THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Forty-Nine

No. 4

 

October, 2008

Happy Birthday Batavia


Batavia celebrated its 175th birthday over the recent Labor Day weekend. The three day event included a reading of an original pageant created by Marilyn Robinson at the Rotolo Middle School along with many downtown activities which took place on the Riverwalk.

 

“We really appreciated all of the time that the volunteers put into making the weekend a success,” said Depot Museum Curator, Carla Hill.

 

Hill and Assistant Curator, Chris Winter, put in many hours in both preparation and on site coordination of the many events that took place. About fifty children kicked off the celebration on Saturday by participating in the Pioneer Parade.  

 

 

vol_49_1.jpg

 

 

Dressed in costumes the kids competed for prizes. The parade ended at the Peg Bond Center where the Fox Valley Band performed. After the concert Batavians were invited to view the many displays at the Batavia City Hall Chambers.

 

From 19th century farm implements to historical exhibits of many of Batavia’s service organizations and governmental bodies, the City Hall was filled with various aspects of Batavia’s history.Sunday began with a community church service that was sponsored by the Batavia Ministerial Association. 

 

Participating in the service were clergy from Bethany Lutheran, Calvary Episcopal, Batavia’s Congregational Church, the Covenant Church, Logan Street Baptist and the Batavia Islamic Center. Following the service, there was an old fashioned picnic complete with pie eating contests and old fashioned games such as pin the tail on the donkey and gunny sack races. 

 

There was also a competition for the longest beard and the longest braid. The afternoon included visits from special guests of Batavia, as actors took on the roles of famous people who have come to Batavia. Coinciding with the birthday party was the official dedication of the Donovan Bridge named after Monsignor William J Donovan who served the Holy Cross Parish for 37 years. Participating in the dedication were Mayor Jeff Schielke, Mayor Tom Weisner of Aurora, a former altar boy for Monsignor Donovan and Monsignor Dan Deutsch, the current pastor at Holy Cross. The celebration ended with a downtown fireworks display that took place over the Fox River.

 

 

In This Issue

 

Happy Birthday Batavia
Memories of Batavia School Years
Gifts to the Museum, Membership, Hints
One Room School House
Opera House
The Doll Maker
Mayor Schielke at Oct. Society Meeting

 


Two former teachers passed away in recent months. Jane Elwood passed away August 29th at the age 103. She came to Batavia and taught at both the Wagner Road One Room Schoolhouse and at the Hart Road School. She then spent 30 years as an elementary school teacher at Grace McWayne School. 

 

Marie Pitz passed away September 13 at the age of 97. She began teaching English and P.E. at the high school in 1936. After raising her children she returned to teaching and taught at the elementary level. What was it like for those early teachers? In 1992, former teacher Lucille Carlson shared her recollections with the Historian. 

 

MEMORIES OF BATAVIA SCHOOL YEARS

by LUCILLE McQUEEN CARLSON

 

 

Wagner Road Schoolhouse

 

I graduated from Northern Illinois State Teacher's College (now known as Northern Illinois University) in June of 1930. I was prepared to teach in the elementary grades. Teaching positions were scarce as the "jaws of the Great Depression" were beginning to come down on every village, city, and farm.  A large majority of individuals attempting to earn a living at that time would be definitely affected.  The recession of this time, 1992, is a vivid reminder of those days in the 1930's.  vol_49_2.jpg

 

As I recall nearly every family felt the financial crisis--no jobs meant no paychecks in many, many homes.  As the school year in 1930 drew to a close, I was concerned as to whether I would find a job. In the later part of April, Supt. H. C. Storm came to the college to interview teaching prospects.  He related what he needed in a teacher—someone to teach girls to sew and cook, plus remedial reading classes.  Naturally, I hesitated at that combination as I was looking for a nice "made to order" elementary grade teaching position.  

 

But jobs were scarce, and I wanted to start earning some money.  Mr. Storm looked at me and abruptly asked, "Didn't you ever make doll clothes?"  We discussed the situation and came to the conclusion that I should go home and think it over. In the way of encouragement he said if I would go to summer school and take some courses in sewing and cooking the board would pay an additional $50.

 

My starting salary was $1,000 for 9 1/2 months' work. I did go on home that afternoon. I lived about four blocks from the college. I was relating my experience to Mother and a friend when the telephone rang. I answered and a voice said, “This is Storm, what did you decide?" I think the thought flashed through my mind.  A job is a job and hesitatingly I said, "I think I'll take it." It so happened that my sister was teaching junior high home economics in Sterling, Illinois, at the time, and I felt I could rely on her for some help.  

