Joliet Steel Works: Triptych
Great photo of Cass Street in Joliet from the mid 1950s, looking west across the Chicago Street intersection. All of these buildings are still standing (remarkable, given the city's fondness for parking garages and surface lots), though not as thriving as they once were. The jewelry store on the corner had a beautiful gut rehab a few years ago (here are some photos from early in the renovation), but the first restaurant there closed last year and a second restaurant is now giving it a try. Panning left, the white-front building (a Goldblatt's department store back then) has been vacant for at least ten years. Next is the former Ottawa Street Methodist Church (a very odd church building - it looks more like a bank) which is now the Joliet Area Historical Museum. The last building (with the angled corner) is the former Al Baskin clothing store (forerunner of Mark Shale) which this century had three restaurants come and go in a span of just two or three years and has been vacant for quite some time.
I thought about posting a current photo of this same block, but the sight would be too depressing. Other than a steady stream of cars passing through without stopping, there are few signs of life - no cars parked while their drivers patronize local businesses, and almost no pedestrians. This should be the most bustling corner downtown, but the area continues to struggle.
Hibernian Hall, Joliet
In an effort to revive this blog, I intend to post something historical here every weekend. Above is a photo of the old Hibernian Hall on East Cass Street in Joliet. The building was the lodge for the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish fraternal society. The building has seen better days - many of the upstairs windows are broken, and the auto repair shop on the ground floor, with the gaudy checkerboard facade, looks like it might be out of business - but it still maintains much of its original dignity. If you look closely, you can read the Hibernians' motto ("Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity") and see the letters "AOH" and several Celtic crosses and shamrocks. An interesting relic on what is rapidly becoming a worn-down part of Joliet.
Sixth in a series of memorable curbside discards from around Joliet. Queen-sized headboard, circa 1980s, on Campbell Street. I'm guessing the garbage man will get this before any scavenger will.
I'm calling this "Sunset, St. Paul Estates, Joliet." Not quite "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico", but in Joliet we take whatever we can get.
Fading Ad: Schmitz & Gretencort
I strongly prefer to find fading ads on my own, finding much more pleasure in unexpected discovery than taking the shortcut of an Internet search. But yesterday, for some reason, I happened to google "ghost sign" (the more common term for fading ads) and "Joliet" and came across a Flickr photo of an ad in Rockdale, a tiny factory town that is almost completely surrounded by Joliet. I was surprised, as I had hunted in Rockdale in the past but hadn't found anything; apparently I must have always driven west down Moen Avenue, and thus missed seeing this west-facing ad.
Last night, after picking Maddie up from her guitar lesson, we swung down to Rockdale and found the ad, and that's my photograph above. Though the ad is in poor condition and hard to read, my knowledge of local history helped me immediately recognize the name "Schmitz & Gretencort", an old department store in downtown Joliet. (Here's an earlier blog post I did about the store.) There's additional wording above the name, the only clear part of which reads "The Boys." Oddly enough, the white van in the photo also appears in the exact same location in the Flickr photo. Possibly belongs to the owner, though, sadly, more likely a regular.
Duncan Ceramic Products, Authorized Dealer
Yesterday, I took a detour down a stretch of Center Street, on the north side of Joliet, that I had never driven before. Standing out amid the usual hundred-plus-year-old houses, I was very pleased to discover this old storefront building. I would guess it was originally a corner tavern or grocery (the name near the roof reads "Sievert"), though it's now empty and for sale. The decal on the front door for Duncan Ceramic Products indicates its most recent incarnation was some sort of art supply store, though I can't find any confirmation of that online through an address search. Such a store seems somewhat incongruous with the surrounding working-class neighborhood, which might mean it's been empty for a very long time.
Fading Ad: Joliet Litho-Print
I've known about this ad for a while now, but only just got around to photographing it yesterday. This is Joliet Litho-Print, on Chicago Street in downtown Joliet. In the inset photo, you can make out "Service Printers", "Pamphlets" and "Catalogs", and if you look even closer, there's a lime-colored swoosh stripe (inverted, anti-Nike) just above "Litho-Print." Based on the company's limited web presence - I couldn't even find a website - it's unclear whether or not it's still in business, so I'm glad to have finally photographed this while I still could. I've been into fading ads for about fifteen years now, and have lost far too many ads by assuming they would always be around to photograph some other day.
