This Santa needs a home. This primitive folk art sculpture was rescued recently in DeKalb. Read about it in Barry Schrader’s Daily Chronicle column on Thursday.
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Memories from the family farm
By: Jeff Strack
I don’t go back to the days of the horse and buggy, but I did experience those waning days when horsepower on the farm was still measured by the number of draft animals in the stable. Dad was a horseman through and through and he took pride in the three teams in daily use on the three hundred acre farm where I grew up.
The old unpainted dairy barn was built by Hiram Greeley. Just left of the white silo, where the weed tree grows, there used to be a wooden stave silo. Craig says he remembers seeing it fall to the ground when his father and the hired hand pulled it over in the early 1950s. They used lumber from it to build a fence around the cattle feed lot. (Photo by George Quigley)
By Craig Rice (firstname.lastname@example.org)
My last post about our family’s Thanksgiving prompted my first cousin George Quigley to write, “I too have some very fond Thanksgiving memories as a young child at the old house where you and your family all grew up.”
He wrote that he remembers the big kitchen table full of food; and, when nobody was looking, “I would reach up and sample some of the green olives that were on the table.”
While the older relatives were talking, he recalls that my brother Carlton showed him model boats that Carlton had built or collected.
I’m not sure that these were Thanksgiving memories for Cousin George but perhaps memories bubbling up to the surface while thinking about the past. George writes, “I remember the old buggy out in the shed. There were always lots of cats. I remember playing games with Jimmy [Phelps] and Arla Rose [Staublin], the big garden and trees.”
George took his wife Nova to look at the farmstead sometime after the farm was partitioned and my wife and I had moved to the tenant house at the other end of the farm. He writes, “It had all grown up with weeds by then and wasn’t much to look at. And now it’s all gone except for the many good memories that we need to share with all our grandchildren.”
Talk about good memories! Recently I visited my daughter’s family. They live near Rochelle. We attended a Christmas celebration in the downtown and saw a nice parade. Even the US Postal Service personnel tossed bags of candy to children along the parade route. We took pictures of the children sitting on Santa’s lap, drank hot chocolate, saw the community Christmas tree lighted and ate chili soup at the Masonic temple. It was a congenial crowd and a pleasant early evening event.
I got home by 9 p.m., in time to watch an episode of “Blue Murder,” a British mystery, on DVD with my wife. We used to select a book and take turns reading it aloud to each other for an hour in the evening. More recently, though, we’ve watched together episodes of British mysteries such as “Midsomer Murders,” “New Tricks” and “Foyle’s War.” We borrowed these through the local library and they come from libraries located across northern Illinois.
I have to admit that the memories we’ve been recalling, the events we’ve been attending and the evenings we’ve spent together are just a dot in the scheme of life. Nevertheless, they are part of the scheme and together, with the little things that thousands of us do everyday, they help balance the outrageous events in the headlines.
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New homeowners in Sycamore
Happy homeowners with their house key.
By Jessi Haish LaRue (JHaish09@gmail.com)
We did it! My husband Chris and I closed on our first home just a couple of weeks ago. Weeks of filling out forms, packing, and dealing with crazy nerves all came down to…signing our name on documents for more than an hour.
But it was so worth it.
That feeling of driving to the house, and opening the door together for the first time was a feeling unlike any other. It was a beautiful culmination of all the stress, hard work and emotion from the time we spent saving and planning for that very moment.
Our house is a small, very cozy ranch in my hometown of Sycamore, the town that Chris has also been in since high school. It’s close to work, and easily in one of the quietest neighborhoods in town.
The house is also in an older neighborhood, with its own stories and memories. We are so excited to be a part of a neighborhood’s legacy, and to fill our home with love and continue many happy memories within those walls. I feel more connected to Sycamore than I ever have before.
There’s definitely a buzz of excitement in our new home, as we learn the in’s and out’s of homeownership. We spent our first morning in the house shoveling our driveway and sidewalk – a habit that’s become kind of rusty to us, as we’ve spent the last few years in an apartment.