 

Later Mr. Storm wrote saying he didn't mean to rush me, and if I wanted to change my mind to let him know. I still have the contract I signed in 1930.  It listed the weeks of service and the total yearly salary of $1,000 for 9 1/2 months.  Typed on the contract was "For Women:-- Marriage cancels this contract."  Also typed in was the stipulation that I would be paid the additional $50.00 for attending summer school. In 1930, when I came here to teach, we teachers roomed and boarded as best we could in family homes.  Renting a single room was the accepted thing to do.  A small apartment was almost unheard of. I went to live at Clara and Connie Sheahan's on Main Street.  I paid $3.00 a week, going home every Friday night which meant taking the street car to Geneva and then a North Western train to DeKalb. I roomed at Sheahan's for seven and a half years, establishing a friendship that lasted a lifetime.

 

Since we wanted a home-cooked dinner in the evening, if possible, one of the teachers persuaded an Italian lady, Mrs. DaPeola to serve our evening meal. She agreed to do it for seventy-five cents per evening meal. At first we thought that was really expensive, but we did eat there for at least a few months. Later Hiram and Bertha Nicholson and Miss Harriet Mann cooked for teachers in their homes for several years, serving all three meals each day. Miss Mann's home was at 356 First Street. Grace McWayne lived in a small section of the downstairs and ate her meals with us; so we were privileged to become acquainted with her. She was a lovely, gracious lady.  She would relate many of her experiences from her many years of teaching in Batavia.

vol_49_3.jpgDuring the depression, a pay day came; and we received no pay check.  This continued for several months. I do not know just what year this was.  We did receive scrip that drew 6% interest.  This scrip was issued in $25.00 denominations.  We had not been forewarned that we would not receive a check, so it was naturally a shock until we adjusted to the situation. It was around this time that once or twice a year we would have a "pot luck supper" at school.  

 

Mr. and Mrs. Storm and special teachers, when we had them, were invited and joined us. Miss White, as principal, planned these suppers.  Alice Gustafson was teaching in our building, and her mother usually prepared the main course. I recall in particular a "mock" chicken loaf. It was delicious.  I have the recipe, but when I make it, it doesn't taste nearly as good as hers did.

 

Often we would come to school and find a rose bud or small vase of flowers on our desk. Alice had placed it there. The Gustafsons were operating Gustafson's Gardens at that time. The whole Gustafson family was always thoughtful and generous.

 

As a result of no home economics classes during the depression, I asked for and received a third-grade teaching position that was to be available in the fall of 1934. My room was on the first floor, northwest corner of the old Louise White School. There were usually two rooms for each grade below the junior high school (6, 7, 8th-grade) level. All grades were dismissed for recess and lunch hour at the same time. The lower grades had a little longer noon hour.  As teachers we took turns supervising the playground. 

 

Miss White, as principal, went out for every recess.  She was a wonderful principal, always available when we needed her; but she never told us what to do. She had a good sense of humor always enjoying a story or joke. Miss White never criticized us but expected us to do our work as we should. We were fortunate to have Mr. George Knox, Don Clark's grandfather, for the janitor.  It was Mr. Knox who rang the big bell that called us in from the playground.  It was rung by pulling the heavy rope that hung just inside the northwest steps.  Miss White rang the tardy bell from the upstairs office.

 

This bell, that called in so many youngsters to their lessons, is silent now, having been mounted in a place of honor on the front lawn of the new Louise White School. A brass plate with the following information is at its base, placed there by the Batavia Historical Society. "This bell hung in the Louise White School from 1893 until the belfry was removed in 1961.

 

Before I came to Batavia and after I had been hired, friends and acquaintances in DeKalb, my hometown, would ask me where I was going to teach--east side or west side--and then always added, I hope not on the east side. I was as wrong as they were. I was so happy teaching in the Louise White School. I wouldn't have had it any other way. The memories of those days are always pleasant to recall as are my memories of H. C. Storm. Mr. Storm's initials were H. C. so during the years he acquired the nickname, Hurricane, Cyclone Storm.  