This morning's dramatic sunrise almost looked like a Bierstadt landscape. With no mountains anywhere near Joliet, we have to rely on clouds for our grandeur.
Fifth in a series of memorable curbside discards. This one is actually of our own driveway - Maddie decided to finally get rid of her Elmo lawn sprinkler, which never worked very well anyway. Given the longtime appeal of Elmo, I'd be surprised if somebody doesn't salvage this before the garbage man arrives tomorrow, but it was still there as of this morning.
Joliet has a modest maritime connection, thanks to its location on the Des Plaines River between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Illinois River. Any barges traveling from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi have to pass through Joliet. Above is an Egan Marine towboat docked on a river wharf, just south of the McDonough Street bridge.
Fourth in a series of memorable curbside discards. Or in this case, alleyside - behind an apartment building on Jefferson Street, on the east side of Joliet. The taped-on sign, of course, begs the question of why the TV's owner is just throwing it away. And I suspect it probably won't work quite as good after sitting in four inches of snow.
My friend Richard Grayson posted interesting side-by-side photos on his Facebook page, which are shown above. Both photos are of 311 Washington Avenue - the first in Brooklyn, the second in Miami Beach. I thought I'd do likewise for Chicago and Joliet. Here is 311 W. Washington Street in Chicago:
This building is half a block from my office, and primarily houses an AT&T switching station. (Interesting how those utilitarian AT&T buildings were designed so ornately back in the old days.) And here is 311 E. Washington Street in Joliet:
Not much to see here, other than the Rock Island railroad embankment and a sliver of the roofline of Joliet Central High School. But this address is somewhat historically significant, as the opposite side of the street is the former site of the Gerlach-Barklow Company, which was once one of the biggest manufacturers of art calendars in the United States.
(Note: There is no 311 E. Washington address in Chicago; that number would be located somewhere in the middle of Grant Park. And 311 W. Washington in Joliet would be in the middle of an intersection, so thus the street address doesn't technically exist either. So, the Chicago and Joliet addresses I used above were the closest matches to Richard's addresses.)
Beginning of the endHerald News Office to Close as Sun-Times Targets 'Inefficiencies'
When it's no longer efficient to report local news from its source - the Joliet area - it no longer makes sense to keep the newspaper going as a discrete publication. Start saying your goodbyes to the Herald-News.
I haven't posted any Joliet ephemera here in a long time, so here you go: a Polo Beer label from Pioneer Brewing, circa 1930s or 1940s. (Here's another Pioneer label that I posted earlier.) It would have been pretty incongruous, and even comical, drinking a bottle of Polo at some gritty neighborhood tavern, because back then Joliet was about as far from the polo-and-ponies set as you could get. Even more so than today.
Sunrise, Washington Street
The silhouetted figure at the lower left is a homeless man who was waiting to cross Eastern Avenue, likely headed, as are many at that time of morning, to the Morningstar Mission a few blocks away.
Ten Years of Metra, continued
Another photo from my daily Metra commute. The structure in the center is a guard tower at the old Joliet Penitentiary. I like how the train's motion, the low morning sun and the misty window make this look like a watercolor painting. Which was totally accidental on my part.
Third in a series of memorable curbside discards from around Joliet, this one on Eastern Avenue. If there's such thing as a prototypical castoff, this is it: the plaid couch.
Second in a series of memorable curbside discards from around Joliet. Here, on John Street: two couches, a recliner, an ottoman and - judging by the fullness of the dumpster - possibly everything else from the living room.
Joliet Police Blotter Story of the Year
I've only run a couple of Joliet police blotter stories in 2011 (here and here), both of which were pretty good, but this beauty from the Herald-News easily takes the title of Joliet Police Blotter Story of the Year.
Fowl play: Taxidermied duck blown up in Joliet
JOLIET — Stuffed duck may have graced several holiday tables, but only one was offered as entertainment with enough explosives to warrant a criminal investigation.
Police say the taxidermed waterfowl was destroyed and two houses were damaged at a Dec. 4 party in the Cumberland subdivision.
Police were called the following day when siding damage was discovered on residences in the 1800 block of Mandan Village Drive, Lt. Joe Egizio said.
