THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Forty-Three

No.2

April 2002

 

 


 

Lincoln Highway Through Illinois Began at Mooseheart

Marilyn Robinson

 

 

 

No road maps, no road signs, no roads, nobody cares. If one wants to travel farther than 10 miles from home,

he can ride a train. Otherwise, the horse and buggy does just fine, thank you. Across America, the few early roads there were led nowhere in particular and often ended in someone's barnyard or disappeared on the plains and deserts of the west. But in 1912, Carl Fisher had a new idea. "Imagine a road clear across the United States! Let's build it before we're too old to enjoy it," he challenged the country. Many agreed. The Lincoln Highway Association held its first meeting on July 1, 1913, and acknowledged his idea. The automobile was here, and a transcontinental road was needed. Fisher was head of the Prest-O-Lite Company that made headlights for a new invention, the automobile. The Prest-O-Lite was a little drum filled with acetylene gas that was carried on the running board of an automobile. When it grew dark, a driver would get out and "lite-up".

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Studying the history of the Lincoln Highway is a passion of many today. There are State and National Lincoln Highway Associations that promote")searching the history of the roadway. Ruth Frantz of Sugar Grove is the Director of the Illinois Association, and Sue Jacobson, Aurora, is Secretary for the National Association. These two ladies presented a wonderful program on the Lincoln Highway at the March 1999 meeting of the society. The Lincoln Highway, built in sections as local funds were available, eventually reached from Times Square in New York to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. The builders "Resolved, that the Lincoln Highway now is, and henceforth shall be, an existing memorial in tribute to the immortal AbrahamLincoln." In 1912, Illinois Governor Edward F.Dunne set aside $1 ,200,000 of state funds to establish a statehighway department. The first of these funds went to Kane County for a portion of the Lincoln Highway. Thus, Kane holds the distinction of being the first county in Illinois to construct roads with state funds.

 

In 1914, Mooseheart, between Batavia and North Aurora, was chosen as the place to inaugurate this new era in road building for Kane County. It had expressed an interest in improving its roads, and it was the fourth most populous county in Illinois, giving it influence in Springfield. Local automobile clubs lobbied for road improvements, but most importantly,

Mooseheart volunteered to pay for the paving in front of its property and to furnish the labor to build the road if the state would furnish the necessary equipment. Mooseheart spent $12,000 for the 3/4 of a mile past their property.

On April 15, 1914, (dubbed "Good Road Day") with 1,000 citizens and officials in overalls, Gov. Dunne, with a silver-plated shovel, dug the first shovel of earth beginning the first link in the Lincoln Highway in Illinois. During

the morning, work was largely ceremonial with speeches, parades, and moving picture making. After a noon-hour barbecue, compliments of Mooseheart, the real work began. While men worked, ladies watched and applauded. Soon the

number of workers dwindled to 200 shovelers and 40 teams. By nightfall, 200 pairs of blistered hands and 200 sore backs had produced 130 cubic yards of a sub-grade. Crew foremen from the tri-cities included John Van Burton and James Kinney of Batavia; A. L. Carlisle and J. A. Fauntleroy of Geneva; and Bert Norris and F. E. Glenn of St. Charles. Norton VanSicklen of St. Charles was overseer of all the work.

 

The day was so special that Batavia factories, its post offic~, and its schools closed so everyone could visit "Good Road Day." Everyone who worked on the road that day received a membership into the Hod Carriers and Common Laborers Union and a check for one penny signed by Gov. Dunne and drawn on the First National Bank of Batavia. Mooseheart's construction crews, using state equipment, poured the 15foot wide cement slab in front of the property during the following days. This was the first concrete highway in Illinois. While construction was underway, people were detoured to East River Road. (Rt. 25). Matching funds for infrastructure is not a new concept. In 1917, when it was proposed that the Lincoln Highway should cross Illinois, the national government was to pay 1/3 the cost, the state 1/3, and each county the road passed through 1/3. Kane County's portion was to be $93,100 pleted in the spring of 1920. The origi­nal roadway that stretched across IIli­nois went from Ch icago Heights through Joliet, Aurora, North Aurora, Mooseheart, Batavia, Geneva, with a short detour through northwest SI. Charles, and on to Fulton on the Mis­sissippi River. pleted in the spring of 1920. The origi­nal roadway that stretched across IIli­nois went from Ch icago Heights through Joliet, Aurora, North Aurora, Mooseheart, Batavia, Geneva, with a short detour through northwest SI. Charles, and on to Fulton on the Mis­sissippi River. W. Keslinger in the LaFox area.

