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Joan Knows: Recalling St. Charles’ good old days, other goodies

Transportation these days is, for me, a scarce commodity. From the line in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” I depend on the generosity of friends (and cousins).

The Grozis’ and the McFarland’s are the greatest to provide a carriage ride for me, the wheelchair and the handicap sticker to the designated event – and more than once to retrieve a lost slipper. (The zebra truck, our only vehicle now, is a one man operation that often smells like a skunk or conceals a homeless reptile or a cache of Twinkie wrappers.)

Clearly my outside ventures are limited for one reason or another.

So, when Bea Grigo announced that Sarah Circle at our church had invited Charles (Charlie) Brown to talk to us about aspects of St. Charles history seen through his eyes that road trip became a priority. Not to mention that I was listed as co-hostess, which meant gathering the traditional yummy dessert buffet and charming table décor.

Please note that Barb Traver did everything, and Sylvia Wennlund made the coffee. I did provide a scrawny yet charming potted plant. The meeting was almost mandatory at that point, and the program was as rewarding as anticipated.

Mr. Brown identified himself by giving his birthdate, which established his credibility (old enough to have been there and hearty enough to remember). Then he added to his identity by framing his long time association with the Klick and Worthley Pharmacy, which was on West Main Street. Many of us began to nod and smile at that point.

The format was question and answer with questions from those brought up in town and many who were brought up and lived elsewhere, which made for some thought-provoking questions.

He described Pottawatomie Park and the swimming pool and the amenities, such as the baseball diamond, which were brought about by the WPA.

One questioner asked if it was true that, at one time, there had been a sign meant to exclude certain groups. Yes, indeed. 

I ratified his recall with my own recall, and how abhorrent that and other prejudices would seem today. Hopefully this sense of how our town has matured in the context of social issues is a strong factor in how we feel distinguished as a good place to live!

Here’s a few more teasers from Charlie for your memory bank. Remember “Heck” Johnson who collected Fox River clam shells?

Recall when the police department was led by “Skinny” Covalsky and all the policemen knew your name – and vice versa? When the fire department was all volunteers who were summoned by the siren? The abundance of farms close to town and the Saturdays when the farmers came to town?

An inquiry that a lifelong resident probably took for granted – Little Woods School, Little Woods Store, etc. Was there a family named “Little” (as in Leroy Oakes) or was there a small forest in the area? 
Perhaps Laura Ingalls Wilder had an influence?

What do you remember; what is your question?  Think about it.

Talk to Charles Brown or the historical society, which, of course, used to be a Texaco Station where gas was pumped by a guy who checked the oil and washed the windshield.

  • Joan Arteberry is a longtime resident of St. Charles. Her columns are featured in the Kane County Chronicle’s Neighbors section every other Friday. Write to her at

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