"Investigators learned about the party and reports of the explosion," Egizio said. "They recovered the remnants of a taxidermied duck and a duck call from a large hole in the sod of the backyard."
In the following weeks, detectives interviewed several party guests to learn what happened, a difficult task since many were drinking the night the duck was destroyed.
Detectives questioned Joseph T. Bundy, 35, of Aurora, on Monday. Bundy told police he had found the duck in the street when he arrived for the festivites.
"He admitted he’d also brought a large firework and decided to blow up the duck for entertainment," Egizio said. "But he underestimated the power of the firework."
Bundy was charged with illegal possession of fireworks and released on bond.
As long as Bundy makes restitution to the people whose houses were damaged, the city will not prosecute the case as a criminal violation.
That poor duck has been desecrated three times - when it was killed, when it was stuffed and mounted, and when it was obliterated by drunken yahoos.
Edwin Porter Brewery
Here's an interesting historical piece in the Joliet Herald-News about the old Porter Brewery, including a column by the late John Whiteside on the Feds' attempted crackdown during Prohibition. Edwin Porter's son Harry built our house, in 1927, but passed away before it was completed - his wife re-married shortly afterward and lived in the house for a while. When we first looked at the house I was pleasantly surprised to see that the knocker on the front door is engraved with the name "Porter." I wonder what Mrs. Porter's second husband thought about having that around as a constant reminder of whom came first.
AftermathDriving to work this morning, I saw some debris up ahead in the middle of Black Road, right on the center line. As I got closer, I saw it was a coat, pants, shirt...and a red Solo party cup. Somebody had a good time last night. Hope they got home safely.
Joliet Police Blotter
A strong candidate for Meathead of the Year...
Police: Drive-through fight leads to high-speed chase in Shorewood
SHOREWOOD — A fight over a spot in the drive-through lane reportedly led to a high-speed police chase through the village Saturday night.
A man called 911 around 11:23 p.m. as he left the McDonald’s on Route 52 near Interstate 55 in Joliet, Shorewood police Cmdr. Eric Allen said.
"He had been in the drive-through getting food and honked at the car ahead of him to move along," Allen said.
Apparently angry at being honked at, Andrew J. Myers, 33, reportedly got out of his blue Saab 97x and walked up to the vehicle behind him.
"Some words were exchanged before the confrontation turned physical with Myers reaching into the vehicle," Allen said.
Police say Myers fled as the other man followed and called 911.
I encourage you to read the entire article. To whet your appetite for meatheadedness, I'll just mention that it escalated into a 100-mph chase and a police roadblock - and all of this with the moron's 7-year-old daughter in the backseat, not even wearing a seatbelt. This, combined with the two other incidents the article mentions, certainly doesn't reflect well on Tim McGraw fans.
Headline of the Day
Mocking the steadily declining Joliet Herald-News is akin to shooting fish in a barrel. But I still can't let this headline pass by unnoticed:
I wonder how long it will take them to correct this. If ever.
Joliet police blotter
I haven't passed along a police blotter item in a while, but this one is pretty wonderful. File Under: Least Competent Criminals.
Fleeing suspect runs into cops training session in Joliet
JOLIET — A man who was reportedly trying to escape from a few cops ended up running past a virtual convention of them Wednesday.
About 30 Joliet cops and a large number of officers from other departments were at Bicentennial Park for a training session on "being prepared for any situation" — which would likely describe the arrest of Domonique J. Loggins, 21.
Loggins was a passenger in a car driving over the Jackson Street Bridge around 1:05 p.m., Joliet Deputy Chief Mike Trafton.
"He and his 20-year-old girlfriend began arguing over cigarettes, and near Cass and Joliet streets, he punched her in the mouth," Trafton said.
The young woman detoured to Washington Street and parked in front of the police department, where she ran in to tell police.
"Officers went outside and saw Loggins walking toward the Jefferson Street Bridge," Trafton said. "He began running as they approached him and turned north once he crossed the bridge, into Bicentennial Park where about 60 squad cars were parked."
Several of the cops attending the training came outside as Loggins was grabbed by the officers who had been pursuing him.
Then another unexpected situation occurred.
