Mike's Early Years

Michael Richard Copeland, born in 1940, grew up on the North Shore of Chicago, Illinois.   He and his 2 sisters, Maureen (18 months younger) and Claudia (6 years younger) are the children of Maurice Donald Copeland and Elizabeth Kittle Copeland.   Mike was born in in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb north of Chicago.   His father was a well-known local actor, and his mother was a stay-at-home mom.

After Maureen was born (in 1941), the family lived in a north side Chicago apartment for a few years.  

Mike has a single, somewhat odd, memory of living there: he was outside in front of the apartment building one day, sitting on the curb.   As he sat there, a string of Chicago Fire Trucks came roaring by, lights and sirens on, heading down the street.   This was no doubt Mike's first exposure to the world outside his partents' protective shell.   The sight didn't really affect Mike, but he remembers it to this day.

Mike also remembers an effect that World War II had on the family: his mother saved bacon grease, which was turned over to the Government to be used to make gunpowder (all families were required to do so).   Although the family owned an automobile (a Packard), gas was very expensive and rationed, and driving at night wasn't allowed (car headlights indicated potential foreign bomber attack locations). It was wartime, and such sacrifices were normal for all.

Throughout his life, Mike's family moved often, up and down the North Shore of Chicago and even further north.   Each move, although usually to a better, more luxurious neighborhood, occurred at important points in Mike's life, and while interesting at the time, may not have been the best for his social development.   Any detriment wasn't noticed until later in life, when it wasn't correctable...

The frequent moves are detailed below (to the extent Mike can recall them).

First House Second House Third House Fourth House Fifth Home Sixth House

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The First House - Winnetka, Illinois

Soon after the war ended, Mike's family bought their first house and moved to Winnetka, a northern Chicago suburb along Lake Michigan.   Claudia was born there, in 1946.   Mike was only 6, so he remembers little of that time.   One thing stands out, though: Memorial Day and 4th of July were important there, and large parades, food and flags were part of city-sponsored celebrations there, every year.   No doubt the War's victory atmosphere was pervasive. and it seemed everyone participated in the activities.  

However, Maurice's career flourished, and a pattern of frequent moves up and down the North Shore followed...

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Mike's Second House, in Hubbard Woods, Illinois

As Mike's father became more successful in radio (and early television), the family moved to another North Shore town, Hubbard Woods.   The family wanted and could afford a nicer house and neighborhood.

Hubbard Woods is an old, upper-class area of Winnetka, Illinois.   Mike and his family always considered the area as separate from Winnetka, but it wasn't.   The houses there were built in the early 1900's, and were considered "stately".

His parents didn't (or couldn't) gather information about their new neighborhood, and that turned out to be a problem for Mike and Maureen.   Most of the neighbors were Jewish, and while that wasn't an issue for the Copelands, their children had difficulty integrating with the local kids.   In fact, the elder Copelands didn't have friends in the neighborhood (although that may be due to Maurice's odd work hours: live radio and TV broadcasts that were performed in downtown Chicago).   It was an awkward living situation which, upon reflection, seemed to affect Mike more than the others.  

Mike doesn't remember much of this house, but recalls that he learned to ride a bicycle on the sloped driveway, as well as a "secret room" off an upstairs closet.   His relationships with the neighborhood boys did seem to have a lasting effect, though.   For as long as he can remember, Mike has always made an conscious effort to ingratiate himself with Jews he met or worked with.   He didn't know why this is so, until several years ago when Maureen relayed a conversation she had with their mother about why they moved from the Hubbard Wooods house: Mike had "suffered" from the rejection he got from the other boys (something he wasn't aware of).

A nearly tragic incident occurred while they lived in In Hubbard Woods.   At age 8, Mike was put into a local "summer day camp" that was held at the Lake Michigan beach.   The idea was to keep him busy during the summer and learn some physical and social skills.   Many activities involved water sports and games.   Mike didn't know how to swim.   One day he was "horsing around" with one of the counselors out on a long pier.   The counselor got annoyed, picked Mike up, and dropped him over the edge...into deep water.   Mike remembers going down once or twice, as he tried to float...but he couldn't swim at all.   A city life guard dove in and rescued Mike, who has never forgotten the incident.  

Mike's father wisely took him down to the beach the next day, making him "face his demon" by getting into the water.   (Mike remembers this, too.)   His parents also enrolled him in a formal swim class that was held at the local high school, to guard against a tragedy like this happened again.   (An interesting fact is that Mike's mother, who grew up in Chicago and lived virtually her entire life along Lake Michigan, never learned to swim - perhaps explaining why Mike and Maureen didn't learn that skill early on.)

Whatever the reason(s), the family once again moved from a really nice house, after just a few years.

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The Hubbard Woods house
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The Third House - Wilmette, Illinois

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The Copelands' Wilmette house

As Maurice became more successful in both radio and television, the family moved to various North Shore towns: (Hubbard Woods and Wilmette, after Winnetka), every 3 or 4 years.   This "nomadic" lifestyle kept everyone going, but had unanticipated consequences: the 3 children repeatedly lost friends almost as soon as they made them.

