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I gather that they are quite a success and. Someone turned on the television. And I can remember just as well as of it happened. Last week. Because they had pictures on a television of a car. And of. Course you saw how very impossible it would have been for him to come out of it alive even though the boys who were with him did come out alive. How many were there were four people in the car and a boy that was killed was driving. The bus. Absolutely despair that. As soon as the television program was over. This is Ben park with a programme in the series coming of age about American youth today in many of the rapidly growing suburbs of our big cities widespread drinking among teenagers has caused frequent tragedy and understandable anxiety. The preceding program came from a community very much in the throes of that problem today. This program is from Highland Park
Illinois a suburb of Chicago where teenage deaths on the highway resulted in radical action. Coming a little bit about this boy who was killed you know him very well. He was. In a class behind me but he had a sister who was in our class a friend of mine. And it was most surprising the most tragic. What grade was this going to go. He would have been sophomores. Had he been known to drink before then. Oh I think a little bit yeah. His parents condoned it or had they not known about it or why. I believe his parents knew about it was this way a good student. Everything. Was active in the school life. Yes he was there and very safe. He really. Had this boy. Been one of the wild kids around school provided that. He was to some degree wild and yet he was a very fine boy.
And has very fine parents and his sister being a good friend. Of all of ours in our class. I think we felt particularly strong about it. I would say he was. Extremely wild. He was riled to some degree but he ran around with a very nice crowd of boys. And not be excessively wild crowd. For his class. In other words he was more or less average boy you know I characterize him as the average all-American boy I suppose that would be very graphic for him. And it was surprising to see a student stunned the world that they are. All of a sudden how. SHARP This really had been and how stunned. People were. There had been such a tragic death. And that really. One of the big things of beginning is convening now she's talking about a committee she helped
form eight years ago. At the time she was a student leader and a junior in high school. Very few people knew any committee had been formed. Everyone had thought that something ought to be a positive. No one did anything about it. Such as gathering together until we came along we were really upset. And you say we really mean well there were a group of students it happened that as usual we needed something very strong. To hit us before we get this course occurred and. Death of the student who was a good friend of ours. So when we got together it was a very small group two or three students. And four adults. Forman. And these men were not our fathers but they were men who had children in school at the time. It was a small group. Who were the students. Well they were student leaders. Being two or three at the very
inception the committee was a student council to begin with. But we did not meet as such. Where was the impetus was it from the fathers or from the students. I'd say from the students. Very definitely And the fact that we could aberrated without. Our class and knowing about it I suppose was the beginning of our success. The parents almost set their advise and consent board. The students did the planning. They put forth the suggestions. Perhaps they were modified by the man. Or. To some degree amended but at any rate students were the ones. We met at the high school at night. Without anyone knowing about it really. In the very beginning did the parents think that this was going to work. I don't think anyone thought it was going to work. As a matter of fact I think we've probably shocked a few fathers on this committee. First I want to show them.
How we were brought on some of the things that were going on some of the particular places that were serving liquor. My. High school students. Actually you know the students might be up on something like that the parents might not. None of these were your own fathers. No there was never a time where a father and his son or daughter served on the committee at the same time. Do you feel it would be difficult for a student member of his own father on a committee. I think it's better than. Definitely that. In other words not having one's own father there when candor right. Yes no committee of this kind will work unless you're able to talk and talk freely. Of what is going on and what would be the possible solution. Had there been pressure for the setting up or some kind of a committee or a code before this there was pressure to do something. Pressure both particularly from the parents. Parents want a.
