Volume Fifty-Four

No. 2

May, 2013

View the original PDF  


Remember When?

Richard Johnson wrote, “History can be a collection of memories by a certain person, of a certain place at a certain time. And so it is with this story, a short account of my memories of such a place during a certain period of time, not that long ago.” Here is his story of growing up on the west side of Batavia between 1935 and 1945. Following is an article by Marj Holbrook detailing families and businesses on the East Side. In the third article, Barbara Frydendall Gross recalls growing up on the east side just a little later. Enjoy the look back at Batavia and enjoy your memories of those times and places.



West Side Memories

Richard Johnson


The west side of Batavia Avenue between First Street and Main Street, was to me and many other “Westsiders”, quite simply “downtown” during the Great Depression, and probably before, and through World War II, and for sometime after. The 10-year period of time, between 1935 and 1945, sticks in my mind as special, mainly because those were my growing up years and, though we did not think it so as it was happening, a whole lot of history was in the making.



Walking east two blocks on First Street from my home, located on the southeast corner of First and Jefferson, the first downtown business that I came to was Carlson’s Texaco Service Station. No matter who you were, or whether you pulled up to the pump in a Model T Ford or a Cadillac, you got the same greeting from the pump attendant: “ Yes, sir, what will it be for you today, fill ‘er up?

Dollar’s worth of regular?
OK!” As the 18 cents per gallon regular was being pumped into the tank, the other attendant, if he was not busy with another car, had already raised the hood on yours and was checking fluid levels: oil, radiator, battery and on to the fan belt and anything else needing attention. Next, they inspected the windshield wiper blades for wear, cleaned the rubber squeegee part, then washed and dried the windshield with a clean cloth.


Time permitting; they would often clean the rest of the windows also. Last, all four tires, and sometimes the spare, were checked and brought to the correct 35psi pressure. Then you either went into the office and paid Mr. Carlson directly, or simply paid the attendant. If business was slow, or you were known to be a tipping customer, you might even get the front floor of your car swept out with a whisk broom as part of the service.

Yes, a fill-up or a dollar’s worth got you the same service at Carlson’s Texaco; a sort of ballet-like performance by the two attendants and fun for a kid to watch. I don’t know their names now, but I did then and in my mind’s eye, I can see them still. Yes, Sir!



The next business going south towards Main Street was no business at all, just a vacant lot, which, according the Tri-City Directory of the time was owned and occupied by a National Tea Store, a grocery store, one of the 1600 stores in a chain operating across the Midwest: 600 in Chicagoland alone. During the subject decade, however, it was, and remained, just a weed-grown empty lot, next to which was Connie Sheahan’s Electric Store. Connie, until he died, ran an electrical repair and retail store where he fixed and sold all sorts of electrical stuff.

The Batavia Liquor Store, a thriving enterprise, owned and managed by bartender A1 Bartells, was next on the street. A1 had a retail bottle shop up front, by the entrance, and a cool, dimly lit bar at the back. It was a friendly, well patronized place where people came to visit over a cool glass of tap beer or simply to find a place near the end of the bar where they could drink in peace.

The store front at night was brilliantly lit with neon which, in the summer Mayfly season, attracted swarms of the pesky insects up from the Fox River where they hatched. For about a week hordes of them would be flying in your face and making the sidewalk squishy where people had stepped on them. Then, as suddenly as they appeared, they disappeared until next year, same place, and same time: again doing their thing.

Since I was too young to drink, my main benefit from Batavia Liquor was salvaging corks from the empty whisky bottles that had been thrown out back into trash cans, to be used as fishing bobbers. When partially split length wise and slipped onto the fishing line, they worked quite well. My baby sister Marilyn, however, made a more direct and lasting alliance with the Bartells family. She later married Robert, ATs middle son, had three beautiful daughters and lived happily in Aurora until the day Bob had a heart attack while playing tennis one summer afternoon, making Marilyn a widow at a very early age. Despite serious health problems of her own, she lived on to see her grandchildren come along, then one day died peacefully while taking her afternoon nap.

There was another, earlier business connection involving our two families, sort of a partnership between A1 and my Uncle Harry. This was a loose but beneficial arrangement where A1 was the retail supplier and Harry was the customer consumer. Both partners got along quite well and both profited. In fact, on a fairly regular basis, after a night of business, Harry would come home so profitable that he could hardly walk!

Again going south, I came to Bert Johnson’s Rexall Drug Store, where you could buy almost anything
your heart desired, especially if you were a kid. Bert was both proprietor and pharmacist. In the back of the store, behind an open, but barred, window, he filled the medical prescriptions that people brought to him. This was also where you brought your camera film to be developed, printed, and later, picked up in a gray photo envelope. Out front was where the drug store shifted gears and became a different place altogether. Here, you could buy almost anything that a modem Walgreen’s would carry, except for the absolutely beautiful, full service soda fountain complete with a soda “jerk” wearing a little white hat. With 5-cent single dip ice cream cones, ice cream bars on a stick covered in chocolate and sometimes, if you were lucky, you might get a stick with “free bar” printed on it. Also available were Popsicles, frozen Powerhouse candy bars, fizzy glasses of Coca Cola and phosphates, milkshakes and malts of all flavors, banana splits and a fantastic 3-scoop hot fudge sundae with whipped cream, a generous sprinkle of warm Double Kay deluxe mixed nuts topped off with a red Maraschino cherry; simply a work of art: 30 cents and worth every penny. Needless to say, when you only got 50 cents for mowing a really big lawn, a hot fudge sundae was maybe a 2 to 3 time event during the year for most kids.

