Volume Forty-Seven

No. 3

July 2006

Sykora Greenouse Company

Predecessor to Shady Hill Gardens



Part 1 of Remembrances

Batavia's Greenhouses and Commercial Gardens



Commercial gardening was once a thriving industry in Batavia and the surrounding communities. Batavia alone had seven, possibly more, greenhouses or commercial gardens during the first half of the last century. By the 1980s there were only two, and today only one remains -- Shady Hill Gardens at 821 Walnut Street. It is a successor to one of the early ones, the Sykora Greenhouse Company, which began in 1915 with the purchase of two greenhouses that had been owned by Mooseheart. Jim Hanson, a regular Gustafson Center volunteer, conceived this story when he happened on a 1990 tape by Robert J. Kalina, a former alderman and a member of the family that owned and operated the Sykora Greenhouse Company for almost sixty years.This led to research in the center's files, including old city directories and eventually to another interview of Bob Kalina.


We shall start the story of Batavia's greenhouses in this issue with the Sykora Company since it is the one about which we know the most. It will be told in Bob's own words as taken from the two interviews, edited and abridged in the interests of space. The two tapes and their transcription are available in the Gustafson Center and are well worth reading by anyone who

is interested in the details of operating a greenhouse -- the planting, fertilizing, spraying, and especially the intricacies of temperature, moisture and insect control. In the next issue we shall cover Batavia's other greenhouses and commercial gardens.


Bob Kalina's grandfather, Anton Sykora, came to this country in the early 1900s from Bohemia where he had worked in the gardens of a nobleman's estate. When he arrived in Chicago, he went to work at the Bohemia National Cemetery. As Bob puts it, "he had a whole slew of kids," twelve in all, and his mother remembered them working in the cemetery and watering the graves. That's where gardening got its start in the family. One of Bob's uncles, James Sykora, went to the Universtity of Wisconsin where he got a master's degree in floraculture; he eventaully owned Amling's wholesale and became president of the Society of American Florists. In 1915, Anton came to Batavia and bought the place that is now Shady Hills. to live in the house as long as they lived.


Shortly after Frank and I took over, we decided to go into year-around mums. [Bob describes the complexities this introduced n the need for more sophisticated heating and the need for 12-hour daily lighting. All this involved a great deal of experimentation and expense.] By the time we got done, we were buying 600,000 mum cuttings a year from George J. Ball. We grew three and a half crops: we had thirteen greenhouses, and we produced one greenhouse each week. That meant we had to cut a greenhouse, sterilize it, plant it, the whole works every week. At Thanksgiving, maybe, we would produce two or two and a half greenhouses a week. The average greenhouse took about twelve and a half thousand plants. We also grew snapdragons, up to 300,000 of them in a year. I remember one year in April when it got awfully hot, and we cut 8,300 snapdragons in one week. -- which was a lot of snapdragons. Of course, when you cut that many, you don't get anything for them -- to amount to anything.


When we first started shipping cut flowers, we put them in a big cardboard box, maybe 4 or 5 feet long and about 18 inches deep and a couple of feet wide. We'd pack them in there with paper and tissue paper, and my uncle Jim used to put them on the old Model T Ford truck and take them downtown. At that time the station was down where the Fifth Third Bank now stands. The Railway Express office was on the north side of the building. They had those green carts with the big iron wheels and the big handle, and when the train came through from Aurora, right down Water Street and across Wilson Street, it stopped at the station. They put the flowers on the Express car -- that's the way we first started shipping the flowers. After the Chicago and Northwestern discontinued the line, we had to get another way to get the flowers into Chicago. The first man who did it, a ''11an by the name of Harold Plummer, owned the coal yard over on the east side, and he ran a trucking business.