 

True, he was brisk and abrupt in his actions--when walking quickly through the halls it seemed his coat was straight out in back, with his hat simply plopped on his head.  But at heart, Mr. Storm was a kind and considerate man. The Batavia School system was his love and if there was any way he could improve and promote good education for the children of Batavia, he was determined to do it. Although he left Batavia and the work he dearly loved, I'm sure his heart was always here in Batavia with School District 101. Needless to say I have not forgotten the happy years I spent teaching in Batavia.

 

 

 vol_49_4.jpg

 

 

HAVE YOU PAID YOUR DUES?

 

Does the address label of your newsletter have a red dot?If so, we haven’t received your 2008 dues. They are now past due, and you should pay them right away. This is the last copy of the Historian you will receive unless you renew your membership. Dues are to be paid by December 31 every year unless you are a LIFE MEMBER. 
We have 262 Life Members, but it seems one or two are lost every quarter, and that is sad. We have 148 members who live outside of Illinois.With the price of postage going up, we have quit sending you a membership card every year when you renew, but we are grateful to receive your dues and have you as a member.
Please remember to send us a change of address if you move, as the forwarding and sending of First Class copies is very expensive.
So if you have a red dot, complete the form on the back page and send it, with your check, to Treasurer, Batavia Historical Society, P.O. Box 14, Batavia, Illinois 60510.

 

The Batavia Historian, recipient of the Illinois Historical Society’s 1997 Award for Superior Achievement, is published quarterly by the Batavia Historical Society. The editor welcomes any suggestions or material – 630-406-5274.

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.

 

Help With The Next Issue 

 

Please help us with the next issue of the Historian. Send us memories of winter time fun, whether skating on the Fox River or quarry, or sledding at the Windmill. Please send your thoughts to the editor at king60510@aol.com, or mail them to The Batavia Historian, P.O. Box 14, Batavia, IL 60510. 

 

 

 

Gifts to the Museum 
Memorials have been given from the following:
In memory of Mary Ann Hubbard from John and Joane O'Conner.
In memory of Agnes Clever from Karl and Inga Holzl, George and Sandra Batzli, and John and Sandy Wilcox.
A donation has been received from the Hanson Furnas Foundation in honor of Marilyn Robinson (Preferred charity)
The museum has acquired period furniture indirectly from Jerry and Rose Ahasic.
Recently, assistant curator Chris Winter saw the furniture at the Hi Hat House, a consignment shop in Geneva that benefits Delnor Community Hospital.
Chris purchased the furniture and the shop paid the consignment commission to the Ahasics. Upon hearing that the Museum had purchased the furniture the Ahasics gave their commission to the Historical Society. Thank you so much. 
Membership Matters 
The Historical Society welcomes:
Jody Switzer
Sandy Moreland
Mary Anne Wolcott Jordan
John and Cynthia Hansford

Sadly We Will Miss

Marie Pitz (Life member)
Dale Womack (Life member)
John Rusek
Jane Elwood 
Save the Date
Next General Meeting
December 7, 2008
Bethany Lutheran Church

Helpful Hints
When trying to date your house, the Birds Eye View map of Batavia in 1869 might be helpful to know if it was built before or after this date.  Birds Eye views were created by both artists in aerial balloons and walking artists.  If your home predates 1869, you will be surprised at the details that are shown on the enlarged view.
You can view the Batavia map by either visiting the Gustafson Research Center, searching the internet (search for “Batavia birds eye view”), or try visiting the following website: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/h?ammem/gmd:@field(NUMBER+@band(g4104b+pm001380)).  At the website, you can use the zoom feature to find if your home is portrayed. 

The One Room School House 

 

Many Batavians started school in a one room schoolhouse.  In 2003, Roberta Weaver Poole related her experiences at Nelson Grove. 

 

At one time, over 12,000 one room schoolhouses existed in Illinois. Nelson Grove, west of Batavia, was one of them."It was a wonderful experience," said Roberta Poole  "We were all very close, no one picked on anyone else."Nelson Grove School was built in 1924, a quarrystone building that was located on Deerpath Road, a half mile south of Main Street. Part of the county school system, the building originally cost $5,256.86. The first teacher was Genevieve Gahagan, who was paid $110 a month to teach the children in grades 1 through 8. 

 

The classes averaged about 15 students. "Our teacher, Miss (Georgia) Tierney, was a very good teacher," said Poole.  "Her brother, Cliff, had a grocery on the east side of Batavia  Her sister Sarah was also a teacher."Roberta Poole's father was involved with the school board and her mother had been a teacher. 