"Once he was placed in handcuffs, Loggins took off again and ran up the cement steps that lead up to Broadway from the park," Trafton said.
With more and more officers flooding the area, Joliet Cmdr. Brian Benton recaptured Loggins a short time later in the 300 block of Oneida Street. Benton was reportedly returning from lunch when he heard the call.
Speed the time, Father, when the bow of peace
Spanning the gulf, shall bid the tempest cease.
- Frederick Bartleson
Bartleson was Joliet's first Civil War volunteer, and perhaps its first poet as well. He died at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia, in 1864.
As I've mentioned here before, one of the things I love about living in Joliet is its throwback quality - old-fashioned barber shops, vintage neon signs, 1960s muscle cars driven as everyday vehicles. Here's another example: the photo above is one of only 14 Rax restaurants still in existence. During its 1980s heyday the chain had over 500 locations and was even a staunch competitor of Arby's. The Joliet store on Jefferson Street soldiers on, though I must admit I've never eaten there.
Crews begin demolition of White Store
JOLIET — A crane armed with a clam bucket sank its teeth into the White Store at 8:11 a.m. Monday and began chipping away at the century-old building’s bricks.
The building was a charming old relic, though admittedly run-down after decades of neglect. Somebody with some vision easily could have renovated and revived the building, but nobody in the city seems to have that much imagination. Instead it's being demolished to expand Joliet Junior College's downtown campus - trouble is, JJC has only half the money needed for the gleaming new building they want to build on the site. And where do they expect the rest of the money to come from? The teetering-on-bankruptcy State of Illinois. Good luck with that. I guarantee the site will be a vacant lot for at least five years, and probably much longer.
Today, for one day only, Joliet is the preteen hotspot of the entire worldJonas Brothers likely to snarl traffic
As of 7 o'clock this morning - six hours before the gates open - there were already a hundred youngsters congregating in front of Silver Cross Field, traffic was being diverted and police patrols were prominent. There are very few days that I'm glad to work an hour away from home, and this is one of those days.
J. Elsinger & Co.
Interesting piece of Joliet ephemera here, from the bygone era when retailers still printed up advertising cards - though, admittedly, this is a stock image to which the store's name was imprinted. But I'm a bit perplexed by the store's street address. First, that it lacks the east/west designation that's standard today, but more importantly that during that era neither 34 West Jefferson (the Will County Courthouse) or 34 East Jefferson (the Woodruff Hotel) would have been a likely storefront location - unless Elsinger was located inside the Woodruff. Or it could be instead that, sometime after this card was printed, the city changed its street address system. Back then there were plenty of storefronts along the entire north side of Jefferson (on the opposite side from the Courthouse and the Woodruff) that could have housed this store. A mild mystery.
Now, here's a real rarity on eBay - a TOG soda bottle label, circa 1950s, from Sunnyside Beverage in Joliet. A Google search for "Sunnyside Beverage" and "Joliet" returns just one result, from some bottle collector's wish list. I'll have to check the old Joliet city directories next time I'm at the library and see if there's any information there on this company. How pleasantly simple that ingredients list is: just water, sugar, lemon and lime flavors, and vitamins B and D. No sodium benzoate, no high fructose corn syrup, just natural ingredients. And vitamin-fortified too!
Nice piece here on Joliet local favorite Chicken-N-Spice.
It was hard not to panic back in the 1980s when many businesses were pulling out of downtown, Pat Reimer said.
"To look across the street and see everything boarded up was just scary," she said.
In 1979, Reimer and her husband, Ken, had taken a chance on opening a restaurant, Chicken-N-Spice, in a building at 251 N. Chicago St. that had originally housed a Jack in the Box and then a Popeyes. Then they watched as most of the retail stores and car dealerships left downtown.
"All of these things provided customers," she said of the fleeing businesses. "You can't help but have that sense of fear."
Great food, obviously good people. Downtown Joliet could use a lot more committed entrepreneurs like the Reimers. They have kept it simple (Chicken-N-Spice is totally a no-frills kind of place; the seating appears to be unchanged from its Popeye's/Jack In The Box days) and stuck with what they do best. Though Will County's growth has boosted the number of workers downtown (Joliet is the county seat) businesses continue to struggle there and vacant retail space remains a problem.
(Photo by John Patsch, Joliet Herald-News.)
