THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Fifty-Six

No. 1

Spring 2015

 


 

GOING TO THE THIRD GRADE ON THE THIRD RAIL
 by Terry Taylor, Class of 1960 BHS
 
 
Sometimes when I drive South on Route 25, past Funway and over the bridge, I look west past the Glenwood Park sign and an old memory returns. In 1951, my mother, sister and I, had moved into one of the Glenwood Park’s remodeled barracks. As a third grader, one of the most vivid memories I have of that time, was that I had to take the trolley car into Batavia to go to school. I would walk down to the Glenwood trolley stop, raise the signal, wait for the trolley car and ride it to Wilson Street. I was in the third grade at the Louise White School, on Washington Ave., which was a three block walk. Then, after school, I would have to do the reverse process to go back to Glenwood Park.
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I remember watching the conductor switching the electric supply from the third rail, alongside the tracks, to the overhead supply lines, by using a rope attached to the spring-loaded rooftop adapter.

The city required these overhead lines within the city limits to avoid serious accidents/deaths from people attempting to crossover the tracks. On the outward trip, he had to reverse this procedure somewhere before the Glenwood Park stop.

Beginning the next year, the Batavia school system began bus routes and I no longer had to take the third rail to go to school. The new route was to pick-up all students on the southwest side of Batavia, including those in Marywood. Glenwood Park were the first students to be picked up in the morning and the last students to be dropped off at night. My family moved to town in 1953 and I never had to ride the trolley nor the bus again.

Glenwood Park started in 1901, as the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad Company purchased 24 acres of land in Batavia to build a powerhouse. The excess land was wooded and became a picnic retreat for city dwellers. By 1903, the park grounds featured a restaurant, ice cream parlor, check room plus picnic tables and benches. In 1904, they added a dance hall and a refreshment hall and the grounds were expanded to 100 acres of woods. During this time, most railroads created popular destinations, in order to generate more revenue. This concept wasn’t unique to the Aurora, Elgin and Chicago and other trolley operators such as the Aurora, Yorkville and Morris Railroad, which established Riverview Park, South of Aurora and the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric established Ravinia Park, north of Chicago.

In 1913, the Fair Department Store, from Chicago, held its annual picnic at Glenwood Park. So many people participated in this picnic, that the Aurora Elgin and Chicago was forced to use 63 cars, operated in (3) six-car and (9) five-car trains. These trains left the Chicago terminal every half hour from 8:15 AM till noon & return cars left Glenwood Park from 4:40 PM until 9:40 PM. The empty cars were driven unto a parallel siding alongside the main track. Approximately 5,000 people were enjoying that beautiful summer day, more than doubling the population of Batavia.
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The decline of Glenwood’s attraction, began in the 1920’s, when more people were driving their own cars and in 1934, the railroad sold it to the State of Illinois. In July 1934, the park was converted into a transient camp by the federal government. This was part of Pres. Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” program, to help the country through the great depression. Twenty-four dormitories, a restaurant and a recreation building were built. Washrooms were constructed, modem plumbing and showers were installed. The men who inhabited this camp were used on Public Works Administration and the Civilian Works Administration projects in and around Batavia. By 1937 the last of the 480 men stationed there were released and the camp remained idle throughout World War II.

The Glenwood Park trolley station continued to be used until September 20, 1953. Service hours after that were reduced to weekday rush hours only. The trolley service shut down completely on July 3, 1957.
 

 
 DID you KNOW?
 
We all complain about our weather without realizing that although it may be cold and snowy and we have decent, heated homes and
our roads are plowed and cleared within hours, life was not always considered easy, for instance; life in the 1500s, in merry old England.

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good in June. However, they were starting to smell, so the brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide their body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Houses had thatched roofs with thick straw piled high with no wood underneath. It was the only place for small animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained, it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. There was nothing to stop these from falling into the house.

This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess you up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That is how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt floors, hence the saying “dirt poor”. The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread their thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened up the door it would start to fall outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance way and hence the saying a “threshold”.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock out the drinkers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait to see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of “holding a wake.”
 
 

 
The History of the Batavia Powerhouse
by Terry Taylor. Class of 1960 BHS
 
 In April 1901 the promoters of the inter-urban trolley line had completed the purchase of 28 acres of land South of Batavia, which would be used for the new steam generating powerhouse. The remainder of this property became Glenwood Park. The contract was given to General Electric to supply generators, transformers and converters necessary for the new powerhouse.

In August 1901, the management of the Elgin Aurora & Southern Traction Company announced the construction of a magnificent new powerhouse at Batavia, which would serve both the Elgin, Aurora and Southern lines in the Fox River Valley, as well as the new Aurora, Elgin & Chicago interurban line to Chicago. A dam was constructed to create large pool of water, from which, water was drawn into the power plant. This water was then super-heated by the coal- fired boilers to create steam, which was used to turn the electrical generators.

