DeKalb County Life Online for June 20, 2016; Summer memories from Doug; Landmark designations lacking says Steve; Craig ponders helping a man in need; Barry back on the Party Line

From the Doug Out

By Doug Oleson (


It is summer. Remember when you were a kid and summer lasted forever? To me, summer
was a lot of things.

It was that final day of school, known far and wide to any kid who has ever lived as Report Card
Day. We had to report to class for an hour before the teacher handed out our report cards and
we were free. As an adult, I understand the schools have state quotas they have to meet; as a
kid, it was the longest hour in the history of mankind. Every year I swore someone had tied an
anvil on the second hand of the clock.

It was finally getting those elusive cards and – not caring what was on them – quickly saying
goodbye to our teacher and classmates, and charging out into the school yard, running and
screaming, all the way home.

It was three months of wearing dusty blue jeans, sometimes slightly torn white t-shirts and Keds
tennis shoes (remember those?).

It was riding your bike all over town, which you could do back then and the only thing you had to
worry about were cars or dogs that weren’t chained up.

It was playing baseball with your buddies – and a couple of other kids you didn’t really like, but
had to put up with so you’d have enough for teams – either in that little vacant lot at the end of
our block. That is, until our mothers called us home, either for supper or because it had gotten
too dark to see.

It was playing marbles with the boys during the day and hide and seek and kick the can at dusk
with the girls on the block.

It was swimming and sweating and silently cursing the rain whenever it fell, forcing us to stay
inside until it had passed.

It was reading books at the local library, which was always air-conditioned, about the only
building in town that was back then.

It was going downtown with your mother on an errand as she pushed your younger sister in a

It was the free show at the local movie theatre every Wednesday afternoon.

It was playing Little League baseball.

It was going to see the Cubs like you only did once a year. Always it was a Sunday
doubleheader, and always you had to leave in the fifth inning of the second game because your
father wanted to beat the traffic, which you didn’t understand at the time but you sure do now.

It was spending a week at my cousin's house in DeKalb, then having him spend a week at my
house in Rochelle.

It was complaining there was nothing to do to your mother, who always told you to go outside
and find something.

It was the magical jingle of the ice cream truck.

It was lemonade stands and playing catch in your front yard and ice cream cones that melted in
your hands faster than you could eat them.

When you became a teenager, it was detasseling your freshman year of high school, sacking
groceries your sophomore year, washing dishes in a local restaurant your junior year and
working at Del Monte or Stockley’s when you were a senior.

It was playing basketball on the outdoor public court at night, after you had gotten off work and
didn’t want to go home.

It was also riding around in the country at night when someone had gotten some beer, which
never tasted as good as the idea of having it.

It was wondering which of the girls you went to school with would develop into young women by
the time summer was over and you had to return to school, which suddenly didn’t seem too bad.

It was all of that and a lot more.

It was summer, and it lasted forever.

Today, it’s only three months, which seems to pass by quicker and quicker every year.

– – – – – – – – –

Steve Bigolin writes . . .

NIU short on historic landmark designations


While the City of Sycamore contains a 99 acre historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the City of DeKalb only sports a pair of such areas, but neither one is on the National Register.

DeKalb established a local landmark register with the creation of it own landmark commission. The National Register is considered to be the official list of the nation’s cultural resources worthy of preservation, and is maintained by the Secretary of the Interior.

Just exactly what is a historic district? They were originally conceived by preservationists as small protective buffer zones around historically significant structures. Later, preservationists came to realize that two types of structures were integral parts of a historic district – key landmarks or focal buildings and supportive structures, which unimportant in themselves, helped to define the place. Today, preservationists view historic districts as integrated landscapes in which focal buildings, lesser structures, streets, open spaces, and landscaping combine to form a place of historic character.

When the State staff arrived in DeKalb County in 1973 to seek potential National Register nominees, Sycamore made their eyes pop out, but not DeKalb. DeKalb’s older neighborhoods lacked sufficient visual integrity they said. Remodeling and insensitive additions compromised the way they looked. A number of individual buildings were recorded by them, and five have been listed on the National register – Glidden Homestead and Barn, Ellwood House(but none of its companion buildings), Egyptian Theatre, Gurler House and Haish Memorial Library Building – the library being the last in 1980. Several others have never been nominated by anyone for consideration.

After Judy King was elected DeKalb Mayor in 1977, a trio of preservation crises came to light. The brick streets along South 2nd and 3rd Streets were scheduled for widening and resurfacing by the Public Works Department. Beatrice Gurler died at 92, and her 1857 home at 205 Pine Street was threatened with demolition for apartments. And also, health code violations forced the Egyptian Theatre to close, putting its future in jeopardy.

