McHenry’s 1st Christmas Parade

On December 10, 1961, McHenry Held its first Christmas Parade. Sponsored by the city’s Chamber of Commerce, the idea was to celebrate the holiday season as well as drum up sales for local businesses. The McHenry COC also sponsored the Fiesta Day Parade, Play Day as well as the Dollar Day.  Just like today, businesses would have special offerings to help with holiday sales. For instance, many would stay open late throughout the last two weeks of December. A special promotion that was established to coincide with the parade was a drawing for $250 worth of merchandise and services among different McHenry merchants. Many familiar names were on the list, Justen Furniture, Lee & Ray Electric, McGee’s Store for Men among others.  

Photograph of Viscounts Receiving State Flag From Governor Stratton in February 1961.

The parade started at 1pm at the train station, went east on Main Street, north on Green Street, north on Riverside Drive and finished at the city park. Several businesses and organizations provided decorative floats for the parade that was described as “long and colorful.” Some of the themes of the floats were the Good Ship Lollipop, Merry Christmas from the Circus and the Nativity Scene.


Photograph Of One Of The “Merry Christmas From The Circus” Float.


Also involved were various performing groups. Leading the parade was the high school Viscounts Drum and Bugle Corp. The Viscounts, who were sponsored by the American Legion, were a highly decorated group that competed throughout the country. Earlier in the year, the Viscounts won the National Sons of the American Legion competition in Denver, Colorado. They were joined by the Vikettes, the newly formed color guard also sponsored by the American Legion. Rounding out the performers, were the Red Devils, the high school and city band. The guest of honor was Santa Claus himself. Kris Kringle went from the parade to Ernie’s Sport Center, which was located next to the old theatre on Green Street. The parade was a huge success with over 4,000 people coming in to watch the event. The tradition was set, and the parade became an annual event for many years to come.

McHenry Retail Merchants Committee
List of Participating Businesses from Dec 7, 1961 McHenry Plaindealer.


“4000 Witness Christmas Parade.” McHenry Plaindealer 14 Dec 1961: 1. Web. 26 Nov 2017.

“Chamber of Commerce Revue Activities.” McHenry Plaindealer 28 Dec 1961: 1. Web. 26 Nov 2017.

“COC Will Hold Colorful Line Of March.” McHenry Plaindealer 7 Dec 1961: 1. Web. 26 Nov 2017.

“McHenry Parade Sunday Greets Santa.” Daily Sentinal (Woodstock) 8 Dec 1961: 5. Web. 26 Nov 2017.

“Viscounts Corp Wins Famous Cleveland Trophy.” McHenry Plaindealer 7 Dec 1961: 1. Web. 26 Nov 2017.


Cherished Memories Of Days When We Were All Together.



While doing research for another blog post, I ran across the above memorial in the McHenry Plaindealer from March 1946. I became curious was to how Pvt. Pearson passed. Was it fighting the Germans or over in the Pacific or fighting the Japanese? It turns out that is was something just as tragic, yet sadly, much more likely to be forgotten as it wasn’t on the battlefield.

William Pearson was born  in Pennsylvania in 1913 to William and Josephine. Before WWII he worked at the Sears, Roebuck & Co. as an assistant department manager. He was drafted in February of 1942 and was inducted by the Army late that month. Stationed at Camp Grant, near Rockford,  William was visited by his mother before he left for a training camp, Camp Crowder, in Missouri. Sadly, Pvt. Pearson never made it to Camp Crowder.

pvt. william pearson.JPG
Pvt. Pearson in uniform shortly before his passing.

On March 7, 1942, William and 230 other troops were on a train transport to Crowder when their train hit a passenger train, the “Will Rogers”, in a head-on accident. Both engines remained upright surrounded by wreckage and carnage. Two crew members of the “Will Rogers” and four soldiers, including William Pearson, were killed. He had the unfortunate distinction of being the first soldier from McHenry to be killed. An additional 25 crew members and 20 soldiers injured. Initially it was thought that a mix up in signals was what led up to the crash. In fact, at the time of the accident the “Will Rogers” had almost come to a stop. Unfortunately, the military train was traveling at about 60 MPH at the time of the collision.

