THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Vol. 3

Winter 2015

 


   

CHRISTMAS FAMILY MEMORIES
By Glenn Miner, Historian
 

 

With grandkids of my own, I have started to pass along my memories of the Christmases from my past. Until I was about seven, my family celebrated a very simple Christmas. That consisted of wrapping small toys or handmade items made by my grandmother. In 1947,1 received my first and only wooden sled, made by Champion and I carved my name and date in the wood. In 1950, my parents bought me a Schwinn Black Panther bicycle. It was black and had chrome fenders. My dad paid $5.00 per week for this beauty. In the summer of 1952, it was stolen for about 5 months, about the same time when Norm Freedlund's boat was stolen. I have often wondered if those east side bullies, led by the notorious J. Miller, had taken my bike at the same.


Around 1950, my mother's sister, Astrid (we called her Atti) moved back from New York City and she must have brought Santa Claus with her. Every year, a tall, slender Santa Claus, would shake the reindeer bells, shout at the reindeers to stop, and then come into our house, bringing my sister, my 5 cousins and me, magnificently decorated presents, ranging from Swedish dolls for the girls to dump trucks and cowboy outfits for the boys.


With my grandmother being from Sweden, our Swedish dinner was always a meal to be remembered. I remember grandma buying Luthsk and soaking it in lye, for about a month, to dissolve the fish bones. Then she would rinse off the fish and boil it for the feast.
We would put it on potatoes, with a white gravy but we had to be careful not to swallow any undissolved fish bone. If I remember correctly, I was, and still am, the only child to acquire a taste for Luthsk and to this day, my sister and my cousins, will not eat it. Swedish meatballs were handmade and always served with Lingonberry sauce.

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Another part of the meal, the Swedish sausage, called "Varmlandskorv" or Korv, was made locally from an old Swedish recipe. It was originally from the Swedish Varmlands region where my grandmother was from. It remains my favorite. At the end of the meal, for dessert, we had rice pudding with raisins. Before we could eat this pudding, we had to recite a poem or a rhyme. This always produced much laughter. Around this festive table would be 18 to 20 people, with the kids on card tables until we were old enough to sit at the main table. In the late 1950s, Santa was unmasked and the picture shows me, my sisters and my cousins, as teenagers, sharing a laugh with Santa but my little sister Cindy, did not share our knowledge.


In the 1970s, Santa Claus was resurrected, again by my aunt Atti, using the same costume that she always wore. My three sons and my ten nieces and nephews, never realized that she was Santa Claus, until they reached six or seven years old. Since 2000, I have taken up the mantle, bought a new beard, but Santa is now a little heavier, a lot grayer, with six grandchildren, and thankful that the 2 youngest, are still under the age of six.


My research has rediscovered other Batavia citizen's Christmas memories, which have been recorded and/or appeared in our newsletter or in the many books written about Batavia. I have edited their stories to fit our newsletter requirements.

 

 

 



 

 

Nostalgic Reflections of Past Christmases
By Mrs. Hattie A. Johnson, (bom in 1896, in Batavia & died 1978), written December 1960

 

 

think the Christmas Season is the most wonderful time of the year. Many of the events which took place when I was a child, are still impressed upon my memory. The World seemed much larger to the individual as then folks did not travel so far from home for recreation and visiting. People were friendlier and conditions in the World did not worry them as they do today. Usually Christmas Eve was almost like the first “Silent Night”, with no bright street lights, the moon and the stars, and the candles in the windows together with the glistening snow, was a picture of nature enjoyed by the Batavians of Swedish descent when they attended “Julotta” services at the Bethany Lutheran Church.


Many of our present conveniences had not been invented and there were few furnaces, electric lights, radios and no gas heat or television sets. In the winter, the front parlor would be closed and a heating stove would be in the sitting room.
I remember that the winter mornings were always cold. I would dash downstairs, through the closed parlor door and gather around the stove to get dressed. The kitchen was the most used room in the house, especially at Christmas time. The windows
had fresh starched curtains and the floor was polished and scrubbed. My mother as well as other mothers in the neighborhood, were busy baking cookies, fruit cakes and breads.

