THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Forty-Six

No. 2

 


April 2005

The VanNortwicks in Batavia

Part 3: Building the Empire

 

In Parts 1 and 2, we traced the movement of the patriarch, William VanNortwick, from upstate New York to Batavia in 1836 and his ventures into business here on behalf of his son John, who remained in New York. There John worked as an engineer on the construction of the New York canal system. As we found in the voluminous correspondence between the two, the cooperative effort between father and son was not always successful and was frequently accompanied by stress and acrimony, At the end of Part 2, wefind John moving to Batavia and relieving his aging father of his business responsibilities.

 

As we shall see, it was John who laid the groundwork for the family's business empire and what became, for those days, a large fortune. Although his sons continued his work, most of the initiatives into a wide complex of businesses, here and in Wisconsin, began under John's direction. John appears to have an eye for business opportunities and to have been a risk-taker, willing to venture into a variety of businesses and just as willing to rebuild or to move on when misfortunes overtook his businesses. As with Parts 1 and 2, the principal sources of information for this story come from the VanNortwick Genealogy, compiled by John's great-grandson William B. VanNortwick; John Gustafson's Historic Batavia by Marilyn Robinson and Jeffery Schielke; and Batavia Places and the People Who Called Them Home by Marilyn Robinson.

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In 1976 when he was 67 years old, John VanNortwick wrote a brief summaryof his life. In it he told that, after the 1846 suspension of the publicworks in New York, "I moved my family to Batavia, Illinois, where my father's family had resided for many years. At this place and vicinity Ihad made considerable investments in land and water power some time previous.

 

"In 1847 I was engaged as assistant engineer in the construction of the Government dry dock in the Navy Yard at Brooklyn. In the spring of 1848 I relinquished my situation at Brooklyn and entered upon the duties of Chief Engineer of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad [a predescessor to the Chicago Northwestern] and is as such had the charge of the construction of that work. During this time I was also consulting engineerand a director of the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company and subsequently was for eight years the President and acting Chief Engineer of that Company."

 

There we learn quite a bit about John in a few spare, clear words. He  was not a man for minutia. But we know a few details that were covered in the October 2004 issue dealing with the 150th birthday of the railroad station that now houses our Depot Museum. It was John who, as chief engineerof the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, purchased the Pioneer,which became the first locomotive of the Chicago Northwestern and is now on permanent display at the Chicago Historical Society. It was also John who made this locomotive available for opening the line to Batavia's Burlington depot, now our museum, in 1850. John was apparently quite successful with his railroad and other businesses because he wrote: "For several years after retiring from [the railroad] I was quite out of health and traveled extensively in this countryand Europe. Recovering my health I have not resumed active business further than has been actually necessary as President of a bank and two large manufacturing companies in our village -- having good and competent assistants. Have also considerable interest in a manufacturing company in Chicago and elsewhere as well as considerable land interest but being in good hands need little attention."

 

To get a picture of John's business activities during and after his association with the Burlington, we shall quote at some length from the excellent summary in Marilyn Robinson's Batavia Places and the People Who Called Them Home. "It was during this time that John became acquainted with Daniel Halladay through John Burnham. John urged Halladay and Burnham to move to Batavia to be closer to the windmill market. The U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Co. was established in Batavia in 1857 where Halladay would make his mills. "In 1867 John bought controlling interest in the Batavia Paper Company and became its sale owner two years later. The company expanded into one of the largest paper manufacturing companies in the country [at one time producing almost all of the print paper used by the Chicago Tribune].

 

John furnished the farmers with rye seed 10 get them to raise straw for use in his paper making. At harvest time, the farmers' teams lined up for nearly a mile along WaterStreet and to the west, waiting to unload their straw for use in the manufacture of paper. "The company made paper bags, too, in buildings along First Street. The Western Paper Bag Company opened in 1882. It was one of the first manufacturers of square bottom bags. Some sources say the bags were invented in this factory; other sources say differentty.

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''The factory made twenty differentsized grocery bags and paper flour sacks. Sixteen machines made 1,500,000 bags aday. The plant closed in 1900 when it became too expensive to ship wood pulp from the family's mills in Wisconsin after local lumber was used up. "The family did not limit its investments to Batavia. John's two sons, John S. and William M.entered the empire. In Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1873 a ground wood mill was organized, with William M. as a principalstockholder. He bought the company in 1876, and it operated with father John as its president and son Williamas vice-president. In 1881 ... John S. moved from Batavia to Appleton to look after the family's interests there. Uln 1888 sons William and John established the VanNortwick Bank in Batavia and built the building at 12 West Wilson Street. By 1896 the bank was insolvent and was taken over by the second First National Bank of Batavia, which is today's Harris Bank Batavia.

