THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Forty-eight

No. 3


July 2007

BATAVIA INSURANCE

 

Part One

by Marj Holbrook

 

75th year in 2006. Through those years, it has had only four owners: Philip B. Carlson and Elmer E. Peterson, thefounders and first partners; Elmer C. Pettrson who joined the firm in 1953, and current owner, Eldon Frydendall who joined in March 1973. (Editor's note: This early history of Batavia Insurance Agency was written, probably in the late 1950s or early 1960s by Miss Sadie Lundberg, a long-time employee of the agency. This account is hers except italicized items in parentheses which were added for clarification.)

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The trolley from Eola Junction to Batavia rolled merrily along with a "toot-toot" of its whistle and a singsong grinding of its wheels. The year was 1929; the time about 6 p.m. on a weekday evening. The train was the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin "Cannonball" which made the trip to and from Chicago in one hour, flat. The car was packed with commuters; anyone ready to board for the return trip to Chicago was in danger of being stampeded as the doors flew open and homeward-bound men and women jumped out almost before the train completely stopped. Two veteran commuters in the crowd were Elmer E. Peterson, known as "Pete," and Philip B. Carlson, known as either Phil or Ben, or Uncle Ben to many Batavia relatives and friends. They were employees of the Fire Association of Philadelphia at the Chicago office, 222 W. Adams St. Mr. Carlson was in the underwriting department and Mr. Peterson in the loss department. Each wrote some insurance on the side for friends and relatives, trying to make a few extra dollars.

 

It was not strange, therefore, that word reached them through the insurance "grapevine" of the possible sale of an old, established Batavia agency, namely the Nels Herman Insurance Agency. Whether the decision to buy this was made on the lunch hour, during working hours or on the rocking "Cannonball" is not known, but Mr. Peterson and Mr. Carlson pooled their financial resources and purchased the Nels Herman Agency on June 29, 1931, for $400 cash and balance, $100, payable Aug. 1, 1931. The agreement reads: "Nels Herman, doing business as Nels Herman Insurance Agency, sells and delivers over to the said men all his interests, title and good will in the business now known as the Nels Herman Insurance Agency, together with all expirations, records, furniture and fixtures." The name Batavia Insurance Agency was decided and Phil and Pete were business partners. Any one who lived through the Depression knows this was a daring step: to gather $500 cash and then to start in business. The newly-formed partnership's business was conducted in an upstairs room in the Anderson Block at Wilson Street and North Batavia Avenue. After a long hard day in the Chicago offices and tiring ride home on the "Cannonball" the two partners would climb the stairs, look over their newly acquired expirations, divide them as equally as possible and go out to make calls.

 

Winter came too soon and they climbed the stairs to a cold office. They built a fire in the old heating stove and while they waited for the room to warm discussed the problems that had arisen the previous night and decide what new contacts to make. Saturdays and Sundays also were devoted to the new business. If Mrs. Peterson and Mrs. Carlson wanted to see their husbands, they rode along on calls and waited patiently in the car, trying to explain to the children exactly what their fathers were doing. The going was rough. Money in the early 1930s was scarce and hard to get from people. However, the business prospered due to the diligent work of the two men and within a year or two the office moved from the Anderson Block to a downstairs location in the Connie Sheahan building on South Batavia Avenue.

 

The office was in the rear of the building; Mr. Sheahan had an electrical appliance store in the front. One of the first lessons the partnerslearned was that all premiums collected for a policy could not be used by the business; companies is suing the policies had to be paid. A rumor said that one of the most embarrassing mistakes was that each partner made an entry for the same deposit; things looked wonderful until the bank informed them they were overdrawn.

 

For six and a half years, Mr. Peterson and Mr. Carlson continued to work in Chicago and worked nights and weekends on their Batavia business. Problems that arose in Batavia were taken to Chicago and were ironed out with the help of insurance colleagues there. In December 1937, word was circulated that the L.L. Urch Agency in Batavia was for sale. This was one of their biggest competitors; it was originally the Nicholas L. Johnson Agency, the biggest in town. (A newspaper account says that Mr. Urch was willing to sell because he wanted to devote his time to his candidacy for Kane County sheriff.) On Jan. 1, 1938, Mr. Peterson and Mr. Carlson purchased the agency for $3,500. Company accounts taken over with the purchase were:

 

• Scottish Union and National Ins. of Edinburgh

• Home Underwriters of New York

• Hartford Fire Insurance Co.

• Equitable Fire & Marine Insurance Co. of Providence, R.I.

• Springfield Fire & Marine Insurance

Co., Springfield, Mass.

• Phoenix Assurance Co. Ltd. of London

• American Alliance Ins. Co. of New York

• Firemen's Fund Ins. Co. of San Francisco, Calif.

• St. Paul Fire and Marine Ins. Co., St. Paul, Minn.

• New York Underwriters Ins. Co. of New York

• Royal Exchange

• Pennsylvania Fire Ins. Co.

• London Assurance Co. of London Orient Ins. Co. of New York

• Philadelphia Fire and Marine Ins. Co.

