DeKalb County Life for March 13, 2017: The 600-pound gorilla; Doug writing a novel; Jeff and the Badlands; Jessi’s dad the truck driver; Exploring DeKalb County with Steve; Craig’s Greeley family

YMCA & less fortunate residents taking a hit

By Barry Schrader, DeKalb County Life Online Editor

Listen closely Tuesday and you will likely hear a quiet “squish” as the Northwestern Medical-KishHealth 600-pound gorilla steps on the hapless Kishwaukee Family YMCA next door.
  That is when the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board will rubber-stamp the plans for the grandiose $46 million, 111,000-square-foot Health and Fitness Center on property next to the YMCA. 2500 Bethany Road.
You won’t hear much from the YMCA board or its executive director, who by the way makes just one-tenth the pay of the KishHealth CEO Kevin Poorten’s $1.2 million salary (2015 figures the latest available). Money talks, and when your affluent neighbor says “Don’t worry we will take care of you,” you just fall in line and say “Thank you kind sir.”
But it will not just be the members of the YMCA who will lose, but the young Y staff and many less fortunate citizens of DeKalb County. Way back in 2013 an outside consultant informed the YMCA it would likely lose 5 percent of its current membership (at the least) when the new NWM-KishHealth complex opens in two years. That is $290,000 chopped from its budget and it will only get worse as more members migrate over to the brand new fitness mega-plex next door from the crowded, less ostentatious facility just across the new KishHealth-NWM parking lot (their lot will have spaces for 350 cars). But will they have valet parking like they do at the DeKalb Clinic….
I don’t feel totally sorry for the YMCA board, since they brought this debacle upon themselves, allowing hospital people to infiltrate their board and sway their thinking. This happened four or more years ago so the present board may not be to blame, but they will suffer the consequences. The greater damage that will occur is when the Y is forced to severely curtail or eliminate its charitable work now supported by grants and member dues. All those programs for our low income residents  including many minority families and children, who are helped immensely by the Y’s good work. This includes providing a free summer lunch program for young people below the poverty level, free swim lessons and other subsidized efforts like Camp Power for the residents of University Village. You won’t hear much of a protest from them either as they are the silent minority in town, having no influence on the power-elite—those making the decisions that negatively impact them the most.
Please, Reverends Mitchell, Gastiger and Slabon, say a prayer for them on Tuesday.

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From the Doug-Out

By Doug Oleson

I need help – and not just for the obvious reasons.

I have done something I have wanted to do since I was 15 years old. I have finished a rough draft of my first novel.

It’s about 100 pages long and is a comical, tongue-in-cheek farce about the Chicago Cubs, and how losing can be more comforting than winning. Anyone who has ever read any of my columns will probably recognize the tone and style of the writing, which is somewhere between Mark Twain and Will Rogers with a little Joseph Heller thrown in for good measure. There’s also a little reflection about how society puts too big an emphasis on sports – and money.

I first got the idea for the story about 20 years ago – and, no, I have not been working on it steadily since then. I was a full-time reporter at the time and after working 10-hour days writing and reporting, the last thing I wanted to do when I went home at night  was do more writing. It was something I only took out on weekends to kick around a little.

The truth is I had pretty much forgotten about the darn thing until last fall when the Cubs won their first World Series since 1908. For reasons I still can’t fathom, all those dark little holes in the story that didn’t seem to make sense when I first worked on it suddenly filled in by themselves, as if by magic. That may not make sense to anyone unless they’ve tried to write something like this themselves.

Once I started writing seriously, it only took about 10 weeks to finish it. Ironically, it helped that I caught a cold right after Christmas and with nothing else to do, started working. It is as surprising as it is amazing to me that I have finally reached this point.

The big question now is: what do I do with it? More importantly, what can I do with it?

Realistically, I don’t think my story is good enough to be published – at least not by someone willing to pay me to publish it. So do I pay to have it published myself? Do I set up my own website and put the story on that? Do I bug Barry to run parts of it? Do I use it to clean up my cat’s liter box? Or what?

One thing I could do is run all but the last chapter for free, then charge a million dollars for the last chapter. I know that’s a lot, but – hey – it would only take one person and I’d be set for life. Let him charge whatever he wants to others to tell them how the story ends, what would I care?

Seriously, I think the next step is to find someone who is willing to read it and give me an honest appraisal of it. (You can’t ask anyone close to you because they’ll tell you they like it, even if they don’t, to spare your feelings.) If the story is no good, it’s no good. I can accept that. In fact, I even expect that. I’d rather know the truth, even if it’s bad, than spend the next twenty years pointlessly pursuing something that won’t happen.