 

In 1890 the VanNortwick PaperCompany listed these businesses on its letterhead, all with offices on the second floor of their bank building -VanNortwick Paper Company, Appleton Paper & Pulp Company, Kaukauna Paper Company, Combined Locks and Paper Company, Wisconsin Sulfite Fibre Company and WesternPaper Bag Company."William M. and John S. were in charge of the Appleton Manufacturing Company in Wisconsin. They made mitis that competed with those of the U.S. W.E. and Pump Co. In 1894 the men brought their business to Illinois and settled just north of Batavia between Fargo Boulevard and Fabyan Parkway. They built a company town named VanNortwick. Fire destroyed the plant six years later, and it was rebuilt in Batavia. One of those remaining buildings is now the Batavia Government Center." Beginning about 1870, John and his wife made Batavia their summer anp Franklin. Louisiana. their winter re! dences, uavoiding," as John wrote,

 

"unpleasant climate of both places." There is a story, which we have been unable to verify, that John tried to claim Louisiana as his home to avoid taxes in Illinois. This is difficult to understand because Illinois had no income tax then or for years later and it doesn't seem that residence would have affected the tax status of his property. Whether literally true or not, it is a good story and probably has its roots in John's well-known attention to money. Running into tight finances in 1875, John sold his farm on West Main Street. The house there was later occupied by the Gustafson family and is now the home of Gary and Sammi King.

 

When his finances recovered, John built a large new home on Batavia Avenue, between Wilson and First streets; this home later became a part of the Batavia High School, now the site of the Batavia Public Library. John did not share his parents' deep religious convictions. As he wrote in 1876, "I was educated under strict orthodox notions, my parents being staunch Methodists. I attended that church quite regularly and contributed largely to its support, also the same to the Episcopal church of which I am now and have been for many years a vestryman, although not a member of any church. [As a matter of fact, John, whose wife was Episcopalian, built and donated Calvary Episcopal Church to the congregation so that she wound not have to travel to Geneva for church!]

 

I cannot quite subscribe to all the tenets of either, but I believe they are doing much to benefit our race." Perhaps we should not read to much into his use of the word "race;" he may have meant the human race. It is interesting, however, to note a comment in his 1876 life summary: "Have a good opinion of Lincoln but a better of Douglas." It may be that his views were influenced by his half-time residence in the post-Civil War South. In concluding that summary, he wrote: "By hard labor and economy with judicious investments of my slowly increasing income I have accumulated what to me is a competence ...." And well he might say that. As Marilyn Robinson wrote, "When John died, he was the wealthiest man in Kane County.

 

He had come west with $3,000 in stocks and gold, financed his father and his sons, had gone broke more than once, and still left an estate worth over $1 ,400,000, an immense sum in 1890." John's sons, William M. and John S., together with their sons (also named William and John), continued and expanded the family businesses. William M. built a large mansion on the northeast corner of South Batavia Avenue and First Street, immediately south of his father's home. It was there that, his daughter Mari Louise married U. S. Senator Guy Goff of West Virginia .

 

Batavia's last direct connection with the VanNortwick family, which played such a large role in our history, was William B., John's great-grandson. It is this William who, although he had not lived here since childhood, left a

substantial bequest to the Batavia Historical Society that has enabled us, among other things, to invest in the building of the Gustafson Research Center. Remember this the next time you visit the Depot Museum, and take time to spend in the VanNottwick Room

 


 

Museum Is Open

 

The Depot Museum reopened the first of March. If you have not already been there, you should come and see the new exhibit Chris Winter has prepared on the history of Batavia churches. We're sure you will enjoy it. As always, the museum can use volunteers. If you are interested in becoming one, please call Kathy Fairbairn at 406-9041 or Carla or Chris at 506-5274. It's fun -- you'll be doing yourself a favor by joining.


Two Centenarians Honored

Sally Adams and Jane Elwood

Celebrate Lives of Service fo Batavia

 

On January 29, Sally Adams, a resident of Batavia for 53 years, celebrated her 10ath birthday. Born in Jerseyville, Illinois, she " married Arthur Adams in 1927. They lived in Missouri and Kansas before returning to Illinois in 1952. Although Sally began her career as a high school physical education teacher, after moving to Batavia she taught second grade for 20 years at the Louise White School. She also worked for many years at the Batavia Public Library. She was the Senior Citizen Representative to the U. S. Congress Commission on Aging, and in 1983 received Batavia's Citizen of the Year Award. Now residing at The Holmstad, Sally is the mother of four children, who have given her six grandchildren. On December 19, 2004, her family gathered at the Holmstad to celebrate her Birthday. She is a member of the Congregational Church in Batavia.