• Continental Insurance Company

 

Fidelity-Phenix Fire Ins. Co. This purchase was a big step for the partners. It was in the mid 1 930s; the Depression was still on. Both men had mortgages on their homes; Mr. Peterson had a wife and two sons to support. Mr. Carlson had a wife and two daughters to support Yet it was decided that if they were to do justice to such a large agency someone must be on the job eight hours a day - or more. After much discussion, it was decided that Mr. Peterson would quit his job and take charge of the Batavia Insurance Agency which had now moved to 5 W. Wilson St. on the first floor of the Batavia Body Co. In those days, to quit a job was unheard of. No doubt Mr. Peterson did so with much trepidation. Mr. Carlson continued to commute to Chicago but received permission from his employer to work four days each week so he could be on the job in Batavia on Fridays and Saturdays. (Eldon Frydendal says he was told that the single large Batavia Body Co. safe was in a hallway that connected the backs of Batavia Insurance Agency, Batavia Savings and Loan and Batavia Body Co., which occupied the three street-level storefronts in the limestone building. The insurance office and savings and Loan shared the Company's safe and all had acces to it.)

 

The talents of the two partners, their business acumen, their personalities and the insurance company contacts served them well. Naturally, some business was lost but much was gained. Mr. Peterson and Mr. Carlson were helpful in getting homes for personnel when the Furnas Electric Co. moved from Wisconsin to Batavia in 1940. Both men were active in civic affairs and had been instrumental in bringing this factory to town. Batavia Body Co., Furnas Electric Co. and Lindgren Foundry Co. were listed among the big accounts at that time. A small agency conducted by Charles J. Johnson was purchased for $50 on March 26, 1943. On Jan. 1, 1946, Phil Carlson left his job with the Fire Association and took over his duties as a full-time partner in Batavia Insurance Agency. Mr. Peterson was skeptical about the move but time proved it to be a smart one. Two men working toward the same goal accomplished twict. as much and business doubled that year.

 

In November 1 946, Batavia lnurance was notified that they must move from the Batavia Body Co. building, a spot which was centrally located. Where would they go? About two blocks east, up the Wilson Street hill, was a shoe store and shoe repair shop. Its proprietor had just passed away and his widow didn't know what she was going to do. Mr. Carlson approached her about renting the space and, being a good salesman, sold her on the idea. (Editor's note: The shoe store and repair shop had been operated by Fred Richter, father of F C. "Bud" Richter, long time Batavia fire chief, who continued the shoe repair business in the back of the building for a short time.)

On Dec. 1, 1946, after sharing the

 

Batavia Savings and Building Association office for one month while the new office was being painted, Batavia Insurance Agency moved to the front room of its present location 121 E. Wilson St., where it has been for 60 years! Quarters were cramped and the partners were back to tending a fire in the old heating stove which stood in the back room. I n the front room to the west, the wooden floor sagged at least 3 inches letting in cold breezes. Business, however, continued: insurance in the front and shoe repairing in the back and a congenial atmosphere prevailed. On April 30, 1947, Mr. Peterson and Mr. Carlson and their wives purchased the building from Mrs. Richter and shortly thereafter, the building was remodeled. Among the improvements were a concrete floor and a more up-to-date heating unit. In May 1 949, the partners purchased the James Prindle Agency, another small Batavia agency. In 1953, the partners acquired another small agency, that of Mildred Tordt, for $1 plus 20 percent of the premiums collected on first renewal of all policies in force and other considerations.

 

Mrs. Tordt was a longtime biology teacher at Batavia High School. Her daughter, Mary Lindhorst of Sturgeon Bay, Wis., says she knew her mother was involved in insurance business, but didn't appreciate what she did. She says her mother had taken over took over the insurance business when her grandfather died and worked onthe accounts at night after teaching all day. Old customers found their way to the new location along with new customers. The pressure of business was beginning to tell on both partners, particularly Mr. Peterson. On June 1, 1953, Elmer C. Peterson, son of Elmer E. Peterson, known as "Bruvver" to his family and friends, became a third partner. (Even his employees called him "Bruv.") He served in the Army during World War II and had a career with IBM at Pheoll Mfg. Co. and The Northern Trust in Chicago. He had some experience with the insurance business. For a short time after his graduation from Batavia High School in 1936, he worked at the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Co. Mr. Peterson's hope that one of his sons would become interested in the insurance business was realized and he could now look forward to his retirement. Two years later, he retired but was still a partner. Between trips to Florida and fishing in Canada he always found time to stop at the office at coffee time to see how things were going.

 

A little over a year later, on Oct. 10, 1957, he died suddenly. Batavia Insurance Agency, since 1938, was a policy writing agency and office personnel were a vital part of its successful functioning. At the time of the purchase of the L.L. Urch Agency in 1938, Mr. Urch's secretary, Mrs. Amy Christensen, agreed to work for the new owners. She had been in insurance agency work since about 1912 and had been with the Nicholas L. Johnson Agency before working for Mr. Urch. She was an invaluable asset, well acquainted with customers, companies and the "ins-and-outs" of the insurance business. She stayed until 1941 when she quit, planning to devote more time to her family. Her "retirement" was short-lived. Her only son was killed in action in the European theater in November 1944 and her husband died suddenly in June 1945. For a while she worked for the Veterans Administration, but returned to her "first love," insurance, sometime in 1947. Batavia Insurance Agency needed help to get its policies out. In 1941, Mrs. Christensen had been replaced with a young woman, Dorothy Larson, who left within a year to enter the Army Nurses Training Corp. The agency then hired Miss Sadie Lundberg in January 1943, who worked for the agency until she retired.