One day, while waiting by the candy case to buy a pack of gum, a display box of Lifesaver candy mints caught my eye and I decided to pocket one of the rolls. Bert came up from the back room to wait on me. I paid him for the gum and turned to leave. Without raising his voice, Bert asked if I would also like to pay for what I had put in my pocket. I didn’t know that he could see me from the back, but he could and he was watching. Totally embarrassed, I said no, I guess not and returned the lifesavers to their box. He never said another word about it, either to me or my parents and continued to treat me like any other honest customer. But he did break me of shoplifting, or theft of any kind: forever, for which he still has my gratitude.



Victor Anderson’s hardware store was next on the street. Anderson’s was the kind of store where, if he didn’t have it, you probably didn’t need it or maybe something like it would do. In the back room, amid the clutter of all kinds of stuff, Vic and his son, Cliff, would repair things, mostly broken windows and screens. Cliff also ran a radio repair shop there. Actually, this was probably the real heart of the store: both men spent a lot of time back there working on one thing or another. Up front, like the drug % store, things were a little different. Hardware items were stocked in neat little bins: nuts, bolts, etc., kegs of nails were arranged along the aisles and a small display of home appliances were placed on shelves that lined the walls. It was a good place to go for that Christmas gift for Mom. As time went on and America became more involved in the war, certain hardware items went to the military and were hard to find, especially things made of aluminum and rubber. Also in short supply was sporting ammunition, a very important item for those of us that hunted rabbits, pheasants and ducks each Fall. Military restricted amounts of shotgun shells were allotted to various sporting goods and hardware stores during hunting season. At that time, those of us that were hunters would haunt Vic’s hoping for shotgun shells, which, when available, he rationed out to us: 10 per person per shipment, until the supply was gone. He was always fair about it and between those of us that hunted together; we managed to make our shares last out the season. A lot of weird ammo came to light at that time; most of it quite old and some even defective. Once, Vic came up with a whole case of 28 gauge shotgun shells, a size that none of us even knew existed, let alone owned.

The store next to Anderson’s Hardware is shown in the Tri-City Directory as the Crystal Barber Shop, together with the Polly Anne Beauty Shoppe that everyone knew simply as Mike Schomig’s barber shop: “Mike’s” for short. Mike’s was unique in that you had to make an appointment for a haircut and, also that his haircut price was high. Just how high, I never knew, but higher than the two-bits that Smitty on Wilson Street charged while out in “Little Jericho”, near the Twin Elms convenience store crippled
Mr. Hendrickson asked 10 cents. Both barbers were snuffers, however, and it might have been worth the extra money to go to Mike’s, just to escape their sinus breath. But, money was short and the closest I ever got to Mike’s was watching him through the window working on a customer.

The West Side Fruit Store, known to us as Perna’s Grocery, was located next to Mike’s. Mom did all her grocery shopping there mainly because kindly Mr. Perna would extend credit to her. Dominik Perna, an Italian immigrant, apparently knew what it meant to be poor. He carried many others on his books: those who simply could not always pay the whole price for what it took to keep their families fed. Dominik allowed Mom to charge up to about $350.00 for several years. That amount of money was equal to 3 1/2 months pay that Dad made at his job at Mooseheart, before taxes. Dad never made more than $1400 a year there, but Mooseheart kept him on, even when his health failed about two years before he died. They always found something for him to do.

At Perna’s, it was always: “Good morning Mrs. Johnson, what do you need today?” (Just like Carlson’s Texaco!) Item by item mom would get what she needed and item by item, Dominik would pick it off the shelf and place it on the well-worn wood counter next to the cash register. Like all the old time grocery stores, this was not a place where you picked your own stuff from the shelves. Some of the lighter, more bulky items were stored on the top shelf, such as Kellogg’s “Pep”, Dad’s favorite cereal, besides oatmeal, which Mr. Perna would retrieve with a long set of tongs and place on the counter with the other things. When Mom was done with the order, Mr. Perna would enter each item on a page in his sales book then ring up the total on the cash register and hand Mom the bill. Sometimes she could pay the whole bill and sometimes she couldn’t and would have to ask Mr. Perna to put the rest on her account, which he always did as far as I know. Mom’s greatest pleasure was when she was finally able to pay off that account, after I started working steady after high school and was able to pay her room and board.

