Remembering the blizzard of '67 in Elgin

  • Under the direction of Joseph Hecker, the Elgin National Watch Company Band toured the nation promoting the company's name.

    Under the direction of Joseph Hecker, the Elgin National Watch Company Band toured the nation promoting the company's name. Courtesy of Elgin History Museum

Posted1/24/2017 2:34 PM

Can you believe how that snowstorm paralyzed the area? What do you think about that plan for registering people from Germany, Italy, and Japan? Did you hear some Elgin families adopted French "war babies?"

These are comments people might have made after reading the Elgin-area newspapers of 50, 75, and 100 years ago. Here's a look at those stories and others that made Elgin area news during January and February, 1967, 1942, and 1917.



Blizzard hits area:

It wasn't the biggest snowstorm to hit the Elgin area, but 12 inches of snow coupled with strong winds paralyzed Elgin and much of the Chicago area. Beginning in the morning on Thursday, January 26, 1967, the storm eventually closed highways except for I-90.

City streets were also snow packed and the telephone company used its trucks to transport nurses to Sherman Hospital, now Advocate Sherman Hospital.

Volunteers helped do laundry and deliver food to patients to replace employees who couldn't make it to work. Residents trying to make a telephone call -- on their landline devices, of course -- reported they had to wait five minutes or longer for a dial tone.

New Y.W.C.A.:

Culminating a $750,000 fundraising campaign, Elgin Y.W.C.A. officials dedicated their building on East Chicago Street in downtown Elgin. Built on the same site as the original structure constructed in the early 1900s, the facility included a large cafeteria, "Town Room" which could be divided for various meetings, a "Fellowship Room," "Worship Center," and competition-sized swimming pool.

Officials credited over 3,000 people who contributed to the fundraising effort ranging from children who dropped pennies in a wishing well to businesses that donated thousands of dollars.

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Elementary school fire:

Flames poured from a storage room and swept through a hallway and eight classrooms "only moments" after nearly 500 students were evacuated from Huff School on Elgin's southeast side.

Reports said children left in an orderly fashion without their coats, hats, and mittens thinking it was a fire drill until they saw the smoke pouring from the roof as they got outside.

The fire's source was traced to a storage room that had no smoke detector. The blaze, which had apparently been burning for a while, was discovered by a teacher and another staff member who called in the alarm. The school went on a split schedule after reopening.


Patriotic volunteers wanted:

As World War II entered its third month, anyone wanting to help the city during the times ahead could pick up one of 5,000 applications available at city hall.


Citizens could volunteer for various positions including fire watcher, driver, cleanup crew, rescue personnel, and road repair. Specific assignments and training would be provided as soon as possible.

"Alien" forms:

In compliance with a federal directive, Elgin residents who were "aliens of national enemies" from Germany, Italy and Japan were required to apply for a "certificate of identification."

To assist with the registration process, which was handled by the Post Office, several additional personnel were added to work with a regular employee. The certificates, which only needed to be completed by those 14 years of age and older, were to be kept in their possession at all times.

Draft registration:

Over 2,600 men, ages 20 to 44 years old, headed to two registration centers in the city during a one-day period to register for the draft. It was an effort that swelled the number of potential inductees in Elgin to over 7,000, then a city of about 38,000 people.

Also accepted for service was a 42-year-old World War I veteran who was also commander of the Elgin Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.

Salvage wanted:

A "Salvage for Victory" pen was placed in Fountain Square -- the traditional center of town -- located across the street from the Tower Building. The area soon filled with old license plates -- then replaced annually -- as well as wire, tin foil, razor blades, and used toothpaste and shaving cream containers.


Death of watch factory band leader:

Elgin said goodbye to Joseph Hecker, the former band leader for the Elgin National Watch Company Band who passed away at the age of 71 years. A native of Austria, Hecker was a band leader in England and recruited to Elgin. Hecker's band, which consisted of about 70 members, worked at the factory when not touring the country promoting the company.

"War babies":

Three prominent Elgin families joined others across the country in adopting "war babies" from war-torn France. More than a dozen Elgin women also expressed interest in getting involved.

Public programs promoting the effort were also held at meetings of the Elgin Woman's Club, the Elgin Travel Class, and Y.W.C.A. Supporters were encouraged to contribute as little as 10 cents to help some of 300,000 "fatherless children" who needed homes.


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