There have been reports that people my age, or “millennials,” as they are so quick to dub us – don’t want to purchase homes. They blame a lack of commitment, and/or a lack of funds, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think that much like every generation before us, it all depends on the person, and what they are seeking in their life.
Personally, I’m excited for a new challenge in home ownership, and I’m excited to do so with my best friend. I’m looking forward to years of memories, and the opportunity to learn so many lessons about adulthood, life, marriage and more.
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In Part 3 Steve Bigolin writes about . . .
More log cabins around the county
This 2 1/2 story log house was built by Ephraim Hall on Route 23 near the corner of Lloyd Road. It is gone but the Hall’s brick house still stands north of there.
A few other historic log cabins are also known from photographs or sketches preserved in historical sources.
Built on Route 23, between Sycamore and Genoa in the fall of 1836, was the 2-1/2 story log home of Ephraim Hall. It stood north of Lloyd Road, south of the family’s brick Italianate house of the early 1870’s, which replaced it. By the time of its inclusion in the 1899 DeKalb Chronicle Illustrated Souvenir Edition, it had sat deteriorating for almost 30 years. The cabin remained, I am told, until 1929 when the Halls finally tore the structure down. The 1899 photo shows the historic 1870’s residence in the background. The cabin was supposedly the last one which was fully visible to people. Ephraim Hall came from DeKalb County from Connecticut. Descendants still occupy the farm house180 years later.
Henry Husk of Shabbona Township owned 187 acres of land southeast of the village of Shabbona having come to DeKalb County from New York state. He and his brother William walked here in 2-1/2 days from Chicago. An actual picture of his cabin appeared in the 1899 DeKalb Chronicle Illustrated Souvenir Edition. It did not leave one with the impression of it being very sturdy. A picture in the book Shabbona Centennial: 1872-1972 it looked much larger and more strongly built. Henry Husk died in 1927 at age 92 and is buried in Shabbona Rose Hill Cemetery.
George Beveridge settled in extreme northern Somonauk township, along what became Chicago Road, west of Somonauk Road, in 1842. His cabin had been erected a short while before by an itinerant trapper named Robinson on the banks of Somonauk Creek. A sketch included in The Church of the Pioneers: Somonauk United Presbyterian Church showed it looking like two cabins put together, each with matching doors and windows. In 1851-1852 a new Greek Revival style house replaced the cabin, becoming a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Beveridge farm is identified by a DeKalb County Historical Society marker, erected in 1972.
The Miller-Ellwood log cabin is said to not be the best structure of its kind encased within the walls of a later house. A dozen or so years ago I was told there are places along Mt Hunger Road northeast of Sycamore with cabins in them. How easy they might be to extricate is open to question, however.
A SIDEBAR about the Miller-Ellwood log cabin: The Ellwood Museum in DeKalb has preserved in their collection the oak trunk used by Hendrick Miller – William’s father – to bring all of his worldly possessions to America in 1800. William brought it with him to DeKalb County in 1835. The Perry Ellwoods used it for years in their living room as a wood box for their French stone fireplace. Also at Ellwood House is the original wooden lock from the cabin’s door. The key to the lock was stolen years ago by some visitor.
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From the Doug-out
By Doug Oleson (email@example.com)
In many ways, Christmas Eve is like the perfect night, full of excitement and joy and anticipation, regardless of who we are or who we’re trying to be. Of course whatever the night means changes the older we get and the more things we experience, both good and bad. (This may be a little early to be writing about Christmas Eve, but this is our last blog issue of the year.)
I realize this can be a difficult time of year for a lot of people, and my heart sincerely goes out to them. But for me Christmas – and especially Christmas Eve – holds a lot of special memories.
The first memory I have of Christmas Eve, I must have been about five or six years old. I was laying in bed, trying to get to sleep when all of a sudden I heard the front door open. (Since we didn’t have a fireplace, my parents assured me Santa Claus would just come in the front door like everyone else.) My heart pounding, I closed my eyes as tight as I could, afraid the Jolly Old Man might check in on me and, finding me awake, not leave anything for me under the tree.
