Volume Thirty

No. 5


March 1989




The Annual Meeting of the Society will be the customary Holiday Pot Luck Dinner. Mark your calendars now so as not to miss the meeting:


Date and

Time:             Sunday, December 3, 1989 at 5:00 p.m.


Place:            Bethany Lutheran Church, Fellowship Hall

Dinner:          Please bring a dish to pass and your own dishes, and silverware. Meat, rolls and coffee will be furnished.




The “Inspirations”, a choral group from the Evangelical Covenant Church, will provide an enjoyable musical program.




A short business meeting will precede the program. Included will be the election of the vice-president(s), corresponding secretary; historian, and two trustees for two year terms.



This quiz looks at Batavia 50 years ago so think back to 1939 and see how well you can do.


1.  In 1939 Batavia had 4 automobile dealerships. Where were they and what make of cars did each sell?


2.  In 1939 seven food stores including 3 national chains were located along one city block. Which block was it and how many of the stores can you name?


3.  In 1939 there were 4 gas stations along 1 city block.  Which block was it and what brands were sold at them? (Note: there were six other stations in or next to Batavia as well.) 


Joe Burton


In the pioneer days of Batavia, there were only three ways to get out of town ... on foot, on horseback, or by boat or canoe on the river. Autos, trains and busses did not exist, nor did bicycles. As the years passed and the town grew, mass transportation came into being. Soon you could go to Aurora or Elgin by trolley car, or to Chicago by the C.A.&.E. (electric) or the Chicago & Northwestern (steam).


The trolley, or streetcar, was a thing of rare beauty. Each car seated about 40 persons and had a crew of two. Starting in 1896, it came into Batavia from Aurora on the west bank of the river, more or less following the highway until it reached the south city limits of Batavia. There it moved to the center of Batavia Avenue, stopping to pick up passengers at any and all street corners.  When it reached the north city limits it again moved to the right side of the highway on its way to Geneva, St. Charles, and eventually Elgin. Double tracks in the downtown area permitted north and southbound cars to pass each other.


Each trolley car had a two-man crew: a motorman in the front who operated the car and sounded ta-dong, ta-dong, ta-dong on the warning bell when necessary and a conductor who stood on the rear platform, collected fares and gave the go-ahead signal to the motorman when all passengers were aboard.  


The fare to Aurora was 10 cents; to North Aurora 5 cents. Service began in 1896 and ended in 1931 when busses took over the route. Chicago & Northwestern steam train service to and from Chicago was something else. They were pulled by puffing, snorting black steam engines with coal tender attached.


The passenger cars, usually five or six in number, were painted a bright canary yellow. They were steam heated and were not air conditioned. Coming from Chicago you boarded at the Madison St. station. From there the train went west to Geneva where it switched off the main line and winded its way down the west river bank to Batavia and eventually Aurora.  

Service was friendly and personal. I recall a train that reached Batavia in the late afternoon from Chicago.  When its steam whistle sounded as it approached, the city people would say, "Here comes the Whittenmeyer Special"---named in honor of the engineer or conductor, I forget which. During the depression, the round trip fare between Batavia and Chicago was $1.05.  C&NW service began in 1895 with 20 trains daily in and out of Batavia. Service ended in 1934.


Finally, there was also the CA&E---sometimes known as the "3rd Rail", the “Roaring Elgin", or "The Vomit Comet". To board the train to Chicago, one went to the east end of the Wilson St. bridge, descended some stairs to a platform just above the river. There an electric railroad car was waiting.  Once underway, it went south past Glenwood Park, then slightly east to a spot in the country called Eola Junction.  Here passengers were transferred to the main line trains which connected Aurora and Chicago.  


In 1933, a special round trip fare from Batavia to Chicago was $1.35. It is said that this short run was much sought after by engineers and conductors.  And why not! For out in the country at the Junction was rich farm land where crews could plant and maintain vegetable gardens.


At the Batavia end, one could fish and bring in catfish, bullheads, carp and an occasional white or smallmouth bass. CA&E service began in 1900 and ended in 1957.


A personal note with Batavia roots. In 1852, my great-grandfather, his wife and three children, on their way to an ultimate home in Batavia, left Liverpool, England in a sailing vessel. According to his diary, after a rather stormy voyage they landed in New York 31 days later. How times have changed.


In the late 1970's my wife and I flew from London to New York on a Concorde jet plane in less than four hours. I thought of my ancestors often on that flight.


(This contribution from Joe Burton, as were his previous ones, is appreciated. He also wished to give credit to Steve Lusted who provided many of the facts---fares, schedules, etc.---for the article.)



The following quotation comes from an 1896 advertising booklet issued by Batavia merchants which dealt with various topics related to horses. The quotation is interesting in light of Joe Burton's article on how various forms of motorized transportation came to Batavia starting about the same time as the booklet was printed.


"As for electric and other motors that we have read so much about giving speed trials allover the country, and the prediction that they will take the place of horses for commercial purposes in our cities, I want to say to you that this can never be done, as steam or electric motors can never be used in our streets, as they would cause great destruction of human life, and the city authorities would never allow them to be used in the cities, so this is out of the question. 