 

Jane Elwood, who became 100 on March 5, is a lifelong resident of Batavia. Born Jane Tincknell on South Batavia Avenue, she attended the Central School (later the old Grace McWayne School) and Batavia High School. After a few years teaching in neighboring rural schools, Jane was hired in 1929 as a teacher in Batavia. She retired in 1960 after 30 years at the Grace McWayne School. In 1958 she married Frank Elwood. Four years later they took a trip around the world on a freighter that carried twelve passengers. Jane still lives in her home on North Jefferson. A lifelong active member of the United Methodist Church of Batavia (the pastor says she missed only three Sunday worship services in 2004), Jane was honored by a birthday party at the church following the 9:30 service on March 6. An Interview with Jane appeared in the October, 2000, issue of the Historian.

 


The Story of Gladys Larson

And the Founding of the Valley School for Exceptional Children

 

Gladys Larson, now 91 years old, was a founder of the Valley School for Exceptional Children and the first recipient,

in 1958, of Batavia's Citizen of the Year award. We're sure you'll find her achievement both interesting and inspiring.

 

" I have lived in Batavia all my life," Gladys Larson began an interview conducted by Bill Wood and Bill Hall.

"In fact, I have never lived much further than two blocks off of Jackson Street --I just kept moving south. I was born in May of 1913 in an apartment on the corner of McKee and Jackson. "My parents, John G. Swanson and Emma Anderson, had been neighbors and childhood sweethearts. My dad was born in Sweden, and my mother in Batavia. Our apartment was kittycorner from my Anderson grandparents; my Swanson grandparents lived kitty-corner from them on Jackson. In fact, my Grandmother Anderson was the midwife at my birth. Our families were very close, and I was very fortunate to have four grandparents, to l"earn from and to love.

 

"My dad worked for the Bellevue greenhouses as a rose grower. Eventually the Wolcott brothers sold the business to him and his partner, Berger Nystrom. They ran that for quite a while. With my mother working at the Bellevue sanitarium, it was probably inevitable that their childhood romance would ultimately end up in marriage. "I started school at the Blaine Street School. Along with a couple of my friends, Bernice Olson and Doris Anderson, I skipped second grade. Starting with fifth grade, I went to the old McWayne School. Grace McWayne was the principaL" At Batavia High School, Gladys recalled Helen Brauns' class in the old home economics building adjoining the high school, formerly the John VanNortwick home pictured elsewhere in this issue. "We were brought up never to spend any money that we didn't have. Well, I had a sewing class at one o'clock, and we were supposed to have bought a yard of goods to bring to sewing class.

 

I had forgotten to ask my folks for money to get it. I can't go to class without it, I thought, so I went to Anderson's store and charged fifty cents worth of material. I forgot to tell my dad about it, and when he got a bill in the mail, I tell you I got a chewing out. 'Don't you ever, ever charge anything again in your life,' he told me. "My mother was always the one who was called on in the family for crises. My dad was a community servant all his life. He was an alderman for twelve years from the second ward, and a trustee at Bethany Lutheran Church for about the same length of time."

"You must have seen a lot of changes," Bill Wood observed. "Yes, when Dad was alderman, there were still dirt streets. I remember them paving Main Street at that time. His big concern was that they were going to macadamize everything so that there wouldn't be any place for water to go -- he had a big concern about that." Asked when she graduated from high school, Gladys replied, "In 1930. Because I had skipped second grade, I was only seventeen when I graduated. After that I went to Geneva to register for nurses training at Community Hospital -- I always thought my calling was nursing -- but I was too young and they told me I would have to wait a year. Of course, that was a big disappointment to me, but I was offered a job there as a clerk in the office while I waited. But the next year, I didn't pass the physical; the doctor found that I had a heart murmur. I had had that since seventh grade, and it never bothered me; however, the doctor thought nursing would be too difficult a job. He said I should continue working there. "In the meanwhile I had married my high school sweetheart, Ralph Larson, in 1938.

 

In 1942 I left the hospital to have my family. Our first child was born that year, but he lived only six months. Our second child was born the next year, and he lived to be only four months old. The doctors didn't think it would be wise for us to try to have more children, so we adopted a little girl, who was born in January of 1944. "Dorothy was a beautiful baby, so well received by all of us. We dearly loved her, but by the time she was two years old, we realized she had problems. We went to many, many doctors, finally winding up at Menninger's many years later. They said she would be better served by living in an institution where she would get more help. That was a huge disappointment for us, of course." Gladys resumed, "Dorothy had been in kindergarten. Marguerite Brown was her teacher, and she was the most patient woman because Dorothy was quite a trial. She sat under the desk and didn't participate. We did try her in first grade at Blaine Street School, but that didn't work out, The teacher said that if Dorothy kept coming, she was going to leave. "Then we tried her with Leota Capps Wolcott, who actually did very well with her -- helped her a lot and taught her how to begin to read. Then in second grade Eldora Hoover was her teacher. She knew that Dorothy needed special help that she wasn't going to get where she was. So, with her advice, we took her out of school and had to find something else for her to do. The only place we could find around here was Mooseheart. We took her there every day for therapy. It worked out for a while, but it wasn't enough."

