Newsletter - December 2012


Burlington Historian

December 2012

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Come and take a nostalgic glance back at the "Good Old Days" of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s with author Rochelle Pennington at the Burlington Historical Society’s Christmas program on Sunday, December 2, at the Stars and StripesRoom at Veterans Terrace. The program will start at 1:30 p.m.

Ms. Pennington, an award-winning newspaper columnist and author of ten books – including The Christmas Tree Ship, An Old-Fashioned Christmas, and Chicken Soup for the Soul – is returning for the Society’s fourth consecutive Christmas program at Veterans Terrace. The previous programs have all been well-received by enthusiastic audiences.

Ms. Pennington’s historical, light-hearted program will detail everyday life during the bygone years of corner phone booths, party lines, hand-me-down clothes, doctors who made house calls, wringer washing machines, marble tournaments, Howdy Doody shows, and outhouses.

Attendees will be invited to remember a time when percolating coffee pots, mothers in aprons, flour sifters, home-baked bread, and suppers prepared from canning jars lining the pantry shelves were part of everyday life.

Ms. Pennington’s power-point presentation, featuring vintage photographs, will be complemented by a large collection of antiques she will display.

The Burlington Historical Society invites everyone to attend the program, which is presented free of charge. The doors will open at 1 o’clock. The Society will hold a short business meeting before the program to elect three members to its board of directors.

Refreshments will be served following Ms. Pennington’s program, and she will be available for book signings.

President’s Message

What a fast year we have had. The past 12 months were very active for our Society and the Burlington community as well. This country has a great reputation of helping others who may be victims of disasters and other unlucky circumstances. Burlington is also proud of the many volunteer groups and organizations that donate time and talent to help out where it is needed. Our thanks goes out to all involved.

Looking back at our Society’s activities of this past year, the highlight has to be the donation of the 150-year-old stone house of the Hammiller family on W. Jefferson Street in the Hillside area of Burlington.

The appearance of this historic structure has not changed much since it was built in the mid-1800s. We are in the process of collecting period furnishings and items that a typical home of the mid to late 1800s would have in the various rooms. We would like to invite any Society member, or anyone else interested in our project, to donate historic period furniture or other items that would be found in a home of that era.

This project could some day become a showcase of our Society and add to the education and enjoyment of all Burlington area residents.

I and all board members wish you all a happy and joyous holiday season and hope that next year will be a healthy, prosperous, and enjoyable 12 months for everyone.

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On a more somber note, the Society lost one of its long-time and most productive members in September when Nick King passed away. Nick had served as Society president for several years and was on the Society’s board of directors for many more years. He was active in keeping the Society’s buildings in working order and was one of the leading proponents and workers in moving the Pioneer Log Cabin from Echo Park to Wehmhoff Square and restoring it. He contributed several of the replacement logs, helped to clean and preserve some of the original logs, located and helped dismantle an old barn whose boards were used in constructing the tool shed, and was one of the major workers in reconstructing the cabin. We will miss Nick and offer our condolences to his family.

Dennis Tully

                                                                    Nick King (at right) with Forrest Hoganson

Split Rail Fence at Cabin Replaced

The split rail fence surrounding Pioneer Log Cabin in Wehmhoff Square was replaced in September. The original fence, which had been in place since the late 1990s when the Cabin was moved to Wehmhoff Square, had deteriorated to the point that some of the post ends had rotted in the ground causing the posts to bend and the rails to fall out. Makeshift repairs had been made as needed, but the deterioration had continued to the point that the fence needed to be replaced.

The Society arranged with the Kresken Fence Co. to replace the fence. The Burlington Park Board agreed to finance the cost from its donated funds.

A portion of the new fence is shown at right. The fence also sets off the Vintage Garden surrounding the Pioneer Cabin area.

Another Great Season for Pioneer Cabin

Thanks to the dedication of Cabin coordinator Kathy Thate and her group of docents, Pioneer Log Cabin enjoyed another successful season. Many family groups, as well as other adults and children, visited the Cabin on Thursday evenings during operation of Burlington’s Farmers Market, during the Ice Cream Social in July, and on Saturday afternoons.

Our thanks to Kathy, Debbie Regner and her young helpers, Bernard Walli, Jim Kubath, Jackie Heiligenthal, Don Vande Sand, and others for opening the Cabin and hosting our visitors.

Society Website Down But Not Out

The Society’s website – – has been missing from the internet for a few months. It disappeared in July or August when our "host" organization’s server went down. The host has not kept us advised of the progress, if any, it is making in restoring its service, so we are looking into switching to another host.