Dominik did sell fresh fruit and vegetables when they were in season. It was an awesome sight for a little kid to look up at a whole stalk of yellow bananas, hung at a handy height by a rope tied to a hook in the ceiling. Occasionally, there would be a huge tropical spider hitch hiker in the bananas that would be coaxed into a Mason jar, with a few air holes in the lid, and placed on display for awhile, attracting many curious people who came to catch a glimpse of a creature from the jungle rain forest.

There was an A&P “supermarket” across the street from Perna’s, an indicator of what was to come, ’though we didn’t recognize it as such at the time.

In most respects, it was ' much like today’s supermarkets, but on a smaller scale. Since the A&P would not extend credit
to it’s customers: cash on the barrel head as you went through the checkout,
Perna’s store still attracted a lot of people. Looking back, even though Mr. Perna, himself, was a frugal person, how could he afford to stay in business, considering his credit policy? But, survive he, did and eventually passed the store on to his son, Frank, who kept it going for a long time after.


There was an alley located along the south side of the grocery store that provided vehicle access to the backs of the stores, for deliveries and trash collection, etc. Across the alley to the south was a meat market run by two Batavia butchers. Mom bought her round steak, roasting beef, hot dogs and hamburger there. Like the A&P, it was a cash only business and during the war years, they also had to collect the red food stamps, because meat was rationed: so much per household person per week. At this time, you could also buy horsemeat there. Horse- meat is a darker, leaner, more textured meat than either beef or pork. But, because Dad had such a love for live horses, Mom never bought it, even though it was cheaper than other meat, was said to have a good flavor, and didn’t require red stamps. Maybe she thought Dad would consider eating a horse akin to an act of cannibalism; and maybe he would have. We would never know because Mom never tried it. I’m not sure if poultry was rationed or not. Probably not, since all of farms around town had plenty of chickens, raised for the eggs, more so than for meat, and there was usually a surplus of both that could be sold or bartered. While food was not always plentiful or affordable, most people, especially those with “Victory Gardens”, got by pretty well. A lot of good food was produced and canned from those gardens. Thinking back on it, I believe that was true for most rationed or unattainable stuff. People soon learned to make do and to avoid waste.

It is not shown in the Directory, but the next business south of the meat market was another vacant lot, formerly the site of an old hotel that was still standing, empty, as of 1935. Sometime after that the building was torn down and the empty lot became a
used car lot, remaining undeveloped for many years. Later, after the war had ended, I bought my first “good” car there. It was a pretty blue, 1939 Plymouth with a good radio, good tires and hydraulic brakes. I kept that car until I was drafted into the army and sent to Korea. Then, since there was no one at home to take care of it, I asked Mom to sell it.

Art’s Tavern was adjacent to the south side of this lot and was a popular place for the farmers that were in town on Saturdays. It was also weft patronized throughout the week by factory workers on their way home after a hard day’s work. Taverns like Art’s were strategically located to accommodate the thirst of Batavia’s work force, most of whom had jobs at the U.S. and the other factories located mainly on the Island and along both sides of the river.

Living in my neighborhood was an elderly factory hand who, although now retired, continued to honor the ritual of stopping at Art’s, much to the dismay of his family who, one time, hide his shoes to keep him at home where he belonged. Old Mr. Coleman, however, was a persistent man and it was my good luck to see him that day, pad, pad, padding down the Main Street sidewalk wearing stockings, but no shoes, on his way to Art’s Tavern: a determined man on a mission!

According to a photograph of the time, the next store is occupied by Lund’s Photo Shop, an old Batavia business formerly located on the floor above the Colonial Ice Cream store next to the huge old Methodist church on the comer of Batavia Avenue and Wilson Street.

On the comer of Batavia Avenue and Main Street, the south end of Downtown, was a restaurant / snack shop that, like Lund’s, I don’t really recall. However, on the east side of the street, on the corner, was O.T. Benson’s Phillips 66 gas station where Dad bought gas for his Model A Ford. During the war, he had an “A” sticker on the windshield that allotted him three gallons of gas per week; just enough to get him back and forth from work, with a little left over. At that time, highway speed was posted at 35 mph, not as much to save gas, as to conserve the rubber tires. With the loss of Southeast Asia to the Japanese, America’s rubber supply was critically low. Tires were often run down to the ply cords. Recap tires were common but still hard to get. It wasn’t until later, that a way was found to synthesize rubber, that the demand was finally satisfied. O.T. also sold Byerly’s natural juice drink. At 5 cents per bottle, it was a wonderful alternative to the colas.

There was not much on the east side of Batavia Avenue that was of interest to me at that time, except for the little woodcraft shop on the upper floor of the old livery stable building located at the north corner of the block, then used by Favoright Motors to sell used cars. This shop, complete with tools, materials , and an instructor, was a little piece of President Roosevelt’s Works Project Administration program, the mighty WPA, made available to Batavia’s citizens where anyone, kids included, could go to make things out of wood: simple furniture, bird houses, stuff like that. The instructor was a paid worker and was there to help you with your project, whatever it might be. I learned how to use a coping saw there and made a birdhouse and others made things too. It was a busy place during those days and it gave a man a job and a paycheck; win-win for everyone.

