Monthly Archives: November 2015

 Apples and honeybees, those frontier necessities

I read some time ago that kindergarten teachers have been using apples to teach their students about a variety of things from math to health. And, of course, one of the fellows they learn about at the same time is Johnny Appleseed.

In the 1950s, Walt Disney produced an animated film and a Golden Book about Johnny Appleseed that depicted him as a simple fellow who traveled the American frontier of the late 1700s and early 1800s barefoot and with a saucepan for a hat planting apple trees for the enjoyment of the settlers.

But like many historical subjects, Johnny Appleseed’s activities were both more complicated and arguably more important than the Disney folks and popular mythology suggest.

When the earliest Europeans arrived in North America, they found a lack of two important staples: Apple trees and honeybees. While there were plenty of native bees, none of them were the variety that Europeans depended on to produce honey, which was a main source of sweetening and for fine candle wax. While some native apple trees existed here, they weren’t the varieties Europeans needed that provided enough juice to make cider. Cider was both a staple beverage and the source of vinegar needed to preserve meat, fruits, and vegetables.

Johnny Appleseed monument

One of the many historical markers and monuments scattered across Ohio that commemorate John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman is this one in a Mansfield, Ohio park

So honeybees and apple seedlings were among the first things the earliest colonists imported to North America from their former homes in England, France, and Holland. The bees quickly made their escape from hives in settlements along the East Coast and soon spread west well in advance of European settlement. Native Americans quickly found the industrious insects—which they called the “white man’s bird”—manufactured some very useful things, one of which tasted really good. But apple trees could not spread on their own. Instead, seedlings and cuttings were first carried to western forts and fur trade posts by the French military as a scurvy preventative as well as a source of cider and vinegar. Later, fur traders and British settlers further spread apple culture. But in general, as settlers pushed ever farther west, they found no apple trees, which was a big problem when food needed to be preserved by pickling. Along with drying and salting, pickling was the safest way for our ancestors to preserve food.

One of Kendall County's few remaining Minkler Apple trees is shown in this April 2010 photo. Minkler trees are still available from a few heirloom orchardists.

One of Kendall County’s few remaining Minkler Apple trees is shown in this April 2010 photo taken at the old Ament farm in Kendall Township. Minkler trees are still available from a few heirloom orchardists.

Enter John Chapman.

Born about 1774 in Massachusetts, Chapman became convinced his mission in life was to plant apple trees. He collected seeds—thus his nickname, “Johnny Appleseed”—from cider presses in Pennsylvania and used them to plant apple orchards as he slowly made his way west through Ohio. He eventually reached as far west as Indiana, where he died in 1845 near Ft. Wayne, a respected if somewhat eccentric frontier character (he really was a true eccentric and favored saucepan hats, just like the illustrations in that Golden Book). Because of his activities, the settlers that began arriving in ever larger numbers in the Old Northwest Territory (the land lying north and west of the Ohio River) found ready-made apple orchards already growing in Ohio, Indiana, and parts of eastern Illinois when they arrived.

Not that the apple trees growing from Chapman’s seeds were all the best quality, of course. It is unlikely an apple tree grown from the seed of a fruit will turn out to be the same variety as the tree that produced the seed. But once in a while, the seeds did breed true and create a useful tree. And even the unusable saplings were useful as the base for grafts from good varieties. That was especially true given the number of orchards Chapman planted during his lifetime.

Here in Illinois, though, it was a different story than areas farther east. Chapman didn’t make much of a dent here in the Prairie State, so when settlers started arriving in large numbers in the late 1830s and early 1840s, there were no apple trees available for them to use to produce cider and vinegar here in north central Illinois. This both taxed the ingenuity of the settlers and provided an opportunity for some of them as well.

Elvirah Walker Shumway and her husband James emigrated from Massachusetts to Kendall County in 1847. They settled near her brothers, Seth and Lauriston Walker, on a farm just east of the intersection of Douglas and Simons Road in Oswego Township. On their arrival, she found there was a serious lack of apple trees with which vinegar could be made. She didn’t let that stop her, though. In a letter written to her sister back in Massachusetts in September of 1847, she reported she had “two three gallon pots of pickles stewing—if you ask what I do for vinegar! Oh I use whiskey and water.” Which may help explain some of those crazy pioneer parties.

A nice selection of Minkler apples from Eastman's Antique Apples, Wheeler, Michigan. Minklers are large, juicy, and crisp, good for both eating and cider.