In 1906, the EA&S would merge and formed the Aurora, Elgin & Chicago. Work already had been started on blasting the solid rock which was serve as a foundation. The powerhouse would be constructed of Batavia quarried limestone and brick. The original smokestack would be 220 feet high, built of firebrick and would cost $20,000. Steam powered generators would develop 10,000 HP, and produce 25 cycle, 600 volt direct current electricity used by the trolleys. The coal used for operating the boilers, would arrive in coal cars and would run up an incline to be dumped into a hopper. The coal would then be carried by a pneumatic feeder line from the hopper to the boilers. By 1910, some 65 customers along the third-rail, had tapped into the 25 cycle, 600 volt supply. The revenue from an average farm customer, with a small motor installation, was about $5.00 per month.
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In 1909-10, the powerhouse was expanded and a second chimney was added. The new one would be 235 feet tall. By 1914, the powerhouse had a capacity of 12,000 HP and used 300 tons of coal daily and employed 50 men. The 25 cycle, direct-current, electricity generated by the plant, was more than was required for the operation of the interurban trolley lines and AE&C began to sell electricity to surrounding communities. Small businesses and farmers along the railway could tap into the supply lines to run pumps, motors and used for lighting. The major cities supplied were Elgin and West Chicago and at least five smaller communities which distributed it for lighting and miscellaneous uses. The cinders from the power house were used as ballast along the rail lines.

In 1927, the direct-current, coal powered, steam generators, were shut down due to rising costs and a less expensive option was adopted. The DC (direct current) system was replaced by using frequency converters to convert the 60 cycle, AC (alternating current), supplied by the Public Service Company’s huge, Joliet Generating Station, into the 25 cycle, DC (direct current), required by the trolley system. This Joliet station began to supply all the AC electricity required for the Fox Valley and the surrounding communities, from the vast system of overhead power lines, radiating outward from Joliet. All communities and industrial companies had switched from DC (direct current) to the more modern, AC (alternating current), for all their lighting and power requirements.

The power house was finally shut down prior to 1948, when all 25 cycle substations were converted to 60 cycle electricity. In the spring of 1965, dynamite charges were set off and the old powerhouse, with its two massive chimneys, came tumbling down. Eventually, the site was cleared and became an area for the development of light industrial companies and the Fun-Way Family Entertainment complex developed by Richard Buri.
 
 

 
 
The last in the series of Helen Bartelt Anderson’s Memories of my Batavia
Edited by her son, James Anderson, class of 1958 BHS
 
 After threshing, our thoughts turned to school. The one-room schoolhouse had to be cleaned before the start of school. My mother usually got the job. It was a big one - sweep down cob webs, wash woodwork, clean heating stove, wash windows inside and out, wash and iron curtains and hang up, dust books, wash blackboards, desks and floor - an all day job. Even then I was big enough to help a little. The job paid $5, which mother was happy to earn.

Our one room school was always a lot of fun. In cold weather, our teacher went to school an hour earlier to start the fire. She made hot chocolate for us when it was real cold, heating it on top of the heating stove. There was a coal shed in a room behind the schoolroom. Toilets were back against the fence - a cold walk at recess or noon. Drinking water had to be pumped, also outside - different kids were assigned to keep the water pail filled. We each had our own aluminum cup for drinking and we each had our own towel. There was one wash bowl and one bar of soap. Life was easy and good. “Andy Over the Schoolhouse” was a favorite game, also “Last Couple Out”, when there was snow it was “Lox and Geese”.
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Christmas was the best holiday, of course. Mother made fruit cakes and mince pies. She and dad went shopping in Aurora. We went too, in order to see an animated Santaandreindeer on a shelf at S encenbaugh ’ s. When a sale was made at Sencenbaugh’s, the clerk put the money in a small metal container and it was sent on a wire track to the office on the 2nd floor balcony. If change was due the customer, it was sent back in the little barrel-like container. Sencenbaugh’s Dept. Store was pure magic to me.

Most of mother’s Christmas shopping was done from the Sears mail order catalog. When the package arrived, it was accompanied by much mystery. The contents quickly disappeared - I never did find the hiding place.

Santa always seemed to come at different times. One Christmas Eve after supper, my mother said, “Did you hear sleigh bells? Now you stay here and I’ll look in the back room (parlor) and see if I can see anything”. We heard a window slam - she came running out and said “He’s been here”. We didn’t have a fireplace, so Santa had to come through a window, which was left unlocked. I never knew how they got the Christmas tree up and decorated without us knowing it - gifts were under the tree - unwrapped. I can barely remember one Christmas morning when my dad came in from milking. We went into that same back parlor and the Christmas tree stood all decorated. It had real candles which mother and dad carefully lit.

