Horace Fox - Transcript

Transcript of Horace Fox
Interviewer: Dorothy Nygren
Date: February 7, 2013
Place: Edgewater Historical Society
Transcriber: Martin Stewart

Copyright © 2013 Edgewater Historical Society

DN: Today is February 7, 2013. We are at the Edgewater Historical Society located at 5358 N. Ashland Ave. And we want to thank you so much for everything that you’ve done for the community. And we want to congratulate you for being one of the living treasures of Edgewater.

HF: Well, I want to thank you. You make me feel very old. Petrified. But that perhaps can be another discussion.

DN: An elder who can share his experience. Something not so much valued in our current society compared with other societies. Could you please tell us when you first came to Edgewater?

HF: I came to Edgewater in 1991 and I was looking for a house and my wife found it just outside a Rogers Park. But I really didn’t know anything about Edgewater. And that was our introduction to Edgewater. We had some very welcoming neighbors. The Mannheim class came over with her then three young children. They baked a carrot cake. That was our first introduction to the neighborhood. It never happened in the previous neighborhood.

DN: I see. So it was a unique welcoming in a wonderful way to begin. And then once you have established a little bit in Edgewater, what compelled you to start looking at community affairs and…

HF: Well, I had been on the board of Northlight theater for about five years. And I thought I could do something that was literally in my backyard. And Betty Barclay up the street I knew her. And she suggested I join the ECC and the rest as they say, is history. And it made sense. It was such a simple maxim that ECC lives by. It is to improve the life of the residence of this community. Who cannot agree with that?

DN: So you got involved in ECC. What kind of things did you do?

HF: ECC has lots of contracts, for example putting on a seminar on real estate taxes, a seminar to lower the ever-increasing real estate taxes. Another, about the Bosnians in the community. Things like home care that the city contracts for. We were initially an advocacy group surrounding issues such as real estate taxes. And we kind of lost our way and started doing contracts and doing other issues besides advocacy. But now we’re back to issues of advocacy. And we bought a building and we now sold the building number now back to the core business of what I think that the ECC is.

DN: You said that it was improving the quality of life for people in Edgewater and that there were some core advocacy issues that happened.

HF: There was a committee that met each time that there was a suggested curb cut in terms of the impact on the community. That was the zoning committee. It was a committee on design, which dealt with our school. They would talk to the principals and see what we at ECC could do to make our schools better and ourselves useful. I was in another life when my kids are smaller on the Local School Council at their grade school for about eight years all told. So that kind of thing, getting feedback from the principal and letting the principal develop their people and there were volunteers from the neighborhood who would take on some of these duties.

Another thing that ECC has done was help the initiation of a library and I believe the process is ongoing now for when we are going to have a new, much larger, better and improved library. And also for the turning of the two mansions on Sheridan Road that ended up being the North Lakeside Cultural Center. We saved them from the wrecking ball. We hope to make certain that the Armory was available to the community and that there were certain significant improvements. They were recently made in the last three or four years to the Armory. These were the sorts of things that ECC has traditionally been involved in and still does.

DN: And how was, what was your involvement in some of these standpoints. Did you give advice?

HF: Well, there are always planning choices on that. We gave advice. Lawyers always have a tendency to like to hear themselves talk, and I find it interesting that meetings would last for hours and most of them are called minutes. But, a number of lawyers who and are still who are on the ECC board and give advice to the ECC board. So, it is. The thing that really got me involved is. I met a few of the members early on and when we’re bundled up during the winter we wouldn’t even look up to see if we knew the person and I decided that that we needed to know each other better. So we started planning these block parties. There’s an Oktoberfest in one area and in the summer a couple of others.

So that during the doldrums of the winter we all had cabin fever and hadn’t seen each other we can get together in each other’s homes. Each person that says are going to participate as a court. And they moved from house to house. That’s the progressive part of it. So that’s how it was conceived with getting to know each other. But back to the central point. The reason why I thought of it. Everyone needs to get to know each other. Even from the neighborhood and the people that I knew in the winter, covering ourselves from the cold, we would look down plant wrists over a purse and quicken our step. And that was what convinced me we needed to see one another, know one another much better. And with the help of the Bloonies who were a very helpful couple on the block, we started these get-togethers.

DN: So the meeting of your neighbors and the block club structures, you took this to a larger format.

HF: Yes, it’s all about community and building community. I think and it starts with your neighbors. So I thought why not expand the circle a bit and let’s get some discussion that we had before and getting contact with young people whose eyes are on their iPhones or Samsung or whatever they have. We had a meeting in March and we thought how do we contact young people to get them involved in these kind of decisions. We decided to put a public service announcement on the Loyola 100 W FM station and put some flyers up. Perhaps an icon would be an iPhone. And if they get involved. We could put them up in coffeehouses and that sort of thing. They had to find out how people worked in the real world and moved their attention from that small screen to the big picture.

DN: How would you characterize the changes in Edgewater over the years?

