50 years ago: Elgin National Watch tower demolition

  • At 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2, 1966, a charge of dynamite leveled the tower of the Elgin National Watch Company. Located on National Street near Grove Avenue, the company manufactured over 60 million "Elgin" watches before closing and was a focal point of Elgin life for nearly a century.

    At 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2, 1966, a charge of dynamite leveled the tower of the Elgin National Watch Company. Located on National Street near Grove Avenue, the company manufactured over 60 million "Elgin" watches before closing and was a focal point of Elgin life for nearly a century. Courtesy of Elgin History Museum

  • The First National Bank of Elgin was the first area financial institution to run ads promoting its new "FirstCard." The card, which debuted 50 years ago, could be used as both a credit card and to cash checks.

    The First National Bank of Elgin was the first area financial institution to run ads promoting its new "FirstCard." The card, which debuted 50 years ago, could be used as both a credit card and to cash checks. Courtesy of Gail Borden Public Library

 
Posted9/27/2016 2:13 PM

"I can't believe that the watch factory was here for 100 years and now it's gone."

"So now I have to put a nickel in parking meter just to park for an hour?"

 

"It looks like anyone wanting to bet on a horse race is out of luck."

These are some of the comments people might have made after reading news 50, 75, and 100 years ago. Here's a look at those and other stories that made late summer and fall news in 1966, 1941 and 1916.

1966

End of time: In just a matter of seconds, a century of Elgin history came to an end as a charge of dynamite toppled the iconic tower of the Elgin National Watch Company. Scheduled early on a Sunday morning to avoid large numbers of onlookers, the demolition culminated months of work as wrecking crews moved their way from the back to the front of the building.

The clock mechanism, which was removed earlier, and some of the hands which were recovered after the blast are now on display at the Elgin History Museum.

New district: More than 900 students passed through the doors of Elgin Community College as the school held its first day of classes as District 509.

Though its existence as a separate district was new, the school traced its roots to 1949 when it first opened as an extension of the University of Illinois and later operated under Elgin Area School District U-46.

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Before incoming freshmen could attend classes, they were required to attend sessions to help them understand the differences between high school and college and the importance of personal responsibility for college success.

"FirstCard" debuts: Calling it "the most significant innovation in modern banking since the introduction of the check," the First National Bank of Elgin introduced the "FirstCard." Instead of relying on credit cards at a variety of stores, customers could now make their purchases with any of the merchants who accepted the "FirstCard."

Card holders who paid their full balance within 25 days of the statement incurred no interest. Those who paid less than the full amount were required to pay 1/20 of the bill or $10, whichever was larger in addition to a "service charge."

1941

What time is it? Elginites went to the polls to decide whether they should extend Daylight Saving Time to the end of October to conform with Chicago and most communities east of the Fox River Valley who were doing so.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The time change, which was approved in Elgin, did not affect a variety of communities to the west, however, including Huntley, Hampshire and Pingree Grove. People traveling to those areas had to keep a closer eye on their watch and realize they were in areas operating on a different time.

Pay to park: Upon recommendations of some downtown businesses, the city council moved forward with plans for Elgin's first parking meters in the central business district.

Patterned after a central Illinois community, the six-month trial period would require one cent for 12 minutes of parking and five cents for an hour. Proponents said they hoped to urge quicker turnover of the spaces and also discourage employees from parking for an extended period of time. The money collected was to go into a special fund for street improvements.

Bicycle races: Witnessed by over 25,000 people, the 16th annual Elgin to Chicago Bicycle Race got underway on the Highland Avenue bridge in Elgin.

Traveling into a strong wind at the outset, the riders rode north on Rt. 31 passing through communities including Algonquin and Fox River Grove, Arlington Heights and Cicero until they reached the finish line on Damen Avenue in Chicago.

A 14-year-old Chicago youth came out on top in the contest completing the 62 mile course in just two hours and 45 minutes.

1916

Bets off: "Elgin was without a handbook for means of playing the races," reported one newspaper. There was no need to mention who he was, as "Everyone that played the races knew his name."

Clients who could no longer use the services of the man, who operated out of a local cigar store, and would now need to either wire money to Chicago or send someone there to make their illegal horse race wagers, the story added.

"Cigarette hearts": With the country moving toward possible involvement in World War I, Elgin High School established a military cadet program open to juniors and seniors.

The officer in charge informed the young men that there would be no smoking in the program and anyone caught doing so would need to turn in their uniform. Many men were rejected from the army because of "cigarette hearts" -- something he hoped to avoid with his action.

Inappropriate relationship: Finally, a 42-year old man who was reported to have an inappropriate relationship with his 17-year old niece ended up in the Kane County jail. Last seen together at a community picnic, the pair were then believed to have taken a train to Iowa.

When located a month later, the two were occupying a rented room together near Chicago. Officials said the man, who denied any wrongdoing, would likely be changed with violation of a federal law. The 17-year-old was returned to her parents.

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