The longest stay (about 6 years) was in Wilmette, where Mike attended junior high and 3 semesters of high school (at the nationally renowned New Trier High School).   Mike and Maureen spent only a short time there, where a number of famous people also attended over the years - e.g. Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, John Stossel, John Hughes, Adam Baldwin, Donald Rumsfeld...and Ann Margaret.

Ann Margaret inadvertently played a small part in Mike and Maureen's youth.   She and her mother had recently moved to Wilmette around the time the Copelands arrived.

(Mike's father wanted to get him into sports such as baseball and football, as he had starred in them all in his high school in Rector, Arkansas, and wanted Mike to have that experience.)   Mike had little interest in sports, but his mother thought tennis might work - and it eventually did.   He and Maureen took some group lessons from the city's Parks & Recreation Department, and he started to like that sport.

Mike hung around a nearby park, where he met David Porter, a boy 1 year older, who lived behind the courts.   They played there during the summers, and one day a young girl showed up, trying to learn the game (by) herself.   Her name was Ann-Margaret Olsson, and the boys befriended and helped her (probably without much success, as she obviously went a different way later in life).

Ann-Margaret Olson was Maureen's age and happened to wind up in Maureen's "home room" at New Trier, in their freshman year.

The home in Wilmette was a large two-story house.   It had a detached 1 car garage, located at the back of a long, narrow driveway.   Parking the car was a challenge that Mike's mother disliked, so Maurice modified the garage by knocking out the back wall and installing a "lift door" in the back end.   Thereafter, they could simply drive into the garage and out the back door to the alley behind the house.   It probably increased the home's value when they sold it.

There was a Sinclair Oil gas station located almost across the street from their house.   Mike was inexperienced with cars, but he used to hang out there, doing minor things for the owner such as pumping gas, learning how to change oil, changing tires, and doing minor repairs.   This experience would prove useful when he got to college.

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The Fourth House - Wilson, Illinois

Another move, this time 30 miles north to Libertyville, Illinois, occurred in the middle of Mike's sophomore year.   His father grew up on a farm, and when he was in a position to do so, chose to "return to his roots".   The family leased a large estate home on the farm's property (3 car garage, chauffeur's quarters, a quarter mile-long driveway, and lots of land and trees).   Not much of a "farming experience" for the family, it was a major culture shock living far away (8 miles) from where Mike and Maureen went to school.   (Mike worked 2 summers on the farm, discovering that he was allergic to hay and oat dust...)

For all 3 kids there were no peer groups, except at school (a long bus ride away).   Until Mike got a car and could drive Maureen and himself, it was difficult for all.   Their parents hadn't anticipated this, and then Maurice's career stagnated - even though he had transitioned to TV.   Local television production had moved to Hollywood and New York.   Without assurance of success, he didn't want to uproot the family yet again, and they were in essence stuck there, out in farm country.

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The house on the farm

Their parents started a small new business: direct mail.   There was plenty of space in the property (garages, a basement), and Maurice decided to use a Lake Forest address for prestige and to market "high-end" direct mail merchandise.

The whole family helped, with Mike driving to and from Lake Forest (about 6 miles) to pick up mail and ship customer orders.  
However, the venture wasn't successful.  

Mike's foray into college started while living there.

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The Fifth Home - Evanston, Illinois

During Mike's sophomore year of college, the family moved back to Evanston - into the first of two apartments.   With Claudia still in school and Mike and Maureen away at college, a good-sized apartment fit the family's needs.

While in the 2nd apartment, Mike met Libby (Payne) and started a relationship that led to their marriage.   This relationship took considerable time to develop, though, because circumstances were not promising at that time (see "How they met").   (Their wedding reception was held there, in his parent's living room.)

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2nd Evanston apartment (2nd floor)
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The Sixth House - rented in Evanston, Illinois

Mike was working (at Field Enterprises Educational Corporation) and living with his parents in their apartment on Michigan Avenue, in Evanston.   His life away from work was playing a little tennis in a park along the lake and Touch Football on Sundays at that park.   He got to know several men in these activities, but had no social interaction beyond thoser sports.   Other than that, he went to work and stayed home: no dating.

One of the guys he played football with, Art Pratt, happened to mention he was about to rent a house in Evanston and was looking for 1 or 2 guys to share the place.   Mike was interested in such a life change, so he agreed to move there with Art.   They also found another guy, named David Guthrie, to share the house with them.   Soon the 3 were buying some used furniture and moving in.

Art seemed to have connections with women, but that didn't "spill over" to Mike, who still wasn't dating.   Several times Mike ventured into a "singles mixer" that was held on Friday evenings in a restaurant high atop the Merchandise Mart, and although he had a few followup dates with several girls he met there, nothing developed from that.   He dated one girl, Ann Spoelstra, a few times, enjoying her company (and knowledge of nice restaurants), but she was Catholic, and Mike saw no future there.   Mike spent considerable money on dates with her, and he eventually "chalked it off" to (dining) experience he needed.   His first glass of wine with shared with Ann...

His roommates planned a party there, and they held it in the fall of 1960.   It was then that Mike met Libby Payne - and the rest is history!

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Last Updated: February 20, 2019