Fortunately, he didn’t check.
It wasn’t until years later, I figured out it was only my father bringing in the presents he had kept hidden in the trunk of the family car.
Another vivid memory I have came a few Christmas Eves later. We were leaving my aunt and uncle’s house in DeKalb for Rochelle, where we lived, when a nasty snowstorm started. It may have been the first really bad storm I had ever expeienced. In hindsight, we never should have left. But it was Christmas Eve and we all wanted to wake up the next morning at home.
Thanks to our Guardian Angel, my father managed to get behind a snow plow and somehow make it home safely. As we pulled up in front of our house, our grandmother – wedged into the back seat between me and my sister – muttered: “a perfect night for a miracle.”
Speaking of my father, one of the things he loved to do was drive around and look at the Christmas lights throughout town. He could have done it almost any night during the holidays, but for some reason he only wanted to do it Christmas Eve. Since his passing a few years ago, it’s a little tradition I have kept up in his honor.
Another family tradition we have maintained throughout the years is opening one present Christmas Eve. I can still see my younger sister carefully scrutinizing every package before she found the right one. One year we opened all our presents Christmas Eve, something we instantly regretted. The next morning felt kind of hollow somehow, like we had missed out on something special. It’s something we’ve never done again – and I’m glad.
One memorable thing my sister and I did happened one Christmas Eve about 20 years ago. She had just moved to Rockford and, in the spirit of the season, we went to a matinee production of “A Christmas Carol” at New American Theater. It was absolutely the perfect time to see it. It was bright when we went into the theater and dark when we came out. It had also started to snow, creating something you only think you’ll see in the movies.
About a year or so later, I did something I’ll never forget: It was the final game of the NFL season and since I didn’t have anything else to do, I decided to go into Chicago to see the Bears. Since I didn’t have a ticket, I had to buy one from a teenaged scalper who swore my seat was on the 10-yard line. Despite my doubt, I bought it anyway.
Well, guess what?
It wasn’t on the 10.
It was on the 45-yard line, about 10 rows above the Bears bench. I couldn’t have gotten a better seat if I could have chosen it myself.
As I sat there, soaking up the sun on that chilly, but not freezing, day, I kept thinking: “There’s no place in the world I would rather be right now.”
For the last dozen years I have spent Christmas at my sister’s house. Since there are so many of them to choose from, we go to a different church on Christmas Eve. My favorites are the old Lutheran churches that line Kishwaukee Street, some of which are over 160 years old. No matter where we go, no matter how the service is conducted, I always get chills whenever the service ends with us holding candles in the darkened pews as the organ spins the haunting, yet beautiful, “SIlent Night,” followed by that blast of triumph with “Joy to The World.”
The funny thing is I always know what’s coming and it doesn’t matter. It’s always the same feeling, the same sense of wonder, every single time.
To me, that’s what truly makes Christmas Eve what it is:
The perfect night.
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Las Vegas debate watch party
By Kay Shelton, guest columnist
“It’s none of their business. They don’t have to live here. Australians, English, Germans–they shouldn’t tell us how to vote.” My taxi driver from the hotel to the College of Southern Nevada was adamant. He has his fill of driving people from other countries around Las Vegas who would tell him how he should vote. I cannot use his name of the name of his cab company but of all of the people I encountered while I was in Las Vegas during the final presidential debate, he was the most vocal about wanting the presidential election over. He was furious that authorities blocked off the area around the debate site, the Thomas & Mack Center Arena on the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), the whole day leading up to the presidential debate.
By coincidence, I attended an educational technology conference in Las Vegas at the same time as the last presidential debate in October. I attended a Presidential Debate Watch Party at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. The watch party started a half hour before the presidential debate broadcast, with the college providing popcorn and water to students, staff, and members of the community who attended. Five campus police officers stood outside the auditorium where the college hosted the watch party on a large movie-sized screen and two officers sat the auditorium, near the door. In the auditorium, the college played C-SPAN’s broadcast of the debate preliminaries live as students filtered in for the debate. Professor of Communications Jodi Mandell offered a basket of goodies to students while the audience waited for the debate to begin.
