to expand and make ourselves known more. We are such a small area that a lot of people on the south side or some areas really don’t know that Edgewater is here. We need to have promotion and that’s what the chamber is trying to do. More promotion, let people know about us. I think the arts, we’ve got a good base with arts. I think that can help promote us and bring more people who want to come in to our area and live a nice life.

37:19 DN: Bob, do you have any other thoughts about the future of Edgewater or the direction Edgewater needs to go in?

37:29 BC: I think Rae Ann’s right. I try to go all over the city with the ironwork business and I don’t see any other area that’s quite as tight and concentrated on the problems that they have. There might be a block or two that’s very well organized but the community itself doesn’t seem to be as cohesive as Edgewater. Perhaps it was you know the leadership that we’ve had, particularly in the very beginning. Edgewater Community Council was just dynamite in getting this thing in the right direction. It was a pretty unique experience, so I think it will continue as long as the people continue with and get good leaders, that’s what we need.

38:16 DN: Rae Ann had talked about lean years, your investment here and the degree that both of you were continuing to work and invest and so on. What personally compelled you to continue to do that, to continue to invest in Edgewater as a businessman? Would you give us that viewpoint?

38:37 BC: Well, it’s a very vital area. I’m familiar with years ago when the Edgewater Beach Hotel was still here, and we still had the Edgewater Condo Association there and it was a completely unique area for many many many many years way back in history. It was just a place that seemed to have the potential to be a dynamite area, and it’s happened. When you look at some of the businesses, Francesca’s, that came in here and made their home office here. Very unusual for a chain like that to come in an area brand new, so to speak. Same with some of the other businesses, they start coming in and really investing an awful lot of money. So there must be something here, a good vital interest in making this a really nice community. We’re right near the lake, transportation’s excellent, good housing stock that’s available, and a nice [unintelligible] community with Lakewood Balmoral and so forth. So I think it’s, otherwise, you know, I don’t think we would have built these row houses a number of years ago if we didn’t have confidence that the area was really going to take off.

40:00 RC: For me it was an emotional thing. Once we got in here I couldn’t imagine going someplace else. I didn’t want to diversify ourselves into other areas. I liked staying concentrated so I had more control. I just loved renovating buildings. It was so exciting to me to turn them around. It just really became a passion.

40:32 DN: I can understand that because as a teacher, when I was working with kids, turning kids around, setting them on a better path. The first time it happens, it’s a real “wow.” But then it does become a passion. How many can I touch, how many can I reach.

40:49 RC: And just helping people. I mean really helping people. And it did. It helped a lot of people. It gave people some housing that was good, clean housing that they could enjoy. It was just, it really became a passion, it became a passion within the community, and I don’t think I could have divided myself anymore. I wanted to just keep going. I would still love to do it except I know that I don’t want to take that kind of risk anymore and we took risk and it took us a long time to get out of it. I don’t think we got that much time to get out of it again, but I am much much much more conservative. When people to ask me to do things I am much more conservative, I think before I just go in there and think “Wow, this is great.”

41:39 DN: I’d like to ask you what you feel is your most important or significant personal achievement in your life so far looking back at what you’ve accomplished.

41:52 RC: I would say it would be the work that we’ve done on Winthrop and Kenmore. The other part of it was all frosting on the cake, but as much work as we’ve done on Winthrop and Kenmore and worked with property owners, plus our own, I think that’s really a great satisfaction.

DN: Bob?

42:12 BC: The thing that Rae Ann kind of missed is that when we first started doing these properties, not only did we come in here, but we had the entire family come in. My son-in-law came in as a carpenter from time to time, her children were coming in here painting on weekends, we’d get our friends out here, they had a ball. They were really doing something which they felt accomplished, because Chicago is a very foreign area to them. They’d never been out of Elgin that far to be working in Chicago doing something. We have a lot of fond memories. Because we didn’t know anybody here, we even brought carpenters in here from Elgin. They would travel everyday to work in here and go back home again, and there would be a number of times where we wound up staying over night, sleeping on the floor, and her particularly. I even had my mother come in and answer the phone from time to time. And she said, “you guys are nuts.”

43:09 RC: That was our first building.

BC: Our first building.

RC: We just really didn’t know what we were doing so we just winged it.

BC: Right next to that was another building that was a vacant lot. That building has now since turned into the Rodham. So you know that’s unusual at that time because at that time the building next to us had been torn down and our building had been I think tried to be renovated a couple of times because all the windows were gone and there was just, it was like a bombed out building. The lot next door was full of the garbage, we had to clean all that up. It just kept on going.

43:47 DN: Sounded like this project that started out as a business investment turned out to be a big extended family. Bringing in your family, bringing in workers, extending out to Edgewater organizations, it’s incredible.

44:00 RC: It has been. It has been an incredible experience.

DN: I’d like to ask you advice you might give to the future generations, to the young people? I don’t think that was in the list of questions, but it’s one I always throw in so I’m sorry.

44:19 RC: Well if they can just apply, if they can apply and keep knowledgeable whether it’s classes in school or they’re tradespeople, just keep on top of it. Also be able to have a strong work ethic I don’t think anybody can fail. It’s just, keep working with other people.

BC: That I think is the most important thing. Kind of look outside your own individual situation and try and try and work with the community. Get yourself out of not just your own particular circumstances but keep on working and it comes back at you. It comes back at you ten-fold.

45:01 DN: That’s great, Bob. This is your story, so is there anything else while we’re recording that you’d like to share or say?

45:09 BC: That’s kind of a thumbnail sketch of what’s happened all these years.

RC: We love it. We love it. And even in the lean years there was so much excitement, so much going on. I don’t think that, at first what he’s talking about we had family coming in, but throughout the years I don’t think that our family, I don’t want to just talk about what we’re doing when we’re around them. I always ask them what they’re doing so I don’t think they really totally understand what we’ve gone through here and how rewarding it is. Most of them will say that they don’t want to work as hard as we do, as we have.

BC: I don’t want to work as hard as we do. [laughs]

RC: But it’s, so about ten years ago I started making up a little book and started writing down by each year what we did for those years because I thought someday, I refer back to my little old grandmother who lived to be a hundred and one and Bob said, “Well what did she do in her life?” And I said, “Well, I don’t really know that well.” And there were just things so I started writing those kind of things down. I haven’t been too faithful at it the last two years but that’s why I had some of these things that someday my grandchildren or my great grandchildren can come back and look at this. This is why it’s so exciting what your husband has brought up here too. I think that’s just tremendous to make this go on and people can read about people who really put their heart and soul into things and enjoyed it.

46:52 DN: And that’s where I’m going to stop this interview. Thank you very much, both of you.