Highland Park

William H. McKenna (1948 & 1949)

Between the families of William McKenna, second President of the Highland Park Community Club, and his brother, Frank McKenna, were sixteen children in club activities. William McKenna had twelve children and was President of Hanlon Gregory Galvanizing Company.

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Murray V. Johnston (1946 & 1947)

Murray Johnston, first president of the Highland Park Community Club, is remembered as a caring, unselfish man. He was interested in everybody, and would rather hear about other people than talk about himself. You could tell Johnston a fact about yourself, not see him for years, and he would remember everything you told him. He cultivated an attitude of being open to criticism and feedback that helped the community club grow by tenfold in its first year.

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Presidents of the Highland Park Community Club

The stories of people's lives -- a good portion of any history -- take on a larger dimension in community affairs. The club's fifty-year record of achievement springs largely from the efforts of individuals who take on responsibility for making things happen. The Highland Park Community Club's founders were professionals and businessmen -- family doctors, surgeons, plumbers, physicists, bakers and bankers -- interested in their families. They knew how to get things done, knew how to throw a good party, and believed in bringing the community together.

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1996 Addendum by Clarke Thomas

"Your decision to live in Highland Park was influenced by many factors--affordable housing, convenient transportation, the variety of shopping areas close by and the choice of a number of excellent school systems--to name a few. I would like to point out that community involvement will reinforce that decision. Come to one of our meetings ... become involved in your neighorhood-- prove to yourself that you made the right choice." -- Maureen D. Cato, president in 1980 and 1985.

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Women as Members

The Highland Park Community Club was founded as a family organization by men at a time when a family was considered to be led by the husband. Very few women were working. Thus, a family membership meant that it was listed in the husband's name. Annual fees were paid by him. This was reflected in the charter for the club's first twenty-four years. But women played key roles in all of the club's activities.

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Diversity

Census tracts reveal a long history of diverse people living as neighbors along the streets behind the Highland Avenue homes of prominent residents like Henry Phipps, Edward M. Bigelow and Dr. Benjamin Peabody. In 1910, a Russian-born, Yiddish-speaking grocer, six Syrian and Austro-German men, and nine Irish boarders lived on the same block. The "country of origin" column in the 1920 census reads like a geography book.

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Family and Adult Activities

Capitalizing on the success of the midget baseball team and what Mayor David L. Lawrence called President Johnson's "remarkable steamroller tactics," the club's first annual meeting attracted over three hundred people to East Liberty Presbyterian Church in January, 1947.

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Those Darn Teenagers

Teens throughout history, from leading riots in Ancient Rome up to the present day, remain the most finicky special-interest group in communities. The HPCC sponsored Young People's Friday Night Dances and Square Dance at Saint Andrew's Church. These were a hit, but soon faded. Dances were again tried with a hired caller spinning records.

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