If it is no good, that means only my family and friends will be tormented with reading it.

If for some very strange reason, it might be good enough for strangers to read, then what? That I don’t know, and what I need help with.

I would sincerely appreciate anyone’s help. I know there are a number of local people who have had books published, both fiction and non-fiction, and am curious what they did.

Anyone with any suggestions please contact me at douglas55oleson@gmail.com.

Thank you.

And happy reading.

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Experiencing the Badlands

By Jeff Strack, guest columnist (dumb.lucky1@gmail.com)

I have always wished that there was a way to see Northern Illinois as it appeared when the first Europeans arrived here.  The tall grass prairie, oak savannas, marshlands, and the wildlife that inhabited that environment.  Man has transformed the prairies into productive farmland, and villages and cities have been established.  We can never see the landscape that used to be.  However, there are parts of our nation that look today, much as they have for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Teddy Roosevelt found relief from personal tragedy and put down roots in what to many would seem to be an uninviting locale.  One visit and I shared his appreciation for The Badlands of North Dakota.
    As my father searched for a reliable source of quality feeder cattle for our finishing facilities he travelled to Omaha and Broken Bow, Nebraska and then attended the auction markets of Dickinson, North Dakota.  From there he traced the brands of animals he liked to cattle ranches in the western part of the Peace Garden State.
  Trips to the vicinity of the north unit of the Teddy Roosevelt National Park became an annual fall event and lasting friendships were forged with ranch families living on the fringe of the badlands.  In the early post World War II years, sitting in the passengers seat of our car meant opening and closing innumerable barbed wire gates as we found our way across the mix of public and private property which comprise the grazing lands of western North Dakota.
Having a car with out of state license plates pull into their yard was a novel event for folks whose next door neighbor might be five or ten miles distant.  But company was always welcome and we were greeted with courtesy.  Dad purchased thousands of dollars worth of livestock upon the shake of a hand.
As we became better acquainted, our friends Olie and Angelen began showing us around the country where they had survived the hardships of the Great Depression.  Loading horses into their livestock trailer, we would drive deep into the badlands before mounting up and riding through territory little changed from Roosevelt’s day.
Approaching a shallow draw, Olie commented to Angelen, “Isn’t this about where we had a blowout when we were dating?”  That would have been over twenty years earlier.  And there it was, the blown out tire they had to replace.
Our friends showed us the Bill William rock, a boulder imbedded on tHe rim of a bluff. It overlooked a verdant valley that must have appeared much the same in 1805 when Williams, one of the intrepid Mountain Men, scratched his name and the date into stone the same year that the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through on their exploratory trip through Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase.
Sitting on that rocky outcrop, the view that day was like a window into the past.  Below me scrub oak, pine, and buffalo berry thickets extended into the distance.  Above the narrow sheltered bottom ground, were grassy knobs.  I could imagine a coyote howling at the moon from one of those high points.  It is possible to look back in time.  You just have to find the right spot.

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My father the truck driver

By Jessi Haish LaRue (jhaish09@gmail.com)

Kevin Haish, of Sycamore, with his daughters Lilly Haish and Jessi LaRue.

I still remember the first time my dad left.

I was a second grader dressed in Spice Girls pajamas, and my mother woke me early that Saturday. I stumbled down the stairs after her in a state of sleepiness. My father was waiting in the kitchen, zipping up a big, bulky duffel bag.

“Do you have enough shirts? Underwear?” My mother asked.

He sighed and smiled at her. “I’m fine.”

Although I had just woken up, remembering my dad was about to leave suddenly jarred me, and I was alert. “Where are you going?” I asked.

He said he was going east, somewhere I’d never been. My mother and I gathered at the door, with our dogs in-between us, wagging their tails as we all embraced.

“I’ll see you soon,” my dad said. It was then I started to cry. I still remember how his face fell as I squeezed him tighter. Then he put his bag in his truck and drove off.

I’m the daughter of a truck driver.

Some people picture stereotypes of truck drivers.

As a child, I’d sometimes be teased for being the daughter of someone who may or may not wear plaid, cause massive accidents and kill innocent hitchhikers. No one knew about my cool dad, who was a furniture mover and would take people across the country to their new homes and new lives. To me, my dad was a hero, helping one family at a time. However, it took time for me to see it that way.