He got the greenhouse growers together, and he trucked the flowers in several times. Well, he wasn't too reliable - sometimes he didn't come. And so, after a few years, a man named Burt Riesling from the east side of town started a trucking business. Now Burt had put in a lot of time in the vegetable business and had connections with the market. He went around and got all the wholesale flower dealers -- there were a lot of them in the old days around this area -- to go with him. He would pick up the flowers every day and take them into Chicago. Well, Burt was about the most reliable man you ever saw. I mean every single morning he was here 3:30 to 4 o'clock; I can count on my hand the times over the years he couldn't get here because his truck broke down or something. Every morning I can remember lying in bed and hearing him close the packing room door, 3:30 or 4 o'clock and slam the door on his truck. Many years he hauled the flowers in and brought the empty boxes back from Chicago. We also started selling to retailers out here. So we got some customers -- Schaefer in Aurora, Art Brown in Aurora, Geneva Greenhouse, Swaby in St. Charles, Aug and Anderson in Wheaton, and Flower World in Crystal Lake. We sold them a pretty good amount of stuff, and here we saved the trucking.


They came and picked it up, and we also saved 15% and eventually 25% commission. So we really had the best of both worlds. Later Kennicott Wholesale of Chicago and Kohler & Dramm of Chicago started wholesale houses in Aurora. They came to us looking for flowers wholesale, and we started shipping to them. And we got them to come and pick up the flowers here so it didn't cost us anything for shipping. We saved about $3,000 a year, which was a lot of money. When Kennicott came to us to start with, they said, "Look, you guys really shouldn't be selling to these retailers. You're undercutting us." We replied, "We were selling to them when you came around, and we are going to keep on selling to them. What we will do, we will not go looking for more customers, but we are going to continue selling to the the customers we already have." Now understand, all we sold to these people were yeararound mums, standards and pompoms, which was a good percentage of the business. But of course they had to get roses and all other kinds of flowers from Kennicott. In the olden days, Chicago was kind of the hub of the floral industry. The flowers used to flow in there, and they shipped all over the country.


When my uncle first started in the wholesale business in Chicago, he used to be a wholesale cut flower salesman. He used to travel south and take orders for Valentine's Day and Easter and so forth. Today the flowers come from all over the world. For instance, it used to be that a good percentage of carnations were all grown around here. From here, they moved to Denver because of better growing conditions -- clearer air. Pom-poms went to Florida and California; now they're shipped from South America where they don't need to be shaded or lighted and the help is cheap. From here, the roses went to California, then up to Oregon and Washington. Now flowers come from all those places, Mexico, Israel, HoIland, you name it. I don't think you can go into the whole Fox Valley and find one wholesale cut flower grower. It's just not in the cards -- the taxes, utilities, everything. That's why I got out of the business in 1974; I could see it coming. Perhaps if I had had a son I might have stayed in and switched over to pot plants. But I didn't feel like changing over so I quit. And that ended an industry, the growing and wholesaling of cut flowers, that had supported a number of families and had been a fixture in Batavia since at least the early years of the 20th century.


Ed. note:


In 1974 Chuck Heidgen bought the Sykora greenhouses, which he has operated ever since, selling geraniums and other pot plants, under the name of Shady Hill Gardens.


Why Was Lt. Col. Edward H. Mix Of the

32nd Iowa Infantry Buried in Batavia?


Walking through either of our cemeteries can be a fascinating experience. Some markers recall much of Batavia's history -- names of persons or families who helped build our community -- the Newtons, the Wolcotts, the Frydendalls, the Shumways, the Condes and the VanNortwicks, to cite only a few. Other stones reveal just enough information to tantalize the viewer, to make one want to know more about the person memorialized. It is one of the latter situations that gave rise to the search, only partially successful, related in this story.



One day last month, we were strolling through the West Side Cemetery when an old tombstone caught our eye, one that we had never noticed before, probably because the names on it faced away from the road. Like many of the oldest stones, it was badly eroded, but we were able to make out most of the inscription. The front of the stone had the name MIX at its base; above that it read: EDWARD H. MIX Lieut. Col. of the 32 Iowa Infantry Killed in the Battle of Pleasant Hill, La. April 9, 1864 Aged 57 yrs 8 mos On one side of the marker were the names Leonard C., who died in 1863 at the age of 7, and Little Mabel, who died as an infant in 1862.