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In June 1958, this portion of the Lincoln Highway was renamed Keslinger Road in Charles' honor. Most of the time the road was north of Elburn, but there was a time when it ran through the village on today's Rt. 47. There is a myriad of historic trivia about the road. It's this the hobbyists go in search of. For instance, Lawrence Benz, an 18-year old boy from Chicago visited Batavia July 6, 1915, on his way from San Francisco to New York and back. He spoke that night at the Batavia Opera House about his long hike, telling how he was supposed to start out penniless and from Batavia to Aurora was "UncieUn Johnny Ozier. a beloved ex-slave, from Batavia to Aurora was "UncieUn Johnny Ozier. a beloved ex-slave, Markers identified the Highway. The first ones, made of metal, did not hold up, so concrete posts were set 3 feet in the ground and stood about 4 feet above ground and bore a red, white, and blue emblem, emblazoned with a large L and a bronze bust of Presi­dent Lincoln. As an event, Boy Scouts troops set 3,000 posts in one day. The entire distance of the road is 3,400 miles. In March 1914, a man in California donated a drinking fountain to any town in Illinois that named a street the highway followed, Lincoln Way. It was hoped the road would be a financial boon. For instance, in 1915 the San Francisco Panama Expedition was being held in that city. The high­way through Kane County was ex­pected to carry 5,000 automobiles with 15,000 people on their way to the Fair, incidentally spending mone' ­along the route. Women would sure, persuade their husbands to stop in Geneva so they could shop at the Little Traveler whose address was "The Lincoln Highway."

 

In 1916, the Aurora Automobile Club planned to light the highway from Aurora to Geneva with electricity from the county plant at the Alms House in Batavia. In 1919, an army convoy left Washington, D.C. on its way to San Francisco along the Highway. It took fourteen days to reach Chicago Heights, Illinois. Such an inter-coastal trip had never before been attempted, and the army wished to see if it were feasible to move its men and materials by road rather than railroad.

On July 21, the convoy made its way through Joliet, Plainfield, Aurora, Mooseheart, Batavia, Geneva and on to DeKalb where it spent the night. This day's trip took ten and one half hours. The entire journey from Washington to San Francisco took sixty-two days. All sorts of army equipment was in the seventy-nine vehicle convoy, giving people a chance to see what had been used to defeat the enemy in Europe during W.w.1. A secondary purpose of the trip was to dramatize the need for better highways across the country. One of the 295 men in the convoy was Capt. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Thirty years later, as president, retired General Eisenhower put an emphasis on building superhighways that became the interstate highway system we know today.

 

Information on the Lincoln Highway came from a variety of sources. This article was published in the Kane County Chronicle in June 1999. Photos courtesy of Ruth Frantz


 

Carl Furnas ...  and the Company He Built

Part 3

 

 

In the life of Carl Furnas and the growth of the company he founded until shortly after his death in 1962. His widow, Leto, had assumed the position of chairmanof the boardandWilliam Lisman, a vice president, became the president. Most of the material used came from a biography of Carl Furnas, Shadow of a Man, by Robert Lorz, which is available at theGustafson Research Center. Richard W. Hansen, grandson of the founder and president of the company for the last two decades of its independentoperation, has provided the following informationthat enables us to bring the story to a conclusion.

 

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In the years following the death of its founder, tremendous growth took place at the Furnas Electric Company. There was plant expansion in Batavia and new plants in West Chicago; Osceola, Iowa; Morrison, Illinois; Toronto, Canada; and Reynosa, Mexico. Much of this growth resulted from the vision and leadership of both Bill Lisman, who headed the company immediately after the founder's death, after 1975 Richard Hansen, the founder's grandson. It was clear to both of these CEOs that the key foundation elements for this growth that had been established by the business philosophy of Carl Furnas during the company's early years should continue.

 

One important element established by the founder very early in the company's history was a firm belief in technological innovation based on the needs of the customer. This philosophy was well entrenched in the company at the time of Carl Furnas' death, and the continuing management of the company possessed a strong technical orientation with many positions filled by engineering graduates who had an in-depth understanding of the industry's products and its customers' needs. This resulted in a very strong product development program in the two Both expansion of the product line to suit specific needs of target markets with specialty motor control and a broadening of the general industrial grade motor control product line to better compete in a growing industry took place at a rapid pace.

 

As a result, during the '60s and '70s the company experienced very strong growth in targeted markets for its products. It established a leadership position in the rapidly growing air conditioning and heating markets, the electric welding industry, hydraulic elevators, air compressors, and agricultural irrigation control products, with an increasing list of industrial customers and electrical distributors. By 1982, the company's 50th anniversary, its sales had gone from eight million dollars at the time of the founder's death in 1962 to over 80 million. Sales reached 140 million by 1995. Another cornerstone of the founder's philosophy was strict adherence to very high product quality and performance standards. Designs were tested against the most rigorous of industry standards, and only high quality competitors' products were used in benchmark testing. This philosophy resulted in the Furnas Electric Company's outstanding reputation for high quality and reliable products, delivered to the market with very competitive pricing -- a successful formula that proved itself over the years. A third and most important philosophy established by the founder and continued by successive management was the strong belief in the very best of customer service and support.

