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.

Sources

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

Sources

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

McHenry’s Skyline Drive-In Theater

The drive-in theater was one of the iconic crazes of the 1950s. While the first drive-in was actually in Camden, New Jersey in 1933, the popularity of the drive-in didn’t take off until the 1950s. Drive-ins offered some things that their indoor counterparts didn’t. Overall, the atmosphere befitted its casual summertime setting. At a drive-in, you could bring a baby, smoke, dress more casually, and be much louder as the speakers hooked right up to your car.

Drive In.docx
Ad appearing from August 30, 1951, edition of the McHenry Plaindealer.

McHenry didn’t get passed up in this popular trend. In July 1951, McHenry got its first drive-in theater, the Skyline. Owned by Roy Miller, the screen was listed as facing northwest, as opposed to now as it faces southeast. The Skyline was in the same location that the McHenry Outdoor is at today. The screen was 52’ x 70’ and was the only outdoor theater in the vicinity. It also had illuminated speaker posts and a refreshment stand. The illuminated speaker posts didn’t just offer the audio from the movie, but also served as a guide telling customers where to park. The snack bar offered BBQ burgers and pizza among other refreshments. By 1956, the Skyline had a 104’ long screen and was showing two movies nightly. In 1963, Roy Miller sold the Skyline to Stan Kohlberg of Chicago. At that time, Mr. Kohlberg owned eight other theaters and had three more under construction.

psycho
Skyline Ad posted on Aug 4, 1960, edition of the McHenry Plaindealer.

While McHenry’s outdoor theater still stands, most weren’t so lucky. One big advantage indoor theaters had was profit. Indoor theaters weren’t dependent on the season or weather, therefore, they could play movies more frequently, thus make more money for movie studios. In the late 1950s there were about 4000 drive-ins, today there are about 400. Apparently, most drive-ins were “mom and pop” businesses that didn’t have people who wanted to take over the business when operators retired. Yet the McHenry Outdoor still stands today as a nostalgic glimpse of Americana.

*This article was inspired by the sign in the picture at the top taken last summer (2016). Sadly it seems to have been blown down this spring. 

Sources
“McHenry Will Have Drive-In Theater Soon.” McHenry Plaindealer 27 Jul. 1950: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Mar 2017.
“Drive-In Theater Announces Official Opening on July 20.” McHenry Plaindealer 19 Jul. 1951: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Mar 2017.
“Skyline Drive-In Advertisement.” McHenry Plaindealer 12 Jul. 1956: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Mar 2017.
“New Theater Owner.” McHenry Plaindealer 3 Jul. 1963: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Mar 2017.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-history-of-the-drive-in-movie-theater-51331221/

Red Faber Pitches in McHenry

In the summer of 1935 St. Mary’s softball charity game proved to be a memorable one. It pitted teams from the McHenry Elderly Men and St. Mary’s Holy Name Society and featured a bonus game that between the Married Men vs. the Single Men.  People were really looking forward to the game as it featured Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, Red Faber. Faber spent over twenty years pitching for the White Sox and was a crucial part of the 1917 World Series team. The recently retired Faber owned a home in Pistakee Bay and was in town for the summer.
Red Faber
Photograph of Red Faber taken in 1917, from the Library or Congress.
The umpire was a famous wrestler of the time, Charles Peterson. Like Faber, Peterson was in town as he owned a vacation home in Pistakee Bay. It was thought that the event was to be so well attended that extra stands were built just for the game. The game did not disappoint as over 500 people were in attendance. Faber, who won 250 games in the major leagues, won 12 to 10 against the team led by St. Mary’s Msgr. Charles S. Nix. In the second game, the single men won against the married men, 9-8. Faber and Johnson weren’t the only big names playing in the game. Some names that played are still known in town today. Freund, Miller, Justen and Altoff just to name a few.

Sources
“Red Faber To Pitch” McHenry Plaindealer 25 Jul. 1935: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 7 Mar 2016.
“Red Faber Now A Local Resident” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Aug. 1935: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 7 Mar 2016.

