By John Hubbuch
Reading Wednesday Journal the first months of 2011 might cause one to conclude that these are important, momentous times for our community. The controversies over the future of the Comcast building, District 97's referendum and the possible closing of the high school's campus are serious matters. Were one to read the many postings of our residents, one would be concerned that our village teeters on the edge of an abyss of low-income crime, crushing taxes and reefer madness.
Fortunately, we're not even close to the edge. Perspective is one of life's greatest treasures. Some of us get it from growing older. It's hardly compensation for a face that looks like a catcher's mitt, or multiple nighttime trips to the bathroom, but it's something. Perhaps an easier way to acquire perspective is a knowledge and appreciation of history. You can get some history by reading about it, or talking to those who have gone before you.
A little perspective about Oak Park's history would cause most anyone to realize that today's issues are almost laughably unimportant. If you're looking for some genuine can't-get-to-sleep-apocalyptic-gut-ringing fear, check out the 1960s when Oak Park confronted its demise. Whites were fleeing en masse from Chicago's West Side, and prominent political scientists predicted that the tidal wave of fear and panic-selling would sweep over Oak Park. Imagine the fear and anguish over deciding whether you would stay or go. Your neighbor decides to move. Will you? Imagine the block party discussions. Imagine mom and dad lying in bed talking about what would be best for the kids.
By the time we moved here in 1976 to buy our first home and start our family, the crisis had begun to pass. Oh, there were some people who told us that Oak Park was in dire peril and we were crazy, but they were about 10 years behind the times. The heavy lifting had already been done for us. The strategy was in place. Three houses later we thank our lucky stars we happened upon this town.
What amazes me is, in fact, the worst didn't happen. Through the efforts of cadres of men and women, black and white, there developed a unique Oak Park strategy that steered people to homes and apartments. "For sale" signs were prohibited. All kinds of interlocking ordinances, departments, programs and nonprofit agencies were created to address this complicated complexity. A unique equity insurance program was created. Schools, governments, Realtors — everyone had to work together for a common goal. The only turf was Oak Park. And the terrible storm passed. We should be forever grateful and thankful for what they did. They represent the best of Oak Park, and who we should aspire to be, as we address the uncertainty of the coming years.
John Hubbuch, an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976, is a retired lawyer. Hubbuch served on the District 97 school board and coached youth sports. He is the father of three and grandfather of two. Read his blog at www.oakpark.com/Community.