Volume Fifty

No. 4
November, 2009

Neighborhood Groceries Bring Back Many Memories 

Jim Hanson, when he was President of the Historical Society (1988-1992), wrote an article about "The Good Old Days" and Batavia's neighborhood groceries.  A portion is reproduced below followed by his remembrances of working at Abhalter's grocery on the West Side. 


Remember when the grocer:

·   brought your groceries to the cash register counter for you instead of you doing it?

·   let you have a charge account with him?

·   took orders over the phone and delivered the groceries?

·   was within walking distance of your house?

If any of these sound familiar, then you remember a facet of Batavia that has disappeared: the neighborhood grocery store! Batavia has had at least 14 neighborhood groceries, excluding those downtown.  Most were directly connected with a residence.  The last neighborhood grocery, Abhalter's closed about 1970.  Groceries were, based on today's street numbers:

East Side Neighborhood Groceries:

·   Bert Beardsley's (515 N. VanBuren), once called Pollock's.

·   Bortner's (416 E. Wilson), now vacant.

·   Daniel's (104 Delia, NE corner of State), earlier Benski's.  Also known as Pat's Grocery.

·   George's Food Store (102 W. State St.) in 1950

·   Maves' (430 N. Washington Ave., SE corner of Church), once owned by Henry York.

·   Eloise Miller (125 N. Van Buren St.)

·   Sloggett's (503 Spring St., NE corner of Delia), formerly run by Frank Howaniec.

·   Bert Stebbins (320 N River St.)

·   Tierney's Hi-Way Food Mart (1119 N. Washington Ave.)

·   Updike Grocery (504 Park St. on the corner of Church St.)

·   Zoller's (238 E. Wilson, SW corner of VanBuren), also run by Fred Simpson and, earlier than that, by Blakeslee.


West Side Neighborhood Groceries:


·  Abhalter's (418 Walnut), known earlier as The Little Store operated by Frank Bloom and, before that, as Tews & Mitchell and also by Charles Lathrop and J. W. Minnich.

·  F & H (101 N. Lincoln, NW corner of Houston), owned by Freedlund and Haines, operated earlier as Bloom's (Harold Bloom, son of Frank Bloom), and before that as Wright's.

   ·  C. A. Nelson's (521 Houston), previously Martin Pederson's.  It was also run by Albert C. Johnson, Nelson & Benson, Martin Pederson, and Bergeson & Johnson in 1904.   Martin A. Pierson (639 Main St, where Thorsen lumber was.)


Abhalter Memories


By Jim Hanson



I worked there my senior year at BHS (1942-43) after school and on Saturdays.  My job was to deliver groceries daily, go to Aurora once a week to pick up supplies at the two stores run by Don's brothers, help stock shelves and sweep up at the end of the day.


This was during WWII and rationing was in effect.  Among items rationed was coffee which really affected many of the old-time Swedish women who liked to have a pot on the stove all day. When I delivered I had to collect the ration stamps for any rationed items in the order. If a household didn't use coffee, I would take the unused stamps back to the store so Don could use them to give extra coffee to these Swedish women. I particularly remember one of them, a Mrs. Pomp, who lived near/on the corner of Morton and Jefferson streets who really appreciated the extra coffee.


Many customers came to the store almost daily to get their groceries. Others phoned in orders, which were put together for me to deliver when I got to the store.  Don had several customers without phones and I would go to their homes to pick up the list of items and take it back to the store to be filled and then delivered later in the day.  If Don didn't have an item, I would go to one of the other similar stores to buy it to fill the order.


vol_50_21jpg.jpgAs I remember, these stores usually carried one brand of canned items unlike today's stores, so filling orders didn't involve a lot of decision making in that regard.  Even those who came to the store for their groceries had the store help go to the shelves to gather items on their lists.  Meat was cut by the butcher (Don at Abhalter's) and not all pre-cut and packaged.  There was a personal relationship between the customers and the store employees and owners that is missing today.