HF: I think there are a couple of changes over the years. Things have obviously become more expensive. And that means that we have a smaller allotment of housing that is available to renters. I think that is detrimental to the community. Also, we have become much more tolerant of the LGBT community. And I think that’s a wonderful thing. And in the last 8 to 10 years it has become more LGBT tolerant. And Mark Josyln has continued from ECC. Mark’s in the pride parade and saying and advertising that we welcome LGBT and we would like to see you in our community. And we got some strange stares from others saying that you really want us?

DN: So you see Edgewater has become more diverse in terms of the groups that are represented here. But you have less diversity in terms of the economic area. Would you mind just restating that.

HF: Well, I think that as housing prices have gone up. It cuts out a segment of the population that we value, renters, one is the and him and him and him and him and him and him and him and he is in me and I and him and him and him and him and him and he is in me know and him and him and him alone and him and, and that I have a friend that has a daughter that is about ready to enter high school, then you have the question, are you going to have to move to the suburbs for education. Once our kid is high school age. They are considering some of the improvements that have been made at Senn. The baccalaureate program, the military school and so they are not quite ready to decide if when they’re ready Senn will be ready. My mother-in-law lives with us. The circle has come full circle. She went to Senn some number of days.

DN: It’s going to be 100 years Centennial for Senn coming up. I would probably love to interview her for that part of the exhibit. Could we speak a little bit more what is the virtual reality for young people to the for the larger real world community. I think that might be important.

HF: I think it’s important because I see people every day, walk across Michigan Avenue not paying any attention to traffic but paying attention to the small screen in their hand. First thing I think it’s dangerous so their lives and then compressed into this little machine. And perhaps of are smart enough and figure out an inventive way we can upload them from the little screen to the big screen, which of course is the life that we live on a regular basis. And I say why not have friends in the real world rather than in Facebook.

DN: And we can have virtual communities. What’s the difference between a virtual community in your opinion and the real world you create basically from interaction and sharing?

HF: Well, the real flesh and blood community is much more responsive and can be there if there is a calamity in an emergency. I do have a Facebook buddy that can tell me housing information. If there’s a fire it the heat goes off by your phone. That’s the difference compared with flesh and blood who were there when you need them. I’ve been in locales, just the same as yours that will allow me to take advantage of any offer that might be made.

DN: Let’s go back to the ECC. The ECC recently went through a very critical period. Could you describe what you are trying to promote that shifted back to the original direction and getting back on track.

HF: Well, I think we lost the sight of the core value. What it was and this is perhaps a good way to explain it, what the meeting is going to be describing that occurs in March, is a revision in committee to ask our community: what are the issues that affect your life every day. So, we have to be relevant or we become a dinosaur. And so that’s how were going mind what the relevant issues are today in this community.

DN: I would also like to ask you what you feel is your most satisfying personal accomplishment so far.

HF: The two wonderful people that I’ve chosen in the world. My daughter particularly who just this evening got on a train to Paris. She has friends from all over the world and she is completing her Masters not an MBA. It’s a Masters it’s heavy on marketing. And my son who’s a pediatrician. He’s now applying for internships. It will be another three-year residency.

DN: So you would’ve raised your children to come out to volunteer their skills to the community?

HF: Yes. They went to Chicago public schools. I’m happy to announce that when they moved here, they were going to Whitney Young. Obviously, it’s a long trip from this address to Whitney Young but they made it. I’m very happy they got into a good selective school and they had a very broad education for having done so.

DN: And also the experienced diversity in the school they were at.

HF: I have to agree with you. We were driving around looking at colleges and universities, but I could never find an academic environment as Whitney. There were too many factors working against finding a university that was as diverse as Whitney Young.

DN: What advice would you give the younger generation?

HF: Stay engaged not just with the few, but with real people.

DN: You said in the e-mail that you sent me that the most important legacy that has made Edgewater one of the most friendly lakefront communities is that whole idea of community that we talked about.

HF: I think that Chicago really is a city of neighborhoods. With the festivals that we have in the summer that becomes a wonderful feeling. There was a Canadian visiting us during one of the of the great late night block clubs during the summer. And once the permit time is over you are supposed to move it out of the Parkway. And he said, to my surprise, “I live in Toronto and this would never happen in Toronto.” Drinking wine and conversing with neighbors who were there specifically for that purpose to know your neighbors. He was quite surprised. This is what happens.

DN: Are there any other little thoughts you have. Little thoughts you might share with us?

HF: Well, I think my parents were very interested in education but my mother completed her degree when I was in high school. My father quit going to school to help his family at the age of I think it was the eighth grade. He always had an abiding interest in museums and things mechanical. And even though, I always say he was one of the most educated people than I knew. And I think this story will encapsulate that. I remember when I was 11 we had an old Stouffer coal heating system. It was not good for an asthmatic. He created a lot of dust. My father was a victim of an industrial accident. I never in new what happened. But he lost his right hand and I had this medical problem like an allergy and asthma… And for weeks he would walk around with these pipes and make turns to get the fresh air and I couldn’t do that today

DN: That’s a wonderful testimony. Your father was a very exciting model for that can-do attitude. So I think at this point, we will conclude the interview, I want to thank you again for great interview.