On the other side were the names of Thomas M., who was killed in the Battle of _ Mills, _, at the age of 21 on September 17, 1861, and Charles E. who died at the age of 23 on September 2, 1865.1 We walked from the the Mix marker to the Newton War Memorial to see if we could flind the names of Edward H., Thomas M., and possibly Charles E. (although he died after the end of the war, he may well have served in the army) recorded there. This memorial is intended to carry the names of all Batavians who served in the Civil War. We found only one Mix, named Edgar H., who served as a private in the 156th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. (We thought at first that Col.


Mix's name might not have appeared since he was in an Iowa unit; however, the monument supposedly includes all Batavians who served, and we noted on it the name of Major Frank P. Crandon of the 1st Maryland Cavalry.) A search of the internet revealed that Edward H. Mix was indeed a lieutenant colonel, second in command of the 32nd Iowa Infantry, and that that regiment did fight in the Battle of Pleasant Hill, the last major battle of the Civil War west of the Mississippi.


All this raised several questions. Was Edward H. Mix a Batavian? If so, why was he serving as a high ranking officer in an Iowa regiment. And why isn't his name on the monument? If he wasn't a Batavian, why were he and some of his family buried here? Who placed the marker on the Mix graves?


The thought then struck us that, since the elder Mixes were from England (a fact disclosed in the 1860 census as discussed below), there would be a strong chance that they were Episcopalians. So we asked Jim Hanson whether there might be a reference to the Mix family in the records of Calvary Episcopal Church. His search there revealedthat, although there are few records available prior to 1870, there is mention of an April 29, 1855, baptism of five children of Edward Henry and Rosa Ann Mix: William Noble, Virginia Randolph, Edward Henry, Leonard Carr, Isabella Carmelita, all born between 1844 and 1853. Sponsors were Leonard Jones and Laura S. Carr. (The Leonard Carr Mix shown here was born in 1850 so he cannot have been the Leonard C. born in 1857, whose name appears on the tombstone in the Batavia cemetery.)


No mention of any Mixes appears in later Calvary records that are available after 1870. We turned to the United States Census in the search for more information. The 1860 census showed Edward, a farmer aged 55, living in Cook County near Elgin. Others in the family were Ann, 57 (presumably his wife Rosa Ann in the Calvary baptismal record); John, 21; Susan, 19; Ed, 26; other children were born in England; the younger three were born in the United States. There was no Thomas or Charles, whose names appeared on the marker, although it is possible they no longer lived at home, nor were any of the children baptized in 1855 shown in the census.


And what was the relationship of the three youngest children, obviously too young to be children of the senior Edward and Ann, but two of them bearing the same names, Edward and Leonard, as two of Edward and Ann's children baptized in 1855? From here we searched the 1870 census. Although the senior Edward, Thomas and Charles were dead, we thought that some members of the family might still be around. We drew a blank, not only here but elsewhere. The question remains: What was the connection between Batavia and the Mix family. And where did the Mixes go? 'The cemetery's index of burials shows an Evert Mix but not a Charles E. It is possible th Charles' middle name, by which he went, w<.'~ Evert. 2The household also included John Swadling, 25, farm laborer, and Ann Lengcroft (sp?), age 28. Both were born in England.


Memories of a Veteran Railroader

Marj Holbrook



Railroading used to get in many men's blood at an early age -- probably still does, although the change from steam to diesel seemed to take some of the glamor out of trains. This is the story of one man whose life with the railroad took him countless times through Batavia, past the old depot on Prairie Street, on the Burlington's Aurora Branch Line. The red caboose next to The Depot Museum is part of the Burlington Railroad's history. Many people may not realize that it's part of Batavia's history, too. The waycar n the Burlington NEVER called them cabooses was built in 1907 in the Burlington shops in Aurora and will mark its 100th birthday next year with appropriate celebration. It's part of a bygone era. When was the last time you noticed a waycar - or caboose - on the rear of a freight traveling through Batavia, Aurora or Geneva? But Russ Repetto, a 42-year Burlington veteran, remembers it well.