Then comes the bicycle, which has worked some injury to our liveries, but horses that are used in liveries are but a drop in the bucket, and will never be missed in the trade. Bicycle riders are a class of people that could hardly afford the expense of a horse."


from Chicago Evening Journal, January, 1896


Some of the advertisements in the booklet were for:


Bashaw Stable;

Quinn Brothers Harness Shop;

A. G. Treman & Sons (horse shoeing a specialty);

Henry Breide, veterinary surgeon;

Vandervolgan and Rachielles (carriages, buggies & wagons);

and A. J. Anderson (high and medium grade wheels).





1.  The 4 automobile dealerships were:


(a) Anderson Motors at old livery barn next to the pond (present Harris Bank location) which sold Plymouth and Desoto;


(b) Avenue Chevrolet at the corner of Batavia Ave. & Houston St.;


(c) Favorite Motor Sales at the corner of Batavia Ave. & First St. (present location of Deluxe Cleaners and Abe & Doc's) 

     which sold Plymouth and Chrysler; 


(d) Main Street Motors in garage on Main St. just behind Robbins Florists which sold Ford.  



2.  The block with 7 food stores was on East Wilson St. between the river and River St.

The three national chains were A & P, National Tea, and Kroger.  

Also in that block were the Royal Blue Store, Skirmont's Market, Kunches Grocery & Market, and Community Cash Market.


3.  The block with 4 gas stations was S. Batavia Ave. between First and Main Sts.  

The stations were Carlson's Texaco, O.T. Benson's Phillips 66, Omick's Sinclair, and Maurie's Standard.  

Other stations were located at S.W. corner of Wilson and Washington (Texaco); N.E. corner of Wilson & Prairie (Pure Oil); S.W. corner of Wilson and Prairier (Deep Rock); Avenue Chevy (Deep Rock); and several at the city limits on E. Wilson, N. Washington and Main St. (Elms).



In the May, 1989 issue it was stated that the Music Hall was built by Wm. vanNortwick. Additional information located since that time indicates that statement was only partially correct.


The original Music Hall, a wooden structure, was erected about 1880 on land owned by Mr. vanNortwick. A stock company had been formed with shares sold at $100 each to raise funds for erecting the building so Batavians, east and west side, would have a central place to hold meetings. 


Many high school graduations prior to construction of the present junior high in 1915 were held there. This original building seated about 575 people and was one of the few auditoriums in the valley·that was located in the ground floor. No long stairway to climb to attend meetings or see the traveling "road shows."


In its early days it was also used as one of Batavia's three roller rinks. Around 1900 it was purchased by the VanNortwick Paper Company and by 1910 had been rented out as a printing plant. In March of that year it burned down.  


The present building on the site was built shortly thereafter and probably by the vanNortwicks. It is very likely it was used as a "music hall" again. In 1914 Mrs. Eberman rented it from the vanNortwicks as a movie house. 


(See Joe Burton's story in the May, 1989 Newsletter.)  


About 1917 Joe Burke purchased it and the Vanity Theater came into existence, to be renamed later the Capitol. The theater closed in the 1950's.




Anne Johnson has corrected a belief mentioned in the recent article on the Covenant Church.


 The earlier article related the belief that the home of May and Sadie Lundberg was one-half of the old Covenant Church located at Houston & Jackson Sts. while the other half became the house just south of the church at Houston & Lincoln.  


Anne informed us the Lundberg home stood on the site of the church at Houston & Lincoln and was moved from there when the church was erected.




Do you recall Batavia as it was in 1939?  


Below is a list of some of its merchants. Can you match them with their businesses in the second column? Several businesses are represented by more than one person.  If nothing else, this may stir up memories of the good old days.


___ 1. Mac J. Alexander

___ 2. A. J. Barkley

___ 3. O. T. Benson

___ 4. Joe Burke

___ 5. Fritz Carlson

___ 6. Wm. Chamberlain

___ 7. Charles Chelstrom

___ 8. Harry Duffy

___ 9. Alex Fillis

___ 10. Harold Foland

___ 11. William Jeske

___ 12. Julia Kline

___ 13. Melvin Kraft

___ 14. Charles Kunches

___ 15. Harris Lee

___ 16. A. R. Leifheit

___ 17. Andrew Lund

___ 18. Jerome Miller

___ 19. Jessie Miller

___ 20. Joe Obolsky

___ 21. Spencer Omick

___ 22. Thomas Patterson

___ 23. Dominick Perna

___ 24. Harold Plummer

___ 25. C. J. Sheahan

___ 26. Mike Schomig

___ 27. Al Schreiner

___ 28. Bert Smith

___ 29. John Wright

___ 30. June Yung


a.              Antiques

b.              Bakery

c.               Barber

d.              Bowling alley

e.              Coal

f.               Coffee shop

g.               Dairy

h.               Drug store

i.                Electric shop

j.                Gas. stat ion

k.               Grocery & market

l.                Hardware

m.              Laundry

n.               Lumber

o.               Millinery & dresses

p.               Movie theater

q.               News agency

r.                Newspaper

s.               Photographer

t.                Radio & bicycle sales/service

u.               Shoe repair and sales

v.               Tavern & grill w.            