By Shirley Schiedler Mortensen


Shirley read in the Historian that we were interested in neighborhood grocery stores.  She surveyed her siblings, Robert Schiedler, Roberta Jaschob, Dolores Nelson, and Donna Read and was surprised they had such similar thoughts about the Sloggett Grocery. Sloggett's was located at the corner of Spring Street and Delia Street.  We moved to Spring Street in 1940. Earl, a bachelor at the time, was helped in the store by his Mother. They lived on College Street and walked back and forth five times a day. Donna and Dolores said they could hear Earl as he passed our house because we had a gravel driveway at that time and he always scuffed his shoes on the gravel as he walked by.  Several years later, he married Esther Uberble and she worked with him until the store closed.As you entered the front door, there was a large glass enclosed candy counter.  They had the largest assortment of penny candy you ever saw.  The biggest candy bar was a Power House (5 cents).  Robert remembers sitting on the long front porch with his friends, sipping Nehi Orange Crush.  It was the largest you could find for 5 cents.


Earl and Esther were caring, sincere, friendly, and so polite to all the neighborhood kids.  Even if you

only had a penny, they treated you like you had walked in with $100.On the left side of the store, they had fresh fruits and vegetables.  Further into the store, they had bulk cookies - the best chocolate chips in the world. Bread started out at 10 cents a loaf and then increased to 29 cents a loaf. They also sold small appliances like popcorn poppers, etc, Earl's greatest claim to fame was his meat counter.  He was a butcher by trade with absolutely the best and freshest meat you could buy.  You could walk in and request any cut of meat and he would bring meat out from his cooler and cut it to your specifications.  He ground beef for hamburgers and ground it 3 times if you were making Swedish meatballs.  During World War II and meat rationing, he always remembered his customers.  


Our Mother liked pot roast for Sunday dinners and he tried to save one for us every week so she could serve all who might be present at our home that day.Earl kept a running bill for the neighbors.  We were sent so often to the store for a can of this or that and asked Earl to please put it on the bill.  On payday, Dad or Mom would go down and pay it along with rationing stamps. We wonder if he put everything down because times were slow and money tight.  He was such a concerned person. During the war, Earl was the Air Raid Warden.  When there was an air raid drill blackout, we would sit on our front steps in the dark and watch him patrol the area. vol_50_22.jpg




Charmaine Myers of Aurora grew up in Batavia and has memories of many of the eastside groceries.


“When I was a kid, I would spend a lot of time with my grandma working with her in her flower garden.  My grandparents lived on the corner of Elizabeth and N. Prairie.  After working in the garden we would walk over to Sloggett’s on the corner of Delia and Spring St.  Grandma would buy a can of Campbell’s tomato soup for our lunch and a loaf of bread and bologna for grandma and grandpa’s supper.  The bread was 10 cent and the bologna was 39 cents.  I remember Mr. Sloggett cutting up steaks and chops behind the meat counter.  


The Sloggetts were wonderful people. The Zollers had a little store on the corner of South Van Buren and Wilson.  They lived in the back of the store.  They sold a lot of penny candy, wax lips, wax teeth, sour balls, and jawbreakers.  They also sold tobacco products.  I remember Prince Albert pipe tobacco.  There was also a place on N. Van Buren called Beardsley’s that sold milk, bread and a few groceries. ”Charmaine’s kids frequented Maves Grocery that was on the corner of Washington Ave and Church St.  “Harold Maves was always happy to see the neighborhood kids and it was very common to see bikes and scooters out in front of the store.  He was very patient and kind to the kids.




By Marlene Barnes and her sisters, Linda Millett Berg and Margo Millett Murphy.


In the days before large corporate owned food stores were located in Batavia, the town was dotted with small family owned neighborhood grocery stores. The East side had stores owned by Bortner, Maves, Beardsley, Sloggett, and Pat’s grocery, run by Ken and Fern Patterson.  At the corner of Wilson Street and Rte 25 was Schielke’s. On the West side were the F&H, Abhalters, and Alfred Nelson’s (later Berg and Johnson). Customers could often walk to the store or send their children with a list and a bicycle or wagon. Parking was along the surrounding streets. There were neither parking lots nor grocery carts.