Later, in the 1950’s, while working as a pipefitter apprentice for the Western United Gas and Electric Company, my partner Ray would stop at the Batavia Coffee shop for lunch whenever we worked the Batavia-Geneva area. The shop, tucked into a little nook near Favoright Motor, served a good hot lunch at a fair price. It was run by Greek immigrant who also made great peach pie.

This was Downtown Batavia for me for many years. Everything necessary to daily life was here; there was no need to go anywhere else. I also remember the white ceramic “bubbler” water fountains, two I think, located on that block where thirsty shoppers on a summer day could drink the best tasting water in the world: ancient, glacial water from Batavia’s own deep well that pierced the limestone cap over the Green Bay aquifer and brought it up to us; untreated, heavy on lime, but oh, so cool and good.

For those of us that still remember, Downtown still exists, and the magic remains together with the memories of a difficult, but simpler, time. I still miss it.

Batavia HistoricalSociety welcomes the following new members

Stephanie Bateman
Batavia, IL

Mark & Julie Harrington
Batavia, IL

Barbara Peterson House
Fort Davis, TX

Kathleen McGrath
Batavia, IL

Patricia McMillan
Anchorage, AK

Steven R Patzer
St. Charles, IL

Bruce R Patzer
St. Charles, IL

Richard Salis
Freeman, SD

Ron & Linda Stephens
Batavia, IL

Max & Mary Ann Striedl
Sugar Grove, IL

Karyl Swanson Tych
Myrtle Beach, SC

Life Member
Diane Wicklund Van Bavel
Woodbridge, VA


Thank you to all who contributed in the memory of Barbara Hall
Susan & Bob Mednick, Donna Miller, Anita Dhar, Jessica Cleereman, Clark Mitchell, Jim & Dot Hanson, Richard Benson, Frank & Sue Blazek, Margaret Fortson, Rosalie (Jones) Link, William & Joy Scofield, Stanley Morrison, Garry & Mary Roberts, and Grefe & Sidney, PLC.


East Side Batavia
Marj Holbrook
Batavia’s East Side stretches from the Fox River across the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad tracks. The tracks curve through the area with a broad swath of iron rails and wood ties heading toward West Chicago. The area grew up from the earliest settlements along Wilson Street and Washington Avenue. In the 1930s and ‘40s it was home to those with a strong work ethic and community pride. The East Side had six neighborhood grocery stores, seven churches, Louise White School, and a few businesses.

Like most small towns - in 1935 the population was 3,500 - it was a close-knit community where everyone seemed to know their neighbors and neighbors’ children. Garden produce was shared and conversations conducted while gently swaying in a garden swing manufactured by Batavia’s Challenge Co.

Earlier rivalries between East Side/West Side had subsided. That probably began just after Batavia High School opened in 1915 at Batavia Avenue and West Wilson Street. It replaced separate high schools on each side of the Fox River. Many residents had grown up in Batavia as had their parents and grandparents. The East Side had its share of business and professional people and city officials.

Folks who lived here
While most of the East Batavia houses were modest dwellings, there were some imposing structures. One was the home of siblings Harry B. and Myrtle Bartholomew at North Prairie and State streets. Harry Bartholomew was noted for his music. When Myrtle died in January 1955, she left $125,000 for construction of a Civic Center in memory of her and her brother. It is now operated by the Batavia Park District.
Another larger house was the three-story limestone building occupied by Howard and Martha Peckworth and their family. They moved to Batavia in the early 1940s when Mr. Peckworth was named to a position in Chicago. A civil engineer, he had been instrumental in the construction of the 8th Avenue subway in New York City. He also wrote several books, one on chicken cookery and the others on travel. Martha Peckworth was an active volunteer at Community Hospital in Geneva. The basement level of their house, with a separate entrance, had once been a branch of the Batavia Public Library.

In such a small community, it was perhaps inevitable that generations of the same family lived in close proximity. East Wilson Street was that kind of place. Parents and their children had homes just a few houses from grandparents and aunts and uncles could be found within a block.

The Conde family lived on North Washington Avenue in a house built by Cornelius B. Conde in 1849. A Conde relative built the house directly south (across Spring Street). In the early 1900s, the family owned a laundry in Batavia. Guy Conde and his wife, Alma (Johnson) lived in the Conde house and cared for Guy’s mother along with their five sons. The oldest, Neal J., worked at the Batavia Post Office for many years.

For a while, Alma’s sister and brother-in-law, Selma and Charles Anderson, lived in the Conde House with their four sons. The Anderson and Conde boys felt like brothers and often went fishing or hunting or shared chores together. The Andersons later moved to North Van Buren and Franklin streets; the Anderson sons remember their dad digging out a basement beneath the house, carrying dirt outdoors one bucket at a time. Beginning about 1960, Guy’s grandson, Neal J. Conde Jr. and his wife Mary, a registered nurse, moved into the house to care for Guy and Alma. When Alma died in 1973, Neal and Mary took over the house and raised their three children there.