Complete gold mine and one month. They want to. Own a set of rules their child should be home at a certain time. We should do certain things. And he should not do certain things. Well this doesn't work. It's simply not feasible for any group. To set down a curfew. For students. Tell them that they may go to this party they may not go to that party. That's not. What. It seems to me that if you set up a curfew which is imposed by the town that it's quite possible is not a fact the police will enforce it. The police will enforce and the students will laugh at it. This does make for a very workable situation. We attack the proude we know the problem everyone has a problem and that was to provide the students. With some type of entertainment. Recreation over and above what the school would provide. And it happened that. Almost simultaneous with the accident and the newspaper article. There were several open houses turn
into complete. For all. You could imagine what two or three hundred people would be like in your house unless you have a huge home. And the students would gang up go to the homes get in the father's like a cabinet and that would ruin any party. Got to the point where parents wouldn't have a party and so there were high schools with almost nothing to do. There is when we thought about setting up a code of some guy. And we didn't do it because we thought it was not our place. To set up the code. When. Most of the things that you would want in the code ought to govern the variance of their own children. Like for instance what kinds of things. Well such as curfew hours. And places to go places not to go. And then there's a question too of just being ladies and gentleman. And then surely should never be in a code that should be right from the parents. You can start out in one of these things. In a great
big way and play on many projects it doesn't work. Particularly if you don't work as we did. Sort of undercover. Things have to be very very well planned and then stand back and watch a tickler event come off and play as though you never knew it was coming off. And that's sometimes difficult to do more so than if you're right out in the open saying we are sponsoring this. You don't get a chance to brag about it. No no you stand back and say it's a lovely party. We are very fortunate. As far as our finances were concerned of course we didn't have any. Begin with. That we did have we were able to get the interest service clubs in Highland Park Rotary Lions gone and. So forth. And we would go to them or go to their president. And ask them if they would be kind enough. To sponsor. A dance for example after a basketball game. If we were doing our work.
And then we would provide the chaperones out of their group. So that it really didn't look too phony. And it was very nice to read that rotary had sponsored the dance after a particular basketball game. When in fact those two neck of these committee had. Gotten a hold of Rotary. They were receptive to the idea. Some of our mothers were kind enough to supply food. We were able to get a hold of a ban through the committee. And it was kind of nice to sit back in and see the particular club take the credit. Because we were becoming more and more successful. In our project getting the kids to come from the basketball game to the dance. If you can. Get your particular function to be the thing to do. It's going to be successful. And that doesn't come overnight and it won't come with one function as we learned.
Did you find out first that some of the teenagers would look down their noses at these parties. Oh yeah. And laughed at the committee after they found out about the committee thought this was a lot of nonsense that no one needed to plan their entertaiment plan their evening for them they could do it themselves. But. We. We were closely knit group in our classes. In my particular class I would say there were perhaps 30 of us that did a great many things together. And both boys and girls were 30 people pushing in one direction. Then you get 30. It's a massive thing to do. Pretty soon it's going to snowball. Now you say that you thought about a code. You thought about a cause but you rejected the notion of a cold. You know. During the early days of the committee you had some connection with the PTA did you.
We invited them to a meeting. And as I recall the purpose of that was that they were going to help us with food for a specific dance. And we had to get a hold of some women in order to have refreshments. Then the following year after we had come out in the open and people knew that we were operating and quite frankly there was a minority that a certain group from school were calling us the drinking Committee which is fine also being students in high school at the time the PTA invited us. To come to one of their meetings and express the opinions of the committee and what we were doing. And this turned out to be very thick when I was there. Well at the time we were discussing. Our own classes graduation. And the party afterwards graduation night. Normally for seniors is an all night affair.
And there are few places in this vicinity to go and just have a good time where a group of students can go without having liquor. So we have turned many ideas around in our mind and we finally came up with one that proved successful. And. We had ever parents behind us for financial help. In any rate the PTA did not approve. And what didn't. Quite frankly call the committee on the carpet. They didn't think that we were doing anything. They didn't like the idea that we were operating without the knowledge of the student body and without their knowledge. I'd venture to say some of them came to that meeting and I didn't even know through the Activities Committee was or what they did or who was on the committee. But they soon learned. Well one of the basic things that came out of that meeting was a particular father who believed that this committee should set up a code. And that there should be our prime purpose.
And we went round and round because we would not set up a cause he wanted us to tell him what time his son should be home on weeknights and what time he should be home on week weekend. And we told him it was none of our business. And I firmly believe this is true. Other people and many other parents in the PTA support his views. I think he was in the minority. They all supported the view that anything that could be done to keep the students from drinking was a good thing. Now whether this was it or not they would sit back and watch. And if it was they would jump on the bandwagon and they would stand back and talk about it. We were up against a good many obstacles and we started. And for a year after that. Now I believe the committee is going to the PTA by invitation once a year a reporting things that they have done during the year.