F&H Food Store, a small neighborhood grocery store, was located on the corner of Houston and Lincoln Streets where Dr. Garvin’s dental practice can be found today at 101 N. Lincoln St.  The store was owned by LaVerne (Bun) Freedlund and Wally Haines, therefore the “F&H”.  Bun was the grocery man and kept the books.  Wally worked the meat counter and dealt with the groceries.  From 1944 until 1956 Ed Millett was the meat cutter.  The store was open from 8 to 6 daily.  It was closed on Sundays and every Wednesday afternoon.  No precut and packaged meats were supplied to the store and all meat was custom cut by Ed or Wally. Meat was delivered to the store in quarters or halves of a cow.  These large pieces were then hung in their walk-in cooler.  


The store carried a wide variety of meats, some fresh fruit, but few vegetables.  Frozen foods were in those times not available but there was a dairy case which included milk in glass bottles. Canned goods were displayed on the shelves and stored in the basement. There was also a penny candy counter, a great delight for the children (although it is reported, by one previous child, that Alfred Nelson had a better selection). Cookies were not in boxes but instead were available in loose bulk displayed in special lidded cookie bins.  A large white enameled coffee pot was always in the back room and featured what was claimed to be “Swedish” or “Egg” Coffee. This formula was created by dumping ground coffee beans in a large pot, adding water, one broken egg and boiling the whole thing.  When poured into the cup one had to let it settle to avoid the crunchy stuff floating toward the bottom. vol_50_23.jpgDuring the Christmas season turkeys were ordered from the turkey farm in Waterman, IL and Swedish sausage was made in the basement by Ed Millett using the Freedlund family recipe.  The original sausage recipe came from Betsy Freedlund (Bun’s mother) but over the years was changed and tweaked to make it “more flavorful”.  It was very good.  


Ed continued to make Swedish sausage every year even after he left the F&H. On the day he died he had made sausage with two of his grandsons, hoping that they would carry on the tradition.  The oldest grandson inherited his sausage making equipment and today continues the tradition. If you did not want to visit the store your order could be placed by telephone.  The phone number was simply 3038 or 3039.  Each Saturday morning extra help was hired to take the increased volume of phone orders and to allow for home deliveries.  


Deliveries were done only on Saturday. If you didn’t wish to pay for your groceries you could simply charge them and come in later to pay the bill.  The store was always a busy and fun place to visit and in which to work.  The three men that worked there were great jokesters and had great fun kidding their customers and playing little jokes on them. They even had knick names for some of them which they freely used when greeting those customers.  Over the years there were many neighborhood people hired as part time clerks, among them were Lloyd Jones, (Mrs.?) Rowcliffe, Blanche Liepold, Gen Stran (Bun’s sister) and Dottie Freedlund (Bun’s sister-in-law).


The store employed high school boys who put together the phoned-in orders and then delivered them to the customer’s homes.  First thing they had to learn was how to survive the tricks and jokes the owners and Ed tried on them. They also had to learn to drink the dark and crunchy coffee and then try to enjoy the “lurek” sandwiches, made with a slice of sweet onion between two slices of bread. They were told it was a “Swedish” sandwich, but none could ever be sure that it was not just one of their jokes.  When the called-in orders were written down, a slip of paper was given to the young boys who walked through the store filling paper bags with the desired articles. These were then arranged in the back of the store truck and driven to peoples’ homes. If the folks were not at home the delivery boy simply opened the back door and deposited the bag on the table, or in the refrigerator when needed, leaving a bill to be paid at some later date.  Bob Barnes and Eugene Graham were two of the delivery boys who were hired once they got their driver’s licenses.When competition from the large grocery chains forced the small neighborhood stores out of existence a piece of our small town’s unique culture was lost forever. The last remaining neighborhood store, Don Abhalter’s on Walnut Street, was closed in August of 1970. Such is progress. Perhaps we are better off, but in many ways the loss of these cultural icons is regrettable.



F&H Grocery Memories


Norm Freedlund provided us his memories of the F&H Grocery.  Bun Freedlund, one of the owners, was his uncle. * 


Building dates to 1911; was purchased in 1941 by Wally Haines and Bun Freedlund.