I interviewed four generally shy students, none of whom wanted to provide their last names. Oscar attended the debate out of his own interest and for English 231, which is a literature class. His female companion did not want to give her name at all and she attended because he went. Oscar is majoring in journalism. He said he wanted to know, “What questions are going to be asked” during the debate. He was a registered voter and he already decided for whom he would vote.
Ana and Zina also attended because of a class, Political Science 101, in which Zina enrolled but she also attended for her own interest. Her friend Ana came mostly because she knew Zina would attend. Zina said she, “never saw a debate before.” Both are registered voters and they already knew for whom they would choose on Election Day. Ana and Zina both said they did not know of any other students who are registered voters.
The audience grew to 55 prior to start of the debate, three of whom could have been staff or community members, plus seven college staff members. One of the audience members wore a Trump “Make America Great Again” T-shirt. In the broadcast leading up to the debate, as the preliminary speakers droned on, the students attending did stop their conversations to listen to UNLV President Len Jessup, and reacted positively at his announcement that UNLV will have a new medical facility. Next, Professor Mandell muted the live broadcast and reminded those there to watch the debate to “be respectful” and to write down any that “sparks your interest” to ask the two political science professors who would analyze the debate afterward. Public Relations Director Richard Lake chimed in with, “We’re going to be nicer to each other than they will be.”
Shortly, the debate began and the lights went off. Students laughed when Candidate Trump said that Candidate Clinton would lose. They laughed again when Moderator Chris Wallace indicated that the issue of immigration separated the candidates. They exploded with laughter when Candidate Trump said there were “bad hombres,” when he said, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” and again after Wallace told the audience in the arena to settle down. The students also laughed when Clinton said that after Trump’s program, The Apprentice lost for an Emmy, Trump claimed that, “the Emmys were rigged.” The biggest laughter of the event came when Clinton referred to Trump as a “puppet” of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The students erupted in applause several times while Clinton mentioned her plan to invest in colleges and college students modeled after the plan of Senator Bernie Sanders. Based on the laughter and applause reactions of the audience, only four showed support for Trump’s words while the majority supported Clinton.
Immediately after the debate broadcast, Professor Mandell introduced two political science professors, Francis Carleton with a Ph.D. from Indiana University, Bloomington and Ken Fernandez, with a Ph.D. from the University of California-Riverside (see above photo). They both provided their reactions to the debate before taking questions from the audience. Dr. Carleton said that “perception” would be very important to the public. He said that similar to the second debate, Trump, “plays to his base” but the “base does not win the general election in November.” Candidates need more voters than just the base.
Dr. Fernandez echoed the analysis of Carleton and said Trump, “played it safe” and Clinton “played it safe.” He said that Trump performed better in the town hall format and he is “excellent at playing his base.” He added that Obama had an excellent voter turnout rate in 2008. In Nevada, the voter registration deadline was October 18 but it is usually “near the bottom” of voter turnout for states while Minnesota is usually at the top. Carleton added that in 2012, Black and Latino voter turnout was higher at the reelection of President Obama.
On a side note, Carleton said that hosting the presidential debate probably generated attention and “advertising worth about $50 million” for UNLV.
Fernandez pointed out that “neither one had a major gaffe” during the debate. Carleton next said that Trump’s “campaign staff probably cringed” when he referred to Clinton as “such a nasty woman.” He also added that if candidates become “too negative or too hostile, the public does not appreciate that.”
One student asked, “Does it matter who won the debate?” Carleton said that winning a debate is not as important when there is, “not a huge undecided population.”