And right behind them so that one of your major sources of opposition was from the PTA in the beginning. Yes. Did they have specific recommendations as to what they thought you should write into a cold. Monster. The subject was the curfew hour. That always stands in my mind. Nothing terribly specific other than to provide something for the student to do. And yet in the same breath while you were telling us to provide something for the students to do in the evenings especially weekend they were very vehement in the fact they were not going to have a party they would not have an open house and they would not even have a party because the students came in to ruin their homes and get into their liquor cabinet. This. Is a little hard when you get two viewpoints such as I had to work around them because
naturally any party in a home. Is much nicer than where you have to go out and rent a place. How do you get around that. We personally talked to several parents who are friends of ours parents of friends of ours and I asked them if they wouldn't try and if you don't think we were sitting on pins and needles at the first few parties when we asked them if they were going to the party and see if teenagers and students at our classes could actually act like ladies and gentlemen and have a good time without getting into the father's liquor cabinet without ruining the furniture work out. We were fortunate it worked and they became more receptive. By word of mouth party was successful and the tunes were fried they acted very nicely. I have another party. For. One of our greatest successes came
after graduation of my senior year. We were able to read one of the country clubs. About. Five miles from the. Bar. With an indoor swimming pool. And other facilities we had a band there we dancing and it was one of the most successful party committees ever sponsored and I venture to say that even at that time there were a great many graduating seniors that didn't know that the Activities Committee. Was a group behind. This party at the Country Club. And from there. One of the fathers who was on the committee and had a son graduate. Undertook to have the whole group. Home and out in his yard for breakfast. Which we do. With at all the planning and the mothers got the food together. I think it was the most successful night that I remember a community sponsored and proud of a great deal of success with a.
Few people in the country. Party over the large. Say the country club had an indoor swimming pool and get thrown in. Oh I think maybe one person did but there was no chaos. Really it was a good time. Entire club to ourselves. We were kind of a few parents who were members and were able to swing it with the country. We didn't have very good weather that night so it was fortunate for the indoor pool. And for our facilities. Being right there we had about 80 percent of our graduating class there. Which when you stop and think about it is a high percentage. And we had a good time. And from there we moved in may ask for this. And I suppose if there were some students. Who had brought liquor in their cars but there was no longer serve It was part of the country.
But lots of food and learned to cope with probably put coke in business for a week not one night. Have you retained an interest in the committee. Oh yes. I came back from college on Christmas vacation and ended their meeting each year which they seemed to plan for so we could come back and hear what was going on. Since college I have checked with various of the members that I know. And kept an interest in it. Of course now they come out in the open and it's become the thing to do in the thing to be on this committee which of course wasn't the beginning I was little working out in Highland Park today. I talked to a senior boy and a junior girl after the big dances do the private parties are open how do you know there is usually an open house here for the big dance or something for being pro brain after homecoming. I got a big one for our seniors and their dates. Because my parents were going to give for everybody to help make it.
Just straight pay for private parties. How many people have a very there are about a hundred. Girls and boys and their dates close to 100 and I was there one time and one time we counted they're right there along with them with the turnover bigs as some would leave some others who come and say there are at least a hundred or more. Open house and when everything was done the girls washed out a ashtrays. All the grasses were cleaned up some of those that some of the kids estate later there are about eight of us that stayed later to everybody gone. We were our watch the glasses my parents from everything you know my parents you know they were in the game with them and the presents in your question power could have been very good for me and my parents and his parents around the kitchen they were cleaning up some of the stuff from me because we had a lot of cold meat and stuff of kids from a thing that just came in from the kitchen and the whole living room was cleaned up and everything was all straightened up
going crazy. How do you feel about having your parents around at all these parties. Personally I'm for it I mean I think I up unlike my parents when I can I know our kids or my father we have a we have a sort of like a local thing in common where we vote who's We get the best father who's got the best mother and the father's one father the year three of the last four years and he gets along well he likes all the girls. I'm all for it at any of these open houses. Have there been any of that incidence of things gotten broken or fights broken out anything like that. Well things are getting broken I mean nothing of value I don't think but that rights don't use of nothing serious has ever happened. I know five and six years ago my brother was in high school. Not that he got in any fights but I know the type of kids they had their houses to get in fights and raised to be a fight every night need to be fights and to be asked about against things like that and I just don't think this doesn't exist anymore and that's what I figured that well maybe it existed and I didn't see it but I know I fucked up
