THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Forty-Five

No. 1

 

 

www.bataviahistoricalsociety.org
January, 2004

Many people, we know, missed see­ing Elliott Lundberg sitting at the en­try table at the December 7 Christmas meeting, reminding people that their dues were due -- and needling some in an attempt to get a regular mem­bership upgraded to a life member­ship. It seemed the end of an era. And it had all come so suddenly.

 

When the Senility Club held its regular Tuesday lunch meeting on No­vember 4, Elliott took a lively part in the discussion. He ordered only a bowl of soup, but he explained that he had enjoyed a good mea! earlier that day at the monthly "bank breakfast" at Harner's. Although he acknowledged that his legs were getting weaker from the spreading cancer, he and the other members parted after lunch with the usual, "See you next Tuesday — God willing, and if the crick don't rise!"

In this case, God wasn't willing -the next Tuesday lunch was at Bethany Lutheran Church following Elliott's funeral.

 

He had gone home, experienced a restless night, and never got out of bed again. His death came the following Friday evening.

Wil! Elliott be missed? The long lines at the visitation, hour after hour, tell the story in part.

Elliott Lundberg

June 29, 1918 - November 7, 2003

 

 

 

ElliotLundberg_old-Vol-44.jpg

 

Look at the list of memorial gifts to the society in this issue,and recall that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Only a few days ago, his long-time friend Bill Wood said, "I can't get over thinking, That's some­thing I want to check with Elliott.'" We know the feeling.

 

Elliott knew Batavia as few others do, or ever will. A native of our town, after more than four years in the South Pacific during World War II, he spent his working days at the Batavia Bank, rising to the position of director, vice president and cashier. Everyone, it sometimes seems, has stories about encounters with Elliott in the bank. Although always helpful, he is best re­membered for the gentle "digs' that went along with his assistance.

Among the things that will be most missed at the Historian will be the interviews that Elliott helped conduct with older Batavians.


These were turned into stories that have been one of our most popular features. Elliott knew the people well, through school,  the bank, church and the the society, and had a way of drawing out infor­mation that gave the interviews the anecdotes and colorful details that made them more than a mere recitai of events and dates. Then, he had the secretarial skills to turn the taped in­terviews into transcripts that we could use in preparing the finished stories. No one will ever be able to take his place in this, as in other respects. Even failures, as in the case of last year's abortive first attempt to inter­view Ruth Burnham (humorously re­counted by Ruth in a recent issue) turned into something positive.

 

Yes, we will all miss Elliott Lundberg, but we -- and the society -- wilt be far better for having known him. He will continue to be a part of us.

And now we'll give a brief story of his life. Several years ago, Bill Wood wrote a story that is the foundation of the one that follows, but we had tem­porarily shelved it in the fear that Elliott would be uncomfortable with the at­tention on himself.

 

Immediately after his death, Bill resurrected it and added to it from details in a file that he main­tained, an article by Marilyn Robinson that appeared in the Windmill Herald on December 29, 1993, and two books that covered the attempt, in which Elliott was a major figure, to provision troops caught in the Philip­pines when the islands were invaded by the Japanese after Pearl Harbor.

 

I Remember Elliott

William J. Wood

 

"Can you name the native Batavian, life-long resident of our city, who received much coverage in two books written on the war in the Pacific, 19411945?" Very few Batavia residents, old or new, could answer this question. Pose another question: "Can you name a native-born, life-long resident of Batavia who retired after many years in local banking; served his city on two governmental committees; is a charter member of the Batavia Historical Society and treasurer of that organization for many years; delights in badgering -- in a friendly manner -relatives, friends and even mere acquaintances; and is a founding member of the "Tuesday Senility Club?" Most longtime Batavians and even many newer residents would immediately answer, "Elliott Lundberg," thereby answering both questions correctly.  

 

Elliott was born in Batavia on June 29, 1918, the son of John and Svea Lundberg. After graduation from Batavia-H igh-School ~in -1936-;-he

worked at various jobs in Batavia, principally at the Challenge Co. He was an early World War II draftee, entering the service on in June of 1941. On November 22 of that year, he sailed from San Francisco with the 148th Field Artillery, destined for the Philippine Islands. At sea on December 7 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, his convoy was directed to Australia, ending up in Darwin.   

 

The American forces in the Philippines at the time the war began were soon bottled up on the Bataan Peninsula. Government officials, as high up The Batavia Historian, recipient of the illinois  State Historical Society's 1997 Award for Superior Achievement, is published quarterly by the Batavia Historical Society. The editor, Bill Hall, will welcome any suggestions or material - 630-879-2033. The Depot Museum, a cooperative effort of the Society and the Batavia Park District,is open from 2 to 4 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from March through November. The director, Carla Hill, can be reached at 630-406-5274.

 

 

 

the ladder as General Marshall, were desperately trying to help. As Marilyn Robinson wrote, "In late January, 1942, Colonel John Robenson, U.S. Base Commander at Darwin was ordered to gather a small staff for a secret

 

ElliotLundberg_YoungVol-44.jpg


mission to Java, Netherlands

East Indies, to procure supplies and rations for the men on the Philippines who were having trouble fending off the Japanese.

