Volume Thirty-Three

No. 2


April 1992




1.    Sunday, June 7th, is the date for the next meeting of the Society. The program that day will be given by one of our members, Dr. Barnes, based on his extensive research of a trip on the Oregon Trail from the Fox Valley. One of the travelers was a descendant of our first settler, Christopher Payne.  Be sure to mark the date on your calendar now so that you will not miss this special presentation!  


Details will be in the next issue of the newsletter but you may want to note it will begin at 2:00 o'clock instead of the usual 3:00 p.m. and will be held at Bethany Lutheran Church instead of the Civic Center.


2.    Saturday, June 13th, the Third Annual Cigrand Antique Show will take place, sponsored by our local antique dealers as a benefit for the Society.  One ever-faithful volunteer, Agnes Clever, already has offered her services even though this call for help hadn't gone out.


3.    Late July/Early August is the tentative time when Carla Hill hopes to have the planned exhibit in the old Coffin Bank ready to open.  This offers another opportunity to display some of our artifacts and further enhance the Depot site.  


4.    This issue has a wonderful article by Lucille Carlson of her memories when she taught school in Batavia beginning in the early 1930's.  Coming issues will feature more articles by our members of their recollections of earlier days.  


You can anticipate another by Helen Anderson, this one telling of childhood days in a one-room school, plus contributions by Mary Anderson, Joe Burton, and Bert Johnson to mention a few. I want to thank all of these individuals for sharing their memories with

us as well as others who have promised to do likewise.






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.  


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, and I am happy to report I was hired to come to Batavia. 


I was to teach remedial reading where needed in the Louise White School in the morning and junior high school home economics in the afternoon in what was known as the Home Economics Building. This building was torn down when the current Junior High School was enlarged. When I was told Mr. Storm was coming to the college to interview prospective teachers, the position in home economics was not mentioned. When he arrived that day in April, that was the only position he had to fill.  


He related what he needed in a teacher--the home economics work teaching 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.  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. Mr. Storm and I had been the only two persons in the huge auditorium at Northern.  We often recalled that situation in the following years. 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. 

The rest is history, and I have never regretted it.  Batavia has been my home since 1930. 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.  As the years went by, and after Connie's death, Clara made more and more of a business of renting rooms to teachers. It became a second home to many of us--much more than just a place to live. Restaurants in Batavia in 1930 in which we teachers could eat were scarce. I recall only two that were available to us.


On East Wilson Street, a restaurant was run by Andreas and Edith Lietzow called the Terminal Cafe. On the west side on South Batavia Avenue there was a lunch room run by Fred Larson. This restaurant was where Abe and Doc's service station is now. It was a long narrow building, the restaurant at the south end and the filling station business at the north end. The filling station was run by George G. Guy and son. The lunch room also had a small dining room which extended out to the east. For breakfast we just sat at the counter for a roll and coffee. We ate our lunches in these restaurants as well for we had 55 minute lunch hours at school. Since we wanted a home-cooked dinner in the evening, if possible, one of the teachers (who had been here a couple of years and realized the eating problem) persuaded an Italian lady, Mrs. DaPeola to serve our evening meal. She lived on the southwest corner of South Batavia Avenue and Elm Street.  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. In years to come, Batavia could boast of a small eating establishment on the west side of South Batavia Avenue that could "feed 800 people, 8 at a time." Glenn Marsh was the owner and an excellent cook. I still remember he made the best bean soup.  Dick Bowron was his waiter. Later on there was the Dinner Bell run by Clarence Bell on East Wilson Street and other restuarants I don't recall.  Now there are numerous eating places to choose from. It was a happy experience to have dinner recently at the Water Street Cafe. The food was very good, served in a pleasant atmosphere, and we were greeted by one of my third graders from yesteryears--Corilla Meredith Rowcliff.  


It was a most enjoyable evening. In 1934, as a result of the depression, the courses in junior high home economics for the girls and manual training for the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade boys were done away with. At that time, the special music teacher, physical education, kindergarten, and art supervisor were also done away with. Children were allowed to have a carton of milk at the morning recess when the parents ordered it and paid for it; however, the school did give out free milk at that time to the children we felt needed it. I think the community chest paid for the milk. Besides milk, during the winter, good hot soup was made and served to those we felt didn't have adequate food at hme. Tables and chairs were set up in the gym, and those who brought their "brown lunch bag" lunches all ate together. Teachers took turns supervising this lunch time.


Another need we as teachers met--we bought and gave out many pairs of mittens. Jule Morris, one of the local merchants was generous in supplying mittens to the children who did not have any. Of course, many of the mittens we supplied were lost, not worn out! And pencils--as teachers, we bought and supplied many pencils; you could buy twelve pencils for a dime. They were called "penny pencils." About this time, 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. Here, again, Jule Morris helped out.  He took some at his store, giving us the credit so we could buy things we needed. 


I know of two residents in town who took a few, paying cash for them. 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, 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.  


