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posted: 7/30/2012 2:33 PM

Top headlines of Elgin in the summer of 1912

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A heated battle as whether or not Elgin theaters should be open on Sundays came to a climax 100 years ago when citizens were given the opportunity to vote on the question.

This same time period also saw the city defend its right to dump raw sewage into the Fox River, while a local institution managed entirely by women -- and still with us today -- opened its new facility.

Here's a look at those and other stories that made Elgin area headlines during summer of 1912.

Sunday amusements: Should theaters be closed on Sundays? That question was put before Elgin voters and the campaign that preceded it was a contentious one.

"The real question is a fight between morality and immorality," said one Elgin pastor. "I do not mean that everyone who is connected with Sunday shows is immoral, but the forces of immorality are lined up on that side."

"I believe my brother pastors are wrong," said another minister at a large gathering sponsored by theater owners. "I hold that theaters are doing a great deal of good, and that what is indecent on Sunday is indecent on Saturday or Monday. Do you want a few preachers who are supported by a few wealthy men to lord over you?"

Elgin voters -- all men -- apparently agreed, approving the question by a 3 to 2 margin. The affirmative vote also gave the green light to roller skating and carnivals and circuses, though it was still unclear whether billiard halls could open on Sundays.

Police beat: In police news, officers said they would not tolerate betting on "baseball pools" and warned residents against this type of gambling.

Police also made six arrests for gambling with dice and the participants were fined $25 each -- the maximum allowable at the time. Two young boys were charged with distributing pills illegally, and the police department said it was considering a new weapon in its war against speeding cars -- a motorcycle.

Perks of the job: What's it take to get a good "hired gal?"

One Elgin housewife, who had advertised a position with her family as "three nights a week off" and "no washing," found that the job description wasn't enough to attract the attention of any candidates. She decided to get a bit more creative and added "an automobile ride once a week" to her listing in the paper.

Within hours, the enterprising housewife had two replies to her ad and hired what she described as a "model girl."

Polluted river: Does Elgin pollute the Fox River? Residents living 11 miles downstream on both sides of the river felt the city's discharge into the river -- in this era before treatment plants -- was causing ill effects and their concerns landed city officials before a state hearing board to explain their position.

There is "sufficient flow" of the river in the Elgin area to handle this discharge, explained the city attorney. The Elgin city engineer added that the matter was even less of a problem then some felt because just over half of the city's 27,000 residents were even connected to the city's sewer system.

New Larkin Home: Funded largely through contributions of Elgin citizens, the new Larkin Home -- now the Larkin Center -- opened on the city's far west side.

Costing approximately $23,000 and designed by local architect George Morris, the building was of "dark colored brick and white stone trimmings" and "located ideally, overlooking the beautiful country." The two-decade-old institution had been previously located in a smaller home on South State Street, donated by area resident Cyrus Larkin in honor of his mother.

Although the facility had been managed by men, it was now governed entirely by a board of 16 women.

Carnival lure: Finally, having a carnival come to town might not be enough to break up most marriages, but it was apparently a factor in one.

After her husband failed to return home, his Elgin bride of five weeks called authorities to seek their help in locating his whereabouts. The man had gone to the city's recent carnival almost every night of the week before he turned up missing, she explained.

And, what did this have to do with his disappearance? The errant spouse was 6-feet-8-inches tall and his distraught wife felt his unusual appearance prompted him to take up employment with his newly-found carnival friends.

• Jerry Turnquist writes about Elgin history. He welcomes messages from readers. Email him at

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