 

"Robenson selected a captain, five

lieutenants, and an army private

Elliott Lundberg, who would handle

the paperwork for the mission. It was to be conducted, coincidentally in Batavia [now Jakarta], on the island of Java. Lundberg was chosen because he had shorthand and typing skills that he had learned at Batavia High School."

What followed over the next month

or so would have made a wonderful

war action movie except for one thing -- it failed. In retrospect, one can see that this was inevitable. With most of our military strength in the Far East wiped out and with the rapid advances of the Japanese, any attempt to supply Corregidor in the short time available was doomed to failure. But the United States had to try, and the Robenson mission was that attempt. Robenson was provided what appeared to be the necessary tools: several

 

 

 

several million dollars in cash and letters of credit and authority to charter what ever ships were needed to forwar~

these supplies. He was given broad

authority to requisition whatever he

needed and to obtain the cooperation

of Dutch and British authorities in carrying out his mission.

 

This liaison with officials of the

United States, the Netherlands and

Great Britain resulted in bureaucratic

"snafus" at their worst -- wasting time

that was essential for any hopes of

success and resulting in the disappearance of ships that Robenson had identified for carrying out his mission.

 

Yet, at one point, Robenson received

-- without request or prior notice -- a

delivery of $250,000 in U.S. currency

to use in his endeavors.

 

I haven't space to recount the various

travails of the mission: I am only

attempting to give some idea of the important, frustrating, and ultimately dangerous effort in which Elliott was involved.

 

Finally, when it became evident

that there was no possibility of success,

Robenson received orders to

close his mission and return to Australia.

 

The evacuation of Java was underwater Edmonds wrote: "All night on the 25th [of February, 1942] Robenson and his staff worked to check, close, and balance their accounts, the bank staying open till morning to assist them. Their final act was to reclaim the leather suitcase from the vault and once more count the $250,000 in bills.

 

At 3:30 they returned to the [hotel] and

an hour's sleep, all except Private

Lundberg, who continued at his typewriter cleaning up the final records and accounts, But by 4:30 his work, too, was finished, and they set out for

Tjilatjap in two cars with their very

scant belongings which, however, included the leather suitcase with its

$250,000."

 

That effectively ended the mission,

but it still remained for the members

to escape the advancing Japanese

and return to Australia. Finally, along

with 1,500 evacuees, they boarded the

crowded Abbekerkthat was scheduled

to sail to Melbourne on February 26.

Food and water was scarce, and the

ship had only one gun, which woul(

be useless against enemy aircraft.

 


Christmas Potluck Entertained bv FoxVallev Swedish Children's Choir

 

As they have come to expect, the approximately 135 members present at the annual Christmas Potluck held on Sunday, December 7, at Bethany Lutheran Church had a wonderful time. The ladies outdid themselves in the food they brought to accompany the Swedish meatballs that were provided. Carole Dunn and her committee did their usual outstanding job in handling the dining arrangements.

 

After dinner, the Fox Valley Children's Chorus entertained the members with Christmas music sung in both Swedish and English. The chorus, directed by Marguerite Karl, focuses on maintaining the Swedish tradition that is so important in our area. Some of the older society members were undoubtedly following along as verses were sung in Swedish.

 

The business meeting consisted of the election of half the society's officers and directors (with staggered terms, half are elected each year).

 

Those elected were:

Patty Rosenberg, vice president and program chairman;

Georgene Kauth, corresponding secretary;

Phil Elfstrom, treasurer;

Bill Wood, historian;

and Bob Brown, Carole Dunn and Alma Karas, directors.

 

Officers and directors continuing in office for another year are:

Dick Benson, president;

Chris Winter, secretary;


Elliott Lundberg (continued)

 

Nevertheless, despite strafing from a Japanese plane and the loss of twenty Allied vessels in the neighboring waters, the Abbekerk eventually reached Perth, Australia, safely.   

 

Marilyn Robinson concluded her article: "The Japanese landed on Java and ordered the loaded cargo ship [that the Robenson mission had prepared] destroyed. The supplies intended for the men on Bataan sank in the bay. Lundberg and the others' work had been in vain.

 

They had dodged bullets, bombs and red tape and done 3verything in their power to aid the men in the Philippines. According to Robenson, 'Pvt. John Elliott Lundberg -- a typist and stenographer -- turned out to be the mainstay or our mission, the ideal man for the job.''' Elliott spent over three more years with units in New Guinea and the Philippines, rising to the rank of master sergeant before returning to the United States in July, 1945. He was discharged shortly after the war ended.

 

Between August of 1945 and October of 1947, Elliott worked for several companies in Chicago. On October 20, 1947, he joined Batavia National Bank. Almost two years later, on September 20, 1949, he joined with Norma McConnaughay in marriage. He often joked that with Norma he gained 67 first cousins.

 

They raised five children: Jim, Kathy, Carl, John and Dan. And as his family grew, Elliott's career advanced:   

 

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over the years he became a director, vice president and cashier of the bank.  