We did not always get to Sunday school and church when I was little. There are so many things that come up on a farm, regular anything is impossible. It may be a sick cow or animal, a new calf, broken fences, or whatever. Although church attendance was not a regular thing in our lives, our Christian faith was. It wasn’t something we talked about but more the way our parents lived and taught us to live. Like the love that filled our home, it was strong and beautiful.
 
My parents were ambitious and worked and saved to make improvements. Filling kerosene lamps gave way to Coleman lanterns, which gave very bright light and eliminated cleaning the lamp globes. Soon, my father heard of Delco Lighting Systems and installed a generator in our basement. I remember a wall of glass blocks filled with distilled water. I never knew the mechanics, but it provided us with electricity. The batteries were charged only when needed. If someone forgot to run the generator, we had very dim lights for homework or reading.

In summer, our cook stove gave off a lot of heat. Mother had a three burner kerosene stove that was smelly and caused her much frustration. It used asbestos rings, but the tiny pipes which led to each burner were always getting clogged or the rings wearing out or something. The stove had to sit absolutely level. Dad ordered a Skelly gas stove with bottled gas. Mother liked it but only kept it a short time because of the expense of operating it. I never heard her complain, well, maybe just once. My dad had automatic watering bowls installed in the cow barn and she said “we don’t even have running water in the house”.

My parents belonged to a Community Club - a group of farmers who got together about once a month. They always had a program with music, a speaker and refreshments. Dad was made president at one time. We kids liked especially the meetings at the County Home. They had long hallways and stairs to run up and down. Once a year they had an oyster stew supper at the County Home. Sometimes we would see a few of the inmates and would run for our lives. We didn’t understand their conditions, but only knew we were afraid of them.
Mother belonged to the Home Bureau. She always baked something for the Fair. The fair was a big thing for all of us. Roger and I belonged to 4-H clubs. My first leader was Bertha Kline and later, Margaret Hawks. We learned sewing and cooking. My brother, Roger and I, belonged to a group that raised animals. My pig, Ruby, was entered in the 4-H competition at Central States Fair in Aurora. Ruby was black and always hungry, so I’d feel sorry for her and give her extra ears of corn. Ruby won 4th prize. Roger’s litter won the Grand Championship.

Roger and I stayed at the Fair during the day to care for our animals. Ruby didn’t require much care so I spent a lot of time watching the “hawkers”. One booth sold compacts, jewelry, etc. I wanted one of those compacts so bad that I watched for my chance and took a black one with a gold medallion on the cover. I was so afraid of getting caught that I took off the pretty medallion when I got home and painted the compact a light blue, which was the only color enamel I could find in the garage. Mother never questioned me about it, but I learned my lesson. Guilt is a hard thing to live with. I have never stolen another thing.

Next came 8th grade graduation. Mother took me to Singer’s Dress Shop in Elgin to buy my dress. A store - bought dress! It was so beautiful and of lavender voile with much ecru lace and a lavender satin sash. She also bought my first pair of silk stockings and tan shoes with 1” heels. I took my 8th grade exam at the Court House in Geneva along with all the other rural kids in Kane County. Graduation was also held there.

There were probably 80-100 kids from rural Kane County who graduated that night. There was a Shakespeare play - Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed by some of the kids and I hadn’t had a chance to audition. I felt my new outfit gave me more confidence, but I certainly would never have made it as an actress.

I had good grades in our country school and I thought that high school would be easy. However, all the other kids had had Algebra in the 8th grade. I didn’t even know what it was about. I somehow pulled through the class with a D, probably through the kindness of Mr. Whittaker. He tried to help me, but it was like he was talking Greek. I had a few good friends who didn’t mind that my clothes were not from 5th Avenue and my dear Clifford - even as a freshman, he saw something in me that attracted him.

This attraction resulted in their marriage on 11 September 1937 and they celebrated their 70th anniversary in 2007.
 
 
 
 
 
 The museum is offering three great programs this spring
 
13th Annual Lincoln Dinner Theater

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In commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War (April 9, 1865) and Abraham Lincoln’s death (April 15, 1865) the museum presents the 13th Annual Lincoln Dinner Theater on Sunday, April 19, at 5:30 p.m. Max & Donna Daniels will present “An Evening with Mr. & Mrs. Lincoln” which takes place in the White House at the end of the Civil War. The one act play delves deep into the responsibilities of the Presidency and the personal traumas suffered by the family. The Dinner Theater will be held at Lincoln Inn Banquets, 1345 S. Batavia Ave. Tickets are available at the Batavia Park District office and the Batavia Depot Museum. Ticket price is $38 - includes buffet dinner and performance.
 