Erma Jeffrey who was noted for her writings and public speaking, lived across the street in the Jeffrey house. Her sister, Vera, had married Herman Schiel- ke, the oldest son of Johann and Emilie Schielke. Herman and Vera had two sons, Howard and Don. Don and his wife, Catherine, lived in the Jeffrey home; their son, Jeffrey, has been Batavia’s mayor for more than 30 years.

Herman’s parents built the house on East Wilson Street where they raised six children. Herman’s sister, Alma, married Jacob Becker who had emigrated from Germany with Philip Roesler. The Beckers lived just two houses from Alma’s parents and raised their four children in the neighborhood. Their son, Philip, became a partner with Alan Larson, in Lar- son-Becker, a supplier of well-drilling equipment, shortly after World War II ended. Both had worked for The Challenge Co. for many years.

Philip Becker married Genevieve Peterson of El- burn. Phil was an alderman on the Batavia City Council for many years and served on bank boards and in various community organizations. His son, Robert, also was an alderman and later president of Batavia Savings and Building Association (now Fifth-Third Bank). Daughter Barbara married Ronald Dickenson who, with his parents, Charles and Marge, lived next door to her parents. She taught second- and third- grades for many years before retiring.

In the 1930s, residents of East Wilson Street knew that when snow fell, they would be “plowed out” by Otto and August Mier. The two brothers had a triangular-shaped wooden plow they had built and would hitch a team of horses to it and walk down sidewalks on both sides of Wilson Street. “Augie” was well- known in Batavia. A World War I veteran, he was a charter member of Batavia’s American Legion Post, was a township assessor for many years and was appointed the city’s postmaster in 1963. He had an avid interest in history and was on a team that discovered the site of Batavia’s first home: The Christopher Payne cabin between East Wilson Street and the CB&Q tracks. (Artifacts found at the site are on display at the Depot Museum.) He died in 1986 at age 93.

Adolph Urich also was an East Wilson Street resident. He had come to the United States in 1869 with Henry Senfft who lived on South Prairie Street. Adolph and Sara Urich raised their seven children, four sons and three daughters, in their home. His wife had grown up on a farm on what is now Fer- milab. Their youngest son, Orville, says his parents “worked hard, perhaps too hard.”

Gerald “Jerry” Miller, a third-generation Batavian, remembers walking to the home of his grandparents, Edmund and Ella (Jaschob) Miller, on East Wilson. Jerry’s father, Harold, was the oldest of four children. Harold and Mary Jane Miller brought up their four sons in a house directly across State Street from Louise White School.

Glenn Crane, who owned a furniture store at Wilson and North River streets and funeral home on East Wilson, lived in a limestone cottage at the comer of North Van Buren and Spring streets. His sister, Pearl who never married, lived in a large two story at Wilson Street and Washington Avenue but sold that when a Standard Oil (Amoco) station was built on the site. She moved to a small one-bedroom home on South Prairie Street. Her contractor advised her to build a larger house which would be more marketable when she chose to sell, but she was adamant about needing only a small house.

The Feldott sisters, Mary and Theresa, continued a family business dealing primarily with farm equipment. The sisters lived in the family’s four-square brick home at Delia and East Wilson Street. The business was housed in a bam on the property. In the late 1940s, they moved and expanded their business a few blocks east to a new brick building. The sisters were members of the Women of the Moose and usually offered their spacious yard for the organization’s annual ice cream social.

Grocery stores
Six neighborhood groceries were spread throughout the East Side in the days before large supermarkets. All had their patrons many of whom would say, “put it on the bill,” when they picked up their food. The proprietors kept a tally and the families would pay, weekly or monthly. All the stores had cases of “penny candy” which could be purchased for one cent and grocery owners were patient with the youngsters who came to spend their carefully hoarded change. Some stores, too, delivered to homes. Phone calls from housewives provided lists of provisions which were collected and taken directly to the home.

Bortner’s, just east of the CB&Q railroad tracks near Wilson and Prairie, was known for its fine meats. Erwin and Martha Bortner ran the store with their sons, Erwin “Junior” and Bill. Bill later worked at Batavia Foundry and Machine while “Junior” continued at the grocery. Erwin’s homemade pulled pork barbecue was famous in the area.

Sloggett’s, at the comer of Spring and Delia streets, also was known for its meats. Earl and Esther Sloggett knew all their customers and, like most stores of the era, provided individualized and personal delivery service to customers’ homes.

Maves, at North Washington Avenue and Church streets, provided lots of teen boys their first job experiences and they were loyal to owner Harold Maves. The store was a popular stop to pick up a Coke or bottle of soda and also had a case of ice cream bars and cones that attracted young clients. Harold Maves, owner, was known throughout the community and was named Batavia’s Citizen of the Year in 1974. His commendation called him a friend, counselor and neighborhood “watchdog.”