A nice selection of Minkler apples from Eastman’s Antique Apples, Wheeler, Michigan. Minklers are large, juicy, and crisp, good for both eating and cider.

Not that some apple trees hadn’t already been started here in Kendall County.

Peter Minkler and his extended family, including his grown son, Smith G. Minkler, arrived in Kendall County from Potter’s Hollow, Albany County, New York in 1833. One of the major shortages everyone had to deal with on the frontier was a lack of labor, and the younger Minkler earned money cutting wheat at $1.50 per day (a fair sum in the days when an acre of government land sold for $1.25) for Peter Specie, an early resident of French Canadian extraction who dabbled in farming, land, and furs. Minkler used a dollar of his wages to purchase four apple seedlings from Specie. Where Specie got the seedlings is unknown, but they might have come from Detroit where Specie apparently had both familial and economic connections. Minkler used those four trees as the basis of his first orchard, and thus became the county’s pioneer nurseryman. He went on to establish a renowned fruit orchard and developed the unique Minkler Apple, thanks in large part to Specie.

Later in the 1800s, apples became big business in Kendall County, with every town having at least one cider mill and vinegar making operation. The spread of honeybees, which are vital for pollination, meant that John Chapman and his cohorts successfully spread apple orchards west as the tide of settlement reached the Illinois prairies. Later on, hard-working farmers and nurserymen like Smith Minkler assured that apples, those prosaic but vital fruits, would be available when needed.


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Filed under Environment, Farming, Food, History, Illinois History, Kendall County, Local History, Science stuff

The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of exactly what, again?

Thanksgiving 2020 will be unusual in a number of ways as the nation struggles to deal with the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. Most families are giving up their traditional large gatherings in favor of much smaller get-togethers. To mark this year’s very odd celebration, I thought I’d dredge this Thanksgiving post from 2015 up out of the archives for your edification and enjoyment. I hope you all have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday…

We’ll be sitting down to turkey dinners this Thursday, watching endless college football games, and trying to figure out what to do with all the leftovers.

Thanksgiving Day did not become a national holiday until Oct. 3, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln established the last Thursday of November as the official national day of thanks. In 1939, an effort to help the retail industry moved Franklin D. Roosevelt to change Thanksgiving Day to the third Thursday of the month, but in 1941, Congress put the day mostly back where Lincoln wanted it, by moving it to the fourth Thursday of November. That meant that in some years, there is an extra, fifth Thursday that makes the retail folks happy, and maybe Lincoln’s ghost, too. And there it has stayed ever since.

John Smith didn't have anything to do with Thanksgiving; his gig was down in Jamestown. But it is a neat story.

John Smith didn’t have anything to do with Thanksgiving; his gig was down in Jamestown. But it is a neat story.

Ask a dozen people and you’ll get a dozen answers about why we celebrate Thanksgiving. Most suspect it has something to do with Pilgrims dressed in black and wearing flat-topped witches’ hats, except the Pilgrim women who wore hats that looked a lot like the one Whistler’s mother was wearing in that famous painting a couple hundred years later. And there was something somewhere about thanking God; or was it the Indians? And weren’t Capt. John Smith and Pocahontas involved somehow?

Good guesses they are, too. Not right, but good (Capt. Smith and his girlfriend were doing their thing down in Virginia).

In 1620, 137 English men and women stepped ashore at what is now Plymouth, Mass. and established Plymouth Plantation. Of the passengers on the Mayflower, 35 were members of the English Separatist Church–Puritans–who had come to the New World via Leiden, Holland. The separatists itched to leave Holland as much as they had itched to leave England. The Church of England was altogether too Popish and the Hollanders were scandalously tolerant of all kinds of religious zealots–like the separatists for instance—and that just wouldn’t do.

The Puritan story goes back to the reign of England’s Henry VIII, who split England’s church from Rome. Henry’s daughter, Mary Tudor–known to history as Bloody Mary–assumed the throne in 1553. She set about returning the kingdom to the Catholic fold mostly by burning numerous Protestants at the stake, and forcing thousands more into exile. When Mary died, her younger sister, Elizabeth, was crowned queen. She set a new Protestant course, persuading the exiles to return.

While overseas, though, the exiles had been excited by the militant Protestantism sweeping out of Geneva, Switzerland, and they looked upon Elizabeth as the savior of the non-Catholic church. Unfortunately, celebrated Protestant theologian John Knox (with the fires from Mary’s Protestant elimination program barely extinguished) had attacked the right of women to rule, which did not endear the militant religionists to the queen. Elizabeth suggested the zealots were “overbold with God Almighty, making too many subtle scannings of his blessed will, as lawyers do with human testaments” (lawyer bashing in the 16th Century!).