kids from almost every different section to every different group in high school. And they say no I don't think there's too much of that. What about summer activities. Well we're going to have a chance last summer. It's. Different. For each of us to camp. It was pretty good. I think. It gives everybody together during the summer rough times you want to do if you're working YOU WANT SEE WHO ARE YOUR FRIENDS AND IT'S ONE night that everybody can be together and everybody goes to your solicitor in turn. Rather than asked for the comments of an outside authority for this program. I talked to an inside authority. He is Mr. Rogers The superintendent of the Highland Park High Schools were a Township High School District which means that. We cover more than just Highland Park. The communities of. High word Highland
Park Deerfield bannock burned some unincorporated area farmland and for sure all contribute to the. Basic structure of the high school. So we have. A pretty cosmopolitan group in that we have. People with high academic Demick background with. Lots of financial background and still we have areas that are not so fortunate. Which makes a fine opportunity to bring everybody into one situation. Most of the people working commute to Chicago. It is all residential areas. Your school is growing rather rapidly. Yes. We are hit with this movement to the suburbs. The last three four years our school has been drawn from twelve hundred to twenty two hundred fifty in the next five years we expect to go to 5000 so that we are. A
changing community from a static fewer suburban area. To the growing suburbia or whatever you want to call it. Do you have any delinquency problem where we hold over 95 percent of our kids in school. And from a delinquency standpoint I have worked with the kids so long as Do you know boys and assistant principal that we say let's keep our troubles in Highland Park. Don't get in trouble. In the neutral or district or in Chicago our desk fines are anywhere you're going to have. Some problems when I have them right at home where the school understand you and the police understand you and we can work out your problems. But in the school itself. You say when you get rid of 12 kids we have a wonderful school in the next year you get 12 more. And with the same pattern with everybody else and just a case of how many. But the whole atmosphere. In our school district is one that would keep a
kid from becoming delinquent he has. This is the purpose of the Student Activities Committee. They keep the kids busy and wear them out so when they're ready to go to bed there they go to bed tired. This is the beauty of the Student Activities Committee. To keep the kid busy he can get into trouble when he has time on his hands when he becomes a delinquent. What were the events that led up to the founding of the Student Activities Committee. Well there were probably quite a few. The North Shore problem of what to do with youngsters running in to Chicago for entertainment and running off on the fringes of Highland Park to. Night clubs to places to get entertainment that they really didn't need. Every year you have new parents and every four years a complete turnover. And every four years this problem kept coming up in
Highland Park to do something for the youngsters. To the extent of moving nightclub in Highland Park and supervised by parents and teachers and the students. But every time this came up the parents didn't follow through but finally we had a youngster killed in an automobile accident. And this originated as a Student Activities Committee idea came from the kids themselves. They were greatly disturbed over this and wanted to do something. So that it grew from the kids. And the school is completely divorced from this program except when they are asked to come in for counsel. Students make all of the decisions. Students will accept responsibility if you allow them to take it. As we have a great habit as parents and teachers to think of our kids is still kindergarten kids when at least in the.
Eleventh and twelfth grade there are young adults and if you give them responsibility they will take it and they will surprise you and I will do a better job than the parents will. I was asked at different times what I thought about it. And I agreed to it and tried to avoid any particular PODE that they should live by. But rather that they should set standards that were becoming of the students from the Highland Park High School and that by. The right kind of leadership. This good behavior would come rather than being forced down. They discussed it cold at length and the parent grew up a cold and presented it to the kids. And the kids talk to me about it and I agreed with them they turned it down. As a piece of paper means nothing you have to live whatever you're living be and brotherhood or citizenship or anything else you live it rather than give lip service to it. Next week we'll hear the first of two programs recorded in Charleston South Carolina
Coming of age
Suburbia sees the dawn
Producing Organization
Columbia University
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
A successful teenage movement for control of drinking and driving is analyzed.
Other Description
Explores the thoughts and feelings of American youth in the 20th century. Writer-director Ben Park talks with teenagers and parents, teachers and friends.
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Social Issues
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Director: Park, Ben
Producing Organization: Columbia University
Writer: Park, Ben
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-21-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:54
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Chicago: “Coming of age; Suburbia sees the dawn,” 1961-03-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 20, 2022,
MLA: “Coming of age; Suburbia sees the dawn.” 1961-03-16. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 20, 2022. <>.
APA: Coming of age; Suburbia sees the dawn. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from