*  Wally went to the Navy soon after.

*  I lived one block west of the F&H.

*  Employees were Lloyd Jones, Ed Millet, Wally, and Bun

*  Wally and Bun both drove 1948 Buicks, Wally's black and Bun’s blue; they parked them on Houston Street across from the store.

* Reverend Pietri weekly drove his 1931 Model A Ford to the store; I remember sitting on the store steps and Rev. Pietri offered me my first ride in a Model A.  


I now have owned a 1930 Model for over forty years.


*  Ken Stran drove the delivery truck which was a 1941 blue Plymouth.

*  In slow times, Bun and Wally would shoot baskets in the gravel court at the rear of the store; also located at the rear of the store was a huge burner eight feet in diameter where they burned excess cardboard boxes (flames shot six feet up in the air).

*  In the store each employee carried a pencil on his ear and grocery orders were taken in pencil.

*  Bun filled grocery orders by placing items in his apron (S&W Peas, Hills Bros. Coffee, etc.)

*  Wally and Ed cut meat and wrapped it in white paper and tied packages with string from a ball of string hanging on the ceiling; There was sawdust on the butchers' floor.


*  Steve Nelson and I would stand on a big grate in front of the meat counter, a warm place in winter; many coins had been dropped down into that grate.

*  That grate has been made into a table top and stand in Dr. Garvin's office waiting room.

*  Every day a man came in the side door and collected horse race bets at 10:00 a.m.

*  We used to ask Wally, How are the horses running?"  He replied, "On their feet, kid!"

* Kathy Johnson would stop often and buy a fudgecicle for five cents and put it on her dad's bill.  Wally and Bun called her Fudgie.

*  The store sold a lot of penny candy; they had a jar with a slot in it to hold the money; some kids just rattled the jar if they didn't have money, and I think Bun knew that.

*  A large square clock that advertised Pard Dogfood hung over the meat department; the clock had on it a dog's face with a long tongue that moved up and down.

*  At times, lutefisk was stored outside behind the store;  Wally said that the dogs lifted their legs on it, and the Swede's liked the flavor.''

*  The store sold a lot of Swedish sausage which was made from Grandma Freedlund's secret recipe.

*  The store supplied all the meat for the Twin Elms Restaurant's  famous hamburgers and barbecues.

vol_50_25.jpg*  They sold Homerun Cigarettes; regular customers were Bun, Whitey Freedlund, Earl Nelson, and Police Chief “Ruck” Clark.

*  A round snuff box opener was nailed on the wall.

*  Wally and Bun were definitely characters, loved their neighborhood grocery store, and made shopping there a lot of fun.


F&H Around the Corner


Sue Peterson’s memories of the F & H Grocery Store (that date from 1949). 


F&H was located on the northwest corner of Lincoln and Houston. The entrance was angled on the corner. There was a side entrance on Houston, and a back door. The building is now the offices of Dr. Garvin. LaVerne “Bun” Freedlund and Wally Haines, were the owners and Ed Millett was the butcher.  They were great guys and they were always nice to me, and loved to “kid” me.  I would go often, running an errand for my mother.  


Whatever I bought, (usually a pound of Peterson’s Rose butter or a loaf of Wonder Bread) I’d just say, “charge it,” and Bun or Wally would write it down, and then wrap it in white butcher paper for me to carry home.  Before I left, I went behind the counter and chose some penny candy.  Oftentimes, after I’d left and had walked halfway down the block toward home, usually Wally would come out the door and yell for me to come back.  So I’d walk all the way back, only for them to say, “we just wanted to say, ‘good-bye’.”  I’d fall for this every time, and sometimes more than once a visit!They took phone orders, and would fill them and deliver them to their customers. I know they delivered to my grandparents every week.


Description:  Wood floors that creaked, swept with sawdust to absorb the fat and grease behind the meat counter. Sawdust on the floor of the butcher shop in the back.  The vegetable cooler was to the left of the front door.  The ice cream cooler was across from the meat counter.  The check out counter was on the north side, with wooden grocery shelves behind.  They went almost up to the ceiling and Bun used a long wooden pole to reach items on top shelves. Behind the checkout counter was an aisle that led down to the glass-enclosed candy counter - every kid’s favorite spot!  