I had worked for Judy’s election as Mayor and attempted to get her to establish a local landmark commission, the idea being pretty new at the time. When the preservation crises hit she realized the need for such a body to advise the City Council on preservation related matters. The late Patricia Canon of the DeKalb County Historical Society and I were called to the Mayor’s office for a meeting in March of 1978, at which Public Works Director Ron Naylor was present. That meeting laid the ground-work for creation of the City of DeKalb Landmark Commission in September of 1978.

Research soon began on potentially designating the Huntley Park neighborhood as a local historic district. Extensive research was conducted leading to the area south of Franklin Street along 2nd and 3rd Streets to the end of the brick pavement on each becoming Huntley Park Historic District. Focal points of the neighborhood are the brick streets and cut stone curbing, and historic Huntley Park itself. Platted in 1853 as the Public Square by town founders Russell and Lewis Huntley, it was intended to be open green space for public enjoyment for all time.

By the mid 1990’s, after other individual sites were listed on the DeKalb Landmark Register, another district was being eyed. This one basically extended from the west side of North 1st Street to the river, and north of Lincoln Highway encompassing West Locust Street, Park Avenue, Harrison Street, and College and Augusta Avenues. It was initially called the 5th Ward North Historic District. This was DeKalb’s newest residential one at the start of the 20th Century. Staff and students both from the new Northern Illinois State Normal School made their homes here, in close proximity to the campus. In addition, there came people who had made it in their chosen professions, and others who were up and coming. It had always been a mixed use neighborhood, containing rich and poor alike.

One area of DeKalb which has never seen any of its older architecturally significant buildings submitted for National Register consideration is the NIU campus. Altgeld Hall, McMurray Hall, Williston Hall, Still Gym, Still Hall, Davis Hall, Adams Hall, and the original portion of Swen Parson Hall, might well qualify for listing. In 1981 when I was chairman of DeKalb Landmark Commission I met with then NIU President Bill Monat to discuss what might be done, but nothing came of it. To the best of my knowledge, Northern is the only major state university in Illinois without at least one campus building listed on the National Register.

Over the years two members of the Landmark Commission have served terms on the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council, the state review board that considers nominations from Illinois to the National Register – NIU History Professor Barbara Posadas, and myself.


McMurry Hall, the second building on the Northern campus, finished in
1911, was a training school for student teachers and enrolled hundreds of
local youth in what was called the “Lab School.” It should qualify for listing
on the National Register. (DCL photo)

– – – – – – – –

Prairie Ponderings


By Craig Rice (

I failed a test the other day. It was at a McDonald’s Restaurant
in DeKalb, in the parking lot. That parking lot is kind of a
challenge because it is located on a narrow strip of land
between the highway and the railroad. It can get crowded
during busy times. However, parking was not the problem.

My wife had spent the past five days in the hospital and she
had just been discharged. Although the hospital food was okay,
she craved a cheeseburger and a vanilla shake; so, on the way
home we went through the McDonald’s drive-up lane and
ordered sandwiches. Rather than eat and drive, I parked in a
spot next to the adjoining city park. That’s when the test came
tapping on my car window.

All I did was look up and I flunked the test. I saw a black face
with a dark mustache, a face topped with a nice clean cap with
sparkly beads—definitely not a well-worn, sweat stained
farmer’s cap. Was this a car jacking? I formed a judgment in an
instant. I saw a preconceived image, a danger, not a man.

“Can I have some help?”

I rolled down the driver’s window a pinch and asked, “What’s
the problem?”

“My mother just died and she was my support. Now I’m on my

Did he want money? Did he want food? What does he mean?

“I don’t think we can help,” I said. The car was still running, I
slid the transmission into reverse, backed out of the parking
space and drove away.

Rather than find another parking space nearby where I could
stop and eat my sandwich, I drove straight home. Later, my
wife commented, “That situation at McDonald’s really
bothered you, didn’t it?”

“Yes,” I said, “I flunked the test.” I recalled the Bible verse I
had read the night before at bedtime. Jesus was preaching
about who would inherit the kingdom of heaven, “…for I was
hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave
me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me…as
you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to

If you need to look this up, I read it from a Revised Standard
Version Bible as revised in 1952, published by Thomas Nelson
& Sons. It is in Matthew, verses 34-46.