 

As business had increased in 1946 when Mr. Carlson began giving full-time to the agency, business increased again when the third partner, Elmer C. Peterson joined the staff. In February 1 954, the agency hired Mrs. lone Blair. When Sadie Lundberg wrote the company's history, Mrs. Christensen and Mrs. Blair shared the duties of policy writing; each worked parttime. And Miss Lundberg handled bookkeeping, losses and "a little bit of everything." "The Cannonball" has passed into history, Miss Lundberg wrote, "but Batavia Insurance Agency is still making history."

 


 

East Meets West

Reminiscences of

Two Boys Growing up in Batavia

 

Part 3

 

In this issue we regretfully conclude the "Norm and Jerry Show," based on a June 3, 2006, interview of Norm Freedlund and Jerry Miller by Jim Hanson and Bill Hall. Whatfun they had - and what pleasure  they have given us

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Norm reminisced, "We don't have reunions like we used to. We always had family picnics when all the Freedlunds would get together."

"That was quite a crowd, wasn't it?" Jim asked.

"Well, Christmas was big. And everyone

gave presents to everyone.

 

You know, to sit there as a kid and get 20, 25 pairs of socks and gloves and whatever you didn't need. But that's the way it was. "They were breaking up Christmas, and we volunteered to take it recently. We had 65 in my little house at Christmas time. That was a 'sit down to eat."'

 

"Today"Jerry observed, "with everybody

so busy and families spread out so much, you don't have many big family gatherings like that. We always had a family reunion every

year, and we had a good-sized family. My one aunt, Eleanor, and John Williams had fifteen kids. And all my other aunts and uncles had two, three, four, and so when we had a family reunion it was a large crowd. "Years ago families stayed close together. We used to walk to our grandma and grandpa's house several times a week. And to this day, I can tell you who lived in every house

on both sides of Wilson Street all the way from my house to Grandma's house."

 

"That's the way it was," Norm agreed. "You played with that circle of friends in your neighborhood. Did you know Dale Winter, the principal of Grace McWayne; we used to call him 'The Yardstick'? He used to call our group the Houston Street Madhouse. We had Tom Johnson and Don Johnson (sons of Eleanor Johnson, who was born, lived and died in the house three doors away from me). And we had Dick Larson and Kenny Larson, and then all the Strans and Jean Kling - Davey, all of them right there close, and Steve Nelson. We must have had twenty-five kids right there, and after supper they just went out and played kick the can or hide and seek -- that kind of stuff. It was all harmless, and within two or three blocks of home." "I have a memento of the Freedlund house," Jim mentioned. "Some body had a garage sale - an estate sale, I guess. My wife was over there, and she saw a bedroom chest that matched one of ours. It was from Hubbard's. So she grabbed it right away." "So they bought it at Hubbard's." Norm asked.

 

"The Freedlunds were like that. If someone had a hutch, they got it at Hubbard's. Evie had a hutch, Lenore had a hutch - they were all the same. And Jen had one, so did Irene." "It was a job getting it downstairs," Jim recalled. "That stairway was something." "Yeah, and it curved and had a right angle corner." "My grandma and grandpa slept upstairs in the one big bedroom. And they had eleven kids living in that house. They slept three to a bed - two lying this way and one lying that. Grandma lived to 96 - had herappendix out at 92. And they never had air conditioning, but they made it okay. Isn't that something?" "What you didn't know, you didn't miss," Jim observed. "We were lucky to have a fan."

 

"You are probably right," Norm replied. "The people sat on the front porch, then they moved to patios and sat in the backyard." Changing the subject, Jerry reminisced, "You didn't have the organized sports that happen now-adays. You have to have the uniform and the whole shot; you can't just start a baseball game. When is the last time you saw kids playing a baseball game that wasn't an organized event? "When we were in Cub Scouts, Les Bex got a bunch of us together and formed a baseball team. And he obviously convinced other Cub Scout packs in the area. We played in afield out where J.B. Nelson School is now; it was Mark Fletcher's property. Les would pack all of us kids in his '48 or '49 Kaiser, and we would play all the Cub Scouts in the area - Sycamore and any towns around that had a baseball team.

 

"The otherthing about that Cub Scout baseball team is that when we finished a game, Les would take us over to the Batavia Body Company where he worked. Invariably they would have a broken down refrigerated truck awaiting repairs; it would be full of ice cream going to waste, and he would pass out as much ice cream as we wanted. We thought we

were in heaven!" Norm interjected, "Do you remember the athletic field, as we called it - Memorial Field? Remember when

they had Frontier Days? They used to have rodeos there." "They always had a parade on Memorial Day," Jerry said. "They went from one cemetery to the other. The kids were taken out of school. If you weren't marching in a Scout group, you had to march with your school class. And then they used to have a parade on the Fourth of July. They always had big festivities centered around the river and the Boat Club." 'The fireworks were up at the athletic field at night," Jim observed. "And they used to have a big bonfire there on Halloween." "Right," Jerry rejoined, "and at 1omecoming youalways had a big bonfire up there at Memorial Field.