Happy Paczki Day!
I really wish I had realized before I was already on my morning train that today is Paczki Day, or otherwise I would have taken a few extra minutes to stop by Joliet Bakery and pick up a couple paczkis (pronounced, best as I can tell, as "poonch-kees") for the ride to work. Them's good eatin'.
Strangely enough, though I grew up in the Chicago area (which is heavily Polish - Chicago has the second most Poles of any city, after Warsaw) I didn't first hear of paczkis until my early twenties, while on a business trip to Detroit that happened to include Shrove Tuesday. And even then I didn't eat my first one until just a year or two ago, when Joliet Bakery (a combination Polish bakery/grocery/restaurant/bar, affectionately known locally as Drunken Donuts for its unusual nightcap potential) first opened.
More fun with Google Maps
Below are aerial photographs which show the remnants of three demolished/abandoned structures. See if you can guess what each was.
First, from Joliet:
Second, also from Joliet:
Lastly, from Blue Island, Illinois:
For answers and links, please scroll down. No cheating!
1. Bowling alley: Washington Lanes (demolished).
2. Drive-in movie theater: Hilltop Drive-In (still standing, but closed long ago).
3. Railroad roundhouse: Blue Island roundhouse of the Rock Island Railroad (apparently the turntable is still used to rotate trains, though the structure is gone).
Schmitz and Gretencort
Nice 1912 postcard here, which advertises the Schmitz and Gretencort department store (click on either image for the full-sized version). Interesting to note that the "holiday sale of questionable relevance" concept ("4th of July Home Coming Sale") is by no means a modern-day development. I've seen ephemera from this store before and had assumed it was a Joliet company, but based on the ordering of the locations listed on the back, it appears to have been an Aurora company with a Joliet branch. This building is still standing, but the interior has been fully modernized and this view is now long gone.
Silverfross Drive In
Sharp matchbook here from the old Silverfross Drive In, on Lincoln Highway on the east side of Joliet. The restaurant is obviously long gone, but I'll have to drive past that intersection and since if the building is still there. I don't know about you, but even though it's only ten o'clock in the morning a pork tenderloin, fries and root beer sounds pretty damned good right now.
Joliet Police BlotterThis is certainly a strong candidate for Joliet Police Blotter Story Of The Year. How discreet of the newspaper to not disclose the woman's name, thus protecting her from well-deserved public ridicule.
No surprise when gas and lighter mix
JOLIET -- A woman's method of checking her fuel level Tuesday night was like pouring gasoline on a fire.
The 27-year-old Joliet woman suffered second-degree burns and destroyed a car after reportedly using a cigarette lighter to help her see how much gas was in the can she'd been filling.
Police reports say it was around 10:30 p.m. when the woman drove to 7-11, 1609 E. Cass St., in a yellow 1970 Chevrolet 400.
The woman "was filling up a gas can, which was sitting on the passenger seat of the car. (She) then used a lighter to use as a light to observe how full the can was," police said.
The can ignited from the lighter's flame and the resulting explosion also set the vehicle's interior ablaze.
Apparently fearful the fire could spread to the fuel pump she'd been using, the victim began to push the burning car.
Firefighters from Station Four reported the Chevrolet was "approximately five feet from the pumps and fully involved" when they arrived.
The woman was treated for "nonlife threatening, but serious" second-degree burns to her right wrist and right thigh by ambulance personnel and taken to Silver Cross Hospital.
Joliet, er, Lockport Police Blotter
My spirits lifted when I saw this headline, hoping for so much more than this story turned out to be.
LOCKPORT -- An armed robber made off with $300 from Fantasy Comics, 1128 S. State St.
Police said the holdup man entered the business at 3 p.m. Wednesday. By the time police had arrived, he had fled the scene.
The robber was described as a white male, 18 to 22 years old, 5-foot-9, with a thin build. The man was wearing a black bandana.
Police said the robber showed customers and employees a small, black, semi-automatic handgun, telling them to get on the floor.
If you have any information regarding this incident, contact the Lockport Police Department's Investigations Unit at 815-838-2132.
One would think that a comic book shop robber would at least have enough imagination to wear a mask when committing his crime, or cackle fiendishly as he departed. And apparently Superman was asleep on the job, because not only did the police have to be called in, but they're even seeking help from the public. Superheroing just ain't wait it used to be.