Another look at 1939 are the advertised prices in the Batavia Herald that year.  


Look with envy --then remember what wages were back in the 1930's. Men's Arrow shirts from $1.95 Women's silk hose: 2 pr. for $1.00 Spring dresses: $1.94 Nunn-Bush shoes: $8 - $10 pr.Jockey shirts or shorts: 50¢ Blouses: $1.98 Cleaners: Suits, Coats & Dresses: 3 for $1.00 Cannon bath towels: 6 for $1.00 Sheets: $1.00 Gas stove: $112.00 Sleds: $1.19 85 hp Chevy 6: $695 up Men's top coats & suits: $15 & up.  

and at the grocery store:


2-16 oz. cans Corned Beef: 39¢

Oranges: 28¢/doz.

Carrots: 7¢/bunch

Dearborn coffee: 2# for 33¢

Salad dressing: 29¢/qt.

Tomato soup: 3 cans for 22¢

Palmolive soap: 5¢ a bar

Kellogg Corn Flakes: 2 pkg/17¢

Frankfurters: 19¢/lb.

Veal roast: 23¢/lb

Pot roast: 19¢/lb

Rolled rump roast: 35¢/lb.

Butter: 30¢/lb.

Pillsbury flour: 5# for 25¢

Sugar: 10# for 50¢

Ritz crackers: 21¢


Candy & gum: 3 pkgs. for 10¢

Wilson's bacon: 25¢/lb.

Eggs: 33¢ Doz.

Bananas: 5¢/lb.

Scott tissue: 3 rolls for 22¢

Seedless grapes: 3# for 25¢

Melons: 10¢ ea.

Kraft cheese: 2# for 49¢

A & P bread: 2 loaves for 14¢

Canned salmon: 1# for 21¢

Case of Budweiser (8 oz btls) $2.75

Black & White Scotch: $1.95/fifth

California wines: 49¢/fifth

Cabbage: 2# for 9¢

Women's Day magazine: 2¢  

and three other items:


Baked Ham or B.B.Q. Rib dinner (Fri. night at tavern) 25¢

Round trip to Chicago on C.A.& B. R.R. $1.95

8 room house on large lot (Batavia Savings & Loan) $4,000.  


Answers to matching

1.      n            

6.      c            

11.    j             

16.    q            

21.    j             

26.    c

2.      l             

7.      u            

12.    o            

17.    s             

22.    b            

27.    h

3.      j             

8.      v            

13.    g            

18.    v            

23.    k            

28.    r

4.      p            

9.      f             

14.    k            

19.    w           

24.    e or n     

29.    b

5.      t             

10.    d            

15.    a            

20.    u            

25.    i             

30.    m



Remember that in 1939:


·         there were still public drinking fountains on So. Batavia Ave., and on Wilson St. at Batavia Ave., at Island Ave., 

          and at River St.


·         neighborhood grocers would take orders over the phone, deliver them, and allow you to charge it.


·         phone numbers were only 4 digits long (with no area codes) and you gave the operator the number you wanted.   

          Also, many phones were on party lines.


·         children in town walked to school and home again, not only at the start and end of the day but also for lunch.


·         women wore hats for dress-up occasions and church and slacks were a rarity.


·         the fire whistle signaled the ward in which the fire was located to let the volunteers know where to go (as did all

          the curious).


·         motion picture theaters included serials, newsreels, cartoons and travelogues in addition to the feature picture.




Eight businesses have provided funds to underwrite the expenses for the Old Louise White School Champagne Dessert.  


Their generosity is greatly appreciated. It will assure that receipts from the sale of tickets will be available for enhancing the displays at the Depot Museum.


Funds have been received from Tanguay-Burke-Stratton, developer of Windmill Place (site of the new Jewel-Osco on Randall Road); the Batavia Savings and Loan; Gary-Wheaton Bank of Batavia; Harris Bank-Batavia; Hubbard's Home Furnishings; Old Second National Bank-Batavia; C. W. Shumway & Sons; and Swanson's Hardware.


Tickets are still available for those who forgot to order them earlier. They may be obtained at any Batavia financial institution or antique shop or by mail from the Society (P.O. Box 14). The price is $6.00 per person.


I also wish to thank the many people who have volunteers to assist that evening to help make this an enjoyable and successful event.




All dues received after October 31st will be credited toward membership for 1990.  


Prompt payment of dues will be appreciated as it helps with bookkeeping and is important in maintaining an accurate mailing list for the Newsletter. The form below can be used for sending in your 1990 dues. 


If you plan on attending the Annual Meeting on December 3rd, our Treasurer will be there to collect dues. Gift memberships make a nice way in which to remember old friends, new neighbors, or someone who has done something for you this year.


To give a gift membership, send in the name or names of the people to whom you wish to give the membership along with their correct mailing address and a check for the proper amount.


An appropriate notice will be sent to the recipient(s) just prior to Christmas. Please indicate with your order how you would like the notice signed in your behalf.






Individual:             $3
Joint/Family:          $5
Sustaining:           $10
Life (each):          $50
Business or Institutional:        $10

Bus/Inst. Life    $100