F&H as an Employer


In a phone conversation with Augie Graham, he shared the following memories of F&H, his one-time employer.


Eugene “Augie” Graham worked as a delivery boy for F&H.  He would also stock the shelves and fill the orders for delivery.  Since the delivery of groceries was quite common, Augie made some lasting friendships with his customers.  “I had to take groceries to Aggie Nelson on Whipple Street and Wally let me take his new car to make the delivery.  I decided to take it out Main Street and see what it could do.  Apparently I passed Mr. Duer who was coming into town and he wanted to know where I was going in such a rush."  


Augie wasn’t always speeding through town.  Sometimes he just was in the wrong place in the wrong truck.  “I had the delivery truck and got hit by some people coming up from the river.  That put a nice dent in the truck,” said Augie. “Then I was given a new truck to use and it had the gear shift on the floor.  I was coming up the hill on Wilson and I

had to stop for the red light.  I accidentally put the gear in reverse and plowed into the car behind me.  The guy behind me was steaming but when Ruck Clark, the Police Chief, came I told him that I wasn’t familiar with the truck and that it stalled and started to roll back.  He told the guy to give me a break.  I was really lucky.” He wasn’t always so lucky.  For fun he and his friends would often take the rotten tomatoes and cucumbers that the F&H would throw out and Augie and his friends would find a new use for them.  


“We would take the rotten vegetables and attack the east-siders.  One time we got caught and we had to pay a fine, $16.40.  After that we called ourselves the 1640 gang.”  Like so many Augie felt that the F&H was a great place to work.  He loved the easy going manner of Bun and Wally, even the endless jokes.One time Wally came to the back room for a cup of coffee and complained because we were out of the blue label.  Sure enough, I went to check and we only had the red label.  It took a while before I realized that the package was blue on one side and red on the other.  He would turn them so that all of the red sides were facing out.  That was the type of stuff he pulled.  And sometimes, joke or not, Augie would have to make a really tough delivery.  “I loved Christmas but I hated delivering the lutefisk” he added with a laugh.



Membership News
The Batavia Historical Society now has 284 Life Members who have committed to providing support to this august group.  In addition, there are an additional 244 memberships that will expire at the end of 2009.  Please consider renewing your membership (or upgrading to Life Member status) soon to save your Society additional postage for reminder notices.  New with this issue is the membership status in the upper right hand corner of each mailing label so that you will be able to easily determine when a renewal is needed.  Gary King has taken over the Membership duties, so please forward any address updates or corrections to him at the Society's mailing address or to New Life Members

Batavia Women's Club; Paul Mileris of Omaha, NE; and Harry Beresford of Valparaiso, IN.

New Members

Ralph and Roberta Jaschob of Park Rapids, MN; Nellie Blacksmith of Batavia (gift of Muriel Samuelson Mowry); Mary Ann Breeden Leonhardt of Chula Vista, CA; Earl D. and Arlene Martenson of North Aurora, IL; Milton Samuelson of Batavia, (gift of Muriel Samuelson Mowry).

Member Loss

We are sorry to note the passing of Mr. Lloyd Kautz, one of the Charter members of the Batavia Historical Society.  In addition, we note the passing of Life Members John Masters and George Peck and Members Ardene Pinner and Thomas Hendricksen.  Our condolences to their families and friends.


Editors Notes We are in need of stories and photos about the bowling alley and doctors in Batavia (not necessarily doctors in bowling alleys).  Please send your thoughts to the Editor at, or mail them to The Batavia Historian, 1117 Main St. Batavia, IL 60510.   


Your Society at Work

The Board of Directors approved the expenditure of Society funds this summer to hire the two interns that Carla Hill mentioned in her piece in this newsletter.  Their efforts are key to making the information more readily available to the public for people researching Batavia and their family's history.  The Board also funded the reprinting of "Batavia's Historic Structures," a slick piece incorporating a list of 40 locations in Batavia and their historical significance.  It also includes a map showing their locations and photos of many of the structures.  This was started by our Historian, Marilyn Robinson, and completed by Carla Hill and Christine Winter.  Job Well Done!  Please stop by the Museum to pick up a copy.

