DeKalb County Life for April 4, 2016: Meet WLBK’s TD Ryan; Remembering the Rice Hotel; Craig’s farm dogs; Sycamore on Facebook

How TD Ryan got into Radio


TD Ryan, left, and his WLBK colleague Scott Zak share microphones in the studio near the intersection of Barber Greene and DeKalb Avenue on Route 23.

By Barry Schrader, DeKalb County Life editor

Terry “TD” Ryan’s career in radio could be credited back to his mother who used to tell him he “was so loud it was the only voice she could hear.” Later on, people would compliment his voice which they said would be good for radio, so that’s what he did.
Finally getting through with college (University of Wisconsin at Whitewater) in his mid-20s, TD began his broadcast career in Wray, Colorado for a few years, followed by a stint in Ogallala, Nebraska (try repeating that three times fast on the air). But then he came to Chicago and teamed up with his brother to form a DJ business. It was after that he decided to take a job with WLBK out here in DeKalb, becoming its most recognizable on-air personalty for the past 15 years.
As an aside, I remember the early days when George Biggar owned the station and the most popular voices were Bob Brown and Russ Pigott. They we’re both such fixtures in the local community, more listeners knew their names than the editor of the Daily Chronicle at the time. Some readers may be old enough to remember Brown’s “Man on the Street” interviews where he would ad lib with no notes and attracted a wide variety of local people discussing local issues. But that was 60 years ago and WLBK’s audience has changed considerably, now attracting a younger following and experimenting with new technologies in social media like Instagram and Facebook.
TD revealed that his favorite broadcast personality was Johnny Carson and TD wanted to be a talk show host like Johnny; in fact he said he still does. “Radio is personality driven and the bottom line is the people doing the broadcast,” TD said. He and news director Scott Zak make the day more interesting with their constant banter and people can identify with them.
Probably his most well-known charity effort is Freezing for Food where he spends three days every year outside in a parking lot raising food and money for the Salvation Army holiday food drive. He said this past holiday season they collected some 24,000 pounds of food and some 200 people stopped by to contribute and chat on the air. Another popular fundraiser he does each year is “Lets Talk Turkey,” also to help provide Thanksgiving dinners for people in conjunction with he Salvation Army.
Asked about his personal life, TD tells about marrying Beck Beck nine years ago, the wedding being held on her family farm outside of Sugar Grove. Many people will recognize her name because she owns a jewelry store by that name. You have probably also heard about their dog Lilly who “works” security at the store.
Becky and TD enjoy playing golf and tennis together, as well as some canoeing. She is also active in Rotary and is past president of the Kishwaukee Sunrise Club.


