When the Daily Herald Neighbor section recently called on Arlington Heights residents to go on a treasure hunt in their shoe boxes and attics for historical photos, I remembered I had a studio portrait of Albert F. Volz I'd been meaning to donate to the Arlington Heights Historical Society. Now was my chance.
Volz was my major teacher of Arlington lore. He lived on our corner when we moved to Dunton Avenue in the 1960s. Ninety years old, he faithfully trudged downtown every morning to visit what had long been his bailiwick when he was mayor, legislator and owner of one of the town's largest businesses, Peter and Volz Co., manufacturer of school desks and opera chairs.
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Always an advocate for his hometown, Volz regularly dallied on my front walk to divert me with some bit of Arlington history. Distracted by toddlers running toward the street or wobbling on their tricycles, I only half attended to what he was telling me. I think I caught more of his enthusiasm for the town than I did specific facts he was so eager to impart.
But I gradually became aware what a visionary our neighbor was. Not that he made much of his accomplishments. Far from it. Yet, I'd find myself burbling at supper, "Can you believe it was our Mr. Volz who thought up the idea of Northwest Highway? He was riding on a North Western train with William Busse one day, and suddenly saw the desirability of a parallel highway."
Volz was a state representative at the time, and Busse was a county commissioner, so they were positioned to achieve their vision. A versatile man, Al Volz served on both the volunteer fire department and the town baseball team.
During his tenure as mayor, foreign laborers mitigated their homesickness with regular visits to the several saloons south of the tracks. The area was called "Little Hell" by some townspeople. On occasion there would be a ruckus and the police would be called.
One night when no policeman was available, Volz was called. Such was his natural authority that, as Daisy Daniels tells the story in "Prairieville, U.S.A.," with no "interpreter available and without a police badge to show his authority, Mayor Volz opened his coat and flashed his shiny suspender buckle." Order was restored.
Born May 12, 1871, when our village was still called Dunton, Volz was interested in politics all his life, joining his first "Torch Light" parade when he was only 17. He was mayor for two terms, on the grade school board for 10 years, and served three terms as a state legislator where he voted for women's suffrage. He served as president of the Northwest Towns Republican Organization and was the first president of the Historical Society of Arlington Heights. Albert F. Volz died on June 5, 1971, at the age of 100 years and 17 days.