 

We were the first class that ever secured an outhouse for the bonfire." "Go Class of '57!" Norm exclaimed. "We requisitioned one somewhere, I don't remember where. I think it was down toward Aurora, on the east side somewhere. We went there and loaded it onto somebody's pickup truck - I don't remember whose. It was the hit of that year's homecoming. Now they can't even have a bonfire." Jim recalled, 'They used to have a bonfire to burn the Christmas trees." "Yeah," Jerry replied, "they used to do that at the Quarry. And they used to skate at the Quarry as well as the pond." Norm remembered, "We did a whole lot more skating then than now because of the weather. The winters now just don't seem to be as cold. There aren't many days that the pond is open. And it isn't very deep, never has been. But that's where we 1lways water skied and fished. "Remember that Lenny Johnson had that big cabin cruiser that used to sit out in the middle of the pond? Ruck Clark had an old boat called the 'Mary Spareribs' - it would chug, chug, chug, only ten miles an hour.

 

It looked like a giant lifeboat. "People kept their boats there throughout the summer. They probably had twenty-five horse Johnson engines, and they had a canvas over the top. They sat on those boats all the time, the whole summer- no fear of them being stolen." Jerry remarked, "There wasn't as much thievery back then. You know, the McCiurgs lived next door - they never locked their house. And we never locked ours at night. The McCiurgs would go up to Wisconsin for a week and never bothered to lock their doors. The neighbors would keep an eye on things." "And if you did lock the door," Jim said, "you hid the key outside where everybody knew where it was. Of course Norm knew all his neighbors - they were relatives." "That's right," Norm replied. "They married but never left town." "One of my teachers lived on that block," Jim recalled. "Mary Powers. She was one of my favorite teachers." "Lived with her sister," Norm said. "Not married. She used to take us out to look at the stars. The Freedlunds were here, then the Klings, and then the Strans. Mary Powers lived

across the street. She was good, fourth grade, really good. "Those Swedes really hung out together.

 

When my aunt Genevieve went down to the nursing home in Aurora, her sisters Harriet and Lenore, who lived two houses away, couldn't stand it. They were always calling me or someone to give them a ride down there. Finally they moved down there themselves. They just never left each other, ever, and they were happy." "They had The Elms, didn't they?" Bill asked. "Well, they were part of it. My uncle, Richie Benson, and my aunt Evie owned the old Elms. They had hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pork barbeque, beef barbeque, French fries and a little dip of sherbet - that was it. Richie was a butcher. He would get a beef roast and a pork roast every night and would slow cook them in the oven all night for the next day. Then he would sit there half the morning and cut the roast and pull it apart to make the barbeque." Jerry recalled, "When he served the barbeque, it always had a layer of cole slaw on top of it. It was so good." "Harriet and Lenore, Evie's sisters, were the waitresses. Harriet would say, They never did pay us.' But they would both be there all Saturday afternoon, all Sunday afternoon. I think they closed about seven or eight o'clock." "Did one or both of them work for the Batavia Herald?" Jerry asked. "Yes, Harriet and my dad. Dad and my Uncle Norm published the Herald. Dad ran the press.

 

But back to the old Elms, it was the Rainbow Bread man's best stop - Rainbow Bread out of Aurora. On a Saturday night, business was so good that they ran about twenty-five minutes behind. 'They would put out so many hamburgers; people would buy anywhere from five hamburgers up. A nephew, Ken Stran, who was an Army cook, just did this on the weekend for the heck of it." "They probably didn't pay him, either," Jerry laughed. "That could be. They closed about the fifteenth of December," Norm continued, "and would take two and a half months off, to paint, do their taxes, and then go down to take the baths in Hot Springs, Arkansas. "The old Elms was torn down when they sold the business to the Morrisons. The Morrisons used to own the Dog and Suds on the corner of Fabyan and Route 25. "The guy across the street, I remember, cut hair in the back yard.

 

He was a handicapped guy. Herm had a rope hanging from the ceiling, and he would put his arm through it and stand with a crutch. Do you remember that? He cut hair in that little log cabin for twenty-five cents."

"And the cabin is still there," Jerry said. "Getting back to Harriet and Lenore," Norm remembered, "on a Saturday night they would walk three blocks down to the popcorn stand, get their popcorn, and take it back to their porch where they'd sit and watch the people walk by. This was big." "Well," Jerry recalled, "A lot of people sat on their front porches and watched people walk by and talked with their neighbors. We would spend endless hours on that porch swing at our house." "Yeah, that was sure what we did," Norm agreed. "We would sit on the front porch and figure out what we were going to do for the rest of the night." Here, unfortunately, the interview tape ran out. And we'll never know what we missed. But Norm did hand us a note the other day, after this story was written, covering three matters that didn't come up in the interview. They deserve to be included.

 

'The first east sider I knew," he wrote, "was Edith Spuhler Benson - although she wasn't an east sider then. I met her in kindergarten, which was in the old home economics building, about where the entrance is to the new library. After school we walked to the Seneca Heat Treating Co. that her dad owned; it was next door to the Batavia Herald where my dad worked. "Edith moved to the east side, and we didn't meet again until junior high. We are still good friends today, and she married my college friend!" Norm mentioned Batavia's unique Thursday School, when students were dismissed from class on Thursdays to attend religious classes attheir various churches, but that is a subject that deserves greater attention in some future issue. "Jerry gave me a package on our 40th wedding anniversary," Norm continued. "My wife opened it, and it was the garter she wore at our wedding. He caught it and kept it all those years.

 

Only Miller, the east-side accountant, who never worked more than three blocks from where he lived, would do that. A good friend!" Maybe some day we can get Jerry and Norm to continue their recollections of fifty and sixty years agr - we're sure they have plenty more

 


THE QUARRY - Circa 1940

 

Marjorie Carlson Withers

 

A year or so ago, the writer, a former resident of Batavia, gave us two stories centering on the home and the family of her grandparents, Patrick and Charlotte Borg. Now she has sent us a wonderful new story, one that brings to life vivid memories of an important part of her Batavia childhood. We are sure many of our readers will share these memories. And we hope that Marjorie Withers will favor us with more stories for future issues.