Most of the soldiers who were killed or injured came from a wooden car that had another car kaleidoscope through it. (In train terms, kaleidoscoping is when a car literally runs through one or more other cars causing an effect like a kaleidoscope being closed, usually with grizzly results.) If took over 5 hours, and in some cases a blowtorch, to cut through the train to get to some of the dead and injured. Doctors, nurses and emergency crews from Monett, Neosho, Joplin, and Springfield were taken to the scene to assist the wounded. A special train was even dispatched from Neosho with medical personnel and supplies. Shortly after the accident, uninjured soldiers were taken to Camp Crowder.

An inquest was held by the Army and it turns out that human error was what lead to the crash. The engineer of the special carrying the troops, knew that the “Will Rogers” was coming through the area. However, he looked at his watch wrong and mistakenly thought his train would clear the area before the Rogers arrived.  

Fold3_Page_42_World_War_II_Honor_List_of_Dead_and_Missing_Army_and_Army_Air_Forces_Personnel_1946 (1)
William Pearson in the WWII Honor List of Dead and Missing Army Personal. DNB stands for Died Non-Battle.

William Pearson’s body arrived back in McHenry on March 11th, and services were held by the Peter M. Justen Funeral Home, conducted by the McHenry County council of the American Legion the next day. The religious service was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and William was buried in the St. Mary cemetery. The McHenry American Legion Post, No. 491, took part in the ceremony, as did a firing and color squad.

Before leaving for the service, William lived with his mother at the Mrs. Barlow farm at Chapel Hill, where he lived for five years. The Barlows, being Josephine Pearson’s sister and brother-in-law. After William’s death, Josephine Pearson remained living with the Barlows. Around 1946, Josephine and the Barlows moved down to Miami, Florida. She would live there until her passing in 1961. It’s possible that the memorial that Josephine left for William in the McHenry Plaindealer was her farewell to him as she was leaving the area.



“Death Toll 7 In Collision of Two Trains.” Decatur Herald 9 Mar 1942: 8. Web. 26 Oct 2017.

“Officials Probe Headon Train Crash.” The Pentagraph (Bloomington, IL) 10 Mar 1942: 1. Web. 26 Oct 2017.

“Today’s News In Pictures.” The Daily Sentinel (Woodstock, IL) 10 Mar 1942: 1. Web. 26 Oct 2017.

“Wm. Pearson of McHenry Crash Victim.” McHenry Plaindealer 9 Mar 1942: 1. Web. 26 Oct 2017.

“McHenry Man Killed.” Republican-Northwestern (Belvidere, IL) 10 Mar 1942: 8. Web. 20 Oct 2017.

“Rites For Soldier Killed in Crash of Trains Held Today.” Belvidere Daily Republican 11 Mar 1942: 8. Web. 20 Oct 2017.

“5 Local Men Safe As Train Crash Kills 7.” Belvidere Daily Republican 9 Mar 1942: 8. Web. 20 Oct 2017.

“Bodies of Victims of Trainwreck Sent Home.” Dixon Evening Telegraph (Dixon, IL) 10 Mar 1942: 6. Web. 20 Oct 2017.

“Troop Carrying Train Crashes.” The Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, IL)  10 Mar 1942: 5. Web. 20 Oct 2017.

“Seven Die in Collision of Troop Train and Limited.” San Bernardino Daily Sun (San Bernardino, CA) 8 Mar 1942: 1. Web. 20 Oct 2017.

“In Memoriam.” McHenry Plaindealer 7 Mar 1946: 8. Web. 14 Mar 2017.


The Telephone Girls’ Strike of 1945

In November of 1945, the people of McHenry County saw something they hadn’t seen before: people picketing in the streets. On November 15, 1945, the Illinois Telephone Traffic Union voted to strike. During the war, the federal government set up different commissions to regulate labor and salaries in the wartime economy. The commission set the recommendations (salaries, hours worked, etc.) and companies would use them as guidelines.  In the case of the telephone industry, the National Telephone Commission was created. The NTC set the recommended wage for telephone workers at $4 a week and nine years for an employee to hit the maximum pay scale. The local company involved, Illinois Bell, decided to take the NTC’s recommendation. However, workers or as they were also known as “the telephone girls” felt slighted and voted to strike.