When I was young I would feel a twinge of hatred when he would go away for days or weeks at a time. One night I told him I wished he would “wear a suit and tie, carry a briefcase and be home at 5:00 for dinner.”

It hurt him.

And although I come from a long line of truck drivers, it never really hit me until my father went away for the first time. Thinking about my grandfather and great-grandfather hitting the road seemed adventurous and cool. I pictured each of them driving through the mountains with an atlas sprawled across the big steering wheel, as their Mac trucks wheezed along. It truly seemed like an adventure.

“You don’t have to do the same thing every day,” my dad says of truck driving. “You don’t punch a clock. It’s freedom. Two weeks from now, you don’t know where you’ll be.”

If you’re my father, you hope in two weeks you’ll be in the southwest, where there’s less traffic, faster speed limits, nice people, but small monetary tips. If you’re unlucky, you’ll be on the east coast in the next two weeks, where the people are “idiots,” there’s too much traffic but they tend to tip well.

“It’s a way of life,” he said. “You just give it everything you’ve got, every day. Every time any boss I’ve had says something like ‘You did a good job,’ I always say ‘’Cause I can look you in the eye when I take my paycheck.’”

My father says he took on a truck driving job, specifically in furniture moving, so he could support his family. My sister was only 1-year-old when he first left, but the situation he and my mother had been living in wasn’t the most favorable. My mother would work until 10 p.m. at a restaurant each night, and my dad worked the third shift at a factory, starting at 11 p.m. My mother would literally race home (she was once pulled over for going 90 mph) and my dad would take the car from her out in the driveway and pass me on to her. My parents didn’t see much of each other those first few years, but they made it work.

“A choice had to be made,” my dad said.

However, there was a hefty price tag that came with the responsibility.

“You miss birthdays, anniversaries … but it was either both of us work around here all the time, or one of us be gone and one of us actually raising you,” he said. “There was a decision to be made. You’re always frustrated because of things you miss out on and things like that, but it’s never really been a big problem.”

He credits my mother with being the glue of the family, making sure everything turns out OK.

“I didn’t have to do anything when I was getting ready to go for the first time,” he said. “She takes care of it all. She still does.”

He said throughout the years it’s gotten easier and he knows what to expect. But it’s still difficult for him.

“You always wanna do things differently. You always wish you were home every day, but you’ve got bills to pay. You never wanna leave,” he said. “Only people who do it for a living understand, but I’ve got friends that you’ll send them a text once in a while and say that ‘The day you leave you can’t wait to get home, and the day you get home you can’t wait to leave.’ It’s like a sickness.”

Something made me sad when my father said that, automatically thinking he for some reason has grown to love the road a little too much. However, it’s just a trait he’s picked up that makes him one of a “breed.”

“It’s just freedom, doing something different every day,” he said. “But as soon as you get in the truck and you’re a half mile from the house you want to turn around and go back.

Sometimes my boss will text me and say ‘I love my job, I hate my job.’ I text him back and say ‘Hey, that’s my line.’ He always says, ‘That’s all our lines.’”

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Steve Bigolin writes about .  .  .

Exploring DeKalb County

These three volumes written by Steve Bigolin can be found in many local libraries. (DCL photo)

My three volumes of books under the general title “A Journey Through DeKalb County,” published by the Daily Chronicle between 2001 and 2004,  dealt with historic names of buildings in all of the smaller cities and towns, as well as the outlying rural areas of the county.  Between them were 318 pages of text and illustrations.  So you might ask, where besides in DeKalb and Sycamore might the greatest concentration of historic sites and structures be found.
It would appear, based on the number of chapters alone in the books, that the northern tier of townships – South Grove, Mayfield, rural Sycamore, Genoa, Kingston and Franklin – might contain the most.  This is not the case however.  In point of fact the southern tier – Squaw Grove, Clinton, Shabbona, Paw Paw, Victor Somonauk and Sandwich do.
  Besides the more obvious churches, cemeteries, farms, founders’ homes, one-room schools, and historical markers, there is the smallest Carnegie Library in America; the last resting place of a noble Civil War horse; downtown business blocks galore; the Sandwich Fair Grounds; an Opera House; Underground railroad sites; the location of DeKalb County’s first permanent white settlement; a town clock; a steam mill; a train car from the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago; a former hotel; various museums and more.
One of the best kept secrets in DeKalb County is the facility located on the top floor of the 1857 Union Hall Block in Somonauk.  This is where the Marie Louise Olmstead Memorial Museum has been since 1947.  Begun before 1921 by attorney L. B. Olmstead, it contains a veritable mind-boggling collection of local historical memorabilia and items of Americana, 10,000 things in all, privately collected before 1951.  The museum’s name is that of Mrs. Olmstead, who died in 1916 at age 56.
The Olmstead Museum has very limited hours of operation – Sundays from 2-4 p.m. or by appointment, and is not accessible to the handicapped, there being 20 or more stairs to climb in order to reach it.  A fundraising effort begun in 2015 aims to install an elevator in the 140-year-old building when enough money is obtained to do so.  It is the county’s oldest museum of any kind meanwhile.
My books “A Journey Through DeKalb County” are a good source of tour information in addition to the appendices in the newest DeKalb County History “Acres of Change.”  These include lists of museums and historical buildings, as well as landmarks and historical markers.  Driving around the towns and countryside will reveal many other places and things of interest.
Go for a drive sometime and enjoy!

