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updated: 8/17/2013 6:11 PM

Ten years of 'Talk' means a trip back in time

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  • Rowena Salas, co-owner of the Hotel Baker in St. Charles, is shown in 2010 on the Penthouse deck.

      Rowena Salas, co-owner of the Hotel Baker in St. Charles, is shown in 2010 on the Penthouse deck.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer


After mentioning a couple of weeks ago that "Talk of the Town" has been around for 10 years, some readers were kind enough to send notes to say thanks and express how much they look forward to reading it every Sunday.

A local columnist can't ask for a more important measure of worth than the appreciation and loyal following of readers.

To give a little something back to readers, it might be fun to look back at the first few weeks of "Talk of the Town" in August 2003 and see what we were talking about.

If you've been around this area awhile, these recollections will certainly ring a bell.

The first item: The state was telling the city of St. Charles that it would install a stoplight on Route 64 for the new St. Charles Post Office. It was the first item in the Aug. 3, 2003, debut of "Talk of the Town" because the city had been told a light would go in when the post office was up and running. The state, as usual, took its sweet time and didn't put a light in just because a columnist was popping off about it.

Whose hotel is it? :Hotel Baker ownership was up in the air, so I half-jokingly suggested the city embrace a riverfront casino concept at the site -- just to get something done.

The hotel was saved, of course, when Joe and Rowena Salas of Wayne acquired the site with promises of bringing it back to its former glory.

They did a lot of cleanup and fix-up, and the hotel that defines downtown St. Charles continues to operate today.

For the Irish: The Claddagh Irish Pub was being built near the Geneva Commons, a signal that restaurants were viewing the potential of locating in that area. Banks were feeling the same, as Bank of America put up a branch in the area.

Grand downtown plans: When St. Charles officials began talking about a First Street redevelopment plan, "Talk of the Town" mentioned that many plans had been discussed in the past. One of those called for two enclosed pedestrian walkways over Main Street. Even though it was about 1981 at the time, and the idea didn't get much support, I thought it was a pretty cool idea.

Some aldermen were pitching it as a way to keep pedestrians safe, because downtown traffic was becoming increasingly heavy.

'Night Mayor's' thoughts: The late Jimmy Kacheres, a savvy businessman known as the "Night Mayor" of St. Charles because he had so much knowledge of the city's inner workings and could pull political strings like no other, was talking 10 years ago about how the city needed a face-lift.

He wanted the downtown merchants to spruce up by painting and the city to place more plants along Main Street. He wanted the rear parking lots blacktopped and striped to look nicer. He was particularly vocal about the Manor Restaurant needing to fix its parking lot on First Street.

Cost would rise: Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke had a crystal ball into the future. Then again, this wasn't a tough one to predict. He was telling anyone who would listen to expect the cost of waste disposal tickets to increase fairly significantly. He figured they would be costing two or three times more than their cost of $1.79 at that time. He was correct.

That's the way things were in 2003 in "Talk of the Town."

Help for memorials: Now, back to the present.

The Fox Valley Veterans Breakfast Club is spreading the word that it can use some contributions and volunteers in its effort to bring the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall to Aurora Nov. 7 to 11.

The project includes a Healing Field, a display of more than 200 American flags honoring those lost in battle.

The memorial wall, the Healing Field, as well as the Illinois Fallen Heroes Traveling Memorial and a model of the World War II Memorial will be on display.

Those interested in helping can get details at

On to Bolshoi: Linda Cunningham has taken plenty of excellent dancers under her wings at State Street Dance Studio in Geneva.

This time, Cunningham, owner and artistic director of State Street Dance, has a major talent on her hands in 11-year-old Emma Sidari. She was selected for an internship at Bolshoi Theater School in Joinville, Brazil.

I'm not among those who know their ballet history. But when someone says this school is connected with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Russia, even I know that means something really big.

How big is it? This Geneva dance student is the first American to be accepted at Bolshoi Theater.

Golf for clean water: Fox Valley Presbyterian Church members in Geneva have made it a mission to help villages in poor nations develop clean water wells. And they've been able to do it partly through money raised during "Links for Living Waters" golf outings at Mill Creek Golf Course.

They'll be at it again Friday in the charity golf tournament and dinner with the goal of bringing clean water to villages in Guatemala.

Anyone interested in playing can sign up at

To sponsor a hole or donate items as prizes, call Sally Cable at (630) 308-8527.

Chance for trivia: Trivia Night fundraisers for TriCity Family Services have been very popular in the past. So much so that some teams were left out because of waiting too long to sign up. Well, that's not the case in the summer.

The agency still has spots open for next Saturday's event at the Batavia Moose. Sign up at or call (630) 232-1070.

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