CL Strike.JPG
Two Telephone Girls Picketing in Crystal Lake. Compliments of the The Herald.

Over 8,900 telephone employees went on strike throughout the state of Illinois, about 7,200 were from Chicago. Some towns, like Fox Lake and Wauconda averted the strike as they operated with dial telephones. While the strike lasted, only emergency calls were to be put through. Non-Union workers, recently retired employees and other volunteers were recruited to take emergency calls. The strike itself was peaceful, one person even commented that strikers would be better off going home or catching a show. Although the President of Illinois Bell, A.H. Mellinger, said that the staff leaving their posts “Not American-like”.  

Illinois Bell Notice
Posting from Illinois Bell for customers during the strike.

The strike was short lived, only lasting for six days and service immediately resumed. In the end, Illinois Bell met the workers’ demands and set the two dollar increase (workers were making the suggested $4 at the time) to be implemented in February 1946. They also went on to not charge their customers for the week of disrupted service. Both sides wrote letters to the public saying how much they appreciated the public’s patience and support. Overall, people seemed to realize how much they appreciated having their phones and found a newfound respect for their “telephone girls.”  


“Telephone Strike Has Whole Town Talking – But Only In Person.” McHenry Plaindealer 22 Nov 1945: 1. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“McHenry Phone Conscious As Strike Ends.” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Nov 1945: 1. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Local Telephone Employees To Take Strike Vote Friday.” McHenry Plaindealer 15 Nov 1945: 1. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Telephone Rings After Day And A Half.” Daily Sentinel 20 Nov 1945: 1. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Telephone Operators Taking Strike Vote During This Week.” The Daily Sentinel 15 Nov 1945: 4. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Picketing By Strikers Makes Appearance Here.” The Herald 22 Nov 1945: 1. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Vote On Strike By Telephone Union Nears End.” Chicago Daily Tribune 16 Nov 1945: 27. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Telephone Service Normal Following End of Wage Strike.” Chicago Daily Tribune 26 Nov 1945: 18. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Settle Telephone Strike.” Chicago Daily Tribune 25 Nov 1945: 1. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Phone Strike Still On After Parley Fails.” Chicago Daily Tribune 20 Nov 1945: 1. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“2000 Telephone Operators Vote On Strike.” Chicago Tribune 15 Nov 1945: 31. Web. 24 Sep 2017.

The Beginning of McHenry’s Pries Market

In 1918, William Pries came to McHenry after purchasing the local market from Charles Frett. Frett had been in McHenry for 25 years when he sold the business. It was well respected and liked. People in town knew that Pries had big shoes to fill. William Pries, who was a successful businessman from Wauconda, got off to a rough start in McHenry. When moving his possessions from Wauconda to McHenry during a rough February snowstorm, his car got stuck on Green Street by the Empire Theatre. Due to the weather, the car would remain stuck for over a week.

Green Street
Section of a postcard from 1922. Piers is the building on the left hand side.

Despite this, rough start, the Central Market was very prosperous. Located on the corner of Green Street and Elm St. (Rte. 120), it was in a prime location. Being a very active person, Pries was always looking to improve or renovate his business. On the bottom floor of the Central Market was a combined grocery store and a butcher shop. The Post Office was in the southern-most section. In 1923, Pries divided the market and butcher shop and created space for two more store fronts. All four of the stores would have access to Green or Elm Street, have glass fronts and would measure about 18’x40’.  In 1925, he sold the market end of the business, which was taken over by the National Tea Company. Pries retained the butcher shop while the National Tea Company successfully ran for many years in McHenry.

Ad Appearing In The McHenry Plaindealer from 23 Jan 1923.

When Pries bought the business, the top floor was McHenry’s opera house and an office. In 1925, he would clear out the opera house including the balcony, dressing rooms and stage. The area was cleared to be a great hall for meetings and banquets. The new hall was separated into two rooms, but it had a sliding wall that could be opened for larger events. Some of that rented it out were the Knights of Columbus, the Daughters of America and the Riverview Camp. The office space would contain two one room offices and one two room office. They were tastefully appointed with mahogany doors and ivory enamel. Over the years the second level would also be converted into to apartments.   