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When reminiscing about summer fun in Batavia "way back when," who could not think of "The Quarry." It was a great place to hang out with friends and to cool off on those long, hot days before air-conditioning. At our house, at least two of us three sisters--plus cousins or friends--would plan these outings together, as we weren't allowed to go alone.

 

Early in the morning we'd help Mom pack lunches--a sandwich and chips or an apple (plus a nickel) in a paper bag was about it. We'd roll our swimsuits in bath towels and toss them and our lunch bags into the metal baskets on our bikes--one-speed models with balloon tires. Those lucky enough to have an inner-tube-often a black, patched one salvaged from a car's flat tire-would sling it over the handlebars and off we'd go. At that time, the quarry's main entrance was on Water Street, south of Union. Steps were adjacent to the driveway that led through the cemetery, down to the quarry. After "ditching" our bikes in the grass, we'd head for the stairway.

 

Down those old stone steps, through the park and to the water we ran, ever so anxious to jump in - but not until we donned our swimsuits, of course. The bath house had changing stalls, however primitive, that we hastily used. We'd drop our clothes and lunches into baskets and give them to the attendant, who filed them numerically in wall racks. No lockers back then! Slipping the matching-numbered elastic bands on our ankles, we'd head for the cool, refreshing water. The shallow end was usually filled with mothers tending babies in small inner tubes, as well as toddlers splashing around and screaming. So, naturally, we vowed to escape the shallow and "graduate" to the deep water as soon as possible. That milestone was achieved by passing a swimming test, administered by city officials. After that we were allowed "over the rope," to swim in "the deep." Fabulous freedom at last! But just swimming wasn't good enough, of course. Our play then became a game of taunts. Lolling in our inner-tubes, we'd call out "Can you dive off 'first' yet?" (Just climbing the verticalstairs on that old stone diving tower was a challenge for the hardiest!)

 

 "Go ahead. Dive off second!" And then someone would brag, "Watch me while I jump off third!" But ultimate praise was won by daring to dive off the top. Most of us eventually did that perhaps only once, like me, but we did it! Between jumps and dives, we'd swim in that luxurious, deep water, out to the raft or just loll in inner tubes as we watched others tackle the tower. And "the deep"- now our bailiwick -  was all the more attractive to us because we just knew that no one had ever "touched bottom." Scary stuff! All that activity made us ravenous.

 

After retrieving our lunch bags from the checked baskets, we headed for "The Stand"- a small stone building just southeast of the shallow pool. They carried drinks, snacks and ice cream, of course but we loved their "Twinkies" best! After devouring our sandwich and apple lunches, nearly all of us spent our "nickel in the bag" on those soft and scrumptious banana-filled cakes. Two to a package! Heavenly! By mid-afternoon we were getting tired at last - more than ready to go home.

 

But not yet! First we showered in the bath house, dank smell and all, maneuvering carefully on its slippery concrete floors. Clean and dry once more, we headed to the stairs for the trek to the top. Even as kids, we were able to appreciate those beautiful, flat stones, carefully laid to form steps. And were we ever thankful for "the landing"! We'd always plop down on the stone benches there for a bit of rest. Occasionally, though, we'd forgo the steps entirely, to walk the steep, gravel driveway that wound through the "spooky" cemetery to "the top." But, for obvious reasons, that seldom happened. After re trieving our bikes, we slowly pedaled the suddenly-long ride home.

 

For many years, Quarry Park was quite the oasis for my family, who frequently joined other friends and relatives there for picnics, swimming, horseshoe games and just visiting. And of course, everyone would spend time pool-side, oohing and aahing over their children's latest aquatic achievements. I've recently been to Quarry Park. In fact, my husband, Jerry, and I decided to walk up and down those old stone steps, so I could more or less re-live that experience. We rested once each way, of course, stopping at the landing. By our count, the steps numbered only in the 70s-far fewer than I had thought as a child! Despite its many improvements in size, appearance and amenities, The Quarry remains, in my mind, the rather "primitive" place I remember as a child -- still full of a kid's fondest memories.

 


 

The Three Lakes Rod and Gun Club

Founded by Batavians More Than 100 Years Ago

 

 

In the late 1800s, a group of men, principally Batavians, organized the Three Lakes Rod and Gun Club in the wilds of Wisconsin. The club still exists, with descendants of founders still among its members. Michael Boehm of Batavia, a descendant of early members, recently gave a history of this club to the Gustafson Center of the Depot

Museum Mike Boehm did not move to Batavia until well after he became an adult; however, his Batavia roots are deep, and he spent much time here as a child. His great-grandfather William Finley, who became president of the Northwestern Railroad, had four children, one of whom, Max, married Katherine Sperry, the youngest of nine children in the Sperry family. Max Finley became a member of the club in 1933.

 

"The History of the Three Lakes Rod and Gun Club" that Mike provided us consists primarily of reminiscences of Mrs. Barton (Cornelia) Snow, a Batavia member whodied in 1984. The story that follows is abridged from that history, with Cornelia Snow's reminiscences shown in quotes. We are sure that you will find these memories of the club's early days fascinating and evocative of an era long past. The fact that the club survives to this day, with many members who are descendants of the founders, is testimony to the abiding ties that evolved over time. Mike Boehm continues to drive regularly to the club for weekends and holidays. He says, "I want to make sure my children and grandchildren have the experiences there that I have had."

