A look back at Elgin news headlines 50, 75 and 100 years ago

  • Workers removed the clock mechanism from the iconic tower of the Elgin National Watch Company in 1965 as plans for the factory's demolition progressed. Photo from the "The Watch Word" magazine in the Gail Borden Public Library collection.

    Workers removed the clock mechanism from the iconic tower of the Elgin National Watch Company in 1965 as plans for the factory's demolition progressed. Photo from the "The Watch Word" magazine in the Gail Borden Public Library collection. COURTESY OF GAIL BORDEN PUBLIC LIBRARY

  • After being on display in Colorado and later Rockford, Illinois, the watch factory's mechanism is now housed at the Elgin History Museum. Behind it is a life size replica of the clock face.

    After being on display in Colorado and later Rockford, Illinois, the watch factory's mechanism is now housed at the Elgin History Museum. Behind it is a life size replica of the clock face. COURTESY OF ELGIN HISTORY MUSEUM

 
Posted8/19/2015 4:06 PM

"I can't believe the price of cigarettes is going up to 14 cents a pack."

"Do you really think golf can cure mental illness?"

 

"I guess I better start putting money in the parking meters now that they have those meter maids."

These are just some of the comments people might have made after reading Elgin newspapers of past years. Here's a look at those and other stories that made area headlines 50, 75, and 100 years ago.

1965

Giant clock stops: Elginites said goodbye to the giant clock mechanism in the tower of the Elgin National Watch Company after workers cut the wires allowing the device to run down.

Installed in 1905 in the factory's 75-foot-tall clock tower, the large timepiece, which was attached to a pendulum two stores in length, was slated to be shipped to a clock museum in Colorado. The four faces and hands were to be recovered during the final demolition of the huge factory, a complex that had once employed over 4,000 people.

Meter maids: Women known as "meter maids" who would become downtown fixtures in the years ahead appeared on the city streets following the hiring of four women charged with patrolling the downtown area for parking violations.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The city manager said it was his preference to hire women from the ages of 25 to 35 for the positions, and that he also planned to use them for protection at school crossing sites. Regular officers would still patrol the downtown area as usual, he added.

The birth of ECC: Elgin Community College, which had operated under the control of School District U-46 since 1949, was set to become a separate entity following action taken by the Elgin Board of Education.

The new plan would better help the college to meet its expected enrollment of 2,000 students by 1970 which was set to rise to over 5,000 by 1980. Proponents said the newly created college district would allow it to qualify for greater benefits and financial aid not available if it continued to operate under School District U-46.

First "discount" store: Topps, described as Elgin's first discount department store, officially opened as customers lined up 12 deep at the door on the first day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The company's 57th store, constructed for $1 million and 85,000 square feet in size, was staffed by employees of which 95 percent stated they were Elgin residents.

Also joining the discount stores operating in the city, was the Kmart store which opened on Dundee Avenue just north of I-90. Also boasting that it hired largely local people, the store slightly exceeded Topps in size and was said to be equal to two football fields in square footage. Store officials said the electricity consumed by their facility would be equivalent to that used by 1,000 homes.

1940

Tax increase for schools: Elgin-area voters went to the polls for the second time in a year to decide about increasing their taxes in a school referendum.

School officials said passage of the measure would allow schools to operate for a full nine months rather than being shortened two weeks as they were then, restore kindergarten and music classes, consolidate special education services in one location, and avoid classroom size increases.

Though trustees had reduced their request in half from the previous referendum, the number of "no" voters stayed almost the same and only additional "yes" votes allowed it to pass.

"Nuisance" taxes: "Ten-cent beers" and "dime shots" were about to become a thing of the past under new federal "nuisance taxes" soon to go into effect to help pay for national defense.

The cost of 13 cents for a pack of cigarettes, or two packs for a quarter was also boosted to 14 cents a pack with no discount for buying two. Theater goers would also see a 10 percent tax on all admissions over 21 cents, while additional taxes were also placed on radio and refrigerator purchases and club dues.

Baby reunion: Amid warm sunlight, 425 babies and their mothers gathered on the south lawn of Sherman Hospital, then located on Center Street on the east side of Elgin, for the hospital's 10th annual Baby Reunion.

Each baby was given a rattle and a box of powder, and there were raffles for bottle warmers, waffle irons, and cartons of tissue. Local stores exhibited displays of "everything for the baby" and the day concluded with a gold trophy awarded to the last baby born in the previous 12 months.

The number of babies attending represented more than three-fourths of those born in the last year at the hospital, an institution then operated by the Elgin Woman's Club.

1915

Missing girl: After her daughter had failed to return home after being sent to deliver a note to a man her mother had known as a doctor, the woman contacted police.

The teenager was later found semiconscious in the man's apartment in Chicago saying she had been stuck in the arm with a needle and also told to take a pill.

After arresting the former Elgin watch worker who was studying to be a medical student -- and who had also been implicated in several other crimes -- police excavated the yard of his former Elgin home looking for human remains.

Movie censorship: After securing permission from the city of Elgin to establish an advisory movie censorship committee, the church-based women's group took on its first challenge with the movie "Three Weeks."

"It is not a fit picture for the public to see," said a committee member of the silent movie about man who has an affair with a married woman.

The management of a downtown local theater then made plans to show the film at a new baseball park opposite Wing Park, a west side area that was just outside the city limits. That too was canceled after promoters failed to secure a permit from county officials.

Golf therapy: Finally, can golf cure mental illness? That's what the superintendent of the Elgin State Hospital, now the Elgin Mental Health Center, said as he advocated for the establishment of a golf course on the institution's grounds.

"Patients recover from insanity more quickly when given as much freedom as possible and kept interested in some form of amusement, preferably some athletic sport," he said.

A one-hole golf course had been laid on the hospital grounds for several years and used consistently, the administrator explained.

"The competition of the game will keep a patient's mind from their mental troubles and quicken their recovery," he added.

Jerry Turnquist writes about Elgin history. He welcomes questions and comments from readers. Email him at IBeMrT@aol.com.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Get articles sent to your inbox.

Article Comments
Attention: We are experiencing technical difficulties with our Facebook Comments module at this time. Comments will remain disabled until we are able to resolve the problem. We apologize for the interruption. We invite you to engage with our content and talk with other commenters on our Daily Herald Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DailyHeraldFans/. Thank you.