 

As the sales to most large customers grew into several millions per year, they became the target of competitors. Time and again it was proven that the company's adherence to the foregoing three basic business philosophies served it extremely well as the retention rate for key large customers remained very high. As Furnas approached its 50th anniversary in 1982, all of the employees were rightfully proud of the customer-retention record. Some of the customers had been with Furnas for most of those fifty years. Because of the company's strict adherence to its standards for innovation, quality, service and value, the company and its several plants received numerous awards from customers and industry recognition for product innovation. As the company continued its strong growth under the leadership of Richard Hansen, it was recognized by its employees as a wonderful place to work. Employee involvement in many aspects of the business was an important part of how the company operated in the '80s. Employee teams at all levels participated in the business and were involved in making decisions, evaluating and purchasing capital equipment, improving business operations and procedures -- even being involved in the design of new products and programs.

 

Customers who visited any of Furnas' five operating facilities marveled at the cleanliness and impeccable operations but even more at the employees' esprit de corps. Many of the people who actually built the products were involved in the sales presentation, demonstrating how their departments contributed to the quality and reliability of the product they hoped the customer would buy. It was impressive to see an assembly worker answer technical questions from a prospective customer regarding the quality control and testing aspects of the assembly operation. Most employees who knew the founder would agree that the foundation and business philosophies that he established guided them in doing a better job for their company and its customers. It was truly a team operation. Employees were very proud of their association with the Furnas Electric Company and look back upon their years with the company with satisfaction and pleasure.

 


Black Walnuts ... More Memories of Helen Anderson

 

Saturday afternoon our young neighbor children Michael and Emma came for a visit. Four year-old Emma handed me a plate of muffins that her mother had made. One delicious bite brought my memory back to the three walnut trees that were a part of my childhood. I hadn't thought of them for a long time, and recalling them started a chain of memories. On the back porch, Mama kept things she didn't want to throwaway but didn't have time to fix, such as overalls that needed patches on the knees and Rockford socks with holes in the toes waiting to be darned. Trouble was that this box of clothes (too good to be thrown away) made a wonderfully soft, warm home for a family or two of mice. When Mama saw them, she quickly took the box of clothes out to the backyard, sprinkled a little kerosene on it and lit the match. Usually compassionate Mama had no love for mice A mouse in the house always meant getting out the mouse traps. In the fall after the fields were bare from the harvest, field mice tried to enter houses even if they had to chew holes in the wood so they and their families could come in where it was warm. Then they could raid farmers' pantries. In addition to serving as a storage area, the porch, or shanty, was a place to hang wet, snowy outer garments and leave muddy boots or overshoes that were placed on newspapers when Papa and hired men came into the house for meals. But why, you are probably wondering, did the walnut muffins make me think of the shanty?

 

It was because, built on the roof or the shanty was another small storage area that we called the "hutch."Triangular in shape, it was the perfect place to store the winter's supply of walnuts that Roger and I had picked up. It was necessary to remove the softer green covering on the nuts before they were stored The brown walnuts, hard as iron, wer~ carried in a pail up the ladder and spread out on the floor of the little hutch to dry. They were the source of the impossible-to-get-at but so delicious walnut meats for Mama's cakes. Then, on someone's birthday or at holiday time, Mama would bake one of her wonderful black walnut cakes. This meant getting out the ladder and asking someone to climb up to the hutch and bring down a syrup pail full of walnuts. Mama brought out an old, all-iron flatiron, held the handle between her knees, and smacked each walnut with a hammer until it broke in half or in pieces. Many times Mama's fingers were in the way as her hammer slid off the hard nuts. I do not remember the words she uttered -probably Pennsylvania Dutch. When Nora lived with us, she picked out the nutmeats, chopped them into smaller pieces, and checked for bits of shells while Mama whipped up her favorite cake. With burnt sugar frosting, it was special.

 

Three very large walnut trees stooe' at the corner of our yard, not far frorr.-..l/ the horse barn. When Roger and I were quite young, Papa made a swing for us. A large limb of one of the walnut trees was just right for our swing. Papa made the seat of a heavy board with deep notches on each side to hold it in place. The ropes were very long and heavy. We could swing so high and far. At school, Agnes Perrow, our teacher, had us memorize the beautifullittle poem, "Oh, how I like to go up in a swing. Up in the sky so blue." As I swung, I repeated parts of the poem, "Rivers and trees and cattle and all, over the countryside." The parts of the poem that I couldn't "see" were clear to me. The trees were surely our own beautiful walnut trees. It was easy to imagine that the Fox River was right next door, and the fields did not have to be imagined. My dreaming often ended with Mama appearing at the kitchen door calling, "Time to set the table, Helen." At about the age of nine or ten, I began to get migraine headaches along with nausea and vomiting. They""-" completely depleted Mama's store of drugs. Without even aspirin to take the edge off my pain, the only relief was from cool, wet towels over my eye-also much moaning all alone in a darkened room. The moaning was a little too much for my usually patient brother, and after a few unkind words from him I tried to stop.