Toward the end of his career, he was the conductor on freight trains traveling through Batavia. The crew called the train "The Irish Mail." And its waycar was the one now on the Depot siding. It takes little prompting for Repetto to tell stories about his days on the Irish Mail. He had wanted the "day job" on that train but had to wait until he had enough seniority. "We worked the west side first," he remembers.


 "We'd go up to Mooseheart - they used a lot of coal in those days - and then on to Batavia where our only stop was Lindgren  Foundry. Then it was back to Eola (yard) and up the east side to West Chicago." The Aurora Branch Line - the stretch of track from Aurora to West Russ Repetto Chicago - follows the east bank of the Fox River from Aurora until it crosses Route 25 near River Hills Memorial Park. It then makes a broad curve through Batavia toward West Chicago.


It's the oldest track on the entire Burlington Northern-Santa Fe system according to Greg Konecny, Superintendent Operations of the BNSF. It was the first track laid in 1849 by the fledgling railroad to connect Aurora with Turner Junction (West Chicago) so Aurorans and Batavians could ride the Chicago & Galena Union Railroad into Chicago. The first train departed Batavia at 6:30 a.m. Sept 2, 1850. In fact, the Depot Museum, built in 1854, was the oldest depot along the Burlington Route when it was moved in 1973 from Webster and South Van Buren streets to its present site. The depot opened as a museum on April 13, 1975. "There wasn't much to do in Batavia," Repetto remembers of his earliest trips on the "MaiL" "Sometimes we'd set out a tank car of ammonia." We went by Weigand Lumber and head to West Chicago where we switched at Admiral and went to the interchange downtown with the Chicago & North Western."


After General Mills built in West Chicago the work load increased. "We had to be at General Mills by 7 a.m. because they wanted all the switching done before the shift began. We would take eight loaded (box) cars out of the plant and push eight empties in. At first they had only two tracks, but then they built a new warehouse and there were four tracks. Things got really heavy then." About that time, more cars were switched in Batavia at American Can Co. on South River Street, and Walker Muffler (now Suncast) on Kirk Road. "But we could not hold up General Mills. "Now, I hear, there's more business in the Batavia Industrial Park. I hear they bring three to four carloads of Coors Beer to Millard (refrigeration) every day. They didn't have that when I was working."


A Lifelong Love


Repetto grew up in Lincoln, Neb., where his father was a switchman for the Burlington. As a boy, he often went with his father to the railyards. "At one point, my dad was laid-off," he says. "He had to check in every day to see if there was a job (work assignment) for him. We didn't have a phone; he rode his bicycle three or four miles to the yard. There were days we didn't think we were gonna eat." A well-known model railroader as well as a former rail employee, Russ received his first wind-up train when he was 5 years old. "My fingers got blistered from winding up that train," he says with a grin. "I didn't get my first electric train until I was 9 years old. As a Boy Scout in Lincoln, Repettowas recruited to guard a rural crossingfor the historic May 26, 1934, tripby the Burlington Pioneer Zephyrfrom Denver to Chicago.


The silvertrain made the record-breaking trip of 1,010 miles in 13 hours at an average speed of more than 77 miles per hour."For them to make good time, all the switches had to be in place and all the crossings guarded from Denver to Chicago," Russ explains. (Inthose days, all switches were thrown by hand; there were no electric controls.)"They used police or employeesin the cities, but took Boy Scouts to the small towns and rural crossroadsto make sure everything was in place and the crowds were held back. People lined the rails waiting for a quick glimpse of the train."Repetto recalls his memories of that incredible day in a video shown at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry at the approach to the Pioneer Zephyr exhibit. Producers came to his Aurora home to interview and film him. "From Lincoln to Waverly (Nebraska), it's a straight shot of five miles," he says. "We looked andcould see a little dot down the line going really fast."Later, as a Burlington employee, he worked on similar trains many times. "It was the easiest riding train ever made," he adds proudly.