Thus was the separatist movement born, with its members dubbed Puritans because of their certainty theirs was the only pure way to salvation.

Gradually, the separatists became more radical in their demands on the Church of England. When the church refused to change, many separatists physically separated, heading first to Holland and then to the New World.

Saints and Strangers alike signed the Mayflower Compact, which worked pretty well until the Puritans gained an unambguous majority, at which time they decided that live and let live tolerance thing was for losers.

Saints and Strangers alike signed the Mayflower Compact, which worked pretty well until the Puritans gained an unambiguous majority, at which time they decided that live and let live tolerance thing was for losers.

When they arrived on the shores of the New World in 1620, the Puritans were in the minority. A year later, Saints (what the Puritans called themselves) and Strangers (everybody else) alike joined in that first Thanksgiving, thanking God they were still alive and thanking the Indians for helping them stay that way.

Although many had died of disease and cold, the Strangers probably looked back on 1621 as the Good Old Days a few years later. The number of Puritans increased rapidly as more immigrated from England. Soon they had enough political power to make Puritanism the sole state religion in Massachusetts and to bar non-Puritans from all political activity. Persecuted in England for their religious views, the Puritans moved to the New World to freely persecute others, which they did with gusto.

Strangely enough, all the Protestant zealots who came to the New World were not monolithic Puritans. The diversity of religious zeal among new arrivals and the upheaval of the English Civil War (fought for politico- religious reasons; it all started with a forced change in liturgy for the Scots) resulted in too many heretics to deal with. After a few decades of whipping, banishment, dunking and the like, the sheer number and ardor of those holding divergent views resulted in more tolerance than the separatists wanted.

Partly thanks to the zealotry of the Pilgrims' descendants, as well as extreme religious friction in Europe, a century and a half after the Pilgrims arrived their descendants insisted that religious liberty be enshrined in law as the price of approving the newly written U.S. Constitution.

Partly thanks to the zealotry of the Pilgrims, as well as extreme religious friction in Europe, a century and a half after the Pilgrims arrived their descendants insisted that religious liberty be enshrined in law as the price of approving the newly written U.S. Constitution.

Religious zealotry caused a reassessment of many issues, and pointed out the need for checks and balances in government. Warned 17th Century Puritan theologian John Cotton: “Let all the world learn to give mortal man no greater power than they are content they shall use, for use it they will…It is necessary that all power that is on earth be limited, church power or other…It is counted a matter of danger to the state to limit prerogatives, but it is a further danger not to have them limited.”

Ironically, the Pilgrims’ religious tyranny led their own descendants to insist on adding a Bill of Rights to our Constitution, including the First Amendment, prohibiting the very kind of state religion the Pilgrims came here to establish. And maybe that’s what we ought to be honoring this Thursday: The freedom we enjoy to celebrate God’s grace however we wish, or to ignore the whole thing and watch football.


Filed under History, Law, People in History, Semi-Current Events, Uncategorized

Is it twenty-five or six to four, or three?

Thought I’d put this post up today after I dredged it out of the archives, since it’s once again time to “Fall Back.” Hope you all successfully set your clocks back last night…

Seems to be a lot more whining complaining this year about the switch to Standard Time from Daylight Savings Time.

Not sure why that is, except people seem to be getting more and more disgusted with just about everything these days. Not that our twice-annual clock movement ritual makes much sense. It seems to be one of those things we keep doing just because we’ve ‘always’ done it. Which isn’t entirely true, although we’ve been fiddling with the concept for a couple hundred years now.

Benjamin Franklin first proposed the idea of daylight savings time (DST) in 1784, but it wasn’t until 1895 that  New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson proposed its modern incarnation, apparently so that he would have more daylight hours in the summer to collect bugs. Insect collecting aside, it wasn’t until the idea was pitched as a way to save energy in during World War I that the idea got a governmental boost. Although the idea was controversial, especially with farmers who argued their cows and chickens didn’t use clocks so what was the use, DST was approved as a patriotic measure to help win the war.

This Word War I poster urged everyone to support the war effort by supporting Daylight Savings Time.

This Word War I poster urged everyone to support the war effort by supporting Daylight Savings Time. Although willing to go along during the war, farmers in particular lobbied hard to get rid of it after Armistice Day.