 

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Also, she oversaw the process of preparing the Swedish dish of pressed veal, called Kalvsylta, a meat delicacy pressed, for weeks, between large stones, and the traditional Swedish Lutfisk, which was a type of Cod fish, also prepared through another lengthy process. Parents and children would spend the evenings in the kitchen and on cold nights take turns sitting by the cook stove with their feet around the oven. Corn would be popped and strung for trimming of the Christmas tree, which would also be decorated with strings of cranberries, candles and ornaments. Mothers would give their children their weekly baths in a wooden tub placed near the stove. I still have a scar caused when my birthday suit accidentally touched the hot stove as I was getting out of the tub. As most people walked in those days, it was fun to go downtown on a Saturday night, especially at Christmastime. The Kinne and Jeffery store was a popular place because on an upper floor, were articles appropriate for gifts. Toys of war, in those days, were little toy soldiers. Folks made many of their gifts, such as clothes, mittens, footstools, scarfs, sleds, doll clothes, etc. Skating and coasting were a popular sport and children and young people were able to slide down Wilson Street, from the East Side hill to the middle of the bridge.


The frozen river pond was also filled with skaters, young and old. One of the Christmas events I shall never forget was our Children’s Christmas Program at the Bethany Lutheran Church. At that time tiers of seats were built in front of the auditorium. They reached almost to the top of the ceiling and all 300 children were seated facing the audience. It was a sight to behold and the loud singing almost rocked the church. Rev. Philip Thelander directed the singing and when we practiced, he would keep saying in Swedish “louder, louder.” He had a powerful voice which made all the children afraid if they did not sing real loud.


“There are sad as well as happy memories at Christmas, because of the faces of many loved ones that are missing at our family gatherings.”

 

 

 


 

 

Christmas is a “Remembering Time”
By John Gustafson, (bom 1890 in Batavia, died 1984), written December 1960


I can reach back in my memory and recall some things of my youth and other things that I have forgotten. I can remember hanging my stocking on the footboard of my bed and on Christmas morning finding it full of cookies, a few small presents, and very little candy but to top it off, an orange. Oranges were “once a year” gift in most homes back then, they were so scarce.


I remember our “bran (type of grain) pie” which took the place of not having a Christmas tree, another scarce item in the late 1890s and early 1900s. The “bran pie” used an old-fashioned washtub, in which, our parents would place our gifts. A cord was tied each gift, with a tag indicating who that gift was for. Then the tub was filled with bran. We grabbed the proper cord and at a given signal, we all pulled and the presents and the bran flew all over the room. My sisters generally received a revamped doll, with a new China head screwed on to the old body and new clothes that made it as good as new.


I received a homemade sled up to the time when I could make one myself. Most of our presents were strictly utilitarian, but I can remember two which were not. The first, was a blackboard which could pivoted on its legs, so that in the horizontal position, it was a desk, with pockets for paper and pencils etc. Above the blackboard, was a roll of paper with illustrations to be copied onto the board. This paper could be turned by knobs on the side, much like a scroll, exposing other pictures exposing other pictures.


My other present was a big history book of the Spanish-American War, with colored pictures, which I still have. This is given to me by an uncle who worked in the sawmills in Ashland, Wisconsin. He was married but they had no children, so my sisters and I were the recipients of the most wonderful gifts each year from them.

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At Christmas time, a church committee went to the Kinne and Jeffrey Company’s store and selected candy, such as: a pail of chocolate drops, a pail of bonbons, a pail of peanut brittle, another pail of caramels and another one of gumdrops. Then, the committee had the delightful job of filling the candy boxes. These were placed in a row and each member of the committee took one kind of candy and dropped one or two pieces in each box, of course, he or she could and did, slip a piece into their mouth every once in a while.


The outstanding event of the season was the Christmas Eve program at the church. First came the program pieces and then the caroling by the Sunday school pupils. Santa Claus, with an exciting ringing of the sleigh bells and a shout “Whoa Dancer, Whoa Prancer”, emerged from the church basement and up the front steps. He was dressed in his customary red and white costume and carried a pack of toys on his back. He had presents for most “good girls and boys”. Then came the distribution of a box of candy to each of the children and grown-ups, who I thought like their boxes of candy as much as the children did.