 

"That is what led you into starting the Valley School for Exceptional Children?" we asked. "Yes," Gladys replied. "Well, I didn't do it alone, you know, because you can never do anything like that by yourself. It was in the fall of 1952, I think, that Dorothy White Clark, who was a speech therapist in the school system, came to me and said she knew of a parent group in LaGrange. She invited me to go with her to a meeting to see if we could get something started. "There was nothing in the way of special education in Batavia in those days so I talked to several of my friends who had children with special needs. One family was the Malnors, whose son Tony was a special education student in Aurora at the time. Five families met for the first time at my house. Besides the Malnors, there were Ed and Nellie Millet and Helen Johnstone -- I don't think that Gilbert came to that first meeting ---_and Mrs. Flanagan, who didn't return -- she didn't feel that it was what she needed. That was in April of 1953, and we all felt that we would like to get something started, but we really didn't know how to go about it. "But we got a lot of help from the LaGrange group that had started a school there. They would come to the parent group meetings with us, and we would visit them. After a little time and after a series of well-publicized items, there were twenty-five interested people at our meeting held a month later. In one month, we had reached that many people who were interested in helping us do something for their children.

 

 "Although we elected officers and felt that we wanted to do something, we didn't know who we were going to fino to help us. I remember going to J.B. Nelson, who had been my teacher when I was in school. He just shook his head and said, 'Gladdy, you don't know what you are getting into.' And I replied, , Well, I don't know either, but I think it's worth a try.''' After a pause, Gladys continued, "It came up that the old Manual Arts building, at the corner of Lincoln and First Street, was vacant. As our plans progressed, we were offered the use of the school rent-free. Then it was a question of whom we would get for a teacher. I knew Helen Sykora Frisch, who had just left teaching; she also had a child who had been institutionalized and needed special help. We decided to ask her. Helen Johnstone said, 'Well, Helen Frisch is a member of my church, and I think I can convince her." And she did, but only for a two-week trial period. So, after we had done a lot of scrubbing, cleaning, and painting, we opened Valley School in May, 1953. After four weeks, Helen decided she would like to continue. "In September, 1953, we really started -- with fourteen children, I think. Our boundaries were Oswego, Elgin, West Chicago and Elburn. Our purpose was to train the children as well as we could. Although we received a permit from the State of illinois, we didn't want an affiliation with the state that would result in its coming in and testing the children. That would exclude many of them because some were severely retarded.

 

"We had to do everything, including the janitor work. I remember that Don Anderson used to get up early to stoke the furnace so that it would be warm enough to start the school. Many of the mothers were volunteer helpers. I was there, I think, every day, every week. "The children we started with at Valley School ranged in age from five to nineteen. They represented various types of retardation -- educable mentally handicapped, trainable mentally handicapped, and those who were there for custodial care. "Helen Frisch," Gladys reminisced, ''was an extraordinary person. Her key was consistency, sticking to the samf" plan and being firm. I remember asking Jean Anderson what Billy thought after he came home from school. 'I asked what he did,' she said, 'and he replied, "Teacher said sit down.''' And, of course, that was a struggle for many of them because they were hyperactive. One little girl just ran all over the room and she'd be up pulling curtains down. She eventually was placed in Kankakee. "Of course, we had our regular parent group, and this was important because we could discuss our problems and try to help each other. We would wind up thinking, "I wouldn't take her problems -- I'll keep my own because they're what we are used to.'The education of the parents, it turned out, was almost as important as helping the children."