He was always pleasant, doing any little favor we asked. It was his responsibility to keep the building warm in winter; and in severely cold weather, he would get up and come down in the middle of the night to check on it. He did all the sweeping and cleaning of the building with only a small amount of assistance. I'm sure most of us tried to be considerate, having the children pick up paper from the floor, etc. 


During vacation time, he thoroughly cleaned the whole building, oiling the floors, etc. 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." Teaching facilities were far different in those days.  


The non-mechanical ditto machine on the second floor was a great help to us. To those who are not familiar with this old "ditto machine", it was a large table-like frame with a roll of gelatin mounted at one end. A master copy was made with a special pencil or ink. After you imprinted your master copy on the gelatin you could print numerous copies.  It was a slow and tedious procedure as you fed in each sheet of paper with one hand and then pushed a metal bar over it with your other hand.  Lower grade teachers used it a great deal for seatwork. When all the roll of gelatin was imprinted, you had to wait several hours or overnight for the imprints to disappear before you could use it again. Sometimes when we had an urgent need for something and came to school early we found no blank spaces on the gelatin because someone had been there before us--what a disappointment that was. The lesson plans were no doubt changed for that day. 

Parent-teacher relations were in general very good. Mothers walking past the school often stopped in to visit a few minutes and to check on how things were going. However, I recall one incident where I received almost more than complete cooperation. Several youngsters had been restless and inattentive, so I wrote notes to their parents, sending them home with the children. To be sure the children took them home, I asked them to have their mother or father sign the note and to bring it back the next morning. The notes were returned, signed as I had requested. One note brought a message. That mother was really cooperating! The note she wrote to me read. "Dear Miss M. Walter is entirely in your hands when he is in school. There is no 'No Trespassing' sign on the seat of his pants." 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. How wrong 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. I have commented on Miss White as principal and Mr. Knox as janitor of our building. Now last, but surely not least, I want to comment on Supt. Storm. Mr. Storm's initials were H. C. so during the years he acquired the nickname, Hurricane, Cyclone Storm. 


Frequently someone referred to him that way which I thought was too bad. 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.


After Mr. Storm left Batavia and went to live in California, we wrote a few letters back and forth. In one letter he wrote, "We are coming to Batavia in the fall to visit. At that time I will be able to walk through the old familiar halls and classrooms -- see the youngsters and visit you teachers -- what a joy that will be."


Although he left Batavia and the work he dearly loved, I'm sure his heart was always here in Batavia with School District 101. He closed one letter by saying, "Do not forget the happy years we spent together working in the greatest work there is. Your old friend, Howard Storm."


Needless to say I have not forgotten the happy years I spent teaching in Batavia.




Antique Show


Before you forget, call Carole Dunn (879-3988) and offer to assist at the 3rd Annual Antique Show.  Carole volunteered to coordinate the Society's efforts once more and she will be anticipating your calls. The show is Saturday, June 13th between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.


Needed are people to collect admissions at the door for one-hour shifts (2 per shift). In addition, Carole is seeking several people who will put up signs along the highways the day before the show as well as several to distribute flyers and/or posters to local stores.


Don't procrastinate---call now!  Don't put the burden on our volunteer coordinator of calling you. If you don't reach her after several tries, call Dot or Jim Hanson at 879-7492.  Please let us know as soon as possible to facilitate scheduling.




May Lundberg, our Museum volunteer coordinator, has received calls from several new members offering to serve at the Depot Museum. However, she can always use a few more so that nobody needs to serve more than once a month and to fill in when a regular cannot make it.


 It involves only two hours (2 to 4)and there are always two people working together. If you can spare the time, give May a call at 879-3660.




The old master clock from Batavia High that was refurbished several years ago requires winding twice a week.  I have been doing it for the past year but would appreciate having a reliable assistant to share the task. If you can stop at the Museum once a week during the hours it is open on a regular basis, give me a call. Jim Hanson: 879-7492.




The Batavia Historical Society lost one of its founders and most devoted members upon the death of Ray Patzer in February. Ray was one of the twenty-two citizens that got together in 1959 to plan the creation of the Society and he served on the committee which wrote the By-Laws and nominated the first slate of officers.


Not only was Ray a Charter member but also an active one.  


He served as treasurer for two terms and as a Director for seven years. Ray also did research and contributed articles and was a regular volunteer at the Depot Museum.


Shortly before his death, the Society received a collection of articles and pictures related to early telephone companies in Batavia from Ray which I hope to include in a future newsletter.


Several memorial donations in Ray's name have been received. His interest and devotion to the Batavia Historical Society will long be remembered.




Many memories came to mind as members "strolled down memory lane" after reading Marilyn Phelps' "Dairy Delights" article in the last newsletter.


She received numerous phone calls regarding the names of the drivers and horses who plied their trade for Batavia Dairy Co. Harold Peterson called to say it was Carl Thryselius who drove "Dolly", the white horse, and L. R. Johnson who drove "Prince", the black one.


Chuck Kline called about another driver, Harvey Houck. There were many others who called to reminisce and talk about dairy life, and Marilyn thanks all of you who took the time to call.