 

He said, "You're no baby!" Mama called Dr. West who came out to see me -- his prescription, a bottle of citrate of magnesia! Blue jays in the walnut trees, calling to each other and to me helped to make my sick days bearable. My migraines usually lasted three days, with one more day to feel normal again. They stayed with me well into my adult years. I remember one Sunday afternoon as I lay on our couch, softly moaning as usual from another migraine. Someone came into the back room and placed her hand on my head. I didn't open my eyes until she said, ''I'm sorry you have such a bad headache, Helen. We missed you in Sunday School today. We planned a party at my house for next Saturday at 2:00 o'clock. I hope you will be well enough to come." My visitor was my teacher, Fern High (later Anderson). I thought about the party the rest of the day and forgot to moan. I do not know if these three black walnut trees are still standing in the area of my parents' farm on the former Batavia-Warrenville road, now Fermilab, but the officials have been very careful to preserve beautiful hardwood trees. Batavia planners are doing their best, too, to save these beautiful giants of the forest.


Board of Directors Meeting

January 23, 2002

 

The Long Range Planning Committee is working with the City of Batavia toplace kiosks in both city cemeteries. The kiosks provide visitors with

information on the placement of grave markers in the cemetery.The town records, Windmill Herald newspapers, and several fragile

scrapbooks from the museum's collection have been microfilmed usingmoney from Batavia Township.We have been asked by the Batavia Public Library to prepare exhibitcases in their new building for the dedication in January. The new library hasa local history room where we will change the exhibit case several times ayear. Mayor Schielke and Marilyn Robinson will present a program at thededication.

The Batavia VFW is planning to display a permanent exhibit that will bededicated in May at their facility. The society will loan two brass plaques

from WWI and WWII for this exhibit.

 

General Meeting

March 17,2002

 

During the brief business meeting, Patty Rosenberg announced that theJune general meeting will be a fundraiser auction with homemade desserts.More information will be mailed to the members before June 23.Dick Hansen presented a very interesting slide presentation on the historyof Furnas Electric. Refreshments were served after the program and themembers had time to look at the many switches and photos that were displayed.

 


 

WHAT CAME AFTER SCHOOL?

More Memories of Lloyd Kautz

 

In the last issue, Lloyd Kautz shared with us his memories of school days in rural Geneva during the early 1900s. We pick up in this issue with what came after Lloyd's graduation from high school at age 16 -- his early jobs, his marriage, and finally his long-time career handling the dry-cleaning needs of Batavia. What makes these memories particularly interesting to today's reader is, as Lloyd points out, the difference between the way small-town business was conducted years ago and the way it is carried out today. The story that follows results from interviews of Lloyd by Elliott Lundberg and Bill Hall.

 

 

"In those days," Lloyd reminded us, "a much smaller percentage of high school graduates went to college. To

go on was almost the exception; if you went to college, you were a very lucky person. I didn't make it that far, and I picked up what work I could find. I was very fortunate to get a job with the Public Service Company of Illinois in West Chicago as a clerk in the storage department. I sat at the same desk as my boss, facing each other across a big desk. It was my job to keep track of all the supplies that came into the store room -- what the crewmen used on their trucks and everything. I looked up one day, and the . boss was looking at me: he said, 'How old are you?' I said I was 16. He said,

'My golly, I didn't know we were running a kindergarten here.''' A few months later, Lloyd was sent upstairs to the main office and was given the job of district payroll clerk. "That," he said, "was a nice job with a little bit of prestige. I remember the people I worked with and the fun that we had and the things that we did that we shouldn't do. But I got awfully tired of sitting inside, looking out the window. I guess the farmer boy in me was coming out, so I quit. I was 17 years old at that time.

 