Many people, who had accessed the website for the information and photos that we had posted there, have expressed their disappointment in not having this resource available. We share their disappointment and hope to be back on line before long.

           Note:  The website was back on line as of Jan. 2013, although not all features were available.

We See By the Papers

   In reviewing old newspapers, we come upon interesting and sometimes unusual articles that catch our attention. The following are some examples from Burlington area newspapers.

The Ice Harvest
Standard Democrat, January 30, 1897

The ice harvest has commenced in earnest in Burlington and vicinity. The cold weather prevented work the first three days of the week, but the ice kept increasing in thickness and the crystal blocks on the lakes are now fourteen inches thick, while those from the river measure nine to twelve inches.

The Lincoln Ice Co. has about 150 men at work on Brown’s and Norton’s lakes filling their large houses. These are Burlington laboring men and so far Mr. Boyle has been able to secure help enough here. But should the weather moderate and prospects for a large ice crop be poor, he would send up several hundred men from Chicago to rush work. The ice here is conveyed from the lake to the houses by an endless chain, doing away with a great deal of hard and dangerous manual labor. In fact, the business is now reduced to a science and the labor of putting up ice is only half what it formerly was. Next week they will begin shipping to Chicago, shipping about a train load per day.

The Finke-Uhen Brewing Co. commenced filling its large houses yesterday morning. It is this year cutting on the White river, just below the egg house, and are putting up some fine twelve inch ice.

Gus. Baumann will probably commence filling his house next week, hauling the ice from either Norton’s or Brown’s lake.

R. T. Davis will commence filling his houses next week, the ice on the Fox river being about nine inches thick now.

 Nic. May’s and many smaller houses will be filled within the next week.

Altogether there are about 300 men employed now, their wages running from $1 to $2 per day.

A Curious Side of Human Nature
The Standard, October 29, 1881

What curious passions sometimes seize people. Some persons get the old pottery craze. Others will pay sometimes 5, or even a 100 times as much for some rare old book than they would for the same when new. Others are buying up all the old furniture they can find. Still others make a collection of old coins. Others again, will get together an enormous number of Indian relics. Some will spend months or even years in amassing birds eggs of every variety peculiar to their immediate vicinity. Stuffed birds and animals seem to satisfy others. Stamp collections are all the rage with some people. Post-marks, too, have their share of attention. Autographs are eagerly sought by others. We could perhaps give many more instances, but these will suffice.

We say nothing against these things, but only cite them as some of the curious sides of human nature – that strange combination of noble resolves, generous impulses and evil actions.

Standard Democrat, April 8, 1893

Spooning is widening and becoming more and more ensnaring every year. Of course, you jump at the conclusion that I mean spooning as you mean – but I do not. I mean the delusive fashion of collecting fancy spoons, which in turn has led to the making of such spoons and the buying thereof. Every silversmith in every place big enough to support jewelers has a "souvenir spoon" of his own design, or somebody else’s warmed over, which is in some way made representative of the place of its origin.

European towns were ahead of us in this fad, for they began it and made spoons at each other for years before we got it woven into everyday life in this country. And now they are reaching out for the unwary young and old men who create the bulk of the collections of their fair friends. We have now spoons for the several holidays, and particularly for Christmas and Easter; then there are birthday spoons, spoons as German favors, spoons as theatrical souvenirs, spoons encased for travelers’ uses, spoons curious because the metal of which they are made, spoons modeled upon strange old designs coming down from the medieval monastery or baronial castle, spoons that will not hold anything and spoons that hold too much. These and others do we have thrust upon us at every turning. – Pittsburgh Dispatch

John Smith
Walworth County Independent, August 16, 1871

John Smith is as ubiquitous and many lived as ever. In looking over our exchanges we discover that John recently drowned himself in New Orleans; died in a fit at St. Paul; was hanged for stealing in Little Rock; was scalded to death in Cincinnati; broke his neck by a fall in Boston; and was run over by a railway in Charleston. Poor John, he is ever undergoing martyrdom for the sins of the Smith family.

The Joys of Not Being an Only Child

Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

I have written many times about the things my brother, sister and I did as children. Most of the things we did and said were typical kid stuff. When I think back to those days, I think about how we approached life with great joy and optimism and a sense of great adventure. How wonderful to have the optimism of a child who attacks each day as if it were a feast to be enjoyed, not as "just another day to be gotten through." As we grow older we unfortunately lose some of that sense of adventure we were gifted with as children. How wonderful it would be if we could recapture some of that spirit and keep it alive. We forget that our inner child is always with us and that he or she is only a small step away from the responsible, serious adults we have all become.