News From the Museum


by Carla Hill, Depot Museum Director


It is hard to believe that Summer is over and Fall is here.

This summer we were very pleased to have Alexa Nosek who is a student at the Wesleyan University and Jon Simpson a graduate of NIU, intern with us. Alexa continued to work on the indexes in the Gustafson Research Center and Jon re-organized and re-labeled the textile collection.  Both interns were funded by the Historical Society.

As usual Chris has prepared another wonderful exhibit, “Fall into Winter” which will help visitors discover the origins of the fall holidays and winter fashions from years gone by.  Stop in to see this wonderful exhibit. The museum will be open special hours on Sunday evening, November 29, as part of the Batavia Park District’s Celebration of Lights event.

This year we will be offering the third ornament in the series of Batavia’s Historic Churches. The ornament will feature the Congregational Church which is celebrating its 175th Anniversary. The ornaments will be sold at the museum and the Batavia Park District.  Each of the museum volunteers will receive the ornament as a gift.

Chris and I are working on plans for the Annual Volunteer Christmas Party, which will take place on December 9.  The museum has a wonderful staff of volunteers, which we sincerely appreciate. 

We will once again be hosting the Lincoln Dinner Theater at the Lincoln Inn on February 28 and we will also be sponsoring a program for Women’s History Month which will be a performance based on the life of women’s suffragist, Victoria Woodhull. The program will take place on March 21.  Registration for both programs will take place starting in January.

We are always looking for new volunteers. The Gustafson Research Center especially needs volunteers to help visitors with research.  Anyone who would be interested in volunteering at the museum or the research center may call Lois Benson at 879-1080 or Chris and Carla at the museum.


The Historical Society is Turning 50


!It's time for a party!  The Batavia Historical Society is turning 50 in January 2009.  On January 17, 1960, a group of people met and chose Mr. Malcolm Derby as the first permanent Chairman.  Over the first year, the Society saw 240 people join, including 3 Life Members: Mr. John Gustafson, Miss Eunice Shumway and Mr. August Meir.  Now, 50 years later, it's time for us to review and remember what all of the people who have belonged to the Historical Society have accomplished.  To help plan this effort, Sammi King has offered to chair a group of people who would be interested in determining the best way to recognize this historic occasion.  If we can count on you for your ideas and help, please call her at 630-406-0793 or email her at 

Our Holiday Potluck Dinner

Sunday, December 6 at 5 P.M.

Bethany Lutheran ChurchFellowship Hall


Although you will (or maybe already have) receive a postcard reminder of our popular Holiday Potluck Dinner, you should put the date on your calendar now.  For many, this is the highlight of our annual functions.

Please bring a dish to pass.  You will also need to bring your own table service (plate, silverware).  Swedish meatballs, rolls, and coffee will be provided.  Our musical program will be provided by Sammi King, accompanied by Shirley Fox, telling the story behind the Christmas Carols.

Looking forward to seeing you there!



By Richard J. Johnson, Eagan, MN  

Richard Johnson shared his memories of the Quarry following the stories in the last "Historian."I started using the quarry fairly early in life: 9-10 years old.  I can't be certain of the date because I don't know the year that the WPA finished it.  I left Batavia for two years in the army - Korea, November, 1951 through November, 1953 - came home then left in 1954 to attend college at Colorado A&M, Fort Collins where I got a BS degree in Forest Management.  Been kind of on the road, back and forth ever since.  I don't remember the sad drowning death of the 12 year old girl, so it must have happened during the times that I was gone; in fact, I don't remember any drownings, except my own narrow escape.


I had not yet passed the swim test, so I was in the shallow end messing around with a fairly large group of kids about my age and size.  I don't remember going under but a sharp-eyed lifeguard saw it and went into the group and fished me out.  I had become tangled with all the other arms and legs to the point where I was trampled to the bottom of the pool. I was unconscious and didn't come around until after the lifeguard had worked on me.  However long that was, I don't know.  But I do know that he saved my life and I never did know his name or who he was.Look at the picture of the three girls sitting on the bench.  