Of course, the church had a Christmas tree decorated with colored wax candles, each in a holder that was clamped onto a branch. The other decorations consist of long strings of popcorn and cranberries, all strung by the children beforehand. The presents and candy were placed at the foot of the tree. I cannot remember if the candles were ever lit because of the possible fire hazard.


Christmas was the most important season of the year then as well as now. We celebrated it differently then and although most of our presents were homemade and only cost pennies, we enjoyed giving them and receiving them.

 


 

Opening day 1966
by John Freedlund, BHS Class of 1966


With all the excitement the Cubs have created this season, I thought it might be fun to remember a particular Cubs game, opening day, April 12, 1966, when Batavia was a town of 6,000 and life was much simpler.


Warmer weather was arriving and spring fever was rampant, so a few seniors, Dan Issel, Dean Anderson, myself and a couple of others, thought it might be fun to take the day off and go watch opening day for the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.


Driving down the Eisenhower in Dan Issel’s convertible, we were laughing and joking and waving to everybody on the expressway. Upon reaching Wrigley, we parked the car, bought tickets and went in to see the game. (There were no sellouts in those days)
It was a typical Cubs game for that era - not very competitive. They were playing the San Francisco Giants and the Cubs lost 9 to 1. Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, Randy Hundley, Don Kessinger and Billy Williams were the star players and the team’s record for 1966, was 59 won and 103 lost.


Around the seventh-inning, we left our grandstand seats and started roaming the ballpark. We ended up in the first row of the second deck. Little did we realize, that during the seventh inning stretch, when the WGN cameras scanned the crowd, somebody from Batavia might be watching? Well, someone from Batavia, was watching, saw us, (Dan was hard to miss at 6’-9”) and called the school to report seeing us.
The next day we went back to school, we were informed that the principal would like to have a chat with us. We had missed the chemistry test and the teacher was not of a mind to let us make it up, which would put our upcoming graduation in jeopardy.


After a couple days, cooler heads prevailed and we were able to take the test and graduation went on as scheduled. At the time, it seemed like a pretty stupid thing to do but in hindsight, it wasn’t really all that bad. We certainly could have done worse things. We were just kids having some fun and to this day, I think we all still agree, that, opening day, April 12, 1966, at Wrigley Field, was one of our most memorable moments.

 


Batavia’s Civil War Veterans
April 9, 2015, is the 150th anniversary of the end of America's Civil War.

 

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The Civil War began on April 12, 1861 when Confederate forces attacked a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army from each state to recapture federal property.


Kane County's response was two full companies on their way to Springfield within one week. Batavia had an enviable record for patriotic service, sending 298 enlisted men, 18% of the approximate 1650 population.


Of these 298 Batavia men, 80 were in Company B, 124th Regiment, which steadily fought its way South, taking an important role in the siege of Vicksburg; 54 men in the 141st Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry, who aided in driving back forces in western Kentucky; 36 men in Company D, 52nd Regiment, who aided in the famous battle of Shiloh and Corinth; 6 men in the 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment, taking an important role in the Battle of Gettysburg; and 5 men in the 29th Regiment of United States Colored.

This war had a total of 2,128,948 Northern Soldiers and 1,082,119 Confederate Soldiers.

 

Of the combined total, approximately 750,000 Americans died from wounds, infection or disease. The attached 1890 photo is the Grand Army of the Republic, with Batavia's 22 remaining Civil War veterans. What a hardy looking group of veterans.


 

COACH JAMES A. COOK
A Biographical Sketch

George H. Scheetz, Director, Batavia Public Library


Career: Coach James A. Cook (1907-2004) was described in the Batavia Herald as the “pride of Rockport, Indiana” [Friday, 13 September 1940, p. 9], “Jimmy” (or “Jim”) Cook was at Batavia High School for 4Vi years (1938-November 1942), where he was head coach for football and basketball, as well as athletic director.