 

Both were instrumental in the initial success of Nelson Grove School.Roberta Poole had many responsibilities at the school.  It was her job to visit the school on the weekends to make sure that the stoker was filled and the fire was still burning in the furnace.  She also had to remove the "clinkers." Every morning the students would take turns bringing the water in from the well and filling the crock that was kept inside the classroom.  

 

They had to endure the inconvenience of an outhouse but other than that their education was just like those who were in the town schools.  They learned reading, writing and arithmetic.Each day after lunch the students would practice penmanship and listen to the radio.  A special 15 minute program from a Chicago radio station provided different educational programs each day.  This was quite a feat because the school didn't own a radio."We had a small radio that my mother would take to school each Monday.  Then Miss Tierney would return it at the end of the school day on Friday,"  added Poole.

 

vol_49_5.jpgThe classroom had three large slate blackboards.  The one on the back wall had a baseball diamond drawn on it.  Each day the kids would play baseball at recess if the weather was good.  After recess the students would mark the position they had just played since they rotated everyday.

 

The word IMPUDENCE also appeared on one of the large slate boards.  Students who talked or were impolite had to sign their names under the boldly written word."Nobody wanted his name on that blackboard," added Poole.A piano in the classroom offered the chance for musical instruction. 

 

Then at the end of the year, the students would join other county schools at Sugar Grove Community House for programs for parents.  Sometimes parents would visit Nelson Grove School for things like spelling bees. 

 

The Superintendent, Mr. Earl McCoy, would also make visits.  On those days, everyone really had to be on their best behavior.On Fridays, two or three students would be chosen to go into town to visit the library.  Most of the students at Nelson Grove were children of dairy farmers. 

 

Their parents couldn't always run into town. In fact, many either walked to school or were dropped off when their fathers delivered the milk.Life had a slower pace, but the kids who went to school there had an education that was memorable.

 

"We were like a family," said Poole.  "Even though we were

different ages, we learned together. "The students at Nelson Grove School learned the value of education.  Roberta Poole gave many years of service to the Batavia School District as a school secretary.  Even after retirement Roberta Poole continued to offer her talents to schools, reading to children and helping with volunteer projects at Alice Gustafson School. I'd say she learned her lessons very well.

 

Built in 1880, the Music Hall on Island Avenue provided Batavia with a place to hold public meetings and showcase area talent.  Often referred to as the Opera House, it was unique to the area since it was on the ground floor.  In 1914, it became a movie theater and continued as that type of venue into the 1950's.  The property was recently sold and will be coming down in the near future.  Do you have memories of attending movies there?  Here are Joseph Burton’s reprinted from a 1989 issue of the Historian.  

 

The Music Hall was built in 1880 on land owned by William vanNortwick.  A stock company was formed to build the Music Hall and it sold shares at $100 a piece to raise funds to build the wooden structure.  Prior to 1915, many graduations were held at the Music Hall.  The original structure seated 575 people and was popular for its ground floor auditorium. There are also records that indicate that the site was used for indoor roller skating at one time  In 1900 it was purchased by the VanNortwick Paper Company and by 1910 was rented out as a printing plant.  A fire destroyed it in 1910 but it was rebuilt on the original site.

 


MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE OPERA HOUSE . . . .
Joseph Burton 

 

In the early 1920's, when movies were black and white and silent, and Oscar was only a man's name, Batavia had a movie theater called the Opera House.  It stood on Island Avenue just south of the old First National Bank building and almost next door to the City Hall and Police Dept.  Across the street the village blacksmith carried on his mighty works.

For many, the Opera House was the setting for the first movie of their lifetime.  As I recall, it offered only one show a night.  On Saturdays, there was an afternoon matinee aimed primarily vol_49_6.jpgat kids.  This usually meant the show was a western.

Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, William S. Hart, Buck Jones - these were some of the early favorite stars. When the action on the screen got tense, the noise of the audience could be heard on Wilson Street.  The admission price was only 10¢. Popcorn, I believe, was only a nickel.  The place was usually packed!

 

Interestingly enough, the entire operation was conducted by a family named Eberman.  Mrs. Eberman sat in the box office, took your dime and gave you an admission ticket.  She was a bright and friendly lady.

Upstairs in the back of the theater, her son Gussie was in charge of projecting the pictures.  He changed the reels, saw that they appeared in the right order, and when something went wrong he put in a slide that said something like, "Sorry - we'll be back in a minute."

