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Yesteryear: December in Oswego-area history

December 1996

Citing rising enrollment due to a continuing new home building boom, the Oswego School District Board voted to place two referendums on the April 1, 1997 ballot. One referendum sought voter approval to increase the school district’s education tax levy rate, while the other sought to provide funding for the construction of a new elementary school and additions at several existing schools.

The village of Montgomery’s building department issued permits for the construction of the proposed Anderson Farms senior citizen apartment building just north of the Seasons Ridge subdivision.

December 1991

Oswego School District officials announced they expected to be able to reopen Boulder Hill Elementary School in another month. The school had been closed in November 1991 after airborne asbestos was found in the building. An investigation determined the asbestos came from old floor tiles.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security reported employment in Montgomery fell 26 percent from 1989 to 1990. John DuRocher, village administrator, attributed the job loss to layoffs at two of the village’s largest employers, Allsteel and General American Door.

Illinois Department of Transportation officials announced they expected construction to begin in the fall of 1992 on a new, four-lane U.S. Route 34 bridge in downtown Oswego.

Oswego’s downtown beautification committee sent letters to Main Street merchants asking them not to let their employees park their vehicles on Main Street. Committee members and merchants agreed that employees parking along the street were limiting customer access to local stores.

December 1986

To show their appreciation to newly elected Congressman Dennis Hastert, R-Yorkville, for securing $1 million in Build Illinois funds for the village of Oswego, the village board voted to rename a former highway rest area along U.S. Route 34 in the village “J. Dennis Hastert Park.” (The property is now the site of the Oswego Police station.) The Ledger-Sentinel, however, disagreed with the board’s decision. In an editorial, the Ledger-Sentinel argued that Hastert had done much for the village and would likely “do even more in the future.” But, the editorial continued, “naming a public facility after any living and still politically active individual is bad policy. Since we all hope Hastert has a long and successful political life ahead of him, in effect, the sign naming the park after him will be a permanent, tax-supported campaign sign on our busiest highway.”

December 1981

A small group of concerned Boulder Hill residents questioned Montgomery Village Board members and village staffers about a recent board vote to double the unincorporated subdivision’s water rates. The residents complained they had no say in the board’s decision to raise the rates. One resident also questioned the legality of the board’s action. But village attorney James Edwards told the residents that the board acted in full compliance with state law in approving the rate hikes. “Be my guest if you want to sue us,” Edwards told the resident.

During a public forum held at East View Elementary School in Oswego, several Oswego School District residents voiced their opinions on why two school tax hike referendums had been rejected by voters over the past several months. Residents cited their own rising property taxes, apparent frills in the district’s educational programs, a lack of trust in school administrators and the failure to develop a user fee program as contributing to the referendum defeats.

December 1977

The Montgomery Village Board voted unanimously to appoint Dennis Schmidt, a village police officer, to the rank of sergeant due to the pending medical leave of another officer. In other police department news, the board voted to authorize the police commission to appoint two temporary officers to offset a manpower shortage and approved the purchase of a pistol at a cost of $170.50 to be used by department officers as a spare.

Falstaff beer was among the weekly specials at the Booz Bin liquor store on Main Street in downtown Oswego. Customers could purchase a six-pack for $1.39 or a 12-pack for $2.75, according to an advertisement in the Ledger.

December 1971

Fire caused an estimated $100,000 damage at the Shore Heights apartment complex in unincorporated Oswego Township. The fire apparently started when a plumber applied a blow torch to a joint to be soldered. The flame came into contact with some insulation, which burned up a wall into the roof of the apartment building. Oswego Fire Chief Jim Detzler said a lack of water pressure in fire hydrants near the complex hampered firefighters in their efforts to put out the blaze. “The only thing the fire hydrants in that area are good for is the dogs,” Detzler said.

Holiday gift baskets, with prices starting at $6.50, were on sale at Paramount Heights supermarket on Ill. Route 31 at Caterpillar Drive in Montgomery, according to an ad in the Ledger.

December 1966

Ronson and Remington electric shavers, View-Masters, Timex Watches and the New Lady Shick “Portable Beauty Salon Hair Dryer” were offered for sale in time for the Christmas gift-giving at Grimm’s Drugstore at the Boulder Hill Market, according to an advertisement in the Ledger. In downtown Oswego, Carr’s Department store had socks and slacks on sale, while Shuler’s Drugstore offered a full line of Kodak cameras, including the Instamatic 104, the Instamatic 154 and the M2 movie camera.