1922 Sanborn Map Showing the Overhead View of Pries. Note the Stage and Scenery.

William Pries ran the Central Market until 1945, at which time, his son William Pries Jr. took over. William Sr. went on to enjoy retirement until he passed away in 1964. The Central Market building itself went on to become several different business through the years, including several different restaurants. The last restaurant there was Windy City Wings, which was lost to a fire on Dec 21, 2012. Thankfully nobody was hurt in the fire. Sadly, the fire was a total loss and the building was destroyed, leaving some families displaced right before the holidays. For more information, here is the article from the Northwest Herald.


“Founder’s Day Anniversary.” McHenry Plaindealer 15 May 1958: 1. Web. 27 Aug 2017.
“Central Market Changes Owners.” McHenry Plaindealer 23 Jun 1927: 1. Web. 27 Aug 2017.
“Changes Being Made In Pries Building.” McHenry Plaindealer 3 Dec 1925: 1. Web. 18 Aug 2017.
“Charles G. Frett Sells Out.” McHenry Plaindealer 31 Jan 1918: 1. Web. 18 Aug 2017.
“Grand Opening of New Modern Store.” McHenry Plaindealer 18 May 1950: 1. Web. 18 Aug 2017.
“National Tea Company Takes Over Grocery Department of Central Market.” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Apr 1925: 4. Web. 18 Aug 2017.
“New Supermarket To Replace National Tea Store On Corner.” McHenry Plaindealer 20 April 1950: 1. Web. 18 Aug 2017.
“Old Central Opera Hall Remodeled.” McHenry Plaindealer 18 Feb 1926: 1. Web. 18 Aug 2017.
“To Remodel Business Block.” McHenry Plaindealer 11 Oct 1923: 1. Web. 18 Aug 2017.


The McHenry Lyceum

During the early 1920s, Rev. Father Martin J. McEvoy of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church brought a series of concerts and other entertaining acts to McHenry in the form of a Lyceum. It combined education and entertainment in a variety of outlets such as lectures, concerts and a plethora of other performances. Lyceums took off in the early 19th century in New England starting what some have seen as the first adult learning program. Lyceums spread throughout the country and many times worked in circuits with performers who traveled around, much like a circus. Many of the performers were set up through Rev. McEvoy and the Dennis Lyceum Bureau and the Redpath Bureau.  

Arcadia Quartet
The Arcadia Novelty Quartet appearing in the Jan 21, 1926, Plaindealer.

In the spring of 1921, Father McEvoy set up four different performances for the town of McHenry. They were not religious in scope and were meant for the general public to attend. For the first three years, the acts took place at the Empire Theatre. (The Empire was at the location of the former McHenry Downtown Theatre.) Tickets were generally $1.50 but sometimes went up to $2 depending on the performer. Father McEvoy stressed that the Lyceums were not money makers, but a service to the community.  

Swiss Yodelers
Ad for Grobecker’s Swiss Yodelers from Nov 3, 1921, Plaindealer.

Many acts were vocal acts, such as the Arcadia Novelty Quartet and the Waldorf Male Quartet. Others were a mix of instrumental and vocal such as Mr. and Mrs. Glen Wells or Charles Cox & Co and even a Swiss Yodeling group. Most of the “mixed” acts tended to blend in humor or storytelling with the musical aspects of the performance. There was also Manlove: The Man of Many Faces, a comedic impressionist who left “many a wet eye” in the theater when he was done. There one act that seemed to stand out, the Jack Wood Quartet. The quartet featured multi-instrumentalists and singers, but the highlight was their bells. The bells were reportedly made by the same founders who cast the bells at St. Paul’s in London and was what the rest of the performance was based around. Many ads in the McHenry Plaindealer referred to them, not as the Jack Wood Quartet, but the Bellringers.

Charles Cox
From Feb 4, 1926 edition of the Plaindealer.

