Originally appeared in The Winnetka Current, March 30, 2020
By Holly Marihugh, Contributing Columnist
It’s hard to overstate the type of “open door” policy the Trieschmann family had in its Cherry Street neighborhood for the last 58 years.
Over the decades, the family invited many neighbors and friends to come on in, including an 18-year-old neighborhood teenager who’d been in a motorcycle accident and ended up staying four years. In addition, neighbor kids from blocks all around came daily to climb on the jungle gym or hide in the tree house in the family’s backyard. When a damaging storm struck, Don jumped to clean up and repair whatever was broken at a neighbor’s house.
“We were always open to helping if anybody ever needed it,” Don says. “We’d babysit for kids. We’d make house repairs or shovel their walk. We got to know the neighbors very well.”
Penny remembers knitting at least 100 caps for new babies in the neighborhood.
“I got a Christmas card from a friend with a picture of her grandchild,” Penny says. “She said that a hat I made has been passed down to her new grandchild.”
The couple recently sold their beloved house they’ve called home since 1962. They raised their seven children on Cherry Street, and now that everyone’s grown and gone, the Trieschmanns moved to a condo in town that better fits their lifestyle.
One of the most memorable guests of the Trieschmann’s was a teenage neighbor, Barry Hartz.
“We had an 18-year-old boy who was in a motorcycle accident, and his mother had died,” Penny recalls. “His father had remarried and moved downtown.”
Barry asked if he could stay with the Trieschmanns in his familiar neighborhood on Cherry Street. He turned out to be the model house guest and stayed four years. One summer, Barry even organized a business called “Hartz Odd Jobs” and hired the Trieschmann kids and his friends from New Trier to work with him.
“They would all meet at my kitchen table in the morning,” Penny says. “They would eat everything in my house and plan their day. When they were working, of course, who answered the phone?”
Penny smiles and points to herself. Don says that Barry ended up having a long, successful Navy career and still stays in touch with his Trieschmann “parents.”
Behind the family home on Cherry Street was a backyard bursting with playground equipment. The place drew kids as if free cotton candy and ice cream came with every visit.
“On the weekends, our house was like a magnate because there were a lot of families with young kids, and they were all within a block or two,” Don says. “In the backyard, we’d built a sandbox, a slide, swings, a zipline, a jungle gym, and a tree house. So there might be 20 kids in the backyard at once. I’ll never forget that.”
Another dramatic memory that Don and Penny won’t forget is the microburst storm that hit the North Shore during August 2007. A family in the neighborhood, the Dolans, were out of town when a tree fell, broke through their house roof and smashed a glass window, letting rain pour inside.
“Our son, Burke, was home visiting so we went over there with a chain saw,” Don says. “We cut up the tree, removed it from the roof, patched the hole, and picked up the glass that had fallen. It was all over the grand piano inside. Then we covered up the broken window with tarps.”
After all these years, Don and Penny have some advice about what it means to be a good neighbor.
“It was all so friendly and open,” Don says. “When you’re invited for dinner, then you have them over for dinner. You share whatever things you have.”
“Leave your doors open and make it obvious to everyone that they can call you for anything,” Penny says.