I love this 1925 ad for the L.F. Beach department store in Joliet. Note the striking similarity and impossible proportions of the models from way back then. Apparently the unrealistic body perception that is instilled by popular culture these days didn't start with Barbie dolls.
Joliet Police Blotter
It seems to me that one of the responsibilities of gun ownership is not only knowing exactly how many guns you have in your home, but also checking on them more often than every 26 years.
Gone but not forgotten
JOLIET TOWNSHIP -- Where were you on the night of May 15? How about May 15, 1983?
On May 15, a homeowner on Sugar Creek Drive reported a burglary to Will County Sheriff's police. After completing an inventory, the woman called police again May 20 to tell them several firearms had been stolen.
The victim told police she'd inherited four handguns and two rifles in 1981 and had them appraised two years later.
"At that point the firearms were stored in a closet attached to the master bedroom (and) during the past 26 years she hadn't thought of the firearms," police said.
Reports indicate it is not known if the weapons were stolen during the May 15 burglary, another burglary that occurred in 2003 or "during a number of parties at the residence during the last 26 years."
Carl Erickson, the local boy unexpectedly done goodI regularly follow the illustration blog Today's Inspiration but was particularly struck by this quote that appeared there this week:
"There is no reason, of course, why the suave delineator of chic femininity, whose drawings for twenty years have given poignance to America's smartest fashion magazine, should not have been born in Joliet, Illinois."The quote is about Carl Erickson, who was born in Joliet in 1891 and went on to a celebrated career as illustrator, under the oh-so-chic singular name "Eric", in the fashion industry. I had never heard of him before but now am quite impressed by his work. The blog has been running a series on Eric this week, which I encourage you to check out:
Carl (Eric) Erickson (1891-1958)
Eric: "the suave delineator of chic femininity"
The Extent of Eric's Influence
Carl Erickson: The "Deceptively Simple Line" of the "Lifestyle Illustrator"
The Art of Carl Erickson: "Easy or Impossible"
From everything I've read about Joliet in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - rough and tumble, blue collar, pervaded by heavy industry - I'd say it's indeed remarkable that the "suave delineator of chic femininity" hailed from here. Yesterday I found this bio on his father, Per Erickson, who, quite true to the city's rough image, was the "keeper" (warden? jailer?) at the Joliet Penitentiary.
...Joliet ain't literary? This photo was taken on the east side of Joliet, at the corner of Little Dorrit St. and Dickens St. (Also nearby are Pickwick Rd. and Pickwick Ct.) And this isn't some chic new neighborhood that's striving for distinction by invoking the literary masters, but instead a rather humble cluster of 1920s frame houses that are adjacent to railroad tracks, a cemetery and a bridge overpass.
Peet's Service Station
Another matchbook (my eBay searches are turning up a lot of them lately), this one from Peet's Service Station. My best guess is that the station was located at what is now the intersection of Illinois Route 53 (the former Route 66) and Zarley Boulevard. While the "groceries" and "notions" are still part of modern-day gas station convenience stores, I love the mention of "heated cabins", which indicates the station featured a motor court motel for weary travelers. There's still a gas station on that corner (a Speedway) but from the satellite photo it looks the cabins are no more. I'm sure I'll be driving past this intersection soon to check it out.
Time stands still in JolietOne of the things I love most about Joliet is its timeless quality. In many ways, time here has stood still - 1970s muscle cars sit parked on driveways, not as showpieces but as everyday vehicles; corner grocery stores and restaurants are marked by neon signs which are every bit as vibrant as they were brand-new, sixty years ago; hulking brick factories still operate though they no longer produce the horseshoes or barbed wire or wallpaper of old; old-school barber and cobbler shops still hang on. I've been called a throwback more than once, and I guess it's my fondness for the past which makes me appreciate my adopted hometown as much as I do.
Another case in point: Joliet has a local pharmacy, J.D. Brown and Company, which has been locally-owned and -operated for over 150 years, and is almost as old as the city itself. Although we frequent the store regularly (primarily Julie, who drops off shipments from her online businesses at the store's post office substation), until yesterday I wasn't aware of the following bit of historical interest about the store.