The three other groceries included one at Delia and State streets operated by Ken and Fern Patterson, but previously known as Daniel’s grocery; the Beardsley store on North Van Buren street, a small, dimly-lit shop; and a tiny grocery in the back of a house at the southwest comer of Wilson and Van Buren streets.

Louise White School
The school building at North Washington Avenue and State Street was the only public school building on the East Side. It was named for Miss Louise White who had taught there for many years. She lived a few blocks north on Washington Avenue with her sister, Fern, and brother, Herb.

Principal Miss Alice Gustafson was a veteran educator who spent 34 years in Batavia schools. She was respected by her students, parents and fellow teachers. The school had 12 classrooms and a gymnasium. In the mid-1940s, during Miss Gustafson’s tenure, a World War II veteran, William J. Wood, joined the staff. Though he was not a native Batavian, he lived the rest of his life teaching in Batavia and after retiring, became the official city historian.

School included the usual classes - English, mathematics, history, and other subjects. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were popular after-school programs.

Churches and preachers

There were seven churches on the East Side and each had its own following. The largest was Holy Cross Catholic at Wilson and North Van Buren streets, where the Rt. Rev. Msgr. William Donovan had been the priest since 1929. His ministry stretched well beyond the limestone building; he knew hundreds of people in the community no matter where they went to church. In later years, he carried a cane as he walked downtown, but seldom used it for support; instead he twirled it in his hand.

The Rev. Gilbert Johnstone was pastor of First Baptist Church at North Washington Avenue and Wilson Street. He, too, was well known in the community and served as chaplain of the Batavia Fire Department for many years. A native of Scotland, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

The Rev. Walter Schlie was pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church. Batavia servicemen returning from World War II remember that he refused to let married couples kiss at the altar after their wedding ceremony. (This was not unusual for Missouri Synod Lutheran Churches of that era.)

In addition to grocery stores, there were a few businesses on the East Side. It would be another 15 to 20 years before the industrial area would be developed.

Two gas stations were on opposite corners at Wilson and Prairie Streets. Bill Jeske operated the Pure Oil station on the northeast corner. (The building now houses an auto repair shop.) In part of the same building, were the offices of Plummer’s Coal Co. It was a convenient site since the train could deliver coal cars on a nearby siding. Almost every house was heated by coal, often by a “stoker” which delivered coal into the fire without it having to be shoveled. In houses without stokers, coal was shoveled into the fire pit several times a day.

On the southwest corner was Bob & Pete’s, coowned by Bob Johnson and Pete Satterwaite. Just south of the station were tall towers where the Burlington deposited coal. A stones-throw south was Pargas which sold and delivered bottled gas to customers who could not receive Northern Illinois gas distribution.

Herbert Carlson, who lived about two blocks east of Prairie Street, owned an insurance agency “on the hill” just west of First Baptist Church. In those days, people chose insurance agents from those they knew, not from phone books or off a yet-to-be-developed computer. Mr. Carlson’s Batavia Insurance is still in the family; great-nephew Eldon Frydendall, a longtime alderman, has been the owner for decades.

One of Batavia’s most-unusual businesses was Fred Cowan’s turkey farm at the intersection of Church and Hamlet streets. Cowan also worked for the police department, but raised turkeys as a sideline. His busiest times were the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

About a block south on Hamlet was Lundeen’s strawberry farm. Neighborhood youngsters were hired to pick the berries during the short season. And another block south was Wenberg’s Greenhouse, tucked in a grove of trees several feet east of the roadway. It was a family operation with cheerful, personalized service.

Police and fire
In the 1930s and ‘40s, Batavia was small and had few men on either the police or fire department. The police were based in a small room at the back of the city hall and often the person monitoring the electric and water equipment would also answer the phone.



In 1940, Police Chief Severin “John D.” Alberovsky died in a one-car crash at the Outer Belt Line railroad crossing a couple of miles east of town.

“John D.” was beloved by children and adults; when he died, school children collected money to erect a monument for him in the East Batavia Cemetery.

Eighteen months later, his only child, Francis, died while serving on the U.S.S. Arizona when it was sunk at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. After “John D.’s” death, Walter Hampson became police chief and served until 1946 when Russell Clark became chief and served for many years.

In the 1930s, Batavia’s fire chief was William Thrun Sr. He and his wife lived on the second floor of the fire station at First Street and Island Avenue; he was always first to answer the alarm. The fire department staff was all volunteers; later, one of them was Thrun’s son, Bill Thrun, who later transferred to the police department. Police work runs in the family Thrun family: Bill’s son, Robert, retired from FBI service; daughter, Dianne, was chief of records for the Geneva Police Department, and youngest son, Greg, retired from the Batavia Police Department as a commander. Greg’s son has completed training and expects to join an area police department soon. William Thrun was replaced as fire chief by Frederick C. Richter who was already one of the department’s volunteers. He was appointed by then Mayor J.S. McClurg, also an East-Sider. Mayor McClurg and his family lived next door to the Harold Millers on State Street.