 

"What about help for the teacher," Gladys was asked. She replied, "We had many volunteers from Batavia. Esther Swanberg was Helen Frisch's first helper. Marge Phillips Holmberg came to help, and she became a regular employed teacher. We started 0\' '-. with those three people, and a whil....,b later Betty Perry, wife of Arthur Perry, superintendent of schools, taught for a while. Later a retired teacher from Elgin, Miss Ostdick, joined the staff. "We did a lot of recreational work with them -- games and music, which they related to well. And we would take the children out for walks. -- to the library, to the fire station, to the banks. The kids really became well known all over town because they walked everywhere. Any minute accomplishment of the students thrilled us and them. This was a place where they were totally accepted and loved. "We were supported by the commu"" Iitychests of Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles and by groups such as the Kiwanis Club,the VFW and Mothers Clubs. Furnas Electric was a big helper. For the first couple of years, I was public relations; I would go out to church, philanthropic and other groups. That was how we earned some of our money. "Eventually, though, Ralph and I had to place Dorothy, so I had to go to work to earn some money. I went back to Community Hospital, working in the X-ray department. After a while I changed jobs and began working for a psychiatrist, Dr. David Swanson. He was just opening his office in Geneva; then about six months later, he was made assistant chairman of the psychiatric department at the Loyola Hospital.

 

He asked me to go in there with him, and I was there for about ten years. "In the meantime," Gladys continued, "we had placed Dorothy, which was a job in itself because there were so few places available. To make a long story short, when she was fifteen she finally wound up at Elgin State Hospital, as our pediatrician suggested. She was there for quite a while, and then we tried her at Bethphage in Nebraska. That didn't work out; she misbehaved so badly that they couldn't keep her. But the minute she knew we were coming, she was a model child. I sometimes think that if we had flown out there instead of driving, she would not have realized how far away we were, and it might have been different. "Twelve years later when Ralph and I were visiting in California, our son David, who was adopted two years after Dorothy, called. He was just devastated. He said, 'Mom, they moved Dorothy to Kankakee, and they didn't even call to ask me. I don't know what to do.' I told him we'd take care of things as soon as we could get home. But it turned out that the move was for the best. At Elgin, every time we would leave her, we would all cry. We tried to bring her home every weekend, which was probably the wrong thing to do because she, and we, had to readjust each time.

 

She's done well in Kankakee, although she has a lot of physical problems. She is in a wheel chair all the time, can't use her hands, and needs a feeding tube. "But Dorothy was a blessing to us in many ways because she could be just as funny and loving as she was unpredictable. We learned a great deal from her. It was harder on my husband than it was for me because he was very tenderhearted. It bothered him a great deal when she misbehaved. But I tried to do things as you would do with any normal child. I took her shopping with me, and many times would have people look at me as if to say, 'That child needs a good spanking.' And I thought, 'You don't know the half of it.'" We asked Gladys when the Valley Sheltered Workshop began. "I think it was 1966," she replied. "It started over on North River Street. That space became too small, and the City of Batavia let them use a garage between Main and First Street, behind the buildings on Batavia Avenue." "Did the school stop when the workshop started?" Gladys was asked. "I don't think it did, right away. But I think as the children progressed enough so they could go into the workshop, the school was finally phased out. And there weren't enough new ones coming in -- by that time we had special ed in Batavia."

 

This ends the story of Gladys Larson's involvement with the Valley School for Exceptional Children -- and what a story it is! But Gladys' life obviously did not end then We hope to tell you more about her later life and the artistic accomplishments of her husband, Ralph, a well-known painter in this area, in a future issue.

 


 

A Privy Digger's Treasures

Our Entertaining Spring Meeting

by Chris Winter

 

5.jpgAs members arrived at the Spring meeting of the Batavia Historical Society on

March 13, they saw before them three tables containing china and serving dishes,

vintage medicine bottles, pottery, glass lamp shades and remnants of 19th century

porcelain dolls. Could this be a program where someone shared the story of

their family heirlooms and antiques?

 

Actually, these items were unearthed from area privies (outhouses) by Tom

Majewski, the Privy Digger. Tom told the history of the privy, derived from the

Latin word privatus, meaning private. He then went on to reveal how he became

interested in unearthing 19th century privies as a hobby and shared stories of

his findings.

 

"The dig is especially exciting when a bottle from a local merchant is

discovered and we can then research the history of this community", said Tom.

His most unusual artifact found was a full set of dentures from the Civil War era!

If you have a home that was built before 1900 and are curious about what

treasures might be buried on your property, you may contact Tom Majewski at

630-778-1932. He will be happy to discuss this process in detail.

 

Most items found are offered to the homeowner and care is taken in replacing the dirt and sod so you won't even be able to tell where they were digging. History is found

in the most remarkable places!


Remembering Batavia When Roundtable

 

January 25, 2005

 

If you weren't at the Heritage Roundtable, "I Remember Batavia When," held on January 25, you missed a lively and entertaining session. In fact, it was so good that a number of people have asked for a repeat performance. Bob Peterson, who organized the event, moderated a spirited and wideranging discussion about people, buildings and events that played a large part in Batavia's history. Mounted photographs that Carla Hill and Chris Winter selected from the Society's collection enhanced the program. After the roundtable, Carole Dunn hosted light refreshments, and people enjoyed a chance to continue their reminiscences.