Steve Bigolin writes…

All about the Rice Hotel


The distinctive Spanish Revival structure at 148 North 3rd Street in downtown DeKalb, now known as the William R. Monat Building, started life during the Memorial Day weekend in 1927 as the Rice Hotel.  The Rice was DeKalb’s first new lodging facility since the opening of the Glidden House in April 1877.  The large frame house it replaced had been the residence of the Orlando Carter family since sometime in the 1860’s.
Milton E. Rice of Elgin, believed to have been an actor, was responsible for its construction.  The  Chronicle at the time the hotel opened said he also owned hotels in Elgin, Freeport, Sterling, and Dixon.  No price was given for how much the Rice cost to build, but it was said to be first rate in all its appointments.  Milton’s son Ray Rice was to be the live-in manager.
  Before the onset of the Great Depression, the Rice was originally intended to serve the needs of traveling salesmen, and being located more than three blocks from the depot of the Chicago & Northwestern railroad, it was convenient for those arriving in town or leaving on the train.  The hotel boasted of having a total of 70 outside rooms – 30 for 50 cents a night with no bathrooms, and 40 for a dollar a night with bath.
The hotel dining room was intended for use by its guests and the general public alike.  Sunday dinner would be served from noon to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., for just one dollar, with reservations strongly recommended.  I have been told over the years townspeople flocked to the hotel for these dinners.
The Rice was and still is a good example of Spanish Revival Architecture, popular for houses and businesses from circa 1915-1940.  It sits atop a raised basement- originally unfinished – giving the building three full floors.  Articles in the Daily Chronicle from 1927 say the basement floor was yellow-colored dirt, with a miniature golf course down there.  Early photos of the exterior and a postcard view I have, depict a circular driveway in front of the hotel.  The only parking consisted of on-street parking, as parking lots did not exist downtown in those days.
Wrought iron work graces four first floor windows, and pairs of wooden trellises rose up from the ground between windows, once upon a time.  The original unpainted brick walls remain on the 3rd Street, Locust Street, and south side of the hotel.  The colorful orange tile roof still tops the structure, although all new tinted glass windows are in place on first and second floors.  Basement windows are either bricked up or of glass blocks.
The lobby interior was always quite striking, as evidenced from a 1944 postcard view.  The floor and registration desk are both marble, the desk retaining the large letter “R” on its front.  The walls are stucco, while doors and woodwork are oak.  Some walls contain small shields with family crests in them.  A fireplace here has above it an old-time sailing ship, similar to those in Columbus’ fleet.  The original chandeliers had sailing ships in their motifs and letter R’s like the desk, but were removed during the renovation/restoration in 1982.  The postcard states at the bottom right that the hotel was “Recommended By Duncan Hines.”
Just when the Rice family sold the hotel is not known.  American Legion Post #66 purchased it though in the late 1950’s for $250,000, leasing it to various persons over the years, who failed to maintain the building.  Well before I arrived in the fall of 1967, the venerable old Rice had lost its lustre and gone to seed.  New roadside motels hastened its decline.  The Legion held it meetings in the basement, but put next to no money into the upkeep of the place.
Enter developer Tom Rosenow late in 1981, after the city shut it down on December 4, 1981, displacing its 48 residents at the time.  Rosenow bought the hotel, relocated the Legion, cleaned it up, added an addition, and rented the building to NIU for x-number of years with an option to buy, which they did.  The Social Science Research Institute and Center for Governmental Studies are among the offices Northern has in the old hotel.  It is named for NIU President from 1978-1984 William R. Monat.
During its glory days, the Rice hosted such notables as Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt – both of whom spoke at Northern – and future U.S. president Ronald Reagan on one of his G.E. tours.


Prairie Ponderings


By Craig Rice (

There were two dogs in my childhood that I just barely remember—Scamper and Nip. Scamper, a red dog, was always tied up to a short post just outside a building we called the woodhouse, so named because that is where our ancestors stored chopped wood for the furnace. In our teen years, we called it the spook house, but that is another story. Anyway, the woodhouse was also his doghouse.

Another name for Scamper was “Carlton’s dog.” Carlton was my older brother by 10 years. I remember being wary of Scamper because he might bite and of my brother because he could give “Indian burns.”

Nip, a graying shorthaired black dog, wasn’t tied up. She was friendly, but I remember almost nothing more about her. Memories of both dogs are like shadows on a moonlit night.

Fred was the name of the farm dog I remember the most because he grew old as my twin brother and I grew up. He lived over a dozen years with us. If Fred had an owner, it was our mother; although, we never called him “Mother’s dog.” I suppose he knew the hand that fed him. It was she who he obeyed when called.

No breed of dog could claim Fred. He was a curly tailed, bushy, reddish brown mutt. He liked to dig, especially for rats, which there were plenty of on a livestock farm with old wooden cribs full of ear corn for feeding cattle and open feed bins full of mash and oats for chickens.

Fred would have quite a party as we shoveled the last of the ear corn from a crib into the Montgomery Ward hammer mill. The rats had burrows through the corn. They scurried deeper into the remaining pile as their runs dissolved with each scoop tossed into the grinder—one hundred scoops per load. Fred would sniff them out and paw at the corn until he could grab a rat, then crunch and shake it to death.