Another student who stood and said she is, “proud to be an American Muslim” commented that, ”Hillary humanized Muslims.” Fernandez said that Clinton is trying to reach out to everyone but many voters think she is weak on immigration. Carleton added, there is “already a wall and a substantial one” along the Mexican border. Fernandez said that Canada and the United States are trying to focus on Syrian immigration through vetting families, especially women and children. Carleton asked rhetorically, “When did we become so afraid of risk?” Fernandez said, “Immigrants who take risks to get here tend to be entrepreneurs.” Later, Carleton said, “I don’t doubt Trump’s intelligence” and Bush made himself seem like a person with whom people wanted to have a beer.
Carleton mentioned that LBJ [President Lyndon Baines Johnson] was not a good role model for children but he was a good president. He added that Trump seemed to have the sniffling more under control and probably worked with a consultant about that. But, he seemed to sniff when he was under stress.
After the students asked their questions, Lake asked, “Would anything shock you” about this election? Fernandez indicated that the tape shocked people, in reference to the recording of Trump talking to then reporter Billy Bush about how he encounters women. Fernandez closed the evening’s debate analysis by recommending the book, 7 Habits of Successful People.
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Mixing it up with politics, media, and truth – what happened to ethics?
By Nigel Hey, guest columnist
With the decay of codes of media ethics we need to be smarter than ever when choosing information we are willing to trust.
Donald Trump’s no-holds-barred electoral campaign, punctuated by pyrotechnic rally performances, used the media to generate waves of shock, ridicule and admiration through the United States and the world—and won him America’s presidency. These tactics—and the resulting counterattacks—jammed new information silos into the internet and helped divide the nation’s political constituencies. They also threatened the media’s codes of ethics, which specify moral values and standards of behavior that should be observed in the practice of professional journalism.
Soon after results were received for the 2016 US general election, Will Rahn of CBS News Digital offered an excellent internet essay that could be classified as a sort of mea culpa, about the Trump election victory and the campaign coverage provided by newspapers, television and radio:
The Tampa Tribune died on My 4, 2016, after 121 years in print.
The Tampa Tribune ceased publication on May 4, 2016, a casualty of the internet age after 121 years in print.
The mood in the Washington press corps is bleak, and deservedly so. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that, with a few exceptions, we were all tacitly or explicitly #WithHer, which has led to a certain anguish in the face of Donald Trump’s victory. More than that and more importantly, we also missed the story, after having spent months mocking the people who had a better sense of what was going on. This is all symptomatic of modern journalism’s great moral and intellectual failing: its unbearable smugness. Had Hillary Clinton won, there’s be a winking ‘we did it’ feeling in the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved the republic.
That struck a chord with me.
I pretty much agree with everything that Rahn said and was pleased that he published the CBS News article, though stung by his reference to the “unbearable smugness,” or air of superiority, assumed by leading American media. I went to journalism school when the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), prized its detailed code of ethics and, armed with this code, could crow about journalism’s claim to represent the Fourth Estate. This “estate” came to be believed more or less as fact after, in 1787, Thomas Carlyle told the English parliament that its reporters’ gallery was a “Fourth Estate more important” than the other three estates — the Church, the nobility and the commoners, or ordinary folk. Times have changed.
The preamble to the SPJ Code states that “public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.” Today those words seem almost utopian in their reach. Most publishers who wish to be considered serious news sources do pay lip service to the code. But like everyone else they must also please their patrons. Importantly, they must also compete with social media, that powerful online concoction of opinion, gossip, all manner of printed-word specialties from dictionaries to bomb-making advice, and the online personas of printed or formerly-printed newspapers and magazines. Newspapers feel the need to offer readers more excitement in order to compete better. For this reason I imagine some editors and publishers must look with secret envy at the adrenaline style and story picks of online barkers like Breitbart’s Big Government and American Patriot. “The internet has loosened our collective grasp on the truth,” sighed New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo. “Social media has become an increasingly powerful cultural and political force, to the point that its effects are now beginning to alter the course of global events.”
Newspaper readership has plummeted in the past decade and a half, public trust in what the papers say crawls the bottom of the charts along with politicians, and habitual readers are mostly aged over 50. Television news is followed by a goodly percentage of the population. But the internet, easy to read and increasingly tailored to the reader’s own tastes, takes the cake — 62% of US adults get news via social media.