As it turns out, the store's founder James Douglas Brown was the nephew of Senator Stephen A. Douglas, the renowned 19th Century politician who was best known for squaring off against Abe Lincoln in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Douglas was a regular visitor to Joliet and to his nephew's store, where he liked to sit on a bench in the store and chew the fat with the locals. Remarkably, the bench not only still exists but even remains in regular use in the store. The Herald-News article linked to above (which I insist you read) also indicates that the bench has lived a rather charmed life, having survived both a fire and a tornado that destroyed the store in recent decades.
I passed this story along to Julie yesterday, and while at the store that afternoon Julie told Maddie about the bench. When I arrived home last night Maddie couldn't wait to tell me that she had sat on the bench I had read about. However, with Julie not being quite as passionate about arcane history as I am, she mistakenly told Maddie not that Stephen Douglas once sat there, but instead Ulysses S. Grant.
Which was an understandable mistake, since one of my ancestors personally knew Grant...but that's arcana for another day.
Joliet Police BlotterWow. This is certainly an inauspicious start to the kid's driving career.
JOLIET TOWNSHIP -- Maybe driver's ed will help.
On Jan. 17, a 15-year-old Crest Hill boy was pulled over by a Will County deputy. According to reports, the underage motorist "seemed to have stopped his vehicle when he suddenly reversed it and struck the passenger side of the deputy's squad car."
Police say the driver then drove away, crashing into the street sign at Fifth and Davison. He reportedly left the vehicle and took off on foot, but the officer was able to track the fresh footprints in the snow and apprehend him.
The juvenile was arrested and booked into the River Valley Juvenile Detention Center on charges of possession of a stolen motor vehicle, attempting to elude police, hit and run, resisting a police officer, driving without a valid license, driving without insurance, no front license plate and disobeying a stop sign.
Another interesting bit of Joliet ephemera - a matchbook from Otto's, which once served the unbeatable combination of root beer (undoubtedly homemade) and barbeque. This address is just a few blocks from where we live now but the place is sadly long gone (the building currently houses a Polish bakery/grocery/deli/restaurant/bar) as apparently also are the Lankenaus, for whom I could find no listing in the phone book.
Presumably the "Always Cold" referred to the root beer, and not the barbeque.
(Bolingbrook) Police BlotterAh, irony...sweet, delectable, scrumptious irony.
Exit sign sparks fire in BolingbrookYes, I had to stray outside of Joliet for this police blotter item, but at least it still appeared in the Herald-News. So it counts.
BOLINGBROOK -- An electrical failure in an exit sign and exterior light caused a fire in an apartment building Wednesday afternoon.
Battalion Chief Trinedad Garza said the fire started around 3:03 p.m. in the apartment building at 501 Preston off of Boughton Road.
Firefighters had to evacuate the west side of the complex, but had residents back in their apartments in about an hour.
Firefighters had to pull down some ceilings and clear out smoke. There were no injuries and no one was displaced, Garza said.
Overheard: Home Cut Donuts(Young African-American man, waiting in line and apparently eyeing the teenaged girls who are tending the counter, is asked by an acquaintance how he's doing.)
Man: "Fine lookin' young ladies...a cheap breakfast...I'm doin' good!"
Joliet Citizens Brewing
Another sharp keg label, this one from Joliet Citizens Brewing Company, which operated here from 1904 through 1948. (Its latter incarnation, Bohemian Brewery, brought Joliet's long brewing history to an end when it closed in 1958.) Not exactly sure what Joliet Citizens produced during Prohibition to keep the doors open - I'm sure on an official basis it was "near beer", but Joliet was a pretty wide-open town back then, so my guess is that they never stopped brewing the genuine article while the authorities looked the other way.
UPDATE: The comment below from "Mr. X" prompted me to take a closer look at that label - despite the "Keg Beer" moniker, the label isn't from a keg at all, but instead a 64-oz. bottle. But I didn't mean to imply that this label was from the Prohibition era - instead it's probably from the 40s or 50s. The fact that it doesn't say "near beer" or "tonic" or any of the old euphemisms from the dry days indicates this is the full-strength variety and is most certainly "legit." Now, whatever the brewery happened to ship out through the back door during Prohibition under the cover of darkness, that's another story...