 

 It must have been shortly after he began working as a teller that I took a  problem to him -- a checkbook that would not balance. In a few minutes he had it solved: "Why do you write a check and then enter it in the deposit column?" He frequently reminded me of that incident. Long before the government mounted a campaign against smoking, Elliott was carrying on his own campaign against the cigarette -- at times even yanking a lighted cigarette from the mouth of an acquaintance. Master of the 'verbal needle,' he used it in a friendly way, from the golf course to the hallowed halls of church -- few have escaped the jabs.

 

In a telephone conversation with a former colleague from the bank, I mentioned that I felt that Elliott was mellowing. A moment's pause      

at the other end of the line was followed by, "Oh, no! I prefer the old Elliott." After the children were raised and Elliott entered "semi-retirement" in 1980 -- a role that lasted until 1992 -Elliott   

and Norma traveled, making several trips to Sweden to visit Elliott's relatives.

They also visited Norway, England, Scotland and Ireland. In Scotland, Elliott had the pleasure of playing golf at famous St. Andrews. Elliott had copies of Destination Corregidor and They Fought with What They Had.

 

When he wrote a comprehensive history of his family and gave a copy to the Gustafson Research Center, he felt that he should keep the two books for his family; however during the last year of his life, the Research Center obtained copies of the the two books.

 

He was especially proud that the book by Edmonds is a mint-condition first edition. When I would visit him while he was on volunteer duty at the Center, he would often pick up They Foughtwith What They Had and comment on Edmonds' other historical books that were laid in New York State.

 

He had a great love of reading on a wide variety of topics.   

 

Elliott was one of a kind. We will certainly miss him -- but we will always remember him.

 

1 Edmonds, Walter D. They Fought with What They Had, Little, Brown, Boston, 1951, and

Unterbrink, Robert L. Destination Corregidor, 1971.

 

 

Copies of these books are available in

the Gustafson Center.      


   

What's New At The Museum?

 

by Carla Hill, Director

 

The year 2003 was very busy at the museum. As usual Chris Winter did an

outstanding job with the exhibits. She always has great ideas and many innovative

concepts for displays. In 2004 our Depot will celebrate its 150th birthday. We have

been busy making plans for the birthday celebration.

While we are closed for the winter season. we will be working on the completion

of the railroad exhibit. Bob Roehrig has graciously agreed to help us with the communications section of the exhibit. We will be installing a live telegraph key and

using many photographs and artifacts to make the exhibit come alive. We are very

fortunate to have many wonderful artifacts for this exhibit that were donated to us

from the Jerry Ruble estate.

 

On February 8, we will once again be sponsoring the Lincoln Dinner Theater.

This year Max and Donna Daniels along with Joe Essling will present: "A Press

Conference with the Lincolns." Tickets will go on sale for this event on January 5.

The Batavia High School ornament has been so successful that we have submitted

an additional order. If anyone would like to be added to the waiting list, please

call the museum at 406-5274. The ornament is the first in a series of ten.

This year has also been a sad one with the loss of the following dedicated volunteers:

Shirley Hoover, Don Prindle, Elliott Lundberg, Paul Hubbard, Norm Hagemann, and Lee Moorehead. Their efforts at the museum and their smiling faces will be sadly missed.

We will re-open the museum on March 8.

 

The Gustafson Research Center is open year around, and we are always looking for volunteers to help there. If you are interested in volunteering, call Chris Winter at the museum 406-5274.

 


 

The Wolcotts

Part 1: Early Days in Batavia

 

 

 

This story began with an interview that the late Elliott Lundberg and Bill Hall had

with Oliver M. ("Ollie) Wolcott on August 12, 2003. He is the only member of the Wolcott

family still living in Batavia. Our intent was to cover some of the more prominent

Wolcotts in Batavia's history, beginning with Ollie's great-grandfather Nelson Wolcott

who came to Batavia in 1856.

 

As we got into the story, however, we became fascinated with the description not

only of the Wolcotts but more generally of life in Batavia in the 1800s that Nelson's

grandsons Laurens Emerson Wolcott and Kenneth Oliver Wolcott portrayed in their

memoirs, Life in the Good Old Days -- Batavia, Illinois - 1872-1910. Laurens, Ollie's

father, was born in 1872 and died in 1959 at the age of 86 before finishing his part. His

brother Kenneth, who was born 13 years later in1885, took up the task and completed

the story up to 1910. He died in 1976 at the age of 90.

 

What follows covers the arrival in Batavia of Nelson and Alvina Wright Wolcott, the

recollections of Laurens and Kenneth about their grandparents, and their descriptions

of life in those days.

 

 

wolcott.jpg

 

The Wolcotts have a long history in America and in Batavia. The first of the family in America, Henry Wolcott, then 52, arrived in Nantasket, Massachusetts, on May 30, 1630, aboard the Mary and John. It is believed that he had made an earlier journey in 1626 or 1627 to "case the joint," as Kenneth put it, before moving his family to the New World.

 

With him he brought his wife and three sons, one of whom, Henry, was tlie prorietor of the Batavia Wolcotts. A younger son, simon, and his daughters remained in England until a firm settlement had been established in America.