Richter had a passion for the fire service; upgraded the department’s insurance rating, purchased the city’s first rescue truck/ambulance and other new equipment as funds were available. Before Christmas he and full-time fire-fighters collected and refurbished toys that were donated to needy children. He also worked with Batavia insurance agencies which sponsored an annual Fire Prevention Week poster contest and awarded prizes. Richter was a sought- after teacher. He taught for many years at the University of Illinois’ two-week fire school in the early summer, and also at the annual fire school at Monroe, WI. He retired in 1974 and died in 1986.

East Batavia Branch Library: New Information
George Scheetz found that the history of the East Batavia Branch Library began in 1922, nine years earlier than reported in the previous issue of the Batavia Historian. Here is the complete article:— Branch Library to be Established in Batavia National Bank, for East Siders A branch library will be opened on the east side of the river, for the use of adult readers of Batavia public library. Arrangements have been made to have the east side library deposit station in the Batavia National bank. It will be opened on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, from 2 to 4 o’clock.

A circulating library of 100 books housed in three sectional book cases will be installed in the bank, the directors kindly offering the use of the one of the rooms and equipment. Either the librarian, Miss Cassie Stephens or her assistant, will be in charge of the room every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, and books may be exchanged there the same as at the regular library building.

—Batavia Herald, Thursday, 31 August 1922, p. 1

Batavia Memories
Barbara Frydendall Gross
When I was bom in 1942,1 was brought home to join my 4-year-old brother, Eldon, in our parents' home at Delia and Franklin streets on the East Side of Batavia. At that time, my maternal grandparents, Philip and Florence Roesler, lived on East Wilson Street and my other grandma, Hilma Carlson, lived on Franklin.

Before I was bom, my great-grandparents, the Numbergs and Schultzs and numerous other relatives lived on East Wilson Street, along with other relatives: the Carlsons and Bortners. At 91 years of age, my mother, Pearl Roesler Frydendall Swanson, could still name everyone who had lived on East Wilson Street from Prairie Street east.

Our neighborhood had a lot of kids my age to play with. Joan Engstrom, Mark Stuttle, Sandy Heine and Dean Johnson were the ones who stayed in the neighborhood. Many others came and went. We kept ourselves entertained by playing house, in the sandbox, dress-up, roller skating, bicycling and mnning in the rain.

In the Spring we would find a patch of violets or wild flowers and make May Day baskets for some of our neighbors. Our favorite neighbors were brother and sister, Alma and Charlie Sloggett, who lived behind us. I used to go over and sit on the porch with Alma Sloggett and eat her goodies. Charlie had a fish pond in his backyard with lots of goldfish; he would let us feed them. On the other side of our home were Harry and Ida Cronk, Mark Stuttle's grandparents. They had a beautiful fish pond with a stone path around it and bushes and flowers. Today, I think of it as a picture out of a magazine it was so pretty.

On Summer days we would pack a lunch and Mrs. Engstrom would walk us down to the end of Van Buren Street, known then as Fairy Land. We would look at all the pretty flowers and birds; Mrs. Engstrom knew the names of all of them.

Off to school
We all started our first day of school together at the "old” Louise White School at Washington Avenue and State Street. Of course we walked. Mrs. Stuttle was the only woman that drove. We would stop on our way to school at the Diehl's house at the comer of State and Van Buren to pick up chestnuts. He owned the dime store on East Wilson Street. On the way home, we always wanted to take a shortcut through Mr. Snow's yard on the comer of Franklin and Prairie, but he would always yell at us and we were scared of him.

A couple of weeks during the summer, I would invite the neighbor kids and we would attend Vacation Bible School at Immanuel Lutheran Church. My mother always helped and we would walk there. We would walk down Delia to the (C.B.&Q.) tracks and walk on them behind Bob and Pete's gas station (now the site of the 7/Eleven). There was an old freight building behind there and we could ran up the ramp along the building and down the other side and across the street. The train depot was right there on the left before it was moved (in 1973) to its present site at Water and Houston streets. After our lessons at church, we would sometimes take our lunch and do crafts at the park at Van Buren and Laurel streets. When the train went by, we would be on the swings and wave to the men on the train as the engineer blew the train horn and made us giggle. We all knew to stay off the tracks.

Then there was Brownie Day Camp and Girl Scout Day Camp at Fabyan's. The cabin, back in the woods, was the most fun ever. We had many overnights there. A few of the leaders were Hazel Hawse, Dorothy Pitz and Mrs. Bradley. Wilma Engstrom was always involved and liked to sleep outside.

Library and Quarry trips
When Joan Engstrom and I were a little older, we were allowed to walk to the library which seemed pretty far to go. It was the West Side, at Batavia Avenue and Wilson Street. Once we left our homes, there was no way for anyone to check on us; but in 1952, Batavia had only 5,862 people and many of them were my relatives. We would walk past three of the East Side grocery stores: Sloggett's, Daniels' and Bortner's (my great-aunt and uncle); then stop at Batavia Insurance Agency (my great-uncle), the dime store (my grandmother's twin sister, Gen Phelps worked there, and on to the library. I remember that we liked doing that so much we would come home, read our books on the front porch and want to go back the next day.

