Arlington Heights is having a very good time celebrating its Quasquicentennial this year, the 125 years since it was incorporated.
But the figure pales in my mind compared to the coming 200th anniversary of the day when Asa Dunton and his family looked out at the billowing Illinois prairie grasses, alive with bright-faced flowers, "fluid as an ocean vista," as the first travelers said in wonder, and decided they were home.
Contact information ( * required )
It was 1836 and, for the Duntons, the end of a long journey from their home state of New York. Their first dwelling was a log cabin in Deer Grove (all the early settlers built in the groves of trees, not on the prairies themselves).
But it was the prairie spaces they claimed for their future farms and, in the case of our village, the village itself.
I think of our centrally located block as a microcosm of Arlington history because we have houses built in the 19th century (example: Asa Dunton's house), the 20th century and the 21st century.
It was part of the original Dunton claims, and Asa Dunton built his house on this block near the southeast corner. It's still here, hidden by foliage like the fairy tale house of Sleeping Beauty.
What brings all this to mind is the recent death of our neighbor Loraine Japp. She was a part of the block all her long life of 91 years, almost half the history of the village. She was born at 9 E. Hawthorne and lived her whole life at 609 N. Dunton in a house her grandfather built.
She almost waxed poetical when she described for me some decades ago the Arlington of her childhood.
"Arlington was a charming town to live in when I was a child. People did things for each other. Everyone had big gardens, and for those who didn't everything was shared. Not everyone had that much, but when you give part of yourself, you get back," she recalled.
She remembered few needs. "Women had a Sunday dress for church and then, usually, two house dresses and aprons."
Children had fields to play in. And streets.
"We played baseball and kick-the-can on Hawthorne in front of the house. There was little traffic."
Loraine's father was a tool-and-die maker at Creamery Package, by far the biggest employer in town. It was often called Creamery College, because after graduation from Arlington High School it seemed that the school population just crossed the tracks for the "higher education" they would get at the plant.
Loraine recalled how they were teased for going to "Creamery College of Milk Can Knowledge."
Part of the block's charm was Heinie Kennicott's store next to the sidewalk at 630 N. Dunton.
"His family built him what was almost a little house," Loraine said. "He sold penny candy and school supplies, and in the summer ice cream."
There was a piano teacher next door and an outhouse out back. What more could you ask of life?