I love the fact that I was fortunate enough to not be an only child. Just imagine how lonely it would be to have no brothers and sisters to share adventures with, or have no one to tell embarrassing stories about. You know we all have a story or two to tell about our siblings. What would be the use of growing up with brothers and sisters if you didn’t have a story or two? The great part about having stories to tell about a brother or a sister is that they have just as many stories to tell about you. After all turn about is fair play.

Remembering our childhood takes us back to a simpler time. We didn’t have the responsibilities of adults, didn’t have to worry about putting food on the table or where the money was coming from for rent and clothes or what to do about the leaking roof. Our lives were pretty simplistic, there weren’t many rules – one of our main duties was to be a child. I sometimes think that with all the advantages our children have today, they are missing a large chunk of their childhood, the part that allows them to simply be a "child." We are all moving at such a fast pace and children are involved in so many different activities that many times it’s difficult for a kid to be just a kid. Think back to what our childhoods were like and compare it to today’s child – quite a difference isn’t there?

My brother, sister and I were no different than any of the other children who grew up in Lyons. We played, and fought with each just like the kids in every other family in the neighborhood. I can remember that our yard seemed to be the meeting place for neighborhood kids who liked to play baseball. There were always kids in our yard. The twins were a package deal and like all twins they were very close so it was natural that they would band together, pick on one of them and you had to deal with both of them.

I can remember nights when Mom would put us to bed and sleep didn’t come to us right away. We would lay in the dark laughing and giggling and talking in what we thought were our "quiet" voices. Mom would put up with this nonsense for just so long and then we would get the "Don’t make me come up there" speech. Thinking back to what it was like, I remember thinking as I lay there in the dark how safe and familiar these things were, the twins giggling and talking, the sounds of the house settling in for the night, the murmur of the television as Mom and Dad listened to the news, the quiet murmur of their voices as they talked to each other. How easily the cares of the day slipped away from us. With the coming of bed time our day ended and with it the cares we had accumulated during the day slipped away. We knew as only children do that things would be better in the morning and even if we had our disagreements during the day, tomorrow we got to wipe the slate clean and start over again.

With the rising of the sun we would awake with a sense of purpose and joy in the start of a new day. As usual our day would be spent in tumbling from one interesting situation into another. School days were different from summer vacation days. During the school year our day would start with a bang – hurry, hurry, hurry, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, get dressed, make sure your face is clean, wash behind your ears, make sure you have all buttons buttoned and snaps snapped and zippers zipped, tie your shoes, gather up your school books, remember your homework, put on your hat, coat, scarf, (mittens and boots in the winter) and off you went to school. There your day was spent in sitting up straight and paying attention and working diligently at whatever you were assigned. Summer days on the other hand were a whole different story, the day started later, more relaxed, it was more of a "come as you are" party atmosphere. You had to be clean, but not necessarily immaculate, if your clothes didn’t quite match and you didn’t want to wear shoes, that was ok. Summer days were like a slice of heaven.

During the school year we didn’t see a whole lot of each other during the day, the twins were in one classroom and I was in another. I might catch a glimpse of them on the playground but it was definitely beneath my dignity to talk to my younger brother and sister while at school. It just wasn’t done. After school it was a different story. We did have chores to do after school and homework to complete but once that was out of the way it was "game on." I can remember days of playing tag and running just for the joy of running. I can remember winter evenings when we would all gather in the house and spend the night playing games or reading or watching television together. Some nights we weren’t as in tune with each other as others. Those were the nights when we squabbled about everything and Mom and Dad were more than happy to send us to bed early just to get some peace and quiet. There were probably days when they thought how nice it would be if they could afford to send all of us to Boarding School in a foreign country or at least in a different part of this country. I know the subject of adoption came up a time or two! Ah the joys of parenthood!!

By and large we had a happy childhood. Not everything was perfect, there were times when we wished that we could be an "only child" and not have to put up with a brother or sister. Sometimes when it’s quiet I can almost hear us shouting to each other, laughing and giggling up a storm. Loving every minute we had with each other and not realizing what wonderful memories we were building to help carry us through when things weren’t as easy for us. Memories sustain life and help remind us of what is important. When you have a dark day, drag out a memory from your childhood and remember the optimism that was so much a part of growing up. No matter how bad things seem, remember the optimism of our youth, things will work out, just give them a chance.