December 1961

The new Boulder Hill Elementary School was the site for a sock hop for area teenagers Dec. 28. WMRO disk jockey Harry Blair was master of ceremonies.

December 1956

Charles Gaylord, area civil defense director, provided the Montgomery Village Board with information on civil defense equipment that was available to the village. Following Gaylord’s presentation, the board voted unanimously “to cooperate with the civil defense director and to provide proper housing for the equipment and to stand the expense of transportation from Springfield, Ill.,” according to the minutes of the board’s Dec. 3 meeting. (The minutes did not specify what the equipment was.)

In a page one editorial, Ford Lippold, Ledger publisher, said he believed 1957 loomed as an important year in the history of Oswego and the surrounding community, due largely to the more than 3,000 area home lots that had been subdivided and were awaiting development. Lippold wrote, “For a good number of years now Oswego has been bogged down in a morass of stagnation; floundering around in a slough of indecision; and stifled in a forest of short-sightedness. The time has come to plan for the years ahead...The time has come for doing and not for dreaming. The time has come for qualified and capable leaders in every position of responsibility.”

December 1916

The Record reported on Dec. 13, 1916, that “Beginning Monday evening, Dec. 18, the merchants of Oswego will keep their places of business open evenings until after Christmas.”

Record Publisher H.R. Marshall wrote in his Dec. 27 column that “Billy Sunday [the counterpart of today’s television preachers] has sprung a new one—in the tabernacle which is to be built for his meetings in New York there will be a private bath for Mr. Sunday’s use after he completes his attacks on sin. We might suggest a trainer and a few blankets that the minister might ‘cool out’ after his bouts.”

“No one can complain of the good old-fashioned Christmas weather for 1916,” Marshall continued. “Snow on the ground and the thermometer hovering around zero makes one think of the earlier days. But the thing that is missing is the tinkle of sleigh bells. Once in a while you see a sleigh or a bob [sled] go by but little of the jingle that makes one feel that there is some pleasure in the world. The raucous toot of the auto horn and the sound of the open muffler have taken the place of ‘Old Dobbin.’”

December 1891

Things were hopping in Oswego in December of 1891. On Dec. 11, the Kendall County Record’s Oswego correspondent noted that illegal prize fights were being held frequently in the Star Roller Skating Rink downtown. “When are the authorities of Kendall County going to do something about these outrageous proceedings,” the Record wondered. “What will Oswego do about it? Are our county officials helpless, or are they asleep?” According to the Record, Thomas Ryan and “Bull” Howson fought 14 rounds “with bare fists.” According to one account, “Ryan pounded Howson into jelly and won over $8,000 for his side.” The Record charged the CB&Q Railroad was just as guilty as the prizefighters since they were “guilty of unloading hundreds of outlaws upon a quiet and peaceable village.”

On Dec. 16 the Record reported that Oswego’s population was 641 according to the census of 1890, down from 663 in 1880. Oswego Township’s population dropped to 1,538 in 1890 from 1,718 in 1880.

“Rabbit hunting is the order of the day and local sportsmen of all ages are bringing them in by the dozens,” the Record reported on Dec. 16, adding, “It is fun for the boys, but hard on the rabbits.”

The Record’s Oswego correspondent also was impressed with brand new business technology: “The Simplex Cash Register, an automatic contrivance for helping to keep things straight, has been established in Haight’s store [at Main and Washington]. The amount of your bill will pop right up before your eyes when paying it, and so there is no chance that you can get swindled.”

December 1871

On Dec. 26, 1871, the Record’s Oswego correspondent reported that “The residence of Daniel Pearce, about one mile east of town, was burned Sunday morning and proved a very distressing occurrence. The most of the family was yet in bed when the fire was discovered and the boys, James and Corbin, rushed out in their bare feet to carry water from the spring; James failed to secure his boots in time, which were in the kitchen, and was compelled to go to his brother’s house, (Ezekiel, a half mile distance) barefooted, the weather from 16-20 degrees below zero, his feet were badly frozen. There was nothing saved except a couple of trunks. The fire originated, it was supposed, from the ashes which the old lady had taken up and set outdoors.”

December 1866

On Dec. 6, 1866 the Record reported the arrest of John H. Surratt, described as “one of the assassins of President Lincoln,” in Alexandria, Egypt. Surratt was the son of Mary F. Surratt, who was executed July 7, 1865 for her part in the plot to kill the President. Surratt, who insisted he was in Canada at the time of the assassination, was subsequently put on trial but the jury could not reach a verdict and he was released. He married, had seven children and died in 1916.

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