“It’s always been a very collaborative and cooperative effort within the Village and the business community to promote the quality of life for the residents and the business owners, and they work hand in hand together, if they don’t, you’re going to have issues. Doesn’t mean that everything was always peachy keen, obviously there would be times when one group would say ‘well we ought to do it this way’ and somebody else would say ‘do it that way’ and in the end came a well-intended and well-meaning compromise. That certainly has served the community all these years,” said former Chamber president Rob Lincoln.
Through valleys and hills, bright moments, and dark times, this is the story of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce.
In May of 1947, the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce officially became a non-profit organization, being incorporated, and recognized by the state of Illinois on May 9, 1947.
At the time of the incorporation, the son of former president William Howard Taft, Sen. Robert Taft was running for president; baptisms were announced in the newspapers; and a 2 lb. bag of coffee cost .75 cents at the local grocery store.
Just three months after the incorporation of the Chamber, the Arlington Heights Herald ran a story which questioned whether the cost of goods would increase or decrease following World War II. This would also be the decade in which the Chamber of Commerce would hire their first secretary. A story so significant, it was run in the Arlington Heights Herald.
“Arlington Heights businessmen Monday night authorized the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce to hire a full-time secretary,” wrote the Arlington Heights Herald. “Two hours were spent in discussing the pros and cons of the jobs and the duties that a secretary will find to do.”
The cost of goods and services was miniscule compared to what it is now, and life was much simpler for the good people of Arlington Heights. Things would eventually change for life of residents in Arlington Heights, with goods now increased by dollars, and the hiring of a new secretary being an average affair, the Chamber of Commerce would remain a driving force pushing into the next decades.
The 1950’s was the first full decade of the Chamber of Commerce. WWII had just ended, the United Nations had been developed just 5 years prior, the Arlington Heights Woman’s Club was the social club many local women engaged with, and a quart of mayonnaise cost 60 cents with a coupon at the local grocery store.
In 1951, the Chamber of Commerce hosted a speaker who gave an impassioned speech on the freedoms celebrated in America, and the world war that had ended just six years prior.
“‘Democracy is never safe. We must fight for it every day,” the Wheeling Herald quoted the speaker. “Freedom is never free. We must work for it if we are to preserve it. The month of February is an important patriotic month in American history.”
In 1952, the Daily Herald was reporting on the new telephone industry being pushed in Arlington Heights. Ads were run for businesses that said, “our telephone is new–but our television service is still the finest in town.” Phone numbers at the time were simple five-digit numbers, not 10.
Food for Christmas meals in 1951 were less than a dollar in price. Pork loin cost 39 cents a pound, picnic ham cost .42 cents a pound, and a pound of lettuce cost .15 cents. All this for Christmas mealtime preparation.
To spread Christmas cheer in Arlington Heights, the Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Christmas light contest in 1951.
“Residents who entered the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce Christmas lighting contest are reminded to have their displays lighted from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Friday, December 21,” wrote the Arlington Heights Herald.
For perspective on just how long the AHCC has lasted, in 1964 a request was made for a mimeograph machine. Should somebody look up a mimeograph machine in the year 2021, numerous videos will appear that include stock footage from the 60’s of such a device.
In 1964, the AHCC celebrated 40 years since the first group formed to develop what is now known as the AHCC. The Arlington Heights Herald wrote “forty years ago this summer-on July 31, 1924-a group of Arlington Heights businessmen formally organized as association, dedicated to the improvement of the village”.
The times were much different during the decade of the 60’s, life for many was much simpler. The Chamber did their bookwork by hand and the Welcome Neighbor Program was used to introduce new citizens to the village.
Respect for Law and Order
During the late 1960’s, the AHCC was concerned with the state order, not just Arlington Heights, but the rest of the country.
The group was so invested in the issue of order that they formed a committee dedicated to the preservation of law and order.
“Committee on Respect for Law and Order reported that membership cards and applications had been printed, were being numbered, and that a kick-off meeting was being arranged. Samples of the cards and applications were passed around and several applications were signed–the first of many,” meeting minutes, 1968.
The Law-and-Order Committee was focused on studying and lobbying for the protection of people and businesses. This goal became prevalent during the late 1960’s when protests around the country were becoming increasingly violent.
“With disorder, burning, looting, and rioting all summer long, and with induction center and University riots at many places from Coast to Coast, it is obvious that as a nation we have law and order problems of the first magnitude,” from the meeting minutes in 1967.
The AHCC was heavily invested in the preservation of individual lives, homes and businesses which people held dear. Often, members would work with the local police department in achieving goals which preserved the livelihoods of local business owners.
“Lt. English responded with excellent comments pointing out first that a law was recently passed which in effect made looting once a store had been broken into a misdemeanor rather than a felony. He pointed out maximum force could be used to protect a person’s life, or a home, but not to protect a business,” from the meeting minutes of 1968.
The AHCC responded to the infamous Chicago Riots of 1968 at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) by sending a telegram to former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. The statement commended the Chicago police for their “firm action in preventing a chaotic situation from developing in Chicago.” The telegram also said they “regret the fact that some innocent people may have been hurt in the difficult and dangerous task of maintaining law and order.” The statement was sent out in the Triangle News on Sept. 1, 1968.
The Chamber was not done, however. They felt strongly that the news coverage of the Chicago Riots was unfair towards the police officers working the crowds. So, they sent a set of telegrams to the Chicago offices of NBC and CBS news.
The Chamber said that they felt “your [CBS & NBC] coverage of Chicago police action in keeping law and order is slanted unfairly.” The AHCC emphasized a desire for fair coverage of an issue with which they felt had a major slant.
“We urge that you give instructions to your people to show the entire picture in a terribly difficult situation. Consider the alternative to the firm action of the police and national guard in confining these planned disturbances,” said the Chamber.
When this committee was not focused on the national issues, the AHCC’s committee on law and order was bringing attention to issues that were relevant to Arlington Heights specifically.
“The Committee [Law and Order Committee] Chairman proposed that the Chamber and his committee sponsor a program which might be called Crime Stop or Chec-Mate which would register interested citizens who would report suspicious or actual criminal acts to the police by simply giving their ‘Crime Stop’ or ‘Chec-Mate’ number,” meeting minutes of July 30, 1968.