'Cosmic punch,' pinball, pneumonia made Elgin news
"I wonder what that 'cosmic punch' really is."
"So, now it's even illegal to win a free game on a pinball machine?"
"I wish we could do something to stop pneumonia."
These are some of the comments Elgin area people might have made after reading Elgin area news of 50, 75, and 100 years ago. Here's a look at those and other stories as recorded in the Elgin area newspapers of 1965, 1941, and 1916.
Pneumonia deaths: With just over a dozen deaths from pneumonia during a three-week period in early 1916, the city said it was stepping up enforcement of spitting on the sidewalks as one way to stop the contagion.
"When we spit on sidewalks or the floors of the building the women come along and sweep up the germs with their skirts and the germs fly through the air and we breathe them," noted a city health official.
Elgin florists said the supply of flowers available to send to sick people was very low because of the number of orders they were filling.
Loitering ladies: Calling it the "girl problem," two prominent women said something needed to be done about young women who gathered in the streetcar waiting room late at night.
"Some young women arrive as early as 9 p.m. and stay long after the last car has left," said one woman of their six-week investigation. "The men come in and walk back and forth looking for a girl they like and then leave with their 'date,'" she added. Assigning a police matron to the waiting station would help deal with the problem, the women said.
School desks: While the mention of an elementary classroom of a century ago might conjure up images of rows of school desks, Elgin school officials said that was about to change.
Tables seating eight students each would replace the traditional furniture at one east side elementary school, which officials said would make the room look more like a classroom and less businesslike. If the plan proved satisfactory, all grade schools in the city would see the same modification, the district said.
Ice harvesting: A normally quiet section of the Fox River north of the Kimball Street dam became a flurry of activity as 60 workers descended on the area to cut blocks of ice from the river. Company officials noted that they waited for a thickness of 12 inches on the river before beginning the harvesting, which they said would yield 10,000 tons.
Skating contests: More than 17,000 people poured onto the "upper lagoon" area of Elgin's east side Lords Park to witness the fourth annual Tri-State Skating meet. The event, which drew more than 500 skaters from Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin -- and, for the first time, Missouri -- featured events for men, women, and youth. Audience members were cautioned not to go onto the lagoon ice since it could not support large numbers of people.
War orders: As the United States inched closer to war, men of Company I of the Illinois National Guard from the Elgin area were called up for service and sent to Camp Forest in Tennessee.
Meanwhile, the Elgin National Watch Company, which just set a record year for profits, announced that it was outfitting a former clock factory on Bluff City Boulevard and Raymond Street to fulfill a War Department order for manufacturing shell time fuses.
The booming factory said its workforce had grown from 2,500 to more than 4,000 in just six months.
'Cosmic Punch': In boxing news, a longtime Elgin man boasted that the techniques of "rhythm and balance" boxer Lou Mara had acquired while working out with him, helped Mara perfect his "Cosmic Punch," which he used to knock out champion Max Baer in a fight at Madison Square Garden.
Locally, Elgin area boxing enthusiasts were able to witness five boxing matches scheduled at the Blue Moon Arena on Larkin Avenue. The contests, which pitted the Elgin men against other boxers from the Fox Valley, went three rounds with the exception of one for heavyweights, which went five.
Paper drive: More than 30 trucks carrying 100 Boy Scouts and other volunteers scoured more than 20 routes in the city as part of the group's 51st annual paper drive.
Homeowners, as well as businesses, were asked to have their newspapers tied in bundles and left on the curb or front porch for the collection. Proceeds benefitted various Boy Scout programs, including the operation of Camp Big Timber on Big Timber Road west of the city.
No loitering: In police news, the Elgin chief said the city ordinance about loitering in the downtown would be strictly enforced. If a merchant refused to sign a complaint, the chief directed the responding officer to do that instead. Offenders would then be brought to the station in the city's new "paddy wagon" -- a vehicle which could transport up to 10 people and which the department said it would also use for intoxicated subjects.
Zoo endangered: The fate of the Lords Park Zoo -- a fixture since the parks earliest years -- was in jeopardy as city staff initiated discussions about closing or moving the facility.
"Funds for repair and sanitation have been practically nonexistent for some time," said one staff member of the home for three bears, a lion, and some monkeys.
Neighbors circulated a petition urging that the zoo be continued and noted that its natural hillside location was ideal because it protected the animals in both winter and summer.
Pinball gambling: Finally, in the ongoing effort to suppress what they called illegal gambling in the city, local officials said that even pinball machines are illegal.
"Free games are equal to what a game would have cost and, therefore, the stake which is gambled for," added one official. Only machines which offer no tokens or free games are legal, city officials added.
• Jerry Turnquist writes about Elgin area history. Email him at IBeMrT@aol.com.