Growing Up In Libertyville in the Thirties and Forties
A Stroll Around Downtown, Part IV
Milwaukee Ave looking south, c.1940-1949
Milwaukee Ave looking south, c.1940-1949 Details
Prior to the war Jewel Tea opened a grocery that was the biggest in town. Among other offerings it had Birdseye frozen foods, an innovation at that time. The Newcastle Hotel occupied the second floor and a ground floor restaurant which became Woolworths ten cent store. I worked there one year with Nick Salgado, doing janitorial work. We earned forty cents an hour, which wasn't bad for high schoolers. Mackey Jewelry was next, with apartments above. The corner building at School Street held the post office in the thirties before the new post office was built on Church. It was a butcher shop briefly, then Harry Egloff's bakery. The Egloffs lived on Cook just west of Lange Court and their kids were widely envied for their access to sweets. The corner store front was the Hershberger appliance store, later to become a bank.

 

The second floor had various medical offices, the dentists Gaebe and Johnson after the war and, I think, Doctors Taylor and Penney all during the thirties. The most notable feature on the second floor was the movie operated by George Mikesell. Its flat floor had wooden seats and patrons watched a screen that was rolled up after the shows ended. That movie went out of business when the Liberty Theatre opened in 1937.

 

 

Liberty Theatre
Liberty Theatre Details
The last building in the block ending at Newberry was the Liberty Theatre, built in 1937 by Fred Doby. The gravel parking lot wrapped around the theatre. It was movie house standard for that time with a lobby and two aisles running down the sloping floor to the stage. The center section of seats was about twice as wide as the two side sections. Bizarre visual effects were had by sitting way off to the side or down in front where you looked up at the screen because the floor sloped up at that point.

 

The rear rows were often sprinkled with courting couples and for some reason smaller kids tended to sit way down in front. The Saturday matinees cost eleven cents and featured news, coming attractions, a cartoon, one or more serials, and a double feature, usually westerns with Buck Jones, Ken Maynard, Tom Mix, or one of many western heroes. Shorts and serials could have Flash Gordon, the Three stooges...it really was bargain viewing.

 

Regular showings at night and on Sunday were single features, coming attractions, newsreel, cartoon and a short. Often, the short would be something like the Kirkpatrick or Lowell Thomas travelogues, or "Believe It Or Not" with Robert Ripley. The evening shows were usually at 7PM and 9PM.

 

Bank Night was held once a week. Ticket stubs were put into a cylinder on the stage and a small boy or girl would volunteer to be blindfolded and draw a stub. The money prize varied according to whether it was a regular or super Bank Night. The theatre had an organ which played an accompaniment to the activities on stage.

 

High school boys in uniform acted as ushers, showing patrons to seats with a flashlight, and maintaining order. In those days people didn't smoke, talk with friends, play radios or whatever. Violating the rules could mean an inglorious ejection and serious offenses could mean a ban of two weeks, enforced by the manager, who had an eagle eye and a long memory. One of my friends got a two-week ejection for throwing banana peels across the projection beam. Rather than tell his parents he took the eleven cents the next Saturday and spent it at a soda fountain. Unfortunately for him, his father chanced by on the street and saw him in the act. It was a small town and if you got out of line too much or too often the chances of discovery were high. Whether this was the reason or not, there was almost no delinquency whether adult or juvenile. Certainly, times have changed in this respect.

 

 

Public School, after 1906
Public School, after 1906 Details
School Street was all houses except for Central School which held grades through eighth and served the north end of town. Two of the largest families in town lived there; the Satterfields on the south and the Krumreys on the north. In winter kids sledded down a slope into an open area behind the stores that was sometimes flooded for skating. The original Central School was a two-story layout with a large central staircase. Classes stayed all day in one room, each of which had its own cloakroom which was like a long narrow closet with a door on one end to the hall and a door on the other end opening directly into the classroom, which had its main entrance door opening directly from the main hallway. There was a large room on the second floor which was used for plays, musical events and such. The fifth grade was just east of the large room, at the end of the building. The meeting room had a tubular fire escape that allowed kids to slide down it and exit onto the ground outside. The fire escape was a play spot on weekends. Kids could get up it from the ground and slide down. Two doors at the top of the chute allowed exit but not entrance.

 

There was a school newspaper, of which I was co-editor one year, along with Virginia Titus. The part of the paper I handled was mostly thinly disguised stories and articles from "Boys Life" and "American Road For Boys," modified only slightly. I was proud of a multipart serial called "Doom Tocsin", but wasn't quite sure what a tocsin was. There was a lunchroom to which you brought your own lunch in a paper bag or lunch pail with thermos jug. From time to time we had assemblies at which appeared slight of hand artists, jugglers, singers, movie travelogues and whatever. Those events helped relieve the tedium of learning the Palmer method of handwriting and the rote learning of arithmetical tables. Students sat in wooden desks with built-in inkwells. A favorite trick was putting baking soda into the ink and with luck the gas would pop the cork and spray a shower of ink. The grounds held swings, a slide, a sandbox and an area where you could toss a baseball.

 

Men teachers were a rarity in grade schools in the thirties. Women teachers were single. Mr. Hudson was the principal for a number of years. He lived on Newberry and his son, Alan, was a lifeguard at Liberty Lake in the early forties. Carl Baylor was superintendent of schools and perhaps acted as principal. Mr. Bartlett was the seventh grade teacher--this is roughly between 1932-1940. Miss Schreiber taught sixth grade. She swung a mean fistful of wooden rulers against boys who acted up. Miss Paulson ran the fifth grade. Other teachers were Miss Barnstable, Miss Russell, Miss Gilmore, James Flood and John J. Miller, who was the principal and taught eighth grade in the late thirties when the new school was built.

 

 

Central School, 1956
Central School, 1956 Details
The new Central School was opened in 1939. It was a modern design and style. Memory says that it was built by the Public Works Administration rather than the Works Progress Administration. Both were New Deal agencies set up to help deal with the Depression. Definitely, it was the WPA that did the lagoons and such at Butler Lake.

 

The new school had an auditorium with a stage, and even a library, though with precious few books. The library housed Mr. Miller's cactus collection until parties unknown vandalized the cacti with sharp pencils. The person responsible was caught and given a few days at home. Pursuing a similar path in high school, he was placed in a state reform school and later still hit the big time with a term in a state prison, the only kid I can remember who went that far astray. The new school had lockers, a big step ahead of the old cloakrooms. During a medical exam it was discovered that I needed glasses and so became "four eyes" to my fellow students. Three years of not being able to see the blackboard rendered me a near illiterate in math and sentence diagramming and a near wimp on the playground, being under strict instructions from home not to get my glasses broken.

 

The building on the corner of School held at various times an IGA grocery, Knutsen's butcher shop, Flagg's barber shop, a restaurant, Gibson's electric, Maiden's hardware. There was a small popcorn stand right on the sidewalk edge at the north end of the building, then Bert Finstead's restaurant.

 

 

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