For the first three years, the Lyceum’s attendance faired well. They ended up moving over to the high school gymnasium for a larger venue. In its sixth season, the Lyceum was having a problem with lower attendance compared to previous years. Sadly, Father McEvoy passed away on February 1, 1926, after being struck with double pneumonia in the end of January. He was beloved by the entire community, not just his parishioners, and was only 46 at the time of his passing. Town businessmen pickup up the Lyceum programming and used the programs as a way to honor the memory of the late priest. Attendance seemed to pick up, but after the programs set up by Father McEvoy ran their course, the Lyceum wasn’t picked up again in McHenry.


“Bell Ringers At School Auditorium.” McHenry Plaindealer 15 Apr. 1926: 1. Web. 11 Jul 2017.
“Bell Ringers to Entertain Here.” McHenry Plaindealer 8 Apr. 1926: 1. Web. 14 Jul 2017.
“Betty Booth Concert Co.” McHenry Plaindealer  16 Apr. 1925: 1. Web. 12 Jul 2017.
“Lyceum Coarse Ends April 13.” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Apr. 1926: 1. Web. 14 Jul 2017.
“Lyceum Program To Be Given Tonight.” McHenry Plaindealer 11 Feb. 1926: 1. Web. 11 Jul 2017.
“Manlove Here Monday Night.” McHenry Plaindealer  4 Jan. 1923: 1. Web. 12 Jul 2017.
“McHenry Lyceum Course.” McHenry Plaindealer 13 Sep. 1923: 1. Web. 11 Jul 2017.
“Mr. & Mrs. Glen Wells.” McHenry Plaindealer 22 Nov. 1923: 1. Web. 11 Jul 2017.
“Popular Priest Dies Suddenly.” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Feb. 1926: 1. Web. 11 Jul 2017.
“Second Lyceum Course Number.” McHenry Plaindealer  7 Jan. 1926: 1. Web. 12  Jul 2017.
“Second Number, Lyceum Coarse, Monday Evening, January 18th.” McHenry Plaindealer 14 Jan. 1926: 1. Web. 12 Jul 2017.
“Second Number of Lyceum.” McHenry Plaindealer 22 Nov. 1923: 1. Web. 11 Jul 2017.
“$10 In Gold For Best Review.” McHenry Plaindealer 27 Sep. 1923: 1. Web. 11 Jul 2017.


The McHenry Pickle Factory

Through most of its existence, McHenry County has been an area focussed on agriculture. In the late part of the 19th century, pickle factories became something of a fad in the county. Woodstock, Crystal Lake, and Nunda were just some of the local towns to have them. By 1880, McHenry actually had two pickle factories. The first one was built in the summer of 1874 by a group of farmers.

1892 Map of Pickle Factory
Map from 1892, showing the location of Pickle Factory along Waukegan Road (now Rte. 120). It was roughly at the location of where the Advance Auto Parts is today.

The McHenry Pickle Factory cost about $8000 to build, measured 40’x80’ and had two stories. It included an additional 50’x125’ wing for “salting purposes”. This wing would include 50 tubs, each 8 ft. tall and 10 ft. in diameter for the purposes of pickling the cucumbers. Each tub cost about $40. The operation was up and running in August 1874 and received over 1000 bushels of cucumbers by the end of that month. Expecting success in its initial year of operation, the factory signed up for over 200 acres of cucumbers to be grown in the area.

By 1876, the factory was operated by two men named C. B. Curtis and a Mr. Walker, and ran under the name Curtiss, Walker & Co. The business did well and was regarded as one of the best factories in McHenry County. They even contracted a cooper, B. W. Austin, to make the barrels on site to store and transport the pickles. When Walker died in 1880, Curtiss sold his shares of the company to W. A. Cristy who ran the business under the name Cristy, Walker & Co. Cristy would go on to run the company for almost twenty years.


1893 Pickle Factory
Section of 1893 Sanborn Map showing the layout of the Pickle Factory.


When W. A. Cristy took over the business he planned a large renovation for the factory. He put up two new buildings: a Boiler House (16’x20’) and a Vinegar House (24’x40’). For the company’s vinegar, Cristy used a corn and malt formula that gave the pickles a better flavor than traditional formulas. Also for the making of vinegar, Cristy bought a 25-horsepower engine that would make it cheaper to produce. When started the engine produced 700 gallons of vinegar daily. All told the renovation cost about $40,000. However, this paid off, as the factory would produce about 20,000 bushels of pickles a year and distribute them throughout the United States.