Every year Dad moved our two brooder houses, portable structures used to raise chickens from day-old chicks to pullet size, to a new location. At the uncovered spot, there were always rat mazes to dig up. Fred would excavate with frenzy, grab a rat, chomp and shake it and then dig for another. He was a good ratter.

I would try to be like Jim Bowie and throw my little pocket knife at the rodents. Unlike Bowie’s weapon, my knife always struck butt first or just plain missed.
My twin brother Curt remembers an incident with Fred and eggs. He recently wrote, “One afternoon when I was in about seventh grade, a neighbor girl, two years younger than me, came walking up the lane with a basket to buy some eggs. I thought it would be funny to sic Fred on her to see her reaction, so I did.

“The girl saw Fred racing toward her, snarling and growling, and she let out the loudest scream you ever heard! She threw her basket up in the air and took off running! Then I called Fred off. I thought it was hilarious; Mother did not.”

As the dog got older, Mom would often fasten him to a light chain hooked on her clothesline. Fred could run and yet, he would be less of a worry for our egg customers. She set a pan for food scraps close by. It had a ding in it from being in the way of a bb shot from my air rifle.

Fred started sleeping most of time. He had grown old. Mother said he had cancer. One day after school, we walked up the lane towards the house and Fred was gone. Only childhood memories of a farm dog remain.


You know you’re from Sycamore when…


By Jessi Haish LaRue (

Facebook is a powerful tool.
It can reconnect family and friends, store lifelong memories, and even host some ugly discussions about politics, especially in an election year. (You know what I’m talking about.)
And sometimes it’s used by Sycamore residents past and present to talk about the “good old days.”
About a year ago I discovered a special group on Facebook called “You Know You’re From Sycamore, Illinois When…” Although most of the posts do not read like one-liners, the group still keeps me entertained for sometimes hours on end. It’s in this group where more than 3,000 people gather to talk about topics like growing up in Sycamore, news stories, Pumpkin Festival, and sometimes even the “hot gossip” around town.
I’ve been following for awhile, and as one of the younger group members, I often find myself wondering what the heck people are talking about. What’s this “Anaconda” that used to be in Sycamore? “Who’s Red Johnson?” “Where’s Henderson’s?”  I may be a lifelong Sycamore resident, but I still have a lot of learning left to do.
So I set out to learn a little bit about both the group and some of the hot topics discussed on the page. I talked to the Facebook group’s administrator, Jim Niewold. When he’s not adding to the discussion or removing advertisements from the page, he’s the owner of The Clock Shop in downtown Sycamore.
  He said the page has been up for five years, but he just took it over in the last few years. His love of Sycamore (where he’s lived for most of his life) and his love of history make the group a pleasure to be a part of, he said.
When it came to things like “what’s Anaconda?” I talked to my dad, a lifelong Sycamore resident. I told him about some of the posts on the page (he doesn’t have Facebook) and he quickly started to remember old stories and tell me about places around town. He told me about the glory days of Sycamore’s FFA and the bars and businesses that used to be located downtown.
   Niewold also reflected on a livelier downtown. He said that’s probably the biggest change he’s seen in Sycamore throughout his 70 years.
“People just don’t come downtown anymore,” he said. “Every Friday night downtown used to be full, people going out, talking. But I don’t think that’s just a problem in downtown Sycamore. I think that’s a problem in downtown everywhere.”
  It makes me wonder what things were like in a “simpler” time, when cars would cruise up and down State Street for fun, kids attended the “old” high school and the school spirit colors were purple and gold.
  It’s a time I’ll never know, but it’s a time I’ll get to learn about thanks to the almighty Facebook and the good people who have spent time in Sycamore.
  (Editor’s Note: There is a similar Facebook page featuring old photos of DeKalb.)



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.