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Prairie Ponderings

By Craig Rice (pcrice620@frontier.com)

In a collection of pictures from my Greeley ancestors, I found two photographs that caught my attention. The snapshots captured images of Civil War Veterans late in their lives. I spent hours of research trying to find out who they were and what their relationship to the Greeley Family was.

The first photograph shows James E. Moss, age 80; Francis Phelps, age 87; and Andrew L. Scofield, age 83, standing facing the camera and looking solemn. Moss served in Co. E of the 36th Regiment of Illinois while Phelps and Scofield served in Co. D. The tree in the background looks as if it were growing in a semi-tropical climate. A report in the Aurora Beacon about a reunion of G. A. R. said Phelps and Scofield lived in Los Angeles.

The second photograph shows Moss standing next to a wheelchair-bound individual named Jonathan Foulk, age 106. Foulk also served in Co. D of the 36th Regiment of Illinois. The trees in the background are naked, so it was between late autumn or early spring when these men posed for the camera. According to an obit that popped up on a Google Search, Foulk died in 1929 at the age of 109 in the Danville, Illinois, branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. That is where the image may have been made.

I found out quite a bit about Moss. He was born in Kendall County, New York, in 1843, and moved to Illinois with his parents when he was about 10 years of age. They were farmers. When he was 17, he enlisted with the Fox River Regiment, which became part of the 36th Illinois.

During the Battle of Missionary Ridge, a miniball wounded Moss in his left leg. The wound caused his foot to be amputated. He recovered in the Marine Hospital in Chicago and was discharged from service in 1864.

He went back to farming. One source said he returned to DeKalb County and hired out as a farm hand for $15 per month. He married  Paw Paw resident Susan A. Powers in 1867. Moss bought land in Greene County, Iowa, and moved his family there in 1879.

From all accounts, Moss was an outstanding farmer and citizen. He raised shorthorn cattle, Poland China hogs and Percheron draft horses. He accumulated 1000 contiguous acres of farmland in Iowa and owned half interest in farmland in Kane County, Illinois. He was instrumental in helping bring telephone and electrical service to Scranton, Iowa. He was active in his local post of the Grand Army of the Republic.

His wife died in 1918. Two years later he married Mrs. G. R. Place, whose maiden name was Blanche Wheeler. She was from DeKalb County, Illinois.

I am not sure what his connection is to the Greeley Family, but one of his connections to DeKalb County seems to be a famous highway. Moss’s Iowa farm was on the route of the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental road for automobiles. In DeKalb County, a section of highway near Malta was the first concrete “seeding mile,” paved in 1914.

By 1924, the improved Lincoln Highway reached Greene County in west central Iowa. The highway planners wanted to eliminate a right turn and build an S curve through a portion of Moss’s Farm. An enthusiastic supporter of Lincoln Highway, Moss said he would donate the land if two memorials of Lincoln were placed, one at each curve of the segment.

The monuments were concrete structures capped by busts of Lincoln, who Moss considered one of the America’s greatest citizens. Vandals decapitated the monuments in the 1950s and the busts disappeared. Then, a couple of decades later one of the busts was found. Moss’s grandchildren paid to have the monument recast and the Iowa Lincoln Highway Assn. rededicated the memorials in 2001.

In my research, I couldn’t find a death date for Moss. For now, it remains a mystery waiting for the facts to surface just as is why these snapshots appear in the collection of Greeley photos.

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Getting together for the Susanna Herrmann for DeKalb City Clerk fundraiser at The House recently were from left, Steve Bigolin, Sue Herrmann, Mike Embrey and Bessie Chronopoulos.

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