By Helen Weaver
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall/Winter 2019
As we celebrate the sesquicentennial year of our Village’s founding, let’s take a look back at what was happening In Winnetka 50 years ago, during the year of our centennial celebration. While many of us might remember 1969 as the year of the lunar landing, Woodstock, the trial of the “Chicago Eight,” and rising frustration over the Vietnam War, the biggest issue in Winnetka local news that year was garbage. Multiple Winnetka Talk issues from January to December led with stories about Winnetka’s “refuse disposal problem.”
In early January 1969, a group of 45 residents calling themselves “Citizens Against Refuse Dumping in Winnetka” (CARDW) campaigned to convince their neighbors that a Village plan to move the landfill from the south side of Willow Road to the north was “ridiculous.” According to the Chicago Tribune, Bertram Moss, a CARDW leader, claimed “taking much needed recreation land to locate the dump even closer to dwellings would only compound problems” such as unsightly appearance, objectionable odors and smoke, rats, and undesirable traffic.
To encourage the public to support its side of the issue, the Village released a “Winnetka Report” outlining its position that any other solution would be cost prohibitive — doubling or tripling the estimated annual cost. However, more than 900 citizens signed petitions opposing the landfill, and the Village was forced to consider alternatives with the Village Council voting in April to conduct a “detailed investigation of four proposed solutions.” The Village also sent out a survey to judge the public’s willingness to pay more to save Duke Childs Field. Out of 1,818 households responding to a question asking if they’d be willing to pay up to $15 more per year, 1,052 answered “yes.”
The citizens’ group’s efforts finally paid off in December when the Village Council formally voted to abandon the proposal to use Duke Childs Field for a landfill and moved forward with a plan to “double-deck” the existing site south of Willow Road.
Other significant events of the year included the Village’s 100th anniversary celebration (highlighted by the marching of live elephants in the 4th of July parade and the presentation of a giant “birthday” cake in the shape of Village Hall); the opening of the Carleton W. Washburne School with classes starting in February and an official dedication in October; the completion of the Green Bay Trail; and the participation of hundreds of Winnetkans and New Trier students in Vietnam Moratorium activities in October.
The Green Bay Trail was constructed on right-of-way property of the former Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad, an electric line railway that ceased operations in 1963. A local citizens group, the Committee for the Green Bay Trail, raised over $15,000 of the $20,000 cost of the six-mile trail, worked with local municipalities to pave the path from Glencoe to Winnetka, and hosted an opening celebration at the Winnetka Village Green on June 10, 1969.
“The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam,” a peaceful demonstration to protest the US involvement in Vietnam, was held globally on October 15, 1969. Winnetka’s Police Chief, Don Derning, estimated about 550 people took part in a student-led march from Indian Hill Park to the Village Green. Participants listened to calls for peace from various speakers and released three doves “reportedly donated by the cast of Hair.” More than 2,700 out of 3,600 students at New Trier East and “almost all” of the students at New Trier West attended lectures, films, debates, and discussions sponsored by the schools in support of the moratorium.