Donald Trump would not have won the presidency without the skillful use of the internet and the other media. His name recognition, his angry but information-starved promises/threats about fixing all those dreadful problems that he believes are embedded in America, and his brand of implicit in-your-face self-importance gained ground every time the mainstream media called him out for his appalling references to women, immigrants, and minorities.
SPJ president Lynn Walsh recently reminded her membership that “journalists and news organizations need to continue responsible and ethical reporting, informing the public about their communities, our nation and the world. Americans – regardless of political allegiance – need to engage and invest in responsible and ethical reporting in order for it to thrive.”
Such talk is meaningless to Trump’s chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, who doubles as media guru for the U.S. nationalist cause. “The media bubble is the ultimate symbol of what’s wrong with this country,” he told Michael Wolff in the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s just a circle of people talking to themselves who have no f—ing idea what’s going on. If the New York Times didn’t exist, CNN and MSNBC would be a test pattern. The Huffington Post and everything else is predicated on the New York Times. It’s a closed circle of information from which Hillary Clinton got all her information — and her confidence. That was our opening.”
There’s truth in Bannon’s criticism, for news priorities selected by the Times and other large-staff media are closely watched by admirers and competitors alike. And the “closed circle” idea is strengthened by the increased reliance of the financially pressed old-time media on Associated Press and other wire-service (and press-release) information to fill their news columns. By contrast Trump and Bannon chose their own messages, for people who preferred information from outside the circle. They identified the core needs and attitudes of people of various political areas and crafted resolutions that would be mentioned in company with more generalized nationalist storylines for the speeches and printed matter that would be offered to appropriate audiences.
This creative no-holds-barred campaign, topped by Trump’s cross-country performances, attracted waves of shock, derision, and admiration – and won the election. Unfortunately these tactics also created new information silos within the social media and helped to divide the nation further, but that is another story. (In his emollient post-election 2016 Thanksgiving speech, Trump urged Americans to “begin to heal our divisions and move forward as one country.”)
Alas, Lynn Walsh was preaching her ethical sermon to a choir that consists mostly of newspaper, radio, and television news writers, who know something about journalistic ethics. Little if any of her message would convey special meaning to the social media contributors, contract and PR writers, general mischief-makers, and propagandists who use internet media as tools for the support of retail and medical goods, a vast array of services, political causes, and political hopefuls.
Gung-ho demi-journalists also are in a good position to threaten codes of ethics, which lay down the moral values and standards of behavior to be observed by professional peers, including mass-media writers. If and when “bad behavior” becomes an accepted style, perish the thought will these codes of ethics be consigned to the shredder?
Like other SPJ fans I miss the days when editors would wave a fairly innocuous piece of copy at me and ask, “Did you fact-check this? What’s your source?” or, “If you want to write about your personal prejudices, save it for the editorial page.” Those days have just about vanished. This means that unless readers are content with being blithely and blindly trustful they must be on the alert. Which website, blog, or e-zine are we to believe? Which TV channel provides the best news coverage? Which newspaper is more balanced in its political news and comment, law and order, sports, international news, and the rest?
We need to keep abreast of local, national, and international news, for this is a vital part of the information we need to make our opinions known, defend our rights, and function as citizens of a democratic society. This we must do. But with the decay of codes of media ethics we need to be smarter than ever when we choose the information that we will read and trust. Otherwise, someone else will make that decision for us. This is happening already with the use of internet algorithms that “learn” our lifestyle preferences and social media choices, and send us information to match. Keeping our personal independence means that we must consider who is producing/sponsoring the information we read, the writer’s reliability, and perhaps even the type of world the information’s originator would like to see take shape.
Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future. ~ John F. Kennedy, 1958
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The DeKalb Brass and Kishwaukee Brass Quintet has a busy holiday calendar. They will be performing December 6th at the NIU Holmes Student Center at 11 a.m.; December 9th for the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra post concert and December 15th at 7 p.m. at a public concert at Barb City Manor. To sponsor an appearance of the Quintet please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.