Our son’s mother-in- law visited my wife every day while my
wife was in the hospital. She even stopped by our house on the
day I brought her home. After my wife related what had
happened at McDonald’s, our son’s mother-in- law said her
daughter often would buy an extra sandwich and offer it to
someone in the restaurant who looked like they might need

My wife and I were still talking about the incident several days
later. My wife offered, “Perhaps we should have presented him
our meals and drink and then driven through the drive-up again
to get more food for us.” As for this person’s other problems,
my wife said, there are plenty of churches and social service
agencies in DeKalb that can handle them.

No matter how we rationalize what happened, I still feel guilty.
I prejudged this man without knowing details. If this was a test
of my righteousness, I failed.

– – – – – – –

Heard on the Party Line


By Barry Schrader, Editor of DeKalb County Life Online (

It’s summertime and Doug Oleson’s column really brought back memories of my
childhood days living on Baseline Road south of Genoa along the Kish. But that was
many moons ago so I would rather focus on this summer before it’s over.

The Daily Chronicle really started the summer off with a bang—a clean sweep of two of
the major news organizations’ annual competitions. Among the nine first-place awards
in the Associated Press competition were some for their Fairdale Tornado coverage and
the biggest prize—General Excellence among all dailies. Then in the same week they
(Chronicle and Shaw Media) captured some 34 awards in the Illinois Press
Association’s annual contest. Among those were another first for coverage of the
Fairdale Tornado, best local editorial written by editor Eric Olson, best business
reporting by Katie Dahlstrom best picture story by Photo Editor Danielle Guerra and
Monica Synette, and best breaking news story on the tornado by Adam Poulisse plus
photographers Danielle and Monica again.

I recall from my days in newspapering how important these awards can be to boost
morale, keep the publishers and owners happy (for a little while) and maybe even result
in some bonuses or boost in pay for the woefully underpaid journalists who put in long
hours, irregular work schedules and deadline pressures not seen in many other

I must pay a compliment to the Stagecoach Players for two recent productions I
happened to see: Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady. The night we attended Mary Poppins
one of the principal characters became ill toward the end of the first act and another
young girl was thrust into the part, never having studied it, and using a script was able
to perform the rest of the play. She then had to do it again over the weekend I am told.
Bravo to her and the entire cast. Then the same star who had played the role of Mary
Poppins, Rose McGregor, returned this month to play a lead role in My Fair Lady as
Eliza Doolittle, doing it splendidly. Of course Gavin Wilson playing Henry Higgins was
fantastic as usual.

The concert season is over for now but the Kishwaukee Symphony brings us some of
the best musical talent in northern Illinois each year. And I can’t overlook the
Kishwaukee Concert Band which offers a different style of music but just as enjoyable.

Now that June is upon us we have the opportunity to attend the Hopkins Park concerts
by the DeKalb Municipal Band under the direction of Kirk Lundbeck (shown in photo
below). You won’t want to miss their July 4th spectacular. There are other music groups
performing around the county and they deserve support in their communities as well.


Conductor Kirk Lundbeck is shown warming up the DeKalb Municipal Band last summer at Hopkins Park.

* * *

We often lose contact with old friends when they move away or enter a senior care
home, so I was pleased to find that DeWitt Osgood, an early manager of the DeKalb
Chamber and longtime local businessman, is still alive and well way out in Tygard,
Oregon where he moved to be near his son and family several years ago. Those who
knew DeWitt were awed by his stamina and energy, having lost a leg in his youth, yet
never letting it slow him down. When I wrote him last month I was pleased that his
grandson replied, with a short note added at the bottom from DeWitt. In part the
grandson writes: “DeWitt is doing very well physically. His memory is poor and he gets
confused but he always maintains his pleasant demeanor. My aunt Cheryl Osgood visits
him almost every day and he has lots of activities and outings here at Fanno Creek. He
continues to go to church every Saturday and is still a vegetarian. He walks constantly
and doesn’t have to deal with snow. He turned 96 last Christmas day…. He is a
testament to clean living.”

Another friend from Oak Crest who moved away five years ago is Harriett Kallich who
taught in DeKalb schools for many years. She is now living in a senior center in
Portland, Maine and we keep in touch by email. Her son Joel also writes occasionally
about how she is doing.


* * *

Summer will slip by quickly so get out and enjoy those “lazy, hazy days” while you can.
As you read this on or about June 20 I will be sitting on the front porch of a cabin in
Curry Village (now renamed Half Dome Village) out in Yosemite National Park, one of
the millions of tourists visiting a national park on the 100th anniversary of the national
park system. Kay and I go there every year so we have our favorite trails, water falls
and scenic spots. It never gets old and recharges my “batteries” every time so I can
come back refreshed and bask in the memories it provides, even though I am not much
like the Energizer Bunny anymore. The blog is slowing down for the summer but watch
for the next issue on or about July 11.

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