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updated: 7/14/2011 4:41 PM

Quiz yourself: Elgin in the 1950s

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  • Elgin in the 1950s looked much different along South Grove Avenue when this picture was taken. Take this quiz to learn more about the times.

      Elgin in the 1950s looked much different along South Grove Avenue when this picture was taken. Take this quiz to learn more about the times.
    Courtesy of Jerry Turnquist

 

How much do you know about life in the Elgin area in the 1950s?

It was a decade remembered by some as the "good old days." It was, after all, a time of unprecedented growth and prosperity following World War II and before the advent of the more tumultuous times of the 1960s. But, there were some rather unpleasant events as well.

Here's a quiz written for those who lived through the times or not. Admittedly, those who lived during the era might have a slight edge, but even they might be surprised by how much they've forgotten.

So, take a trip back in time and test your knowledge of life in the Elgin area in the 1950s.

1. According to the city directory, which of these types of businesses did the city have the most of in 1956? Was it:

A) taverns; B) restaurants; C) drugstores; D) grocery stores?

2. In April 1957, Hattie Hemmens willed the city of Elgin more than half a million dollars for a "community center." It was a facility that would open over a decade later as the Hemmens Auditorium -- now the Hemmens Cultural Center. What was one stipulation in her will?

A) It must be built within 4 blocks of the river. B) It must be built within 3 years. C) It could never be open on Sundays. D) It could not serve liquor.

3. Elginites began regularly hearing the word "Sherwood" in 1955. What was it? A) the name of the mayor's new dog; B) a new department store; C) a telephone exchange; D) the name of a new bear at Lords Park Zoo.

4. In November 1956, Elginites voted 7 to 1 against this referendum. What was it for?

A) build a north end bridge; B) sell liquor on Sundays; C) build a west side high school; D) appropriate money to fight Dutch elm disease.

5. An Elgin man who was celebrating his 88th birthday in 1956 boasted this distinction. What was it?

A) smoked seven cigars a day; B) been a train commuter longer than anyone else; C) hadn't missed church on Sunday for 69 years; D) just completed his college degree.

6. Eight of Elgin's fires over the past year, including a spectacular blaze in 1956 at the Elgin Lumber and Supply Company, were attributable to this cause. What was it?

A) arson; B) oily rags C) lightning; D) careless use of smoking materials.

7. This Elgin disaster was narrowly averted in the "heart of the city" in the fall of 1954. What was it?

A) plane crash; B) an out-of-control truck; C) materials falling from a building; D) train crash.

8. The Elgin Jaycees began a program in the mid-1950s involving the use of volunteer "T-men." What was their job?

A) deliver telephone books; B) watch for violations at taverns; C) monitor traffic offenses D) deliver Thanksgiving turkeys to the needy.

9. According to a newspaper report, not since the bombing of Pearl Harbor have the majority of Elgin residents been "so shocked and stunned" as they were when they heard this news in the 1950s. What was it?

A) beginning of the Korean War; B) detonation of the hydrogen bomb; C) launching of Sputnik satellite by the Russians; D) firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur by President Truman.

10. A new swimming pool costing more than $25,000 was constructed at the Boy Scout Camp Big Timber in the early 1950s. How was the improvement paid for?

A) popcorn sales; B) paper drives; C) donation by an unknown benefactor; D) sale of a portion of the camp property.

11. Most of the 2,500 employees of the Elgin National Company refused to go to work one day in the early 1950s. Why?

A) they said the factory was too hot; B) they refused to cross the picket line of some employees; C) they refused to work on Christmas Eve day; D) they refused to work until company officials located the cause of a mysterious disease affecting some of the workers.

12. The canteen manager of Elgin Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1307 made more than 3,000 box lunches during April of 1957. Why?

A) for veterans in the hospital; B) for a state convention C) for parade participants D) for an Easter lunch at the Elgin State Hospital, now the Elgin Mental Center.

13. Elgin's Union National Bank was only the third bank in the nation to do this in the 1950s. What was it?

A) process checks electronically; B) use X-rays to detect counterfeit money; C) install security cameras on the outside of the building; D) install an outside teller's cage that descended into the sidewalk at night.

14. More than 1,300 women went door to door to raise money for this during the summer of 1954. What was it?

A) polio; B) children's books for the library; C) riverfront beautification; D) a new YMCA

15. How many Kane County residents died of tuberculosis in 1950?

A) zero; B) 15; C) 79; D) 210

Answers

1. D) Grocery stores. There were more than 70 grocery stores, most of the "Mom and Pop" variety. In case you guessed "taverns," that was in second place with about 50 establishments.

2. B) It must be built within 3 years. This did not occur, obviously.

3. C) A telephone exchange. The prefixes "741" and "742" that we use today were originally "SHerwood-1" and "SHerwood-2.

4. D) Appropriate money to fight Dutch elm disease. This disease was affecting area trees.

5. B) Been a train commuter longer than anyone else. He began commuting in 1913. He said the trains were faster the year he first started commuting.

6. A) Arson. All the fires were set by an 8-year-old boy.

7. A) Plane crash. A 20,000 pound F-86D fighter plane out of which the pilot bailed out was headed toward Elgin's downtown but crashed in a field southeast of the city instead.

8. C) Monitor traffic offenses. Club members wrote down the license plate numbers of traffic offenders and shared them with police who sent the drivers a letter asking them to improve their driving habits.

9. D) Firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur by President Truman. MacArthur had been in charge of military forces in the Korean War.

10. B) Paper drives. Hundreds of boys participated in these annual events which collected scrap paper from every street in Elgin.

11. B) They refused to cross the picket line of some employees. Certain machinists were on strike.

12. C) For parade participants. The lunches were for participants of Elgin's annual Loyalty Day Parade held on the first Sunday in May. A number of the participants were staying for evening competitions and the box lunches were supplied to them.

13. D) Install an outside teller's cage that descended into the sidewalk at night.

14. A) Polio

15. B) 15. Mobile chest X-Ray exam vehicles, which visited various sites, could X-ray two people per minute and were an important factor in early detection of the disease.

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