 

 

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One of the oldest condominium concepts in the country might have originated in Three Lakes, [Wisconsin]. In June 1884, thought seeds were planted by a group of sportsmen from Batavia, Ill., who camped on Lake Gogebic, Mich. The "Gogebic Club" grew and materialized into what has become known as the Rod and Gun Club of Three Lakes, Wis. These privileged sports-minded individuals were looking for the ideal site in which to establish a club to fish, hunt, enjoy good fellowship and to) get away with their families from the cares and worries of the everyday world.

 

So, in 1 886 members from this Gogebic Club came to Three Lakes, having heard of the natural, magnificent country, the largest chain of lakes in the world, and wildlife beyond compare; all encompassed in an area called Three Lakes, Wisconsin ... This group of men camped in "this haven of wonders and found ... a wonderful land literally speckled with beautiful fish-filled lakes, vast forests, nowhere had nature been more lavish with her beauties and blessings than they found in this land of lakes and woods. 'They camped on Charlie French's point, now known as Denby Island, between Medicine and Laurel lakes, sleeping in tents on balsam boughs covered with blankets. "In 1891 some of the members came up to board with Paul Miller and Fred John in the old log part of the present clubhouse. "On September 27, 1 898, an organizational meeting was held to buy Paul's property and the furnishings of the clubhouse. The purchase was completed on December 30, and onJanuary 3, 1899, an Illinois charter was issued for the Three Lakes Rod and Gun Club.

 

"The members were as follows: from Batavia, ILL., Dr. A.A. Pitts, pres., Dr. John C. Patterson, A.D. Mallory, T.W. Snow, H.B. Bartholomew. S.A. Wolcott, R.N. Jones, Cornell H. Brown and F.H. Burke. [Eight members were from elsewhere.] ... "Early in the spring of 1900, construction began on the first Club cottages when Mr. Snow sent in one of his railroad construction crews to put up a cottage for him, one for Mr. Mallory to the left and one for Mr. Turner to the right. They also built the necessary facility, the "little green house" overhanging Laurel Lake. These were all put up in the jig time of ten days.

 

"The Club was very railroad conscious in those days and it was not long before the members had a special Pullman set off in Batavia on the morning of their departure. Late in the afternoon the 'Fisherman's Special' picked up the Batavia car and the summer had begun!" By four the next morning the car was cut off at Three Lakes, and Mr. Gratton and Mr. Hoole stood waiting to take the first arrivals out to the Club. Mr. Gratton had a fine team of dappled gray horses hitched to his Democrat wagon, with a couple of extra seats set across the wagon box sides behind the driver's seat. When Spirit Lake came into view from the top of Consumption Hill it was greeted with a shout of joy; that moment carried a real thrill for everyone. "For breakfast there was always fish and bacon and pancakes, with maple syrup which Charlie French and his Indian wife, Leafy, had made from the trees up on the hill. "Swimming for everybody was at three in the afternoon in Spirit."

 

All women, from eight years old up, wore heavy black stockings and their suits had nice full bloomers under full skirts, which mercifully were only knee length. It took quite a girl to swim far in such an outfit. The stockings were the worst - they got full of water and dragged along no end. "Housekeeping was very different then, though nobody felt it was any particular burden. Mr. Neu, who had the general store in town, drove out with his old horse and wagon twice a week to take orders which he delivered on his next trip. The boys had a number of chores that just do not exist any more. Some of them would row along the shore of Medicine Lake, pick out a dead pine tree, chop it down, trim it, and saw it into sections to load in the boat. These they took home to cut to stove length and chop up. It didn't occur to anyone that this was too much of a job . . . 'The Rod and Gun Club was certainly well named as far as Rod went, but the guns were mostly pistols used for target practice on a range down back of the Clubhouse.

 

The two or three ox carts or wagons that passed in a day gave ample notice with squeaks and groans that could be heard half a mile down the road. "The summers of 1918 and 1919 were quiet at the Club; the young men were in military service and the older ones too busy to spend more than a few weekends up north. At the Rod and Gun Club, as elsewhere in this country, the end of the First World War marked the close of a way of life. For one thing, more people drove their cars to Three Lakes, though many still used the trains. Charlie French got his first Ford in 1918, and thereafter drove to town for the mail instead of rowing across Spirit Lake and walking. "It was in the early '20s that the ladies, emancipated from skirts by the war, took to knickers, real baggy knee breeches. These were a big improvement over skirts when it cam to climbing over the prow of a launch or rowboat onto a rock or a sand beach, and fishing and picnics were still the order of the day. Also, black stockings disappeared from ladies' bathing costumes, a help to swimmers as only those who have worn them can appreciate.

 

"In 1928 electricity arrived at the Club. No more kerosene lamps to fill or chimneys to clean; no more candles to go to bed by! The old windmill that had faithfully pumped water from Spirit Lake up into the tank in its tower was soon out of a job, and it wa9 not long before that pet observation post of the children was taken down. "As the genealogies show, the children of the original members grew up spending their summers at the Club from 1900 until about the time of the first World War There were an older and a younger group of this generation who, for the most part, left the Club after 1918 and did not come back until along in the '20s when they began to bring their children up. Of course, many of this first group never did come back, except for an occasional visit, but those who did were joined by new members and their children and during the '20s and '30s there was plenty of young life around.