 

In 1806, several generations after Henry's arrival, his descendant Nelson Wolcott was born in Sandisfield, Massachusetts. He migrated at an early age to Attica, New York, where he operated a store (probably a dry goods store), served as the postmaster, and was the first county clerk of Wyoming County.

 

In 1835 he married Alvina Wright. According to their grandson Laurens, "Her family lived in nearby western New York, but travel being what it was in those days, they had seen each other but a few times before marriage. They had conducted their courtship by mail and since he was the postmaster at the time and no stamps were required, it cost him nothing. A very economical courtship, I should think!"

 

We do not know what caused Nelson at age 50, with a wife, six sons and two daughters, to leave an apparently settled life in upstate New York and come to Batavia, Illinois. It may have been that he followed the example of other upstate New Yorkers, perhaps friends, who had made the Alvina Wright Wolcott and Nelson Wolcott same journey.

 

And as Kenneth points out, it wouldn't have been a move to the frontier from civilization as might first appear: he points out that parts of northern Illinois were settled before some of western New York. Once here, Nelson opened a store, as he had in New York. Kenneth wrote: "I do not know how long Grandpa operated his store n certainly long after the Civil War. Neither do I know what happened to the store between that time and my earliest observations.

 

Undoubtedly some of the items that interested Laurens in Grandpa's olr barn, and that similarly intrigued Frank J [cousin] and me some 15 to 20 years later, were unsold residue from his old store, for which there was no longer any market -- ox yokes, candle molds, hoop skirts, etc. Many of them would bring a pretty penny in today's antique market." Nelson bought property and built hishouse on the east side of South Batavia Avenue, two houses north of Stone Manor. Neither Laurens nor Kenneth described the house itself except for Laurens' recollection that it was "a large rambling house with an attic over the entire second floor, a dark, damp and mysterious cellar underneath the house with bins for the storing of various vegetables and fruit.

 

"There was no such thing in those days as cold storage, refrigerated cars for shipping in fresh fruits and vegetables from a warmer climate, nor for preserving them by freezing. In this cellar in fall and winter were bins of potatoes, pumpkins, turnips, winter squash, parsnips-and also barrels apples. On the shelves were scores of jars of various home canned vegetables and fruits of all kinds -- home grown and home canned. Among them were cherries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, corn, tomatoes, peas and others.

 

Suspended from floor joists above were home raised, smoked and cured hams and paper sacks of dried herbs, such as sage, thyme. boneset, dill, etc. Also suspended from the floor above was a swinging shelf on which other and more temporary foods could be kept out of the way of rats and mice:'

 

Fortunately we can have an idea about the appearance of the house since it still exists -- but moved to a different location, 517 Blaine Street, undoubtedly with changes. We can be sure that the house did not have central heating, plumbing, or of course electricity -- all of which came much later. As Kenneth wrote, "Only a handful after the turn of the century. That  luxury requires both running water most homes." Nelson Wolcott's property extended back to the quarry.

 

"On these few acres," Laurens recalled, "my grandfather conducted a veritable small farm. He kept ducks and chickens, cows and pigs and a dog. In the proper season these were always bringing forth young -- always of interest to children. Then he had an orchard of apples, pears and plums as well as the largest vineyard of grapes of various varieties that I have ever seen in Illinois.

 

There were also strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries and currants (both red and white). In additions to fruits, Grandfather also raised quite a crop of popcorn, which he marketed. Grandma made Concord grape wine with a hand press for sacramental purposes (if it was ever used otherwise, I never witnessed it). He raised hay for his cows in the orchard.

 

This hay was harvested by hand by means of a scythe and cradle, dried in the sun and stored in a huge )ayloft over the barn. There was a large garden where all sorts of vegetables were raised for immediate use and for preserving for winter.

 

" According to Laurens, "Grandma was a mild, kindly, gentle old lady, typical of the old school. In the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times I saw her I never saw her without her little lace cap on her white-haired head. My folks, for some reason, didn't believe in many sweets for us children and frowned upon such things as putting sugar on bread and butter and told my grandparents so.

 

The other grandchildren [my cousins] were not thus inhibited and when several of the grandchildren were there together Grandma doubtless realized the unfair discrimination. She would sprinkle my slice of homemade bread and homemade butter with a generous topping of brown sugar. She didn't tell me not to tell my parents but would say, 'I don't believe your mama will mind this time if she doesn't know it.' Even I, at that tender age, had sense enough to agree and to see that my mother's peace of mind was not disturbed in that respect."      

 

Nelson was a strict observer of the Congregational faith that had brought his forebears to America. He was a long-time deacon in the Batavia church. Regarding his grandmother, Laurens wrote, "Both she and Grandfather were very devout and religious people and had family scripture reading and prayers every morning after breakfast and every evening after supper.

 

They believed it a sin to drive [the horse and buggy or wagon] for work or pleasure on a Sunday or to do any unnecessary chores. They even popped the corn on Saturday for the family gathering the next day. "My Aunt Ellen lived with my grandfather and grandmother and practically ran the house and did most of the housework. She loved all the grandchildren and they all loved her. She had married a man by the name of Baker.