He succeeded A. C. Bostic, who was dismissed in February 1938, and J. V. Simon, interim basketball coach, and was succeeded by J. E. Hildner (for the 1942-1943 basketball season only) and [John] Malvern Bland.


Before Batavia, Cook was a head coach for eight years in Kankakee County. He began his career at Herscher High School inHerscher, Illinois (1930-1936), where he met his wife of 72 years. At Herscher, he coached football for five seasons (1930-1934), basketball for six seasons (1930-1936), and track for six seasons (1931-1936).


Cook then moved to Bradley High School (now Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School) in Bradley, Illinois (1936-1938), just two years after the football program was restored in 1934. He coached all boys’ sports: football, basketball, and track. During his tenure, the Kankakee Valley Conference was established on 15 October 1937, with Bradley as a charter member.

 

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Cook started Bradley’s first track program in spring 1937, which replaced baseball as the spring sport. As head basketball coach, he won a regional title in 1938, (The very next year, the Bradley Boilermakers made it to the state tournament in Champaign for the very first time.)
He arrived in Batavia in 1938, just one year after the football program was restored in 1937. Beginning his first basketball season, he told the Rockport Journal that he had “a nice team ... this season, and is rather optimistic about future possibilities” [Friday, 30 December 1938].

 

He submitted his resignation in late 1942. “Since coming to Batavia,” reported the Batavia Herald, “Coach Cook has developed good teams but has not been able to produce Conference title winners. ... He has been popular here with both the student body and the athletic fans. Despite reverses, little criticism has come from those who follow the teams, and he leaves here with the kindliest feelings and the best wishes of the community...” [Friday, 13 November 1942, pp. 1, 8].

 

Cook left Batavia after the 1942 football season to become athletic director at Glenbard High School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a position he held until he retired in June 1972. (Glenbard became Glenbard West in 1959.) He coached football for seven years (1943-1949), basketball for 12 years (1942-1954), and taught physical education throughout his tenure.


Upon coming to Glenbard, said Cook, “I taught all the boys’ gym classes, a biology class, and supervised a study hall” [Glen Ellyn News, Wednesday, 24 May 1972, p. 9], As head basketball coach, he won three West Suburban Conference titles (in 1944, 1946, and 1947).
For 20 years (1945-1964), during summer breaks, Cook worked for the Glen Ellyn Park District as manager (later director) of Sunset Pool, a public swimming pool in Glen Ellyn’s Sunset Park, which the DuPage Press (Elmhurst, Illinois), described as a “job that is right down his alley ... for Jim Cook loves to work with young people” [October 1957].


Cook served the Board of Athletic Directors of the West Suburban Conference as chairman in 1960- 1961, and, in 1965, was a member of the committee that organized the Illinois Athletic Directors Association (IADA). The association honored him in 1972 on the occasion of his retirement. That same year (1972), Cook was nominated for the IADA’s “Athletic Director of the Year” award.


In 1974, the Cooks moved to Sun City, Arizona, where, according to the Daily News-Sun, he worked for several years as a substitute teacher in “west side high schools” [Thursday, 8 July 2004], evidently a reference to the high schools west of Phoenix in the Valley of the Sun.


Life: Born Arthur James Cook on 5 November 1907, on a farm in Ohio Township, Spencer County, in southern Indiana—he never lost the slight touch of southern accent in his speech—“Jimmy” (or “Jim”), as he was called, was the second of two children and only son of Charles H. “Henry” Cook and Elizabeth R. “Lizzie” Maas. He graduated from Rockport High School (now South Spencer High School) in Rockport, Indiana, in 1925 (as Arthur J. Cook). In high school, he played in the orchestra, sang in the glee club, and earned letters in basketball and track. He was captain of the basketball team his junior and senior years.


According to the Rockport Journal [Friday, 30 December 1938], Cook, “the ex-Zebra ace,” was “remembered by local fans as one of the flashiest basketeers ever to wear the colors of R.H.S. Jimmie, as he was called, starred back in ’24 and ’25” (In fact, Rockport High School did not become known as the Zebras until 1927. This wonderful nickname was lost in 1965 due to school consolidation.)