The Everett Phonograph & Music Store

The Everett Hunter Manufacturing Company was a staple in McHenry for many years. Everett Hunter’s boat making business started in 1889 when he immigrated to the US from England. In 1919, business was booming and it was decided that they would expand into producing phonographs as well. What put phonographs on the map was that they were designed with two needles, one for recording and one for playing music. This looked like a great industry for the Hunter Company to invest in.
ehm-ad-3-4-1919
Advertisement from the Plaindealer on 3 Apr 1919.
In March 1919, the Everett Phonograph was introduced to the public. The Everett sold so well that the Hunter Company put out ads looking for workers to help construct them. Phonographs were interesting to make, as they required the mechanical components that made or recorded sound. However, these components were housed in attached cabinets to make them more attractive for people to have in their homes.
everett-music-store-ad-17-10-1920
Ad from Plaindealer on 7 Oct 1920
During the first ten months of production, the Everett was sold out of the warehouse at the Hunter Manufacturing Company. However, with business doing so well, the Everett Music Store was opened in January 1920. Located on Green Street, it was run by Everett Hunter Jr. This also opened the door for the business to sell other musical merchandise, mainly records. The music business took off. Sometime in 1921, the Hunter Manufacturing Company stopped making the Everett Phonograph and became a dealer for Brunswick Phonographs and merchandise. In 1922, the Everett Music Store expanded it’s location in McHenry and branched out, opening a store in Woodstock. The success was short-lived however, and by 1924 the Everett Music store was bought out by the Nye Music Store. Yet, for a short moment in history, McHenry had its own manufacturer of phonographs represented by the Everett Hunter Company.
Sources:
“Big Free Display” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Apr. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Change At Music Store” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Feb. 1921: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Drop In” McHenry Plaindealer 15 Jul. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Factory Needs Help” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Jan. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Free Concert At Boat Factory” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Dec. 1919: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Has Neat Quarters” McHenry Plaindealer 26 Feb. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Is Branching Out” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Nov. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Music Dealer In New Territory” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Jan. 1921: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Music Store Expands” McHenry Plaindealer 9 Jun. 1921: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“New Quarters For Music Store” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Jan. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Repairing Building” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Jan. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Saxophone Demonstration” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Mar. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Will Open Retail Store” McHenry Plaindealer 22 Jan. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.

McHenry’s 2nd City Hall

old-city-hall-1885-1960-ned-neumann-currently-own-it
Postcard of McHenry’s City Hall from ca. 1915.

During the early 1900s, McHenry was a bustling tourist town that attracted many people from the city and other local areas as a vacation spot. By 1911, it was becoming apparent to some citizens in the village of McHenry that the town hall no longer met the needs of its people. If the town was to grow it would need a more attractive and functional city hall. Other neighboring towns, such as Wauconda and Richmond, had recently built new town halls and some McHenry citizens felt McHenry needed to follow suit.

jul-1898-city-hall
Sanborn Map showing City Hall in 1898 next door to the new Landmark School.

The original city hall building had been a cheese factory from 1875 up until its renovation in 1885 as the village hall. It is interesting to note that even though McHenry was settled in 1834, it didn’t incorporate until 1872 and thus didn’t need a hall until then. During the spring and summer of 1911, the town government made plans to construct a building for about $9,000. Blueprints were drawn up with the new building consisting of a brick two-story structure. The new building would be put on a ballot and if passed, the town board would be able to take the money needed for construction out of the village’s treasury. Taxes wouldn’t need to be raised if the town would maintain its cash flow. However, on August 11, 1911, the town voted against constructing the new building by a decisive margin of 125-70.

jan-1922-city-hall
Sanborn Map showing City Hall and the Pump Station.

The contention stayed dormant for four years, until 1915, when the matter of a new building came to the forefront because of the city hall’s deterioration. The city sold the old village building, which was then razed in June 1915. The city fathers then found a nice solution for the new city hall. Instead of placing the construction of a new building on another ballot, the village compromised. The town’s old ice house & pump station were solidly built and the owner was willing to sell.  With some remodeling, the city council felt the ice house would make a fine village hall. Conveniently, it was located right next door to the old city hall. The city had a new terracotta front installed, a new sidewalk and new office furniture placed in the old ice house. The pump station, which would remain in use as the city’s water reservoir, was right next to the renovated building.  The modernized city hall was then ready for public use in September 1915. The updated city hall would serve admirably for fifty years until its replacement was constructed on Green Street in the 1970’s.