I jumped from job to job and got fired from several of them before I finally got married. Meeting His Future Wife "I met my wife when she was a senior in high school. I guess I was still with the Public Service Company. Her name was Georgette Vautrin, and she lived in Batavia, south of town in the country. I had a friend in Batavia, Ed Holmstrom, whom I got acquainted , with after I got through school. Ed was going with a girl on the east side; her name was lone Rachielles n a sister of Bill Rachielles. One Sunday afternoon, Ed and I were together having an ice cream sundae in Gus Kapinos' ice cream parlor on the east side. I had a car, an Essex. I had started driving when I was 14. Ed had a date with lone that night. He knew a girl who was a friend of lone's, and he thought maybe I would double date with him. "The girl turned out to be Georgette, and that Sunday night she was staying with Rosie Werbeckas on South River Street. She had to get to school on Monday morning, and she had no other way to get there so she stayed with Rosie that night. Well, we connived and asked Rosie if Georgette could go out with me. Rosie agreed that it would be all right if we didn't tell anybody So I took my Essex and picked up Ed and lone, and then we picked up Georgette, whom I had never seen. It was a real blind date. Anyway we went to Elgin, and we saw AI Jolson in 'The Jazz Singer,' which was about the first talking picture. Ed was our liaison because he and Georgette were seniors in high school. Georgette wanted to write me a thank you note but couldn't remember my name. Eight years later we were finally married. That was in 1935:' Introduction to Dry Cleaning After a brief pause, Lloyd resumed his remembrances. "One day I was walking home from Geneva down Batavia Avenue by the fork in the road, and this dry cleaning truck pulled alongside and offered me a ride. It was Rollie Ekman. Rollie, John VanNortwick and Tom Wallace ran a little dry cleaning store, which at that time was quite an innovation. It was just north of the Twin Door restaurant onThird Street in Geneva, Rollie asked me if I would like a job; I said, 'Boy, I'll say I would.'

 

That was in 1933 or 1934. He said that I could have a job driving the delivery truck -- it was the Unique Cleaners. John VanNortwick was quite well known among the upper crust, and in Geneva there was a lot of that business. So I was given the job of driving the delivery truck and soliciting business to build up their business. I really put the pressure on them, and they agreed to pay me $10 a week. "About a year or so later, they had moved their cleaning shop over to George Johnson's drug store on State Street, next to Arbizzani's grocery. I was still driving, but I was making $12.50 a week. One night I was bowling at Doc Foland's alleys in Geneva. The telephone rang, and somebody wanted to talk to me. It was John VanNortwick; they were having a board meeting over at the dry cleaning office, and he asked me if I would come over there. So I went over. It developed that the business was not succeeding as they had hoped it would, and they asked me if I cared to be the manager. Of course, that was a little feather in my cap, and I said, 'Sure, I would like to be the manager.' So I started in as manager of the Unique Cleaners, and I was awarded the salary of $17.50 a week, which was really pretty good. "The first day I went to work, the little coal-fired boiler in the basement that provided steam for the presses was out of coal. I called the John Wheeler Coal Company and asked to have some coal delivered. They came with a ton of coal. Howie Olson came in the back door and told me he had my coal for me but that he couldn't unload it until I paid him. That was my first experience as a manager.

 

"We used carbon tetrachloride for a cleaning solvent -- a new thing. It was evaporative, and an hour later there was no cleaning odor; it was also a wonderful grease remover. But it was not the most healthful situation to be working in. After a year and a half, I got so sick from working with this solvent that I decided that life just wasn't worth it. So I bid them adieu. At the time, I think they owed me about $400 back salary:' Lloyd continued, "About this time Georgette and I were married -- in the Holy Angels parish in Aurora. It was February 14, during Lent, and you weren't supposed to get married then. But they thought it was a necessary marriage, which it wasn't, and we got special dispensation from the Bishop

of Rockford. We were married in the priest's house, not in the church. Because there wasn't much room, just Georgette's mother, my best man Ed Holmstrom, and my sister Alice andher husband Jack were present. Colonel Fabyan, who was a good friend of Georgette's mother, got word that I had only an old delivery truck; he told us not to worry about that, and on our wedding night up came his big, black,shiny Buick, with Alvie Morical at the wheel, and took us to the church. "But we had no place to live. Colonel Fabyan told us he had a vacant house we could live in.The house was on Fargo Boulevard in Geneva; as I recall, it was a big concrete house near the railroad tracks. So we took what we could gather together and moved into the house with the guy who worked in the cleaning shop.

 

He and his wife and Georgette and I moved in together. It's the same house where, when I was growing up, our gang used to go out there and drink beer around the living room table. So I ended up living there with my bride and the guy who had worked with me at the cleaning plant. "It was the beginning of winter. I had quit Unique Cleaners, and Georgette's mother, who ran the kitchen at the Fox Valley Country Club, wasn't working, so we just put our heads together, along with the few bucks that we had, and decided to take a trip to California. We had a four-door Ford sedan, with a luggage rack on the back, and a rattan trunk that just fit the the rack. We put all our belongings in the rattan trunk and started on a trip to California. That rattan trunk had been all the way to France and back -- I still have it down in the basement. It took seven or eight days to get to California -- you wouldn't believe what we had to contend with in those days. But we did get back in early spring, and I was without work. Things were tough. Association with Illinois Cleaners "Georgette's dad, George Vautrin, had been acquainted with Max Neumark, who ran the Illinois Cleaners in St. Charles. I'd had experience in the dry cleaning business and I like people, so one day I went up to see him. I told him that I would like to have the Batavia route. He said I could have it the next morning or six months from then. I was grateful, and I took it over the following Monday morning, representing the Illinois Cleaners and Dyers in Batavia. That was in 1936.