Cristy went on to have a very successful career here in McHenry. He sold the pickle factory to R. W. Stafford in May 1899. He ended up in Joplin, Missouri until his death in 1924.The pickle factory itself would thrive well into the 1920’s.


“Pickle Shipping.” McHenry Plaindealer 5 Dec. 1877: 5. Web. 18  May 2017.
“Pickle Seeds.” McHenry Plaindealer 19 Apr. 1876: 5. Web. 18  May 2017.
“New Roof For Pickle Factory.” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Dec. 1890: 5. Web. 23 May 2017.
“Change of Ownership.” McHenry Plaindealer 18 Apr. 1880: 5. Web. 18  May 2017.
“Cooper Shop Connected to Pickle Factory.” Woodstock Sentinal 12 Nov. 1874: 5. Web. 16  Jun. 2017.
“Cooper Shop Sold.” McHenry Plaindealer 19 Jul. 1876: 5. Web. 23  May 2017.
“Pickle Factory Enlarged.” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Nov. 1880: 5. Web. 15 Jun 2017.
“Pickle Factory Improvements.” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Aug. 1877: 5. Web. 18  May 2017.
“Pickle Factory Construction.” Woodstock Sentinal 20 Aug. 1874: 5. Web. 18  May 2017.


The Masquerade Ball of February 1878

In August of 1919, a local resident named “Buff” Feltz stopped by the McHenry Plaindealer office with an old dance program he found in walls of a Crystal Lake house he helped raze. Plaindealer editor, F. G. Schreiner found the program interesting and posted the details of the dance thinking that some of the “old-timers” might enjoy it too.

The dance was held on Friday, February 8, 1878, at the Riverside Hotel in McHenry. At that time, the Riverside was famous in the area for its dances, or in the case of the event on the 8th, masquerade balls. People came from places such as Woodstock, Richmond, and even Chicago to attend these events. Local businesses offered a variety of masks for these dances. P.D. Smith (whose store was near the train depot) and Smith, Aldrich & Haythorn’s (located on Riverside Drive) were just a couple of the businesses to offer these products.

Capture 2
Advertisement for the Ball appearing in the Feb 6, 1878,  McHenry Plaindealer.

The band for the evening was a six-piece group from Lake Geneva called the Rogers and Gillett’s Band of Geneva Lake. It cost $2 to dance and that would also pay for your supper. For 25¢, you could walk in and mingle with other guests. As with other masquerade balls, most participants wore masks or were in costume. The first and last dances were the only two dances, in particular, that were “mask only” and the final dance featured an “unmasking”.

It turns out that the weather for the Feb 8th ball was terrible and the roads were very difficult to travel “with a team or on foot”. That being said, it was reported that the masquerade ball actually had a respectable attendance. Those who were able to make it had a great time. The music was well received, the food “gave entire satisfaction”, and many of the costumes were festive. Two costumes that stood out were a person who was dressed as the McHenry Plaindealer and another wearing flour sacks representing Hanley’s Mill. 

Certainly, Schreiner’s article gave anyone who was at the ball a trip down memory lane. For others, it shared a piece of McHenry’s colorful history.

Riverside House
Postcard of the Riverside Hotel (or House) taken in the 1910s.


“Unearths Old Relic.” McHenry Plaindealer 14 Aug. 1919: 1. Web. 9 Aug 2016.
“Preparations for the Masquerade.” McHenry Plaindealer 23 Jan. 1878: 5. Web. 23 May 2017.
“Friday Evening’s Masquerade Ball.” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Feb. 1878: 5. Web. 9 Aug 2016.
“Costumes.” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Feb. 1878: 5. Web. 9 Aug 2016.
“The Masquerade.” McHenry Plaindealer 13 Feb. 1878: 5. Web. 9 Aug 2016.
“A Very Fine Assortment of Masks.” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Feb. 1878: 5. Web. 9 Aug 2016.
“Advertisement.” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Feb. 1878: 4. Web. 9 Aug 2016.