 

"Again during World War II there were not many younger people around, but since that time there has been a rapidly increasing population in the younger bracket; in fact there are, and have been children all over the place ever since. Second, third, fourth and now even fifth (now sixth) generation offspring come to spend their summers beside Spirit Lake . . . "

 

 


 

 

Record Turnout Enjoys Mooseheart Hospitality

At a General Meeting on June 10, 2007

 

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Sunday, June 1 0 , was a beautiful day. And about 150 members and friends, a record attendance for any society meeting, enjoyed an outstanding program hosted by our neighbor Mooseheart. It was a great occasion. Among those attending were a number of Mooseheart alumni, former employees, and their families. A special guest was the daughter of Mooseheart co-founder Rodney Brandon, member Nancy Brandon Allen, who was accompanied by her children and grandchildren. The idea for this meeting came from our late director Bob Brown; his brother-in-law John White, also a director of the society, followed through with arrangements with the Moose organization.

 

What resulted was an invitation from William B. Airey, Director General of Moose International, for members and guests to participate in a luncheon buffet, followed by a presentation on Mooseheart history and a tour of the campus. Kurt Wehrmeister, director of communications and public affairs, and Robert Zaininger curator of the Museum of Mooseheart History, conducted this part of the meeting.

 

The society is grateful to John White for helping to make this meeting pos sible and especially to Messrs. Airey, Wehrmeister and Zaininger for the gracious hospitality. We are indebted to them not only for an enjoyable afternoon but also for giving us a better understanding of Mooseheart's goals and accomplishments. It's good to know one's neighbors!

 


 

HISTORIANS DIVE INTO BOXES OF - BATAVIA_ HISTORY

 

 

By Andre Salles

STAFF WRITER

 

The pieces of Robert Kerfoot's life are stacked in a corner, lovingly packed in boxes.They are old church programs,

and photographs, and newspapers. They are memories of achievements and important moments, preserved in words and pictures. They are keepsakes, collectionsand mementos, and for the people who run the Batavia Depot Museum, they are the only clues to help them put together an image of this man and his life. For Carla Hill and Marilyn Robinson, this is their life. They love nothing more thansifting through the scattered pages of history, drawinglines and looking for connections. And when someone drops off a treasure trove like the Kerfoot legacy, it's like Christmas.

 

"Every once in a while, we'll get things like this," said Hill, the museum's director. "We get families moving out of town, or estates that donate to us, because they feel that these things should be kept in the community." And of course, there's the thrill of finding hidden treasures, of diving into well-preserved documents of times gone by. The Depot Museum, on Houston Street in downtown Batavia is a hidden treasure, a joint venture between the Batavia Park District and the Batavia Historical Society. 20.jpg

 

Its exhibits contain moments captured in time, a capsule history of more than 100 years. Kerfoot's collection was donated by hisson, John Kerfoot, through Batavia architect Lane Allen. The younger Kerfoot moved to Arizona earlier this year, and on his way out, he presented Allen with his father's treasures. The two families were intertwined.

 

Fifty-six years ago, Robert Kerfoot trained Allen's brother, John, in electrical engineering, and Lane Allen and John Kerfoot were friends.

"At the last minute, he said to do something with all this wonderful information," Allen said. "He knew it was to be appreciated, but he didn't have time." So Allen invited Hill and Robinson to come down to his office, and take a look. "We were shocked when we walked in, and saw the amount of stuff there," Hill said. "Anything related directly to Batavia, we collect and preserve." Heirlooms and artwork Watching Hill go through the Kerfoot file is like seeing a small child rummaging through a toy store. Her eyes go wide as she turns the pages of 75-year-old newspapers and magazines. Perhaps the most immediately fascinating thing here is a collection of art samples from the World's Colombian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893.

 

These are obviously family heirlooms, as Robert Kerfoot was not born until 1913, but they are in beautiful condition, and the artwork within still brings a gasp from Hill. Also among the collection, but delivered to this newspaper separately, is a copy of The Beacon News from 1946- the 100th anniversary edition. It's a relic of a different time, when the local paper was the only way most people got their information. It even contains a mock-up of a front page from one of the earliest editions of The Beacon News, from the 1840s. But beyond just the interesting artifacts, Kerfoot's collection offers a picture of who the man was. A lifelong Batavian, Kerfoot owned a radio and television shop in town, and taught electronics at Mooseheart for 11 years. He graduated from Batavia High School-there's a picture in the Depot Museum archives of Kerfoot posing

with the Batavia High Band, taken in 1931. Kerfoot also owned the old Batavia Theatre on First Street.

 

Lane Allen said his mother attended that theater; she could see movies for 5 cents, he said. Down deep in one of Kerfoot's boxes is a fairly well preserved roll of tickets from a later period in that theater' history, emblazoned with the price: 50 cents. There are numerous leaflets, programs and other memorabilia from the First Methodist Church in Batavia, which Kerfoot and his family attended. Here is a leaflet announcing his Sunday School graduation, in 1925. Here is a program for the dedication of the church's musical tower, in 1936.