My Mom insisted that I knew how to swim and walked me to my swimming lessons at The Quarry. She refused to go over the (railroad) trestle so it wasn't until I got older that I crossed with my friends. When you go to the trestle, you would get down on your knees and put your ear to the track to listen for an oncoming train. Because of a curve, you could not see ahead. I never knew of anyone going down the side ladder or falling from the tracks if a train came by.

I spent a lot of time hopping on my bicycle and going to the store for my grandparents, Philip and Florence Roesler. My grandfather was injured while working for a dairy located along the East Bank of the Fox River. After many surgeries, he was confined to a wheel chair. Grandma used to send me to the Feldott store on East Wilson Street. I remember it being like a hardware store. The Feldott's old store was on the comer of Wilson and Delia (Delia Street was later closed and now dead-ends at the railroad tracks). My brother used to go to the old store, but I remember only the new building.

My brother and I mowed our grandparents' law that stretched all the way back to the tracks, being very careful not to run over Grandpa's new little trees that he would tell my Grandma how to plant. One of those trees that's about 100 years old still stands at 228 Delia, at the house where we grew up.

From Grandma and Grandpa's, we would go over to Jake and Alma Becker's house to check out their pigeons, chickens and rabbits. All the backyards along Wilson Street had old buildings, still-standing outhouses (no longer used) and many fruit trees and grape vines.

Feeding hobos
One of the favorite stories my Grandmother Roesler would tell was about putting coffee and cakes and cookies, or whatever she had, out behind the sheds in the backyard for the hobos who walked the tracks. One morning when she went out, there was a container of coffee for her. This is the same grandmother I saw almost every day through the first eight years of my marriage; I loved her.

A lot of families had garden plots on the south side of Franklin Street between College and Hamlet streets. At that time, this was open land. Gardeners would carry buckets of water and go there to harvest vegetables and pull weeds. Later, four houses were built in that space: the Woods' home (now occupied by Tom and Nancy Schmitz), then the Thieles, Remus family, and Glos family. Across Hamlet street to the East was Wenberg's greenhouse.

We (all the kids in the neighborhood) took dancing lessons from Marge Holmberg. She taught in her living room and then later in various downtown Batavia buildings.

Outdoor fun
Ice skating on the Fox River "pond" (Where Harris BMO bank and McDonald's now sit) was one of our favorite winter time things to do. We would walk there and be so cold by the time we arrived. Then we'd put on our skates, skate for hours on the river and then walk back home. There was an old, rickety building there, but I don't ever remember it being scary. I don't remember who was in charge, but there always was a pile of wood to make a bonfire. I remember that the pond was always available for skating every day all winter long.

On summer evenings, all the neighborhood kids would gather to play "Hide 'n Seek," Kick the Can or baseball. We'd play in the street alongside Mark Stuttle's house. We'd also play hopscotch and jump rope. We always went home when the street lights came on or when my Dad did his two- finger whistle. Sometimes, we went back outdoors with covered jars to catch lightning bugs or fire flies. Many summer nights, Joan Engstrom and I would sleep on our front porch.

My Mom did a lot of sewing and I would go to Julia and Ida Kline's Dry Goods Store on the East Wilson Street hill. The two sisters lived just two houses away from my Grandmother Hilma Carlson on Franklin Street. We also shopped at Phipp's Department Store. Clothes were sold in the upstairs and fabrics and sewing supplies were in the lower level. My Mom and I both worked at The Little Dress Shop on the south side of Wilson Street across from Batavia Insurance. Charles Bird lived on the second floor and was known for the beautiful women's hats he made. The house burned to the ground several years later and the property is now a vacant lot.

A Saturday walk
On Saturday mornings, I would go downtown with my Dad, Earl Frydendall, my favorite "buddy." We would go to Wright's Bakery on the East Side hill (now the office of Attorney Paul Greviskes) for sweet rolls that had the best-ever frosting on them. Then we'd go to the northwest comer of Wilson and River streets which was the Community Cash Market, a meat market, and then cross Wilson Street to the Batavia National Bank which had a huge scale in the lobby, then east, back up the hill, to Pinoke's Menswear where my dad bought a lot of his clothes. (This was owned by Pi- noke Johnson, a college basketball referee, who was known throughout the Big 10 and beyond.)
My Dad was popular with the neighborhood kids, too. They would get excited when they saw him coming home from work at exactly 5:07 p.m. every afternoon. He was like a "big kid" and had my grandparents' "boogie" hom on his car. Everyone would go to the edge of the street and giggle to hear that hom. It was on all our family cars and now is on my boat in Wisconsin.

When I was 16, my Dad taught me to drive on Averill Road which was a two-lane road and is now Fabyan Parkway. There was no bridge across the Fox River and very little traffic. My brother, Eldon, was very generous in letting me use his car. After I learned to drive, I was sometimes able to drive downtown and to the high school on the West Side (on the site of the present library). My car was usually about one of five in the tiny parking lot.