Tag Archives: elgin

Unraveling Harriet G. Switzer of Elgin

A faux alligator skin briefcase sat unopened in Mom’s attic for several years.  I brought the briefcase home after one trip to Elgin. Its contents were a jumble of receipts for a Harriet G. Switzer of 270 Watch St. Elgin, Illinois; a newspaper clipping about a meeting featuring Seaborn Wright [1], a well-preserved Switzer family tree ; and tatting thread, needles and some unfinished bits of lace. I’ve carefully untangled the thread, stored it and the needles with my grandmother’s tatting supplies, I blogged about the newspaper clipping and now I want to discover who Harriet was.

According to Ancestry dot com, Harriet was born Harriet G. Van Volkenburg to Nancy Plummer and John Van Velkenburg in Hampshire, Illinois, September 1871. She married Howard Switzer on January 1, 1889. By the turn of the century Harriet and Howard, still living in Hampshire, Illinois, had two sons, Albert (9) and Elmer (1). Howard made a living at farming. Tragically, Howard died in 1904 at the age of 48.

The 1910 census lists Harriet as living with her 19 and 11 year old sons at 366 Yarwood Street in Elgin, Illinois. She is listed as being employed by the nearby Elgin Watch Factory as a polisher. Albert is listed as being a carpenter. Another tragedy befell the family when, in 1918, Albert, by then a farmer, died in Hampshire.

In 1920 Harriet and her son, Elmer were living at 332 St. Charles Street. Harriet still worked for the Watch Factory, but was now a “piece worker.” Elmer worked as a truck driver for a thread factory [2]. In August of 1920 Elmer married Emma Sommerfeldt.

By July of 1921 Harriet had moved again, this time to 270 Watch Street. According to the 1930 census she owned this home. Harriet began furnishing her home with flooring, rugs and furniture from the Wait and Ross Furniture Company  and A. Leith & Company [3].

It looks like Harriet paid $18.75 for linoleum to be installed at her new house
Harriet paid $52.00 for a rug and $61.00 for something else — I cannot make out the handwriting.

Harriet not only furnished her home, but she hired O (?). W. Bayliss (Bayless?) to do some work around her house on 3 separate occasions beginning July 1, 1921.

She bought something from H. B. Cornwall in November 1921 for $40.

In March of 1923 she bought insurance from Ellis and Western for $12.

In March of 1924 she bought 3 years worth of tornado insurance worth $1250 from Edward F. Prideaux for $5.00.

In 1930, Harriet, now 59 years old worked in the spring department of the Watch Factory. Her home was worth $5000 according to the census.

Harriet continued to live on Watch Street until her death in 1943. She is buried in a small cemetery outside Hampshire called “Old Starks Cemetery.”

It’s been fun spending a morning and part of an afternoon learning about Harriet’s life. I’m glad she spent her last 20 or so years in her own house.

 

 

Notes:
  1. which has been published in a book called Atlanta Beer: A Heady History of Brewing In the Hub of the South []
  2. which was likely Collingbourne Mills, the same factory my Grandpa Green sold thread for and where Hyman Herron worked in the shipping department. []
  3. I cannot find any mention of this company on the Internet []

Happy 4th of July, you wonderful old First Federal Savings and Loan!

Apologies to Frances GoodrichAlbert Hackett, and Frank Capra. for the misuse of their words.

My first bank account was with Elgin’s First Federal Savings and Loan. Apparently, at the time, when you opened an account you were given a bank in the shape of the building. I found that bank, along with my passbooks a few years ago in the attic of my mom’s house in Elgin.

The bank is the color of old pennies — it may have been brighter copper colored when it was new. It is showing wear on one side, I think it is oxidation. White, not green, so I guess it is not copper.

I use the bank to hold foreign coins. I found a key that works (now that I look at it, it is the original key), so they are not forever stuck in it. I had the bank on my bookshelf in my office, but I want a less cluttered area so I am not positive what I am going to do with it.

The passbooks date from January 9, 1961 (I was 4) and is a joint account with my father. On January 10, 1961, a total of $31.06 was deposited into the account. The most money in the account was $2,364.74 on November 28, 1979. The account was closed on June 20, 1981, probably because I moved to Pittsburgh.

It seems I had another account with Elgin Federal Savings and Loan that I opened on March 8, 1976. Its highest amount was $538.11 on July 1, 1976. I closed this on November 23, 1976.

I vaguely remember going to the bank to deposit money and to withdraw money using these passbooks. I didn’t have a checkbook or credit card and ATM machines weren’t invented yet.

As for the passbooks — I will keep them in a box in the knee wall. Maybe the kids will find them interesting someday. If nothing else, the advertisements are interesting.

I like the way the style of homes are different from the passbook that was opened in 1961 and the one that was opened in 1976.