They block the view of where I went under.  I woke up on the grass just in front of the girls.  I still have the image in my mind.  Did I get dressed, lesson learned and gone home after that?  No, as soon as I got my wind back, I again went into the pool, but I had sense enough to keep away from groups and at least learned that much.When I got a little older, the boys that I hung out with got the idea that when it got dark, after closing time, some girls would come down and go skinny-dipping.  Well, right or wrong, we couldn't pass that up.  We would put our clothes under one of the benches, then swim out to the north raft in the deep end and watched and waited, and waited and watched, etc.  The only activity was the police patrol car that came down periodically and flashed their spotlight to check for kids like us.  They never caught us because as soon as we knew that they were coming - lights off - we would slip into the water and hide under the raft until they left.Our clothes were the biggest worry because the benches were quite close to the road and we knew that if the police found them, they would keep them until we came out to claim them.  One night, the police came down again.  


This time they just went on by but it spooked us.  I got to shore and was just beginning to get dressed and back came the police car; they were thinking too and had set a trap.  I dropped everything and stark naked ran up the steps.  After running from shadow to shadow and behind bushes, I finally made it home: still naked.  I knew how to get into the house without disturbing anyone sleeping, put on other clothes, then had to run back to the quarry to get my other clothes, which were still there.  That cured my "peeping Tom" activity for good. We never did see any skinny-dipping girls. Much later, several years later, I asked one of the girls who supposedly was one of the "dippers" whether or not the rumor was true: did they ever do that? "Not that I recall" she said.  But there was a look about her that told me that if they ever did, she wasn't going tell me about it. At that time, there were many little activities going on that were quite secretive.  One being the rumor that certain girls were leaving an unlocked window in the Home Ec building once in a while.  I never got mixed up in that.  Why not?  No girl ever passed the message on to me!



P.S. the quarry water at that time was cool and clear.  Ten feet down, it was cold; all spring water.  I went pretty deep in front of the tower one time and saw large bass.  How they got there, I never knew, neither did I ever hear of anyone catching one, but they were there, I saw them.  Some years later, I went back to the quarry which by that time was heavily chlorinated.  I darn near cried.




September 2009 Meeting – Third Rail History 


vol_50_27.jpgOn September 27, 2009, Steve Hyett presented a very entertaining and informative program about the history of the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin Railroad (C,A&E), also known as the "Third Rail," which ran from the southeast corner of the Wilson street bridge south and west to Eola, to join up with the main line running downtown Chicago.  The interurban carried milk to the city, students to school and the public to shopping. 


The railroad started in 1902, but all traffic disappeared by 1934, done in by the Great Depression.  Steve noted that after the closure of the CA&E, the cars were sold to other lines, and several ended up in Cleveland, Ohio.  The Illinois Trolley Museum was recently successful in purchasing one of these cars and it can be seen up along Route 31 at the museum in South Elgin. 


Steve also indicated that the Museum is looking for a CA&E conductor's hat badge, one of which they have seen in photos, but no one has ever found an example.  If you know of the location of one of these, please contact the Depot Museum.


Dear Society Members, 


It is my honor to have been elected President of the Batavia Historical Society to begin our second half-century.  At the September General Meeting of the Society, I was elected President, Bob Nelson as Vice President, and Bob Popeck as Director. Carole Dunn, Gerry Miller, and Phil Elfstrom were also re-elected to their positions.  There is still one open position on the Board, so if you are interested, please contact me.  I want to thank Patty Rosenberg and Alma Karas for their years of service.  Patty served as President for the last 3 years, in addition to being the Vice-President 4 years before that.  Alma Karas has served on the Board since 1999 and as Membership Chair for the last 7.  Their service and guidance will be missed.


I would also like to mention that the Board of Directors is beginning to consider options for a possible expansion of the museum under the leadership of John White and the Long-Range Planning Committee.  The Board is also exploring the purchase and installation of a rare windmill manufactured by the Batavia Wind Mill Company.