 

The marriage had not proven a happy one and they had separated long before I was born. [She then] came to live with my grandparents. The family never discussed the matter [of her separation] in my presence and I never knew anything about it.... She enjoyed meeting and visiting with her brothers, sisters-in-law, nephews and nieces at where all would foregather every Sunday afternoon to pay their respects to their parents and grandparents. At the time of which I write, Aunt Ellen also sang alto in the Congregational Church choir. Aside from these mild diversions, she led what seems to me now a pretty drab life -- all work and no play.

 

"In addition to caring for her father and mother, [she] also ran something of a boarding house, although it was not so called. At any rate, they always had three or four single men roomers hom they boarded. These men were always very high class. Mr. Fred H. Beach lived with them for many years and as long as the home was maintained.

 

Mr.Perry, an engineer and the inventor who invented the Aermotor,the first steel windmill, lived there for years during my childhood while employed by the U. S. Wind Engine & Pump Co. Mr. William Porter, a relative of the Coffin and Lockwood families also lived there till the last for as long as I can remember.

 

Except for being a justice of the peace, he seemed to have no occupation. I have the impression that he either had a pension or was supported by other members of his family. He may have been incapacitated. He was a dignified man, often called Judge Porter, and carried a cane. "These boarders paid, for their room and lodging with 21 meals per week and their personal laundry, from $3 to $4 per week. Much of the food, eggs, milk, cream, butter, chickens, pork, ham, fruit and vegetables were raised on the place, hence 'didn't cost anything.'

 

No wonder none of them married until after the home was broken up after Grandpa died. "At any rate," Laurens continued, "the burden of all this fell upon my" aunt Ellen. The chamber work, slops and water pitchers (there were no inside toilet facilities), the laundry, meals, dishwashing and general housework, cleaning, sweeping dusting, etc. -fell upon her.

 

In her 'spare' time there were great pans of milk to skim the cream from and churn into butter, fruit and vegetable to gather and prepare for the table and to preserve and can, quantities of bread, biscuits, pies, doughnuts and cookies to bake several times a week.

 

There were no prepared foods in those days, meat was served at each meal, breakfast, dinner (at noon), and supper." By the time Laurens was ten, he was expected to help his grandfather, who would have been almost 80 but still working. A job he remembered with little pleasure was "turning the grindstone for Grandfather to sharpen his scythes and other tools.

 

My! How he could bear down on that stone and keep me at it until I though my arms would fall off." The younger Kenneth recalled that years later he, too, had to run the grindstone for his grandfather, who would then have been at least 90.

 

"In later years," Laurens recalled, "when I was ten or a dozen years old, I spent many an hour in the dark cellar sprouting potatoes by hand, one by one from one bin to another by the light of a dim smoky lantern.

 

These later experiences were not as thrilling or mysterious as those [I had enjoyed in that cellar] when I was five to eight years old. "On Saturdays and during vacation times when other boys were fishing, playing ball or swimming, I felt abused when Father made me go to help Grandpa. I rode old 'Billy,' the horse, bareback.

 

Guiding him and trying to keep him from nipping the corn and vines while Grandpa handled the plow or cultivated on foot behind. Other times I had to hoe potatoes, corn or prune the grape vines." ham, fruit and vegetables were raised on the place, hence didn't cost anything.'No wonder none of them married until after the home was broken up after Grandpa died.

 

"At any rate," Laurens continued, "the burden of all this fell upon my)Aunt Ellen. The chamber work, slops and water pitchers (there were no inside toilet facilities), the laundry, meals, dishwashing and general housework, cleaning, sweeping dusting, etc., fell upon her.      

 

A job he remembered with little pleasure was "turning the grindstone for Grandfather to sharpen his scythes and other tools. My! How he could bear down on that stone and keep me at it until I though my arms would fall off." The younger Kenneth recalled that years later he, too, had to run the grindstone for his grandfather, who would then have been at least 90.        

           

We'll close these memories of the Wolcotts in the 1800s with an experi­ence that Laurens never forgot - and who would? "When I was possibly eight or ten years old and playing around at Grandpa's barn, I took it into my head to go out in the barnyard. Instead of going through the door, which would have been easy, I, like many kids, thought it would be belter to go through the small window and jump from there. I did.

 

I landed on top of the manure pile and kept right on going through up to my armpits. What had appeared to be a well-dried-out and crusted-over compost pile proved to a crusted-over pile of sloppy, wet cow manure! After wallowing out of it,      

 

I made for home through the back yards from Grandfather's to our house as fast as I could.

 

"I was a sight and a mess! My mother was a mad woman. She, of course, didn't let me in the house and humiliated me by making me undress completely naked out in the yard while she sloshed water over me with a bucket. She put my clothes to soak out in the yard in a tub. There was no city water or hose in those days to fa­cilitate such a cleaning up as was necessary."

 

With that lively story, we'll leave Nelson and Alvina Wolcott and their young grandchildren. They had been married for 58 years at the time of her death in 1893. He survived her for al­most twelve years, dying on Septem­ber 5, 1905, at the age of 99 years, 8 months and one day.

