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posted: 3/28/2012 12:09 PM

Elgin's 'dark side' made news in 1912

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The "dark side" of Elgin appeared to be making news a century ago. This included stories of risqué motion pictures, dances involving drunkenness and debauchery, and men who were part of the "black list."

Here's a look at those and others stories that made headlines in March 1912.

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Dirty dancing: "It was the most shameful exhibition of immorality I have ever seen," said a musician who was hired to work at a downtown dance.

The attendees -- mostly couples in their teens -- were reportedly doing dances such as the "Grizzly Bear," "Turkey Trot," and the "Bear Cat." Witnesses said that many of the 40 couples who attended were intoxicated and one of the most "shameful acts" occurred when one young woman "nearly disrobed" and did the "Grizzly Bear" with all its variations.

Another musician added that the dancing went on until 2:30 a.m. and that he did not know "who hired them or what they were getting into."

Naughty nickel shows: Women's issues came to the forefront as a representative of a Chicago missionary group spoke to a packed house at an Elgin Y.W.C.A. gathering.

"I urge mothers to attend the nickel shows. If the men who run these shows knew that mothers would drop in at any time they would not allow some of things they do now."

On the issue of dating, she added, "There should be parlors in every church where young people can do their courting."

These should be open to all whether they belong to that particular church or not, she explained.

No black list: The "Black List" was now history. Men who wanted to make a purchase at any of the city's liquor establishments could now do so freely without being told they were on any city roster prohibiting them from doing so.

News that the 20-year-old "black list" had been dropped came rather unexpectedly in city court one day when the police chief asked whether a witness was on the "black list."

The top official was told that the roster no longer existed and that city ordinances were being rewritten to conform to the change.

Streetcar deaths: The seemingly serene image of streetcars gliding about the city streets could sometimes be very different from what we imagine.

As a trolley loaded with 90 passengers was "speeding" south from the Cook Publishing Company on North Grove Avenue a wagon ended up in its path. The accident killed the three wagon passengers and injured a score of passengers on the streetcar. The streetcar coasted three blocks before coming to rest.

Sunday theater ban: "There is only one thing to do," said one city council member. "That is to close the theatres."

The decision came on the heels of a hotly contested move to close the theatres in Elgin on Sundays.

"The pressure has been something terrific," added Elgin's mayor. "The church people have the law on their side."

Over 500 people were reported to have contacted the mayor asking him to prohibit Sunday performances.

No new taxes: Finally, it might be rare today, but in 1912, Elgin Township officers announced that there would be no tax levy for the year.

"There is sufficient income to take care of all needs without the extra burden of taxation," they said.

As for becoming involved in politics, "little interest" was shown in the township races with the entire Republican slate running unopposed.

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