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Reminiscing with the Grayslake Historical Society

What were the popular hang-outs in the Grayslake area during the 1950s, 60s and 70s?

A group of former and present Grayslake residents reminisced recently about their hang-outs and adventures while growing up in Grayslake during the 50s, 60s and 70s.

It was part of the continuing series of reminisce sessions sponsored and hosted by the Grayslake Historical Society at the Heritage Center and Museum in Grayslake.

Their stories of adventures as junior high (middle school) and high school students included such places as Cec's drugstore and fountain on Center Street, Tree Island in the then-undeveloped west end of the village, The Surfside club and the roller rink, both in Hainesville, and various vacant lots throughout the village where they would gather for pickup baseball games and other athletic challenges.

Jane Tiffany-Hansen recalled that in the middle 70s "cars were absolutely huge" and she and many of her friends would pile into a nine-passenger car and go to the drive-in movie theater where the Jewel grocery store is now. Other teens had the same idea.

"It was kind of a party scene," she said.

Charlotte Renehan and her group of friends would take the train from Grayslake to Libertyville for a Saturday afternoon at the movies.

"We played hide-and-seek with the conductor" to save paying the fare, she said.

Terry Norton explained that if  he could successfully hide from the conductor he would have 17 more cents to buy popcorn at the theater.

"We couldn't stay away from it," said Linnea Sauter, of Tree Island, behind Woodview School. The "island" was a wooded area on high ground surrounded by open fields. Sauter said she and her friends would ride their bikes there in the late 50s and have a picnic of cucumber sandwiches, white bread and cheese.

Rob McCasky said the "island" was a place to ride bikes on bumpy, rutted dirt paths and "to get away from our parents." It was later a place to ride dirt bikes, motorcycles and even pickup trucks; and to smoke cigarettes "and later smoke other stuff," he said.

Sauter and many other kids in town spent a lot of time at the old dime store on Center Street trying to decide which pieces of penny candy they would buy.    Another hang-out on Center Street was Cec's drugstore and fountain where McCasky recalled he would buy a lime phosphate at the fountain. He also liked a concoction he called swamp water, a murky combination of lime and orange flavorings. Also popular then were the flavored Coca-Cola drinks, including Cherry Coke and Vanilla Coke.

Chris Brenner recalled the rousing baseball discussions and debates at Cec's. Among the regular participants in discussions of the national past time were Grayslake High School baseball coach Paul Subject and Grayslake Times sports editor Dan O'Shea. And, of course, adding to the discussion was Cecil Hook, whose son Jay was a major league baseball pitcher with the Cincinnati Reds and later the New York Mets.

Some of the hang-outs were out-of-town and included the Surfside music hall in Hainesville where Tiffany-Hansen recalled Three Dog Night, a popular American rock band in the late 60s and early 70s played; an outdoor public pool in Hainesville; the popular roller rink in Hainesville; and Capt. Majors Waterfront Lodge.

As rock-n-roll became more popular, many Grayslake older teens went to the Wild Goose club at the corner of Lewis Avenue and Rout 120 in Waukegan, McCasky said.

Before the widespread popularity of television and computer games, many Grayslake teens gathered around the radio at friends' homes to listen to rock-n-roll presented by iconic deejays on WLS and other rock-n-roll radio stations.

McCasky said music was also an important activity for junior high students during the Crazy Eights events at the United Protestant church in Grayslake. There the kids socialized and listened to 45 rpm records.

Sue Anne (Laramy) Park said her home was on four lots and there was plenty of room to play baseball.

"My dad had more broken windows in his home," she laughed. "He sure wished we would play with a whiffleball."

Renehan said the empty lots in the village were ideal for kids to play baseball, kick-the-can, ride their bikes and play other games including a game she described as playing catch by throwing a ball over a house to a partner on the other side of the home.

As the teens became older and could drive, McCasky said, they joined the crowds driving their cars up and down Genesee Street in Waukegan during the famous Scoop-the-Loop activities on Friday and Saturday nights where everyone would show off their shiny cars, their girlfriends and boyfriends—and for girls, their newest poodle skirts. He said there was also limited "scooping" on Center Street in Grayslake.

The Grayslake Historical Society hosts reminisce sessions on a periodic basis on Saturday mornings in the museum. The next session will be scheduled for fall.    The Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum, 164 Hawley St., Grayslake, is open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and during downtown community events.

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