Kendall County Record Editor Hugh R. Marshall observed that the idea hadn’t proven as annoying as many feared, asking in the April 3, 1918 edition: “Didn’t mind it, did you? You never noticed the change of time after the novelty wore off, but did you notice that you did not burn so much light at night as before?”

But farmers still didn’t like it, and they were a powerful lobby at the time. As a result, DST was repealed in 1919, despite a veto by President Woodrow Wilson—which Congress promptly overrode.

Although DST was out as a national mandate, local governments had been, unwisely it developed, given the authority to establish it in their own communities. The result was a confusing hodgepodge of times all over the country as some areas adopted it, while others did not.

As the Record reported on April 9, 1930: “Chicago daylight saving time, the bane of hundreds of commuters residing in the Fox valley cities, will be ushered in Sunday, April 27…Suburban trains and the third rail lines operate on the daylight schedule while through trains are operating on central time.”

The problems this situation caused are self-evident. And really, confusion did reign.

So why couldn’t everyone just vote on it? Well, some did. On April 14, 1937, the Record reported from Oswego that: “At the village election to be held next Tuesday, April 20, the question of whether or not to have daylight saving time in the village of Oswego will be voted on.”

The result: “The vote for daylight savings time in Oswego carried at the town election on Tuesday, April 20. All meetings of the churches and schools will be on the fast time. The Presbyterian prayer meeting on each Tuesday night will begin at 8:30.”

So the Village of Oswego would run on DST in the summer, but there was no mandate that anyone in the surrounding countryside had to. The grumbling and confusion continued, with some towns adopting it and others deciding against. Figuring out out which communities were operating on “fast time” and which ones weren’t remained a challenge.

Still extremely unenthused about the whole thing, on Oct. 1, 1941, the Record’s Oswego correspondent complained: “Oswego is to be afflicted with daylight savings time for another month.”

Although it still wasn't popular in rural areas, year round Daylight Savings Time–dubbed War Time–was adopted by Congress in 1942.

Although it still wasn’t popular in rural areas, year round Daylight Savings Time–dubbed War Time–was adopted by Congress in 1942.

DST remained an often contentious local issue until the world went to war once again, and forced the federal government’s hand. Congress enacted the War Time Act on Jan. 20, 1942.

Kendall County communities quickly complied with the new mandate that seemed on the horizin—in fact they jumped the national gun. On Feb. 4, 1942, the Record reported: “The Yorkville village board voted at its meeting Monday night to adopt war time, which is one hour faster than central standard time. War time becomes effective on Monday, Feb. 9. If you will set your clock ahead upon retiring Sunday night, you will get up Monday all square as far as time is concerned. Oswego adopted war time at its board meeting on Tuesday night.”

Five days later, Congress established year-round DST—the War Time already in effect in Kendall County—throughout the United States. The reason, just as during World War I, was given as a wartime measure to conserve energy resources it was felt could better be used to fight the nation’s enemies.

War Time remained in effect until after the end of the conflict, when The Amendment to the War Time Act was passed on Sept. 25, 1945, ending DST as of Sept. 30, 1945.

And by the time the war was winding down, local folks were anxiously looking forward to the end of War Time. As the Record’s Oswego correspondent happily wrote in the Oct. 31, 1945 edition: “O! the joy and peace and contentment when the [radio] announcer is heard to say, ‘We have no two-timers this morning; Central Standard has come to stay,’ (we hope).”

But Kendall County was not done with DST after all. On April 24, 1946, the Record warned its readers: “Don’t forget to move your clock an hour ahead when you go to bed Saturday night. A large number of the towns in Kendall county are going on daylight saving time. It may be confusing until we find out for sure who is and who isn’t on fast time, but it will work out. Better check to be sure what time your church services are, and for train and bus times.”

The next year, the Record was still warning county residents: “If you don’t turn your clock ahead, bear in mind that most events in these parts will be held on daylight time.”

The confusion continued, not only with some states and some communities adopting DST and others not, but with some of those localities adopting it on different dates.

Since there are so few farmers left these days, it appears to e up to the rest of us to grumble about Daylight Savings Time.

Since there are so few farmers left these days, it appears to be up to the rest of us to grumble about Daylight Savings Time.