 

In the next issue, we will continue with the next generation of the Wolcotts - the three sons Henry, Seymour and William (the father of Laurens and Kenneth and grandfather of Ollie) who remained in Batavia.

 

A descendant of Simon, an earlier Oliver Wolcott, signed the Declaration of Indepen­dence as a delegate from Connecticut. It is here that we first note the proclivity of the Wolcotts for reusing, time and again, the same first names. Among the Batavia Wolcotts, we find multiple Henrys, Laurenses, Williams and Olivers, to mention only a few. In fact, Seymour Wolcott had sons named Raymond and Richard, and one of them named sons and Richard!

 

 


 This 'N' That

 

March meeting --

Although you will get a notice nearer the time, please mark

your calendar for Sunday, March 21. Lane Allen, a native Batavia architect,

will speak on "An Architect's Vision of Livable Communities:' The meeting will

be in the City Council chambers, beginning at 2 p.m.

 

Book by Former Batavian --

Philip Burnham, a son of member Ruth Burnham

and now a resident of Washington, D.C., is the author of a newly published

book, So Far from Dixie; Confederates in Yankee Prisons. Members may want

to read the book now since Phil will come in the spring for a "signing."

Dues -- If you have not paid your dues, please send them in the enclosed

envelope.

 

Transcriber needed --

Do you have secretarial skills -- even minimal? If so,

the Historian needs you -- for a couple of hours every three or four months.

For many readers, the stories that stem from interviews with older Batavians

have been a highlight of the Historian. These interviews have been taped,

and then Elliott Lundberg has transcribed the tapes, providing the basis for

the final stories. Bill Wood has agreed to fill in for Elliott in helping conduct

future interviews, but we need someone afterwards to make a rough transcription

from the tapes -- it needn't be polished.

 

If you can fill this need so that we can continue these stories, please call Bill

Wood (879-1933) or Bill Hall (879-2033).

 

 


The Old Grace McWayne School
mcWayne.jpg
A Student's Memories from the 1920s Nancy Newlin Pearce. The first Grace McWayne School was originally called Central School. The name was changed to honor the diminutive principal. The school was lo­cated between First and Wilson Streets and bounded on the east by Batavia Avenue and by Washington Street (later changed to Lincoln on the west. I entered from Batavia Avenue down a long, leafy lane. The school looked like a castle to a small first grader. It stood three stories tall with high win­dows and arm like appendages, which were the enclosed fire escapes. For­tunately they were never called into use although some of us tried to climb up the dark spider infested tunnels. Four large doors matched the directions of the compass.
mcWayneSchool.jpg
Old McWayne School 1867-1950
The open, wide halls were carefully oiled each week. The stairs were broad and so well worn that they sloped to the center. It would be today's fire marshal's nightmare, but in our inno­cence and ignorance we felt welcomed and loved.
The halls had drinking foun­tains, and I believe the first grade room had a sink. The dark bathroom facili­ties in the basement are best left for­gotten.The playground was large, with tail'trees and grassy areas. There were^swings, a pair of teeter totters andsome chinning bars. Just as today, weplayed baseball during the two recesses. We jumped rope, chanting rhymes and verses which have faded from memory.We were greeted each morning by our petite principal, her white hair done in a soft bun, a small apron protecting her printed dress, and a velvet ribbon around her neck. Small as she was, she handled us with minimum discipline and great affection.Everyone went home for lunch from 12 to 1. Rarely could a child stay for lunch except the children from the farms, who brought their own lunches.
We had no busses.Preschool and kin­dergarten were not for us. We jumped bravely into first grade and began learning our letters. I don't remember our primer, but it was long before the advent of the now de­funct Sally, Dick and Jane or even Alice and Jerry. Miss Russell was our teacher, a sweet-faced woman who was soon married and moved away. She frequently answered to the name of Mom from many of us. Not only did we learn to read but to sew. We all made little table scarves with a tricky blanket stitched border. This was prob­ably a Mother's Day effort.I don't remember all the teachers' names. Mary Egbert was the second grade teacher doing double duty as my Sunday school teacher. Miss Hamilton saw us through fourth grade. She, too, was to be married. To celebrate the happy occasion, we had a fruit shower. We all brought "reliable" fruits and rolled them up the aisles to her aston­ishment. Fifth and sixth grades were taught in one room by Mrs. Wolcott, a widowed, no-nonsense but good teacher.The Blaine students then joined up as permanent classmates. There were many new and good friends, but I think still one teacher. Parents seldom vis­ited our class, but on several Friday afternoons mothers were invited to hear us recite poetry.
Quite a change from today's open door where many parents are welcomed helpers. Misbe-havers suffered the ignominy of sitting in the knee hole part of Mrs. W's desk. By seventh grade, we were deep into projects, thanks to our superintendent, Dr. Storm, who had great enthusiasm for hands-on efforts. We made villages carved from Ivory soap. We made a primitive "movie" with pictures pasted in a long streamer of cloth which we passed quickly through a box like stage. We deco­rated cigar boxes, also probably for Mother's Day. We took I.Q tests; the re­sults were sent home, which we learned to our sorrow or joy. Girls learned to sew and boys to hammer in what we called manual training. Girls made dresses cut from original patterns, with varying results. My dress seldom left my closet, I don't remember what boys made. We were guided that year by Miss Mamie Powers.In eighth grade we were kings of the hill, almost literally, as our class was on the third floor along with the gym, which shook under the thunder of our feet. Mrs. Nicholson prepared us for the big jump into high school. She was our only married teacher. I think her hus­band was an invalid so rules were bent to allow her to teach. Girls learned to cook in eighth grade, and boys contin­ued their hammering.We did have some special teachers.
I remember Miss Cheval for music, Miss Burke for art, and probably a P.E. teacher. We did not have all the en­richment today's child receives. We were taught by dedicated, determined and loving women who used their in­genuity and affection to stretch our minds and horizons. How fortunate we were to have spent those impression­able years with such women.This is not a totally accurate report of our grade school years. I hope the gentle reader understands that memo­ries dim with time.

