Ernest About Flowers

by Terry Hogan

He was earnest about flowers. He spent most of his adult life, being earnest about flowers, as exhibited by his obituary. It appeared in the Galesburg Register Mail on August 15, 1963. Ernest Hogan's obituary read, in part, "Mr. Hogan…was a florist 49 years, working with the former Drury's Greenhouse 29 years and later at the Galesburg park system. Mr. Hogan's work with flowers at the parks received recognition in several publications." But that is the end of the story.

Frankly, I don't know much of the details of my grandfather's years as a gardener working with flowers. He retired when I was 13. At age 13, whatever my interests were, they were not dealing with my grandfather's vocation. So what I do know is fragmented and some is oral history.

In the realm of oral history, my grandfather, as a young man working at a greenhouse, met an even younger girl. She was on her way home from school, walking with a girlfriend. Ernest was about 21 years old. Sarah was about 13. They shared a mutual friend who introduced them that day. Ernest gave Sarah flower cuttings from the greenhouse that day. The romance took root and blossomed. Sometime later, he gave her a postcard photograph showing him and his coworkers, literally, out standing in a field. The back of the card said that it was the "greenhouse bunch". It was taken at the Drury's facility, where two of Ernest's brothers also worked for a period of time. There was plenty of work at Drury's. Beyond the work with flowers, there was a coal-fired boiler that heated water to keep the greenhouse operating in the winter months.

Ernest Hogan and Sarah Amanda Hill were married on New Years Eve - December 31, 1912. According to the newspaper reports, the ceremony was performed at a private home at 1260 North Kellogg. The exchange of vows took place in the parlor under a "…canopy of flowers in the center of which were suspended a large white wedding bell ornamented with the same flowers, pink and white carnations, intermingled with smilax." The young bride carried a bouquet of roses and wore a veil fastened with rose buds. One of the articles concerning the wedding noted that the groom was "…a florist by occupation."

My knowledge of Drury's is limited. In the process of looking around Galesburg's history for genealogical purposes, I find ads from time to time for Drury's. It seemed to be good about advertising in the Galesburg High School yearbooks.

The 1930 Galesburg High School yearbook, The Reflector, has a quarter page add for "H. F. Drury's Flower Shop" located at 219 E. Main Street. Its phone number was 1219 (that's it, just 4 numbers). Amazingly enough, the caption of the ad was "Say It With Flowers". That slogan has a life longer than I could have guessed! The Drury ad shared the page with two other ads. There was another quarter page ad for "Stamm's Clothing & Shoes", located at 346-348 East Main Street, and a half page ad for Hoffman Beverage Co. Hoffman was the distributors of "Atlas Special" and "Kingsbury Pale". Hoffman notes that it distributes "The Best In Bottled Drinks".

This 1930 yearbook also had photos of two juniors. A young Lloyd Hogan, listed as a high jumper in track, and a young woman, very active in high school events, Doris Williamson. Lloyd Hogan, son of Ernest, would marry the younger sister of Doris Williamson. For that I am grateful, being the last born of that marriage. It can be a small world in a small town where a yearbook can give me an ad for my grandfather's place of employment, a photo of my father and a photo of my aunt.

The August 24, 1935 Daily Register-Mail for Galesburg contained a brief report entitled "Greenhouse to be Razed". It reported that the "Drury property" located north of Sandborn Street between Broad and Cherry was going to be developed into a "residence district". The greenhouse was to be destroyed within a few weeks. Ten residential lots were to be established on the site, with five facing Broad Street and Five facing Cherry Street. Eight of the ten lots measured 4 by 12 rods, with the remaining two would measure 3.5 rods by 12 rods.

Of course, Galesburg has changed a lot, particularly in the Northwest corner. My grandparents lived at 799 North Henderson Street for 42 years. That was their first home, where they set up housekeeping following their wedding in 1912. Of course, there is nothing left of the place now and it is hard to imagine the days when my father was a boy living there. He would walk north along the dirt/mud North Henderson Street to get to the countryside and hunt rabbits.

Of the obituary's reference to having his work mentioned in publications, I know of only one. It is a copy of a "clipped" article, without reference to its origin, but it appears to be from a newspaper and the article, itself, mentions "Post", so it may have been from the Galesburg Post. The brief article is entitled "Orchids to Earnest (sic) Hogan". It reads, in part,

"The flowers, flower beds, land-scaping, shrubbery and lawns of the gardens at the entrance of Lincoln Park are giving great pleasure to Galesburgers this difficult year. Visitors may be found there every day as the handsome giant dahlias burst into bloom on the south border, and other flowers vie with them for attention. In spite of the shortage of labor at Lincoln Park, this garden blooms and blossoms and shows a care which money alone could not buy. By inquiry, Post learned that the expert gardener whose labors have given us such a beauty spot as this is Earnest (sic) Hogan. We do not yet know Mr. Hogan but we want to meet him, to say thank you for the great pleasure he has given us…. The same care and knowledge which makes Lincoln Park gateway something of which we can be very proud, could make Lindwood also an inspiring place of beauty and pride. It's a job for just such an artist as Earnest (sic) Hogan has shown himself to be."

I wish I could illustrate his work with a photo for this article. But I have none. Over the years, I have searched old Galesburg photos and post cards, but none have shown a single flowerbed in Lincoln Park. (If that sounds like a plea to be contacted if you have such a photo, you are perceptive. If you didn't pick up on that, this should help you along).

I suppose if you work 49 years at anything, you will have to be able to pick up a lot of the tricks of the trade. But, if Ernest did deserve the high praise in the above quote, he must have had some innate talent that went beyond the knowledge picked up along the way. Ernest would have had to combine his talent and learned skills, with care, dedication, and hard work. In short, he would have had to be… "Ernest about Flowers".