I guess $30,000 was a lot back then (1961)

 

A gift from Home Savings and Loan

In 1963, shortly after my brother was born, my parents received a gift from their local savings and loan. Now, what would a young mother and father need that a savings and loan would offer? Money? A new bank account for the baby?

The drawing on the card is lovely (apparently drawn by Maud Tousey Fangel according to Google’s Goggles app).

Baby sleeping

What could be inside this card? The greeting gives nothing away.

Greetings to the baby

What about the rest of the card? What could it be? Maybe a bib?  Maybe a gift certificate?

Nope. The card tells us nothing about what was inside it. Never fear — the contents were still intact. I guess Mom and Dad didn’t need to make very many copies that year.

Carbons

Of course. Carbons. This was back in the days before every home contained a copier. When Xerox machines were rare. When things needed to be in triplicate.

 

Seaborn Wright to speak in Elgin (maybe 1910)

Seaborn Wright
Seaborn Wright. Famous Georgian Orator Speaker at “Dry” Meeting Tonight

I don’t know what year this newspaper clipping was from — but it had articles mentioning Elgin, Illinois on the back. I found the clipping in an old suitcase that also contained tatting materials and several receipts for various items and services for a house on Watch Street in Elgin. Maybe the owner (a Ms. Switzer) belonged to the temperance movement? Maybe she just thought he was hot.

There is not a whole lot about Seaborn Wright on the Internet, but it seems he was active in the Prohibition Movement, was a lecturer on the subject and even ran for a government office in Georgia as a Prohibition Party politician.

He went on a tour to discuss his favorite subject in 1910 according to many newspaper articles. Apparently he was a captivating speaker.

 

Time Travel Anyone?

Recently on Facebook someone in a group about my hometown (Elgin, Illinois)  posted a video I’d uploaded to YouTube that my grandfather filmed when Jack Kennedy stopped in Elgin on his campaign tour. The Facebook user credited me with the video and requested my friendship on Facebook. I checked out his FB page before accepting the friendship and saw that his name was Dennis Higgins, he lived in Elgin and he wrote a few books. When I asked him about the books he said that two take place in Elgin and one in Chicago. Oh, and the books are all about time travel.

Something you may or may not know about me is that I am a sucker for time travel stories. I am not sure when it began, but I know I liked anything about time travel as far back as when I could only check out books from the children’s part of the library. One of the first time travel stories I remember reading was The Time Garden by Edward Eager. I may or may not have read the other books in his time-travel series, but I think I read at least a few of them. I also remember reading The Children at Green Knowe and other books in that series around that time, which has elements of parallel time in it. While the Chronicles of Narnia are not time-travel stories exactly — I thought of them as such when I devoured them in my teens. When I was teaching I discovered the young adult’s author, Avi, and read his very scary, but delicious Something Upstairs. More recently I have read and loved The Time Traveler’s Wife and 11-22-63.

It doesn’t stop with books — I also love time travel films. Although I don’t remember when I first saw Somewhere in Time, it is a movie I watch whenever it comes on television and is among my top five favorite films. I have not yet read the book by Richard Matheson on which it was based , although I did begin reading it and have it on my Nook. About the same time I first saw Somewhere in Time, I also saw The Two Worlds of Jenny Logan which was another romantic time-travel story, but not nearly as compelling as Somewhere in Time.

I even tried to write a time travel story once for NaNoWriMo. I’d been toying with an idea for a story about a bored 10 year old boy or girl somehow time-traveling to the early 1800’s and meeting young Robert E. Lee while his parents attended a wedding reception at the home ever since we attended a wedding at Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home in Alexandria, VA. While I didn’t finish the story (I got bored with it and lost it in a computer hard drive crash) I did end up learning a lot about Lee and his family. I think if I were to ever write anything about his family I’d write about his mother. Not a lot has been written about her and she was a long-suffering woman with an interesting life.

parallel roads by dennis higginsBack to Mr. Higigns and his time travel books. I borrowed his first book, Parallel Roads (Lost on Route 66) on my Kindle and began reading it in bed Wednesday night at about 10:00. I read about 25% and decided I’d better get to sleep because I had a ton of work to do the next day. I couldn’t sleep so I read some more. Finally at 2 am I put the book down and eventually fell asleep, having read half the book. I didn’t read much yesterday because I was so busy, but did finish the book this morning.

I really enjoyed it. This one does not take place in Elgin, but there is an Elgin pocket watch in it. It is about a 30-something’s search for information about the disappearance of his paternal grandmother shortly after she gave birth to his father. It is also a bit of a travelogue about Route 66, then and now. I always find it interesting that so many authors have been able to make so many different ways to time travel, and this one is unique. I’m not doing a very good job “reviewing” this book. If you want to read a really well-done review about it, check out Ingrid Hall’s review.