The 150th Anniversary of President Lincoln’s Funeral Train and its final route.

Our next Historical Society’s program will be Sunday, April 26, 2:00 PM, in the Batavia City Chambers. There will be no charge. It will be presented by Mr. Bill Worst and he will have a Power Point presentation, talking about the history of the Lincoln Funeral Train and the historic undertaking in the re-creation of this train.
The recreation of the historic Lincoln Funeral Train and its’ route from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Illinois, was an undertaking of historic proportions. The historical research, the intricate details of building the train, the planning and execution for transporting the train across the country and coordinating with cities along the routes will involve a cast of hundreds.
In early 1865, the United States Military Railroad, delivered to President Lincoln, a private railroad car, named the United States. President Lincoln never use the railroad car while he was alive. On April 21, 1865. President Lincoln’s body and the body of his son Willie, left Washington, D.C., in this car, which was had been modified to serve as his funeral car. Over 12 days, the United States traveled about 1,600 miles, to more than 160 communities, carrying the martyred President, back home to Springfield, Illinois. In 12 major cities, formal funerals were held and many more memorial services were organized in communities along the train’s route.

WATCH FOR THIS YEAR’S 9th ANNUAL QUILT SHOW JULY 17-19

The theme this year will be patriotic, depicting the 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the 70th anniversary of the ending of WWII. It will be held on July 17-19, 2015 at Shannon Hall and tickets will be sold at the door. More information will be furnished in the next edition of this newsletter.

THE EARLY STAGECOACH AND MAIL SERVICE FOR THE FOX RIVER COMMUNITIES

This article will appear in the next edition with land plat maps showing the early stagecoach routes.
 
 
 
News from the Museum
 by Chris Winter
 
It’s been a long cold winter, but spring is just around the corner. Get ready to shed your coat, hat and boots and take a walk over to the Batavia Depot Museum for a visit. The museum will be open beginning March 9 with a new exhibit, Ticket to the Past, featuring the role that the railroad played in the development of Batavia. Visitors can see railroad artifacts and photos that have never been on display, learn about how railroads played an important part in the Civil War, and children may dress up as a railroad worker in the interactive corner of the exhibit. Museum hours are: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Tours can be made by appointment by calling 630-406-5274.
 

The museum is offering two great programs this spring. Join us on Sunday, March 15 at 2:00 p.m. as we Celebrate Women’s History with a program about Victorian Mourning Customs. Mourning during the 19th century in America wasn’t just a way of feeling, it was an art. Donna Daniels will explore the intricacies of Victorian mourning in her program, The Woman in Black. The program will be in Shannon Hall, 14 N. Van Buren and the fee is $6.00.


In commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War (April 9, 1865) and Abraham Lincoln’s death (April 15, 1865) the museum presents the 13th Annual Lincoln Dinner Theater on Sunday, April 19, at 5:30 p.m. Max & Donna Daniels will present “An Evening with Mr. & Mrs. Lincoln” which takes place in the White House at the end of the Civil War. The one act play delves deep into the responsibilities of the Presidency and the personal traumas suffered by the family. The Dinner Theater will be held at Lincoln Inn Banquets, 1345 S. Batavia Ave. Tickets are available at the Batavia Park District office and the Batavia Depot Museum. Ticket price is $38 - includes buffet dinner and performance.

 
 

 
From the President
by Bob Peterson
 
The Batavia Historical Society would like to acknowledge the following donors in memory of Bruce Patzer and Ray Patzer:
 
Adam and Julie Eggleston, John and Elizabeth Lindquist, Eva Peterson, Paul and June Newman, Dorothy Patzer, Lester and Bonnie Hines, Peggy Hawse, William and Linda Ahlgren, Gregory and Sharon Cryer, Sven and Pat Flodstrom, Joan Horvath-Kruger, Robin Albright, Robert and Jane Kuhn, Class of 1970 BHS, Sven and Anne Flodstrom, Gordon and Kathleen Hard, Mary Caba, Denis and Nancy Bowron, Martin Johnson, Sally Stratton, Paul and Bonnie Stratton, Margaret Spencer, the Patzer Family trust, per Cyndee Patzer, Sandra and Gerald Stenson, Florence Olson & daughters; Sandy and Al Lambert, Laurel and Larry Larson & Patty and Bart Neri, Nita Chevalier, James and Sharon Hartman, Mary Pavlak and Betty Hansford.

Also, Dain Meyer in memory of Patricia Meyer.

We also want to welcome the following new members:

Michael and Barbara Brady, Kathy Vranek, Maxine Dreymiller, Corliss Weaver, Larry Scholl and Garlan Scollon.