In 1958, for instance, Minnesota switched from DST to standard time on Sept. 2. But Wisconsin and California didn’t “fall back” to standard time until Sept. 28. And so, reportedly, did 300 of the 800 Illinois localities who were operating on DST. But the Chicago metropolitan area, along with the East Coast, wouldn’t change back to standard time for an entire month. Indiana, of course, suffered through a veritable mishmash of changes from DST to standard time, depending on which county a traveler happened to pass through.

Clearly, something needed to be done, and the transportation industry was willing to pick up the ball and run with it. Back then, Congress was actually willing to pass legislation to benefit the entire country, and the result was the Uniform Time Act of 1966. Starting in 1967, the feds mandated when DST and standard time started and stopped nationwide. States could apply for exemptions, which some did—thus the continuing confusion in neighboring Indiana. But for us here in Kendall County, the era of DST in town and standard time out in the country was finally over.

So the next time someone asks what the deal is with Daylight Savings Time, you can explain it all revolves around expanded daylight hours to collect insects in New Zealand, which makes about as much sense as many of our other traditions do.

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Filed under Farming, Frustration, Kendall County, Local History, People in History, Semi-Current Events

A journalism anniversary missed…

So I missed my own anniversary.

No, not the all-important wedding anniversary. To forget that would be something akin to a China Syndrome Chernobyl meltdown.

What I missed was the 35th anniversary of my “Reflections” column that’s been running in the Kendall County Record, Inc. newspapers (and now the KendallCountyNOW division of Shaw Media) since July 31, 1980.

I started in the column game back in August 1977 when Dave Dreier gave me a chance to start writing a local history column for the old Fox Valley Sentinel. It was interesting part-time work that came in handy since I’d retired on disability from my previous job.

I began writing every other week, with the intervening weeks taken up by Mike Muzzy’s column on the local arts and music scene. But gradually, Dave moved “Epochs” up to running weekly, at least when there was room.

The Fox Valley Sentinel flag from the summer of 1978. A great weekly paper, it lasted just less than a decade covering Oswego, Montgomery, and Aurora news.

The Fox Valley Sentinel flag from the summer of 1978. A great weekly paper, it lasted just less than a decade covering Oswego, Montgomery, and Aurora news. Couldn’t beat the price, though.

The Sentinel was always short of money, so getting paid was often an adventure in itself. When the checks were handed out on Friday afternoon, there was a general stampede to the bank to cash them before the money in the account ran out. While Dave was creative, business sense wasn’t really his forte. Later, it was found that the woman Dave hired as the paper’s business manager was stealing him blind.

Working at the Sentinel, even part-time, was what I imagine working at one of those underground ‘60s papers must have been like. Dave managed to assemble a great group of writers that committed actual journalism in Oswego, really for the first time ever.

Gradually, though, that talented bunch went on to other things as they saw the business problems at the Sentinel increasing.

So Dave wondered whether I wanted to cover some actual news for the paper since I had free time and needed the extra cash. I reminded him that I had no journalism training or experience, but he waved that away, noting that writing news stories is pretty easy.

“Here,” he said, “Let me show you.”

And he proceeded to sketch an upside-down pyramid on the back of an envelope.

“This,” he said, “Is an inverted pyramid. You write your stories like this: The most important stuff at the top, and the least important at the bottom. That way, if it has to be cut due to space problems, the less important stuff is always handy to clip off.”

And with my journalism training complete and I was sent off to cover the Kane County Board, where I learned the ins and outs of parliamentary procedure from Phil Elfstrom, who used it masterfully to maintain an iron-handed control, and the West Aurora School Board, where I got my introduction to the education beat.

But while the Sentinel was fun in a guerrilla journalism sort of way, it really wasn’t sustainable because it was in direct competition with the Oswego Ledger. The Ledger had been started in 1949 by Ford Lippold as a free-distribution paper he and his family mimeographed and assembled in his basement. It was purchased in 1965 by Ann and Don Krahn, who turned it into a subscription-based tabloid weekly. Don and Ann sold it to their son, Dave, who subsequently sold it to Jeff and Kathy Farren, publishers of the venerable Kendall County Record in Yorkville. The Record was begun in 1864 by John Redmond Marshall as the county seat paper. The Marshall family kept control until selling to Howard Pince in the 1960. Jeff and Kathy, newly-minted graduates of the Northern Illinois University School of Journalism, bought it after they got married and then also started the Plano Record. One evening Jeff Farren and Dave Dreier got together down at the Oswego American Legion (a popular local watering hole) and, concluding the community couldn’t support two papers, came to the agreement that Dave would sell to Jeff and Kathy. Which he did, and the first issue of the Ledger-Sentinel was published July 31, 1980.

