You may have cozied up on your couch to watch the Cartwrights saddle up for yet another Ponderosa adventure on the TV hit series, “Bonanza.” Perhaps you relaxed in your armchair reading, “The Rise of the West” by William H. McNeill. Let’s not forget Paul and Paula serenading each other in their popular tune, “Hey Paula.”
Your income was approximately $6998, with the minimum wage being $1.25 per hour.
If you wanted to get out of your $19,300 house that evening, you probably drove your $2300 car to the movies, stopping first for gas (30 cents per gallon), then mailing your letter with a 5 cent stamp, picking up a loaf of bread for 21 cents, to watch Sidney Poiter (Best Actor) in “Lilies of the Field,” or Patrician Neal (Best Actress) & Paul Newman in “Hud,” or the Best Picture, “Tom Jones,” directed by Tony Richardson.
In the early 60’s, Sandwich was a 1-stoplight town of 4000. Around Christmas, we huddled in the cold at the downtown park, hoping to hear our name called in the drawing, that we had won a turkey. If we hadn’t won, we would hope someone that we knew had been a winner. That wasn’t too difficult as everyone knew everybody back then. Mary Ann’s café served the real chocolate malts and the best hamburgers anywhere and the teens hung around, listening to “Blue Velvet” recorded by Bobby Vinton. When the country roads had lots of snow, the farm kids got to stay home, instead of going to school. They were the envy of the town kids who still had to attend. In the fields, kids rode sleds that were pulled by tractors. When they couldn’t stand the cold any longer, they went inside for homemade barbecue, hot cocoa, and lots of laughs. Sandwich, Illinois seemed to have it all. What could be lacking?
Sandwich and the surrounding communities were lacking in programs and services for individuals with developmental disabilities. David Graf, a vocational arts teacher at Sandwich High School, and his wife, Juanita had a child with developmental disabilities. William Squier Sr., vice-president of the James Knights Company of Sandwich, and his wife, Virginia, also had a child with developmental disabilities. They believed their children could assemble parts, grow more independently, and experience the self-respect that comes with working and earning a paycheck.
Seeking to remedy this situation, these founders began a workshop in the home of Dave and Juanita Graf. The two adult trainees, William Squier, Jr. and Cynthia Graf along with their mothers, Juanita and Virginia, began working to complete a contract with a quota of 11,000 work items. Before the end of the week, 5 “trainees” met the quota deadline, and began earning wages for the first time in their lives!