 


Working at the Old Batavia Bank

 

by Alma Karas

 

I started working at the Batavia National Bank the week before my folks moved to Batavia, June 1, 1962.

It was great - I was almost 20, and the group was so much fun. I really made some lifelong friends during the eleven years I worked there. They included Lois Kraft, Linda Stephano, Pat Rumple Jeske, Harvey McClurg, Sol Carlson, Linda Bowron, Bob Riley, Don Lowe, Marilyn Anderson, Gladys Noren, Marilyn Phelps and many others. When I started, the bank was in the midst of remodeling, and the tellers were in the back room where the bookkeepers always were. The customers were using the backside entrance.

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Walter Johnson [the president] hired me, and it was pretty much on the spot. Ernie Nelson was still there, and he would do anything to keep us all in stitches. Walter took life a little more seriously. And Elliott Lundberg, the vice president, was always available for a short story and a small lecture. These guys really knew about everyone in town and what was going on. I don't think a young single guy could. have bought a house in those days.

 

The prevailing belief seemed to be . he wouldn't have any strings - nothing to keep him from getting up and leaving. Walter Johnson never acted like he needed anyone, but oh my he missed his wife so much when she died. They had never had any kids. His wife even had a dinner party at a restaurant and a shower for me when I got married. I started out in the bookkeeping department. In those days we had those huge posting machines. We would put the checks in order and divide them in thirds, and 3 of us would post them to the business or individual's accounts.

 

In those days if you had a check that wasn't printed and it said some common name like Lucille Miller or June Carlson, we would have to know what her husband's name was to get it on the right account. And believe me it happened occasionally that we wouldn't get them on the right account.

 

We would post all the checks and deposits each day to the general ledger on these machines and then we would post them by machine to the individual statements. At the end of the day the ledgers and statement total had to match or we would be there checking totals until we did agree. Then once a month a couple of people would figure by hand the service charge for each account and we would post them first to the ledger and then to the statements one at a time - balancing at the end. Above the bank were the offices of attorneys Benson & Mair, later Benson, Mair & Gosselin after John Gosselin joined the firm. They would come down and have us witness wills and notarize documents for them. Tom Mair was a good friend of Elliott's -they may have in the same class in high school along with Bert Johnson and, perhaps, Francis Youssi. In those days Om a and Jack Capacosa ran the small restaurant next door, which is actually part of the bank building these days. George Kramer's mother made all the homemade pies for the Maroma Restaurant. They were wonderful. They had wonderful Italian beef sandwiches also. Two doors from the bank was Rachielles Pharmacy, and we made many more trips in there to buy candy than we should have. Bill and Doris Rachielles were always there, and there were at least three of the Milroy teenagers that worked there, Peggy, Jane and Tim, I think it was. Across the street next to Vic Anderson's real estate office was a small meat market owned by two brothers.

 

We would go over there to buy coffee and crackers for coffee breaks. Once during the remodeling, we had gotten the drive-up opened in the back when word came that we were supposed to be robbed. Seems that robbers thought we were vulnerable in our disorganized remodeling condition. We had sheriff's police with shotguns in the bank for a day or two. Can't remember if anyone else got robbed during that period but nothing happened while I worked there I did meet my husband Chuck Karas at the drive-in window of the bank. The first time we went out, he tried to get me to buy, saying that he was short of money. I said, "Wait a minute n you have $300 in your checking account. He was surprised and later he said he married me so I could keep track of his money. Bob Riley, who later became president, paid me a great compliment when he said that my personality was good with the customers and that he wanted me up front so that I could talk with people when they came in. When I was his secretary, my dad would come in and stand by my desk on Saturday and say, "This is my daughter." It was sort of funny but sweet. And my mother-in-law would bring my son down to see me when they walked downtown.

 

Too bad they didn't pay me enough to live on. By the time I quit working there in 1973, I was making about $6,000 a year. In those days, most of the bank women were wives or young girls and not self-supporting. During my eleven years there, we had an employee who embezzled money from his church, a pregnant wife of one of the tellers who died with child, and several of the girls who got married, Eleanor Issei's son Dan got rich and famous. Elliott used to go to the BHS basketball games with us if we got him a ticket to see Dan play. Dan's sister Kathy worked with us at the bank also. For all his protesting I always knew that Elliott got a kick out of my girl friends and me. One day he went to lunch with us up to Roberts' on the corner of Rte. 31 and Third St., south of the railroad in Geneva. I did drive a little faster than most, and this day he literally pulled my foot off the gas pedal. He said it just wouldn't be fitting for us to get a ticket speeding to lunch when his wife was in the hospital having a baby -- Dan. Elliott Lundberg used to give all of us who smoked a terrible time.