I look forward to an exciting 2010 and hope that you will join us in the activities of the new year.

 Robert F. Peterson, President



The Historical Society received a memorial from Marilyn Robinson in memory of Lloyd Kautz a Charter Member. 



"Little Town in the Big Woods" Changes Hands

Marilyn Robinson has been very gracious to donate the ownership of her book “Little Town in the Big Woods” to the Batavia Historical Society.  This book has been the basis for the “Third-Grade” project that has been a hallmark of Batavia’s elementary school system since it was first published in 1989. 


It is employed in all of the third-grade classes system-wide, with 500-600 students per year learning about Batavia’s history, totaling more than 10,000 children so far.  Marilyn and her book received a Certificate of Excellence award in 1990 from the Illinois Historical Society and was cited by the committee "as an outstanding example of how local history can be written for young children."  We appreciate her time and effort in creating the book, and her provisions to pass on the wonderful project to our care and trust.

Memories of Dr. Shirer


Reminiscences of Mrs. Jeanette Anderson, 98, of Geneva, IL 


I noticed in a recent issue of the Batavia Historian that the children of Dr. Benjamin Franklin Shirer had become members of the society.  Seeing their names brought back many good memories of Dr. Shirer who was our family physician during a very different period of health care than the one we have now.

I think my first memory of Dr. Shirer is from November, 1944, when he was just starting out.  My brother-in-law, Tom Perrow of Geneva, was dying of cancer at home (which was common in those days) and Dr. Shirer spent Tom's last night with him.  Tom's wife, my sister Agnes, and our whole family were impressed with his compassion at this difficult time.  So we all became his patients.


Dr. Shirer's offices were on the second floor at 4 W. Wilson in Batavia and you could look down at the river from his waiting room.  In the beginning he was an associate of Dr. West and later he was affiliated with Dr. Baxter and Dr. Grigg.  They always had a wonderful office staff.  I particularly remember Esther Koubenec, Mrs. Pelley and a woman whose first name was Ellie.  They were friendly, efficient, and patient.  At times Dr. Shirer's wife, Mary Lou, did physical therapy for his patients and her breezy attitude did as much to make them feel better as the therapy did.

Dr. Shirer had a typical family practice with lots and lots of children.  Once I remember he had to chase a little boy around the offices in order to give him a shot.  The waiting room always seemed to be full and sometimes you had to wait a long time to see the doctor.  But he never hurried you out of the office.  He always took time to listen.  He could be brusque and he expected his patients to do as he told them.  But underneath a sometimes gruff exterior was a man with a good heart.  If he knew patients needed time to pay their bills, he didn't hound them for the money.  I imagine that he wrote off a good many bad debts over the years.


In those days, 50 or more years ago, doctors made house calls and Doc Shirer was no exception.  I remember one Christmas Eve when he came out to our farm (where Fermilab is now) because my son had a high fever.  Another time when my son got hives from coloring Easter eggs, I called Doc Shirer on Easter Sunday morning and we went to his house on Union Street and got a prescription that sent the hives away in less than an hour.

During my husband's final illness in 1966 Doctor Shirer called colleagues all over the country and went through dozens of books to try to find an answer to the puzzling symptoms.  He always went above and beyond in his quest to help his patients.




Gathered by Marj Holbrook


The collection of poems from the mid 1940s was found in a Batavia home this summer.  Rhymed verses bring back many memories of life that revolved around the small things that impacted everyday living.  More poems in the next issue.  These are among those verses:





Stamps and bonds will win this war.

Buy some bonds and buy some more,

Just ten per cent out of your pay

Will bring us victory some day.


By Robert Koss




Why does Cupid and his bow

Make people like each other so?

Why do Americans with zest

Say their airplanes are the best?


Who does Hitler think he is

When he says the world is his?

Why does every human race

Hiss right into “Der Fuehrer’s” face?


Will civilization long remain?

If peace comes not to earth again?

When will the cannons cease to roar?

And peace return from shore to shore?



By Donald Jeske