 

"So I was in business -- but what business? There was none. But I decidedto give it a whirl and see what I

could do. Times were tough, but if I could make a few dollars at it, I would at least try. The Illinois Cleaners -- always a fine organization to work with -- even let me use their truck until I could afford my own. I worked with them all those years without a written agreement! After a pause, Lloyd continued, "When I started out I was very happy

to get an order, maybe two or three, a day. I would go into the plant in St. Charles with what few orders I had, and I would see the other drivers come in with arms full of cleaning. But I decided to keep at it, and it turned out pretty good. It seems like I was accepted, and people were happy with the service I gave them. So, in a short

time I decided to buy my own truck from the Ford dealer, Brandow and Watt, on Main Street, just around the corner from Batavia Avenue. It was a 1936, and it was the most beautiful vehicle I have ever seen -- jet black with the company logo on the side -believe it or not, it was in gold leaf. It cost $676 -- I still have the invoice -which gives you an idea of what the dollar was worth in those days. We mainly picked up anything that the customer wanted cleaned, had it

done, and then delivered it, although customers occasionally left their cleaning at the store -- something I want to mention later. The area I initially served included Batavia and West Chicago. In Batavia I had customers as far west as Bunker Road southwest on Deerpath, and south t~...,.I North Aurora. My West Chicago area extended east to St. Andrew's Golf Course and down to Averill Road, now Fabyan Parkway. Can you imagine one person, one truck covering all the pickups and deliveries in such a large area? Eventually I sold West Chicago --- I say 'sold,' but it went for practically

nothing -- and concentrated on Batavia.

 

"Some homes I'd call on regularly, even though they sometimes had nothing to pick up; others I stopped at

when called. I'd pick up anything I was called for, even a single garment. Occasionally someone would ask for "press only." One prominent Batavian, who will remain nameless, had beautiful, hand-tailored suits, but he always requested" press only:' It cost 85 cents to have a suit cleaned, and that included coat, pants and vest; cleaning a skirt or pair of pants was 45 cents. Orders averaged $1.95. "When we made a pick up;' Lloy? continued, "we made out a detaile •.~. ticket, describing each garment -- for example, 'brown tweed suit' or 'white linen dress.' But in all my years in the cleaning business, I never gave a claim check, nor was I ever asked for one. When I picked up the garments, I always checked for missing buttons, ripped seams, etc. and saw that they were fixed. Illinois Cleaners didn't 5,arge for this routine service.

 

A Franchise Operation

 

"The work was on a percentage basis. We, in effect, had a franchise. We were responsible for all the collections, and at the end of each week we paid the company for the business we had done. We worked on a 60-40 basis, which meant that for every $10 of business I gave the company $6 and kept $4 for myself. The 40 percent was to take care of a small rental for the store, the payment and upkeep on a truck, the gasoline for running it, and a few dollars left for household

expenses." That reminded Lloyd of the office where clothes could be dropped off for cleaning. "The office was in a small retail establishment," Lloyd said. "In Batavia, I used Julia Kline's dry goods store. Julia gave me outstanding service -- took calls and received items dropped off for cleaning -- and what I paid for this service was quite small. I had a similar arrangement with Rohr's grocery and Dry Goods while I serviced West Chicago.

 

'There was no vacation in a oneman operation like mine," Lloyd recalled. "When Georgette and I wanted a vacation, I had to find someone to handle the route. I particularly recall Stanley Lenart, a school teacher who would help out in the summer. I could always count on him laying out on the table all the tickets and money collected each day. One day he was ten cents short and puzzled over it for the longest time before he finally remembered that he had gotten hungry and

stopped for a candy bar. His brother, Joe, occasionally helped -- once, the day before Easter he made 99 deliveries in one day. Can you believe that? "The longer I stayed in the cleaning business, the better it got -- although I never could have made it without the tremendous support from Georgette .. One of the things I remember about it is the feeling between my customers and myself. Most of our increase was by word of mouth. I would venture to say that at some +ime.  They told me where they would leave the cleaning. Sometimes I would even go into their clothes closet and take the clothes that they had asked me to. Some people would even call me from work, telling me how to get in their house and what to take. Most of the families I traded with in Batavia are now gone, but I remember them all. There was the Freedlund family and all of their kids, and the Pitz family and all of their kids. I remember the Shumways and the Adolph Swanson family. These were people whom I depended on for my living and the people who depended on me for service.

"I remember the war years, " Lloyd continued. "We were allowed 18 gallons of gasoline a week, which fortunately was adequate to allow me to give decent service. Tires were unavailable, but mine were still good.