Riding the rails


In June 1944, Russ tried to hire onthe railroad in his hometown of Lincoln."I was told they needed men inIllinois, so I got on the train and wentto Aurora for training. I was sent tothe YMCA (then at Fox - now EastDowner - and LaSalle streets) to geta room. After three student trips, I wassent out as a brakeman." In December1944, he returned to Lincoln tomarry Kay, his bride of almost 62years, and brought her back to Aurora.They lived in two different apartments,then bought a small house on Aurora's west side where they've lived for more than 50 years. Repetto was promoted from brakeman to conductor in 1957. For those who don't know, the conductor is always in charge of a train whether it's a commuter, cross-country passenger or freight.


"I worked the suburban main line for a while, the extra board, and the "pool." Those working the extra board stay home but must be available instantly to work any assignment. Those in the "pool" report daily but usually don't know the assignment until they arrive. In the 1970s, he had the seniority to bid on the job as conductor on the "Irish Mail." He'd worked that job before, but never with any permanence. "I took the morning job and had to be at work at 3 a.m. so we could be in West Chicago by 7 o'clock. When we were busy, we wouldn't get done by 3 p.m. A lot of guys wanted that job because of the overtime. "In Batavia, we went by a barn just east of the Wilson Street crossing; there were two fancy cars in that barn. The rumor was that two women owned those cars. I never found out." (The barn and its cars were owned by sisters Theresa and Mary Feldott who took over the farm implement and supply business founded by their father. The barn was adjacent to the Delia Street rail crossing. The crossing is now closed and there's a city well house and underground water tank on the property.)


From steam to diesel


"When I started it was all steam engines," Repetto says.14.jpg "I never thought we'd go to diesel." He was on a freight headed east when he first experienced diesel power. "We were going up Burke Hill," he remembers, "and they put on diesels. All the bigwigs were on board." (Burke Hill is a climb heading east out of Savanna, III.) "The train had stopped and one of the bigwigs asked me why it was taking so long. I told him we had to have a "pusher" (an engine at the rear) to get up the hill. He asked me how many tons we usually hauled and I told him 3,800 tons. He told them ttd add 1,000 more tons and they did. We didn't have a pusher but those diesels just climbed that hill. I knew then, that the steam days were numbered."


Accidents and incidents


"We hit a lot of autos," Russ recalls of his days on the "Mail." "But there were no serious injuries. I wouldn't let my engineer go through Batavia at more than 10 miles per hour. I insisted he go slow; some guys really go through there too fast." One accident he remembers: The train was going through Batavia in the early morning and a truck west-bound on Wilson Street hit the locomotive. "The truck didn't stop. We got a lot of auto parts off that truck and called the police. The officer didn't see the truck and didn't think it was much until we showed him the truck parts and where it took a lot of paint off the engine." Another time, Repetto was standing on the rear platform of the way watching for kids who often threw " anges, apples and stones at the traj~ as it passed. "We didn't have shatter- proof glass then. "Some guy in a car ran into the steps of the waycar right where I was standing. We (the train) went several (train) car lengths until I could get into the waycar and set the brakes."


The auto went on. "We called the police and they didn't believe us then, either, until we showed them the mangled steps and told them to follow the trail of antifreeze down the road." Another time, the train hit a car parked too close to the rails at Wilson and Prairie streets. "People think they can get up close," Russ says, "but the (train) cars hang over three feet or more. "One crossing really scared us: Kirk Road. Cars would try to beat the train, but we never hit anybody there."  


A runaway car


One day, the dispatcher called the crew in West Chicago to report a runaway tank car heading south from Batavia. "We didn't have radios or cell phones then," Russ says. "The dispatcher said someone called and told me that a train car with no locomotive had gone south and all the crossing bells were ringing. "We had worked a factory in the industrial area on the east side in Batavia and pulled an empty out to a siding and set the brake. Some kids released the handbrake and turned the switch on the siding so the car could roll onto the line. You know, from Batavia south on the east side it's all a downhill grade. The car just rolled away, clear past American Can and into North Aurora. "There was a section gang at North Aurora and one of the men tried to get on the car to pull the handbrake, but didn't make it. The car finally stopped at the insulation plant by North Aurora. It's amazing that no one was hurt."