The third member of the family was Izora Eberman, the daughter. She had bright blond hair and sat way down in front with her piano.  Here she provided continuous mood music to match the action on the screen: "Hearts and Flowers" for the love scenes, "Ride of the Valkyries" for the rootin', tootin', shootin' scenes, etc. Hers was a job that required intense concentration and musicianship, and she did her job well.

 

As time went on, the old Opera House changed hands and names several times.  Remodeled and refurbished, it next became known as the Vanity.  Ultimately in 1936 it became the Capitol which lasted until 1957.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


THE DOLL MAKER

A True Story of LOUISE McCOLLUM

LOUISE SEABURY and JEAN KOMAIKO

Donated by Candy Nelson 

 

Sometimes a story comes from far away places.  A small gift enclosure led writers Louise Seabury and Jean Komaiko to Batavia in 1958. Their visit resulted in this beautiful story about local doll maker, Louise McCollum THE GRANDMOTHER WHO LOVES LITTLE GIRLS

 

Have you ever met a grown woman who really believes in fairyland? I have! A great grandmother of 86, she still spends part of each day stitching exquisite doll clothes so that little girls all over the country can share her enthusiasm for make-believe. I discovered her several years ago through sad but strange circumstances. A close friend of mine passed away, leaving among her possessions a tiny doll with a complete wardrobe. "I need your help," her husband told me. "I want to find the child for whom this gift was intended. Unfortunately my wife never got around to addressing the package. My only clue is the card in the box. It reads: "To a little girl who loves dolls from a grandmother who loves little girls ... Louise McCollum."

That card eventually led me to a house in Batavia, Illinois, where geraniums dance at the kitchen windows, where three generations of children smile out of picture frames, where Louise McCollum lives. She is whitehaired, stooped, and her skilled hands are gnarled with the years, but her brown eyes twinkle with the merriment of a child. As she says herself, "I haven't had much time to think about age. You see, keeping little girls happy fills my days."

"Maybe making doll clothes seems a little undignified - like taking in wash, I don't know, but I do know how useful and young my hobby keeps me at 86. Her face crinkles with a smile, "if it weren't for dolls and little girls, I might be out on the highway getting into real mischief." vol_49_7.jpg

Pin money is only a small part of the fun for Louise McCollum, for dolls are her window to the world, her tie to young people everywhere. Upstairs in the room where she works are stacks of letters from small friends in Alaska, Tokyo, and from all over the United States.

“Thank you for my doll and clothes,” a child writes, “How did you know I wanted one so badly?”

"Because," Louise McCollum answers, "every little girl wants and deserves a doll."

"It's spring," writes another child, "and I'm taking your dollie for her first outing."

"Good," comes the reply, "and be sure to notice the lilacs everywhere."

With many of the children Louise McCollum has corresponded for years. Some of them ... particularly the sick ones ... receive extra dividends from time to time. Last winter one little girl found a tiny knit jacket in the mail. "With winter coming along," Louise McCollum wrote, "I thought your dollie might need this."

 

Letters come from the illustrious too, for, in addition to the paid orders she fills, the sick children she remembers, Louise McCollum frequently sends her beautiful dolls as gifts to adults she admires. "Right now I'd like to give one to Preston Bradley for his grandchildren. I'm so grateful to him," she says. "I can't get to church anymore, but by dialing my radio on Sundays, I get Dr. Bradley's best sermons right here at home."

 

Thanks have come to the 'grandmother who loves little girls' from Helen Hayes, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Margaret McBride, and many others. Recently a very special letter arrived. "Dear Mrs. McCollum," it read. "My granddaughters will be simply ecstatic when they receive this wonderful gift. I know they will have a grand time trying the many adorable ensembles on the sweet doll. Thank you for remembering my little ones in this special way Mamie D. Eisenhower." "What a wonderful time I have had!" Louise McCollum says. "How many friends I have made, and what huge dividends I've collected from such a small investment! As a child I could never have dreamed how much joy my sewing would bring me." "Lou", as her parents called the youngest of their five children, grew up in a big old house on the south side of Chicago.