 

Sources:

“Population of McHenry” McHenry Plaindealer 27 Apr. 1911: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Need New City Hall” McHenry Plaindealer 27 Apr. 1911: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Vote On City Hall” McHenry Plaindealer 20 Jul. 1911: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“No New City Hall” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Aug. 1911: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Village Hall and Gym” McHenry Plaindealer 12 Feb. 1914: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Sealed Bids for Old City Hall” McHenry Plaindealer 6 May 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Old Village Hall Sold” McHenry Plaindealer 20 May 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Village Hall Talk” McHenry Plaindealer 20 May 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“To Remodel Power House” McHenry Plaindealer 10 Jun. 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Razing Old Hall” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Jun. 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Work On City Hall Front” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Jul. 1915: 8. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Laying Brick” McHenry Plaindealer 26 Aug. 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Cement Walk” McHenry Plaindealer 14 Oct. 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Neat Municipal Building” McHenry Plaindealer 28 Oct. 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“City Hall Front Finished” McHenry Plaindealer 9 Sep. 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Special Edition – Next Saturday” McHenry Plaindealer 10 Aug. 1911: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“McHenry, Illinois” Sanborn Map. Jan. 1922: http://sanborn.umi.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“McHenry, Illinois” Sanborn Map. Jul. 1898/: http://sanborn.umi.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.

The Flood of 1938

In July 1938, the McHenry area had some of the worst floods in its history. A huge storm on June 30th brought torrential rains The storm saturated the area and caused area rivers and lakes to swell. Damage and destruction to local fields, crops and buildings were due to the rivers flooding their banks. However, probably the worst casualty was to the area’s bridges.

 

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Flooding at Barnard Mill near Wonder Lake. The roads, fields, and some fencing are underwater. From the McHenry Plaindealer, 7 Jul 1938.
Rivers like the Fox and Nippersink, pounded the bridges that spanned them, damaging some and destroying others. Up to 13 bridges were damaged in some way and the estimates totaled approximately $300,000. Like the rest of the country, the area was in the midst of the Great Depression and assembling that kind of money wouldn’t be easy.
The new Johnsburg bridge (left), sitting next to its predecessor. Courtesy of the McHenry Plaindealer 15 Jun 1939.
Public officials for the McHenry County Road and Bridge Committee did have some options, such as applying for federal funds and raising money through public bonds. In September 1938, a special election was held to vote to get a grant from the federal government. If the public voted “yes”, the government offered to cover about $58,000, or 45% of the total of the $130,000 needed,  For the rest of the money, about $71,000,  a slight tax of 2 cents for every $100 in property assessment was also voted on by the public.  The election passed by a whopping 1,300 to 460. This was the first time that a bond issue had been voted on by the county. 
bridges
Of the thirteen damaged bridges, seven needed to be completely rebuilt. Greenwood alone lost four bridges. One bridge that crossed the Nippersink cost $25,000 to rebuild. Construction of some bridges started in August of 1938. Work was finished for all but two bridges by June of 1939. The citizens of Johnsburg and Greenwood acknowledged their new bridges with huge dedication ceremonies. By the end of the fall, all of the bridges were successfully rebuilt, thanks to the leadership of the McHenry County Road and Bridge Committee and the grant from the federal government.  

Sources

“May Cost $125,000 to the County” The Daily Sentinal (Woodstock) 2 Jul. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 17 Nov 2016.
“Cloudburst on Thursday Ends Heavy Rain” McHenry Plaindealer 7 Jul. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“Seek Federal Aid Road And Bridge Repairs” McHenry Plaindealer 14 Jul. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“Must Find A Way To Finance Bridge Problem” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Aug. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“$130,000 Cost Estimated to Build Bridges” McHenry Plaindealer 11 Aug. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“McHenry Bond Issue Election To Be Held Tues, Sept 6” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Sep. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 17 Nov 2016.
“To Be Erected Just South of Old Structure” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Sep. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“$130,000 Bond Issue OK’d By Voters Tuesday” McHenry Plaindealer 8 Sep. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“County Claims Thousands of Dollars Owing” McHenry Plaindealer 15 Sep. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 17 Nov 2016.
“Rain Delays Work On New State Bridge” McHenry Plaindealer 22 Sep. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“Busy Session Held Tuesday at Woodstock” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Nov. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“Greenwood – Special Correspondence to the Sentinal” The Daily Sentinal (Woodstock) 12 May 1939: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 17 Nov 2016.
“Community Club Makes Plans for a Big Celebration” McHenry Plaindealer 18 May 1939: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 17 Nov 2016.
“Work Is Completed On Seven County Bridges” McHenry Plaindealer 15 Jun. 1939: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.