 A Winter Adventure

 

Do you remember Les Bex in Carol Smith's story "Photograph of a Sum­mer" in the July, 2003, issue? Recall­ing the street dance when she was is eighth grade, Carol wrote, "Then it happened; Les Bex came across the street and asked me to dance. I had that magical feeling flow through me, leaving me waiting to exhale. Com­posing myself I took his hand and off we walked together, to the middle of the street. Then he put his arms around me, not the way we were taught in dance class, but how a young man puts his arms around a pretty young woman."Les, now a resident of Maine, got in touch with us and sent the follow­ing story.

 

Les Bex

 

I am not a writer, but thought that I might send along some of my memo­ries of "Fairy Land."My name is Les and my brother's name is Tony. We played in Fairy Land1 on a regular basis in the lale 40s. The water we would get from pipes driven into cracks in the limestone was cold and clear, and I am not aware of anyone get­ting sick from drinking it. We would col­lect flint to use to start fires with flint and steel for our boy scouting days.We would go sledding in the winter and on one occasion we had a real live lifesaving occurrence. There was a turn on the hill that meant thai one had to make a hard left turn in order to make it all the way down the hill. Tony was the youngest and couldn't make that turn.That was OK because we told him, "If you can't make the turn just roll off of your sled."He had to roll off because the turn was at a drop off of about three to four feet and at the bottom of that drop was a stream.

 

Of course the stream was frozen and the sled with­out a rider would not break the through the ice and could be retrieved.Tony wanted to be like the bigger boys (i don't remember if any girls ever played down there) and had to make that turn to prove himself. He went off that drop-off at top speed and landed on the thin ice and crashed through. We (my cousins and I) pulled Tony and sled out, put him on the sled and headed for home at a run. Home was at 441 Cleveland Avenue, and as we ran we would take turns pulling the sled with Tony riding.By the time we got home Tony was frozen tight to the sled, and we couldn't get him off. Mittens, pants, and coat al[ stuck fast to the sled. I don't remember how our mother got him free, but that's what mothers are for -- to come to theaid of their "little boys who will be boys". Maybe this isn't all that interesting to anyone else, but it sure is a day tha' ! have never forgotten, and I woufuV think that Tony probably remembers it, too.1 Fairy Land, a popular play area years ago, was located south on Van Buren Street.


 

Membership Matters

 

We are delighted to introduce a number of new members. New life members (from Batavia unless other­wise noted), most of whom were al­ready annual members, include the Mark Ailen family, Cathy and Jim Blazek (Malta, gilt of Cathy's mother, Margaret Flinn), C. John and Susan Ekman (Montana), Lois and Bob French, Lori Gregorski (Huntley, gift of father, Jirn Anderson), Allen Mead (St. Charles), Frank and Florence Olson, Tim Renaud and Lynn Rudberg, Katherine Symons (North Aurora), and Red and Gail Wilke (North Aurora).Other new members are Dean Carlson (Glenview, gift of Katherine Symons), Rev. and Mrs. Jeff Fricke (gift of Dick and Lois Benson), Ronald and Connie Kuk, Betty Larson (gift of Alice Swan), Dorothy (Feuerborr; Milnamow (Elburn), Ruth Pambrun (Lakewood, CA), John Ruble (Ft. Wayne, IN), Spillane & Sons, Jodi Vest (gift of Dick and Lois Benson), Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Winter (gift of Tony and Chris Winter) and Virginia and Bill Wyllie (Aurora, gift of Gary and Sammi King).We welcome these new members and encourage them to participate in the activities of the society.Besides Elliott Lundberg covered elsewhere in this issue, we regret to report the deaths of members Don Prindle, Norman Hagemann, Paul H. Hubbard, Elna Miner, Lois Moulding, Kenneth Olson, Wendell Pitz and Don Prindle.

 

Norm Hagemann, a Batavia alderman for many years, and Paul Hubbard, a museum volunteer and owner with his brothers, Jim and War­ren, of Hubbard's Ethan Allen furniture store (featured in the January, 1999, Historian), were long-time members. Elna Miner, unfortunately was a mem­ber only briefly; she joined after attend­ing the September meeting at which Sears homes were discussed and die1"' unexpectly a short time later. We miss all these members and their par­ticipation in society activities. 