 

He would playfully grab your cigarettes and either crush them or pitch them across the bank lobby. He was really obnoxious in a loving, fatherly way. We all learned to avoid him and keep our cigarettes in a safe place. Well, after I quit smoking for a full year, I told him that, after I had suffered all his verbal abuse all those years, he should take me out to dinner to celebrate my "quitting smoking" anniversary. He agreed to this, and we went out to dinner for the next ten years on my anniversary. The Batavia National Bank later sold out to a bank group and became the Batavia Bank. Then it changed to the Gary-Wheaton Bank and then the First National Bank of Chicago and now it is Bank One. I worked there for 11 years. There is no longer any resemblance to the fun place where I used to work.

 

Ed. note: Now you know that Alma had a life other than bugging those of us who don't pay our dues on time!


A Batavian's Connection With Ronald Reagan

 

The story that follows comes from an interview that Bill Wood and Bill Hall had with Ruth Foland Johnson on

July 13, 2004. In a future edition, we hope to cover some of Ruth's experiences when she and her first husband, Harold Foland, owned and operated the bowling lane in Batavia.

 

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"Eureka College," Ruth Foland Johnson began, "had a wonderful drama department for a small school. They went to a drama tournament, I guess you would call it, at Northwestern while my first husband, Harold Foland, was in school. Northwestern was famous for its wonderful drama department, but Eureka College won. The play was The Hound of theBaskervilles, and Ronald Reagan had the lead as the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. "But let's go back and start with how Harold happened to go to Eureka. He was down at the University of Illinois, and the Depression hit and banks went broke. His money was in a bank, so he was broke, too. He happened to be dating the daughter of the president of Eureka College, and she said, 'Harold, I'm going to call my dad and see if he can get you in Eureka.'

 

And that's how he happened to go to Eureka the second semester; they managed to make some kind of a financial arrangement. "Ronald Reagan was the same age as Harold and had graduated from high school in the class of 1928, I imagine in Dixon. Harold, though, stayed out a year and worked in Chicago at Firemen's Insurance Company, so he didn't start college until the fall of 1929, and Ronald Reagan was always a year ahead of him" Ruth continued, "The reason they were such good friends was that they played all the athletics -- football and basketball --' together. When Reagan graduated, he was president of his class, and Harold followed him as president of the next class. They always teased one another -- Reagan would say that he delivered the gavel to Harold in a great ceremony, al though that wasn't true at all. Their connection with Eureka continued after graduation because it was a small school and all the kids

were so close.

 

"During the war, Reagan would come through St. Charles to visit out in Dixon -whether his parents were still alive then, I don't know. But he would call Harold and say, 'I'll meet you at the Baker Hotel for lunch.' I wish I had had a chance to know Reagan better, but I THE WHITEHOUSE when he called Harold in those days I was busy raising four kids. If Harold went out for lunch, why he was a free spirit and I wasn't. You never know when a lunch is with a future president -- even though he was an actor, I just thought of him as was one of Harold's college buddies. "Later, when we retired and moved to Florida, there were a good many people in Reagan's and Harold's classes that lived there. Immediately we became involved with reunions down there. One man whose name I can't remember was ahead of them at Eureka, and he became the manager of the Illinois people when Reagan was running for president.

 

He organized a big rally in St. Petersburg, and of course we went. It was a wonderful rally -- just like the old-fashioned ones, with straw hats, popcorn and beer, balloons and all kinds of banners. "Because Harold had lost both of his legs to diabetes by then, he was in a wheel chair, and we were given seats right in front of the dais. When Reagan came to the podium, he looked down, recognized Harold, and stepped down with his wife, calling out, 'Pete Foland [the name Harold had gone by in college], what are you·,J doing here?' And he introduced his wife to us. That's the only time that I met him. "Later," Ruth recalled, "all of Reagan's classmates from Eureka got an invitation to his first inauguration. By that time, however, Harold was having health problems and we couldn't go. But they had a private section set up for Eureka classmates and friends -- I thought that was a real nice thing.

 

"Somehow a journalist with the Sarasota Herald heard about Reagan's coming down from the dais and speaking to Harold; he came out and interviewed Harold and wanted him to tell of his memories of Reagan. I never saved that newspaper nor do I know what happened to the invitations. Maybe they got lost in moving.

 

I do wish I had them now. "But the important thing is the great memories."