 

Along came government regulations that permitted businesses in my category to work in a specified area -the east side and the west side -- for only two days a week, which looked as if it would take care of pickup one day and delivery another in each area. The first week I worked under these regulations, however, my west side calls for the first Tuesday amounted 108 stops. Somehow I managed, but I did cheat a little bit." Asked if he recalled any interesting

happenings on his routes, Lloyd chuckled, "Well, one day when I was calling on a customer on McKee Street, the lady across the street was visiting over a cup of coffee and asked if I would please go over to her house, get her coat out of the living room closet, and have it cleaned. I went over to the house and opened the closet - it was like Fibber McGee's closet as everything came tumbling out. I was there at least ten minutes trying to put everything back where I thought it belonged, and I'm sure she was wondering what in the world I was doing in there all that time. "And then I recall the Hasslers, the parents of Ruth Hassler who later married Harold Foland and, after his death, Bert Johnson. I stopped there

one day, and Mrs. Hassler came to the door carrying a baby who, I believe, was her daughter Lois. She asked me

to hold the baby while she picked up her cleaning. Many years later, I had a call from a Mrs. Curnock on North Van Buren Street. When I arrived, 10 and behold, she was the former Lois Hassler. And then, believe it or not, she asked me to hold her baby while she picked up her cleaning." I had been serving the people of Batavia for an entire generation!

 

End of a Cycle

 

Finally, after more than 30 years in the cleaning business, Lloyd retired. The question naturally came up of what he did then. He replied, "One day there was an ad in the paper. District 101 was looking for bus drivers. I figured I could do that. I had been driving a delivery truck for 32 years, and I liked kids. So I went out to see Corny Pierce, applied for the job, and was hired. I don't know how many people have asked me how I could stand the job. I used to love to go to work in the morning. The kids that I had were clean and bright and polite and respectful. And I watched them from kindergarten through high school." Lloyd retired from driving in 1979 at age 70. But he wasn't through working with people. Until two or three years ago, he was one of the most faithful volunteers at Fox Valley Hospice, picking up and delivering whatever was needed. And today he is still alert, living alone with the help, two days a week, of his cousin Eleanor Schuett Johnson. His many friends hope that that will continue for many years.

 


 

Is there a Red Dot On Your Address Label?

 

If there is a red dot on your address label, our records indicate that you have not paid your dues for 2002. Persons who have not paid by the time of our next mailing will be dropped from our mailing list -- something we greatly dislike doing. Please check with Treasurer Alma Karas if you believe that our records are in error. We have included a self-addressed envelope for convenience in paying. Those of you who have already paid and do not have a red dot should ignore these envelopes.

 


Isn't This a Great Picture?

 

vol_43_14.jpg

 

Norm Freedlund recently gave Bill Wood this wonderful picture for the Gustafson Center. Before turning it over to the center, Bill tried to learn more about the Smith Laundry in discussions with the Tuesday Senility Club, at his evening McDonald's meetings, and with other knowledgeable people. Here is what he found. It always surprises us how one line of

inquiry broadens into others. We would welcome additional information from readers.

 

Frank P.Smith, the proprietor of the laundry and undoubtedly the man standing at the front of the truck in the picture, was born in 1870 in a "show place" on the southeast corner of Batavia Avenue and Houston Street, which was built by his

father, a banker and a Batavia postmaster. His mother held him in her arms in the backyard while she watched the smoke from the great Chicago fire in 1871 The home was later moved to 231 North Jackson Street to make room for the building that served as Avenue Motors for many years. In 1948 when he was 78 years old, Smith wrote a series of articles that appeared in The Batavia Herald. These articles, edited and condensed by Marilyn Robinson, appeared as "A Walk around Batavia in 1875" in the October 1999 issue of the Historian. According to John Gustafson's notes, Smith ran a laundry in DeKalb and then in Batavia, then founded the Mooseheart Laundry, and eventually became laundry supervisor for the State of Illinois. Automobile experts say that this picture must have been taken between 1900 and 1910. City directories of that era give the laundry's address as 28 West Wilson Street, but it is probable that that was the office. Some believe that the laundry itself, pictured here, was around the corner on Island Avenue.

 

But what was the brick building next door with the faded sign "East End Edelweiss" painted on its side? It should not be surprising, perhaps, but it is interesting to note the intermarriages among prominent early Batavia families. Frank Smith was connected with several of these families. His father, Edward S. Smith, who came here from upstate New York and Vermont in 1853, married Jane M. Mallory, a member of an active family after whom an early west-side street was named. Besides Frank, Edward and Jane had four children, one of whom married into the well known Wolcott family. Jeanne, the only child of Frank Smith and his wife, Jeanette, married a Derby; in John Gustafson's Historic Batavia, we find that the Episcopal church in Batavia was organized in the home of Mrs. James C. Derby in 1842. For many years, Jeanette Smith was the Batavia correspondent of the Aurora Beacon News.