You know how sometimes you read a book and it is completely foreign to you? You learn a lot of new things from that kind of book, but it never really feels familiar? Those can be good reads, but I also like the kinds of books that make me feel like I am in my own living room — books that make me nod and think, yeah, that’s right. Books that might make me  think of a parallel experience I have had. That’s what Parallel Roads was for me, in a way. No, I’ve never traveled in time, but I have tracked down some missing family history through my recent forays into genealogy. I also recently took a cross-country trip with an emotional woman. In fact, the road trip (the 1946 one) in the book really did remind me of my recent trip with Clare in quite a number of ways but if I tell you how it might ruin the ending of the book for you.

I am really glad I uploaded that video that my grandfather took and grateful to Dennis for requesting my friendship because of it. I look forward to reading his other books. Time Travel! Elgin! What’s not to love?

What we did on our summer vacation — Day 4

I need to finish this before I blog about other things…

Sunday morning I went to church with Mom and afterward I enjoyed the wildflowers on the church property while Mom attended a meeting.

That afternoon we had a cookout with my brother and his family at my Mom’s house. Not knowing what to cook for dinner, Kevin, Brandon and I went to a local Italian grocery store for inspiration. We found it in the meat department in the form of amazing store-made sausages and the produce department in the form of vegetables to grill. And in the wine department where I saw the bottle of wine that I was hiding from Tony Soprano in my dream about him a week before the untimely death of the actor who portrayed him. We decided our meal would be a tribute to James Ganolfini and Tony Soprano.

We ate well that night thanks to Kevin’s skill with the grill. We also had fun with Preston.

 

What we did on our summer vacation: Days 1 & 2

Andrew and HalloweenWhen we drive a long distance we usually get a very early start — 5:00 am when we drive to Illinois. This time, however, we had other things to do in the morning and didn’t leave Bethesda until just after 2:00 pm. Oddly, Dean drove the whole way. Usually I drive for a while after lunch so he can take a nap. We brought our aged cat along — we had a pretty bad health scare a week or so ago (she has/had pancreatitis, it turns out) and I wanted to keep an eye on her. She’s a good traveler — she loves being petted and with 12 straight hours of attention, she was very happy indeed.

We arrived in Elgin around 2:00 am and didn’t get to bed until at least 3 but were rudely awakened by the trash collectors at 7:30 am.

We lazed around the house (well, the kids and I did — Dean visited his brother who lives in a nursing home a block or so from my mom’s house) for most of the day — Andrew had fun looking through Mom’s garage that is full of such exciting things as a CB radio, several toolboxes of varying shapes and sizes, and even a vintage hand-held massager.

That evening we headed to the “Big House” (Dean’s other brother’s house) in Hampshire for the rehearsal dinner for Dean’s youngest nephew, Nate and Marissa, his bride-to-be. It was fun catching up with all the family news and meeting Marissa’s family. Marissa’s grandparents told me I have a doppelganger in Arizona who works in a coffee shop they frequent.

 

Review: Mrs Lieutenant

A couple of weeks ago I received a google alert for Elgin, Illinois. I get them several times a week, and usually read them, then delete them. This one, however, I not only read and saved, but I took action that I don’t regret.

The alert was about an author, Phyllis Zimbler Miller, who grew up in Elgin. I’d not heard of the author, but found her on a site I’d been to before, The Author’s Den.  I sent her a message, telling her I was pleased to see that Elgin produced talented people and that I’d also grown up there. I also found her on twitter and found her weblogs. In fact, this woman is all over the Internet.

I added her to my twitter feed and we exchanged a couple of twits and messages on The Author’s Den. She offered to send me her book to read and review here. I accepted, so here we are.

I have to admit, when I looked at the cover of the book and read the blurb on the back, I was a little worried that I was not going to like it. After all, I was a knee-jerk anti-war teenager (and am a more thoughtful anti-war middle-aged woman). Why on earth would the story of four vastly different women who happened to be married to budding army Lieutenants in the 1970’s interest me in the slightest?

I was mistaken. Mrs. Lieutenant was an interesting read. It kept my interest and I came away from it more enlightened about life of military folk during the Viet Nam war. The book has romance, drama, drama, sex, and conflict. I cared about the characters and hated a couple of them. What more could I ask for?

The premise of the book is that four young women from different US cultures are thrown together for a couple of months on a military base while their husbands complete some needed training. Although backgrounds and pasts differ, their futures seem to all hold at least one near-definite: the possibility of their husband’s going to, and possibly dying, in Viet Nam.

Sharon Gold, the main character, is a Jewish anti-war protester from Chicago, Illinois. Donna is a Puerto Rican married to an “Anglo”. Kim is a white woman from South Carolina who doesn’t like Jews, Puerto Ricans or Blacks. Wendy is a sheltered Black woman from South Carolina.

