Editor’s Note: Evanston Essays is an ongoing series highlighting people’s thoughts, memories and opinions of Evanston. If you’d have an essay of about 500-600 words you’d like to share, please send it to susy@evanstonroundtable.com.

I first saw Evanston in July 1969. We returned to stay in 2002.

Credit: Graphic by Jasper Davidoff

Growing up in Champaign, I savored the collegiate atmosphere and daily journalism. I was lucky: Korea, not Vietnam, but my old job got filled, so I joined Hollister’s twice-weeklies in Wilmette. 

Car insurance went up 159%. Rental prices were appalling; new listings vanished when the Evanston Review appeared. I got a room on Main Street. 

My Review “beat” was Evanston city government except parks. Police and fire, many meetings and many other issues with a local connection. Mayor John Emery often asked the 18 aldermen (only 2 female, 2 minority), “What difference will it make in 100 years?”

John McClelland Credit: John McClelland

Our office returned to Evanston. I stood ankle-deep in frigid water from fire hoses, watched police near a standoff with an armed suspect or scoop up flag protesters at Fountain Square, and spent 16-hour days with students who barricaded Sheridan Road. Elections too.

Police and firefighters always impressed me as professional, though some cops were kinda hidebound. The “perp walk” of a defendant from jail to court was common. 

I visited Saturday civil rights rallies in an African American church. A Monday Review scooped metro media about a garbage workers’ strike. Tuesday’s Chicago Tribune said, “They’re hauling garbage to the dump in Cadillacs.”

A street lighting upgrade was a 1970 issue. In my photos under a test lamp, a red car appeared black. That lamp got rejected, but even now quaint side streets seem dark.

The city proposed licensing liquor sales in restaurants, controversial in the home of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Downtown retail was moving to malls. The saying about on-street parking was, and is, “Pull out of a spot, and it’s taken before it gets cold.”

Ex-Evanstonian Donald Rumsfeld left Congress and provoked a 12-way race for the 1969 Republican nomination, certain election in the old 13th District. I was told to follow Phil Crane, the only far-right candidate; he won.

Northwestern agreed to let the Bears play in Dyche Stadium during a Soldier Field rehab. The city sued. The judge promptly said, “Football is … football.” He allowed one test game.

Negotiations began for public-safety service fees from Northwestern in lieu of property tax. 

The Marywood Academy on Ridge Avenue closed. Advocates sought affordable or senior citizen housing. The editor refused to print a word: “Nothing is happening.” Someone told the advocates, who picketed. Now it was news. Zilch results. City Hall still has the scent of an old school.

A 1970 study confirmed serious noise from jets departing O’Hare’s no. 4 runways. We still get some, but less loud.

Tom Caruso did most Review reporting on District 65 Superintendent Gregory Coffin’s contested integration plan. One citizens’ meeting was closed to press. Tom was turned away. Linda Lenz got in and took notes on index cards hidden in her purse. We all worked election night.

I went to Oak Park, Time Inc. dropped the daily plan, and I went South for decades. Work led me to Roosevelt University in Chicago and Schaumburg. My late first wife, Kathy, found a Rogers Park townhouse, and we could again shop or dine in Evanston. Joy.

Diane (Monk) and I married in 2002, moved to her Evanston condo, joined a church, and moved to southwest Evanston. I rode Metra or CTA to work. We volunteered at Ten Thousand Villages and became fans of RoundTable’s community journalism. We retired to Westminster Place in 2019.

I cringe over potholes or discord, but we love the town and the people. Some things change, some don’t. And, there’s the lake …

One reply on “John McClelland: A time-traveler’s Evanston”

  1. Nice trip down memory lane. I attended Medill 1972-73 and worked with the author (south) from ’73-75. We reconnected serendipitously in the ’90s when he was teaching at Roosevelt. Good to know he’s still kicking (and writing).

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