 


 Membership Matters

 

 

 

Since the last issue, we have added as life members, some of whom were previously annual members, the following

(from Batavia unless otherwise noted):

 

Sharon Breedlove (Ritchey, MO - gift of Diane Bergquist), Denis and Nancy Bowron, Mr. and Mrs. Gus Flodstrom, Richard A. Henders, Don and Joan Johnson, and Tom and Joanne Zillman. Other new members include Richard Anderson II (Downers Grove - gift of Richard and Marilyn Anderson), Ken Bowgren (St. Charles), Judi and Don Conditt (San Diego, CA - gift of Dale and Donna Womack), Tami DiPietro (Peoria, AZ gift of Richard and Marilyn Anderson) Ben Hansford (Elgin), Ann (Thompson) King (Fleming Island, FL), Don Lindman, Roger and Norma Pieratt, Ellen (Abernathy) Poulson (Tucson, AZ), Virginia Schroeder (S1. Charlesgift of Richard and Jeanne Schroeder), Laurie E. Smallwood (Eugene, OR - gift of Bill and Barbara Hall), Merrilee (Richter) Stanley (Suffolk, VA - gift of Ann King), and Mary Stephano, We regret to report the deaths of BerniceJ. Anderson;Touis Charles Berndt; Lyle Bergman, a longtime volunteer at the Depot Museum; Jerry Harris, a life member, former treasurer and member of the society's longrange planning committee; Hazel B. Hawse; Eleanor Johnson, a longtime volunteer at the Depot Museum; Lyle Nelson; Mary Ellen Bohler O'Dwyer; and Walter Stephano. We received gifts in memory of Lyle Bergman from April A. Arena, Dolores and Myron Bergman, Theresa M. Bergman on behalf of friends and relatives who sent cash and checks, CORE Class at the Health and Wellness Center (Theresa C. Peterhans), De Vroomen Holland Garden Products, Ruth B. Jonas and Cheryl Schreiber, Thomas G. and Deborah S. LaLonde, Andrew and Florence Liedberg, Marilyn G. Robinson, and Dorothy Willey; in memory of Robert Wendell Conde from his niece Barbara Conde Hopkins, great-nieces Sara Brown and Jane Hopkins, and great-nephew Stephen Hopkins; in memory of Jerry Harris from Corinne McRoberts Albright, Richard and Lois Benson, Frank and Sue Blazek, Anne Breon, Jan and Ray Bristow, Deborah A. Demanno, Carole and Marvin Dunn, Richard and Sandra Eckblade, Wilman and Frances Favero, William and Barbara Hall, James and Dorothy Hanson, Bert and Ruth Johnson, Rosalie Mr. Jones, Alma Karas and Yangling Zhang, Lloyd Kautz, Gladys Larson, Leo and Inge Martin, Michael L. and Darlene M. McGuigan, Robert and Suzanne Peterson, Robert and Betty Riley, Marilyn G. Robinson, Janet E. Tevis, Sally L. Trekell, John O. and Gail C. Tuohy, William J. Wood, and Stanley and Diana Zorc; in memory of Hazel Hawse from Alma J. Karas and Yangling Zhang; ir memory of Eleanor Johnson from~ Philip B. Elfstrom,Kathy and George Fairbairn, Kathy Langston, Carl and Leslie Lundberg, Barton Payne, Chuck and Sue Payne, Esther Pearson, Gwendolyn Pearson and Norm Potosky, Marge Pearson and Bob Gottlieb, James and Sylvia Roberts, and Robert and Marlys Swanson; in memory of Walter Kauth from Robert J. and Susan E. Ducar and James R. Anderson; in memory of Mary Ellen O'Dwyer from Alma J. Karas and Yangling Zhang; and in memory of Joan Trendall from Batavia Senior Citizens Club (John Marcoux). We also received a $100 gift from Erdene and George Peck.

 


 

Are We Bumpkins?

 

 

In the October, 2003, issue, we carried a story about the Dutch origin of our city's name of Batavia. Memb€"

Bill Cavender has now sent us an excerpt from the Arcade Dictionary oTWord Origins by John Ayto that describes

the origin of the word "bumpkin". "Originally," the dictionary says, "bumpkin seems to have been a humorously

disparaging epithet for a Dutch person: in the first known record of the word, in Peter Levins's Dictionary of English and Latin Words 1570, it is glossed batavus (Batavia was the name of an island at the mouth of the Rhine in ancient times, and was henceforth associated with the Netherlands). It was probably a Dutch word, boomken 'little tree' (from boom 'tree,' related to German baum 'tree' and English beam), used with reference to Netherlanders' supposedly dumpy stature. The phrase 'country bumpkin' is first recorded from the later 18th century." According to Bill, an admitted lover of words, "glossed batavus" apparently means batavus was another word for bumpkin. Perhaps we shou' not have let this secret out!