Snowstorms and "ocean" waves


On the Branch line, the stretch from Kirk Road to West Chicago was always bad when it snowed. "One time during a really big snow, I told the dispatcher not to send us out there, we'd get stuck. We did!" Repetto recalls. "We didn't have radios or phones, so I walked from the tracks over to a house on Route 38 and banged on the door. When a guy answered, I asked, 'Could I use your phone?' He let me in and I called. The dispatcher said they'd send up someone to get us out, so I walked back to the train. "When no one came, I walked back to the house again and banged on the door.


The guy answered and said, 'You again?' I used the phone and called the yard and told them we were running out of fuel. "In the big snow of 1967, I didn't think we'd run anything. When the boss said we were going, I told them we'd never make it. They gave me an engineer out of Chicago and he didn't want to go too fast. I told him that beyond Kirk Road it's all open and we had to go fast. When he didn't do it, I just got on the engineer's side and pulled the throttle out. I reached up to wipe off the windshield and the snow looked like ocean waves. We hit a drift like a brick wall; it knocked me out of the seat next to the controls.


 "The engineer couldn't get the train out. We had 25 to 30 cars on. We did have radios by then and I radioed to send an engine to pull us out. I walked from the engine back to the waycar in the snow and it was awful. The next day they sent up a snowplow. The deer were grateful for an open path. When we went back the next time, we had to follow them down the tracks for miles until they could get off." There are more stories, but Repetto thinks he's said enough. He relaxes in his comfortable recliner and chuckles softly. Railroading was - he admits - a good life. "I loved the Irish Mail," he says firmly.


Membership Matters


Since the last issue, we have added as life members the following (from Batavia unless otherwise noted): Mr. and Mrs. Richard Anderson (Riverside, CA), Richard Anderson II (gift of parents, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Anderson), Dennis and LindaAnderson, Tami DiPietro (Peoria, AZ, gift of parents, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Anderson), George L. Hohmann, Sr., The Holmsted, and Virginia Wyllie (Aurora). Other new members include Helen L. Ferrari, Mr. and Mrs. Brian A. Giesen, Kirk C. Miller and Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Peterson (St. Augustine, FL, gift of Louette Sandell Turkolu).


We regret to report the deaths of long-time members Edythe Andrson, Beth Dougherty, Gladys Larson (featured in a story in the April 2005 Historian), and Mary A. Peterson (life member). All of these were long-time members, and we will miss them. We have received gifts n memory of Bert Johnson from Nancy Gill, in memory of Gladys Noren from Alma Karas and Yangling Zhang, and in memory of Bill Wood from Robert Ducar.

Society Learns About Nelson Lake Marsh At June 11 General Meeting


Chris Winter, Secretary Those who attended the June meeting of the Batavia Historical Society walked away with a new appreciation of Nelson Lake Marsh and the other nature preserves that Kane County provides for its residents. Drew Ulberg, Director of Natural Resources for Kane Co., presented a very informative program on Nelson Lake. As photos of the wild life that live in the wetlands appeared on the screen, Mr. Ulberg talked about the natural history that occurred to form this unique environment.


 Local history also unfolded as he explained that the property was once owned by the VanNortwick family, Mary Chapman (a Van Nortwick descendant) and more recently farmed by the Gould and Anderson families before the County acquired this parcel. The Audubon Society offers guided bird hikes the first Saturday of every month at 8:00 a.m. Grab your binoculars and discover all the beauty that Kane County has to offer!


Memorial Day through Thanksgiving


Helen Bartelt Anderson



Helen Anderson was born in 1914 and grew up on a farm that is now part of Fermilab. Over the years we have been privileged to publish her stories of a rural childhood in an era that few people now remember. In the last issue we reprinted one of her most popular stories covering holidays on the farm, from Christmas through Easter. We are continuing her holiday remembrances in this issue: Memorial Day through Thanksgiving. This story originally appeared in the April 1996 issue. The society published Helen's stories through 2000 in a book entitled Memories of a Childhood, which is available for purchase at the Depot Museum.



