Memories Announcements

facebookWe are on Facebook!  Become a fan of  "Park Forest Historical Society" and of "1950s Park Forest House Museum!" We have joined Facebook (like us!) and have a Facebook page for the museum (like our museum page!). (Active links are further down the page.) There is a Facebook group, "Grew up in Park Forest".  It formerly had some wonderful memory streams going, but that changed with Facebook's new format.  It is still a place to reconnect with people who grew up here. We still accept memoirs sent to us via email.  We hope to get a "Park Forest Memories " group started sometime to capture those entries, but are looking at other social networking sites.  If you are interested in helping with that, contact us. We have joined Facebook (like us!) and have a Facebook page for the museum (like our museum page!). 

Remember to make a copy of your memory and submit it to us, too.  And, you will notice, you can write a much longer memoir to be put on our website to share with people.

If you see a topic there and want to expand on it, please share it with us!  Remember, many people are not on Facebook and don't read memories, there.  We may know something about your question.

I think the absence of emails to us is a result of the Facebook page, BUT if you have tried and we have not answered your email, please try again and put something in the subject line to draw attention to the fact. I have gotten some legitimate messages but a fraction of what I formerly received. I receive a lot of spam messages. I worry that I am missing some that don't come through as legitimate.


I will be adding the memoirs and sending you emails to let you know that yours is online. Hopefully this will go smoothly. When you get your email, please be sure to notify friends and relatives to come look at our site.

Let us hear from YOU!!

If you are reading and enjoying these memories, (and I can tell that you are by the web statistics) send yours along. You do not need to add your contact information for the website. Please let us know what information you want to include. Your memory can be a few sentences or an essay.  Our Memories stay up for years to come.


Be sure to read our story on this year-long project with South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society.  Our program on September 20 will be on this. Read more in News and Programs. Be sure to contact SSGHS or PFHS if you have any information on farms in the Park Forest area.

Do you have photos of St. Irenaeus School or your class photos from your time there? Please contact us through our link. The Class of 1959 recenetly had a reunion in Chicago and we discovered St. Irenaeus School history files at the church had inadvertently been thrown out. Please help us and St. I's reconstruct the files.

Did you or your family attend St. Anne's Catholic Church before St. Irenaeus was built? We have people looking for history and photographs of the church. Do you know what happened to the original building? The museum has a lovely painting of the church hanging in the bedroom, donated by Terry Ruehl who moved to PF in October 1948 and attended the church. Terry has since moved and passed on. If any of you can help reconstruct the history of St. Anne's please contact us.

On June 13, 2009 thirty-nine or more people came through the museum on a special tour arranged by Jack and Becky Black. The reunion first went on a tour of Rich East High School, then came to the museum on a bus provided by the high school. Everyone enjoyed sharing memories of their years growing up in Park Forest.
We have since had tours for the Classes of 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966, and 1967.
Having a reunion?  Be sure to book your tour of the museum as part of your activities!
Class of 1964 Reunion 

The 1950s Museum is in GroupTour eMagazine, Spring 2013 issue, page 26.  You can download the issue here.

The 1950s Museum was in the Chicago Tribune Metro section on Sunday February 3, 2008. We had a color photo and text on the front page and more photos and text on page 5. If you go to, put "1950s Museum" in the search box, and you can go to the article, but now you have to pay to read it there. If you Search the internet for "1950s Museum" the article should come up in another site where you can read it for free.

Read more ...

from Leo Turkel, July 14, 2008.

When I graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1941, I accepted a job with a company based in Omaha. The job took me to Des Moines, Iowa for twelve years. In Des Moines I met my wife and we have now been married for sixty five years. Our two daughters were born in Des Moines and started school there. However, in 1953 my company offered me a chance to move to the Chicago area and be the manager of a new branch.

In June of that year we moved into an apartment on Fir street behind the fire station. It was also near a grade school that the girls attended. Several months later I had a chance meeting in the barber shop with Joe Belmont who was involved in the construction of homes in PF. He mentioned that at that time they were building a few homes to be known as the Parents Homes. They were to be featured in an issue of Parents Magazine and were to be offered at about $17,500 as I recall. So we were home owners again.

Many of the friends we made in PF had moved in soon after development started in 1948. We heard stories of unpaved streets and the lack of stores in the beginning. However, by the time we came things were fairly well developed. There was a Jewel, maybe two; the barber shop was just outside of town on Western Ave. but later moved into town.

Some of the businesses I remember are Goldblatts, Fields, Sears, Bramsons, Mickelberrys, the bowling alley, and the hardware store We were also fortunate to have a good number of doctors and dentists, most of whom were young and just starting to build a practice.

I had been an admirer of U.S. Senator Paul Douglas and a few months after we moved to PF he gave a talk at Rich High. I don't recall the occasion but it might have been for the 4th of July. The main thing I remember is that I got lost since I was not familiar with the whole town yet and it took a few minutes to figure out where I was. But I enjoyed listening to the Senator since he was such a knowledgeable person and widely respected.

"The Organization Man" was a book that came out a few years after we moved to Park Forest. It was read by thousands of people since new communities were being built and Park Forest was a model of being able to build a community from the ground up. The one thing I remember in the book was the observation that where the back doors of homes faced each other the families had became closer than they would if the doors did not face. That was true in our case. Four different families occupied the house west of us and we were most friendly with each of them.

Probably the best thing that happened while we were living in the courts, as the apartments were called, was the introduction of the Salk vaccine. This happened during the year we occupied our apartment. A crew came to our court and gave the shots to the kids outdoors. This was a wonderful blessing
not only for the children but also for the parents who no longer had to worry about this terrible disease.

One incident during our PF years involved the schools. Since the great majority of residents were young parents there was a high birth rate for a few years. One September the superintendent announced that the schools would test all youngsters who were old enough for kindergarten. The reason was that not all children were ready for school and there just wasn't enough room for all the prospective kids who wanted to start. Of course every mom and dad thinks their kid is the second Einstein so the superintendent was under the gun. I think some compromises were made and all the children were admitted.

One thing I should mention about the courts. Since the parking was in the center of each group of apartments it was a good place for children and adults to meet and talk. Newcomers were welcomed and noone had to feel alone in this environment. We made many friends in our court.

Park Forest was home to a great percentage of highly educated residents. There were many scientists who worked at the Atomic Energy lab and other places in the Chicago area. Other professions were also represented. As a result the schools had a good number of highly motivated and achieving students. Our library had the highest usage per capita in the state.

Before I close there must be mention of two other things that helped make Park Forest a great place to live.

First, the swimming pool. A few people got the idea to build a pool for the community. If I remember correctly they sold memberships to residents of the community and the response was great. Many children were taught to swim and it was a wonderful place for children and adults to spend as much time as they wished in a healthy environment.

Last but not least was the Civic Music Series. For a very nominal season ticket we were afforded the chance to see and hear nationally and internationally known singers, pianists, violinists and symphonies. Many children attended with their parents and received their first exposure to good music.

Leo Turkel
Mr. Turkel passed away on January 12, 2010.  His wife, Mary, passed away January 14th, (36 hours later).  We are happy he shared his memories with us.