 

When she was tiny, one of her older brothers built her a little stool with a quilted top and a sewing box inside. Daily she would pull this up to her mother's chair and the two would sew. As a five-year old Louise cut and sewed her doll a Polonaise, the fashionable draped dress of that era. "Other children were asked to play piano or sing for guests," Louise laughs, "but people always said to me, 'all right, Lou, get out your needle and sew for us'. "My talent was pretty ordinary, for most girls could sew in those days. But fortunately my parents believed in using the gifts one had for other people." The philosophy of 'doing for others' was first im­pressed upon the little girl on a street car ride she took with her mother. Nose pressed against the window, she noticed a huge building with an iron fence around it. "What's that, Mother?" "The Home for the Friendless, my dear.

 

Children who have no families live there. I want you to remember always what is written over the door." Louise, just learning to read, sounded out the letters: "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord". Later they visited the Home, bringing little gifts and sweets. To a small girl, accustomed to the warmth of a united family, it was quite a shock when the nurses brought in a basket that had been left on the doorstep. Inside was a tiny abandoned baby with a card on his wrist saying, "Call me Ernest". Several years later Louise became ill and spent most of a year home from school. ''I'm so bored," she complained to her father, ''I'd like something inter­esting to do." "Well now," he said, "how would you like to make some doll clothes for the children at the Home for the Friendless?" "I'd love it." "Tell you what," her father said, "I'll buy you as many dolls as you can dress. Just give me your order." A few days later a large carton arrived from Marshall Field & Company. Inside were 100 little dolls with china heads. vol_49_8.jpg

 

"I did pretty well," Louise now laughs, "before the year was up, I had dressed 85 of them in underwear, bonnets and dresses." Today, almost seventy years later, the McCollum dolls, though still small, are far more professional. Each comes with six dresses, pajamas, underwear, hat, coat, pinafore, and each garment is mounted on a frilled doilie. Paying customers are fairly new to Louise McCollum. Throughout the period she was growing up, raising her own four children (and helping to raise five others) she sewed and made doll clothes as gifts for all the little girls in her life: daughter, nieces, and neighborhood friends.

 

Sewing and giving prompted her to teach the girls in her Sunday school class to cut up old flannel union suits, fashion them into baby shirts, and ship them to Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, the famous medical missionary in Labrador. "I can't tell you," he wrote the teacher and her students, "what those little shirts mean to women who ordinarily wrap their babies in animal skins." For almost sixty years Louise McCollum stitched tiny dresses for the sheer love of it.

 

Then one day, quite by accident, she became a very small businesswoman. It happened one summer when her daughter was working in a gift shop. The mother walked in for a visit and noticed a doll with a very soiled dress hanging from a hook.

 

"How would you like me to take that doll home and clean her up?" she asked her daughter.

"Why don't you just give her to some neighborhood child!" Walking home Louise McCollum formulated a plan. Secretly she went off to her sewing room and began making a tiny dress. The next morning she was back at the shop, with the doll and a half dozen little dresses packed in a painted cigar box. "They're beautiful, Mother," her daughter said, "but how can we pay you. The doll belongs to the shop!" "Never mind, dear, 1 just want to see if anyone will be interested."

 

A day later the phone rang. "The little doll in the window would be a perfect gift for my granddaughter," the woman said. Someone else called, bought a doll, showed her to friends at a card party. Within a week that whole foursome had placed orders. Suddenly Louise McCollum was in business. Word spread and orders came from everywhere. A businessman neighbor bought a doll and on the sly took it to the buyer at Marshall Field & Company's toy department. The tables were suddenly switched. Half a century back Louise's father had bought one hundred dolls from Field's to occupy a bored little girl. Now Field's began buying dolls and clothes from Louise McCollum. Then a salesman, touring the country with a van load of toys, discovered the dolls and ordered them.

 

For a period of years Louise McCollum needed three helpers to keep up with her orders. One day a letter came from a gentleman in Detroit. "I was visiting friends," the man wrote. "They showed me a little suitcase with your doll and lovely dresses inside. 1 would like to order sets exactly like them to give to the little girls in my hospital." The author of that letter was Mr. Henry Ford I, and over a period of years he gave dozens of McCollum dolls as gifts to the children in his Dearborn hospital. Thirty years have passed since then.

 

Louise McCollum has had to ease up considerably ... no more orders from Field's nor Ford nor country caravans.  She saves her eyes for her work, but she can only work a few hours each day.  Even so, at 86, one of the most satisfying chapters in her full life has just begun. Today a good share of Louise McCollum's talents go toward bringing happiness to sick little girls at the Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. An interested friend pays the cost of the materials. Louise McCollum sews and packs the dolls and dresses into tiny suitcases, and one of the great heart surgeons in the United States is "the dolly man" who chooses the children most in need of a touch of fairyland.

