Mr. & Mrs. Gilbert Force (Transcript Only)


INTERVIEWER: Pauline Rhiner
INTERVIEWEE: Mr & Mrs. Gilbert Force
DATE OF INTERVIEW: February 9, 1986
North Baptist Church–There was another person interviewed on same topic: Annie Joe Dawson *
FLORENCE: We moved to the neighborhood around Lawrence and Magnolia in 1913 when my father bought a nearby hardware store. I lived in Uptown through my high school days. At first I attended North Shore Baptist Church when it was at Leland and Racine. When the new church was planned, for Lakewood and Berwyn, even the children had a part to play. If we could save 15 cents, it would buy a brick. We ran many errands at 1 cent each. Once, in church while we sang "Bring­ing in the Sheaves," people came up the aisle carrying produce, flour, and other things, which could be sold for money to help build the new church. There were three homes on the property. One was torn down, but the others were remodeled for use as classrooms. My brother and John Dawson were the first two to be baptized in the new church. Many people were moving further north so the site seemed to be a good one. People came from everywhere for Sunday School classes. Mr. Kraft of Kraft Cheese was our Sunday School superintendent for forty years. Mr. Howell, head of the Orange Crush Company brought many of his friends. I was active in the church from the time I was nine years old. At fourteen, I was drafted to help teach as a substitute and had a class of little children. Later many of them became missionaries, ministers, and church leaders.
I met Gilbert, my husband, when he and my brother, Bob, graduated from North­western and came to our house for dinner. Socially, life revolved around the Church. I was active in the Baptist Ladies Guild and became president of the Chicago area. We had Northern Baptists Conventions here with a banquet at which I presided, although I was only about nineteen. We young women raised enough money to support the convention for one day. We belonged to the Baptist Young Peoples Union (BYPU), the Sunday evening group. I became a member of the National Board. In the 1940s, it dissolved to become the new Youth Fellowship, which tries to build leadership from the ground up rather than from Leadership down.
(150–lengthy description here of the various church services.)
Dr. (Virgin) came to us from Amarillo, Texas in 1924. He wasn’t here before he announced that we had twenty-six nationalities in our church: Armenians, Chinese, Filipinos, etc. He was particularly concerned about the Chinese because so many didn’t have families here and he wanted to start a Chinese Sunday School. It meant teaching one on one although I did have two who were cousins. We also helped them with their English. Eventually, we had over 100 every Sunday after­noon. That continued until WORLD WAR II, when all the boys were drafted. They were very active in the Mediterranean area, many of them receiving awards. When they returned, they were able to bring their families from China and then the Chinese Church began. Then the Filipinos and the Japanese came and formed their own classes. The Hispanics came, too, and finally we helped them buy a church on the near north side. The Chinese bought their own church, although a number continued to come here. We still have many groups. In the 50s and 60s, the Youth Groups were very active. I took a graduate degree in Christian Education from Dennison University. Mostly, I served as secretary for the head of the Baptist work in the state.
There were two fires in the church; one just before we were married in 1937. We still went on with the marriage ceremony even though there was a big hole in the church floor, over to the side. The next fire was in ‘67. My son helped them fight the fire. They think it was caused by defective wiring.
(There is much more here about the church buildings–Sunday School classes, etc., also in Annie Joe Dawson’s account)
My relationship with Edgewater runs from 1910 to 1958. My folks’ first apartment was at Wayne and Early. Then we owned our own home on Hood Avenue in 1918. Origin­ally, a steam locomotive ran along where the El is now, and was replaced around 1915-16, with the Elevated. The old red street cars were on Broadway and Clark Street. It was really like a small town rather than a big city. It was an area where everyone knew everyone else up and down the street. If parents had to be away during lunch time or dinner time, what we would have to do is knock on a neighbor’s door to be able to be taken in by them for a few hours. We have lost this sense of community almost everywhere, except maybe in some towns. The auto­mobiles did a lot to bring this about.
When we went to shop, we walked and would meet the neighbors along the way and stop to talk. Today, we drive to shopping centers without seeing our neighbors. City services were very good.
I went to the Hayt School for a few years, then to a private school called the Stickney School on Hollywood Avenue, and there I met Annie Joe Howell (later Annie Dawson). I went to Senn High, which was truly a neighborhood school and which won many state awards. My math teacher was C. D. Satterfield (?) who was also a member of North Shore Church. I also became acquainted with Robert Oberland, also of the North Baptist Church. We went to Senn and then together attended Northwestern University. I was on the staff at Northwestern for a number of years before becoming Business Manager at Illinois Tech. Then I formed my own business.
Our neighborhood had many vacant lots where youngsters could play marbles, One
Old Cat, baseball, etc. This helped us to make many friends.
There were many stable businesses, one being a druggist, Uncle Jim Woods, who got my husband interested in growing dahlias. Many business men would take young folks under their wing and help them as Jim Woods did for Gilbert.
We always had a car. My folks had a car from about 1918 on. When I was 18, I had my own car, which made me pretty popular.
FLORENCE: Broadway was called Evanston Avenue until about 1910, when its name was changed. It had a street car and, of course, there was one on Clark Street. Sheridan Road had double decker buses. On Sunday afternoons, we walked over there, took the bus downtown, and back again, just for the ride. It was a thrill. In the summer, the top was open, then in winter they’d put the top on again. Sheridan Road was lined by beautiful mansions, all having trees in front.
We spent the first night of our honeymoon at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. It was a very popular entertainment spot.