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updated: 3/9/2011 9:31 AM

Pushball, hobble skirts and explosions: Top Elgin headlines in March 1911

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"I can't believe women wear clothing like that."

"That explosion is the loudest noise I've ever heard in Elgin."

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"Pushball, what's that?"

These are comments people might have made after reading the Elgin newspapers of a century ago.

Here's a look at those and other stories that made headlines in March 1911.

New game: Anyone for a game of "pushball?" What was believed to be Elgin's first game of pushball occurred on roller skates at a downtown gymnasium.

The contest, which involved Elgin High School players, saw the competitors divided into two teams who played two halves of seven minutes, each separated by a five-minute intermission. The object of the game was to lift or push the 6-foot diameter ball over a goal post. The Elgin High School youth defeated their competitors, the "Eltekons," by a score of 4 to 0.

Who was "Jack the Mugger"? That's what Elgin police were trying to determine and the chief of police assigned two officers full time to the case.

The offender, who police felt was a married man, had been giving a number of women unwanted embraces. One suspect brought into the station for witnesses to view could not be positively identified, while another suspect seen by women near a downtown church escaped when their shouts scared him away before the police arrived. The chief urged Elgin women to use hat pins to protect themselves if attacked.

Rural recognition: Students in one- and two-room schoolhouses need more incentives to be on time, said the Kane County superintendent after a review of teachers' attendance records.

The top school official said he would encourage better attendance for students by asking teachers to issue certificates to pupils who were neither tardy nor absent in a grading period. Those who received several certificates would be invited to a recognition program in his office.

The county superintendent also said he would be initiating a countywide graduation program for eighth-graders from rural schools.

Fashion follies: The new "hobble skirt" -- a tightfitting skirt that caused women to "hobble" when they walked -- continued to make news as representatives of the streetcar company were concerned about the women's ability to step on and off the streetcars.

The principal of Elgin High School said he would not allow the new style during the next graduation because of the danger it would cause going on and off the stage.

A bill was even introduced into the Illinois legislature fining women from $10 to $50 for wearing a hobble skirt.

Big blast: An explosion at a dynamite factory near Kenosha, Wis., was so strong that it was felt in Elgin and other nearby communities.

The mishap -- actually two separate blasts -- rocked downtown businesses and swayed residences "breaking glasses, plates and dishes," according to local newspapers. Plate glass windows also broke in several businesses, pictures fell off the wall in others, and telephone service was interrupted. A dressmaker living on DuPage Street on the east side reportedly even suffered a heart attack because of the explosion.

Residents at first thought the sounds were caused by an earthquake, but about 25 minutes later, telegrams informed them of the real source.

Military service? Would the Elgin men of the Illinois National Guard be called up for service in Mexico? As hostilities in the region increased, the Elgin men were told to overhaul their equipment and be ready for service.

New overcoats also arrived for the soldiers. A list of officers was also requested to be forwarded to Springfield, and the Third Regiment, of which Elgin was a part, was directed to recruit enough men to be at full strength as soon as possible.

Hungarian church? Finally, with over 400 Hungarian immigrants in Elgin, it was time the city had a church that met their needs, explained a representative of the group.

The newer arrivals -- many of whom lived in the southeast part of the city -- were provided a meeting place at the Holy Trinity Church, a congregation that started as Elgin's first English-speaking Lutheran church.

The upstart congregation, which was currently served by an itinerant pastor, hoped to secure a minister from Hungary as soon as possible. The undertaking was financially supported by the Slav Mission Board of the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America.

• Jerry Turnquist writes about Elgin history. E-mail him at IbeMrT@aol.com.

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