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

  • "Smiling Ralph" Mulford, who was the winner of the first Elgin National Road Race in 1910, returned to the city in 1970 for the dedication of a historical marker in front of Larkin High School.

    "Smiling Ralph" Mulford, who was the winner of the first Elgin National Road Race in 1910, returned to the city in 1970 for the dedication of a historical marker in front of Larkin High School. Courtesy of Elgin History Museum

 
Posted11/11/2020 6:00 AM

"Did you hear they closed an Elgin school because of polio?" "I'll never pay $1 for a haircut!" "I didn't know the same drivers that raced in the Indy 500 also competed in Elgin." Here are some comments people might have made after reading the newspapers of 50, 75 and 100 years ago this fall.

1920

 

Fifty cent haircuts?:

Though haircuts in Chicago were increasing to a dollar, Elgin barbers announced that their services would remain at 50 cents -- the same price as a shave. Chicago barbers explained that their fee increases were due to higher costs for tonic, shaving cream and for laundering towels.

Where is Fountain Square?:

"There isn't a fountain, there isn't a square, so what's the significance," said Elgin's mayor about a well-known area in the heart of the downtown.

Located across the street from the current Elgin Tower Building, the busy intersection of Chicago Street and Douglas and Grove avenues had a fountain in Elgin's earlier days, but the landmark structure had long been removed.

Even today, the area lacks a fountain, though many longtime Elgin residents still refer to it by its original name.

Thefts increase:

Who said there were no thefts in the "good old days?" "Wholesale bicycle theft" prompted the organization of the Bicycle Owners Protective League, a group aimed toward bicycle theft protection.

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Elgin police also tried to slow theft by providing a parking area for bicycles within the city hall.

Car theft also came under attention with reports that 16 automobiles had been stolen in just a few weeks' time -- though 10 of the vehicles had been recovered.

1945

Polio outbreak:

Students at Illinois Park School in Elgin were surprised when they were sent back home one morning following a polio outbreak at their building. The last-minute decision to close the building was made by local officials, with support by the state, to halt the spread of the disease beyond the affected building. More than two dozen polio deaths had been reported in northern Illinois in preceding weeks.

Post war building plans:

Topping the list of Elgin projects to be undertaken at the end of World War II was the completion of the "bypass bridge project," now known as bypass route 20, extending from Shales Parkway on the east to Randall Road on the west.

Also high on the list was the construction of a local World War II memorial and the expansion of Elgin schools and their services.

Modernization?:

In 1945, Elgin architect Elmer Gylleck presented plans for the "modernization" of the 19th century block of Douglas Avenue in the heart of the downtown.
In 1945, Elgin architect Elmer Gylleck presented plans for the "modernization" of the 19th century block of Douglas Avenue in the heart of the downtown. - Courtesy of Elgin History Museum
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Saying the improvement would offer "the eye appeal shoppers demand in the era ahead," downtown representatives' unveiled plans for the "modernization" of a prominent downtown block. The proposal called for new storefronts on the 19th century buildings along Douglas Avenue, including replacement awnings with large overhangs. The change would offer protection and improve the shopping experience.

Tackling tuberculosis:

Viewed by more than 3,000 people, a $21,000 mobile chest exam vehicle made its debut in downtown Elgin. Described as a "laboratory on wheels," the vehicle, which was operated by the Kane County Tuberculosis Association, boasted "the most modern equipment available for the detection of tuberculosis."

"I think this is the most marvelous thing they have done in a long time," said one man. "You will get my (Christmas) seal money again," added another.

1970

Entertainment big names:

Longtime band leader Stan Kenton appeared for one night at the Frontier Lodge on Route 19 on Elgin's east side. A $12.50 admission included a steak or prime rib dinner and unlimited drinks from 7:30 p.m. to midnight. Entertainment-goers also had the chance to enjoy orchestra leader Wayne King at the Blue Moon Ballroom on Larkin Avenue, west of Elgin. Tickets for the iconic musician, known as the "Waltz King," were only $3.

New St. Joseph Hospital:

Plans were moving forward for the new St. Joseph Hospital -- now Amita Health St. Joseph -- to be located on a 33-acre site on the city's far west side. Specifications called for a 200-bed facility, an eight-bed intensive care unit, as well as a larger emergency room, X-ray area and laboratory. The design called for a "vertical patient flow," with extended patient services planned for the upper floors while outpatient services would be concentrated on the ground floor.

Race winner returns:

"Smiling Ralph" Mulford, the winner of the first Elgin National Road Race in 1910, returned to the city for the dedication of a historical marker.

Begun a year before the Indianapolis 500, the Elgin races were held on an 8-mile course west of the city and attracted the same drivers and mechanics that competed in the Indianapolis 500.

"I never competed in a race where better sportsmanship was displayed," said Mulford.

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