 

vol_49_9.jpg

"I think," Louise McCollum says, "that this is the most important role my doll clothes have played." Louise McCollum can't visit the hospital, but the doctor has told her about many of the children who receive the dolls. The little girl, so poor, with gratitude so deep that she could only glance from her mother to her surgeon to her doll in disbelief. The child, hideously burned, who somehow survived 20 skin grafts.

 

The children dying of cancer and leukemia for whom a doll means a last chance at make believe. The little girl, starving for oxygen, with lips the color of grape juice, who was expected to die, but who lived through heart surgery and left the hospital with her tiny doll clutched to her small red coat.

 

Some of the children have written themselves to tell Louise McCollum the sheer joy a doll brings to children enduring poverty or suffering pain. One little girl wrote to say that she had gone home to organize her friends into a sewing club to make doll clothes for sick children. Another child, still able to smile after ten serious operations, regularly posts her aging friend on the chief events of her young life. "Yesterday I brought my doll in for her check-up with the doctor.

 

Thank goodness you sent her that little knit jacket. It kept her from catching cold." It has been a long trip through time from the days when a little girl pressed her nose against the street car window and inquired about the big brick orphanage, but the philosophy of giving and making for others, and the concern Louise McCollum has always had for children has reached full flower in the doll clothes she makes today for the Children's Memorial Hospital. It's been a long trip through time for me, too, since I first went to Batavia, Illinois, to meet the grandmother who loves little girls. I realize now, looking back, that that day was one of rare privilege for me, for Louise McCollum is surely one of the most remarkable women I have ever known.

 

 


Recollections of 28 Years as Mayor
In the 28 years of being mayor, Jeffery Schielke has had quite a few encounters with Batavia’s history. At the October 12 meeting of the Batavia Historical Society, the Mayor gave a presentation about some of those moments. 

 

“Of all the tools that I have, having a history of the community is the most valuable that I could possess,” said Mayor Jeff Schielke.  “History and Government work together.” The mayor told members of the Batavia Historical Society how important his knowledge of history was when dealing with visitors to Batavia. The most visited site in Batavia is Bellevue, the place where Mary Todd Lincoln recuperated after the death of her husband.  Considered by the mayor as the “Queen of Batavia,” Bellevue has had more visitors to Batavia than any other singular location. The mayor and the late Bill Wood once spoke to a busload of Brits that made the trek to Batavia as part of a Lincoln tour. “They remarked that this is where Abraham Lincoln stood,” said the mayor.  “We had to correct that because he had already died.” The mayor also spoke of the years that Bellevue was known as Fox Hill in the 1960’s.  A home for unwed mothers, Fox Hill left many offspring without information about their birth mothers.

 

“I had one young girl who was trying to track down her birth mother and she went to the library and checked the yearbooks,” said the Mayor.  “I knew the girl she was researching and I knew that it wasn’t accurate.  About three months later there was another birth with the same name.” The Mayor also commented on the quality of products that have come out of Batavia’s businesses. “In my first year in office I received a letter from the outback in Australia looking for a part for a Challenge Windmill,” he said. 

 

Closer to home, he received a request in 1987 for a part for a U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Co. water tower in Lena, Illinois, built in 1896.  The folks at Larson Becker helped with that request and the water tower still stands today.  There are also Batavia water towers in Capron, IL, Benton, Wisconsin, and Remington, Indiana. Mayor Schielke’s involvement with a Regional Transportation Committee has seen him rubbing elbows with Mayor Richard M. Daley.  Mayor Daley recalls Batavia fondly from fishing with his father and brother at Mooseheart Lake and visiting Abhalter’s grocery for snacks. Mayor Schielke also recalled meeting Dick Biondi, the WLS disc jockey, at a local store where he learned that Mr. Biondi’s wife had relatives in Batavia that he had known all his life.

 

After a major fire in Crescent City, Illinois a request came in for a part from the Batavia Body Company for a truck that held a water tank.  Mayor Schielke remarked how proud he is that so many Batavia products have stood the test of time. The mayor also shared a bit of bridge history and a few anecdotal stories about other visitors to our fair city. The mayor ended with a short movie clip of John F. Kennedy’s visit to Batavia that was taken by the late Jim Hubbard.  A gift to the city from Ron Hubbard, the clip will be featured on the city website in the near future.  Check it out.