Summer vacation usually started on Memorial Day. Some years we had a picnic. It was a time to take off long underwear. A time to take off shoes and stockings and go barefoot. I remember one year Mama took us to town to see the parade. We lived outside the Batavia school district, so we were not invited to march in the parade with the other school children. I remember going to an ice cream parlor after the parade for ice cream cones. Ideal Confectionery was owned by Gus Kapinas.


July 4th


One spring Papa was plowing in a field quite some distance from our house. He turned up a couple of huge rocks. Not saying a word to anyone, he went out to the field before daylight on the 4th, put a stick of dynamite between the two rocks, lit the fuse and quickly ran out of the way. The blast must have awakened everyone for miles around. That was his way of celebrating. No doubt cultivating corn took up the rest of his day.


Mama celebrated the Fourth by cooking a delicious dinner of ham that had been smoked in the smokehouse, then packed in salt brine in big twenty-thirty gallon crocks. Mama tried to have new potatoes, cooked in their skins, and fresh peas from the garden. Some years, when there was a late spring, the gardens were also late. Cherries were nearly alwaysripe by the Fourth, so we would have fresh cherry pie. Labor Day was made a national holiday in 1894, so it was still a fairly new holiday when we were growing up. It did not in any way affect farmers. Labor Day was a big day for farm children because it marked the beginning of school the following day. Like most children, I started school with new dresses. Mama's cousin Oma, would make two gingham dresses for me each year. One dress could be worn for a week or more without laundering because I wore coverall aprons over the dresses.


These aprons were made of dark calico, were sleeveless, slipped over the head and tied at the sides. Roger probably had new clothes, too. Boys wore denim bib overalls and high-top shoes. Boys often had trousers made from their father's worn ones, especially in winter. When it was really cold, boys wore a pair of madeover pants with their bib overalls over the top.


Halloween was great fun. There was usually a party at school. We bobbed for apples, tried to take a bite out of an apple tied on a string and tried to pin the tail on a black cat while we were blindfolded. Our school room was real spooky with bats, black cats and witches everywhere. We carved pumpkins and learned the poem, "The Goblins'li Get You If You Don't Watch Out." Mama and Papa belonged to the Farmers' Community Club. One year they had a Masquerade party on Halloween, at the home of Wilton and Elsie Lehman. As Papa drove our Model T into their drive way a man with blackened face jumped in front of the car, waving his arms and yelling. I screamed and cried louder and longer than anyone. I spent the rest of the evening on Mama's lap. One year Papa made costumes for all four of us of Catalpa leaves. I do ~ not remember if we won a prize Farmers had fun, too, in spite of long days of very hard work. Life on the farm was and is controlled by seasons and weather. In the late fall farmers checked the ears of corn to see if they were ripe enough and dry enough to be picked.


If there was still moisture in the ears, the picking would have to wait until the corn was ready. Then the husking season would begin. Farmers wore heavy canvas gloves with husking pegs strapped over the mitts to rip open the corn husks. Even though these heavy gloves were worn the farmer's hands would be chapped and sore. Every night they would rub an ointment into them. Each ear of corn was picked and tossed into a box wagon that had bang boards on one side, to prevent the ears from landing in the field. Two faithful horses pulled the wagon, walking slowly up and down the rows. The husker could pretty well keep up with the horses. Thanksgiving Day was the deadline when all husking should be finished. Sometime weather conditions prevented this from happening. If allwent well, Thanksgiving would be celebrated by a traditional dinner, probably at Aunt Kate's and Uncle Mike's in West Chicago. Because Mama lived with them for many years before she married Papa, they were like Grandma and Grandpa to Roger and me.


At school we made pictures of corn shocks and pumpkins. We colored and cut out pictures of turkeys although we did not have roast turkey for Thanksgiving because turkeys were not raised on the farm. Our teacher read stories to us about the Pilgrims and the Indians. We learned the poem, "Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandma's House We Go."


Editor's Note: In the coming issue, we shall pick up the remainder of Helen Anderson's story as she de~ scribed the joys of a Midwestern farm Christmas in the earlier days of the 20th century.