 

Hill said that personal collections are often split up when it comes to displaying and filing in the museum. Kerfoot's extensive collection of First Methodist Church documents will likely go with the museum's file on the church, and will be used for research. The Internet age The Depot Museum staff gets a steady stream of requests for information about

local history, from people looking for long-lost family members or for the inside story on certain buildings. Robinson, who has volunteered at the museum since 1989, is often in charge of finding out the information and responding. "Here's the latest one," she said with a chuckle, and then read aloud: "I'm looking for a radio program that was sponsored by Campana. What was the name of the show, and what was the theme song?" Robinson is so good at her job that it only takes her a tw minutes to locate Robert Kerfoot's obituary, dated March 28, 1984.

 

He is buried Richard Kerfoot, a Batavia archivist, is shown in this 1931 portrait of the Batavia High School marching band. The photograph is archived at the Batavia Depot Museum. in West Batavia Cemetery, in the city he called home. Both Hill and Robinson agreed that the way people preserve their own histories is changing. With the advent of the Internet, amateur (and even professional) historians can find out nearly anything they'd want to know about the past, and although that information is difficult to verify, Hill said the museum uses the Internet as a tool all the time. "Before, there was no other way to save some of these things," she said. "But now that the Internet has arrived full force, it's a world of knowledge, and it's opened so many avenues."

 

But spend a few minutes with the Kerfoot collection, and it becomes clear-this is context, this is history as it happened, preserved and ready to be relived. And there's just no replacing that. The Kerfoot family is gone from Batavia, but thanks to Robert Kerfoot's sense of history, these pieces of his life remain, waiting to teach us what they know.

 

And Hill would say that it's a community's job to make sure its history is preserved. She believes Batavia does a great job in this regard, and hopes the next generation does just as well. "History is so important to the future," she said. "It's not just about the 1900s. It's about yesterday, and about today."

 


 

Mark Your Calendar Now

September 9, 2007

 

Mike Gaspari, coach of the Batavia High School's 2006 championship football team, will be the speaker at the September general meeting. You will receive details in the mail.


What's Happening At The Museum

 

By the time you read this, the Quilt and Textile Show sponsored by the Depot Museum and the Fine Line Creative Arts Center will be a thing of the past. At the time of this writing, however, this show, on which Carla Hill and Chris Winter have spent untold hours, promises to be an exciting event, one which could become an annual event. We shall report on this show in the next issue. The current special exhibit at the museum features the art of Del Peterson, a former Batavian now living in Florida.

 

This exhibit was arranged in connection with Batavia's "Art in Your Eye" event to be held next month. You should be sure to see this exhibit. Carla wants us to note that the museum's caboose has been restored in preparation for its 100th birthday celebration, which will be held later this year. Watch for announcements of that event.

 


Kerfoot Collection Comes to Depot Museum

 

 

The insert in this issue, reproduced with the permission of the Batavia Sun, a weekly newspaper published by the Beacon News, is a story about the archives of Batavia history assembled over the years by the late Robert Kerfoot. These items were recently given to the Depot Museum by his son John Kerfoot, through member Lane Allen. Although few of us have such an extensive collection of Batavia memorabilia, many of us do have important bits and pieces - a picture, a yearbook, a clipping of some event we thought worth saving. Unfortunately, too many of these are lost to posterity

when aging owners downsize, move away to be with their children, or die.

 

These items may have no meaning to whoever is responsible for closing up a household, sometimes hurriedly, and treasures of our history end up consigned to someone's attic or, worse still, thrown away. We would urge our members to bear this in mind and make sure that any items that would be of interest to future Batavians ultimately end up the museum's Gustafson Center archives.

 

 


Membership Matters

 

Since the last issue, we have received the following new life members, some of whom were previously annual members (all from Batavia unless otherwise noted):

 

Gayle Bridger, Bonnie Jackels, Ann C. Jaschob, Josephine Melgosa, AnnRobarts (M. Kershulis - Las Vegas, NV),

Suzanne Goldman Rubin and family (in honor of parents Sophia and Joseph Goldman of Batavia), and Alan and Jane Wolff.

 

Other new members include: Joan Phipps Anderson (Merrifield, MN),

Jennifer Armour, Gay Bronakowski (Geneva),

Jane Feuerborn, Bill and Helen Conrad, Martha Gimnig, Barbara Carlson Gwynn (Delray Beach FL),

Michelle Hansford (Geneva),

Paul Mark Hassler, Jeanne and Harold Issei (Geneva - gift of Sandra McDuffee),

George and Jean Karas (The Villages, FL - gift of Alma Karas).

Keith J. Miller (DesPeres, MO - gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Miller).

Kyle A Miller (gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Miller),

Barry and Christine Petit, Barbara Scott Rappaport (Boston, MA),

Thomas Ward (Gulf Breeze, FL) and John Wicklund (Riverside, CA).

 

Your membership chairman, Alma Karas, has asked us to inform you that we shall no longer be sending out membership cards for new members or renewals. These cards have not been required for attendance at meetings or other member benefits, and we have discovered that many members, especially life members, do not carry or retain them.

 

We regret to report the deaths of members Ami L. (Jack) Allen, Cynthia Killoran, Mary "Kit" Mielke, and William Skogland. We have received the following memorial gifts: for Bob Brown from Robert and Sandy Ducar, for Norma Lundberg from John and Esther Fledstrom, and for Milton (Bill) Russ from Alma Karas and Yang-Ling Zhang. Also, we have received a gift of $20 from the Hansen-Furnas Foundatio in hoinor of Ted Clauser.