Mark June 23 on Your Calendar

 

The next general meeting, to be he!d on June 23, 2002, will feature a gala fundraising effort -- an auction and home-made desserts. Mark your calendar now so you won't miss it.

 


 

What's New At The Museum

Carla Hill, Director

 

The museum re-opened on Monday, March 4. Attendance is still slow; however, with spring just around the corner and the Batavia 3rd grade classes starting their unit of Batavia History, we expect to be very busy, especially in May.

Chris Winter and I have had a busy winter working on several projects, which include the following: Chris has prepared a wonderful new exhibit featuring photographs from the Civil War, World War I and II, Viet Nam and the history of Cigrand -and Flag Day. This exhibit will stay in place until after Flag Day. We are working on completing the Furnas Electric display. We hope to see this completely done by mid April. Some exciting new additions on the main floor of the museum will take place this spring with the addition of a large mural in the railroad display area as well as a telegraph key that can be operated by our visitors. Chris and I sponsored two successful Railroad History classes and

hosted a trip to Newberry Library. We now have a local history room at the new Batavia Library.

 

Chris will be preparing displays for the cabinets that are in that room and we will be working cooperatively with the library sharing collection information and promoting programs. On April 16, Chris and I will be going to Springfield to take part in the Illinois Museum Day Annual Celebration that is held at the Capitol Building. The Gunzenhauser/Smith Gazebo will receive a fresh coat of paint this year and a few needed repairs. Our spring programs will include another trip to Newberry Library, and Marilyn Robinson will once again be teaching a Genealogy class. In the summer we will be offering a trip to Graceland Cemetery with lunch at Ann Sathers, and another chance to go to Newberry Library. We will also be sponsoring a Flea Market during Windmill City Fest. If you are interested in attending any of these programs or selling at the Flea Market, you can register at the Batavia Park District. We are working on plans for the annual volunteer trip and another training session. Thank you to all of the dedicated volunteers that helped us keep the Gustafson Research Center

open all winter. Marilyn Robinson has dedicated a great amount of personal time to the center and without

her effort, the center would not have been ready to serve the public as quickly as it has.

 

We are looking forward to a wonderful spring season at the museum with many new exhibits and programs. We are always looking for new volunteers. If you would like to volunteer at the museum or the Gustafson Research Center please contact Kathy Fairbairn at 406-9041.

 


 

Doesn't Anyone Know About the Horans?

 

vol_43_15.jpg

 

In the last issue, we asked if anyone knew

anything about the Horan family whose impressive

mausoleum holds the remains of mother

Elizabeth (1856-1934) and daughters Blanche

(1883-1928), Agnes (1885-1929) and Viola

(1887-1972). Surprisingly, no one has responded

-- which only serves to increase our

curiosity. We wish someone with time, interest

and research skills would help solve this

puzzle about a family who was connected with

Batavia for many years and left us with such

an impressive monument.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Membership Matters

 

Since the last issue, the following persons, some of whom were previously annual members, have becom€~

life members of the Society: John and Rosemarie Dillon (St. Charles), Moss Funeral Home (also known as YursPeterson- Moss), Helen Owens, and Barbara Young (Elgin). Other new members are William and Bernice Anderson,Tony and Paula Bex (gift from Bert Johnson), Marshall Bond (Maryland - gift from Constance A. Bond), Mr. and Mrs. Gust Flodstrom, Mr. and Mrs. George F. Gebes (gift from Bert Johnson), Mary J. Hays, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hendricksen, Helen McConnaughay, and Donald J. and Mary J. Smith We welcome these new members and look forward to their participation in the activities of the Society. We regret to report the death of members Robert Phelps and Audrey Mae Wilson and extend our sympathy to their family and friends.

 

Bob Phelps was a charter member of the society and helped preserve the history of Batavia through his membership in the "Senility Club." We have received donations from George and Erdene Peck and fron\J Royce Ellen Clifford; a gift in memory of Gertrude J. Sawitoski from Walter and George Kauth; a gift in memory of Edna Hailey from Robert J. and Susan E. Ducar; and gifts in memory of Robert Phelps from Allan N. and Julie M. Beckstrom, Richard and Lois M. Benson, Barbara and Bill Hall, Alma J. Karas, Walter and Georgene Kauth, and William J.Wood. We wish to thank the donors for their support.

 


Farm Memories Needed

 

Batavia has been the center of a rich agricultural heritage. Our readers have been captivated by Helen Anderson's stories about growing up in rural Batavia, but the Gustafson Research Center has little in its files to recall that era. We mustn't lose that part of our history. Please let us have your memories and pictures about farming in the area. Call Carla Hill or Chris Winter at the Depot Museum -- they will gladly make copies of any pictures and promptly return the originals to you. Do it today before you forget.