While I believed the tension between Kim and the other women, I had a hard time understanding the tension that Sharon felt. Maybe I’m too young to remember tension between Jews and non-Jews, or perhaps I’ve lived in a community with a lot of Jewish culture for so long. Although, I do admit to not knowing anyone Jewish in my hometown until I got to high school, but it never seemed to be an issue — in fact I might have known them, just didn’t know they were Jewish.

I think this book might even appeal more to women that lived that life — even if they lived it during other wars, or during times of peace (have we actually had those?)

While Ms Zimbler Miller’s writing style occasionally felt awkward (possibly because she was writing in language of the 1970s), there were some spots of brilliant writing:

“Don’t lie to me. I know you were with a man.”

Jim’s face flushes with the ugliest shade of purple she’s ever seen. His eyes will pop out of his face any minute, landing at her feet and rolling away, becoming marbles for Squeaky to chase.

She sinks to the floor as her knees fold under her. “I swear Jim, I swear on my sister’s life, that I was home all day alone. That I was not with another man today, or ever before, or ever in the future.” The tears plop onto her hands.

He stides down the hall. In a moment he’s back.

He has the gun!

“I’ll kill you if you’re ever with another man. I promise you, Kim, I’ll kill you.”

So, as I told Ms Zimbler Miller in my first message — it’s great to see that Elgin, Illinois produced people with her talent. She spent time at the very same library I did as a young child — perhaps we read the same books.

I’m sending this book to my Aunt Ginny, who went to high school with Ms Zimbler Miller. I think she’ll even get more out of it than I did.

Sound bites from the early 70’s

My constant companion, RQ-209s, captured many [seemingly] important as well as unimportant audio moments in the 1970’s. Below are a few. The tape must have been damaged, because every so often the sound was erased. Perhaps it was too close to a magnet or maybe it is just age.

The first part of the tape was a TV weather broadcast. I didn’t know why I would record a weatherman talking, but then remembered that in junior high we had a visit from one of the weathermen on a local TV station. I recorded his mention of the visit. (Kimball Tigers)

It’s interesting hearing this voice from nearly 40 years ago. Voices seemed different then. More full perhaps.

Listen to an unknown weatherman from nineteen seventy-something.

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And here I am playing Silent Night [poorly] on my green electric organ.

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Here is a card game. I think my dad was losing and being nasty about it, but it is hard to understand in many spots. It’s neat hearing my Aunt Ginny and grandparents. I wonder if anyone knew they were being taped.

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I like this one – Kevin comes in from outside and I taunt him. I threaten him, but we end up laughing. I think he has another friend in the house too. The cat also has a word or two to say.

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This next sound bite is part of a call-in radio broadcast centering on the firing of Elgin’s police chief whose name was Hanson. I don’t remember it at all. The speaker seems to be the city manager. Mayor at the time was William Rauschenberger. My parents either strongly liked him or strongly didn’t like him. I think my mom must have taped this.

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This next is someone singing — but I don’t know who it was. I’m sure it wasn’t me. I cannot carry a note. My mom might have done this, but I don’t think she would sound that good. It might have been my grandmother, but I don’t know why she would do this on my tape recorder.

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Here’s a little bit from WLS, my preferred radio station at the time. I wish I had not ruined it at the end with the beep beep beep noises.

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My cat, Cinder, was part Siamese. She howled like one. My first landlord thought I was hiding a baby in the apartment.

Listen to Cinder howl.

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Finally, I don’t know whether this last sound bite is funny or depressing. I certainally sounded depressed at first – mostly because I knew this tape was not a very good birthday gift and was upset with myself that I didn’t make more of an effort to get him something. It ends ok, with my brother and me collaborating, but is hard to understand in many spots.

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Elgin again

Heading off to Elgin tomorrow afternoon. Parents again – but this time it is my husband’s family.

Ruth at our houseMy mother-in-law passed away last night. My husband was there – he got to say his goodbyes – although he feels like it was more important that he was there in September when his mom was more lucid. She’d been “out of it” for a while. I’m glad he got to spend time with her then and that he was there last night. I’m also glad that my children saw her last when she was standing and able to give us all hugs goodbye. I really didn’t expect that hug to be the last one – I thought she’d be around for a while yet.

On this side of 50, I think about death a lot more than I did before. Not in a frightened way, just in a matter of fact kind of way, although I’d rather not think about it at all. It is amazing – and probably good – that young people don’t realize how short life really is – it is a rather depressing thought.

The kids and I spent the day getting ready for our trip. Andrew, who will be a pallbearer, wanted a black (as opposed to navy) suit for the funeral. He also needed shoes – he’d grown a couple of sizes from the last dress shoes we bought (two years ago).

We’re staying in a motel this trip. I felt it would be easier on everyone. My family would have the space and privacy to get ready for the ceremonies. We’d also be able to be together – something that was not easily done during the summer. It will be a little odd, staying in a motel in my hometown, but it is for the best.