Cook attended Purdue University one year (1925- 1926), then transferred to North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, where he graduated in 1929 with a B.S. in Commerce and a different name: James A. Cook in the Spectrum, the college yearbook, but still Arthur J. Cook on his transcript. In college, he was a letterman in football, basketball, and track, where his specialty was the pole vault.


In August 1941, he received an M.A. in Education from Northwestern University. A devout Methodist, Cook taught Sunday school for the sophomore class and worked with young people in the Methodist Youth Fellowship for 27 years at First United Methodist Church of Glen Ellyn, and was a member of Lakeview United Methodist Church in Sun City, 1974-2004.


The Glen Ellyn News once observed that “Glenbard’s amiable coach,” James A. Cook, “enjoys an enviable reputation for his consideration of and kindly attitude toward his coaches and students, not forgetting the several sportswriters and the reading public they represent. He is one of the cogs that make Glenbard great” [Thursday, 1 September 1960, p. 9].

 

Family: He married Evelyn Ingrid Warmbir on 10 June 1932 at Herscher, Illinois. She was born on 26 February 1913 at Milks Grove Township, Iroquois County, Illinois, west of Clifton, and died on 30 August 2007 at Tucson, Arizona, at 94 years old. They had two sons, Dennis James Cook (1936— 1987)—who once taught mathematics at Geneva Community High School—and Gary Lee Cook (b. 26 October 1940), each of whom had two children.


Cook died on 2 July 2004 at Glendale, Arizona, at 96 years old, and was interred at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City, Arizona.

 

 


BATAVIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY’S ANNUAL CHRISTMAS POTLUCK SUPPER
DECEMBER 6, 2015, STARTING AT 5 O’CLOCK,
AT THE BETHANY LUTHERAN CHURCH, SOUTH LINCOLN STREET.


OUR DINNNER WILL CONSIST OF SWEDISH MEATBALLS AND EACH MEMBER SHOULD BRING A DISH TO PASS AND THEIR OWN SILVERWARE


OUR PROGRAM WILL BE “THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE ACCORDION THE LAWRENCE WELK ERA”, BY MR. HOWARD MANTHEI


This program traces the history of the Maestro Lawrence Welk from his North Dakota farm roots to his long- running television program. In addition to playing some 18 accordion hits, such as “Calcutta” and the “Baby Elephant Walk,” Howard traces Lawrence’s career through a collection of historic photos and anecdotes. Details are provided regarding Lawrence Welk’s long Chicago engagements, the raising of his family in River Forest and the transition to California, where his television career got a start. Howard also relates a variety of stories about show personalities, such as the Lennon Sisters and Myron Floren and their relationship to Lawrence.


News from the Museum
Preservation & Partnerships
By Chris Winter, Museum Curator

 

 
The Batavia Public Library recently invited the Batavia Depot Museum to collaborate on a preservation project. An Illinois State Historical Records Advisory Board grant was applied for and awarded through the efforts of Library Staff member Stacey Peterson, Adult Services Manager. This grant will cover the cost of digitization of the collection of Civil War letters and diaries in the museum’s collections. When the project is completed, these records will be available to researchers online at the Library’s website www.bataviahistory.org. The museum and the library will also have the records on microfilm at their respective sites.


This website already has many research indexes of collections at the museum & library. In the past year, we have shared our Historian newsletters and indexes for our scrapbooks, obituaries, photographs and genealogies. Check out the website to learn about Batavia history and view our progress. We are very excited about this collaboration!

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A short related side note: Many of the Civil War letters were written by Capt. D.C. Newton to his family back in Batavia. While cataloging the letters before they left the museum, I came across an online collection of photos from the Crossroads Museum in Corinth, MS.


Several photos were taken at Camp Montgomery and featured Capt. Newton and the 52nd IL Regt, Co D. Capt. D.C. Newton is standing at the far left in this photo. These images add provenance to the letters written more than 150 years ago!
The Museum Director was happy to share these images with us and they are now available in our Gustafson Research Center.