 


Memorial Gifts and Other Contributions


Gifts in memory o! Elna Miner were received from Batavia Lions Club, Darrell A. Feece (Galena), Carl and Mabel Johnson (St. Charles), Robert N. Johnson, Dennis and Pamela Larson,Gifts in memory of Elliott Lundbergwere received from Bob and LucyAnderson, Ron and Leslie Baltazar,Richard and Lois Benson, ColinBlanchflower, Karen Bohr, Craig L.and Stephie D. Bowron, Matt and Jane Branock, Dale and Catherine McConnaughay, RosemaryMcConnaughay family, Terry and Karen Duffy, Philip B. Elfstrom, Coi-leen Feece, George and Kathy Fatrbairn, Gust and Liz Flodstrom, John and Judith Gosselin, RonaldGranquist, Bill and Barbara Ha!l, Harold A. Hall, Jim and Dot Hanson, Jerry D. and Mary Harris, Dick and Sue Heidelberg, Mike and Denise Iwanicki, Dick and Barb Kalina, Walter and Georgene Kauth, Bert and Ruth Johnson, Dean and Joan Johnson, Melvin L. and Veta L. Johnson, Alma Karas and Yangling Zhang, Karl and Vie Kraft, Peter and Leslee Kraft, Jan and Jamie Larson, Richard and Darlene Larson, Ruth W. Lindgren, Doug and Elaine Marshall, Alan and Nancy McCioud, Gladys Noren, Dor­othy Patzer, Robert and Suzy Peterson, Robert and Betty Riley, Marilyn G. Robinson, Lewis and Sylvia Schacht, Ted and Betty Scharpenter, Colleen and Steve Staniszewski, PatWerthe, John and Mary Lou White, and William J. Wood,Gifts in memory of Don Prindle were received from Richard and Lois-Benson, Mr. and Mrs. Glen Bushboom, and Walter and Georgene Kauth; gifts in memory of Robert O. Anderson was received from Robert and Lucy Anderson, David and Suzy Anderson, and Bruce and Kenna Anderson; and a gift in memory of Paul Hubbard was received from Amy Davenport.Other contibutions included $5,000 from Philip B. Elfstrom and a gift from John L. Hafenrichter.We thank these donors and assure them that their gifts wili be put to good use in the mission of the society.

 


 The Candy Tree

 

This story appeared in the Histo­rian, 15 years ago - the winter-spring, [ 1989, edition -- but is so good that we decided to publish it again. After all, most of our readers were not members then. Besides, memory being what it is, some of us don't re­call everything we read as recently as a few years ago.The events in this story would have taken place in the early years of the last century.

 

Joseph Burton

Emmet McKee was a bachelor and brother of Joel McKee.1 Both lived in the big white house [at 345 North Batavia Avenue] on the brow of the hill just north of us in Batavia. Emmet spent most of his time in a smail one room cottage just behind and to the west of the big house.Emmet was a large man with a soft, gentle voice, who ioved to lie in a ham­mock reading books. The cottage was filled with knick-knacks, including a foot-pedalled organ which he would often play for our mutual entertain­ment. I visited him often. Occasionally he wouid make wonderfully ornate drawings using a sheet of paper and a pencil. Once the drawing started, the pencil never left the paper. In one in­tricate series of loops and sweeps he would create a bird in full flight, com­plete with wing and tail feathers and beak and eyes. Actually you could al­most call it calligraphy.When I was a small boy I visited Emmet often. One day, on the short path to his house from ours, I passed a cottonwood tree and noticed a piece of candy tucked into its shaggy bark. I hurried to tell Emmet about it


The Way We Were

Advertising in 1892

 

1.jpg

 

 

Sixteen year old Mary Kenyon, posing in big affair in which each store had a girl dressed to represent it. Later married to Henry Esmay, Mary had three daughters, one of which was beloved Batavia teacher Eldora Esmay Hoover.


 

An Entertaining Volunteer Luncheon

 

More than 60 persons attended the annual luncheon for De-Ot Museum volunteers, which was held in Shannon Hail on December 9. As they entered, they picked up their gift of a beau­tiful brass ornament depicting the old Batavia High School - the first in a series that will honor historic Batavia structures that no longer exist. The ornaments are for sale to members and the public at the offices of the Batavia Park District.After a delicious buffet luncheon, folk musician Patty Ecker entertained the volunteers with a varied program in which she accompanied her singing with a variety of old-time instruments. Perhaps the greatest applause came after a number played with wooden spoons; Patty's dexterity in manipulating these "instru­ments" held the audience spellbound.At the end of the program, society president Dick Benson called Carla Hill and Chris Winter to the front and presented them with gift certificates to a res­taurant in recognition of their efforts, that go above and beyond the call of duty, in the op­eration of the Depot Museum.

 

Dick Benson presenting gift certificates to Carla Hill, center, and Chris Winter. 1.jpg 

It was a great occa­sion.And it wi!l be avail­able to others in the fu­ture who sign up as museum volunteers. Call Kathy Fairbairn (406 9041) or Carla Hill or Chris Winter (406 5274). The museum needs you - and you'll have fun!