Our new design of the Ledger-Sentinel flag that I drew up in the summer of 2000. It's still pretty much the same, although with some changes put in place by Shaw Media since they acquired the Kendall County Record, Inc. papers this past summer.

Our new design of the Ledger-Sentinel flag that I drew up in the summer of 2000. It’s still pretty much the same, although with some changes put in place by Shaw Media since they acquired the Kendall County Record, Inc. papers this past summer.

I’d met Jeff and Kathy during the nation’s Bicentennial celebration when Kathy served on Kendall County Bicentennial Commission with my wife, Sue, and me as we worked on creating an updated county history. We’d all worked well together and after the Ledger-Sentinel deal was going down with Dave they asked whether I’d be willing to be the new paper’s editor. I reminded them that a) I still didn’t have any formal journalism training, b) I knew nothing about editing, and c) due to health problems I could only work part-time. They told me not to worry, that editing isn’t as hard as it might seem to some and that my familiarity with Oswego would be invaluable. Further, they’d been reading my “Epochs” column and liked it and wanted me to continue it—only they hated the name of it, to which I suggested changing it to “Reflections,” which was satisfactory to all concerned. The part-time part also wasn’t a problem, they said. They didn’t want to cover Kane County or the West Aurora Schools any more. And the village boards in Oswego and Montgomery met on different weeks, as did the Oswego School District Board, so it was possible for me to cover all of them by dedicating my Monday evenings to meeting coverage.

After a few months of that schedule, it was pretty clear I needed some help covering local government, so they authorized hiring John Etheredge. John was newly graduated from NIU’s journalism program and had actually been promised a job by Dave Dreier one evening months before when they enjoyed drinks at a popular bar called “The Office.” John was fresh off helping his dad win election to the Illinois State Senate, and was a good writer. So we hired him part-time at first, and then full-time so I could concentrate on editing, writing “Reflections,” and covering the Oswego school beat along with writing occasional features, doing annual in-depth coverage of property taxation, and the rest of the things weekly newspapers cover, although in my case on a somewhat limited part-time basis.

We must have been doing something right, despite my lack of training, though. From 1980 through my retirement as editor in 2008, the Ledger-Sentinel earned 216 awards from the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association and 99 from the Illinois Press Association. Dave Dreier’s back-of-the-envelope journalism instruction back in 1978 turned out to be pretty effective. That, along with covering local government and learning the ins and outs of how it worked led to several first place awards for school board coverage from the Illinois Association of School Boards and coverage of property taxation from the Tax Federation of Illinois.

Although I retired as the Ledger-Sentinel’s part-time editor—I’d given up the school board beat a couple years before—in 2008, Jeff and Kathy wanted me to keep writing “Reflections,” which they had started running in all four Kendall County Record, Inc. papers a few years before. And I agreed to do that, since it’s fun and because I think it’s good for folks new to our community to find out a little about what came before.

And there are a lot of new folks living here. In 1990, Kendall County’s total population was just above 39,000. In 2010, the census bureau counted nearly 115,000 county residents. Oswego’s population, during that same period, literally exploded from 3,900 to 30,000 residents.

Since that first column back in the summer of 1980, I churned out roughly 1,820 of them up through July 30 of this year, and since then I’ve added another 15 or so. That adds up to around 1.6 million words in about a half-mile of columns set at its normal 3.25” width.

Every once in a while as I was working as the Ledger-Sentinel’s editor, someone or other would pitch an idea for a column to me. When they did, I’d use Dave Dreier’s method to separate the wheat from the chaff. Write a half dozen columns for me, I’d reply, and we’ll see what they look like. The thing is, as Dave once noted, just about everyone has an idea for one good column. A few people might even have ideas for two or three. But coming up with good ideas for six columns is pretty difficult. In fact, I never had anyone get back to me with their packet of six columns.

So far, it’s been 35 years and counting for me at the “Reflections” column game, not to mention writing something now and then for this blog—something that didn’t even exist when I blundered into journalism back in 1977—plus the columns I did for the Sentinel. The thing about history, even local history, is that new stuff keeps popping up which leads to new takes on old stories and ideas. I plan to keep on chronicling as much as I can as long as I can so that the things, good and bad, people have been doing around these parts for the last few thousand years aren’t forgotten.


Filed under Kendall County, Local History, Newspapers, Nostalgia, People in History